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Let's talk about Strops


Well-Known Member
Guy’s, I thought I ‘d start a thread for everyone to discuss our various stropping trials and tribulations.

I started out with a very well used “Scorcher” that was given to me by my Barber when I went to show him my first straight. He thought I was nuts to consider using a straight razors, he seemed to think of honing as some form of menial labour...? He was kind enough to give me an old strop he had kicking around.

It had one tremendous nick right in the middle of the shell, and showed some pretty hard wear over-all, but still served to get me through my first month. Unfortunately, now, I’d since treated it with CrOx, and CeOx, and have pretty much rendered it useless for my tastes. In the photo, it os shown with a Canvas strop of my own devising, also treated with CrOx and CeOx. This whole strop set up is generally not used at all now.
The Canvas component is an interesting one, and an indicator to me that this hobby need not require the most expensive equipment to achieve an effective shave.

It is a cheap 10 oz cotton canvas I got locally for less than $15.00. It is as effective as my TM in increasing the HHT results, and lately has proven to be a very cheap test bed for pasting with various substances. (The strops to the right) The one on the extreme left is a plain strop I’d washed in an attempt to soften the it’s hand feeling, but failed miserably at it. The feed back from it is very zippy and quick.
Next to the “Scorcher” are my vintage strops. A Russian shell, sporting a few nicks that were present when I got it, with an diamond embossed back. It’s fairly slick, though it is currently slightly over oiled. The linen component was completely caked with a thick crudy reddish substance that put a very jagged feeling edge on a razor, so I soaked it in lacquer thinner for several days, scrubbed it with a brush, and smacked as much crud out of it as I could. The edge it leaves now is smoother than it was before cleaning, but beyond initial testing, I’ve never used it. It has a feel to the hand very similar to the Kanayama linen, but much more muted. The other piece of vintage leather is strop labeled “Black Bear”. It has a very raspy and slick draw; it seems to be very effective at increasing the HHT results. The reverse has a horizontal line pattern embossed deeply into the leather, and has a commensurately bumpy feed back. It emits a growling sound that really speaks it’s origins. I’ve not used this side at all beyond a quick swipe or two as I think it would be most effective in recovering a razor too far gone for regular stropping.
Next to it is a coti powder treated strop made from a piece of suede-like latigo. It’s split grain leather, so is very soft, with that nice smooth flesh side. The coti powder treated strop shows lots of promise for upping the keenness of a mediocre hone job, which makes me think it will be effective as a maintenance type strop, leaving an edge that feels very smooth, but somewhat different than a CrOx treated edge.
Following are two Bridal leather strops, one in the original glazed finish, and the one to it’s right has been sanded to 800 grit and treated with Mitchell's Wool-fat Soap and rubbed hard with a bottle. The untreated feels very slick, and isn’t nice to use, though it doesn’t seem to damage the edge in any way, I just don’t like it. The treated one though, has a very nice velvety feel with just a bit of raspieness to it.
Smack in the middle is the star of my little show. The leather on the Kanayama is like stropping on velvet; just the right balance of draw against slickness. It’s a smooth as can be and seems to be able to bump my HHT results up into the “silent fall” range. The linen itself is very similar to feel in my vintage linen, with a very similar texture to the stroke. The sensation was uncomfortable enough for me to try gently sanding one side of it, which really helped to mute the worst part of the vibration, and improve it’s feeling to the hand.
The TM should be obvious to most of you. It’s linen is what it is; one of the most highly regarded amongst our community. Of very high quality workmanship, the strop’s style really doesn’t suit me. Less is more as far as I’m concerned, and would much rather have a handleless strop, and the latigo shows some strange raised ridges down it’s center. The draw of Latigo doesn’t appeal to me anyways, so as soon as I find a replacement for the linen, this one will be gone, hopefully before I cut it or otherwise degrade it’s value.
The rest of the strops to the right are several plain strips of canvas that have been treated with various substances: BBW, currently unused/tested, TI Razor Paste, which seems to contain Aluminum Oxide, rated at a 9 on the Moh’s scale, and as reported, seems to provide a very sharp and smooth edge; Dovo Red and Black, not tested since the results would mean anything to me, i tend to use this strop on my kitchen knives; and a Graphite and Wax treatment with some very promising initial results.

