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Thread: Guided rod stropping, my Paper Tape Stropping (PTS) method

  1. #1

    Hahaha Guided rod stropping, my Paper Tape Stropping (PTS) method

    The summary of this longish post is: High-polish/Razorsharp-stropping can be done on the Ruixin (and similar guided rod sharpening systems) very precisely, effectively, conveniently/easily, and budget-friendly. Very budget-friendly. How? By applying the compound on surgical tape. The ("whetstone") base material should provide some yet minimal give. Here, balsa wood serves better than the typical leather.

    Dec 2017 Reference, the premiere post was on MTF, this is a repost on CPF. As you will realize, users of almost any commercial guided rod sharpening system could adopt my method; i am taking my modded Ruixin as application example/case example. Afaik I am the first to have come up with this ingenious very specific idea. I've given this method a name and call it Paper Tape Stropping (by kreisler gemani) or 'to strop a knife/blade/edge with the PTS method' or 'to do PT stropping' .

    Pro's:
    • very precise, effective, convenient, and budget-friendly way of stropping
    • very easy, also suitable for absolute beginners in the realm of stropping
    • grit progression possible, if wanted; also inexpensive
    • reliable reproducible results, perfect geometrical acuteness
    • can replace free-hand leather strops
    • goes easy on wrists, joints, muscles; it results painful to strop a Surge on leather
    • does not produce convex edge profiles; dulling over-stropping is not possible!
    • no strop cleaning/reactivation/maintenance needed; simply exchange the tape
    • typically the PTS "whetstones" are prepared fresh, pure, uncontaminated; one could reuse them


    Con's:
    • may appear tiresome, time-inefficient, longer-taking, slower, less convenient than free-hand leather stropping
    • for starters, may take some pita time to deploy your guided rod system on the table desktop
    • may take some time to prepare your series of PTS "whetstones"
    • limited to the range/dimensions of knives which your guided rod sharpening system (GRSS) accepts


    Note: The PTS method is not to replace all of your free-hand leather stropping activity, when working on a specific knife model or specimen. For example, after reducing the burr with my last Ruixin stone (1500grit), i sometimes proceed with 1min on my (singular grit!) 1 foot long SiliciumCarbide-loaded leather strop to faster smooth out the zig-zaginess of the edge line, before i return to the Ruixin device starting the PTS method. The PTS method does smooth out the edge line too, 100.0% perfectly so, it just takes longer. If time is not a factor, you won't need a leather strop during the entire sharpening procedure; however, in general a leather strop is always a great tool to have, for example for very quick, time-efficient touch-ups back to a working edge or when you don't mind convexing the edge profile a bit. I have been appreciating the PTS method so much that I always try to do it whenever a blade has gone dull and either would need touching up (usually done on a leather strop) or actual resharpening (usually done on a 1000+ grit stone). If you know what you're doing and have the proper set of compounds for the grit progression, then the PTS method can be extremely effective, hence also time-efficient.

    Comparison: Stropping with disposable tapes is not a new idea per se. WickedEdge offers 'leather tapes' for 60$/pair, and EdgePro offers custom-cut dry grit tapes for 37$/set. If money isn't a factor, then these are awesome substitutes and superior to my PTS which is basically a budgeteer's DIY method; WickedEdge and EdgePro owners don't need to look any further, they already have the best (and most expensive). At the opposite end of the spectrum, people on a budget or Ruixin users should find my PTS method to be an attractive alternative to free-hand leather stropping.

    What you will need:
    1. 1pc compatible base/holder; i use the cheap generic black plastic ones
    2. 1pc balsa wood, cut to the identical dimensions of your Ruixin stone
    3. double-sided adhesive tape or special glue to fix the wood on the base
    4. 1 roll of surgical paper tape 3M Micropore; for best guaranteed results don't use any other product!
    5. 1 set of cheap polishing compound; typically in form of solid wax, block, cream, paste, powder
    6. leather oil or other light oil for solving and dispersing your preferred stropping compound
    7. (optional) 1 pair of disposable rubber gloves; i don't use such a thing anymore, they are not really needed
    8. (optional) old newspaper to protect your desktop from spills, crumbs, dirt

    If you have a set of 3 solid wax compounds (FINE, SUPERFINE, SUPEREXTRAFINE), then it'd make sense to get 3pcs of the plastic base and attach balsa wood on each one of them. The wood doesn't get dirty or consumed, and base and wood together form the "holder" for the paper tape. The more holders you have, the better for you: you could reuse the holder with the FINE PT (=paper tape loaded with the FINE compound) for other knives and wouldn't need to exchange the tape for the grit progression.

