The best razor strop is an essential part of straight razor shaving – but many are of a poor quality. Which are made to polish the finest Dovo or Thiers Issard blade?
- RoyalShave 3-inch Red Latigo Leather Strop
- Jucthen Herold Cowhide Leather Paddle Strop
- Fromm Illinois 2.5″ IRS127 Cowhide Leather Strop
- GBS High Quality Leather Razor Strop
A razor strop looks like a wide genuine leather belt. It has got a buckle without a prong at one end and a metal loop at the other to hang on the wall. Some razor strops are made of denim, canvas, or balsa wood.
The strop comes into play at the final stage of your straight razor’s sharpening, after the last pass with the finest stone. You should strop your straight razor before each shave to make the edge polished and free of post-honing burr.
In this article, we shall have a brief look at the process of razor sharpening. Then, we shall discuss the pros and cons of some of the best razor strops that you can currently buy. To facilitate your choice of a strop, we shall provide you with a detailed buyer’s guide. Finally, we shall try to answer some of the most important questions related to razor strops.
How to Sharpen A Straight Razor?
When you buy a straight razor, it will work incredibly well for about five or ten shaves. But after the tenth shave, you’ll start feeling some tugging on your face, and you’ll know that it’s time to sharpen your razor.
To sharpen your cut-throat razor, you should first get a good sharpening stone with a coarse and a medium grain on it. Then, you should pass your razor several times along a very fine, polished stone. After the coarse-to-medium and the fine stones, you should use one of the strops that we’re going to discuss below.
To start, lay the blade flat on the first stone, so that both its spine and edge are in contact with the surface. Then, draw the razor back to you at an angle between ten and fifteen times. This means that you should not draw the blade directly towards you, but slightly to the left. Remember to do ten passes on each side.
Next, flip the stone over and repeat the whole procedure on the medium-grain surface. Ten to fifteen passes will be enough.
Once you’ve finished with the coarse-to-medium stone, put it away and take the smaller fine stone. Again, perform between ten and fifteen passes, but this time draw the blade slightly to the right, not directly towards you.
Remember to always hone your razor’s blade at an angle. If you work with a rectangular fine stone, you should pass the blade from the top left corner to the bottom right corner on the one side, and from the top right corner to the bottom left corner on the other. This technique is called X-pattern honing/stropping.
Once you’ve finished with both the rough-to-medium and the fine stones, you should proceed to stropping your straight razor. This time, you’re going to be passing the blade backwards.
Remember to keep the same angle as when passing it on the sharpening stones, flipping the blade over after each pass. In this way, your straight razor will be evenly polished. To see how sharp your razor has become, you can shave a patch of hair off your forearm. There is also “The thumb pad test”, but we don’t recommend it to beginners.
For the finest finish, you can apply some paste to your strop. A few swipes with paste will guarantee that the razor’s edge is properly aligned before you begin shaving.
The Best Razor Strops
Our first choice is an excellent razor strop for everyday use. It’s made in the USA by RoyalShave, a renowned manufacturer of straight razors, safety razors, and all sorts of shaving supplies. This strop is made of high-quality Latigo leather, which is supple and extremely durable. At the same time, It is much more affordable than, say, horse leather.
The strop is seventeen inches long and three inches wide, which eliminates the need for X-pattern stropping. And because you won’t need to go as far in a straight line, its length is just enough. It’s got a heavy draw, which makes it easy to use. The swivel clip and ring at the top and the comfortable leather handles at the bottom make this strop very effective.
At the same time, it may take some time until you learn the perfect technique. The most popular razor strop on our list has got a leather side and a canvas side. The latter is made of ballistic-weave nylon, which is what flak jackets were made of during WWII.
Both thick and durable, ballistic-weave nylon makes the ideal stropping surface. Use paste if you see some remaining burr on the blade. On the whole, this is our top choice of razor strop because it has got an excellent draw. It’s made of affordable and durable materials, and has got wide stropping surface. Furthermore, it is easy to use and requires very little time to break in.
- Made of cheap and durable material
- Affordable and easy to use
- This razor strop has got an excellent draw
- 3-inch-wide surface for quick sharpening
- Cracks may appear on the leather over time
- Takes some time to get the knack of it
- The leather isn’t as smooth as it should be
Our second candidate is made in Germany out of high-quality Russian cow leather. It’s a paddle strop, which means that it’s got two leather sides (one covered in suede, and the other – in smoother leather for a finer finish of the edge) on a wooden paddle, which acts like the strop’s skeleton.
Our runner-up is just 1.57 inches wide and seven inches long, which means you’ll need some really good technique to achieve the best results. Paddle strops like this one require less space to store and need very little maintenance.