So, questions, guidance, ideas, comments, highjacks, and general discussion would be most welcome!



Thanks Stijn,

I've really been bit by the strop bug it seems. As I get better at honing, I find i have a better sense for the nuances imparted by different strops.
I've been fascinated by some of the things that the old-timers used to do, and have been taken with the idea that just about any mildly abrasive substance may safely be used to maintain the edge.

Future test will include Torlf's idea of saturating a linen with carpenter's glue and sanding the surface, a heavy beeswax coating, and trying some wood-ash on one. I'm also going to try sanding one to various degrees to see what effect that has.
Whoo hoo! My new strops from Torolf arrived today... way ahead of schedual!

Thank you Sir, These look like a real quality item!

I've only come home for lunch, so other than taking a minute to punch a hole and hang them, I haven't done more than a quick swipe with my test razor but I'm excited to work with them!
Pics to follow.
Hi Chris!

I'm a new Canuck to the site , but I had to laugh when you said your barber gave you an old Scorcher to use. The father of a good friend mine, who barbered for over 50 years gave me one of those last week. He too thought I was a little loose in the head shaving with a straight razor. Once he realized I was serious about the science of sharpening straight's, he sat me down for a little one on one lesson. It was great and I think when you get the chance to talk to one of these "oldtimers" it is time very well spent. After all, these gentlemen did for a living what we do for fun(at least it's fun for me). Glad to be part of this forum!
PS. He never used a coticule, but a Franz Swaty to keep his blades keen. :thumbup:
Mr.Mr., welcome to Where abouts in Canada are you located?
Having a chance to learn from a pro is a very good thing. It probably catapulted you way ahead.

That name though... jeez, I remember a song by a band called Mr.Mr..

ya, here it is: Lordy! that takes me back quite a ways...
Thanks Chris! I'm located in wet- rainy Nova Scotia, but hey! rain trumps snow anytime it doesn't have to be shoveled. Where do you hang your hat?
By the way the video is cool, liked their tune Kyrie.
Thanks for the welcome, cheers Mike.
I doubt there are any cattle or horses left in your part of the tundra! I am sorta settled into my dovo Russian, V weave linen and the K50000. I don't think you're going to be settled in for a while. Later, Chris. Denny
Well Denny, TBH, I've already moved past a few of them. The pasted strops really don't work for me. I'm just glad that they didn't cost me an arm and a leg. I couldn't imagine having to buy a new canvas strop for every different paste. And without actually trying them, how that heck could I know what people are talking about. The vintage canvas was actually kind of a disappointment. I was hoping to get a real strop that would work, as TM had quite producing by that point, but I never really liked the idea of using all that mystery gunk on a nice razor. Who knows what that stuff was. That was a gamble that only partially paid off; the bear hide is a real keeper.

The TM was a second hand thing that I couldn't pass up as they were no longer available, and at that point I still had no real linen. I had my home-made canvas strops, but I still didn't really know where they stood in regards to what was considered a real strop. At about that time, I had received my first coti, and was beginning to understand the importance of a good linen strop.

One thing I did learn, was that my leathers weren't any different from the TM, in some cases, I was able to pick and choose my own best sections out of the chunk of leather I managed to get, but I've given most of those away to other beginners. At least I learned I was on the right track.

I guess at the end of the day, I hope some new guys can learn from my classic journey down the path of ending up with too much stuff. Most of them were things that seemed like good ideas at the time, and has really given me a chance to try a good range of different things without too much financial investment.

The Kanayama strop is actually my attempt to settle in. I really hope that that one will last me for years. The plan now is to reserve the strops I've just gotten from Torolf, the linen kept clean, and one of the other cotton for a very select couple of pastes. Probably the TI and depending how long term tests work, and the graphite wax thing. Wether or not a coti pasted strop will make the final cut I'm not sure yet. My coti edges keep getting better, so I'm not sure what the point would be.

One day in the near future, I'm going to organize a big give away: I really don't even want the 8 oz of CrOx i ended up with, nor the Dovo pastes or the crappy CrOx crayon from SRP. The bridal leather makes a good strop with a bit of work, but is completely redundant to me at this point.