    On the following pic you can see a total of 2pcs black plastic bases (1 blank, 1 in use, made in chinas), 3pcs balsa wood (2 not in use, 1 in use), 2pcs leather strips (both not in use, made in gemani), 1 roll of Micropore surgical paper tape (made by 3M), 1 set of solid wax compound BLUE and WHITE (made in gemani), 1 set of 12 syringes colorful polishing diamond paste (made in chinas, 1 syringe missing), 1 container of pure ChromeOxide GREEN powder (made in gemani), 1 syringe GEMAN polishing/stropping paste (SiliciumCarbide compound, made in gemani), 2 mini glass bottles (water, oil), 1 yellow bottle with leather oil (made in gemani):


    Chinese (CN) diamond paste can be found easily in sets of 3, 5, 6, 10, or 12 syringes on ebay, Aliexpress, BG, etc, etc. 1 set costs maybe 6usd. Yes, 12 effing syringes for only 6 lousy bucks! CN diamond paste is for polishing metals and, due to its low(?) concentration of abrasives, not suitable or not very effective as stropping compound applied on leather: on a dry leather surface the creamy paste instantly turns waxy/solid rather than remains oily. Since, applied on leather or directly on wood, it didn't seem to cut steel effectively, I hated this paste … until i applied it on the paper tape. As you can see from the above photo, the (generously loaded) tapes turned black, the CN paste did its work, finally! And surprisingly fast! Now i am loving the CN paste and have almost used up the more 'popular' colors. My set of CN paste goes down to 0.5micron, other CN paste sets go down to 0.25micron. My ChromeOxide GREEN is said to be 0.3micron, here my razor-sharp kitchen chef knife finished with that 12-step series (the upper knife is for edge reference lol):


    It took a long time to go through the full range of grit progressions of the CN paste, finishing with the ChromeOxide GREEN, and i wouldn't want to do it again in future, except for show edges like my multitool blades. ChromeOxide or "the GREEN compound" seems to be the most popular stropping compound on youtube, and youtubers end up with armhair-shaving sharp edges. One geman youtuber recommended buying the GREEN compound in waxfree form, in its pure form, powder, which i did:


    Really inexpensive, 2eur or so from the local painter's supply shop. Hilarious, it is sold in stupid plastic bags. Can you see what i did there? I feel like genius lol :


    At first i didn't have 3M Micropore surgical tape in the household. Instead i found other make surgical tape, you may know the series < Leukoplast, Leukosilk, Leukotape, Leukomed, Leukofix, Leukoflex, Leukopor, Leukowtf, Leukoetc > from your last hospital visit. Anywho, even though this Leukowtf surgical tape stuff worked pretty well for stropping, it didn't work extremely well; so save your efforts and do not use that non-3M kind of surgical tape! If the tape product says Leuko- , you say -byebye:


    Another poor idea is applying compound directly on a whetstone, with or without oily solvent doesn't matter :


    Yes real whetstones or glass are perfectly smooth but they don't provide the minimal give which is desirable for effective stropping. Balsa wood or leather are superior in this regard. Thus, also a poor idea is using a real whetstone (artificial or natural doesn't matter) as "holder" for the tape, here the bad example with a natural green stone (10000grit):


    Another advantage of using balsa wood as holder is that you won't damage (micro-chip) the edge when you accidentally hit the "whetstone" against the knife edge. The knife edge would cut into the soft wood and not take any damage. Accumulation of such cutting mishaps is the only reason why one would need to replace the strip of balsa wood eventually. Check out the four corners, you could see 2 corners with damaged wood underneath the tape:


    So yeah i tried various tape products. Being absorbent, surgical tapes are the ones we're looking for. Among them the #1 best choice is the surgical paper tape. And the market-leading surgical paper tape is made by 3M, and their product is called 3M Micropore. If bought from a local pharmacy via the PZN identification, it is expensive stuff, maybe 6EUR per roll. I found it on amazon, a 12-pack box for 9EUR shipped. Each roll has 2.5cm x 9.1m, what a steal:


    With the 12 rolls à 9.1m one could build hundreds of Apex-sized paper tape strops. For sure it is an economic no-brainer to exchange the tapes frequently, regularly, as soon as they have turned black:


