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Hey everyone,

I haven't been whittling for very long, compared to some of you, and hear I need to sharpen my tools frequently to prevent the edge from getting dull, but I’m trying to find out the different between using a high grit sharpening stone and using a strop with compound.

This post does a great job at explaining HOW to strop with different woodcarving knives and apply the compound https://www.bestwoodcarvingtools.com/best-leather-strop-for-a-mirror-polish-edge/

but it doesn’t explain what the difference is so I’m confused on what to purchase.

Sharpening stones seem to be slightly more expensive than strops, and both seem to take care of things like blade blemishes and rolled edges. So I’m a little torn between the two.

Any advice?
 

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The process of sharpening knives and chisels is a polishing process. Using a strop is the final process. I strop my chisels from time to time while I'm carving to maintain the edge and prevent them from getting bad enough I have to resort to honing to get the edge back. You've seen old movies where a barber stops the straight edge before every shave, it's basically the same thing for chisels.
 

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I've got some waterstones up to 4K grit particle size. I quit using them years ago.
All I use now are strips of 3M fine automotive finishing sandpapers up to 1,500 grit.
Test after test the way I carve in very soft western red cedar, I get very glassy and satisfactory cut surfaces.
Gouges and crooked knives.
Not so terribly important with an elbow adze or a D adze but it looks nicer.

A strop for carving edges is no more than a place to apply the abrasive honing compound which appears to polish the edge of the tool.
Any 10X magnifier will show you that your edge is just so finely scratched that you can't see it with your bare eyes.

I put my leather strop away. The wax in the honing compound softened the leather over the years.
Instead, I use strips of cereal box cardboard or office file folders, stuck to flat surfaces with masking tape. No wasted glue.
Scribble the CrOx/AlOx compound all over it like a giant green crayon.
I can tear that off and replace it with a fresh surface very quickly.

For honing, CrOx (Chromium Oxide) is green and about 0.5 micron nominal particle size. That's about 5,000 grit on one scale.
Aluminum Oxide (AlOx) is about 1/2 that, 0.25 micron nominal particle size. Some carvers hone with straight AlOx.

One of my adzes is a full size Stubai wood carving adze. That's about a 7/75 sweep.
The blade is cupped and really hard to fine grind and hone.
Then I discovered that tennis balls were exactly the right mandrels to use.
 

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Stones are for shaping/sharpening, the hone is for finish polishing. You don't need to sharpen after each use or very seldom once you have a super sharp edge, all you need to do each time is strop it with what ever method you find to your liking. I have a leather strop and like Robson Valley said the leather does get soft after a while. When it gets soft it will round the edge which you do not want.
 

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Wouldya look at that! Got an avatar pic of me and some firewood.
I'm still a little disappointed about the leather strop going soft.
Despite whining critics, I never found the water stones messy to work with.
I believe there's some unwritten tricks to make freehand sharpening/honing go so well.

Maybe 5+ years ago, I decided that I wanted to explore the qualities of the crooked knives and adzes
so commonly used by First Nations carvers here in the Pacific Northwest.

Every edge has a sweeping curve to it. All flat stones are of no use. All abrasives move and tools are stationary.
Everything is wrapped on some sort of mandrel.
I can sharpen and hone a crooked knife over my knee and you won't figure out most of what I have learned to do.
I've built up maybe 2 dozen crooked knives from blades and an elbow adze and a D adze.
Another elbow adze blade and 6 more crooked knives on the bench right now.

Glad to help anybody anyway I can. This might be a link to a good bladesmith with examples of all the PacNW tools:

http://kestreltool.com/index.html
 

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Wouldya look at that! Got an avatar pic of me and some firewood.
I'm still a little disappointed about the leather strop going soft.
Despite whining critics, I never found the water stones messy to work with.
I believe there's some unwritten tricks to make freehand sharpening/honing go so well.

Maybe 5+ years ago, I decided that I wanted to explore the qualities of the crooked knives and adzes
so commonly used by First Nations carvers here in the Pacific Northwest.

Every edge has a sweeping curve to it. All flat stones are of no use. All abrasives move and tools are stationary.
Everything is wrapped on some sort of mandrel.
I can sharpen and hone a crooked knife over my knee and you won't figure out most of what I have learned to do.
I've built up maybe 2 dozen crooked knives from blades and an elbow adze and a D adze.
Another elbow adze blade and 6 more crooked knives on the bench right now.

Glad to help anybody anyway I can. This might be a link to a good bladesmith with examples of all the PacNW tools:

http://kestreltool.com/index.html
Did you purchase an actual strop? Myself I just purchased a piece a 2" wide piece of leather which was made for a leather worker to make a belt. Mine has never gotten soft. In fact after about 25 years I think it's getting harder. I've been thinking of replacing mine for that reason.
 

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I did buy a carver's strop. The day I started the gifted wood carving course.
Double sided thin leather glued to a stick ( maple? birch?). Just a carrier for honing compound.
Taught to use the edge of a 6" mill file as a gentle rake to clean off the leather for a recharge.

In a very bright light, it got so I could see the leather deforming as the edge was pulled along.
The leather was rebounding at the tool edge and rounding off the bevels. The end for that one.
I never keep track of such things but I'll guess that it lasted me 10 years or more.

I use nothing but card now. Either flat or wrapped around various mandrels (dowels and metal tubings) for the crooked knives.
 

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Instead, I use strips of cereal box cardboard or office file folders, stuck to flat surfaces with masking tape. No wasted glue.
Scribble the CrOx/AlOx compound all over it like a giant green crayon.
I can tear that off and replace it with a fresh surface very quickly.

I really like this idea.
 

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The Scanning Electron Microscope pictures of honed edges can be found in Leonard Lee's book.
They put paid to any ideas that you can actually sharpen steel. Can't be done like the molecular edge of flint.
No opinions, the pictures are there for all to see. A lot of what I was doing, was not needed at all!

OK, so just how little do I have to do to get really good edges for carving soft woods such as western red cedar?
Like the puzzle of slicing an over ripe tomato.

3M fine automotive wet&dry finishing sand papers. Lee Valley sells them all.
Even specifies the real particle size and the grit name to go with real sizes.

Normally no more than 800, 1,000 and 1,500 then hone.
 
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