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Thread: Is Your Strop Dry or Dirty?

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    Senior Member blabbermouth
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    Default Is Your Strop Dry or Dirty?

    Is Your Strop Dry or Dirty?

    Here are a couple quick and easy test to run on your strop to see if it is dry or dirty.

    Recently I picked up a Vintage Nanayama Pelican, strop in great condition, but noticed the leather felt rough in a couple spots. BTW it had a washed linen strop that was worth the price by itself, but that, is another story.

    Air-born dust is everywhere, probably the largest contaminator of a strop and the cause of scratches on the bevel that can led to edge chipping.

    If the goal of stropping, is to polish the bevel and straighten the edge, and is the last thing to touch the razor before it lands on you face, it stands to reason any grit or roughness on the strop will affect the quality of the edge. Remember we are trying to straighten and polish the very edge.

    I know, I know, “I just wipe my hand on my strop a couple times and the oils from my hand hydrate my strop”. We have all heard this old song, for years, but is it true? Some food for thought later…

    First look at your strop are some spots darker than others, is it wear or dirt and swarf.

    Take a clean, dry microfiber towel and fold into quarters, lightly rub the leather from top to bottom, then reverse and rub from bottom to top. You are just trying to feel the surface of the strop. A micro fiber has 2 sides, one side will have longer fibers and will be more sensitive to snagging.

    If the microfiber snagged at any portion, the strop is either dirty or dry.

    To test for dirt, fold a white paper towel into quarters, mist with any household cleaner, 409, Simple Green or the like, just one shot. Now wipe the strop, once up and down. Look at the towel, is it dirty, black? That is dirt, if brown or the color of the strop the strop is clean but dry.

    If the strop is black in color use your best judgement… If dirty clean with a good saddle soap or good lanoline shaving soap like MWF. Dampen the strop, do not soak the leather and rub in the soap, (about a dime size dollop) to a lite lather and wipe off with a clean paper towel, Buff with a clean paper towel and repeat until the towel is clean or the color of the strop. Do not soak the strop.

    If very dirty, you may need to repeat the whole process on another day, after drying the strop. A clean paper towel, should rub off, only leather, the color of the strop, not dark like dirt.

    If the strop is very dirty and neglected, you will never get all the dirt out, but you can improve it dramatically. Go slowly, with repeated cleaning, and adding oil a very little bit at a time. It took many years to dry out, it can take months to a year to re-hydrate without rotting. Add a bit of oil, wait a month for it to absorb, before adding more. And always add oil to a dampen strop.

    If it is only dry, you felt sections, grabbing the microfiber, that is where the strop is dry and in need of moisture, (actually the whole strop is dry, but these spots are beginning to break down and crack at the surface). I wipe my strop a couple times a week with a damp microfiber, damp not sopping wet. This cleans off the dust without grinding it into the leather and adds some moisture to the leather. If the strop is clean and properly hydrated, a Microfiber, will not snag on the face of the strop.

    If you have a strop that does not have a handle, (Barber Style) you will find the handle portion will be very rough, and the microfiber will grab there. This is the part that, your hand has the most contact with the leather.

    You hand has wicked away the moisture from the leather, not added moisture from the oils of your hand… So, the old hand wiping, to moisturize the strop… Do what works for you, but you might want to try this, just once.

    When hand rubbing, your hand may wipe off some dust, but it also probably ground some in. Added oil? I doubt it. Added to that, how clean are your hands, and if you wash them first, you are washing off most of the oils on your hands. What you did do was flex the leather, left alone leather will stiffen and dry.

    Dampen your micro fiber, fold into quarters and flick it under running water. Wipe your strop from top to bottom, with the goal of lightly dampening the strop, just a little. Now flip it over and do the same on the back side, wipe the edges and if Barber style, the handle portion. You want just a little bit of water on the strop, not soaked. Rub the strop with the damp Microfiber to wipe off dust and work the water into the leather.

    Now the hard part.

    Wait 15-20 minutes for the water to absorb into the strop. This will open the pores of the leather and allow the oil, we are going to apply, to drive deep into the strop.

    Take 2 squares of toilet tissue, double over into a square and fold into quarters. Place 5 drops of Neatsfoot oil, Ballistol or your favorite leather oil/conditioner. Just 5 drops, NO More. One on each corner and one in the middle of your pad. If you do not have an applicator that will disperse a single drop, put a small amount in a glass container, dip a pencil or round piece of wood or plastic in the oil and drip a single drop at a time on the paper pad.

    Lightly wipe you strop starting from the middle and up, and again from the middle down, trying to apply an even coat on the face of the strop. Do not be surprised if the color is blotchy, and is quickly absorbed, this is normal. If you start from the end, all the oil will be on that end.

    If the oils sit on top, and does not absorb, you did not moisturize the strop with water, did not wait 15-20 minutes or it is dirty.

    Now rub the pad on the strop, from top to bottom to even out the coat 15-20 laps to work the oil in. Do the same for the back side. Do not add more oil to the pad

    Your strop will probably be blotchy, Do Not Add more oil, I repeat, Do Not Add more oil. Leave it alone and wait until the next day.

