Straight razors have to be stropped before each shave, but razor strops seem to take a popular back seat compared to hones. Let’s see whether we can find out why.
The straight nape stroke is widely divided into two types: the wall-mounted or hanging-stroke and the hand-held or paddle-stroke, which is your personal preference. These are leather strips that give the straight razor’s edge its last polish before use, although ‘vegetarian’ strops are now available in some places. Yet, to some degree, at least, the art of stropping seems overlooked, especially by newcomers to straight raser shaving.
This may seem strange, but it is a widespread problem that can cause the razor to produce poor results. I have seen many emails going along the lines ‘I recently had a straight razor blades in Singapore ready for shaving and it was fantastic until I used it a couple of times – it now seems to be stupid. Does it need to be honed?’ The last few words tell the story!
There seems to be a tendency to sharpen racers in much of the Internet information, but most racers may only need to be sharpened twice or three times a year – if stropping is done correctly! It may be that the technology of honing is appealing – it is undoubtedly a technical subject and needs high levels of skill to perform correctly – but stropping requires its skills, and this is where the problem lies.
It would appear that the stropping is often ‘glorified in favor of either discussing the merits of the razor or the hones mentioned above. But it is crucial to maintain an excellent stropping technique if the edge of a straight razor is to provide a smooth and comfortable shave. I will not go into the stropping mechanics in this article – that is well documented elsewhere – but rather about choosing the correct stroke for your razor and using it.
Hang on! Hang on! Hang on! Strops do only one thing, don’t they?
Well, this was undoubtedly true in days gone – the majority of strops were simple smooth leather strips, and the razor was used directly on the naked leather.
Furthermore, the high-carbon steels now used with straight razor blades in Singapore are usually much more challenging than vintage blades, and this brings with it its problems – together with less used stainless steel.
For many years special abrasive pastes have been available, which are applied to a stroke to turn it into a ‘draw-hone effectively.’ They work well with vintage blades, but with modern, hard steel, not very well. Why? In some cases, the abrasive material in the paste is sweeter, in fact, than the razor steel – so it has little or no impact on the edge. The answer lies in the now widely available diamond-based pastes.