    How to prepare a PTS "whetstone":

    Assuming that you've already attached the wood on the plastic base, there are 3 steps:
    1. Apply a strip of paper tape on the balsa wood holder
    2. Place 3 oil drops on the dry tape (1 near either end and 1 in the middle) and rush to disperse the soaking oil evenly over the entire tape with the help of your index finger.
    3. Place "crumbs" of your compound on the (now slightly oily) tape and disperse them with your bare index finger through rubbing motions; the entire tape should be loaded with the compound evenly
    4. (optional) If the loaded tape is too dry, then no good. If the loaded tape is too wet from the oil, then also no good. In the latter case, game over, remove the tape and try again. In the former case, place 1 oil drop on the tip of your index finger and rub the finger across the tape to "moisturize" the surface.

    Step1 is banal. You will notice that the adhesive of the 3M Micropore product sticks pretty well to the smooth balsa wood surface, so be careful later, when you replace the tape, and also remove adhesive residues with a paper towel plus some rubbing alcohol or oil. Remind yourself that the surface should be smooth when you apply the tape.
    Step2 is for pre-saturating the tape and evenly so. The oil (personally, i use leather oil and never tried stuff like Ballistol or WD-40 for this purpose) acts as solvent (dissolving agent) for the polishing compound, no matter if the compound is in solid wax form, block form, liquid cream form, paste form, or dry powder form. Since the tape absorbs the oil fast, you need to be even faster with your index finger to disperse the oil with circling/rubbing motions over the entire tape surface. Just try your best and use as little oil as possible: i use a pipette apportioning 1 full-size drop among the 3 spots. In fact, 3 full-size drops of oil would be too much, no good.
    Step3 is where you try to create an evenly compound-loaded stropping surface with your bare index finger. It is obvious that cream and pastes are the most convenient forms for this little task and don't need further How To explanation. See the remainder of this post how i manage to apply solid block compound.

    I use an old knife to scrape flakes from the block compound. One does not need much. Both flake piles are a bit too much:



    Oil does solve the flakes and liquefies them. A few drops of oil on the pile and some rubbing action with your finger and you've created a DIY paste. In the following pic i used too much oil, no good:


    The following pic shows how i experimented with applying the DIY paste on dry tape. No good, because you're losing control over the amount of oil getting absorbed by the tape:


    Now let's do it the correct way, shall we?

    Step0 is getting your blank Apex balsa wood "whetstone" out on the table! For a 2-stage grit progression (WHITE → BLUE) it makes sense to prepare 2 of them, i.e. 1 "whetstone" with the WHITE compound and 1 with the BLUE. The following photo shows brand-new fresh stock wood, they are my spares for future use:


    Step1
    is applying a strip of paper tape on the balsa wood. Note that in all the following photos i am actually using used wood, not brand-new fresh stock wood. As long as the wood surface is smooth, flat, plane, and undamaged (material consistency), it doesn't matter. The wood only serves as "holder" for the tape. The tape does the stropping, not the wood:


    After Step2 the tapes look a bit wet or "moisturized". Important, use as little oil as possible. 1 (or 2) full-size drops of oil should suffice:


    For Step3 i've produced more flakes than needed. My scraping tool is a scrap piece of hard plastic lol:


    This is how it's done, correctly! You disperse the "crumbs" (here: flakes) rather generously over the tape, like so:


    Then use your bare index finger to rub the crumbs into the tape. You'll be surprised how the rubbing motion plus the oil in the tape dissolve the solid flakes and how easy it is to spread the compound evenly over the tape surface, like so:

    Now you're ready to go. If you think that the loaded surface seems a bit dry, don't worry; when needed, you could place 1 oil drop on the tip of your index finger and then either dab the minimal amount of oil on the (blackening) tape or directly on the knife edge.

