How To Sharpen A Straight Razor?(Ultimate Guide & Instructions)

Sharpen A Straight Razor

We bet many of you don’t know how to sharpen a straight razor and are looking for further instructions. If that’s the case, our post is here to help.

If you’re a men’s grooming lover, we bet you have heard about straight razor and their explicit benefits.

Yet, using and maintaining these items might be trickier than you think, especially in keeping that sharpness on point. Indeed, many people don’t know how to sharpen a straight razor.

If that’s also the problem you’re facing, today’s guide is for you. We’ve also included some valuable tips in our article! 

Tools You’ll Need Before Sharpening A Straight Razor

When it comes to sharpening a straight razor blade, you’ll only call for a few simple tools in which strops, stones, and films are the most essential.

Strop

The most typical method of honing a straight razor is to utilize a strop, which you can spot in many mẹn’s barbershop (of course, if the owner sharpens his blades in front of you). 

If you’ve acquired your first straight razor, shaving by a strop is ideal.

If you’re all about the world of grooming and possess a decent straight edge razor blade, the strop should be your preferred technique.

Indeed, strops allow users to preserve the essence of what it means to be a wet shave practitioner while also effectively aid in maintaining your blade conditions.

Regardless of what you prefer, when choosing a strop, be sure to go for high-quality materials. Avoid using low-cost substitutes since they might cost extra expenses and result in severe damages in the worst case.

Strops come in a variety of shapes and sizes and work well for multiple purposes. Most of the time, leather is the ideal selection, but different materials like vinyl and even newspaper have worked for some users.

Below are a few common strop types you might encounter.

Bench Strop

Bench Strop
The bench strop features a leather strap affixed to a wooden block.

A bench strop is an industrial-style leather strop attached to a wooden block using a bolt or screw. Usually, this type of strop works wonders on flat areas such as a workstation or a tabletop. 

This type of bench strops pair well with gritty pastes and are ideal for new users.

Loom Strop

Loom Strop
A loom strop is somewhat cumbersome and hard to work with.

A loom strop refers to a leather strop featuring a customizable system and a grip. As they are pretty pricey and relatively cumbersome to work with, people tend to go for other options.

However, nowadays, there are only a few companies that still manufacture this particular style of the strop. 

Paddle Strop

 

Paddle Strop
A paddle strop is a better rendition of the classic bench strop.

A paddle strop is practically an improved version of a bench strop. As it comes with a handle, people find it easier to control than traditional bench strops.

Despite their limited popularity, paddle strops do an excellent job.

Hanging Strop

The hanging strop is the most widely used tool. Its design features a strop attached to a latch or doorknob, which people pull tightly to use. 

Hanging Strop
The hanging strop is the most preferred choice.

Another plus of hanging strops is their ease of maintenance.

However, compared to other rivals, it takes more time and effort to perfect the art of using the famous hanging strop, despite its popularity.

Stones 

Honing your straight razor with a sharpening stone (also-called wet sharpening method) is a preferable alternative to strop sharpening.

While employing this method yields similar outcomes, stone honing allows users to maintain their razor blade sharpness for much longer.

The most notable advantage of utilizing a stone to whet a straight razor is that users won’t need to perform the task as frequently as the strop method.

Indeed, a honing session every 3 – 6 months is more than enough if you’ve mastered this technique.

There are 2 common types of shaving stones: 

Natural Stones

Natural Stones
Natural stones are tricker to work with compared to other options.

As their name implies, natural stones are stones found in nature. These stones don’t feature any grit levels; thus, utilizing them could be a headache and not ideal for newbies.

If you’re one of those having excellent sharpening skills, then using natural stones should be fine.

Synthetic Water Stones

Synthetic Water Stones
Synthetic water stones are fairly popular and easy-to-handle.

Like what their moniker states, synthetic water stones are artificial stones that are easily accessible and consistently deliver outstanding performance. They are ideal for both newbies and experienced.

Grit Ratings

The following is a grit level guide you’ll need to know:

  • 1000-grit stones: People usually utilize these stones for the bevel, which is the primary razoring edge. When sharpening your straight razor, expect to spend roughly 75% of your time utilizing 1000-grit stones.
  • 4000-grit stones: These are ideal for developing the cutting edge, which costs approximately 15% of your time.
  • 8000-grit stones: These stones, which will occupy your last 10%, excel at establishing the shaving edge.
  • 10,000-grit stones: This step is optional, yet, if you want to complete the edge, it’s advisable to utilize 10,000-grit stones.

No matter which you choose, it’s essential to have a clean water supply for all kinds of stones/films to keep them lubricated.

The spray bottle comes in handy here, but you may also use a mug or basin filled with water if you don’t have one.

Lapping Films

Lapping films is a less-known option
Lapping films is a less-known option.

Lapping films are polyester base films featuring graded minerals’ coats that are great for sharpening razors.

Their advantages include being the most cost-saving honing products available in the marketplace and their broad spectrum of grit levels, making them much more accessible and adaptable to customers.

Lapping films’ grit chart
Lapping films’ grit chart.

When it comes to lapping films’ most signature characteristics, the grit level and color coding are the most noticeable. 

Indeed, the lapping film package comes in 6 different grits starting from 12 to.3 microns. Also, manufacturers tend to color code them to help distinguish between grits, and they have adhesive strips on the back, making them super easy to use.

Simply take the film, peel and adhere it to your desired surface.

