What Is a Razor Strop
A Razor Strop refers to a flexible strip of soft material, often in canvas, leather, balsa wood, and denim fabric, which is used in straightening and polishing a straight razor’s blade. It works without removing any blade material. What it does, instead, is realigning its edge as a means of bringing back its cutting acuity.
In most cases, the use of a razor Strop is necessary for realigning the specific blade’s edges that are no longer in alignment. Many consider stropping as the ultimate means of providing a cutting blade with a polished and fine edge. It is what most of those who prefer a straight-edge razor to disposable one use. Professionally styling your beard with a straight razor is, therefore, easier since the tool you will be using is sharp and well-polished.
Benefits of Using a Razor Strop
A razor strop is actually beneficial for those who regularly use razors, especially the straight edge one. As a matter of fact, maintaining your beard with an electric razor or a blade is easier if you invest in a high-quality razor strop. Some benefits you will be getting out of it include the following:
Polishes the Edge
Stropping plays a crucial role when it comes to sharpening your straight razor. The fact that both modern and vintage straight razors have the thinnest blades for daily use means that you will need to strop them frequently before each shave. It allows the edge to become more polished while removing any post-honing burr.
Gives Choices in Materials
Another benefit of the razor strop is that it is constructed from different materials, allowing you to pick the one you truly prefer. In most cases, it appears like a wide belt made of genuine leather. It features a buckle that does not have a prong at one end and a metal-based loop on the other end, which you can use in hanging it to a wall. Aside from leather, you can also choose from other materials used in making the razor strop, including balsa wood, canvas, and denim.
Realigns the Blade and Sharpens the Razor
A good razor strop also has the main advantage of realigning the blade of your razor. It also sharpens it and prolongs the honing process. The good thing about the razor strop is that it allows you to put on a spray or paste on it, regardless of its main material, like chromium oxide or diamond. Once applied, you can expect them to sharpen the blade by eliminating the metal and changing the edge enough to polish it.
How Do Razor Strops Work
A high-quality razor strop works by maintaining the alignment of the edge of your blade. It also helps in properly sharpening it. Regardless of your chosen type of strop, you can still expect it to work that way. In most cases, it comes in the form of a simple leather-based strip, which you can loop into an immobile item. This is where you can let your straight razor run over so it will start receiving the benefits of stropping.
Pros and Cons of Razor Strops
- Polishes any blade.
- Has sharpening and straightening capabilities, honing even those tools that have irregular shapes.
- Helps you save money since you no longer have to depend on disposable razors for beard or facial hair grooming.
- Provides a blade with a kind of sharpness that prevents nicks from occurring even when using a jagged edge.
- Ideal for use in extending the lives of razors and other grooming and cutting tools (ex. all your kitchen knives).
- Leather-based razor strops are usually prone to cracks.
Types of Razor Strops
Newspaper is actually an incredible material that you can use to strop a straight razor. With the ink used in the newspaper, you can expect it to become a bit abrasive, a good thing as it is what will provide the straight razor with a fantastic edge. One advantage of this type is that it eliminates worries about maintenance or having to slice it up.
You can even expect it to be compatible for use with compounds and pastes. It is a valuable inclusion in your premium beard growth kit, along with the world’s best beard butter and a pair of high-quality small barber scissors, especially if you are still a beginner in using a razor strop.
Balsa Wood Strops
You can also go for the balsa wood strop, which composes a flat piece of the mentioned material. This piece of wood is created in such a way that you can soak it in a stropping compound or paste. One great advantage of the balsa wood strop is that it is inexpensive, plus you can easily access it as it is readily available in most craft stores in your locality. It effectively refreshing the edge of your razor, though it is not ideal for use daily.
The bench strop is also another great option for razor strop. It is made using a piece of felt or leather material attached to a base constructed out of wood. You can put this strop on either a workbench or tabletop. It works well with abrasive sprays and pastes, allowing it to improve its ability to fine-tune the stropping results. Some versions of the bench strop also feature removable surfaces that allow various stropping materials or components.
We call the loom strop, which is made by wrapping the leather material around a bracket made of wood or metal. It feeds around the leather material and creates a full loom or circular shape. It is a popular option before, but it seemed to dwindle nowadays because it only has limited options, plus it is offered at a high price.
One distinctive quality of the loom strop is that it is capable of adjusting tension. It lets you loosen or tighten the strop’s tension by just making a minor adjustment. With that, it is safe to say that it is versatile enough that it can meet any of your stropping requirements.
Just like when you have viable alternatives to shaving cream, you also have several options for a razor strop – one of which is the paddle strop. This type is available in various forms – among which are the basic strop with one side and one material and the four-sided strops made of multiple materials.
