Horsehide Care

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No Oil Horse Sign

Horsehide Strops – Care, Use and Handling.

The horsehide strops I make are, for the most part, surfaced with what I call a Velvet Finish; there is a visible and felt ’nap’ in the working surface. 

Do not oil these strops.

Do not use strop dressing on them.

Do not put anything of any kind on the leather, not ever – not once.

If you do use a liquid, paste or wax treatment on one of my horsehide strops, you will damage the surface and it cannot be reversed. 

Simply rubbing your hands on the strop will transfer enough emollients into the leather to keep it happy. Adding ‘more’ is not ‘better’ – it will destroy the strop. Just rub your hands up/down the leather before and after use; doing so goes a very long way to developing a pretty ‘aged’ patina and keeping the leather happy. 

This type of hide is ‘semi-broken-in’ – so it will seem ‘stiff’ at first. Don’t be afraid to manhandle it a bit – just a bit; start slowly/gently and work up to a more vigorous style of ‘breaking in the leather’. Work the strop slowly, and don’t expect to get a lot done all at once. This process will take time; each hide is different. Eventually though – you’ll be rewarded with a supple strop that will seem like you’ve owned it for decades. 

I keep a Velvet Finish strop in the bathroom, and several others around the house. I do not see any difference in whether or not they are exposed to humidity or varying temperatures. However – I would also assume that, since each hide came from a different horse, these factors can affect some people’s strops from time to time. 

The best thing to do is to pay attention to your strop. Inspect it regularly, before and after use. Horsehide will want to cup occasionally, you can defeat this manually by reversing the bend gently when you’re running your hands up/down the strop as noted above. 

This ‘cupping’ or ‘concaving’ is a usual, normal, and expected ‘movement’ with horsehide, so watching out for it and correcting it is a normal part of ownership and care. Eventually, the hide will settle down and stay ‘flat’ – but even then, it may decide to ‘cup’ again later on; vigilance is key here. If you are inspecting your strop regularly, then you will see this and your normal caretaking practices will avoid issues. 

Should you nick the edge, or anywhere else actually, you can usually dress the flaw out by sanding with 220x w/d sandpaper used dry on a block. Do not press too hard, the paper will gently abrade the leather until the surface is smooth again. This is one of the assets of this hide; unless you seriously gouge or slice it, you can usually repair it easily, seamlessly and invisibly. 

If you ever have questions, or concerns – email me. Avoid asking 40 people what they think first, because you’ll probably get 40 different answers. I’ve been using this type of strop for a good long while and I doubt there’s any question I can’t answer. 


© Keith V Johnson 2014 - 2018