Straight razors need regular sharpening to perform better. Find out how to strop a straight razor in our article and start practicing it right away!
The straight razor has recently regained popularity among modern men due to its impressive shaving performance. However, it is common knowledge that this type of razor does require more regular care from the owner than others. Straight razors should be stropped regularly to adopt a perfect edge.
Unfortunately, honing a straight razor is not as easy as ABC. It asks for some vital techniques so as not to destroy your straight razor. Check out our 5-step guideline on how to strop a straight razor today to make this task no longer a challenge!
Things You Need Before Stropping A Straight Razor
Without a doubt, before practicing these techniques, you have to purchase a strop that fits your straight razor. Yet, it can be pretty confusing because there are so many kinds of strops. Thus, you should spend some time considering all the leading options in the market to ensure buying the right kind.
The three popular types of strop that you should learn about are loom, paddle, and hanging. Each has its strengths and weaknesses.
As can be seen, this strop has a “loom” shape. It is made of a bracket and a piece of leather. Manufacturers wrap the leather around a frame, which can be made of metal or wood.
The loom strop is not commonly known in comparison to the other two types of strops mentioned. Nonetheless, it is a good choice for anyone who wants to adjust the strip tension without using the power of your hand since the design allows you to tighten or loosen the strip easily. Also, people who travel a lot prefer purchasing this loom strop since they can comfortably bring it around.
The paddle strop comes in a variety of options. For example, you can have a simple one-sided paddle strop with a piece of leather on the wood or customize a more complex one with four sides made of leather, canvas, and felt.
Each side can be used for different purposes. For instance, you may apply some honing pastes to one side, then flip the strop over to continue sharpening the razor that does not have the paste on the other side. This type of strop is convenient as you can leave it in your bathroom or your dorm without worries about where to hang it.
The Hanging Strop
This strop is the most popular kind of razor strop since it had been rooted in the 19th Century. Whereas the loom or the paddle can be utilized on flat surfaces, the hanging strop demands an immovable object to be attached with. Then, you can pull it to adjust the tightness while stropping.
There are two sizes available, including the 2” and 3” hanging strops. The 2” hanging strop is pretty tiny. Hence, it can be conveniently put into your suitcase whenever you have to travel. However, due to this size, the leather may not be as wide as your razor’s blade, making it a bit more difficult for you to sharpen the razor.
The 3” strop, on the other hand, can cover the length of the blade. Therefore, you do not have to make any significant efforts to sharpen the razor perfectly. Nevertheless, you may find it troublesome to bring it along on any trip.
In addition to a strop, you can also pick up a leather balm. Of course, a leather balm is not a must-have item in this process. Yet, it can be pretty valuable if you want to move your razor along the strop smoothly.
Even though it takes some time, stropping is indeed an essential habit. After every shave, there will be a tiny nick left on the blade that the naked eye cannot see. Therefore, to align the edge and prepare for smoother shaves, you definitely should practice stropping.
As said, the hanging strop is the most popular and easy-to-use type of strop. Hence, our guide below will focus on how to strop a straight razor with this hanging strop.
How To Strop A Straight Razor: 5 Easy Steps
Step 1: Prepare your hanging strop
Preparation is a crucial step if you use a hanging strop. Before hanging it on an immovable object, check its surface carefully. There should not be any nick or cut on the leather, since if there are, your strop may do more harm than good to the blade. Again, you can consider rubbing a bit of leather balm on the strop if it appears dry.
After confirming the strop’s condition, connect the strop’s ring with a fixed point on the wall, a wardrobe, or any immovable object. Then, pull the strop taut towards you.
If you use a loom or paddle strop, just put them on a flat surface, and you can start stropping.
Step 2: Hold the razor tightly
Open up your straight razor in a complete position of 180°. Hold it firmly with your thumb and the fourth finger. Put other fingers to help support the handle or the scale. Holding the razor this way enables you to pivot and rotate the razor more easily.
Step 3: Move the blade across the leather
Put the blade on the strop at a place near the handle. Then, simply drag your blade flat from the bottom to the head of the strop.
However, this is only applicable to a 3” strop. If you use a 2” strop and your blade is much broader than the strop’s size, the strop cannot cover your blade’s length. This is when you have to practice sharpening the razor in an X pattern.
Carefully lay the heel of the blade on the strop and work up to the toe. Then, when rotating your razor, you start from its toe and come back down the bottom with its heel on the leather. This kind of movement creates an invisible X on your strop, which made this technique called the X pattern.
Step 4: Rotate the blade
When your razor meets the higher end of the strop, you roll it on the spine to flip the blade over. Never rotate the blade on its cutting edge as it may leave some nick or cut on the leather.
After the flip, you can continue by moving the razor next to the strop’s ring back to its handle.
While stropping, remember not to take your razor’s spine or cutting edge away from the leather. Rotating your blade in the air can be pretty dangerous since this may result in a high possibility of damaging your edge with any other object in the room.
Step 5: Repeat steps 3-4 for 25 – 50 times
The whole process of a blade going up and going down the strop in one motion is considered a lap. So you can do around 25 to 50 laps to finish honing your razor.
If one side of your strop is made of canvas, it is recommended that you start sharpening the razor on the canvas side. During usage, your edge may suffer from a minor burn or nick. In addition, when you drag this edge on a piece of leather, its discrepancies may result in several unwanted scratches and damage on the leather.
Thus, you can do around 10 to 25 laps on the canvas side, then move back to the leather side and strop the razor by another 25 to 50 laps.
Tips From Professionals To Care For Your Straight Razor
Though the five steps above are pretty easy to follow, you may still destroy your razor if you do not strop it properly. Refer to some tips from professionals on what you should and should not do while sharpening the blade.
Take it slow
If you have seen some animated characters stropping a straight razor very fast and think you should do it the same way, please do not follow their action. Instead of dragging your blade on the strop as quickly as possible, focus more on the technique and strop it slowly.
Also, it will be helpful if you pay attention to the sound of the edge contacting the strop. When that sound turns to be very consistent, it means you are sharpening your razor the right way.
Don’t strop the razor
Don’t strop the razor the first time you bring it home. You just need to take the razor out of the box and use it right away. The manufacturer already prepares it ready for your first shave. Hence, don’t oversharpen it.
When you hone the razor properly, the edge shines and looks brand new. Many of us, at that moment, want to hear a plink sound as proof of its sharpness. On the contrary to your belief, plinking the edge does not present you with any value. Instead, this action may dull the edge. You have to hone your razor again to use it in its best condition.
Oil it up
If you have stropped the razor and are not going to use it for a week or ten days, you can use a little mineral oil on the blade. First, pour some mineral oil into the cotton. Then, brush the cotton towards the edge. Hence, this light coat of oil can cover the whole blade and prevent any rust.
Indeed, it is not so complicated to learn how to strop a straight razor. Follow our 5-easy-step guidance, bear in mind some small yet powerful tips and practice this technique whenever you can. Of course, the more efforts you make, the sharper your straight razor will be.
- Things You Need Before Stropping A Straight Razor
- How To Strop A Straight Razor: 5 Easy Steps
- Tips From Professionals To Care For Your Straight Razor
- Final Thoughts