As time progresses, fewer people use disposable razors, and many now turn to straight razors. While straight razors are durable, the blades dull over time. Thus, they require sharpening now and again.
Manufacturers make razor blades out of thinned-out hard steel. While steel is durable, thinning it out causes it to dull easily. With each cut, the blade’s edge wears out in miniscule amounts. However, over a short period, this causes the edge to be dull. A leather strop is one of the best ways to sharpen your straight razor. A leather strop can sharpen your blade and keep it in pristine condition.
The general rule is to use something harder to sharpen; thus, it surprises many that leather can sharpen a blade. With the best strop product and a great stropping technique, your blade will last long. This article covers all you need to know about leather strops for sharpening razors.
Does Leather Sharpen Razor?
Yes, leather can sharpen razors with a leather strop and a compound. Leather does not only sharpen razors; it also straightens them. The leather pores smoothen out the burrs of the razor’s steel and align them. This realignment takes the edge back to a near-perfect state. Applying the right stropping techniques allows you to maintain your razor’s sharpness for longer.
What Is a Leather Strop?
A leather strop is a piece of strong, flexible leather used for honing and smoothening out blades. It is also called a razor strop. Edge retention is the key thing in mind for razor manufacturers; thus, they use hard steel for quality razors. However, the blade dulls with each use and can run out if you don’t sharpen well.
A leather strop works great at polishing and smoothing razor blades. With a strop, you would only have to sharpen every few months, not weekly.
A quality strop has two sides: rough (grain) and smooth (flesh). The rough side is usually linen, canvas, or suede, while the smooth side is leather. The leather is typically cowhide, horsehide, cordovan, or bridle. Typically, you may use the suede side first to clean any dirt or oil from the blade. Then, use the leather side to shape the blade. People often use the leather side with various pastes for polishing. However, it is important to wipe off the paste before you complete your stropping.
Do Leather Strops Wear Out?
A strop can last over five years if you take good care of it. It is crucial to keep your strop flat at all times. A rolled-up strop will not be effective and will do more harm than good. Some suggest applying a green chrome compound to the smooth side if necessary. Otherwise, regular cleaning should do the trick. It is also important to keep your strop out of humid areas like the bathroom. Store them in an airy room where the leather will not get moist.
The more you use your strop, the more cuts you might make. These cuts make the strop less effective at polishing and realigning your blade. Accidental cuts on a strop can happen when you run your blade incorrectly. This is inevitable; as such, you may need to change your strop if it gets too much. However, you can maintain your strop by applying a stropping balm to it.
The stropping balm is a leather conditioner that leaves your strop flexible. If you don’t apply a balm, the leather will dry and stiffen, thus making realignment uneven. In addition, wipe off scum or suds from the blade’s edge before stropping. It would help if you cleaned your strop after every use. Dirt and moisture are two conditions that cause a strop to dry out and change shape.
Why Does a Leather Strop Sharpen Razor?
A leather strop can straighten a razor because of its physical properties. Firstly, the leather on a strop is treated with a polishing or rubbing compound. The leather holds the compound which does the work.
A blade you sharpen has little metal fringes, called burrs, that stick off the edge. However, these burrs are dangerous on a shaving blade because they can pull hair. In addition, they can cause irritation and nicks.
This is where your strop comes in handy. In reality, a leather strop hones your blade rather than sharpens it. However, with sharpening, the aim is to remove all the burrs on the blade. Unfortunately, using abrasives only removes burrs and replaces them with their own. On the other hand, the strop straightens out all burrs and bends them in the right direction. It bends the fine burrs forwards and backward until it falls off. Moreso, a strop can hone without removing any original material or steel. In addition, the leather is not abrasive enough to create its burrs, leaving the blade clean and sharp.
With continued use, these burrs form all over again, and a strop is used to hone again. Over time, your blade might need a regrind.
How Thick Should Leather Be for Strop?
The recommended thickness for a leather strop is around 1/8″. This translates to about 8-9 oz. leather. However, this thickness can allow for some rounding off the edge. Conversely, a thickness of 1/16″ is also a good fit. Thinner leather may be better for strops as it can be firmer. However, 1/8″ inch is the generally accepted thickness of leather strops.
How to Use a Leather Strop to Sharpen Razor
So, how do you strop a razor? Firstly, before stropping, apply a stropping compound or diamond spray. You can use diamond spray compound on your strop if you want to sharpen your blade.
Secondly, clean your blade to rid it of suds, scum, oil, and dirt. When running your blade over the strop, do not run it forward. Instead, drag it away from the strop to avoid cutting or nicking the leather.
If your strop is narrower than your blade, the entire blade should touch the strop. After stropping one side, flip it over and strop the other side. This is to ensure evenness as you hone your blade.
Most importantly, stropping is a slow process that requires some technique. Thus, apply light pressure slowly.
Now you know that a strop is a material you can use after sharpening blades. Sharpening stones leave burrs on blades, but a leather strop takes off all the burrs. In addition, it helps to straighten and polish the blade and can be mounted or flexible.
Depending on your preference, you can use a strop’s suede or smooth side. You strop straight razors typically on smooth leather, however. If you take care of one properly, it can last up to five years. Regular cleaning and keeping it flat and away from moisture are the best ways to care for your strop.
When using a strop, clean it and your blade. Run it slowly along the strop, flip it over at the spine, and repeat the process. In summary, using a strop to sharpen a blade requires a compound to help. But smoothing it with the leather side does not require any compounds.
Hi, I’m Theo, and I started Shaving Parlour to help men everywhere get the best shave of their lives. Check out my popular guides on Safety Razors, Shaving Cream, Shaving Brushes, Beard Oil, and more!