WTH.. here it is then: if anyone is interested in small packets of CrOx, I've got a couple to give away, send me a PM. And if anyone is interested in the two Bridal leather strops, free, drop me a PM. No guarantees, and shipping is on your tab. They'd make good beginner strops, I guess. Better to see 'em put to use than cluttering up my bathroom.

(Bart, if that offer should be in the Marketplace just holler)
Well it didn't take long to give those away... One's gone, and the other will go into the new fund-raiser, if they'll have it.

(I'll still have a bit of CrOx to give away if anyone is interested.)
Hi Chris,
Glad the strops got there! They are all linen, though, just different qualities.

TM280 said:
... They are all linen, though, just different qualities....
Ah ah! Silly me! Thanks. I have no idea why I thought cotton. It's written "linen" right on the wrapper.
I'm very impressed with the quality of them. I would not hesitate to recommend them. Thank you very much, Sir!

So I've been trying to devise a way to test my impressions of each stropping media, so what I've decided to do is hone a razor, strop it on untreated strops, shave a partial pass, strop on a different strop, and do another partial pass.

Todays shave was with a nice new Eskiltuna, honed dilucot and stropped to HHT4, on clean linen and leather.
A half pass was pretty good. Maybe not quite there yet. Keen, but just lacking a tiny something, so I did 15 passes on cotton treated with TI razor paste and stropped on clean leather: a definate improvement in keenness. Did another 1/2 pass and stropped it on my graphite treated strop, and again, clean leather. Finished the shave with a very smooth and keen razor. The graphite (not Dovo Black paste) added a noticeable smoothness to the edge. My first impressions of graphite were favourable, and this little test seemed to support my initial impression.

Next shave will test the coti treated strop and the BBW strop.

Hi Chris,

Please tell about your graphite strop bit more. I never tried it but I think that this is very interesting - graphite is very soft and I understand that it don't have almost any cutting ability (nothing compared with crox)... how it can work so well?
What graphite you used on your strop?
I remember that few years ago I bought a small old loom strop form ebay and together with it I got a small piece of graphite. I wondered then, why its good for... but I had a feeling that there must be a good reason for using that.

Best regards,
I hate this thread already. Ever since it started, I have been paying special attention to how my various strops vary in the results they deliver.

They do not.

So either I am simply too obtuse to notice the difference, or they magically deliver the exact same results. Test candidates were SRD P I, II, IV, Old Traditional and a Dovo strop. Sure, I like the draw and feedback of the OT best, and the P IV extra long's handling is simply phantastic. But as far as edge improvements are concerned, nada. Certainly not anything that woud justify a so called stropping progression.

The same cannot be said for the "linen" components, though. Torolf's strops come in first, closely followed by SRD's webbed fabric (horribile est dictu, as it looks, feels and sounds just horrible if you ask me), with SRD's cotton lagging.

Strangeness abounds. Anyone care to comment?

Fair enough, I don't make any attempt to urge these practices upon anyone who isn't interested. And I welcome the challenge to the ideas.

I for one would swear that I can tell the difference in edges. Not so much in the leathers, but I find that the linen treatment appears to play a bigger role than I originally thought.

I will say that I am sure that different stropping efforts produce different results for me. Exactly what and how I'm just beginning to explore. Some of my observations are based on HHT results, and some of my impressions come from the shave. There's little here that is quantified, or quantifiable. Feel and sound and draw play a role , wether sub-concioulsy or not I can't speak to; maybe some of what I'm experiencing is purely psychological. Whatever. I'm having fun, I'm learning and exploring a whole range of new ideas and concepts and the fun comes in applying it directly in an immediate feedback loop ie: the shave. Thats my kind of thing.

In my own defence, I will say that I've read enough reference to the effects of different strop treatments, both in the threads and in old publications (list available upon request) to think that there may be something to it. One thing I am aware of is that lots of people have been here, experimenting with different strops and stuff, and a lot of them seemed to have left it behind. For me, personaly, I'm trying to internasilze some of this stuff, build a knowledge base, and try to understand the interplay of hones and strops and my search for a perfect shave.... without being too dogmatic about it. And sharing my ideas , failures and all, here. OTOH, take nothing I say here as gospel, or interpret it as being spoken in any kind of authoritative voice. Simply, my curiosity has been engaged, and I welcome hearing others experiences, and, yes, critisims of my attempts.

