Poll: Have you ever made one?
 12-06-2012, 11:55 PM
#1
  • Kavik79
  • Active Member
  • Albany, NY - USA
User Info
About 4 months ago I picked up some leather to try my hand at making some strops. Just finished one tonight (I have a bad habit of working on something, then setting it aside and forgetting about it for a while lol). Anyway, thought I'd share in case anyone else is interested in making their own Biggrin

What you'll need:
  • Leather! Biggrin
    I bought a 9-10 oz Black Veg Tanned Cow Belly by Hermann Oak. Bellies weren't the most recommended, but I wasn't going to buy a whole side....and this piece turned out being nicer than I expected for only $20
    And a 7-9oz Natural color horse butt (may end up being a waste, they shipped it rolled with the good side in, so there's some wrinkling and cracking issues Angry)
  • Large, metal, right angle ruler
  • Utility knife
  • Leather punch set. I bought a cheap set of individual punches at harbor freight. They work great, but needed sharpening.
  • Chicago Screws. I found them at a local Tractor Supply Co.


Here's a pic of the cow belly laying on a 2'x4' piece of wood to give you an idea of scale of the piece I found at springfieldleather.com
[Image: CowHide1.jpg]

I cut these 3 pieces out to start: 3"x20", 3"x20" and 2"x20"
[Image: CowHideStrops1.jpg]
I'd estimate I can get 8-9 strops total out of this piece......which leaves me in a pickle, since I only have plans for 2 or 3 of them Hmm

For the cutting you'll want a nice, fresh blade and try to make each cut in one smooth motion through the entire thickness of the leather. If you have to go back and cut deeper it's not the end of the world, but the edges look nicer if you don't have to.

I measured in a half inch from the end for the holes. For the 2" strop I put 2 holes, each a half inch in from the sides. For the three inch strop I did the same and a third hole right in the center. I marked the points and used the punch with a scrap piece of leather on a block of wood behind it, so that I wouldn't dull the punch when it went through

For the ends, I chose to use 2" wide D-rings.
End caps were easy on the 2" strop, I just used a 2"x3" rectangle of leather, holes punched to match. In retrospect though, 2"x3.5" would've been better, the D-rings are kind of tight.
For the 3" strop the end cap needed to be a little different. I haven't completely decided what shape I'm going to go with for these yet (H-shaped or hourglass), but it just has to taper, one way or another, from 3" wide where it attaches to the strop, down to 2" where it needs to pass through the ring.

I was originally having a little trouble getting them to fold over nicely, but got a good tip from Tony Miller on another board: Wet the back side of the leather where you're going to make your bend. If then folds easily, pinch it flat and just hold it like that for a minute and you're set.


Now, before assembly, this would be the time to decide if the surface of your leather needs any attention. I ended up having some hard spots in the surface of mine. Tried working some neatsfoot oil into it and it didn't totally solve it, so I actually ended up just going over the whole surface with some 1,000 grit sandpaper

Dealing with the edges: you may end up with some 'fibers' hanging off the edges. They do make a glue/sealant stuff that you can apply for this purpose...but I didn't have any. Instead I just dampened the edges with a little water then burnished them gently with something round, smooth and hard (metal or glass should both work fine). Just don't use much pressure or you'll end up shoving the edges up past the surface of the strop.

That's all I can think to mention for now......so here's some pics Cool
(ignore the fake leather vinyl end caps on the 3" strop, that was a temporary solution only)

[Image: CowHideStrops2.jpg]

[Image: CowHideStrops3.jpg][Image: CowHideStrops4.jpg]


And a couple pics of the 2" strop next to a 3" Tony Miller and a 3" Walking Horse.
[Image: CowHideStrops5.jpg]
[Image: CowHideStrops6.jpg]

Also, the reason I decided to make a 2" strop even though I prefer 3".....the fabric component. I've been wanting to try stropping with diamond spray/paste and when I saw a 2" wide polyester webbing with a Diamond Plate pattern printed on it, I just couldn't resist making a joke out of it 24
[Image: CowHideStrops7.jpg]



Now, don't get me wrong, I know mine doesn't even come close to comparing to the craftsmanship of the other two in the pics, but it does do the job just fine. Plus it's a fun, inexpensive project if you don't have the money to shell out for some of the ones that are out there, or if you just get a kick out of being able to use something you made yourself


Looking forward to any questions/tips/pics from anyone else who's interested in home made strops Smile

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 12-07-2012, 01:49 AM
#2
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Very nice job and a informative post, I restore razors and I have a few bench strops which I made they are some of my favorites.

Jamie

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 12-07-2012, 02:02 AM
#3
  • DoubleB
  • Active Member
  • Zeeland, The Netherlands
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Great work and nice step by step tutorial!
I have never made a strop myself, but I'm planning on making one someday. It is much cheaper then buying a strop.

