How often should you Strop a Straight Razor? (Post-shave Stropping)
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If you’ve recently decided to switch to wet shaving for a close shave, you made the right decision. From your research, you know it’s essential to purchase the best straight razor for a great wet shaving experience – that’s great. However, it’s also essential to learn the proper wet shaving techniques and take good care of your straight razor.
If you are yet to get the hang of wet shaving, the steps to follow, the products you need, the angle to position your blade, and the direction to shave on different portions of your face, read this guide ‘How to Get the Perfect Shave‘.
For a straight razor to serve you for long, you need to give it some tender love and care in the form of stropping and honing. Read this straight razor sharpening guide to learn how to do it and the difference between the two.
With that out of the way.
How Often Should you Strop a Straight Razor?
Now, most wet shavers say it should be before every wet shaving session. The reasoning is that a straight razor’s edge is super thin and susceptible to damage. When you cut thick or coarse hair, the edge might get unaligned or bend out of shape.
Eventually, it will tug and pull hair leading to an unpleasant shaving experience. It’s because of this that wet shavers recommend softening facial hair with warm water before every shave. Stropping before a shave shall get the razor back in shape and ready for a close, irritation-free shave.
Now, while we agree with the reasoning behind stropping before every shave, we believe stropping after every shaving session is better, especially for those with carbon-steel straight razors. This is because carbon steel is more susceptible to rust. As such little moisture is enough to compromise its quality and longevity.
Below is an explanation of why post-shave stropping after every shave is better.
Stropping After a Shave
When you hold a straight razor close to your face, you can see the face, the transition line, the edge (the part that contacts the strop), and the cutting edge. With the naked eye, everything is shiny and looks great. However, when you take a closer look with a microscope, you’ll see scratches, pits, dead skin, hair, blood stains, water stains, soap stains, and a ridged cutting edge.
The scratches on the face and edge are normal, but everything else is bad for the razor in the long run. To help the blade last longer, follow the stropping process below:
- Strop the straight razor on your dry palm. Doing this will get rid of most dead skin, hair, soap, and water. It’s great because it prevents transferring the dirt to your strop. Four or five licks on your palm are enough.
- Hang the strop on one end using its hook and ensure it’s secure enough. The last thing you want is for it to detach mid-strop and injure yourself.
- Hold the other end of the strop and have it under consistent tension.
- Hold the razor in your other hand by the thumb and your forefinger.
- Start moving the straight razor backward and forward on the strop slowly and gently.
- As you do this, the edge of the razor should trail and not cut the strop. If the strop is directly ahead of you, the blade’s edge should face you are you stroke it away and face away from you as you stroke it towards you.
- When you get to the end of the strop, rotate the razor through its backside. This will prevent you from getting blunt edges.
- 10-15 licks on the strop on either side should be enough.
If you don’t fancy the idea of stropping on your palm, you can skip it altogether. But this means replacing the strop a little more often since it’ll get dirty faster. Alternatively, you could get a newspaper, roll it out, flatten and tape it to the table. Strop your razor on this to get most of the trash out before using the strop.
Getting out the trash is essential because, at a microscopic level, the gunk traps water. And believe it or not, a couple of hours is enough to start rusting and form tiny pits. So imagine the microscopic damage that’ll be caused if you wait for a couple of days. Pits on the face aren’t as dangerous as those on the cutting edge. Pits on the cutting edge lead to large pieces of carbon steel falling off and ruining the sharpness as you cut through coarse hair.
How Often Should you Strop?
You should strop after every shave, especially if you have a carbon steel straight razor. This prevents gunk and moisture build-up that may cause rusting. The stropping also helps to align the edge ready for the next shaving session.
How many shaves do you need for a straight razor?
Straight razors last long, unlike safety razors and cartridges. How many shaves you use it for depends on your preference and the care you afford it. The quality of the razor also determines how long you'll use it. But generally, 3-6 months of use, or when you start noticing pulls and tugs even after honing, is crucial.
How long does a straight razor shave last?
Straight razor shaves last about two days. While their shave might not necessarily last longer than that of a safety razor, but if you do it right, it can last as long as it's biologically possible.
Does stropping sharpen a razor?
Stropping is a mystic part of sharpening. After the straight razor is sharpened and honed, stropping comes in to get rid of microscopic inconsistencies so that the edge can have true sharpness.
So there you go, everything you need to know about stropping and how often you should do it. Hopefully, the explanation of what happens at a microscopic level helps you understand the importance of stropping and why it should be done after every shave. If you need more information on stropping and honing, read this piece: Straight Razor Maintenance – Everything you Need to Know About Honing, Stropping (2021)