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Thread: Beginner question on pasted strops

  1. #1
    Senior Member azgabe's Avatar
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    Default Beginner question on pasted strops

    I am new to straights and have not even tried one yet. They are in the mail along with a strop. I have a couple of concerns about stropping. I have read that some members strop on a pasted linen/surface (5 strops), then an untreated linen (20 strops), and then finish on leather (50 strops). From my understanding, they do this every day.

    I contacted Tony Miller about his strops. I noticed that his description of his artisan line stated that it did not need any paste added. I was looking at the cheaper chocolate strop and inquired if I would need to purchase paste to use that strop, since his description on that strop made no references to pastes. His response:

    "Gabriel
    Thanks for the email. Pastes are not suggested for any daily use strop and should only be used occasionally when the razors edge no longer responds to daily stropping on plain leather. Basically pastes act like a mild hone and remove metal which would be too aggressive for every day use. Plain leather aligns the already sharp edge vefore each shave
    Hope this helps
    Tony"

    I understand that pastes are abrasive. Viewing videos from Portland Razor Co. they recommend stropping on a pasted surface only after you are very comfortable with your technique. They state that beginners can easily ruin a razor if they improperly strop on a pasted surface. So, beginners stay away. So after my long story, here are my questions.

    1. How often would I need to use a pasted strop? After how many uses?
    2. Would I ever need to use a pasted strop? Or can I send my straights in to be honed again?
    3. If I pastes one side of a linen strop, will the paste bleed through to the other side? Essentially would I need a strop just for paste?
    4. Can I add paste to an old leather belt to use as a pasted strop? Or does it have to be linen?
    5. I've read that I will probably ruin/nick my first strop. So I ended up buying a used Straight Razor Designs strop. Retail was $65. Is this any good? Should I eventually upgrade to a Tony Miller? Or is that even an upgrade?

    I sincerely appreciate any feedback and insight any members may provide.

  2. #2
    Senior Member bluesman7's Avatar
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    I have a razor that gave 131 shaves on just clean strops a few others are closing in on 100 and still going strong. I don't use pastes at all. Not saying that you shouldn't or that pastes don't have a place in razor maintenance.

    Regarding #3, I would recommend not pasting your linen strop especially if it is attached to your leather strop. You can paste a cheap cotton belt if you want to experiment with pastes and keep it away from your daily strops. An old leather belt may be OK. Most linens are not true linen anyway.

    Your used SRD strop should be fine if it is in good condition. I find the poly 'linen' on the SRD strops to be very effective without pastes. YMMV

  3. #3
    Senior Member blabbermouth RezDog's Avatar
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    1) It a serious variable. It depends on you beard, the quality of your razor and your shaving and stropping technique.
    2) You can always send your razors out to be honed instead of a pasted strop. Flipping that around a pasted strop in the right hands can extend the time in which you take between honing. There are people here that have their stropping technique and their having technique worked out and with a small number of razors in rotation they can go a year or more without sending their razors for a honing. The late Bill Barber once said that with a seven razor rotation and shaving every two or three days and stropping only on leather he could go a year or more without sending his razors out. He also had very very nice razors.
    3) I think contamination is a serious possibility and I would not have any paste on my daily strop, I have a separate strop for my paste, it is a very long paddle strop.
    4) Absolutely, you can paste on leather, and you can paste a true leather belt, but if the leather is bent and wrinkled like so often found on used leather belts it is less than premium. You can buy nice pieces of leather strips from places like Tandy for much less than a new belt.
    5) A lot of people nick their strops or even cut them quite deeply when learning to strop. Probably more people ruin their first strop than people that still use their first strop after the first six months. Tony Miller has a very good reputation for finely crafted strops and I would think they are a good choice.

    On a quick side note. There are many here and many in days of old that used pated strops and kept an edge going for years. They are one tool in many for edge maintenance. Once you have your stropping and shaving technique down pat it is vey effective for edge maintenance. I like a paddle for pastes, but you can paste the linen on your hanging strop. Learning to shave and strop are the fundamentals, after that there is many many possibilities for razor maintenance. Pastes are probably the cheapest way to achieve that, I have chromium oxide, cerium oxide and ferrous oxide. They all do more or less the same thing. I cannot tell the difference between my cerium and ferrous but the cerium is suppose to be the finest of the three. It is a little hard to fine pure cerium and think you could do just fine with one of the other two. Make sure you are buying pure pastes and not blend stuff for woodworking tools or metal polishing.
    MW76 and Gasman like this.
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    Senior Member azgabe's Avatar
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    Thank you gentlemen. After reading your posts I think I will stay away from pasted strops. I have two razors in the mail. I only plan on using a straight on my days off. My alarm rings at 3:30, and I am in no condition to attempt a straight razor shave at that hour. Mild to Med DEs are my tools of choice on workdays. That being said, I think I might end up sending the razors out once a year at that rate. Assuming I make it that long.
    bluesman7 likes this.

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    You don't need to rush into pastes or sprays, but that being said, if you stick with the hobby it is really nice to be able to experiment with refreshing your own razors. Pastes or sprays are easier and more forgiving then jumping straight into honing IMHO.

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    Tony Miller makes some great strops. I am glad to see you are looking at one of his chocolate strops rather than the more expensive heirloom strops. When you are new to straight razors, you will find the "digital gymnastics" needed to strop a razor to be awkward. Nearly everyone puts nicks in the leather of their first strop. Although you can use fine sandpaper to smooth over those nicks, it will never look like new. Once you acquire the muscle memory to strop without nicking your strop, you can purchase a higher quality strop. I have one of Tony's heirloom strops and it is wonderful.

    Pasted strops are used for several purposes. Some people find that they razor edges are too harsh/too keen. They use stropping compounds like Chromium oxide to smooth out the edge of their razor to make shaving more comfortable.

    Some people have a coarse, tough beard and want an edge that is very keen. They use stropping compounds like sub-micron cubic boron nitride or synthetic polycrystalline diamond to make the edge sharper.

    Then there are those who just use pastes to keep their razors sharp between honings. Until you acquire the skills and hones needed to maintain your own razors, you will need to send your blades out to a honemeister for sharpening on a periodic basis. Pasted strops can extend the interval between these professional honings.

    If you are interested in trying some pasted strops, there are lots of substrates to use with abrasive pastes or sprays. You can use wood like balsa and basswood. You can use cloth like linen, cotton canvas, denim, polyester and compressed wool or nylon felt. You can use disposable substrates such as paper or newsprint. Although I have not yet tried it, I recently learned of a polyester fabric called Pellon that is available at fabric stores. Since most of these substrates are inexpensive, test several and see which you like best.

    You can purchase abrasive pastes and sprays from many shaving suppliers. Do yourself a favor and purchase "razor quality" abrasives. The polishing compound crayons you get from the hardware store may work, but they are not designed for razors, so the particle size distribution is not tightly controlled.

  8. #7
    Senior Member azgabe's Avatar
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    Thanks gentlemen. I will probably stay away from honing. I do a halfway decent job at honing my knives. I don't want to risk using a dull straight for shaving.

    After reading these posts I remembered that I have leather strips. I purchased a scrap leather bag a while back.if need be I may use one of the bigger pieces to mess around with pastes. Of course months from now once I feel comfortable stropping.

    ****on a side note, stropping always autocorrects to stripping!!!! Lol!!

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