• Beginners' Tips: June 2014

    Strops and Stropping

    Thereíve been a few threads recently on the topic of strops and stropping so I thought Iíd address those issues in this monthís Beginners Tips. Stropping can be a big topic, and I am wordy, so apologies in advance for the length of this monthís tips.

    I imagine that everyone appreciates and understands the need for a good, well-honed straight razor when they first start out. After all, we understand the purpose Ė itís going to shave us so it needs to be sharp and of a reasonable quality.

    Strops are a slightly different matter. Generally we know we need one, but its purpose is less well understood. We know for example that a strop will help keep the edge shave-ready. We are told that we should strop before each shave. But what exactly does a strop do, and how does it do it? This has been one of those ongoing debates here. Let me try to summarize my (slightly imperfect) understanding.

    • A strop realigns the edge. When we shave the edge deforms, bends, misaligns. Stropping lines everything back up.

    • A strop removes microscopic moisture. Under magnification, a razorís edge is a series of teeth, like a saw. Tiny bits of moisture get trapped in these teeth and stropping helps remove this moisture, which in turn reduces rust, which in turn keeps the edge from degenerating as quickly.

    • Stropping is marginally abrasive. Water and wind created the Grand Canyon. Even non-abrasive things can cause abrasion. By stropping on plain leather thereís a teeny tiny amount of metal removal going on.

    Now not everyone will agree with those ideas, maybe. However, knowing they might apply can at least give you an understanding of the purpose of a strop, and Iíve found if I understand the purpose I can better appreciate the function.

    So, what does this mean for us? First, you need a strop and you need to use it at least before each shave. Plain, good quality leather is enough (though you can get things like canvas, linen, felt etc Ė these are another topic and I wonít say anything more about them here). Second, clearly the strop needs to be flat and free from major imperfections. Third, stropping is important so you need to devote as much if not more time to practicing it as you do to practicing shaving Ė the two go hand-in-hand.

    Finally, some tips on learning to strop. Youíve probably seen them before but Iím going to reiterate them here anyway.

    1. The razor lies flat on the strop Ė never lift the spine off the strop;
    2. Move the razor spine-first along the strop;
    3. Use a light pressure Ė let the razor sit on the strop, donít force it down onto the strop;
    4. At the end of each stroke, change direction by keeping the spine on the strop and flipping the razor until the other side of the edge is lying flat on the strop. Practice rolling the shank between your fingers to achieve this;
    5. Keep the strop pulled taut at all times;
    6. Speed comes with time and practice. Do not try to go fast in the early stages.

    In my opinion one of the best guides to stropping are these videos by AFDavis11. If you havenít already seen them do yourself a favour and take a look.

    Good luck, and may your all your strops be nick-free!

    Adam G., onimaru55, lz6 and 20 others like this.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Beginners' Tips: June 2014 started by Jimbo View original post