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 12-07-2012, 03:53 AM
#4
  • tgutc
  • Senior Member
  • Michigan
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Great job!

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 12-07-2012, 06:15 AM
#5
  • Leon
  • Active Member
  • Porto, Portugal
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I voted yes.

My current (and only) strop is a "frankenstrop".

It has 2 strops, linen and leather. The current leather strop is not original. Over the time it became so used, I decided to change it. I mailed Neil Miller and asked for a horse shell strip of leather with a specific size. He sold me and I adapted it to my strop and voila, a strop with horse shell in one side, a linen in other.
I have had (and still have some) other spare horse and cow leather strips I've sold to some customers that are looking for a DIY strop project or some kind of a travel sized strop. It's really easy to make one strop.

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 12-07-2012, 08:18 AM
#6
  • mikeperry
  • Senior Member
  • St Louis via the UK
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Hi Daryl

Thank you for the write up and photos, nicely done Thumbsup

Take care, Mike

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 12-07-2012, 09:23 AM
#7
  • Kavik79
  • Active Member
  • Albany, NY - USA
User Info
Thanks for all the compliments guys Smile

It is fairly easy, but there are lots of little things that make a big difference in the end results, that's why I thought a write up would be a little better then just showing pics of what I made. I've seen posts here and there online where people have shown strops they've made that they say work well, but even in pics you can see that they didn't use a straight edge for the cuts, or just eyeballed where to place the holes. If you've ever used a strop that isn't quite lined up right, it's kind of a pain, it just doesn't lay flat and stay still when you pull it taught.


A quick note on the prices of some of the artisan strops. That Tony Miller in the pics above is a very recent acquisition for me...I couldn't justify to myself spending the kind of money on a strop for what it would cost to buy new, but I got that one here from another member at a great price so I thought I'd give it a try. After using it a couple times I wouldn't think twice about buying another one, even at the price of buying it new.
The craftsmanship is phenomenal, no questions about it....with enough practice that part can be duplicated. But the quality of the leather itself is far beyond what I bought here, that's the real difference.
If you have a local source for leather where you can hand pick your pieces, that would obviously be a huge plus...but buying online is a bit of a craps shoot.

Here's what Tony said on the topic in another thread on another board:
"Remember that many flaws are really of no issue when stropping. fat wrinkles, slightly raised scars, depressed scars, small scratches, discoloration, etc..... will not hurt your razor nor the edge. The only thing they hurt is the appearance and that is what sets a super high end strop from the rest. At the higher price levels no only do they need to perfom well, they need to look perfect. The less than perfect leather is used for other things or discarded and along with the labor involved, that is why the high prices. For a home made or"do it yourself" strop you should be fine as long as the leather is not too hard and has no really big scar that interfere with a uniform stroke. "


As I mentioned in my first post, I got lucky and can probably get 8-9 good pieces out of that $20 piece of cowhide, but if there had been a couple scars or really bad wrinkles in just the wrong places that I had to work around, that could've easily cut my output in half.
If I was working with natural leather instead of dyed, and was concerned about avoiding visual irregularities as well, I can see where I might only get 2-3 'perfect' strips out of this size piece.
If I were doing this as a business, my output from this one piece just dropped by 66-80%, but I would have to work that loss into the cost of the ones that I sell.

Long story short (too late, I know Tongue), if you can afford it a quality artisan strop is certainly a nice luxury and a joy to use, but a $20 home made one will still do the job if you take your time and pay attention to detail Wink

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 12-08-2012, 08:13 AM
#8
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Very good write up Kavik79!
I too am a fan of making my own since day one. I was lucky to have a friend in the leather business at one time who had some excellent pieces. Still one of my favorite strops.
Since then I've picked up some Latigo from Tandy. Fortunately there is a store locally where I was able to select the exact pieces I wanted that were basically flawless and that beautiful Cordovan color.
You, and TM are correct. As long as the stropping surface is good, all the rest is eye candy. With a bit of care and attention to details you can end up with a strop that will not only function well, but you'll be proud to hang on display.
Yours qualify here. Nice work.

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 12-08-2012, 11:22 AM
#9
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The quality of leather you're looking for is called full grain leather. Artisan makers buy whole hides. Leather is actually relatively cheap. Chopping it up is where all the cost is.

Finding a good tannery is also difficult.

