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Thread: Leather Strops - are they a sham?

  1. #21
    Senior Moderator JimmyHAD's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bang0Bang00 View Post
    I'm not so sure leather is the only material that can straighten an edge, polish and clean, and yet it's everyone's go to. Why? Because it's always been that way?
    Curious folks have been trying different materials to strop straight razors since they were invented. If you look at the 20th century barber suppliers I see that 'leather' was widely experimented with different types of hides being tried. Bovine, horse, shell, seal, elephant, kangaroo !

    Looking at vintage strops I've accumulated it seems that Shell was the premier material that the suppliers rated the highest. My point is, people in our timeline aren't the first to investigate the best for the purpose. I think 'leather' in its various families is the proven winner in terms of strops. Pasted strops are another category IMHO.
    Be careful how you treat people on your way up, you may meet them again on your way back down.

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  3. #22
    Senior Member blabbermouth niftyshaving's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bang0Bang00 View Post
    Hi Nifty, thanks! That's some good info.
    .......

    More specifically, I'm questioning if leather is irreplaceable.

    Based on this (electron imaging of the apex)
    And this (polishing at 800x magnification using Cubic Boron Nitride or "CBN")
    ....
    it looks like that's something a pair of denim jeans can do and raw leather can't.
    Aha CBN is amazing and most folk have no clue how aggressive CrOx is.

    There are two simple contexts here.
    *) end steps of sharpening.
    *) pre and post shave razor care.

    On the sharpening front much can depend on the hone progression.
    The condition of the edge after honing has a lot to do with the changes the strop needs to make.
    All manner of things work well here. Newspaper, cardboard, felt, balsa strops, red rouge, tripoli,
    pumice, slip water and more.

    On the pre and post shave razor care front I doubt anything will replace
    leather with a fabric back anytime soon.

    This is like me and my playing with PSA 3M lapping film.
    Golly the films work nice for one or two razors but for a honemaster modern hones rock ;-)

    A strop is a tool called into service each and every shave and sometimes in the middle
    of a shave. I could add 'stropmaster" to the list of skills but a shaver must strop
    each time and that skill needs to be mastered early. Not learned but mastered if the
    shave is going to be all that it might be. For the every day razor care I keep coming
    back to leather and fabric.

    My visual aid for honing and stropping is a wedge shaped block of yellow cheese.
    I can grate it into a sharper wedge, I can press it into a smooth edge with a butter knife.
    I can drag it or push it on a cutting board. I can see progressions as I use coarse,
    medium and fine parts of the box grater.
    I can "harden" in in the chiller.
    I can "soften" it in the oven.
    I can make a San Mai snack.
    Some cheese has coarse salt grains in it.
    Some tears and chips.
    Some cheese is difficult to make an edge with as it crumbles too easy.
    Some cheese is difficult to make an edge with because it is too soft and sags.
    Some is just right...

    Like cheese the finer the shape and polish the easier it is to mess it up.

    Darn now I am hungry...

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  5. #23
    Senior Member blabbermouth
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    “I'm not so sure leather is the only material that can straighten an edge, polish and clean, and yet it's everyone's go to. Why? Because it's always been that way? Ok...”


    Nope, it’s not, but it works just fine. More important than the stropping substrate is technique, unfortunately it can take a while to master.

    There is nothing wrong with stropping on Chrome Oxide or other nano grit paste, you can strop on it daily with no harm to the razor, but… you don’t need to.

    If that is what is working for you, do whatever will keep you shaving. As your stropping skill improves your edges and shaves will also, dramatically. I can guarantee you, if you continue with straight razors, you will look back at this post, a year from now, with amusement.

    You’re not the first… Rock on.

  6. #24
    The Great & Powerful Oz onimaru55's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bang0Bang00 View Post
    I ask because I find I get a significantly sharper straight razor edge off of Chromium Oxide on my rough suede paddle strop than I do off of the flawless leather side of the same strop. Sometimes I find if I go to leather after the CrOx on suede, the edge gets duller.

    No one else has experienced this?

    It could be your leather strop. You didn't say what your using as a strop.
    $19 eBay strops or some scrap leather do no not make a razor strop.
    However my crystal ball says you're doing something wrong between bevel set & final strop.
    Those in the room who believe in telekinesis, raise my hand.

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  8. #25
    " Atta Boy!!" sharptonn's Avatar
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    I kept a 7-day set of nicely-honed modern-grind wedge razors from different makers shaving for two years using a bare, suspended balsa strop. Only. Used only those razors and that strop.
    Worked wonderfully.

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    Then, I joined SRP!

  9. #26
    Senior Member blabbermouth
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    You know I think the best practice for someone coming from the knife making/sharpening world is to forget about what they know about knives. Approach learning to shave with a straight razor with a clean slate and go from there.

    Then you would know, for instance, that you do not raise a burr deliberately while honing a straight razor. If you do raise a burr a couple of back strokes on the hone followed by some normal strokes should fix that problem. Leather strops are not used for de burring a blade.

