Old Horse Butt

horse butt

Detail from: Frederick W. La Croix  The Leather Specimen Book (Milwaukee: Pfister and Vogel Leather Co., 1915) Winterthur: TS965 L14. Courtesy Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library.

This small sample of horse butt is interesting because it is the earliest dateable horse butt I have seen, almost 100 years old.  Also note it is called a “Razor Strop Butt.” The skin itself looks much like the modern horse butt strops that I sell in my tool catalog, though it is almost twice as thick, suggesting an older animal. I haven’t found any material that works as well for stropping leather paring knives, which at 13 degrees approach the acute angle of a straight edge razor blade, which are often around 10 degrees. Horse butt has the right combination of elasticity, durability, firmness and density to make the perfect strop. It always cheers me up a bit to see a natural material—like hog hair bristles for our brushes—that hasn’t been supplanted by an artificial invention; perhaps because they subtly challenge unspoken assumptions of our technophillic culture.

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