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 12-08-2012, 11:04 PM
#10
  • Kavik79
  • Active Member
  • Albany, NY - USA
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Just finished making up 2 templates for end caps so I can try to decide which version I'd like (I'm leaning towards the one with the curves, but it will be harder to cut out smoothly). Thought I'd share the file in case anyone wants them

This is for a 3" wide strop. Overall size is 3"x4". Holes are .5" from the ends and placed at .5", 1.5" and 2.5" horizontally. Holes are for a 3/8" punch.
The line below the holes marks another .5" and can be used as a guide line for where to punch the holes in the strop.
It should print to scale if printed at 96dpi

Cut to the outer edge of the black box, then cut out all dark grey areas. The light grey area was just to measure how much would be taken up wrapping around the thickness of the D-rings I have.
I figure printing it out then transferring it to a heavy cardboard will make it super easy to cut out a bunch consistently with all hole perfectly lined up Biggrin
(I need to go ahead and finish this up before my gf gets too tired of all the leather and tools spread out around the apartment LOL a stack of strops takes up much less room, even if I just cut it all out and prep the surfaces and assemble them later)

[Image: EndCaps3x4_96dpi.jpg]

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 12-09-2012, 06:52 PM
#11
  • Kavik79
  • Active Member
  • Albany, NY - USA
User Info
Just wanted to show off the first set I made from the template I posted above Biggrin

[Image: CowHideStrops8.jpg]

[Image: CowHideStrops9.jpg]

Sorry the pics are blurry, my battery was about to die, so I couldn't re-take them
But I'm about 100 times happier with this set then the crappy squared off ends on the 2" strop Aaaaa

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 12-09-2012, 07:53 PM
#12
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It always amazes me how such small details, which have nothing to do with the function of a piece adds so much to it. I think, like you said, that's what makes the difference between a Ho-Hum piece and a high end piece.
Very nice work. I like it.

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 12-09-2012, 08:22 PM
#13
  • Kavik79
  • Active Member
  • Albany, NY - USA
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I know, right? I mean, I still wouldn't call this a high end piece, but at least this one can fake it from across a room Winky

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 12-09-2012, 08:47 PM
#14
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The scale of these photos isn't exactly what I'd see from across a room.

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 12-09-2012, 09:01 PM
#15
  • gijames
  • Mile High Soldier
  • TN, USA
User Info
thank you for sharing Daryl!
(12-08-2012, 11:04 PM)Kavik79 Wrote: Just finished making up 2 templates for end caps so I can try to decide which version I'd like (I'm leaning towards the one with the curves, but it will be harder to cut out smoothly). Thought I'd share the file in case anyone wants them

This is for a 3" wide strop. Overall size is 3"x4". Holes are .5" from the ends and placed at .5", 1.5" and 2.5" horizontally. Holes are for a 3/8" punch.
The line below the holes marks another .5" and can be used as a guide line for where to punch the holes in the strop.
It should print to scale if printed at 96dpi

Cut to the outer edge of the black box, then cut out all dark grey areas. The light grey area was just to measure how much would be taken up wrapping around the thickness of the D-rings I have.
I figure printing it out then transferring it to a heavy cardboard will make it super easy to cut out a bunch consistently with all hole perfectly lined up Biggrin
(I need to go ahead and finish this up before my gf gets too tired of all the leather and tools spread out around the apartment LOL a stack of strops takes up much less room, even if I just cut it all out and prep the surfaces and assemble them later)

[Image: EndCaps3x4_96dpi.jpg]

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 12-09-2012, 09:02 PM
#16
  • Kavik79
  • Active Member
  • Albany, NY - USA
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LOL thanks for that. I just meant that this leather, while it strops just fine, is just not as nice feeling as I'd like it to be. I think I could do much better if I ever find a place where I can browse the leather in person and hand select a piece

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 12-09-2012, 09:05 PM
#17
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(12-09-2012, 09:02 PM)Kavik79 Wrote: LOL thanks for that. I just meant that this leather, while it strops just fine, is just not as nice feeling as I'd like it to be. I think I could do much better if I ever find a place where I can browse the leather in person and hand select a piece

If such a place exists where you don't have to buy entire hides, I would be semi interested in knowing about it. Probably won't act, but it would still be interesting.

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 12-10-2012, 12:50 PM
#18
  • mikeperry
  • Senior Member
  • St Louis via the UK
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(12-09-2012, 06:52 PM)Kavik79 Wrote: Just wanted to show off the first set I made from the template I posted above Biggrin

Hi Daryl

Very! nice, the curves look great Thumbsup

Take care, Mike

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 12-10-2012, 12:55 PM
#19
  • DoubleB
  • Active Member
  • Zeeland, The Netherlands
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(12-09-2012, 09:05 PM)asharperrazor Wrote:
(12-09-2012, 09:02 PM)Kavik79 Wrote: LOL thanks for that. I just meant that this leather, while it strops just fine, is just not as nice feeling as I'd like it to be. I think I could do much better if I ever find a place where I can browse the leather in person and hand select a piece

If such a place exists where you don't have to buy entire hides, I would be semi interested in knowing about it. Probably won't act, but it would still be interesting.

There is a tannery here in Holland who does this. You can go by, select a piece and they cut it for you. Price is a bargain. Leather is Russian Leather. You'd have to travel pretty far though :Biggrin:

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 12-10-2012, 01:07 PM
#20
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Could be worth it.... Biggrin

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