To perfect the results of wet shaving, you need to have a great blade. But, an A-grade razor is useless if the owner does not know how to take care of it properly. That is why it is crucial to learn how to strop a straight razor.
Remember: Your straight razor can make or break your wet shaving experience.
Wet shaving has been around ever since before plastic razors began to dominate the shelves of grocery stores. Yet, it is an art form, and a skill that only a few men bear and professional barbers possess.
Unlike shaving with drugstore razors, wet shaving with a straight razor has many benefits. Usually, beginners opt for shavettes, which are the replaceable blade versions. Meanwhile, experts prefer using straight razors, which could last a lifetime, especially with the proper care.
Hence, let this article guide you on the following:
What is a Straight Razor and Strop?
A straight razor is the father of the modern safety razor. The design emerged during the Egyptian civilization for grooming. Even if centuries have already passed, it continues to conquer the latest shaving razor designs and remain relevant.
Unlike a safety razor, a straight razor is pretty straightforward. It is simply a single blade with a collapsible handle, wherein the razor reverts inside its handle when not in use. However, the most remarkable thing about it is the quality of the blade. It is so sharp that it gained a fearsome connotation as the ever-famous cut-throat razors mastered only by professional barbers.
Honing vs. Stropping
Honing sharpens a razor by removing steel. Stropping, meanwhile, realigns the small deformations that happen at the blade’s edge during shaving. It’s more of a fine-tuning process that keeps the edge of your blade sharp between uses. This reason is why you are stropping before every shave. In contrast, honing is only done as needed, especially when the edges become dull.
If you are wondering which is more important, there is no comparison. Honing and stropping are both essential to upkeep your razors. Technically, stropping is for maintaining and preventing dullness, while honing is ideal for bringing back life in highly dull blades.
How to Strop a Razor?
There are different ways you can sharpen a straight razor. You can either hone it using two wet stones or strop it with a leather strop. But stropping is preferable for maintenance as it is technically a fine-tuning process.
Stropping is the best way to keep straight razors in their prime. Remember, blades get dull through constant use. You do not shave once a month or once a year. You will be using your straight razor at least twice a week. So, to prepare them for your next shave and ensure that your blade edges are still sharp, use a leather strop.
However, like wet shaving, using a leather strop is an art form on its own. Quickly learn how to strop a straight razor by following the guide below:
Step 1: Prepare to strop
Find a good leather strop—you can get a trusty strop, like Naked Armor’s Blue Eel Razor Strop, made of elegant leather, thick blue canvas, and quality connectivity brass to ensure that you do not damage your blades.
Remember to draw the blade away from the cutting edge, so the razor does not dig into the leather.
Always hold the razor at the same bevel angle consistently throughout the stropping process. Raising the angle or lowering it will affect the razor’s edge in the wrong way, therefore destroying its edge.
Step 2: Stropping process
Hang the strop from a bathroom drawer by one of the hooks on the strip. Hold the handle at the strop’s bottom in your left hand, and pull the strop tight. Hold the razor by its handle, and place it flat on the strop end farthest away.
Draw the blade toward you, with the edge pointing away from you, and then rotate the razor to draw it away from you, with the edge pointing toward you. Keep the strokes slow and even.
Count the number of strokes you make—start with 15 to 20. Suppose it is still not sharp, do not hesitate to continue to strop. You can see the effect of stropping by noticing the black marks of metal that have come off the blade onto the leather.
Things to remember:
Ensure that you use a leather strop that is at least a foot long to avoid cutting yourself and damaging your blade. If the strop is too long, it is hard to control, and if it is too short, you have to keep repositioning the razor, which can lead to uneven sharpening.
When using Naked Armor’s leather strop, remember that you strop on the leather surface at the very top of the strop, not on the rough leather bottom. The blue part is for lightly cleaning the edge before you start to strop.
Nothing is easy at first. The same goes for learning how to strop—practice makes perfect. When you get the hang of it, you will only spend at least 30 seconds a day. But while you are still practicing, do not rush the process. Take it slowly and carefully strop your razor to avoid cutting yourself.
After mastering your stropping techniques, you can proceed to learn more about honing through this article and by downloading our Free Honing Guide.
Importance of Stropping a Razor
In an interview, Naked Armor’s founder Derek stressed the need for getting A-grade straight razors. As per Derek, “Cheap straight razors will either be dull from the get-go or go dull after a few shaves. That's why you are always better off investing in a great blade."
Do not let your money go to waste by overlooking the maintenance of your straight razor. Yes, there is a sure guarantee that top-notch blades do not just get dull after a couple of shaves. But, eventually, they will get worn out the longer you use them. That is why it is vital to have a leather strop to sharpen your straight razors.
But, aside from that, here are a few reasons why stropping a razor also benefits your shaving experience:
Better shaving experience
Using dull blades is like playing a tug of war with your skin and hair. Meanwhile, a sharp razor glides through your skin without a fuss since it quickly cuts off the hair and does not get caught up, therefore letting you have a better and smoother shaving experience.
Everyone knows that a dull straight razor cannot cut well. Not only will you miss a few strands while shaving, but you also become more at risk for cuts, burns, and ingrown hair, which can, later on, lead to infection.
Better for the environment
Disposable plastic razors are not cost-efficient. That is why some switch to wet shaving using a straight razor. However, what is the purpose of buying a more environmentally friendly razor if you will just throw it in the trash later on because it got dull? It is technically useless. Hence it is also important to invest in a leather strop to minimize replacing your straight razors.
Simply put, using a strop to sharpen your straight razor is necessary for blade maintenance. But, it is also crucial in unlocking the full potential of your straight razor. Hence, do not sleep on getting your money’s worth for buying a straight razor. Complete your wet shaving essentials with a reliable Naked Armor leather strop.
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