Besides electric and modern razors on the market, using a straight razor is still popular among most people since it is cost-saving and beneficial to your complexion and skin health.
You might be familiar with honing a razor with a strop or a stone, but how to sharpen a straight razor with a belt?
This article will demonstrate how to sharpen the cutting edge properly with just a leather belt to make the most out of your shaving routine.
Can You Sharpen A Straight Razor With A Leather Belt?
No. A leather belt can be used to strop, not hone or sharpen the blade. There is a major difference between these two terms.
After using a straight razor a few times, the blade’s edge tends to be curled or bent to a side, resulting in its dull cutting edge and ineffective performance. At this time, you need to hone it.
Honing is a way of sharpening. To hone, you need to use an abrasive tool or material (usually a honing stone) to remove some steel particles and improve the edge and shape of the blade.
Meanwhile, stropping with a leather strop means polishing and cleaning the blade to remove any imperfection or burr during the honing procedure. Stropping is a final act after honing, and it does not involve any steel removal.
A straight razor made of high-quality blade material could result in high retention of cutting edge. It means you can strop your razor more times than the one made from generic steel before these micro-sized teeth break off, and you have to cut a new edge of the blade.
Even though a leather belt cannot hone the blade theoretically, it can still significantly straighten the razor edge to work more effectively.
Besides, you should only use a belt in case a leather strop is not available. That is because the surface of a leather belt is not rough enough to guarantee the performance of stropping.
How To Strop A Straight Razor With A Belt?
What To Prepare
The procedure is so simple with minimal tools that everyone could easily do it themselves. All you need is:
- A leather belt
- A straight razor with a dull blade.
A stropping compound is not compulsory, but it can boost the effectiveness of the process.
The leather strop needs to be fixed firmly to a stable and immovable hook. Otherwise, you can place it flat over any flat surface or over your thigh.
In case you choose the first option, remember to fix the belt at the height that you can comfortably hold the razor and move your hands. That is because you might feel tense to hold the belt and move the blade simultaneously.
In addition, pay close attention to your place and surroundings. There is no need to put other people at risk while you hold the razor in hand. Although you are familiar with the sharp straight razor, the others are not.
What’s even more important, you will not feel relaxed to hone your blade when you do the job with your pets and children playing around, will you?
Step 1: Attach your belt to a fixed point firmly and carefully. Then hold it tight to achieve the perfect edge.
Fortunately, most belts have a handle or a D-ring on the other end to easily hold it to get a decent grip.
Step 2: Hold your straight razor and start moving nice and flat.
You need to fully open the straight razor handle so that it is easier to move around. Then, hold the tang with your thumb and forefinger. Find the point where you comfortably hold the blade to flip it from a side and reverse.
If you have a weak and uncomfortable grip, then work slowly. A reduced honing speed could then significantly affect the effectiveness of the whole process. Moreover, never touch the sharp edge as it may injure you severely.
Step 3: Use enough pressure with your hand weight and the razor weight.
Then, slowly and delicately move the blade from one end towards the other, along the grain of the leather belt, without lifting it.
Some people may advise you to keep serious pressure while you move, but it is all wrong. You must be careful to let the edge slightly touch the strop. Too much pressure may backfire and dull the edge.
As soon as you reach the end, flip the spine and move it back to the starting point for a round trip. Be sure to stop moving some inches from the belt end. If you flip the spine too close, it may be damaged by contact with the metal tools.
Step 4: Repeat the whole process for 20-25 round trips before the shave.
When finished, it could offer you the perfect shaving edge. Wipe your straight razor with a soft towel to remove any leftover scrap.
Precautions and Safety Tips When Stropping With A Belt
Common Mistakes While Stropping
The biggest mistake of many beginners when stropping is rushing the process to achieve better results. However, rushing may harm yourself and damage the blade’s edge as well. That’s why stropping straight razors need your attention and delicacy.
Here is the list of things you should avoid in the process:
- Roll your razor in the midst of stropping.
- Pull the edge too close towards you or too far from you.
- Use uneven pressure.
- Insufficient tension leading to slack in the strop.
- Excessive tension in the strop.
- Let the blade contact the metal hardware at the end of the belt.
Expert Advice On Stropping
In addition to a list of don’ts, you might face a few risks while stropping straight razors, even when you are super careful. They may include accidentally cutting yourself, cutting your leather strop or getting loose loop cordage.
And to prevent all of them, here are something you could do:
- Apply enough and even pressure on the belt when you pass the blade. Too much pressure could result in a strained strop.
- Use thicker leather pieces and put the cutting edge at the perfect angle to be honed.
- Secure the loop carefully and avoid pressing the blade too hard on the strop, or it could become loose.
Notes When Using A Leather Belt To Strop The Razor Straight?
The surface of the belt should be smooth
Stropping the knife on an embossed, inlaid, or stitching surface will only cause the edges of the blade to not be sharpened consistently.
Belt material must be genuine leather
Leatherette materials will often be treated with chemicals and have a chemical coating that can create undesirable reactions to your blade.
And what’s more, they’re also not tough enough to withstand strops on the surface.
How To Sharpen A Straight Razor Before Stropping?
A Honing Stone
Regardless, you can still sharpen your razor with any honing stone with a flat and wet surface. However, for the best result, we recommend you to utilize a Synthetic Water Stone, with steps described as follows:
- Step 1: Spray some clean water on your stone surface.
- Step 2: Put the razor on the stone surface until it is flat, with the cutting edge staying away from you.
- Step 3: Move the razor to the other end without lifting the spine or applying any pressure.
- Step 4: Roll the razor’s spine so that the edge faces you.
- Step 5: Gently turn the razorback towards the starting point.
- Step 6: Repeat until the cutting edge is sharp.
If you wish to learn more about sharpening a straight razor with a water stone, please check out the article “How to sharpen a straight razor without a strop” for more essential tools and a detailed instructional guide.
A Knife Sharpener
Theoretically, sharpening a razor with a knife sharpener is similar to the process with a honing stone we mentioned above. However, we advise you against using a knife sharpener for your straight razor.
Despite being made of the same quality material, the tools are different. A knife sharpener is as fine and delicate as a honing stone to sharpen your blade.
The rough surface of the knife sharpener might ruin your blade for the very first time.
Straight Razor Maintenance Tips After Sharpening
Along with sharpening a straight razor, it is also important to learn helpful maintenance tips to maintain the item.
It will take you more time and effort, but the result will save you money on the repair and replacement.
- Drying the razor after use prevents blade discoloration and rusting.
- Once it dries, wipe baby oil (or mineral oil) onto the blade for further rusting prevention against natural air humidity.
The Bottom Line
Now, with our instructions on how to sharpen a straight razor with a belt, hopefully, you can successfully hone your blade without worrying about dull edges before every shave.
It is necessary to get a clean and smooth shave and preserve its performance in the long term.