linen/leather

garyhaywood

Well-Known Member
as we all no linen plus leather seems to defanatley up the HHT result. so i have found and bart highly recomends.

i no a well known honmeister Bob Keyes. i no he won't mind me using his name. I asked him why he never uses linen?

His reply was he only use horse shell strop and also has cowhide.he says why would you want to use rough linen after honing as it could dull the edge? this is why he prefers real smooth leather to get a smooth edge. he also says many honemister s do use both and its personal choice.

i don't find it a problem linen/leather. i never tryed stropping and shaving of just leather.

May be i will and compare.

Bart i should imagine you have tryed both ways ,if you have what differance did you notice?
 

Rosco

Well-Known Member
I always thought the linen made no difference to the shave. I used leather only for about six months and was quite happy. Then I read one of Bart's posts where he ranted and raved (You know. Like he does:p ) about how good linen was and how he could never live without it. So I figured I'd give it another go. I find that razors do feel smoother and possibly even sharper (Or at least I think I do) after coming off linen and leather than off leather alone. Although, for me, that's not the deal breaker. I find that when I use linen before leather there is a definate and noticeable change in feel at some point during leather stropping. Thats when I know I'm done although I do 2 or 3 more light laps to finish.
I don't no if the change in feel was there when I used leather only. Maybe it was just less noticeable, but for me the linen helps me know when I'm done stropping. I think it helps the edges as well but it definately helps the feel of the stropping process and helps prevent me unecessarily doing dozens of lapes on the strop. Stropping should be a quick and simple process in my book.
I'm sticking with the linen. :thumbup:
 

garyhaywood

Well-Known Member
i absalutley love my tm linen and would'nt be with out it. i l.ike trhe feel my tm cotton is second favourite. kanayama linen i don't like one bit it just does'nt sound nice .

be good to get fokes opinions on this.

bob keyes also said he has two razors and they are still going after two years of stropping with out linen/no honing in the two years.
 

Bart

Well-Known Member
The topic of strops and using them... It's easy to get caught up in almost religious discussions about it.
I presonnaly use linen and leather, because it makes sense to me to do so. It makes sense because it fits into a physical theory about stropping that I believe to be sound. That theory is based upon a number of scientific articles about the conditioning of steel surfaces, studies about knife sharpening, and personal observations. I have described that theory in the article about stropping, with the disclaimer that hard evidence is only partially available. The rest is hypothesis, which is a scientific euphemism for speculation. But still, I vastly prefer speculation based on logic over religious believes, hence I stick with my theory for as long as new fact and insights don't force me to alter it.

Based upon that theory:
Linen has a cleaning function, and it excels at that over leather.
Leather has an aligning function, and it excels at that over linen.

Allow me to elaborate:
When freshly honed, an edge has all kinds of sub-microscopic debris sticked to it. We can't see it with an optical microscope, but a scanning electron microscope can. Most of that debris comes from the honing process, but there might be some corrosion present as well. After all, we are using water in the sharpening process.
After shaving with a razor, regardless how well you cleaned the edge, sub-microscopic corrosion will be formed at the edge, unless you are as uptight about oiling as I am, but even then, there might be sub-microscopic pieces of steel present, partially teared of the edge during the impact with coarse beard hairs.
All that stuff needs to be removed.
You could do that on leather, but I don't think leather is the safest and most efficient choice. I say safest, because whatever comes off the edge, will certainly stick to the strop. Iron oxide has a few different forms, with one constant: it's harder than steel. We may call it "rust", jewelers like to call it "rouge" and they use if for polishing. But the kind of oxides that end up sticking on the surface of our leather strop, do not have a uniform particle size. Some of these grains may be quite coarse. And I believe they are the reason why well-used leather strops can cause stray scratches on the bevel, running all the way to the very edge...
Linen, being a woven fabric, is far better at accepting this debris and embedding it safely within the recesses of the fiber. (nonetheless, it does need periodic cleaning). A decent linen (I'm not talking about that horrible nylon seatbelt stuff), does not leave those stray scratches, and neither does clean leather. That is a statement I have personally confirmed.
So, basically, a first function for the linen is to keep the leather strop clean. I also have strong indications that a good linen is more efficient in debris removal than a leather strop. Probably because linen has the slightest abrasive function, while leather has almost none. Some people go berserk over such a statement, but prof. Verhoevens studies with aid of 3000X scanning electron maginification are pretty formal. Clean leather was not able to offer any significant reduction of solid burs present at an edge. I've had passionate discussion with a woodworker who claimed that Verhoeven must be a fool because he (the woodworker) used a leather bench strop to knock off the bur that developed during the sharpening process of knives and plane blades. Let the record show that ripping off a large and weak bur is not the same as abrading bur-like remnants that are much smaller and solidly attachted to the edge. Everyone who ever compared breaking a long stick in half with breaking a much shorter piece of the same stick, knows that breaking something off is not the same as abrading it.
Anyway, it seems that linen offers an advantage when it comes to edge maintenance work that requires, however slight and gentle, abrasion.
What linen doesn't do so well, is aligning the edge. I have shaved with a freshly honed edge, only stropped 120 laps on linen (instead of my regular 60 linen/60leather), and there was definitely something lacking. (this experiment can easily be copied). I think the structure of fabric is too rough to yield a perfect alligment of the very edge. (I actually prefer the term "fin" but it seems to confuse people).
Leather is the perfect material to allign the sub-microscopic ridges that are present on the very edge of a razor. It is not that good at cleaning the edge, nor can it be so easily cleaned as linen once it's contaminated.
That is my personal theory. I am the kind of person that needs a plausible explanation before I can agree to do something in a particular way. What I described above (and in the stropping article) works for me, and I like the results. I am sure a lot of fine people do something entirely different and like it that way. Shaving the artisan way is all about enjoying the process, not about doing something right or wrong. I can only testify about my way. If that helps some guys to overcome certain problems, that's just great. But it's certainly not my intention to offend other guys who are perfectly happy with doing something entirely different.

