How To: Sharpen a Straight Razor

Strops:

Types: The types of sharpening strops depend on how they are set and the method used while stropping.
  • Hanging - These are the only style strops that need to be attached to an immovable object which holds the strop stable while stropping. They often have a hook or loop which affixes to an object and a loop or handle at the opposite end of the strop to hold it steady while stropping. These are the most common sharpening strops.
  • Paddle/Loom - Paddle/Loom strops are relatively uncommon, but are convenient for travelers. The leather strop is affixed to a paddle with an extended handle. These types of strops are as equally as effective as hanging strops, but can be harder to use due to their average size and angle at which the strop must be performed.

Materials: Most strops are comprised of a leather component and a reverse fabric component. The fabric aspect is used to thoroughly clean the razor before using the leather component to actually realign the blade's edge. There are very many different leathers and fabrics used for razor stropping, below are among the most common:

  • Latigo - Typically, this refers to a special process used to treat cowhide leather during the tanning process. It is generally treated with aluminum salts/oil and leaves the strop slightly flexible, oily and strong.
  • Russian Leather (Juchten) - Russian leather is also comprised of cowhide leather, but has been treated with birch oil during it's tanning process. The birch oil gives the leather a distinct texture, smell and reddish color. The Russian Leather strop requires less time to break in and even allows for a gentle bare hand massage to prepare it for stropping 
  • Fabric - The most common materials used to clean the strop are cottonlinen and hemp.

Hones

Natural: Natural sharpening stones can be a lot more difficult to come across due to the inconsistency of their origin. Because they are quarried (mined) from the earth, it becomes more difficult to find an ideal shape or texture in the stone. The use of natural stones require using slurry stones to create a slurry (paste-like consistency) to sharpen the razor. A natural sharpening stone is often less aggressive and consequently gives the razor a smoother shave.

Synthetic: Manmade stones offer the consistency that natural stones can not. Often made of a ceramic base for leverage and abrasive powder to form grits, the stone are carefully constructed and often give a sharper, crisper edge. The grits follow a number system which allows for customers to select the level of coarseness they prefer.