Straight razor stropping is the act of polishing your razor. This ensures that your straight razor always gets a close, high-quality shave.
Barbers typically use a traditional leather strop to hone razors for super sharp, close shaves. Using a leather strap, you can polish out any imperfections in your straight razor and ensure that you always have the sharpest edge for shaving.
If you plan on using a leather strop, use this guide to understand more about the procedure. It also includes some tips you’ll need to make it work properly.
What Is A Razor Strop Made From?
Straight razor leather strops are typically made from top-grain leather. A leather strop is double-sided, including a leather surface and fabric side.
The fabric part of your strop is a bit coarse and removes anything that will damage the leather side of your razor strop. For example, bits of metal or leftover shaving cream from your last shave.
The leather portion is smooth and does the majority of polishing, ensuring that your razor edge is straight, aligned, and sharp.
Best Leather Strops: Suede or Smooth?
Benefits Of Razor Stropping
Using a razor strop benefits those who like wet shaving and use a straight razor. Unlike stones or sandpaper, these leather tools allow you to sharpen a much larger area.
In addition, stropping will make your razor shine like a mirror, so if you like that aesthetic, then be sure to strop after each shave.
It’s also used to sharpen your razor faster.
While straight razor shaving is typically done without honing compounds, you may also your strop as a knife sharpener.
Sharpening a Straight Razor with a Leather Strop
Razor straps typically have a hook on one end, allowing you to hang it from a hook or your thumb while you sharpen your razor. Hanging your strop from a hook is the best way to store these tools without “kinking” or folding the leather.
A hanging razor strop comes with a hook on one end so that you can pull it tight. You’ll need to hook your leather strop onto the wall, such as through a wall hook or doorknob. You’ll need to keep the strop under constant tension so that it’s taut and easy to run your blade against without any slack.
There are also paddle strops and strop black products.
How to Strop a Straight Razor Step-By-Step
- In one hand, hold your razor by your thumb and forefinger. You’ll want to strop slowly and be careful as you run your blade against the strop.
- You want to strop as much of the straight razor as possible, you’ll see the blade polishing up as you run it over the strop.
- Hold the razor so that the blade’s edge is on the leather, starting at the far end of the leather strop.
- With the edge trailing along as you pull it along the strop, go slowly so that you don’t damage the strop.
- Your hand should be relaxed so that you don’t add any more tension or strain. It’s important that the blade glides easily along the strop.
- As you run the blade to end of the strop, you’ll rotate the razor on the backside to avoid blunting the edge.
- Repeat these actions 15 to 20 times on each side of the straight razor, starting with the fabric side, then the leather side.
- After you use the razor, wipe it clean after each use.
Other Sharpening Tips
You’ll always move the blade away from the cutting edge and then turn the blade over and do the same on the other side. You’ll hone your straight razor the same way with a strop whether you decide to use a compound or not.
Remember to never move the blade into the strop as this will cut into the leather, resulting in damage that could rip apart the fabric or leather.
For visual reference, I recommend watching this video below:
It’s best to use a strop as soon as you believe your straight razor is getting dull. When you use it consistently, you’ll always have a razor-sharp edge to shave with.
There are also additional ways to enhance your razor with leather stropping by using a paste, emulsion, or other compounds.
Maintaining Your Strop
Razor strops only work when they are clean and smooth. If you find rips, tears, breaks, or other blatant imperfections, you should return the leather strop or replace it with a new one.
You should never wash or clean your razor strop. It’s best to simply keep it in a room temperature, closed box, or cupboard to protect it from the elements.
Using Compounds with Your Razor Strop
Razor strops are often used with compounds that provide a fine abrasive surface to give your blade a mirror-like polish.
Compounds are also known as strop dressings and make the stropping surface easier for your blade to glide on.
If you decide to use a compound, you’ll apply it to the surface of the strop. You don’t need to use very much of this abrasive paste to get the best results.
You can use a strop without a paste or compound, however. The leather will polish the metal perfectly well and remove any dullness from the edge.
Top Picks for Straight Razor Strops
Strop and Hone FAQs
How does a leather strop sharpen a blade?
A strop can be used without any compound. Sharpeners of straight razors, for instance, often prefer using a smooth leather strop with no compound applied. The leather polishes the metal and removes any burr from the edge, leaving it crisp and sharp.
What is the best leather strop?
The best leather for a strop is a good quality vegetable-tanned leather, as any other type of leather will require various forms of compounds. The main reason why vegetable tanned leather is great for a strop is that it has the presence of natural silicate which is absent in chemical or oil-tanned leather.
Is a leather strop necessary?
Stropping isn’t necessary, but can “fine-tune” the edge. As an edge gets sharper, finer, you generally need to ease up on the pressure. Each grit change, lighten up some more. Even when stropping, light pressure is key, as well as angle.
Can I use a leather belt as a strop?
Technically yes. Strops are usually made of leather, although other materials may be used. Suede and smooth leathers are best, which are known as flesh side and grain side, respectively. Also the strop is mounted to a fixed base for leverage and support.
What Grit is a leather strop?
Around 5–10 μm, equivalent to an approximate grit rate of 2500–5000. The edge is extremely sharp, and the blade reflects light well. Suitable for most kitchen knives, larger pocket knives, and woodworking tools. A good range to start stropping a knife after prior sharpening with a coarse or medium stone.