strop and straight razor, how to sharpen a straight razor

Straight razors, also known as cut throat razors, are a very popular choice due to their attractive design and cost-saving nature. However, learning how to sharpen a straight razor can seem daunting for many men. Fortunately, it’s not as difficult as you think. With just a bit of reading and research, you can learn how to sharpen a straight razor safely and effectively.

Invest in a Good Strop

The first tip to consider when learning how to sharpen a straight razor is to invest in a decent strop. Some of you may be wondering, “What is a strop?” 

A strop is a long strip of material that is typically used to sharpen this kind of razor. The most classic material available is leather.

To use a leather strop effectively, you simply rake the straight razor along the strop in the opposite direction of the blade’s cutting edge. Some users prefer to apply a sharpening compound to the strop beforehand.

However, this is an entirely optional step and boils down to personal preference. If you do decide to use a sharpening compound on your strop, remember to follow the manufacturer’s directions and apply it sparingly.

Strops come in both smooth and suede varieties. Once again, the decision as to which one you prefer boils down to personal taste. However, smooth strops are generally the preferred choice for sharpening a straight razor.

As for how often you should use the strop, most people recommend swiping your straight razor a few times after each shave. This will help maintain the blade’s razor sharp edge and ultimately improve its lifespan.

Look Into a High-quality Water Stone

While a decent strop will help extend your straight razor’s life, it is not enough by itself. The next tip to keep in mind when learning how to sharpen a straight razor is that you need to purchase a high-quality water stone. Others call it a whetstone, so just remember that the two are the same.

Whetstones come in a wide range of different shapes and sizes. One of the most important factors to pay careful attention to is the grit of the stone. The grit is basically a measurement of the stone’s roughness and has a direct impact on how quickly and efficiently it sharpens various surfaces.

However, more is not always better with grit. Investing in a sharpening stone that has too high of a grit rating can damage your blade and reduce its lifespan. For most users, a combination whetstone that has a grit rating of 4,000 and 8,000 should be plenty for sharpening a straight razor effectively.

Oil Your Blade Frequently

When properly cared for, a straight razor should not require frequent sharpening. Our third tip to keep in mind when learning how to sharpen a straight razor is to oil your blade frequently.

There is a wide range of oils available that can protect your straight razor blade’s surface. For most of them, it uses an ingredient like mineral oil. Remember to only use products that have a design specifically for straight razors. This can help you avoid a product that could potentially irritate your face.

In addition, you should take care to avoid getting any of the oil on the handle area. The last thing you want is a straight razor with a slippery handle because it can have dangerous consequences. A great way to avoid this is to invest in oiling wipes that have the oil already in the towelette. If you use your straight razor daily, oiling the blade isn’t quite as necessary. Instead, make sure to oil it anytime you are going to go without shaving with a straight razor for more than a few days.

It’s All in the Angle

When learning how to sharpen a straight razor, one of the most important things to remember is that it’s all in the angle. For most straight razor models, the standard is between seven and eight degrees. However, you do not need specialized equipment to ensure that you are sharpening at the correct angle.

Instead, you can use the back of the blade as a guide. Keep the back of the blade horizontal and only apply slight amounts of pressure when sharpening. Excessive pressure is never necessary and will often damage the edge that it already has.

If you have a smaller whetstone, you will have to move the blade to ensure you sharpen it evenly. However, you can make learning how to sharpen a straight razor easier if you invest in a whetstone that is big enough to sharpen the whole blade at once.

Never Over Hone the Blade

When you properly care for it, your straight razor will last for quite some time. One of the worst things you can do is to over hone your blade. Even with daily use, your straight razor should not require sharpening with a sharpening stone more than once every few months.

Instead, use the strop each day as we initially discussed. This has a very mild sharpening effect. More importantly, it polishes the blade each time and keeps it in peak condition. This is the most important aspect to keep in mind to avoid needlessly wearing out your straight razor before its time.

Invest in a High-quality Blade

No straight razor sharpening guide would be complete without the most basic tip, which is to always invest in a high-quality blade. Straight razors come in a wide range of different styles and material types. You can find a high quality straight razor with any type, and each has its own benefits.

The most popular material type currently is carbon steel. The reason for this is that the material produces a sharp edge and is one of the easiest to hone yourself. Another popular straight razor blade type to consider is stainless steel. These blades are one of the easiest to maintain because they do not require oiling to prevent rust and corrosion. However, these blades are a bit more difficult to hone yourself.

Ultimately, it boils down to your personal preference. Just make sure to invest in a blade that uses one of these two popular materials. This will ensure you get a blade that will last you for quite some time, which saves you money in the long run.

Anyone Can Learn How to Sharpen a Straight Razor

With their low purchase price and durable construction, straight razors are an attractive option for many men. It takes some time to learn how to use and maintain the product, but many find the effort well worth their time.

Plenty of people turn down cut throat razors because they don’t know how to sharpen it. By following our simple tips, you should have no problem sharpening your straight razor. In fact, you can then teach your family and friends and help them decide if they should make the switch to this shaving style.

If you have any tips you would like to share, post them in the comments area.

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