How To Sharpen A Straight Razor Using Strops

Strops
Strop sharpening is among the most classic and effective methods.

If you want to hone your straight razor effective with a strop, follow these steps strictly:  

  • Before starting to hone your straight razor, wipe your blade with a cotton ball and rubbing alcohol. Just clean both sides of the blades and make sure to avoid cutting your fingers while cleaning.
  • For the best results, put your strop in an obstacle-free spot with lots of space to work. If you’re utilizing a hanging strop, pull it taut but not too tightly. Otherwise, if you’re using different types of strops, make sure the surface is flat and that you secure the strop to that surface.
  • Then, use your palm, slightly massage the strop’s area back and forth numerous times. As a result, this action keeps the strop’s area clear of inconsistencies that may interfere with your later honing and allows the natural oils in your palms to “heat up” and moisturize the leather.

If the strop you’re using includes a gash or slit on it, don’t worry about it. Just skip that area when stropping.

  • Hold the blade with your right hand while holding the strop with the other if you’re a right-handed person. Then, angle your sharpening strop and blade until they sit about 90 degrees in front of you. 
  • After the items are at the proper position, make quick strokes to slide the blade along the entire length of the strop. It would take roughly 10 strokes like that to achieve the sharpness needed in a blade most of the time.

Note: If you opt for the strop honing technique, you’ll have to repeat the process at least once a month. 

How To Sharpen A Straight Razor Using Stones

Using Stones
Using stones to sharpen your straight razor is also effective.

If you’ve made up your mind and decided to go for this method, make sure to acquire stones featuring a decent grit level.

In most cases, water stones are the best choices to get the task done effortlessly and quickly. However, for the best results, go for those possessing the 4000/8000 combination grit rating.

  • Start to sharpen somewhere spacey to move your hands. 
  • Get the stones and honing area ready: Immerse the stones (if possible) in clean water, plus prepare a water container or a spray bottle around. If your stones’ surface isn’t flat, lap them completely using abrasives. Otherwise, you might risk damaging your blade.
  • Lay the blade flat on the stone, with the cutting edge pointing away from you.
  • Grab the tang and grip with your dominant hand and place both pointer and middle fingers on the razor with the other. In this position, you can hold the blade flat as you move it over the stone. Afterward, use your spray bottle or water container to wet your stone so that the honing surface gets well-lubricated.
  • Take the razor and glide over the stone, be careful not to apply any pressure or raise its spine. Continue doing this until you are down to the final 1⁄2 inch of the stone. If you want to keep the stone from clinging to your hands, wet it with water in between strokes.
  • Turn the razor around so that the cutting edge is pointing toward you. Wet the stone one more time, and you’re good to go. The reason behind this optional step is that resting the blade’s spine on the stone prevents any potential harm to the blade. As earlier mentioned, this step is optional, but if you’re not experienced, we recommend making it a must.
  • Repeat step 2 until you get your desired sharpness. Before moving on to the next step, you’ll need to conduct a few sharpness assessments. 
    • Arm hair test: Once the blade neatly removes all hairs from your arms, you can move on from your 1000-grit stone.
    • Hanging hair test: If your blade can smoothly slash a single hair solely by its weight using the edge, say goodbye to your 4000-grit stone.
    • Shave test: When you’ve finished honing with 8000-grit or 10,000-grit stones, test the blade on your beard. If it glides and shaves smoothly, you’re good to go. 

How To Use Lapping Film To Hone Straight Razor

You can follow these steps to sharpen your straight razor with lapping film:

  • Eliminate any scratches, cracks, or flaws from the blade using a 600-grit diamond stone initially. 
  • Hone the edge similarly to how you sharpen blades using stones until you reach 1200 grit and obtain a nice edge.
  • Apply lubricant on the film, spreading it uniformly before utilizing backstroke. Now, the technique is pretty similar to stropping. After about 50-75 strokes on each side, perform the sharp tests to move to the higher-grit films. Yet, keep in mind that based on the blade’s roughness and the sharpening angle, the strokes’ numbers will differ.
  • Keep working your way over the grits, beginning with the coarsest and ending with the finest ones.
  • Make sure to clean each film you previously worked with before storing it. Attach the utilized pieces to some clean, non-porous surfaces, such as glasses or thick plastics and use them whenever you need.

Stones, Strops, And Lapping Films: Which one is better?

In the end, which one to use is up to you, your preferences and skill. Below, we’ve made a table of the pros and cons of these 3 methods – see for yourself and decide which method works best for you:

Methods Pros Cons
Strops 
  • High versatility. 
  • Excellent sharpening and straightening abilities available.
  • Easy to use.
  • Nick prevention
  • Crack-prone.
Stones 
  • One of the most effective methods to hone blades.
  • One of the fastest approaches to blade sharpening.
  • High versatility.
  • Tricky to use.
  • An experienced skillset is necessary.
  • Sometimes, pricey.
Lapping Films
  • Cost-saving.
  • Wide range of grits. 
  • Minimum upkeep. 
  • Easy to use.
  • Lightweight and space-saving.
  • Extra consistency.
  • Doesn’t last as long as other methods.

Conclusion

That’s everything we’ve got for you today. Hopefully, after reading our instructions on how to sharpen a straight razor, honing shaving blades isn’t too tricky anymore. So practice it a few times, and soon, you’ll master these techniques. Good luck!

Lee

Provide the best shaving product reviews and shaving advices to the wetshaving community and friends.

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