When it comes to outdoors knives, you will find that many hold the convex grind in high regard, due to its strength and relative ease of maintenance. That said, traditional sharpening stones are not intended for use with a convex grind. We need a flat strop to properly care for our edge. Fortunately, these are easy and cheap to make.
Today we will be looking at a way to build a small strop paddle for easy edge maintenance in the field.
What You Will Need
2 paint stirring sticks
2 strips of leather, approximately 1” x 5”
green and black stropping compounds
candle or heat gun
heavy weights, c-clamps or vice
small wood saw
sandpaper or files for shaping the paddle
wet/dry sandpaper – 2000 grit
1 quart size zip-top bag
paracord or leather thong
Paint stirrers are a good base for this project because they are widely available and very close to the shape we want. Their main weakness however is they are fairly flimsy. To add rigidity we are going to use the wood glue to join two of them together.
Apply glue to the bottom 8 inches of each stirrer, including the handle. Some paint stirrers can have a slight bend or u-shape to them. Apply the glue to the inside of the bend, as though you are filling up the “u”.
Use a vise, clamps, or heavy weights to press the two stirrers together, cleaning up any glue that may ooze out. Allow to dry.
Once the glue has dried, cut off the unglued portion so that the remaining piece is 7” long. We can now sand the edges so they are even. I have also rounded the corners slightly on mine, and altered the handle shape slightly. We are now left with the base of the strop paddle.
Now we will adhere our leather strips to the paddle. The leather should be at least 2-3 mm thick, and have a smooth side and a rougher, unfinished side. Old leather belts, or other leftover scrap leather can work well.
Use your utility knife to thoroughly score the surface of the paddle where the leather will be adhered. Apply a coat of wood glue to each side of the paddle and press on the leather strips. On one side, the smooth surface of the leather should face out, and on the opposite side, the rough surface of the leather should face out.
Use your weights to compress the paddle and allow the glue dry. Once dry, trim away any excess leather.
All that is left to do now is impregnate the leather with the stropping compound. I have used the green and black compounds made by Bark River Knife and Tool but any product will work.
The more aggressive compound (black) should go onto the rough leather surface, while the finer compound (green) should be used on the smooth surface.
Use a candle or other heat source such as a heat gun to warm up (not melt) the end of the bar of compound, and then draw over the surface of the leather as if it were a big crayon.
Next run the candle/heat source over the leather, working the compound into it with a knife. Repeat until desired coverage is achieved.
Thats it! We now have a cheap, lightweight, and effective tool for maintaining convex edges in the field.
If you have made your paddle 7” long, it will fit into a popular 1-quart zip top bag which will keep the compound from rubbing off onto your other gear, and compacts easily for transport.
We can also add a sheet of wet-dry sandpaper to the kit. It can be folded over the paddle (see picture below) for use and during storage as well.
Another easy addition is to drill a quick hole in the handle to which we can attach a loop of paradord or leather thong.
Any tweaks or additions you would make? Let us know in the comments.