The Razor VI

The strop

The strop gives an extra fine polish to the edge. Stropping is done edge trailing. Flip over the back - never over the edge - and use only as much pressure needed to guarantee that back and edge are both touching the surface.

The Hairtest: take a blond hair between thumb and index finger, and place the edge on the hair 3-4 cm above the thumb. Do not move the blade aside (no slicing movement). It must be cut without bending, and the cut part should not pop away. However, this is just a test; the ultimate test is shaving, which should proceed painless and without needing pressure of the hand.

The pasted strop is just a commercial object, and cannot be advised to the user or expert. The edge is so fine, it needs only honing once a year, the rest can be done by stropping to polish the edge. Cutting pastes create new edges every time you strop. Coarse pastes cause a rough edge, which does not shave well. Painless shaving is impossible when the edge is not sharp. Only barbers who damage the edge by shaving many persons a day, need a good cutting paste or a hone to refresh the edge every day. But even then, the cutting pastes are originally meant for French knives, not for hollow ones. Hollow ones form burrs with cutting paste easily. Many barbers stuck to the natural strop without cutting paste. Cutting paste needs special skills and errors are occurring frequently. Also, during shaving the back should be very close to the cheek i.e. with a very small angle, to conserve the edge.

Frequently, customers only start to complain after the razor has been sent in for sharpening. The reason is, that before they shaved with a dull razor, increasing the shaving angle and the pressure, their pain nerves adapting to the pain. After sharpening, they damaged the edge by using the increased pressure and angle they got used to, or worse, by using cutting paste. A burr forms faster the sharper the blade is.

The strop will be very smooth and shining, when the back and point of the blade are not too sharp. The hanging strop is best, because of its length, which should be used completely at every stroke. It should be kept under tension, however, carefully. It is better to have three or four razors you must use alternatively. Warming a cold blade in water can increase comfort.

Many barbers have tried out several tricks with one purpose: to avoid honing. With the so called cutting pastes they believed to have found a suitable method. However, more than ever barbers complain about bad cutting razors, causing them to try out many amateuristic experiments, such as glassplates, ashes, soap, oils, pastes etc, without any succes. Even after having used a pasted strop, the unpasted strop is necessary to complete the stropping process. Every barber who wants to use the pasted strop, should have experience with honing first, for 10-15 years.

Then which strop should we use? The best strop is not treated with anything, and serves to 'iron' the edge, make it dry, and somehow clean it. The edge, which microscopically consists of many little parallel steel wires, is malaligned by shaving, which is restored by stropping. The surface should better not be fat, because it invites you to use too much pressure. The unprepared smooth strop is better for the fine motor movements of the hand. The leather should not get rough. When you have more experience with the natural, unprepared, smooth strop, a fatty strop can improve the results - can! Also unprepared, smooth strops can be made a little sticky by putting some fatty paste or creme on it. The other side of the strop is made of some rough fibers, mostly hemp. This side, too, should be shining like a mirror. They serve to strop a few times before using the leather side. The hemp side is also unprepaired, or using some fat - no cutting pastes [Note: white contains chalk and is cutting; the only non-cutting paste is the yellow one, or olive oil]