Stropping during shave

Discussion in 'Straight Razor Shave Clinic' started by Brownbear, Apr 24, 2011.

  1. So, I was chatting with my barber about straight shaving. He is an old guy like me and shaved customers routinely for most of his career. This is our second conversation and I have been straight shaving longer now so I have more specific questions to ask. He showed me his strop, which he keeps hanging in the shop. I was surprised at how hard the canvas side was. We were talking stropping and strop maintenance and he mentioned that he stropped in mid shave while shaving customers. His colleague lent me a circa 1965 barber school training manual and in it the section on shaving outlines where in the numbered shaving steps you restrop the blade. The manual recommended twice.

    Hmmmmm, I only have been stropping before and after. So yesterday and today I tried stropping after my first pass and right before my last, ATG, pass. Big difference. Whereas I usually get some pulling on the ATG pass, especially around the lips and chin, it went much more smoothly and in fact was the best shave on my problematic upper lip I've ever had. Lasted all day and into the next. Repeated the mid shave stropping this morning with similar results.

    It makes sense, why didn't I think of it before? I have a tough beard, and a single shave is enough to take that last little bit of keeness off of the edge, which is why I have to strop between shaves of course. But by not stropping in the middle, I was in effect doing my ATG pass with the dullest edge that blade would have in the shave strop cycle.

    So for me, stropping mid shave will be a routine event. It gives me a closer shave and much less irritation, what's not to like about that?

    As I get better at honing my attention has shifted somewhat to stropping. My barber would sharpen his blades (on an Arky) a couple times a year, and maintain them all the rest of the time by stropping. This stropping stuff is a black art, but it works.
  2. Kentos

    Kentos Moderator Emeritus

    I strop before my last ATG pass...if nothing more it makes me feel better, and do love stropping on my TM latigo.:thumbup:
  3. You have to remember in the old days a typical barber gave shaves throughout the day and he had a few razors he rotated so the same razor was used many times and he didn't have time to hone a blade during the day so yes a touchup stropping makes sense. You on the other hand use a razor maybe 1x a day and you should not have to strop between shaves. 1 shave will not dull an edge. Guys shave with the same razor for months on end. Stropping just dresses the edge anyway it doesn't really sharpen it.

    I know there are guys who strop mid shave the same as there are guys who use 2 razors per shave. If you just want to do that, that's fine but it's not something you need to do. If you feel your razor getting duller during 1 shave your razor was never shave ready to begin with.
  4. I have been meaning to post this so Thank You. I too strop mid way through my shave. I do all my wtg and restrop for atg. What a difference it makes. Night and day. Great post Brownbear. Maybe not night and day but it is definately noticeable and my razor is sharp when I start.
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2011
  5. I respectfully disagree. I have come to realize that my beard is tough on blades. When I used a DE or SE I could get 3-5 shaves out of a new blade, tops. A friend of mine found a mint gold plated DE in his basement and was curious. I gave him a pack of razor blades and some advice. Six weeks later, six weeks, he told me the razor worked just fine, just as good as his disposable bic :w00t:. He shaves in the shower with water only. He used the same blade for 6 weeks, using no shaving soap.

