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.
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.
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.
The tapered opening is so that when the molten lead is poured in, it will cool and be trapped in place.
I bought a 5 lb fishing weight to melt down.
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.
To relieve all the sharp edges, I used a chamfer bit on my new router table.
I gave the strop base a sanding up to 240 grit and then applied some danish oil.
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.
I should have stopped at this point, but I decided to add 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.
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