Strop treatment and repair

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A strop is an essential for straight shaving. This section explains how to maintain its usability, and how to repair it should it become defective.

Please be advised to always follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer. There is no point in breaking in a strop that has already been broken in or doesn't need to be.

Treating a New Strop[edit | edit source]

You do not have to break in a strop. Just using it daily will naturally break it in. But, using the methods described below will help it break-in faster than daily use alone, however that will probably change the draw of the strop.

Tony Miller of recommends that the strop is not treated with any conditioner unless you are certain that that is what you want to do. Instead he recommends that the strop is rubbed by hand a couple of times a day and the natural oils from the palm serve as conditioner.

Among the products recommended on SRP are Fromm strop dressing, Neatsfoot, or mink oil, and other leather conditioners, and lather made from William's shaving soap.

As far as amount to use: less is usually better. Rub in until completely absorbed and use multiple treatments as necessary. If the leather is very dry it will absorb a lot of product quickly. Just use your best judgment as to how much to use. No problems with adding too much Fromm strop dressing have been noted. If the leather seems oily after application, it should suffice to just wipe off the excess with a cloth. If it is still too tacky after this, wipe again with a cloth and then rub your palm over the leather until it feels smoother and less sticky (many SRP users prefer a faster action strop for lighter full hollow straight razors).

When using the William's lather as a dressing or conditioner, one application followed by wiping with a cloth and several hand dressings seems to work really well. Some of the old barber manuals recommended that barbers use the lather treatment every day at the end of business.[1]

Breaking in a New Strop[edit | edit source]

  1. Rub some strop dressing into the leather with your fingers and palm.
  2. Take a straight sided glass bottle, such as an empty beer bottle, (any applied labels removed) pull the dressed strop out slightly (allow quite a bit of sag) and rub the strop vigorously with the bottle for several minutes pulling the strop up and slightly around the bottle while rubbing with the bottle.
  3. Remember to use the smooth side of the bottle without a seam as this may scratch your strop.
  4. Finally take a slightly dampened cloth and wipe down the leather. Finish with a dry cloth to remove all moisture and excess dressing.
  5. Repeat as needed until your strop starts to feel nice and supple. Use less, or no, dressing on subsequent treatments.
  6. Remember to rub your palm vigorously over the leather every now and then. That will also help. Be careful at first though, or you will get a nasty friction burn on your hand. As your strop breaks in, it will get smoother and less apt to give you that burn.
  7. Also, if you notice after this that your strop wants to bend outwards, even though it is hanging down, do not worry. Just use your hands to gently mould it back the other way and just let it hang there. Eventually it will just naturally straighten out.[2]

And one more suggestion: get yourself some William's shaving soap. Before you leave for the day, after shaving, disassemble your strop and lay the leather on a flat surface. Cover the leather with a good coating of lather made from the William's. When you return that day, or the next morning, the lather will have dried. Hold the strop over the sink, or a garbage container, and with your hand rub off all of the dried lather. Reassemble the strop and rub with your palm as before until it feels very smooth and non-sticky. You might notice a nice difference in the feel of the strop after doing this.

Finally, when you first try stropping your razor, if the razor really sticks to the strop and won't glide over the surface, wet a cloth, wring it out and rub the leather up and down, then dry with a clean dry cloth. Follow by rubbing with your palm. Try stropping your razor again. it should glide better. If not, repeat the process until it does.

Stiffness or wrinkles[edit | edit source]

Some physical influences, such as dust, dirt, or longer periods of non-use, may cause you strop to become stiff and make a scratching sound when stropping. Trying to rectify this by rolling it quite tightly is wrong and will cause your strop to become wrinkled. It will lose most if not all of its functionality.

In most cases, the stiffness is likely from non-use and this is where a brisk rubbing with the hand would warm and soften it again. Scratchy sounds are likely dirt and dust on the surface, again from sitting unused. You should always keep strops hanging and do rub each with the hands before use to wipe the surface clean. If the rubbing will not bring it back to life, rubbing Neat's Foot Oil onto the palms of the hands and then rubbing the strop would work.

Rolling a strop tightly may kill it. Rolling tightly with the smooth side out will stretch the skin and if hard may actually create very fine micro-tears in the surface, rolling skin side in will instantly buckle the surface skin and that can never be fully corrected. Neat's Foot Oil and the bottle rolling may help but once an actual bump forms in the skin it is done.

Never, ever roll a strop skin side in and always rub with the hands before using to clean the surface of dust and grit.[3]

Repairing a Nicked Strop[edit | edit source]

Using rubber cement[edit | edit source]

"I took a gouge across almost half of the width of the strop (maybe 7/8") extending out to a wedge/flap the width of a dime at the edge. (I ran the blade with the edge leading down the strop - don't ask how, it's too embarrassing to admit)."[4]

A nicked strop can be repaired without cutting off the flap. The issue about a hard spot or raised spot is certainly an issue, but not if you use the proper tools.

Contact cement has been successfully used in this operation[5]. It is considered to be very good for leather, and does not dry hard. In this, it is very similar to rubber cement in consistency. Follow the directions on the bottle or can: apply to both sides, allow to dry 'open' for 10-15 minutes before bringing the two surfaces in contact with each other. They will immediately form a nearly unbreakable bond, so make sure they come together in the way you want them to stay. At this point, you can roll the strop with a rolling pin or a glass bottle to clamp the repair. Finish the repair by taking off any high spots with a pumice stone.

Replacing the hanging clip[edit | edit source]

I have an old strop from a previous attempt(seven years go) shaving with a straight razor .With an interest in saving money I searched my belongings for my strop(Illinois No. 127). It was in horrible shape. It has some nasty stains and was stiff as a board. Since my previous attempt didn't go well the original wax finish was intact. But the brass was rust pretty bad.

I removed the original hanging clip and chucked it out. It was useless. I also removed the original through bolt and knurled nut.Threw those out too. I then bought some new hardware at the local Lowes store. I then sanded the main brass piece to 320 grit. Primed with a charcoal colored primer. And painted with a textured spray paint.

As for the linen side the rust stains were almost completely removed with the use of bleach. The leather side got a cleaning with saddle soap. It didn't work to clean the stains or make the leather more workable. I decided to do something different. I took a pumice stone and ran it back and forth over the strops smooth side to remove the waxy coating that was on it when I bought it new.It went from super slick to velvety smooth. I applied some neatsfoot oil to the strop. It effected the strop in two ways.It minimized the stain and made the leather nice and supple. It now has a nice draw when the razor is drawn back and forth over it.

Put it all together and looks 100% better than it did when I found it again.

Here are a couple after images.You can see the new clip addition as well as the paint job on the brass hardware.

References[edit | edit source]