Weekend DIY Project: Inexpensive Field Strop

Image courtesy of David Andersen
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

Image courtesy of David Andersen


  • 2 paint stirring sticks

  • 2 strips of leather, approximately 1” x 5”

  • green and black stropping compounds

  • wood glue

  • candle or heat gun

  • heavy weights, c-clamps or vice

  • small wood saw

  • utility knife


  • sandpaper or files for shaping the paddle

  • wet/dry sandpaper – 2000 grit

  • 1 quart size zip-top bag

  • drill

  • paracord or leather thong

Step 1

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.

Image courtesy of David AndersenApply 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”.

Image courtesy of David AndersenUse a vise, clamps, or heavy weights to press the two stirrers together, cleaning up any glue that may ooze out. Allow to dry.

Step 2

Image courtesy of David AndersenOnce 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.

Image courtesy of David AndersenStep 3

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.

Image courtesy of David AndersenUse 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.

Image courtesy of David Andersen

Use your weights to compress the paddle and allow the glue dry. Once dry, trim away any excess leather.

Image courtesy of David AndersenStep 4

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.

Image courtesy of David AndersenUse 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.

Image courtesy of David AndersenThats it! We now have a cheap, lightweight, and effective tool for maintaining convex edges in the field.

Optional Extras

Image courtesy of David AndersenIf 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.

Image courtesy of David AndersenWe 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.

Image courtesy of David AndersenAnother easy addition is to drill a quick hole in the handle to which we can attach a loop of paradord or leather thong.

Image courtesy of David AndersenAny tweaks or additions you would make? Let us know in the comments.


  1. skinnedknuckles says:

    Instead of gluing two paint stirrers together, ask at Lowes for a stirrer for 5-gal paint buckets. It is already twice as thick as a standard stirrer.

    1. David Andersen says:

      That is definitely a viable alternative, although you won’t get as much rigidity as gluing the two thinner sticks together. Thanks for the tip!

      1. skinnedknuckles says:

        My Ph.D, in Mechanical Engineering believes that if two wood beams, whether one monolithic piece or artificially bonded of two separate monolithic pieces with a microscopic glue line, will have the same stiffness if they have the same thickness and length. If the two sticks glued together are thicker, then the result will be stiffer.

        1. Dick Enright says:

          Sorry Skinneyknuckles, but having been a college educated General Contractor, and before a framing contractor (48 years total, all in high-end mansions) i could not disagree more. You should know that every piece of wood has a different modulus of elasticity, and that varies throughout the same piece of wood, as well. So by putting 2 different pieces of wood together (think doubler in construction nomenclature), and coupling them together (glue, nails, lags, sds screws etc) the weak spots in one piece is reinforced by the stronger ones in the other piece. Everybody with real world experience, knows that a doubler (ie: 2-2×6’s=3″x5.5nailed together is at least as strong or stronger, than a 4×6 which nets 3.5″x 5.5 thick in dimensional lumber. 2×1.5″=3″. Stick with the textbooks……

          Great DIY article btw

  2. Mike L says:

    I digress but have a suggestion for a future post. In the industrial park I worked there was a gentleman who would come in his ancient truck every couple weeks. His offering was that he would sharpen just about anything. Can’t believe this was a one off business. Must be such folks all across America. Would love to see a profile of one of these guys.

    1. skinnedknuckles says:

      Great idea. Seems to be a declining art.

  3. Sam L. says:

    Thanks!!!!! for posting this.

  4. Ed says:

    For just a little more money, I use a garden stake (about 1″ wide and 1/2″ thick, cut about 7″ long) and epoxy leather on the wide sides like this shows. On the narrow sides I glue on a strip of sandpaper (grit varies, usually one fairly coarse in case of damaged edges and one 1000 or finer for “needs more than stropping”). Not as small and pocket handy, but definitely shown it’s worth camping.

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Weekend DIY Project: Inexpensive Field Strop

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