Well I have had a couple of HA strops for a couple three weeks and have been giving my time on them wholely to the new Chicago Special with the 'Russian' ebossed back. Keith has said that this strop is perfect for heavy ground blades and that it will naturally increase in 'roughness' over time. I really like the feel of the strop. It is very stiff and has a great feel in use. The diamond back is also very nice. I compare it to my Kanayama Pelican and the accompanying cloth component. But the Chicago side is something different than anything I have used so far. It is a smooth draw but not slick (if you can understand the difference). A different feel from the Tony Miller Horsehide strop, which is very fast (almost too fast for me).
The edges off of it have all been very smooth and I have tried it on razors from full hollow to near wedge. The feel is great on all of them.
The other strop I got in the same order was the English Bridle and Cordovan glued combination. I pulled this strop out for the first time last night and boy was I surprised. The English Bridle side feels exactly how I want a strop to feel. Honey smooth! I like it so much I did twice the number of laps on it as I normally would do.
The Cordovan side is a very nice flamed chocolate colour with the feel very similar to my Kanayama Llama 70000. The only difference is the stiffnes of the leather due too it being glued.
At present I have 5 strops. A TM Latigo/Horsehide 3", a Kanayama Llama 70000, a Kanayama Pelican, a HA Chicago Special and finally the HA Signature strop with English Bridle and Cordovan. At present both of the Hand American Strops and the Kanayama Llama are all tied for most favourite. As good as the TM and Pelican strops are I find that I haven't used either for months.
The Hand American strops are well worth the price and are a great addition to any straight razor shaver's repetoire.
Overall, this is a very polished product. The leather is smooth, even and free of any irregularities. The hardware is clean looking and the fancy chicago screw is a nice touch. The lettering is perfect and I think offering the initials free of cost adds a very welcome personal touch to the strop. The diamond embossed back is even in depth and consistent. However, it does appear that mine was embossed a degree or 2 askew. The embossing is slightly off center near the bottom. I deducted points here for fit and finish, but with 28" of strop, I don't see it as a functional issue.
Amount of Draw
I can't really rate the amount of draw as I don't think horsehide is intended to have a heavy draw. The strop does have a silky smooth glide as opposed to the velvety draw of latigo. The embossed side is very interesting. It looks like a harder surface than it feels while using it. It certainly provides significantly more resistance than the front side, but less than cotton or linen.
Thickness of Leather
10 can be the only real rating here. The strop is made by bonding 2 pieces back to back, but either piece would be thick on it's own. The two combined provide a very thick and fairly rigid stropping surface. You would really have to try hard to put a lot of "sag" in the strop while using it. I'll let the picture tell the rest of the story.
I don't think horsehide works as fast as Latigo, but it does work. I have really had superb shaves when using this strop. Not to say that any of my other strops didn't provide the same. The backside of this strop is where the difference is more pronounced. I wasn't sold on the diamond embossed horsehide at first, but it has been giving me very similar results as any of my cloth components. A very different feel, but effective.
At $75, it's not a cheap strop. However, you get a top notch handmade strop. It's a whopping 28" long and the back is something that nobody else (to my knowledge) is offering. The free initials add nice personal touch as well. Horsehide may not be for everyone, but this is a very nice piece. I purchased mine with the split leather/hard felt strop as well. I'll leave that out of the picture, as it's a whole different strop.