Balsa wood vs Leather strop

Discussion in 'Strops/Stropping' started by mtndoo, Oct 20, 2009.

  1. i have been doing some research but I am abit confused. I am wondering if a balsa wood paddle strop would be ok for daily use by a newbie or should i just go with the highly recommended Filly.:confused:
  2. If this is a paddle vs. hanger question, I would strongly recommend using a hanging strop as opposed to a paddle.
    I consistently used a paddle for several months before I finally got around to getting a hanging strop and the difference is tremendous. Both were Tony Millers, but the hanging strop is the only way I have been able to consistently get a great shaving edge.

    Hope that answers your question.
  3. A balsa paddle will not have the draw that a leather strop would so is not really an every day option. It would be great for pastes, especially super fine ones but not daily use. A leather paddle would be better for daily use, a leather hanging strop even better unless space is at a premium.

  4. I have seen this question arise before and think maybe there should be a little explenation to the reasoning behind what seems to be the obvious answer.

    So you get your first SR and shave with it. Wow, what a nice feeling! Shave was great. You clean up the razor and do the same tomorrow and the next day and suddenly you notice the blade doesn't feel as sharp as it did before. You know something has to be don, but what? You start to investigate and find there are different options and different answers.

    Hard leather, hard balsa, leather, linen, barbers hone the list goes on. Which should you use for daily use? The same question you asked. The simple answer is a leather strop, just like Tony said. But I think there is a different answer to this and here is why.

    Ask yourself, what happens to the edge as I use it? Well, if you were to take a look at your edge when it was new at say 12,000 or 15,000x it would look something like taking a piece of cheese and forming an edge with a grater. If you used a large greater the channels would be big and if you used a smaller size grater the channels would be small with a lot of peaks at the points. Sort of looks like a serated knife edge.

    As you use the razor those points start to bend over, remember this is at the microscopic level, and the razor feels dull. To midigate this we strop the razor on leather, looking for the draw that Tony talks about, and smooth these bends back into place. Thus, the razor feels sharp again.

    After time, maybe 6 to 10 shaves and stroppings, the bends break off and the normal daily maintenance of stropping doesn't improve the edge any. This is where we need to go to something other than the strop.

    There are several options - barbers hone, pasted strop, hard balsa, etc. But which one should I use. Well everyone has their own idea on this. Here is mine. When the strop stops working I prefer to go to just a few laps on a hard balsa strop with Crox applied. Now the first thing I need to say is that the use of balsa is not a matter of being cheap. If it were that we would just sand a 2x4 flat and load it up. Balsa has some unique qualities that make it ideal for our purposes. First it is soft. That makes the use of it very smooth. Second, and foremost, is its ability to hold material in its poures and present it to our razors edge in a nearly metered fashion. If it is applied correctly to the balsa, and most people do it incorrectly, it can last for quite some time. I have used mine on more than 150 razors I have honed and have not needed to reload it yet.

    The crox is equivalent to something like a 30k stone, so I have read. 6 to 10 strokes is quite sufficient on a properly loaded hard balsa strop to ready the edge for a leather strop. The leather strop will then smooth out and refine the crox stropping and most times the edge springs back to life. Because the feel of balsa is so soft though it used with to much pressure or to many strokes and the edge is partially destroyed. These can be very agressive and care must be taken when using them.

    So the long answer to your question is, I think, you need both. You can, of course, substitute any of the other options for the balsa and still have a well maintained edge for a long period of time before it needs to be re-honed.

    I hope this helps, and I am sorry if it seems to ramble on.


  5. Agree with Tony. Leather + cloth = best daily edge maintenance you can do. Ask MParker about it if you don't believe me.

    To my knowledge, no one has actually bothered to do a serious study using SEM microscopes of what exactly stropping does. However, there is a magazine article from back in the day that sheds some light, but doesn't answer all our questions. I think its popular mechanics. Its out there on the internet, I think I'll have another look at it.

    There are many theories as to why a razor edge gets duller with use. One of them is the teeth theory and folding over of the edge. I do not subscribe to the teeth part and have serious doubts about exactly how much an edge folds over if at all. Another competing theory is micro corrosion. Stropping removes micro-corrosion. I subscribe to this theory.

    Last edited: Oct 22, 2009
  6. Is there a description on how to use the balsa wood with cromox on it? Just bought one and I don't know weather to run the razor over it like a strop or use it like a hone. I am referring to to which direction to run the razor on it... Spine leading or spine trailing?

  7. The Knize

    The Knize Moderator Emeritus

    Spine leading. I am sure the is stuff on the net about how to used a balsa wood strop pasted with CrOx, so I will not try to go into any detail here.

    As everyone before me in this thread has said, one needs a leather, preferably hanging, preferably unpasted, strop for every day use. Ken R's Filly is a great choice. Anything Tony makes is great.

    Pasted balsa "strops" serve a different purpose. Paddlle strops really serve a different purpose. Its all magic/alchemy in the end, but it is all true.

    I do not even know why I am posting anything on this thread. It has attracted some real experts. Anything I might know has mostly come them and folks like them!
  8. mdunn

    mdunn Moderator Emeritus

    yep - a pasted balsa strop needs to be used spine first
  9. Traditional French paddle strops were 2 sided: one was covered with plain leather and used daily, the other side was impregnated with a paste.

    Two sided wooden paddle strops originated in France. One side was covered with plain leather for daily stropping, the other side was impregnated with a mild sharpening paste for touch ups. 2 famous brands were: Hamon and
    Cell[FONT=&quot]é Fr[FONT=&quot]è[/FONT]res. Both sides spine leading.
  10. Thanks for this explanation, it's really precious.

    I know that it is an old thread but, in the next months i would like to take the big leap from shavette to straight. And one of the many question is: which is the right way to apply paste to balsa?

    Thank you for your help.
  11. Since I am probably in the latter camp and applying it incorrectly, what is the correct method of application?

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