If you are using a straight razor, it´s important to know how to sharpen it. Sharpening a straight razor is not rocket science but it may require learning some simple steps and a little bit of practice.
Keep in mind that If you have just bought the straight razor, you won´t have to worry about sharpening it for the first 8 to 10 shaves, but that would also depend on the thickness of your hair.
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- It aligns the blade and removes any dirt or inconsistencies.
- Polishes the edges.
- Makes the razor edges as sharp as possible to get a quality shaving experience.
All you need is a leather strop and a little practice. There are some strops which are just leather and others that have a preparation strop at the back.
The preparation strop is usually of thick cotton or linen. The idea behind the preparation strop is to heat up the razor edges and get it ready for more serious leather stropping.
You should always strop just before shaving and take care of the cleaning and drying after shaving.
Hold the razor between the thumb and the index finger just like you are holding a pencil. If you find it difficult to hold and roll the razor in this position, there is nothing wrong with holding it a little deeper in your hand as long as you can make the roll movement when you get to the edge of the strop.
However, you will find that holding the razor between the thumb and index finger is less tiring and will give you better shaving results.
On the other hand, if you shave and start to see tears coming out of your eyes, you would know that you have not done a good job of sharpening (just kidding.)
The movement of stropping is like you are rolling back and forth, changing the direction of the razor when you reach the top end of the strop.
You should not apply any pressure in this movement, and the pressure should just be the weight of the razor.
Remember that you always hold the razor with the spine leading in front and it is important to understand this starting position. If you hold the strop at 45 degrees angle, the spine of the razor will face upwards.
You should run it forward without pressure. When you get to the end of the strop, you just roll the razor 180 degress so the spine is leading downwards, and run it back.
If you are new to this, I would suggest to do it slowly at first until you get the hang of it.
Hold the strop keeping it tight without any looseness. Any looseness in the strop will round off the edges of the razor and will need to be rehoned before using it.
During the stropping, the sound of friction will be a good indicator that you are sharpening it well and of course the shaving results would give you an even better indication.
Another suggestion is that if you are new to stropping, keeping the strop at 45 degrees makes it easier to pass the razor as opposed to holding the strop parallel to the ground.
The strop comes in different widths and I would suggest to get the one which is 3”+ so in one pass, you are covering the full length of the blade.
If the strop is not wide enough to cover the full length of the blade, you will have to run it making an X pattern in order to pass the razor fully on the strop.
Although I do it in a simpler way by stropping the front end of the razor first and repeat the process passing the back end, I still believe that getting a wider strop of over 3 inches would make your life lot easier.
If you are sharpening once a month, you may have to do anything between 40 to 50 passes on the strop to get the best results.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Just use a tissue to thoroughly dry the blade before storing it. Fold the tissue once or twice and pass it in between the handle of the razor, again to ensure that there is no residue of water inside.
If there is any dampness inside the handle and you fold the straight razor in this damp area, it will get rusted quite quickly.
If you have to store the razor for longer period without using it, it is recommended that you oil it with any light machine oil.
Finally, I hope that with this guide you won´t have any problem learning how to sharpen a straight razor.