Kind regards,
Bart.
 

towliff

Well-Known Member
Sorry for my disappearance the past few months, I have been extremely busy with uni work, moving houses and what not!

Might I suggest, for those wishing to compare stropping with and without linen to do so with a friend. Have two identical razors (double arrow perhaps?) and have a friend strop one on just leather, the other on linen and leather. Then you shave one side of your face with each - this way only your friend knows which edge is which. That way you wont know which edge you have on each side, hence no pseudo effects will be present from beliefs over which method is more efficient.

All the best,

James
 
G

Guest

Okay. So what happens if you apply some logic to the mystique of webbed fabric? It's a woven fabric, and can easily be cleaned. Therefore it should be even better suited for the task than linen. And, quite honestly, I rather like its feel. I have one strop with cotton left for drying the blade right after use, but that is it. All my other strops have that seatbelt stuff. Is that wrong?
 

Bart

Well-Known Member
"Linen" strops often are not made of genuine linen, in the "fabric" sense of that word. There are several types of fabrics traditionally used for the strap we refer to as "linen": cotton canvas, hemp, genuine linen, etc... The constant in the material was that natural fibers were used. I write "was", because recently also synthetic webbing has been introduced as suitable for stropping.

Personally I absolutely hate the feel of that material, but in light of the closing statement of my previous post, if it gives a lot of other people satisfaction, why would we argue about its efficiency? I can only speak about what works for me and not for what I have insufficient experience with.

I believe for most of us, our straight razor practices balance between two states of mind. On one side we have empirical sience. "Empirical", because our shaving habits are subjected to a reality check everytime we wield the razor over our face. If our chosen procedure doesn't meet a certain standard, the thruth presents itself instantly and bluntly, the latter both literal and allegorical.
Yet, at the other side of the same coin, I think for most straight razor users, a shave is also a personal ceremony. That doesn't need to be as religious or sacred as the word "ceremony" may connote. We humans like to adhere to habits in the things we do. Shaving is an activity that lends itself very well to that.

I like my badger brush and it takes a very significant place in my shaving routine, although my shaves aren't the least bit closer or better than when I utilized a basic boar brush during the first year of my straight shaving "career". It just feels much nicer to use badger hairs, that hold water and lather so much better, and offer a palpable luxury when massaging the skin. Qualities that have been recognized by many generations before me. Also that awareness means something to me: the knowledge to be part of a living tradition.
I equally like my bowl for lathering creams. It's a beautiful artifact, perfected for its purpose, shaped out of natural clay, glazed and fired with care and attention by a true artisan. Does that bowl improve my shaves in an empirical way? Of course not. But it certainly adds to the experience. I could linger on about my personal little ceremony, with all items fitting together into an exercise in delight that I indulge myself with a few times a week. But I'm afraid it would only make this post more boring than it already is.

Could a synthetic "linen" strap find place in my personal practice? From the ceremonial viewpoint, certainly not, because I am too organically inclined to opt for something synthetic when there are fully functional natural alternatives. I have used a strop with nylon webbing "linen" only a couple of times, during a stay at Robin's home in Berlin. Running the razor back and forth over its granular surface sent cold shivers up and down my spine, not unlike the effect of finger nails skating over a blackboard. But that is a purely personal affair. A matter of taste, if you wish.

Which leaves us with the question whether synthetic fibers can measure up to a good natural linen?. I don't know. Not enough empirical data. I do remember looking for HHT improvement of freshly honed edges, after stropping on the nylon webbing at Robin's. I found no improvement. Maybe I was biassed, though I doubt it. Maybe I was not efficiently used the synthetic linen, because using it disturbed me so much. Quite proabably. Lucky that we had an excellent leather Old Traditional strop at our disposal and a very functional kangaroo leather "Jimboroo" strop as well.
I could speculate that natural fibers do contain a whole buch of natural minerals, some hard enough to "handle" steel, while synthetic fiber just contains the same polymerized molecule over and over again. But what would be the purpose of such a speculation? It can be meaningful to offer an explanation for an empirical truth. But in absence of that truth, speculation leads only to religious discussion, by people who may feel their ceremony is being disrespected. I've found myself in the middle of such uproar a few times too many.

To this day, I remain convinced that the virtues of a good quality strop and the skill to use it well, are often overlooked. I could apply my very best honing efforts to a razor, without a proper initial stropping these edges would be mediocre at best. A decent linen certainly has its place in my procedure. I also think it is hone dependent. Coticule edges need to be stropped well, to bring out their true brilliance. I have found this to be true for all hones I know well, although the margin that can be gained isn't equal for all of them. Edges coming of lapping film up to 0.3 µ gain nothing when being stropped. Perhaps ultra-high grit synthetics such as the Shapton 30k behave similarly? Having no experience with them, I can't really tell. Maybe Paul can enlighten us with that.

Kind regards,
Bart.
 

Matt

Well-Known Member
Ha, this probably won't add much to the discussion, however I second Bart about the feel of synthetic seatbelt type strops. I owned one which really seemed to be sewn inside out, because the flesh side of the leather was under the fabric, so after several stroppings I really had no dilemmas about cutting out the fabric part. :lol:

kind regards,
Matt
 
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