    The following morning you will see much of the blotchiness gone but, some will still show. Wipe the strop with a clean dry microfiber, you will notice a marked improvement in the smoothness of the strop, test with a dry microfiber.

    The strop will continue to improve for up to 2 week to a month or two. Do not add any more oil, to the strop, for at least 2 weeks, preferably a month. If needed repeat the whole process. The leather will return to a uniform color after about a week.

    You will notice a dramatic improvement of the feel of the razor on the leather and a more polished and finer edge. Looking at the edge with magnification, will show less stria on the bevel. And the Microfiber will be smoother on the strop.

    Continue to wipe your leather strop with a damp towel or microfiber, to clean off dust and to add a bit of moisture. How often, you will need to add oil depends on your conditions, but a dry clean microfiber, will tell you when it needs more, probably a couple times a year, again your climate and conditions will dictate.

    Stropping on leather cannot be over rated, for improving an edge. So to, the quality of the leather surface use to polish the bevel and edge. It should be as clean and smooth as possible. Most any leather strop will benefit from being cleaned and hydrated.
    Last edited by Euclid440; 04-19-2017 at 01:05 AM.

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    Neither,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
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    Senior Member blabbermouth Gasman's Avatar
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    Mine gets dirty so i take a damp cloth to it once a month. Havent tried putting any oil on. Dont think its in need of oil. But thats for the details.
    Jerry...

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    I used Nakayamas for my house mainaman's Avatar
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    I have been maintaining my strop, notice singular, for years by just rubbing the palm of my hand on it before every stropping session.
    That is enough to maintain a strop in good working condition.

    If a strop needs revival, than that is another story.
    Stefan

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    I wouldn't do this unless I fell that the strop is doing subpar work. My favorite strop has never been cleaned in any way, and it recently proved its worth when I "revived" a slightly blunted razor on it using 300 strokes (combined with fabric).
    mainaman likes this.

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    Here are the instructions that came with my kanoyama.
    Attached Images Attached Images  

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    Quote Originally Posted by mainaman View Post
    Here are the instructions that came with my kanoyama.
    Kanoyama .......... what do they know ? ................
    Be careful how you treat people on your way up, you may meet them again on your way back down.

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    I have cases for my strops so dust is not an issue. Now and then a rub with a wet sponge just for GPs. I've never had to clean a strop but if I did I'd use some Bick leather cleaner or some leatherique.
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    I don't know why I just noticed this thread, but great stuff here.

    Some cautions though, 409 contains, or did contain in the past, hydrochloric acid. Read the labels before putting anything on your strop! I would not use anything containg HCL on a strop.

    I used to rub the strop with my palm, but truly I think hand oil is 'dirty', containing salt, dust, the remnants of food preparation and eating (yum!) etc. So now I rarely rub the strop with my palm, though I do not doubt over time that may smooth or polish the leather - rather I use a tiny bit of Dovo yellow strop goop when I feel the strop needs it.

    Iwasaki-San's paper contains much useful information about strop maintenance and it's worth a read.

    My regimen is nothing whatsoever on the strop. If I feel it's accumulating more swarf than I want, the I clean it with a microfiber cloth and water, then when dry, I polish the leather with a soft jnat nagura.

    If I feel it needs something, then I make sure the strop is uniformly moistened and apply a tiny amount of Dovo strop paste fore and aft. I have also used multiple light applications of Ballistol (mineral oil) on old strops, working it in and flexing the leather at every application with success.

    Cheers, Steve
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    Forum mogwai thebigspendur's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve56 View Post
    I don't know why I just noticed this thread, but great stuff here.

    Some cautions though, 409 contains, or did contain in the past, hydrochloric acid. Read the labels before putting anything on your strop! I would not use anything containg HCL on a strop.

    I used to rub the strop with my palm, but truly I think hand oil is 'dirty', containing salt, dust, the remnants of food preparation and eating (yum!) etc. So now I rarely rub the strop with my palm, though I do not doubt over time that may smooth or polish the leather - rather I use a tiny bit of Dovo yellow strop goop when I feel the strop needs it.

    Iwasaki-San's paper contains much useful information about strop maintenance and it's worth a read.

    My regimen is nothing whatsoever on the strop. If I feel it's accumulating more swarf than I want, the I clean it with a microfiber cloth and water, then when dry, I polish the leather with a soft jnat nagura.

    If I feel it needs something, then I make sure the strop is uniformly moistened and apply a tiny amount of Dovo strop paste fore and aft. I have also used multiple light applications of Ballistol (mineral oil) on old strops, working it in and flexing the leather at every application with success.

    Cheers, Steve
    In the old days barbers maintained their strops by using their palms. Yea, palm oil contains all kinds of bodily waste products but barbers used the same strops for many many years. They probably used the same couple their entire careers.

    I'm old enough to remember going to a barber while they still gave straight shaves and used a straight for trimming after a haircut and I remember them stropping before each use and those strops were so slick you could practically see your reflection in them and they were also almost black from the palm oil over the years.

    That's good enough for me.
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