    I know it is hard to do but there have been quite a few posts over the years where people just couldn't let go of the knife experience they had and that made learning to use a straight razor so much more difficult than it otherwise should be.

    Bob
    After listening to someone talk ever wonder who ties their shoe laces?

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  11. #27
    Senior Member blabbermouth tcrideshd's Avatar
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    easy to sharpen a knife,, you wont ever hear the rope, wire, tomato, cheese, paper etc. complain about irritation after the shave. yes similar, but different purpose edge. and if leather aint working its user related or crap leather,, really boils down to that... Tc
    Ever wonder why you never see a motorcycle in front of a Shrinks office? ,,,,, then you have never ridden one "

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    Jimmy, strong point. Thanks!

    Nifty, Cheese? San Mai Snack/Sandwich? Best analogy I've heard as of yet! Plus, you elegantly pointed out exactly what I was struggling to express. There are a lot of options to strop, but that's just one piece of the big puzzle of an ultra fine edge. Thanks for that. It helped me get past my hang up on leather.

    As to the general consensus that it's either bad technique or leather, I think this is the most logical conclusion. Likely, it's not the leather. I'm still new and in the experimental stage of trying to figure out what works for me. Hence questioning something as trivial as leather strops.

    It's a little frustrating when I guess the stars aligned and I got a wicked sharp edge off of the suede and CrOx. My baseline of comparison is the Feather brands double edge safety razor blades. That sharpness is what I'm aiming to get on my straight razor. I came close with that edge that one time. I want more of that level of sharp... which probably means buying some CBN eventually.

    FWIW, I'm actually coming at this having started with a straight razor. The burr removal with leather thing was the context of the general conclusion made by people in the knife forum where I asked the same thing. I wasn't trying to suggest it's the same with a hollow grind straight razor. Nor do I agree that's even the best use of strop leather with a knife or otherwise.

    I don't make knives either, yet anyways, I just like quantified details. There seems to be a fair bit of hocus pocus in both the straight razor and knife communities. I try to get past that and to the "why" behind why something works.

    I think part of the problem could be coming from my 10k Chinese stone. I find it's pretty soft and somewhat inconsistent as a surface. I even spotted a visible black particle that was embedded in the stone. So it's a bit of a challenge to start off with a good edge, which seems to be the most important thing, the more I learn. But I plan on using this stone up first before I get into a Naniwa or something. I'm also thinking "if" I can get a good edge off of this one, then I'm making up in skill what I lack in stone. Plus, the 60x-120x microscope I use helps. I might have to go to the 800x microscope eventually though. N+1, right?

  13. #29
    Senior Member blabbermouth
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    “I think part of the problem could be coming from my 10k Chinese stone. I find it's pretty soft and somewhat inconsistent as a surface. I even spotted a visible black particle that was embedded in the stone. So it's a bit of a challenge to start off with a good edge, which seems to be the most important thing, the more I learn. But I plan on using this stone up first before I get into a Naniwa or something”


    Well, there’s your problem….

    Really a Chinese stone is not 10 or 12k, some can finish but not 12k finish.

    I though you had said in another thread that you had a 5,8 and 12k Naniwa set?

  14. #30
    Senior Member blabbermouth
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    I came to this site about 5 years ago because it specialized almost exclusively in straight razors. I thought if anyone would know about straight razors it would be members on this site. I was not disappointed. Later on I did go to a knife forum to ask about a couple of knives I had and got knowledgeable answers. While there I notice a razor sub forum and took a look. For the most part I came away shaking my head at some of the comments.

    If you are new to shaving with a straight razor it is commonly accepted that it takes about 100 shaves to get your technique working decently. Along the way to that point you will likely dull a blade more frequently by improper stropping technique than you will later in your shaving. Also be prepared to cut up a strop along the way. It is generally considered best to get those two things working well before learning to hone. Waiting is sometimes not possible for a number of reasons. I could not wait.

    Fortunately through reading on here about hones I got the impression that synthetic hones offered consistent grit ratings and were the easiest to learn on. I bought Naniwa hones and found this to be true. They are not terribly expensive either. The biggest single thing I had to learn was to properly set the bevel in the first place. If you don't and proceed up the hone progression you are likely just polishing a turd as they used to say in the military. I think the best way to learn is to attend some of the meet ups or find a member in your area that can give you some one on one time. I wish those had been an option for me.

    All the magnification in the world will not help if you do not know what to look for and how to interpret what you are seeing. Those two things come through time and practice. Personally, I still use a low powered hand loupe to get the job done.

    Between doing enough reading and practicing you will quickly separate the wheat from the chaff as far as information that is presented to you. You have to take into account that there are generally at least 2 or more ways to get to the same end. You just have to find out which path is the most suitable for you.

    Bob
    Hirlau, Grazor, Raol and 2 others like this.
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