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Honing an axe without leather

 
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I'm trying to figure an alternative to using a leather strap for finishing axe sharpening. Is the point of the leather to take off any burrs, and if so, is there some other material that would do the trick? I've got personal reasons not to use leather.
 
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Yes, the leather is a very gentle way to remove little metal hanger-ons that you don't want there.  Personally I don't strop the axe (just diamond file) because I'm about to beat the crap out of the edge and I think that beautifully stropped edge will give me a benefit on two, maybe three strokes.  I might be wrong, or I might not be sharpening the edge sufficiently for it to matter.

Regardless, the shaving world has vegan strops for making your straight razor wicked sharp.  The place I first bumped into them :https://www.portlandrazorco.com/strops/deluxe-green-vegan-felt-straight-razor-strop.  That's a 3" wide strop so it should be able to handle an axe head!
 
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If you wish to be all natural then the Birch polypore  Fomitopsis betulina is also known as Razor strop fungus and can be used in place of leather.
 
D.W. Stratton
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Eliot Mason wrote:Yes, the leather is a very gentle way to remove little metal hanger-ons that you don't want there.  Personally I don't strop the axe (just diamond file) because I'm about to beat the crap out of the edge and I think that beautifully stropped edge will give me a benefit on two, maybe three strokes.  I might be wrong, or I might not be sharpening the edge sufficiently for it to matter.

Regardless, the shaving world has vegan strops for making your straight razor wicked sharp.  The place I first bumped into them :https://www.portlandrazorco.com/strops/deluxe-green-vegan-felt-straight-razor-strop.  That's a 3" wide strop so it should be able to handle an axe head!



Excellent source, will look into it. Thank you!
 
D.W. Stratton
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Skandi Rogers wrote:If you wish to be all natural then the Birch polypore  Fomitopsis betulina is also known as Razor strop fungus and can be used in place of leather.



I'm going to check and see if something like this grows in my region. Thank you.

Edit: nice, it just grows right out of dead birch. Plenty of that in the back woods of hill country where I live!
 
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I am with Eliot on this. I never use leather on an ax.  The burrs dont impact the performance after the first swing ... and probably not then.  Now a knife, that is a little different.
 
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I agree it's not necessary on an axe for chopping wood. To remove the bur from a honed edge, I just slice the edge down a block of wood, then hone that last little bit. If your hone is fine enough, you can easily get it razor-sharp without a strop.
 
D.W. Stratton
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John F Dean wrote:I am with Eliot on this. I never use leather on an ax.  The burrs dont impact the performance after the first swing ... and probably not then.  Now a knife, that is a little different.



Alrighty, this makes sense to me. Making a razor-thin edge and then smashing it into a chunk of wood would seem to be sort of counterproductive! And so I probably don't need to put a Hitori Honzo-level of edge on the durn thing, just enough to get the job done without my elbows and shoulders screaming at me the day after I fell something.

Were an axe ever used in a self-defense/martial style, I assume a razor sharp edge would be more of what you'd want, though maybe if it's going to be glancing off bone it's the same scenario as wood? Not that I'm looking to be violent. It's more like the 21st-century seems to be picking a fight with damn near everyone.
 
Jordan Holland
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Yes, the edge will vary due to intent. Razor-sharp is not necessarily bad, but razor-thin would rarely have a place on an axe. A carving or hewing axe should be razor sharp. An axe for felling, bucking, or delimbing should be reasonably sharp. An axe for splitting has the littlest need for a keen edge. Using a wood axe as a weapon, I believe most people would be better served using the poll rather than the bit, unless they have trained for such combat. At least that's my take on it.
 
pollinator
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I don't bother with a strop. My axes tend be fairly soft steel and do rough work so, as noted by others, I don't see a lot of value added.

That said, a firm power buffing wheel with polishing compound might add value on cheap axes, because you can harden the edge very slightly if you want to. Barbarous, but effective.

For a really high end axe like Wetterlings or whatever, the steel quality is good enough to make stropping worthwhile. But they're spendy -- I would be scared to take it out of the vault.
 
John F Dean
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Hi DW

Regarding self defense: buy remote acreage, plant a  garden, hide.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Looking around, it seems that some alternative strops materials include:
- balsa wood
- cardboard
- back of a legal pad (the stiffener)

I tried the last option, using the backing of a steno pad (the uncoated side). It did a decent job of realigning the edge of a pocket knife, at least. Might be useful for an axe.
 
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was a tiny ad.
BWB second printing, pre-order dealio (poor man's poll)
https://permies.com/t/147624/BWB-printing-pre-order-dealio
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