Shaving with a blunt razor is a travesty, to say the least. It pulls and it stings your soft skin. It’s a horrible task when you have to shave this way. Even using shaving cream and ointment never seems to help. There’s only one way around this problem, and that’s to fix your straight razor. By fix we mean you need to sharpen it. The sharpening of a razor using a strip of leather or canvas is called stropping.
It’s referred to as stropping when you’re not using a sharpening stone or rod. Stropping is not the easiest way to get your straight-razor sharp, but it is the most effective. There are a couple of ways to get the best out of a strop. So we’ll show you what they are. If you don’t use it right, you might end up with a dull blade. Let’s learn how to strop a straight razor.
Table of Contents
If you don’t have a strop already you’re going to need to buy one. You can find them at general hardware stores or online. The strop should have a canvas and leather side. It should have a hook on one side and a handhold on the other.
You’re going to need a hook or something like it to connect the strop for stability. If you don’t have this then you’ll need to buy a screw-in hook that you can place on the wall or a door. You can hook it onto the door handle if you wish but this isn’t as handy.
How To Use A Strop To Sharpen A Straight Razor
Hang your strop from the hook that we described. When it’s in place pull it tight by holding the handpiece standing away from it. If the strop is loose you might end up with a dull blade. So make an effort to keep it strung up.
Once it’s tight go ahead and grab your straight razor. Hold the razor by its shank with a firm grip. Place the razor at the bottom of the strop. That’s the end furthest from you. You’re going to start with the canvas side of the strop, not the leather one. Place the razor flat with the leading edge pointing away from you. Now you’re ready to start honing and sharpening.
Before you start make sure that the heel of the blade is always in front of the point of the blade. With the razor flat on the canvas proceed to move the razor up towards you. Always maintain contact with the surface as you move the blade. The strop is not as wide as the razor blade and so you will have to account for this size difference.
You should use a sweeping motion from side to side as you go. So as you move the blade up towards you let the blade move to one side. This will ensure that the entire razor edge gets sharpened. If you don’t do this the razor will give you a very uneven shave. It’s possible to buy a larger strop but you don’t need to do that. In fact, it’s better to use a smaller one.
Once you reach the top of the strop, flip the blade over so that the sharp edge is pointing towards you. You’re going to be pushing the razor down the strop this time, so you want the blade running in the other direction. Remember that you should never push the sharp edge against the strop.
Then repeat the process on the leather side of the strop. You should do this 15 to 20 times on each side. You must avoid overdoing it though. So stick to the 15 or 20 times and then you can use the razor to shave.
You should sharpen your straight razor often. If it gets to the point where the razor is pulling on your skin when shaving, you’ve gone too long. We would recommend once every two weeks at most. Sooner than this is fine as well.
How To Sharpen A Straight Razor Without A Strop
In this case, you’ll have to use a honing steel or sharpening stone. In other cases, people use sandpaper with very fine grit. Any of these works well but you should be careful not to damage the blade. Sandpaper is the softest and safest way to do it. Whereas a steel rod is the least safe.
When using any of these items you should maintain the same process as before. Pointing the sharp edge away from you and then stroking towards you. Then flipping the blade and stroking away from you. With a standard strop, you can apply a lot of pressure. Yet with the other methods, you should avoid this. Apply small amounts of force as you go.
One way to make the process even lighter is to apply a bit of oil to the stone or sandpaper. This will prevent you from scratching or chipping the blade. If you have a leather belt you can also go on to complete the second part of the stropping process. This is great for polishing. Remember to attach it to something firm and pull it tight before using.
Straight razors are brilliant for a nice close shave. Many people nowadays have turned to electric razors. These cannot achieve a smooth shave. So keep your straight razor as long as possible to keep the tradition alive.
Takes a while to learn how to strop a straight razor with accuracy. But your face will thank you if you strop your razor often enough. It stops shaving bumps and cuts because you don’t have to use as much force on your skin. What a pleasure.