Stropping

stropping

I’m starting to get a little mental about knife sharpening. You may have noticed.

Something I’ve completely ignored is stropping. Stropping.

Stropping is the difference between getting a blade sharp, really sharp and razor sharp. And for the little bit of work that it takes to strop a blade, it is ridiculous not too.

So this week I’m going to pick myself a piece of leather and make my own strop. If I can find some buffing compound, I’ll pick that up too. By the weekend, I’ll be stropping my knives.

And the best description I’ve read as to how to use a strop came from bgentry at bladeforums.com. He said:

For this and the person that asked for a “tutorial” on how to use a strop, I’m going to give you just the basics.

A leather or cardboard strop micro polishes and micro aligns a blade. Leather or cardboard are a very fine abrasive; much finer than most sharpening stones. So they sharpen the blade; really they polish it as they are so fine that they take off very, very little metal.

Second, strops push the edge around as you use them. All stones do this too; that’s why burrs form. The strop pushes the edge around a small amount and can allow you to get your edge really straight up and down: Not pointed off to the left or right slightly. You can think of the edge of a knife as being made of clay. Pressure on one side will push the edge towards the middle, and with more pressure, will push it over to the other side.

To use a strop you always use an edge trailing stroke. Or you can think of it as leading with the spine. Either way, the key idea is to NOT cut into the strop. Go the other direction with the edge trailing. What angle do you strop at? I’ve read opinions that the angle doesn’t matter all that much.

To get an idea of the correct angle, put the blade flat on the strop and start moving it forward (edge first), slowly and gently. Raise the spine of the blade as you go, so the angle increases. At some point the blade will begin to bite into the strop. Stop right there. That’s the angle you want to strop at. But remember: You strop with the edge trailing. This edge forward was just to find the angle to strop at. Always strop with edge trailing strokes.

I usually do 2 or 3 alternating strokes per side for a few rounds and check the blade to see if it is “leaning” one way or the other (a small burr on one side or the other). Then I strop 2 or 3 times, decreasing the pressure, on the side with the burr and check again. I repeat if necessary, or switch sides if necessary. Then I finish off with a dozen or so alternating strokes, trying to use just the weight of the blade for the last half, and at the very end, not even the entire weight of the blade.

After checking at this stage, I sometimes have a (tiny) burr on one side and will have to touch it up.

I’m still learning how to use the strop correctly. I can say that I can definitely improve most edges with a strop, but I can’t do the miracles that some here can like tree topping and hair whittling.

Finally … if you rub buffing compound into the strop it will make it cut much faster and more effectively. Green chromium oxide compound seems to be the most popular, though others use other kinds, including exotic stuff like diamond paste. For the few dollars it costs for a big stick of green compound, I think it is VERY much worth it and it makes a big difference in the performance of the strop.

This got longer than I intended, though as I said, I’m no where near an expert on stropping. I hope I got the basics correct and helped out those who are brand new to stropping.

Here’s to stropping.

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Eat Food

FOOD RULES by Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan is a journalist. He’s written mostly about the things we eat and how & why we eat them. He has written the sanest, most easily digestible (pun intended) stuff on food and diet that I have ever written. In his books, he’s tickled important information out of our instincts & traditions, scientists & chefs, and grandmothers & great-grandmothers, and written them in easily read books and essays.

While Mr. Pollan has written eight food-related books, FOOD RULES might be his most important. Why? Because he gives us bite-sized (yes, another pun) chunks of advice, gleaned from all of his studies, on how and what we should eat. If we followed half of his advice, there is no doubt that we’d be healthier and happier.

The list below includes every aphorism from the book. In the book FOOD RULES, each aphorism is accompanied by a mini-essay. Buy the book. Read the essays. Apply the advice. At least as much of it as you can.

