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How To Strop Your Straight Razor-West Coast Shaving

How To Strop Your Straight Razor

Learning to strop a straight razor might feel intimidating, but West Coast Shaving breaks it down.

Stropping is something that is done every time before you go to use a straight razor. It doesn’t have to be intimidating and it isn’t hard to do. It can be accomplished with just one try/lesson. 

Why do we strop a straight razor?

Let’s start with the “why” of stropping before we tackle the “how”.

The theory is that stropping aligns the blade. (In the same way you use steel on a knife, it doesn’t remove metal or sharpen but it straightens it.) When you shave, you create microscopic nicks in the blade that can cause it to be rough. When you strop your straight razor, you are aligning the blade again and preparing it to shave smoothly.

Stropping is not a visual difference. You won’t be able to SEE what you’ve done. It's just a little bit of shaving magic, wink, wink. There are some deep physics in it, but mostly we do it because it works. . . and it has worked. For over 100 years, men have been using this technique to smooth out their blades and restore them for a proper shave. You might not be able to see it, but you will FEEL the difference, as the blade runs smoothly on your face. If you didn’t strop, you would likely feel it on the very next shave.


How do we strop straight razors?

  1. Hold the razor. Open the straight razor to 180 degrees (maybe even a bit more), so it is nice and balanced in your hand. Grip it on the sides of the tang, with your thumb on top. 
  2. Pull the strop taut with one hand. Lay the blade flat on the strop with cutting edge facing toward you. Drag the blade flat across the leather (with the cutting edge trailing). Make sure the blade stays flat making full contact with the leather, push the straight razor away from you (leading with the spine). 
  3. When you get to the end of the strop, it is important to flip the blade correctly. NEVER turn the blade on the cutting edge. (This will drive the razor into the leather dulling the edge and damaging the leather.) Always flip the straight razor on the spine. On the return pass, you will pull the straight razor toward you and the cutting edge is now facing away (trailing) from you.
  4. There is no award for speed. Use just the weight of the razor and go at your own pace as you get the hang of it. Usually 10 passes are adequate for what you need, although you won’t hurt the straight razor if you do more.

Parts of the Strop & Caring for your Strop

Many strops sold today have two sides: leather and linen (or canvas). A linen or other material side is used first, to clean the blade as much as possible from oxidation, dirt, or oils before you bring it to the leather side of the strop. Sometimes, you will find that non-leather side used with different pastes for sharpening or polishing. 

The goal is to always take the cleanest blade possible to the leather of your strop, so if you do use pastes, make sure to wipe them off completely before completing your stropping.

Strops today come very supple and don’t need a lot of prepping. Just a good warming/rubbing with the oils of your hands is usually enough to get them ready. Older, stiffer strops had to be oiled, flattened, etc before they reached peak performance. Today’s tools are pretty much ready to go. Avoid rolling up your strop, even when traveling. Try to keep it as flat as possible. If you do use a conditioning oil, do so sparingly. Too much oil makes your leather gummy, sticky, and gunked up. When storing, keep it out of a really humid environment like a bathroom.  

Strops can last a lifetime and continue to provide a great service in aligning your straight razor

Stropping is a pretty simple principle and practice which you don’t need to fear. What makes you hesitant to take the plunge? Any tips for newbies? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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Aaron Smith - October 18, 2021

Hi my name is Aaron and I’m slowly learning how to use my strop but I’m still trying to learn the ABSOLUTE BEST way to get my antique str8 razor RAZOR SHARP.

Callie - December 11, 2020

I recently got a Dovo stainless steel razor, and a reasonably cheap strop. I’ve read that stropping is supposed to clean the razor, but the both sides of the strop left it with little flecks of leather on it. Is this normal or is this strop just falling apart? Should the cutting edge and the spine both touch the strop?

Also, theoretically, if I’m not using the razor for a long period of time, is it necessary to strop it once in a while to take good care of it? Does the edge dull without use?

West Coast Shaving - May 28, 2020

Hi John. Sorry if we did not get back to your emails. We did not see any in our inbox as we do our best to respond within one business day to emails. It looks like the strops that we have are all in the 18" length. We would be unable to tell you where to get your hands on a strop longer than 18". If you have not tried reaching out to community forums that would be the best suggestion we could give at this time. Badger and Blade seems to have a lot of good information out there. We are sorry that we don’t have any items for you and hope that you can find what you need!

John K. Benfield, III - May 28, 2020

Have sent two emails with no response. This will be my last attempt.

I need a GOOD strop Longer than 18 “. What do you have ?


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