The basic one often features one piece of leather attached to a paddle made of wood. There are also more complex variations that feature multiple sides of felt, canvas, or leather. It follows such a concept in terms of design to promote ease in putting on the honing compound or paste. The various sides will also be used in the different progressions associated with refreshing a blade that shows dullness signs.
Conventional Hanging Strops
We refer to the convenient hanging strop, which will surely remind you of the traditional version of this item. It is the most commonly used strop for straight razors at present.
Having a suitable beard for your job interview or any other occasion is necessary. You can expect to achieve that with a straight razor sharpened and polished with the conventional hanging strop. What is great about this specific type of strop is that it is versatile and convenient and affordable enough that it fits those who have a low budget.
How to Choose the Best Razor Strop
This should be a key factor in your buying decision. You have to find out what material the razor strop you intend to buy is made of. If you go for mid-tier models, expect most of them to be constructed out of cowhide leather. However, you can also find those made of canvas and leather.
If you prefer high-end ones, expect the material to be mainly horse leather known for its top-notch quality. Determine the pros and cons of the materials used in creating the razor strop, so you can decide based on which one can benefit you the most.
Examine the design of the razor strop, too, as it can help you figure out which one is the best for you to use. You can go for the traditional one designed in such a way that you have to hang it on a wall, chest-height, then use your left hand in pulling it taut before you can begin to strop the blade.
Another choice in design is the paddled version known for providing immense stability, though it has a smaller stropping surface. You can also choose the loom strop designed so that its adjustable tension pegs let you select the draw of the strop.
It is also crucial to consider the size of the razor strop during the selection process. Remember that its length plays a crucial role in the number of passes needed for the blade to achieve its perfect state. The width is also important since those not more than two inches in width need a higher level of precision to maximize their results. The perfect width for a strop, therefore, would be more than two and a half inches.
Stropping Compounds and Pastes
Determine the specific stropping compound/s or paste/s that you can use in a specific razor strop, too. Note that to maximize the effects of stropping, you need to use a compound or paste.
A stropping compound actually refers to a bar of a polishing agent with a texture similar to a crayon. One important fact about this compound that you should remember is that it has various grains sizes. Find out if your chosen razor strop is compatible with the compound or paste you intend to use before buying.
How to Use a Razor Strop
Step 1 – Lead the spine, then push it in the particular direction
Hold it at a more forgiving angle, usually at around 45 degrees, which is not like using a stone to sharpen your blade. Fortunately, the leather tends to give while you use a very fine compound, so rest assured that it can still function even if the angle is not that perfect.
Step 2 – Start stropening
Follow the bevel. There are instances when you may need to apply a much steeper angle. In that case, lift the spine slightly higher, especially if it has a convex edge.
Step 3 – Push the bevel towards the spine
Do it until you get to the end. In that case, flip over the blade, then do the same but on the other side back and forth. Do it repeatedly and as frequently as you want.
Step 4 – Continue doing it around 10 to 15 times
You may also do up to 20 to 50 passes. However, if you repeated it the recommended number of times without getting your desired results, your razor blade is likely no longer that sharp from the start.
How to Maintain Your Razor Strop
Step 1 – Use your hand’s natural oils
What you should do is rub your palms over the razor strop every other use. Note that your hands have natural oils that are extremely helpful in keeping the razor strop clean and oiled, so this step is extremely important.
Step 2 – Clean the strop
You also need to clean the razor strop after a while of using it. Remember that it will diminish its natural draw eventually and turn slick. In that case, cleaning may be necessary. You should prepare a clean damp rag, neatsfoot or baseball glove oil, and saddle soap for cleaning purposes.
Step 3 – Form a lather out of the saddle soap
Scrub this gently into the leather. Rinse the rag, then wring it to remove any excess water. Remove the soap from your razor strop and ensure that the leather material is clean, too.
Step 4 – Allow the razor strop and its material to dry
After that, put a bit of the neatsfoot oil into the strop. Apply again if necessary.
Pastes and Sprays to Use When Stropping
Similar to the need to use an aftershave balm with a cooling effect after shaving, it is also necessary for you to use some pastes and sprays when stropping. Among your best choices, in this case, would be the following:
Basic Strop Paste
The basic strop paste refers to products offered by Theirs Issard, Dovo, and other similar companies. Take note that there is a color-coding scheme for this paste to promote ease in identifying them. Among the colors used in the color-coding scheme are:
- Yellow, without any abrasive – You can use it to condition the strop’s leather part.
- White is very sightly abrasive – It is useful in conditioning the strop’s linen or canvas side.
- Black, which is mildly abrasive – This color is what you need when doing touch-ups.
- Gray is slightly abrasive – You will find this color useful for the linen or the canvas side. It also works in refreshing the blade a bit.
- Red is abrasive – You can use it to sharpen scenarios that range from medium to fine.