I won't be discouraged! B) my next attempt at strangeness is to use a silk strop as a final stropping medium, something I've read good things about.
To answer your question, the graphite I used was just the lubricant quality stuff from the hardware store, which I'd mixed with parafin wax, some time ago (I use it to coat the surface of my table saw, keeps the surface slick, and any adhesive I get on it tends to clean up a little easier, if anyone was wondering.)

I put it onto a strop shaped piece of 10 oz cotton canvas and rubbed the graphite wax mixture hard with a bottle, thinking to crush the particles a little finer. I warmed it gently over a stove burner to help the wax carry the stuff in a bit (Just got it warm enough to soften the wax). There was an immediate change in the draw, feeling a little smoother and with a less zippy noise. HHT results seemed to improve slightly.

Now, my speculations: I think the very softness of the graphite is what provides a finer polish to the edge than a harder abrasive would. Each piece, particle, whatever, affects only a comparativley smaller area of steel. . In polishing things, softer abrasives will work, at different levels and rates, I just imagine that this applies way down at the level of the edge and the structure of the steel. Other than that, I really don't have any explanation.

Robin, you seem to be missing the point of this thread.

As I read it, Chris was not advocating that you'd get some esoteric results of different leather strops. He was talking about tactile feedback, how he liked it or not; about various pastes that he tried on various substrates, how they helped the edges or not; and various treatments that possibly can alter the tactile feedback of a strop.

I don't see why you should hate such a conversation.

As to the heart of the matter, the strops I have been able to try at your home, varied in my opinion from "hardly worth the name strop" to "among the best I've ever seen". Some of those were different models of the same brand. For me a clean leather strop should not distract the user from stropping, hence there should be no lumpiness, uneven draw or jittery feeling.
Apart from that the strop should also deliver the typical performance boost that can be found after efficient stropping. Everyone who ever tried to get some shaves out of a razor without stropping at all, knows what I'm talking about. Not every leather surface works the same in that respect. I've owned a slippery Latigo strop for a while and I never managed to get it to work well for me.

The linen strop is a different animal, in my opinion. For daily use, is just serves to clean the edge of any residue, early traces of corrosion, and microscopic steel fragments from a deteriorating edge. As such and because it can store all that debris in the depths of its fabric, it primarily serves to protect the leather strop. It does not pose much demand upon the specific type of fabric, but I still prefer a fabric that invites me to use it over one that I find awkward to use.

But we have also the matter of what I call post-honing edge conditioning. A lot of people use a pasted strop for that, but here on I try to promote the use of a strop without any real abrasion. (read: without abrasives harder than steel, such as diamonds, CeO, CrO, etc.) To achieve that with a clean linen strop, is a completely different task, and there a plenty of strops that lack efficiency in that department. The Dovo V-weave strops are good in that respect, and so is the TM linen, clean or treated with Dovo's chalk-based strop dressing. On the other end of the spectrum, we have artificial (nylon) fabrics, that I can't get to work at all for this purpose.
A few swipes on CrO conditions a decently honed Coticule edge as well, but the result is not quite the same as a cleanly stropped Coticule edge. A matter of preference, like so many other aspects of shaving with straight razors.

I don't see any difference between having this conversation and one about creams or soaps. That topic has a similar duality. There's a notion of personal preference in it when we address a soaps scent and perhaps even how abundantly it produces thick lather. But there's also a notion of performance, how well it softens beard hairs, how long the lather "stays", etc.

Kind regards,
Bart said:
I don't see why you should hate such a conversation.
I think you missed the hidden smiley. Here it is: ;)
Bart said:
I don't see any difference between having this conversation and one about creams or soaps. That topic has a similar duality. There's a notion of personal preference in it when we address a soaps scent and perhaps even how abundantly it produces thick lather. But there's also a notion of performance, how well it softens beard hairs, how long the lather "stays", etc.
Indeed. But I would still like to find out whether different strops produce different results. Because as far I as I can tell, they do not. For me. The one broken strop I own being the exception, of course. Anyone got a spare leather strip that fits SRD 3" hardware? ;)

I find this to be an interesting conversation because I do perceive a difference. Note that I used the word perceive because I'm in the habit of periodically playing with the TPT after different strops.... I can not actually say that their is a discernible difference, or if I just perceive it.