If you venture into a world of straight razor shaving, you will need the best strop for a straight razor, either it is a leather strop, a paddle strop, or a loom strop. Stropping a straight razor is the way to “re-align” the extremely fine cutting edge of a straight razor before and after shaving. Stropping is similar to running a kitchen knife along the steel in your knife block before usage. This is how a straight razor is cared and maintained.
What is a strop?
A strop is a tool that is used to keep the sharp edge of a straight razor longer. It will have various materials and types. You can use any strop and maintain your beloved straight razor to a shave ready state. But stropping cannot replace honing. You will need to hone your razor every 3-6 months.
Type of strops
- Hanging Strop: This is the most common strop you can find. It made of leather and cotton. You hang one end of the strop while holding the other end to make it taut and ready to use.
- Paddle Strop: Looks like a small rectangle bat. It has four sides that use different materials on each side. Some paddle strops only use two sides. It is more convenient because you don’t have to “pull” it to make it taut.
- Loom Strop: This is the combination of hanging strop and paddle strop. It has a stretching mechanism that makes the leather taut and ready to use. With a hanging strop, you may lose the pulling tension when you strop. This will risk ruining your strop. Not with loom strop. You will have a good tension all the time.
Material of strops
- Balsa Wood: This is a really low-cost strop. You can make it yourself and have a “poor” man strop that can last a really long time.
- Leather: This is the choice for many straight razor users. It is readily available at any shaving supplies shops. Leather provides a soft and smooth surface which gently aligns the edge of a straight razor. It is only used in both hanging and paddle strops.
- Linen: It is only used in hanging strops, not paddle strops. But very few makers are using actual linen. Most of the producers are using cotton instead.
- Other: There are producers that use a synthetic material. Of course, this is to cater animal-friendly group of people. Be careful when using paste as this material is usually non-porous.
Selecting a strop
Which one that you should choose? You should find the difference between want and need first. If you are a starter, I really recommend that you use a cheap one first to practice. Why? Because you may ruin the strop (by nicking it or even cutting it). You do not want to throw away a good amount of money because of newbie mistakes, do you?
Now with that reason above, all you NEED is a simple leather strop. Top of the line (expensive) strops are actually just another strop with better accessories: having a linen side, a decorative hanger, etc. Plus the time and labor needed to add those accessories.
But, of course, you may want a good piece of art hanging in your shaving den.
How to strop
Stropping a straight razor is easy. But you will need a lot of practice. Here is how to do it (it is all the same with all type of strops):
- You will need to keep the strop taut and straight. For a hanging strop, you have to pull it toward you. Making it as flat as possible.
- Start with the linen side (the linen material must face you).
- You need to pay attention to the width of your strop. It is because you will need to cover all the edge of the straight razor.
- The spine should lead and the edge is trailing. Keep it as flat as possible on the strop surface.
- Do a diagonal movement as to cover all edge. Use NO pressure.
- Turn the razor on its spine. This is to avoid the edge ruining the strop.
- Do another diagonal movement. Remember, the spine leads, the edge trails. That’s one lap. Do this about 30 laps on the canvas/ linen side.
Do another 60 laps on the leather side.
Chromium Oxide and Diamond Paste
What is Chromium Oxide?
It is a paste that is used to help a strop to realign the edge of a straight razor. It is a chemical compound that is not toxic.
You may find that people use several names for it: crox, chromox, or chromium(3) oxide. Usually, it comes in a compound bar, not in a paste.
How to apply Chromium Oxide:
- Make sure the strop is on a level surface.
- Put the chromium oxide on top of the strop.
- Start “coloring” the strop with a light circular motion.
- Make sure you “color” all the surface with a thin a layer.
- You are done.
It is a paste that most people prefer to use on a strop. But it is more expensive that Chromium Oxide.
How to apply Diamond Paste:
- Put a bit of paste on the strop. Diamond aren’t cheap, you know. 😀
- Using your under the thumb area on your palm, start evening the paste with a circular motion. Use light motion.
- Add a bit of paste if necessary.
- After you cover all the strop’s area, you are done.
What do you think about finding the best strop for a straight razor?
Tell me about your first strop! How long do you learn until you master stropping? How many strops did you ruin? 😀