- Green is the most abrasive out of all the colors – It is useful during extreme cases or situations. It may need the use of a separate strop, which is around .50 micron.
Another incredible choice is chromium oxide. What is great about this paste is that it is not only inexpensive, but it also tends to work quickly while being easy to find. As for the size, the common one that you will most likely find is around .50 micron, which is more than adequate for many users.
When choosing chromium oxide, ensure that you are extra careful with the ones offered by big-box retailers and hardware stores. The reason is that such versions are those often cut using other components, making them unsuitable and incompatible for straight razors.
There is also what we refer to as the diamond paste or spray. The diamond compounds used in this category are available in various micron sizes, allowing you to pick the most suitable one for a certain application. While the different sizes allow this item to work on various applications, it is still most suitable for serious uses of straight razors.
For you to gain a full understanding of the way this stuff functions, it may be necessary for you to invest in a tiny microscope as well as several strops. You can achieve the sharpest possible edge using the diamond compounds in either the paste or spray, but you still have to be extra careful. It may produce a result that causes the edge to turn too sharp that it will cause discomfort when used on the face.
Does More Spending Mean More Quality
Whenever you shop for grooming tools or products, such as Oster clippers for home use, razors, and shaves, the overall quality matters a lot in your final decision. The same is probably true for razor strops. Fortunately, you do not have to spend excessively in your attempt to own a high-quality razor strop. You can get a truly functional and useful one for less, which means that it is worth investing in.
Do’s and Don’ts With a Razor Strop
- Use the strop before shaving. This is the ideal time to take advantage of the razor strop. Avoid using it after shaving as much as possible as it may cause the delicate cutting edge to be slightly bent or invisible to the eye. It also puts you at risk of breaking tiny pieces of metal from the cutting edge.
- Invest in at least two razors. This means having two or more straight razors on hand. This will give each one the blade edge enough time to rest in between each shave, thereby optimizing performance.
- Ensure that the razor is at the right angle. This can help ensure that the blade will not dig into the leather. This is equivalent to the fact that the pre-shave oil can help diminish the appearance of razor burn since positioning your razor at the appropriate angle during the procedure will prevent small cuts and the possible damage of the strop eventually, causing it to be not as effective.
- Do not forget to put on some paste to the razor strop. It helps in achieving the finest finish. Note that even a few paste applications will be enough to help align the edge of the razor properly before your regular shaving routine.
- Do not fail to clean the razor strop regularly. It is the key to maintaining its excellent condition and functionality.
FAQ About Razor Strops
Does stropping sharpen a razor?
Yes, it can, but note that it is not the sole and main purpose of this tool. Stropping regularly before shaving works to polish the edge of your blade and realign it for it to have the correct angle.
What is the most recommended leather material for a razor strop?
All forms of leather are actually fantastic materials for the strop. However, many recommend using genuine cordovan horse leather as they have proven that it is the best leather material used for creating the straight razor strop.
Do I need to oil the strop?
While you can use your chosen razor strop right after getting one, you can still do something to increase its draw. To do that, rub a bit of neatsfoot oil into it. Alternatively, you can use mink oil or leather conditioner. Just apply only a small amount of the oil and allow it to get absorbed by the strop completely. If your chosen strop is completely dry, then apply more oil but do so slowly.
If it is excessively oily, then use a cloth to wipe off any excess. Aside from that, you can use your palms to warm the strop. It can help coat the leather material with the natural oils present in your hand, thereby ensuring that it becomes supple and strong.
How many times should I strop my straight razor?
You can repeat the stropping up to 10 to 15 times – that is the recommended number. However, you can also go up to a max of 50. The number of times you will be stropping depends on various factors – among which are the present condition of your straight razor and your final objective. Avoid over-honing or excessively stropping, though, as it may only damage your razor and cause the removal of a lot of its metal.
Can I use my leather belt for stropping?
Yes, you can. Just make sure that the belt is rustic and constructed from one strip of highly durable leather material. However, avoid making the mistake that it is an actual strop. It is not, so it may be better to use it as an alternative and still make it a point to invest in a true razor strop.
What is the difference between honing and stropping?
Honing and stropping are actually two different processes because their main function varies. Stropping, for instance, mainly functions by realigning the cutting edge. Honing, on the other hand, primarily works on creating a bevel or cutting edge. You have to find out which between the two your straight razor specifically needs. In that case, you have to examine the present state of its sharpness before deciding whether you should strop or hone it.
Using a straight razor for shaving can indeed provide several rewarding benefits, but remember that eventually, your razor will cause you to have a dull scraping sensation on your face whenever you use it. It can cause discomfort. This usually happens when your straight razor is already too dull to the point that it can no longer efficiently cut your hair. Fortunately, you can now invest in the best razor strop, which you can use in sharpening and polishing your razor for stropping.
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