A Fancy Pants Leather Strop – A Pictorial

One of the other small projects that has been sitting on my “to-do” for some time was making a base for a leather strop.  I have used other strops in the past and found them to be very good at keeping an edge sharp and extending the time you can use a tool without having to go back to the water stones.

One of the members on the Woodnet Forums was selling pieces of horse butt leather which is ideal for making strops.  I bought two pieces and figured I’d get to the project very soon.  That was 2014!  And I still haven’t made a wooden base for the leather.  Well, that’s about to end.

I won’t spend a ton of time typing every step.  I’ve taken loads of photographs and they will largely speak for themselves.  I’ve captioned each image and will further clarify when needed, but this will largely be a pictorial.

As with many of my projects, I’ve probably overdone things here, but I had good reasons (at least in my head) for each step.

A piece of horse hide leather.

A piece of horse hide leather.

 

I suppose you could glue the leather to a piece of MDF and be done.  In fact, that’s all most people would do.  I wanted to make the strop very heavy so that it wouldn’t shift or slide around the bench top while in use.  I decided to make a wooden base and fill it with lead to add mass.

The local Habitat for Humanity store had someone donate a bunch of wood that they called Brazilian Cherry flooring.  The store thought they were getting tongue and groove flooring that was ready to install, but what they actually got was hundreds and hundreds of off-cuts.  It looked to me like someone had ripped wider, more useful pieces and these were the left overs.   The pieces are all 1 inch thick, mostly 2-3 inches wide, and about 8-12 feet long.  Since it wasn’t really useful as flooring, the store was practically giving the stuff away.

I figured that I could use it for some various small projects like picture frames or even glue up thicker pieces into square blanks for lathe turning.  I bought 15-20 pieces.  I don’t even know if it is really Brazilian Cherry another name for which is Jatoba (Hymenaea courbaril).

I decided that I would mill this lumber and glue it into larger pieces to make the strop base.

A bunch of off cuts that I was told is Brazilian Cherry.

A bunch of off cuts that I was told is Brazilian Cherry.

The stock milled beautifully.

The stock milled beautifully.

Cutting some parts to be glued up.

Cutting some parts to be glued up.

These should glue up nicely!

These should glue up nicely!

I glued them both at once.

I glued them both at once.

Glued, clamped, and left overnight.

Glued, clamped, and left overnight.

Cleaning up after removing the clamps.

Cleaning up after removing the clamps.

I’m making the base in three layers, with the middle layer having a large void.  I will fill this void with lead to make the strop very, very heavy.

A 10° angle cut at the table saw.

A 10° angle cut at the table saw.

The tapered opening is so that when the molten lead is poured in, it will cool and be trapped in place.

The 10° angle creates this tapered opening.

The 10° angle creates this tapered opening.

Mitering the corners on the miter sled.

Mitering the corners on the miter sled.

The mitered parts and the lead weight that will be melted into the wood.

The mitered parts and the lead weight that will be melted into the wood.

I bought a 5 lb fishing weight to melt down.

I hope that's clamped enough.

I hope that’s clamped enough.

The clamps removed.

The clamps removed.

A cheap saucepan from goodwill and a 5lb lead fishing weight.

A cheap saucepan from goodwill and a 5lb lead fishing weight.

The turkey fryer stand puts out some serious heat.

The turkey fryer stand puts out some serious heat.

Wow, that started to melt quickly.

Wow, that started to melt quickly.

Making sure it's level before I pour in the molten metal.

Making sure it’s level before I pour in the molten metal.

Starting to pour the lead.

Starting to pour the lead.

Pouring.

Pouring.

And pouring.

And pouring.

And done.

And done.

It smoked and boiled for quite a long time.

It smoked and boiled for quite a long time.

I left it to cool and re-solidify.

I left it to cool and re-solidify.

Some tapping with the hammer flattened the surface back out.

Some tapping with the hammer flattened the top surface back out.

Flushing up the edges with a hand plane.

Flushing up the edges with a hand plane.

Edges flush.

Edges flush.

I didn’t picture it, but I ran the box over the jointer to remove the clamp impressions and get a perfectly flat surface for gluing the next layer on.

Why did I flush the edges before glueing the top on? Idiot!

Why did I flush the side edges before glueing the top on? Idiot!

The top was glued on and clamped.

The top was glued on and clamped.

Now I can plane all the edges flush.

Now I can plane all the edges flush… again.

To relieve all the sharp edges, I used a chamfer bit on my new router table.

Using the router table to chamfer the corners.

Using the router table to chamfer the corners.

After routing.

After routing.

I gave the strop base a sanding up to 240 grit and then applied some danish oil.

Applying some Danish Oil to the strop block.

Applying some Danish Oil to the strop block.

I put masking tape where I'm going to glue on the leather.

I put masking tape where I’m going to glue on the leather.

Glueing up some more Jatoba to make a lid.

Glueing up some more Jatoba to make a lid.

I wanted a lid to cover the leather and keep dust and dirt off.  After cutting a piece to the right size to be a lid, I chamfered the edges as above.  I also wanted to rout away a shallow recess to the under side.  To do this, I used stop blocks on the router table. At one point, I slipped and broke off the edge.

A moment of inattention and the piece got chewed up.

A moment of inattention and the piece got chewed up.

I'll have to patch this.

I’ll have to patch this.

I cleaned up the lid with a chisel and cut a piece to fill the gap.

I cleaned up the lid with a chisel and cut a piece to fill the gap.

Glueing and clamping in the repair patch.

Glueing and clamping in the repair patch.

Pairing the patch down to size.

Pairing the patch down to size.

Nearly right.

Nearly right.

Adding a little Danish Oil.

Adding a little Danish Oil.

The patch is nearly invisible.

The patch is nearly invisible.

The third coat is applied with 400 grit wet/dry paper.

The third coat is applied with 400 grit wet/dry paper.

The fourth coat was applied with 600 grit paper.

The fourth coat was applied with 600 grit paper.

The grain pattern is rather nice.

The grain pattern is rather nice.

Lastly, I applied a few coats of mahogany furniture wax.

Lastly, I applied a few coats of mahogany furniture wax.

The wax gave the wood a nice sheen.

The wax gave the wood a nice sheen.

Getting ready to glue on the leather.

Getting ready to glue on the leather.

Contact cement applied to both surfaces.

Contact cement applied to both surfaces.

Carefully set in place.

Carefully set in place.

I should have stopped at this point, but I decided to add some clamping pressure.

Adding some clamping pressure.

Adding some clamping pressure.

Doing this caused the leather to shift slightly and I had to trim it later on the base.  This ended up making the leather about ¼ inch narrower than it should have been.

Done.

Done.

With the lid in place.

With the lid in place.

I'm happy with how this came out.

I’m happy with how this came out.

 

I’ll charge the leather with some Veritas honing compound and put it to use.

Whether the wood is Jatoba or not, I don’t know, but it machines beautifully and was very easy to cut and plane with hand tools.  I really liked it.

I hope you enjoyed this one.  I realize that it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but thanks for reading to the end.

– Jonathan White

 

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