  1. Eat food
  2. Don’t eat anything your great‐grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food
  3. Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry
  4. Avoid food products that contain high‐fructose corn syrup
  5. Avoid food products that have some form of sugar (or sweetener listed among) the top three ingredients
  6. Avoid food products that have more than 5 ingredients
  7. Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third‐grader cannot pronounce
  8. Avoid food products that make health claims
  9. Avoid food products with the word “lite” or the terms “low fat” or “nonfat” in their names
  10. Avoid foods that are pretending to be something they are not
  11. Avoid foods you see advertised on television
  12. Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle
  13. Eat only foods that will eventually rot
  14. Eat foods made from ingredients that you can picture in their raw state or growing in nature
  15. Get out of the supermarket whenever you can
  16. Buy your snacks at the farmers market
  17. Eat only foods that have been cooked by humans
  18. Don’t ingest foods made in places where everyone is required to wear a surgical cap
  19. If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.
  20. It’s not food if it arrived through the window of your car
  21. It’s not food if it’s called by the same name in every language (Think Big Mac, Cheetos or Pringles)
  22. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves
  23. Treat meat as a flavoring or special occasion food
  24. Eating what stands on one leg [mushrooms and plant foods] is better than eating what stands on two legs [fowl], which is better than eating what stands on four legs [cows, pigs and other mammals].
  25. Eat your colors
  26. Drink the spinach water
  27. Eat animals that have themselves eaten well
  28. If you have space, buy a freezer
  29. Eat like an omnivore
  30. Eat well‐grown food from healthy soil
  31. Eat wild foods when you can
  32. Don’t overlook the oily little fishes
  33. Eat some foods that have been predigested by bacterial or fungi
  34. Sweeten and salt your food yourself
  35. Eat sweet foods as you find them in nature
  36. Don’t eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk
  37. The whiter the bread, the sooner you’ll be dead
  38. Favor the kinds of oils and grains that have traditionally been stone‐ground
  39. Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself
  40. Be the kind of person who takes supplements – then skip the supplements
  41. Eat more lie the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks.
  42. Regard nontraditional foods with skepticism
  43. Have a glass of wine with dinner
  44. Pay more, eat less
  45. Eat less
  46. Stop eating before you’re full
  47. Eat when you are hungry, not when you are bored
  48. Consult your gut
  49. Eat slowly
  50. The banquet is in the first bite
  51. Spend as much time enjoying the meal as it took to prepare it
  52. Buy smaller plates and glasses
  53. Serve a proper portion and don’t go back for seconds
  54. Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like pauper
  55. Eat meals
  56. Limit your snacks to unprocessed plant foods
  57. Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does
  58. Do all your eating at a table
  59. Try not to eat alone
  60. Treat treats as treats
  61. Leave something on your plate
  62. Plant a vegetable garden if you have space, a window box if you don’t
  63. Cook
  64. Break the rules once in a while

Don’t Play With Knives

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I bought a very cheap knife at the local flea market. $12. And I overpaid.

I promptly brought it home. Sharpened it. And oiled it. I turned it into a workable, though still cheap, stiletto.

And then promptly cut myself with it. Above you can see said knife and the subsequent field dressing.

Maybe the wound could have used some professional attention. My 11-year-old certainly thought so. It did bleed a lot. Perhaps it deserved a stitch or two.

But I just slapped on a little gauze and some athletic tape.

Happy Sunday.

I Wonder

I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it.

Mark Twain

Sexting

If by “sexting” you mean my wife sending me a message on my phone saying, “Fuck you,” yeh, then I “sext” all the time.

Bucket List

As I get older, my bucket list gets smaller and smaller. Not because I checking things off the list, sadly, but because they have dropped off due to lack of funds or lack of time. Some things have just, well, passed me by – I’ll never be a pro golfer as I once dreamed (curse you, Art Robideux – one day I’ll tell that story).

But still on that list and very viable is seeing the aurora borealis, which is pictured above.

The photo above is from the Boston Globe’s Big Picture: Colors In the Sky.