How Often Should You Strop a Straight Razor?
Using a sharp straight blade may be terrifying for some people, but also the preferred method for others in order to get a very clean shave. Once you get the hang of it, it can become really fun and make your shaving ritual more pleasant and interesting.
The essential tools you need are a straight razor (obviously), a leather strop, shaving cream, and a brush. In order to get a clean cut with no pinching or pulling of the hair, you need to master the stropping process. So in case you are wondering…
How Often Should You Strop a Straight Razor?
…the simplest answer is: before each use. Why is this? It’s because every time the thin razor touches your thick and coarse hair, it gets unaligned and bent out of shape. This means that it will then pull, tug, and make the shaving experience very unpleasant. Stropping will get the razor back in its best shape, so it’s a very important step to take before each and every shave.
How To Strop?
A strop has two sides: one covered in fabric and one covered in leather. The backside (the one covered with fabric) is there to remove anything that can damage the leather, such as bits of metal, soap, hair and so on.
This surface is coarser, and you should strop it first. Then, the leather surface which is smoother will do its job and straighten the razor, preparing it for shaving.
Before even touching the razor to the strop, make sure that the strop is clean and smooth. If you find some dust, hair or other debris make sure to remove it, and if the surface is torn apart or has defects, consider replacing it. Keep it in a closed box or cupboard in order to protect it and be able to use it for many years to come.
Now let’s see the step-by-step process of stropping:
- Hang the strop on one end using the hook and make sure that it is secure. You don’t want it to detach in the middle of the process and possibly injure yourself or someone around you
- Hold the other end with your hand and keep it under constant tension
- Hold the razor in the other hand by the thumb and forefinger
- Start moving it forward and backward on the strop. Do it slowly and gently at first, and only go faster once you master this process
- The edge of the razor has to trail, not to cut. It has to face away towards you while you stroke it away from you, and to face away from you when you are stroking it towards you. It should glide easily on the strop
- When you reach one end of the strop, rotate the razor on the backside. This protects it from blunting on the edges.
- Strop 20-25 times (for each side) on the fabric
- Strop 20-25 times (for each side) on the leather
- After each strop wipe the razor clean
You may also consider using a stropping paste in order to maintain the leather smooth, supple and increase its lifespan. Some well-preserved strops lasted for 50 years or even more.
What’s The Difference Between Stropping and Honing?
This is one of the most common questions asked by newbies and it’s quite normal for most people to not know the difference. The human hair has the tensile strength of copper, so over time, the razor’s edge will microscopically curl back, making it dull.
So stropping is used before every shave in order to realign the cutting edge. Honing, on the other hand, is used for sharpening the blade and it’s only done every few months or even years (depending on how much you use the razor).
Honing is made with a stone or mineral-based block. There are various stones with different grits, and they are effective for certain techniques.
For example, a 12,000 gritstone is for finishing (maintain the edge every few months), an 8,000 stone is for polishing (straightening the edge after intermediate use) and a 4,000 stone is for sharpening (resetting the blade’s bevel after long use or misuse).
A beginner should not worry about these details and can just get a synthetic Waterstone that will cover most of their needs. Just make sure to choose a quality stone (don’t go for the cheapest), as honing with an unlapped stone can leave an uneven finish.
What Are Coticules?
There are many types of stones out there, and some of the most popular and expensive ones are the Belgian Blues and Coticules. They are extracted from the mines in Ardennes (Belgium) and they have natural properties that offer a high-quality hone and finish.
Coticules have existed in Europe for hundreds of years, and they are cut from sedimentary rock. They are a versatile option but are also hard to master and require some years of experience. They can also create a slurry, which makes the more effective.
Belgian Blues are great for sharpening the razor, while the coticules offer a great finish (having a grit of around 12,000). They are more expensive because of their origin, but they are also highly appreciated by straight razor aficionados.
There is much more to discuss how to hone a straight razor, so we’ll discuss that in a future article. But to get a basic idea, the main steps are:
- Soaking the stone
- Placing it on a flat surface
- Positioning the razor blade
- Running the blade down the stone
- Rolling the blade
- Bringing it back and repeating as necessary
So there you go. Now you know exactly how often you should strop a straight razor. For any other questions you might have, don’t hesitate to contact us or leave a comment below this article.