    It was a surprising reminder that the density, thickness and toughness of beards varies at least an order of magnitude. Stropping before my ATG pass made a significant and noticeable difference. For one thing, I could do it, which I've never been able to do on my upper lip before. So, although I am happy to accept that it does nothing for you under the circumstances under which you shave, it is clear to me that it makes a difference for us unlucky shmoes with abrasive beards.
  6. I also disagree. There are many variables to consider when deciding to strop or not during shaving. I have many razors, but only a few that survive a shave as sharp as when I start the shave. A person with a softer beard could probably shave without stropping with good results.There are definitely differences in the quality of razors, in my experience not related to cost. In fact, most of the highly touted new razors I have used do not equal many vintage razors.
  7. I typically will only strop 60 before and 30 after a shave and the results are good. Stropping during the shave would make the experience to time consuming for me.
  8. I find that even 20 laps on the strop midshave is well worth it and adds less than a minute to the shave.I don't notice a difference if if I am doing wtg or xtg but when it comes to atg especially my chin where it stops even sharp blades until I add a little muscle it really makes a difference and under my chin where I have to lay the blade nearly flat is the best way to get a close shave.
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2011
  9. I have given it a dozen laps right before an ATG pass. Not sure if it is my imagination or not but seemed to help. Anyway it didn't hurt anything, I'm sure.
  10. I'll have to give this a try, I hadn't seen anybody mention the mid shave strop until now
  11. Me neither, I think I will try it tomorrow.
  12. I think it is all YMMV... I too have a tough beard, DE blades lasting only 3 shaves at the most. I have tried the stropping mid-shave thing, and did not notice a difference. I say do what works for you, for me it is just a stropping before and after.
  13. Stropping does not sharpen a blade it dresses the edge and the differences are mainly in the comfort factor. if you find stropping mid shave makes a huge difference or your razor will not shave unless you strop mid shave something is very wrong with that picture. No beard no matter how tough will dull a blade before many shaves. I would respectfully suggest to the guys who say they need to strop between shaves to check their shave technique and condition of their bevels.
  14. IMHO stropping mid-shave does help. Depending on what you're doing to strop, stropping on linen then leather mid-shave can actually sharpen the blade mildly. Experiments using linen have confirmed it does have a mild honing effect. I do not believe that using leather alone would produce the same effect.

    As a disclaimer I do not usually strop mid-shave so I agree with thebigspender that if you need to strop mid-shave your blade is probably not keen enough or there is probably some other issue. I have a heavy beard so I consider my experience to be a good reference.

    I believe Mr. Parker was able to take a mildly dull edge that would not pass the HHT and make it pass that test by stropping on linen and leather. I have a feeling I am not remembering that correctly and hopefully he'll see this and chime in to correct me. Granted he did a LOT of stropping on that linen during that test to get that effect but in the end it did sharpen the blade a bit.

  15. I've been solving this issue sometimes by switching razors between passes.

    My best 1st-pass/WTG shaver is a Boker "Extra Hollow Ground" that's so thin and flexible that I'm a little afraid to try ATG in the denser patches with it as it occasionally feels like it's about to submarine under a hair and do some real damage. Switching to a narrower and stiffer blade makes for a smoother final pass (never thought about the fact that in doing so I'm also switching to a fresh-stropped edge). This also gives a purpose to a couple of my earliest ebay aquisitions (a Henkels Twinworks #1 and a Wostenholm) which turned out to have been re-ground to be closer to 4/8 than 5/8 (luckily I got both for under $50 combined including shipping) but will still take a fine edge.

    The problem I'm running into now is that I'm getting shaves which won't really make it 2 days, but which sometimes don't leave enough to really shave off after 1 day. Not much chance of being able to bring a set of gear to work and wet-shave at the office during lunch....
  16. I strop after the first pass if I happen to have a few days growth. That;s rare as I sahave nearly every day (might skip 1 or 2 days a month). On the odd chance I do let a few days growth build, I do notice a big difference with a mid-shave stropping.
  17. Well I've tried stropping before the ATG pass on three blades now. It makes a difference on all although the second and third blades did not improve as noticeably as the first one I tried.

    Stropping does sharpen an edge if by sharpening you mean making it cut whiskers with less effort and less pulling. That is clearly true and is sharpening in my book. That is what stropping before the ATG pass seems to do.

    If by sharpening you mean reducing the thickness of the edge between the two bevel faces, which has been defined as "keeness" by others, then I can't see how canvas or leather would remove metal on the bevel faces to do that.

    There are some interesting threads on what stropping does here and other boards, no need to reproduce that discussion here, but it is an interesting question and one that could be answered with a good study using SEM visualization.

    I'll keep trying this on different razors. My current working hypotheses is that the finer the grind and the keener the edge the more quickly the edge accumulates damage from the impact with tens of thousands of whiskers and the more a mid shave stopping helps. At any rate it doesn't take long and is worth trying.
  18. Keep in mind it makes no difference if the spine of the razor is 1/4 inch thick or 6 feet thick, when you get to the shaving edge it's all the same thin piece of metal. That's all your face sees it doesn't know how massive the razor is or the grind. Yes a full hollow has some flex to it but I don't see that as affecting how long a razor retains sharpness.

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