How To Sharpen A Straight Razor With A Strop & Honing Guide (2019)

Are you a sucker for clean shaves? Have you wondered the best technique to achieve this look? While some men prefer electric shavers, others find better comfort with mechanical razors. If you fall in the mechanical razor class, remember multi-blade cartridge razors multiply the chances of ingrown hairs and other skin irritations.

Also, while safety razors reduce the likelihood of aftershave effects, regular replacement of blades – say once weekly – is its primary downside.

What are we left with?

The good old straight razors still get the job done nicely – ask the real pros.

The effectiveness of this old-fashioned straight razors has made it survive through the years.

One significant advantage of this particular shaver is durability – it could outlive its owners. A once-and-for-all-purchase – no cartridges, no blade replacement!

With straight razors, instead of buying new blades, you only need to keep the blade in shape – sharp. How is that achieved? You may ask. Hold a bit. In this guide, you’d learn easy steps to sharpen your straight razor and improve your experience with every shave.

When Do I Sharpen?

when to sharpen a straight razor

Perhaps you just got your first straight razor. You may use for a couple of months before you consider sharpening. Still, your razor would need regular stropping – we’ll discuss all these in a bit.

When due for maintenance, here are some telltale signs to watch out for:

  • Shave Quality

Do you still feel the same level of appeal and comfort as you did on your first shave with the razor? If you notice constant tugging and pulling during your shave, buddy, your razor needs honing.

  • Cutting Single Hairs

Pick a hair with one hand and have your razor in the other. Put the hair on the blade – don’t swipe. If it cuts the hair – even without sliding – then your blade is in shape.

  • Thumb Feeling

Wet your thumb with water. Observe how the blade glides over the tiny ridges on your thumb. If it tickles, then your razor is still fit. If it slides smoothly across your thumb, consider honing.

  • Fingernail Test

Just as with the thumb test, you could run your blade over a fingernail. Wet your nails and move your blade lightly on the surface. If it doesn’t imprint a fine line, then your blade won’t give a good-enough cut.

Tools to Sharpen A Straight Razor

how to sharpen a straight razor

To keep your straight razor in shape, you’ll need two tools – A strop and a hone.

What is a hone?

This is a whetstone on which you run the edge of your razor. To maintain sharpness, you’d need a fine-grit stone suitable for polishing.

Consider wider stones – they can hone the full blade conveniently.

What is a Strop

Typically, in leather, strops are materials used to polish and straighten your straight razor blade. Strops are used to sharpen razors between honing.

To get results, as with honing, you may apply abrasive compounds to your strop. Most straight razor users get both a strop and a hone to maintain a right blade.

For best results, we recommend you strop after every shave. Over time, you may begin to feel as though stropping isn’t giving you a good-enough sharp – then its time to hone. Honing may come once in two months – or as deem needed.

How to Sharpen Your Blade

It’s assumed you have your tools ready. Now you need to learn the ropes – and master it. This phase is easy, and only a little practice may be all you need to master the art.

That said, you need to handle your blade with utmost care. Your blade could become dangerously sharp during this process and pose a severe risk.

Honing Straight razors

Find a flat surface to place your hone. You could also buy stone holders – they help your hone sit tightly. For your safety, the stone holder help hold the stone in place, preventing possible drift which may lead to an accidental cut.

You also want to lubricate your stone – water is your best bet. When wet, the hone helps reduce your blade’s temperature, offering a smoother surface.

Before you begin your honing session, clean each side of the blade with a cotton ball soaked in alcohol. Placing electrical tape around the blade’s spin may help prevent scraping.

Place the blade on the stone – with one side of the blade laying flat on it. Starting with the edge, guide the blade gently over the stone. When it reaches the end, flip over the blade on its spine – repeat same in the opposite direction.

Avoid pressing too hard – just a little to ensure the side of the blade lies on the stone. Importantly, ensure you exert equal pressure on both ends.

If the stone’s width is shorter than your blades’, then you could slightly stroke the blade downwards. Such diagonal movement helps you ensure no part of the blade is left out.

Wondering how much honing your blades needs? That’s your call. Just remember – if it gets too sharp, you may feel some discomfort during your shaves and could cause razor burn.

How to Strop a Straight Razor

how to strop a razor

Remember your razor needs regular stropping. Your strop is better placed somewhere easily accessible in your bathroom. You will also need rubbing alcohol to clean your blade.

Hold razor in one hand and tighten strop with the other. Slide razor along the strop’s length, and flip on its spine – repeat same in the other direction.

Here, instead of leading with the sharp edge, lead with the spine — no need to apply pressure, as the blade’s weight offer enough pressure to get the job done. With about ten strokes on each side of your blade, you’re good to go. And that’s all!

After a couple of practice, you can strop your razor in less than a minute – set for a clean shave. While honing takes a relatively long time, it is done once in a while – say once in a month, or so.

Final Notes

That said, if the sharpening process still seems demanding, then, consider electric shavers. These products require little maintenance from time to time. There are several good picks – for both dry and wet shaving.

However, if you insist on stropping and honing, soon it’d become a part of you. Interestingly, remember straight razors give you a sharp blade that’s always available for a life-shave – without any additional expenses.

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