Before using the Jucthen Herold paddled strop, you should properly load it up with some honing compound by rubbing the green block against the suede surface. Then, pass the razor along the stropping surface with minimum pressure, and always draw away from the blade. Use the same angle at which you sharpened it.
After ten strikes or so against the loaded surface, flip the paddled strop and do the same on the other side for a smooth finish.
- Made to last a lifetime
- Very good value for your money
- Sharpens straight razors and knives equally well
- The smaller stropping surface requires better technique
- If not stored properly, the leather on both sides of the paddle may start to crack
Our third candidate is again made in the USA by Fromm Illinois, a company that has been making barber shop apparel and tools since 1907. It’s made of quality leather and linen and measures 2.5 inches in width and 23 inches in length.
The linen surface, impregnated with zinc oxide, is where you should start working, and the other side provides a smooth finish with or without a strop balm. Remember that you must never apply balm on canvas strops.
The wider stropping surface means that this model has got a relatively short learning curve. Fromm Illinois’ strop is the preferred choice of the professional barber for everyday use in their shop. The quality leather provides a lighter draw, but the wide 2.5-inch surface allows for a quick and efficient strop before every shave.
The X pattern (see above) is the best technique to use with this versatile straight razor strop that can be used to sharpen straight razors, as well as woodcarving tools, and hunting knives. Finally, we like this model’s richly-decorated handle that provides a very secure grip.
- A truly versatile strop
- Its width makes it appropriate for professionals and beginners alike
- Features a designer clip and swivel
- 100% USA made
- Some users find the linen is quite stiff
- The handle is too soft and doesn’t provide enough support for the strop
- The large logo reduces the working space
The fourth spot on our list is for Kanayama #50000. This, by far, is the most expensive straight razor strop on the market today. Kanayama Llama #50000 is made in Japan out of the finest genuine Cordovan horse leather. It is 2.7 inches wide and 23.6 inches long.
This means that you’ve got more than enough surface to keep your special blades in superb shape without extra efforts. We recommend that you start working on the woven canvas surface first. This will warm your razor’s blade before you proceed to the leather surface. Pass your razor at least fifteen times per side for the most effective sharpening.
The Kanayama Llama #50000 high quality razor strop has got a solid metal clamp securely connected to a robust hook. This is the original method to secure your straight razor strop to the wall before you start work. All Kanayama strops are made with care and precision for professional barbers, woodcarvers and other blade users.
On each one of their strops, you can find a unique number that indicates the thickness of the leather. For example, 2196 is the thinnest stropping leather, while 80000 stands for the thickest. As a rule, thicker leather is more durable and can withstanding hundreds of thousands of strops, but requires more time to learn the ropes.
The Llama #50000 razor strops are so expensive, because they are hand-ground by Mr. Kanoyama himself – one of the few leather strop master left in the world.
- Made of high-quality Cordovan horse leather
- Handmade by Master Kanayama with attention to every detail
- The strop’s width and length provide plenty of sharpening surface
- Very expensive
- Extremely difficult to find
- You may have to wait several years for your Kanoyama razor strop
The fifth position on our list is for another handmade sharpening belt, this time crafted in California, USA by a legendary master called Mountain Mike. Surely, its price tag matches its superior quality.
This high-quality loom strop is 29.5 inches long and 5.5 inches wide, which makes it the widest razor strop on our list. This is by no means a hanging strop. Its sheer size means that it will fit better in your garage rather than in the bathroom.
One considerable advantage of all loom strop designs is that the strop lies flat for use, so you can work with both hands to achieve a more satisfying draw on the leather side than with a traditional hanging strop.
This handcrafted double-sided strop is designed to be used by straight razor novices and professional barbers alike. Its extra surface eliminates the need for X-pattern stropping, which reduces the risk of damaging your razor’s blade due to a hand-slip.
This model has got the surface area of two standard razor strops joined together with a nickel-plated swivel clasp at each end. One is made of premium black latigo leather, and the other of tan latigo leather to ensure the best edge alignment.
The strop is fixed on a special loom with adjustable tension pegs, and comes with an eye-hook on one end that lets you hang it on the wall when not in use. When sharpening your straight razor, you should work in a horizontal position to achieve a consistent pace, angle and pressure.
Further, this loom strop is assembled with nickel-plated screws, so that you can easily replace the working surface when it gets worn out. However, if you use it with care, you’ll hardly likely have to replace the leather or the canvas surface in your lifetime.
- Handcrafted to last a lifetime
- Has got the stropping area of two standard razor strops
- Adjustable leather tautness for a perfect draw
- High retail price
- Bulky and heavy design
- You have to pre-order it well in advance
Red Deer is a well-known manufacturer of hunting knives and hiking gear. This strop, however, seems to be better suited for a barber’s shop rather than a hunter’s backpack. Despite its name, it’s not made of deer leather, but of standard cowhide leather.