    The following 7 pics document how the tape gets loaded with powderized knife steel. Depending on your wrist movement and pressure balance, a black pattern would form on the tape. After switching blade sides and also 180°-turning the "whetstone", the tape would become fully covered with the black stuff. The WHITE compound cuts very fast and produces a near-mirror polish after a few strokes. Micro-nicks, micro-chips are gone in no time:



    Moving on to the BLUE compound. It also cuts very fast and leaves a mirror polish. The high concentration of abrasives (3micron? i dunno) makes the compound so fast-cutting:






    The duo of WHITE plus BLUE compound costs 5EUR or so and is for polishing metals. But they are so fast-cutting, much faster than the CN diamond paste, that they have become my go-to standard method for finishing the sharpening of my knives (and also for resharpening, instead of going back to the 1000+ grit stones); only sometimes would i add a 3rd stropping step with the GREEN compound:

    I heard that Jeweller's Rouge, for example the DIALUX RED compound is even finer than 0.3micron, wow! It is also a solid block compound and usually a pita to apply on leather strops and a challenge to apply evenly on balsa wood direct since it is solid and not liquid. I am going to buy and try this compound on my PT strop! As we know, the oil does the trick of "liquefying" the hard compound … by dissolving it.
    Wax(s) + Oil(l) = Paste(s/l). What a neat chemical equation hehe.

    Verdict: For sure, for me, the PTS method gives me a more perfect stropping result along the entire edge, on either blade side!, than when i try my best doing free-hand stropping where I always struggle with the rounded portions of the knife ("belly"). I was happy with my budget free-hand leather stropping and results before, but the PTS method took the sharpening results to a higher level. A real win and worth composing this time-consuming reference post.

    What i also like about balsa wood as holder: Even though the material is soft and could be damaged/dented easily during non-careful handling, the wood stays smooth, flat, plane and does not get dented or compressed through the stropping action itself. Maybe that's because no pressure is needed during the paper tape stropping: the (generously loaded) paper tape does all the stropping work, acting like a mechanical shield, there is not much strain left on the balsa wood itself. I can tell you, stropping on balsa wood direct consumes the material, whereas paper tape stropping spares the wood material!

    Guided stropping is highly effective resulting in hair-whittling sharpness, WickedEdge and EdgePro owners know it, and with this post I've shown how one can get there on a budget. The essential key was using 3M Micropore (this very product!) on balsa wood, and not loading a whole bunch of balsa strops with an entire set of forbiddingly expensive diamond sprays
    Last edited by kreisl; 12-07-2017 at 06:52 PM.
    ~ bitterness about poor quality remains long after sweetness of low price is forgotten ~

  2. #2

    Default Re: Guided rod stropping, my Paper Tape Stropping (PTS) method

    Quote Originally Posted by kreisl View Post
    Instead i found other make surgical tape, you may know the series < Leukoplast, Leukosilk, Leukotape, Leukomed, Leukofix, Leukoflex, Leukopor, Leukowtf, Leukoetc > from your last hospital visit. (…)
    The essential key was using 3M Micropore (this very product!)
    Oops, i have reason to believe that there is some probability that 3M's "3M Micropore™" and BSN medical GmbH's "Leukopor®" are the same product made by the same manufacturer 3M (maybe i could get an official statement from the 3M company clarifying this topic...). I don't have a Leukopor-branded sample for direct comparative investigative computospectroanalysis, here right now, but from my previous experience with tapes from the hospital it is safe to assume that both are the identical product made by 3M. The Micropore-branded version costs less on amazon, so never mind the Leukopor-branded version from your local pharmacy anyway!

    Today, a snowy Sunday, i made 2 fresh "holders". This time i used double-sided adhesive tape to stick the wood on the plastic. Question: Does your double-sided adhesive tape adhere to your balsa wood? Answer: If it doesn't at first, try dabbing the wood surface clean with tape. I gave my balsa wood surface a full treatment of repeated "tape-dabbings" to get rid of all hidden dust, splinter and superficial or loose wood material particles:



    After that treatment the tape would stick nicely to the wood surface! Then i applied a broad strip of the tape on this uberclean wood surface and cut it to size:



    I chose the cut size to be a bit bigger, 1 millimeter or so:



    The double-side adhesive tape really does its job holding the 2 materials tightly together:



    Ta-rah, my 2 new "holders" are done! Looking good:



    Now i've got a total of 4 "holders", all ready to go:



    Balsa wood is affordable, maybe 2.00€ for 1pc of Balsa 20x5x1000mm from a local craft shop, if you can find one or if they have it in stock. My local shop had Birkenholz 20x5x1000mm in stock (birch wood), which is much denser and harder than balsa wood; i will not recommend birch wood or basswood, sorry!


    Why use tape? The tape will allow me to flip the wood strip, if (if!) the wood surface gets notably damaged by accident during countless weeks of paper tape stropping. This way i could reuse the wood strip: both sides of the balsa can be used for holding the paper tape. Very economic method, cheers!
    Last edited by kreisl; Today at 03:05 PM.

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