The standard cajun tupelo knife used here will have a 68-72mm long, single bevel blade with a hardwood handle. The blade shape is a special design that puts the cutting power where it should be when sculpting tupelo. You must NEVER sharpen this knife on any stone. STROP ONLY and there is a certain way to do that. Just follow the stropping instructions here to the letter in order to take the best care of your knife and keep the fine razor edge required for carving tupelo wood. If you use this knife to carve any other species of wood, you will probably dull the edge so much that you will have to stone it. In stoning this blade it is easy to create a secondary bevel that makes it unsuitable for tupelo carving. A single bevel must be maintained and this stropping technique is the way to do it..
Start with the stropping board on the edge of a waist high table and parallel to that table's edge as shown. The strop itself is made with the rough side of a piece of genuine leather 2 part epoxy to a flat hardwood board a minimum of 1/2" thick, 2" wide and about 6" long or more. Dampen the leather with honing oil and rub into the leather as much Aluminum Oxide powder it will hold.
For the first side, to start the stropping motion, lie the blade completely flat on the strop and at a 45 degree angle. You will be pulling the blade at that angle to the right and then stopping on the leather and lifting straight up, returning to this position again for the next stroke.
Place two fingers of the opposite hand on the blade as shown to hold it firmly to the strop through each stroke. As you pull the knife in this position, tilt the back of the blade up about 12 degrees and hold it at that as best you can through the stroke. Do not let the blade roll at the end of the stroke. That will take the edge off the knife.
Lock you wrist in that position before pulling the blade to the right as shown here. Also keep your elbows locked close to you body, rotating your whole body like a machine keeping the knife locked in position through the stroke.
After four or five strokes, then reverse the direction as shown, maintaining the 45 degree angle.
Again apply finger pressure to the blade while pulling the blade through the stroke to the left as shown.
Be careful with this motion as this is really a back stroke that you may not feel comfortable with. Remember to lock everything in, keeping the angles correct and rotating the body in the direction of the stroke. Four or five strokes to the left on this side should also be sufficient unless you have not stropped in a while.
Then to test its sharpness, you should be able to dry shave the back of your hand or arm without much resistance. Careful here not to slice, but to pull the blade squarely against the hair flow. If you draw blood, then you have gone too deep :-) yikes!