In terms of design, this is a traditional, wall-hung, double-sided, straight razor strop featuring a suede side and a fine side. It is two inches wide and twenty inches long, which means that you have to have some decent stropping technique to achieve the best results. Also, this straight razor strop does not come with an eyelet ring, but has got a looped hook for hanging on the wall, instead.
Users have praised this strop’s solid build with very little extras, but some say they wish it were a bit longer. You can apply some Woodstock D2902 extra-fine buffing compound on the suede side for smoother glide. When used properly and taken good care of, Red Deer’s traditional razor strop will last just as long as strops that are several times pricier.
- Solid and basic design
- Can be used to sharpen straight razors as well as hunting knives
- The strop’s handle is comfortable hold because of its soft filling
- The finer side gets worn out over time
- The leather isn’t of the finest quality
- Users wish this strop was a bit longer
GBS (Gents Barbershop & Spa) has been making straight razors and barber’s shop equipment and accessories for twelve years now.
Instead of a traditional two-sided strop, the guys from GBS offer to your attention a much more ingenious design. This strop is actually made of two separate sharpening belts – a finer one, and a rougher one – clasped together at the top with a dual swivel clip.
The rougher suede strap abrades and sharpens the straight razor’s edge, while the finer leather surface renews and straightens it.
Rather than a hook or an eyelet, this strop ends with a clip to hang on the wall, which looks rather flimsy. This means you’ve got to be very careful not to pull it too tight, lest the clip might break open. The two paddle-like handles feel soft and comfortable in the hand.
To prevent your strop from drying and cracking, you should use a suitable paste. Please note that the paste included in the package only keeps your strop soft and supple but It doesn’t make sharpening more efficient.
While browsing the reviews for some feedback on this product, we came across this precious comment which we paste here as it is:
“Came in late due to “Covid” and had a strong smell to it. Did anyone else’s smell like cocaine?”
We honestly do not know if it’s good or bad if your razor strop smellsof cocaine, but let’s hope that the smell will go away soon or later!
- Excellent value for the money
- Effectively removes the burr from the razor’s edge after just a few passes
- Very suitable for beginners
- Smell of cocaine has been detected in some packages
- The hanging clip does not look very solid
Here’s what you should be watching out for when shopping around for a razor strop.
When buying a razor strop, the most important thing to consider is the material it’s made of. Most mid-tier models are made of cowhide leather, but there also are leather-and-canvas models. The high-end strop razors are made of the finest quality horse leather.
In terms of design, there is the traditional razor strop which you need to hang on the wall at the height of your chest and pull it taunt with your left hand before you can start stropping your blade. There’s also the paddled design, which provides greater stability, but its stropping surface is smaller. Finally, there are loom strops, whose adjustable tension pegs allow the user to choose the strop’s draw.
The longer a razor strop is, the fewer passes you’ll have to make to get your blade in a perfect condition. Its width, however, appears to be far more important. Strops that are less than two inches wide require more precision to achieve the best results. Ideally, you should buy a strop that is over 2.5 inches wide.
Stropping compounds and pastes
For the best stropping, you should always use paste or some compound. Stropping compound is a bar of some polishing agent that has got crayon-like texture. You should keep in mind that stropping compounds have different grain sizes.
To remove old compound from your strop, you should use a little grain-240 sandpaper to gently abrade the compound from the strop with small circular motions. Make sure to clean the leather thoroughly after removing the compound.
What is the best strop for straight razors?
RoyalShave’s 3-inch Red Latigo leather strop tops our list because of its durability, ease of use, and affordability. It’s a razor strop that should be present in every barber’s shop or a wet shaver’s bathroom.
What is the best stropping compound?
Hand America Diamond Spray available in 2 oz. bottles in .25, .5 and 1 micron is the best stropping compound you can buy.
What is the best leather for a strop?
The authentic cordovan horse leather is the best leather for a straight razor strop.
Does stropping sharpen a razor?
Rather than sharpening your straight razor, regular stropping before every shave polishes the blade’s edge and re-aligns it at the right angle.
Thank you for joining us on this journey in the world of straight razor strops. All designs reviewed above will keep your blades in excellent shape. RoyalShave 3-inch red latigo Leather strop has been crowned as the best strop that you can currently buy because it does an excellent job and has got a reasonable price tag.
This makes it extremely popular with professional barbers and ordinary wet shavers alike. If you have any more questions about razor strops, stropping technique, or stropping compounds, do not hesitate drop us a line or give us your email address to get the latest updates on this topic!
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