There's nothing out there that can match the closeness and enjoyment of shaving with a super sharp straight razor. You will never need to buy blades again and a good quality straight razor can last a lifetime with the correct maintenance. This article is designed to give you a quick overview of how to keep your straight razor sharp, ensuring you have a rewarding shave every time.
A strop is a flexible strip of leather, canvas, denim fabric, balsa wood, or other soft material, used to straighten and polish the blade of a straight razor. It helps realign the blade, keeping it keen between shaves. Unlike a whetstone, a strop doesn't actually remove any material from the blade.
How to use a strop
Typically we recommend stropping prior to every shave, initially doing laps on the canvas / linen side to help clean the razor and then lapping the leather to realign the blade. There's a lot of varying opinions on how many laps you should do but we'd recommend a 20 / 40 split to get started and see how you get on, that's 20 laps on the linen and 40 on the leather.
Here is how to do it;
- If you’re using a hanging strop, attach this securely to a wall – chest height makes it easier to use
- Turn your strop around so that the leather side is facing upwards
- Pull your strop so that it is taught – this will make the whole process quicker and easier whilst protecting your strop and razor
- Open up your razor to its full capacity. Use your thumb and forefinger to grip the blade shaft and place the razor at your end of the strop, with the blade facing towards you
- Push the blade away from you with the spine of the blade furthest away from you, and as you get to the end of each stroke, flip the blade so the blade is now facing away from you, and pull the razor towards you. If your blade is wider than your strop, use a figure of 8 or X motion as you push/pull away to ensure that the whole blade is tended to.
Should I use a strop paste?
Stop pastes come in different varieties including abrasive and non-abrasive types. You don't have to use a strop paste but a non-abrasive paste can help keep your leather strop smooth and stropping with an abrasive paste can extend the period of time between honing. It's important to remember you can't mix pastes on the same strops so choose wisely.
Just like a knife, your straight razor will occasionally need to be sharpened / honed. Typically this will be every 3 to 6 months depending on usage and you can choose to do it yourself or get it done professionally.
Sharpening stones, water stones or whetstones are used to sharpen the edges and are available in various grades, which refer to the grit size of the abrasive particles in the stone. A higher number provides a finer finish and lower if you require more aggressive sharpening or damage repair.
How to use a Honing Stone:
It's not set in stone (pardon the pun) on how often you need to hone your razor, but the general rule is that as soon as you start to feel your razor catching on your hairs/skin and stropping doesn't improve the situation, it’s time to sharpen it. There are a huge variety of honing stones available including natural and synthetic. Today synthetic stones are the most popular for beginners and professionals alike as they stones are consistent, easy to learn and cut very fast.
- Make sure you are using your stone on a flat surface and that you are holding it steady. Some honing stones like the Barbarossa Brothers Honing Whetstone come with a rubber stand to stop the stone from moving during the process
- Similarly to when using your strop, hold the blade shaft between your thumb and forefinger, spine facing the edge of the stone and place the blade totally flat against the stone so that both the blade and spine meet the surface
- Using steady pressure, push your blade to the other end of the stone. It is essential to hone the whole blade in one stroke – if your stone is narrower than your blade, use a diagonal or curved motion
- When you reach the other end, flip so that the blade is leading again and repeat the process the other way round
- Do this around 5 or 6 times and you’re done!
- The whole blade must be honed in one stroke
- The blade nor’ spine should not leave the surface of the stone throughout the stroke – keep it flat
- Use the same amount of strokes per side and ensure you’re using equal pressure throughout
We hope this short guide has helped you get started with sharpening your straight razor, if you have any questions just give us a shout and we will be happy to help.