Stropping: compounds, sprays and pastes
How do I use polishing compounds and what are the differences?
Stropping on just leather is possible, but only with polishing compounds there is a much more effective result to be achieved. You are actually polishing the metal when stropping. To this end you can use polishing compounds. Basically, it is sandpapering, but with such a fine grain size that you remove any imperfections. When you do this long enough, it will shine like a mirror.
What is stropping compound?
Stropping compound is a polishing agent that is generally sold as a block. Often pretty hard and in terms of texture similar to a crayon. You apply it to a leather or balsa wood strop, like with a crayon.
Bite and polishing
With polishing agents, diamond sprays and compounds you have in terms of operation to do with two factors: the "bite" and the polishing effects. The bite indicates how quickly it removes material. This can be different per product. The polishing effect can differ in that one compound will let the cut shine more than the other.
Taking these two factors in consideration, you can have certain compounds that remove material quickly, but are not as good for polishing. Ideal to start with. You can get a finer compound that takes off less material, but polishes better. This makes for the perfect combination. Diamond sprays often have a good balance of both factors: they take off a lot of material quickly, but are also good at polishing.
Compound grain sizes
Compounds and pastes often have different grain sizes, you not always derive this from the colour. For example, black can be either coarse or very fine depending on the manufacturer. Therefore, always read the product description carefully and take a look at user experiences.
How do you apply stropping compound?
Stropping compound feels similar to a crayon, but somewhat harder and less greasy. We assume that you are starting with a blank leather strop or stropping paddle. Simply use the compound as a crayon to apply the compound to the strop. Press hard and make sure the compound is equally covering the strop. That is option one.
Option two is applying the compound with heat. You will heat the leather and possibly the compound. You can use your gas stove, or possibly a paint remover. Keep the strop about 20 centimeters above the heat source. Make sure the strop or your hands will not burn! Your goal is to heat the strop until the point that you can barely keep it in your hands. This way, you will make it easier for the strop to take up the compound. Depending on the hardness of the compound you can also briefly hold it above the heat source to make the application easier. When both are warmed, you can apply it by rubbing over the strop. Try to get it as smooth and evenly as possible, that makes the stropping much easier. Feel free to cover the strop entirely with compound so you can no longer see the leather.
When the compound is applied, it is wise to rub it even further in with a piece of kitchen paper. This will reduce the number of irregularities in the compound. Noticing that the compound on the strop is somewhat crumbly? Then you can just heat it again to be able to spread it out better.
Applying stropping paste, such as the Herold Solingen Staging paste (HS501), is literally a breeze. It is soft and as a result, heating the strop or paste is not necessary. You lubricate the strop evenly and finish it off with a piece of kitchen paper to spread the last imperfections.
Removing compound from a strop
Sometimes, you want to try another kind of compound. A new or additional strop is not always needed. The compound is removed easily. Also useful for when you want to maintain or roughen up the leather.
Pick up a piece of sandpaper that has a between coarse and fine grain. A grain around 240 should be fine. It isn’t rocket science. You simply abrade the compound from the strop and end with small circular motions. This makes sure the strop is roughened evenly. Important it is to avoid leaving rough sand grains in the leather. Make sure to clean the leather well after finishing.
How to apply diamond spray
Spray it on and you’re done. It's as simple as that! Well, you can still watch a few key points. For example, it is important that you do not use too much. You tend to think that diamond spray does not do a lot, but it has a very aggressive bite. Beyond the fact that you would be spilling the diamond, the effects on the cut will be too severe. Completely unnecessary. Spray twice to cover the entire strop is sufficient. It is also important to not get it into your eyes, either indirectly via your fingers. So, we recommend washing your hands. It can spare you a pair of red eyes.
How to apply diamond paste
Diamond paste is also easy to apply. You spray some dots on the surface of the strop. Always less than what you think you need: diamond paste works very quickly so you do not need a lot. Then massage it into the strop with your hands. When you find yourself completely "dry", you can add a little extra diamond paste. You always begin with the finest grain size, as it is no problem to have some fine grain on a coarse strop, but the other way around is less pleasant.
Tips for diamond paste on strops
Small tip from us: are you noticing that the strop with diamond paste is getting somewhat rough and dry? Put some medicinal alcohol in an atomizer and carefully spray a little on the strop. You will notice the diamond paste will soften up again.