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Do hanging strops have to hang?

It's common to hear or read that we ought to pull our hanging strops relatively taught so there isn't too much give, right? That got me thinking How much give/bend is too much give? Or too little? I once read on these forums that you want virtually no give in your strop while stropping but that makes no sense to me. If that's the case then why hang a strop at all as opposed to just laying the strop on a table to keep it flat? And how would doing so affect the stropping results?

Any insight?
 
You could put it on a table, or have the leather bonded to a board. That is just a paddle or bench stop.

In my experience having the small amount of deflection that comes with a hanging strop works a little better, but that is a YMMV.
 
I don't know the answer from a place of actual knowledge, but from observation my experience has been that even pulling a strop as taut as I can get it without toppling a Very Large metro shelf structure onto myself there is still a small amount of noticeable deflection. I don't think I can even achieve zero deflection with a hanging strop. So my take has always been to keep it as minimal as possible, without being crushed under a pile of printers, defunct drives, and orphaned cables.
 
I don't know the answer from a place of actual knowledge, but from observation my experience has been that even pulling a strop as taut as I can get it without toppling a Very Large metro shelf structure onto myself there is still a small amount of noticeable deflection. I don't think I can even achieve zero deflection with a hanging strop. So my take has always been to keep it as minimal as possible, without being crushed under a pile of printers, defunct drives, and orphaned cables.
Door knobs work well. Or in my case closet handles. You’ve for to pull pretty darn hard to pull a door off of its hinges.
 
So the strop shouldn't be completely flat then? Just taught?

Which suggests that stropping on a flat surface wouldn't be as effective because there's no give to "hug" the edge enough to take out burs and realign the steel?
 
Hanging strops have proven themselves over a long period of time. Straight razors are one area where practical results often go against what we think should work.

I am perfectly happy with the results I get from a taught hanging strop used with light pressure. I also can’t think of and practical reason why a paddle strop wouldn’t work just as well or even be an improvement (no sagging, no cupping, etc). It just seems that using one of the same size as a hanging strop would be quite cumbersome.
 
There are very few, if any, razor strops made for flat use with no give. I've seen a few antiques that are firm on a wooden plate.
Even paddle strops have a material underneath the leather for cushion and a little give which suggests that some give - be it hanging or paddle is the way to go.
If it wasn't necessary I can't imagine why the MFG's of Barber hones would add a layer of foam underneath the leather.
 
Yes. Hang your hanging strop. If you want to achieve the same results everyone else expects and gets, then do the same thing everyone else does. If you want random results, do random stuff. Thinking that way will keep you on track for success.

There are many ways to hang a strop. The best way of course is to screw it into the wall. Youtube is your friend, on screwing stuff into the studs through drywall, or maybe you can find an area of exposed wood such as a window or door frame. Drill your hole exactly the size of the screw shank. Too small and you risk splitting the wood. Too large and the threads have nothing to bite into. You can also go to the hardware store and get a large "S" hook. Hook one end over the bathroom door hinge and hook the strop in the other end. Don't forget to take it down before you walk away and someone closes the door with the hook in the crack. If there is a snap hook on your strop end hardware, you might simply tie a loop of paracord around the door hinge and hook into that. Keep some of it with you along with your trusty S hook when you travel. Don't worry if you can't hang your strop at just the right height. It really doesn't matter as long as you can reach it. Anything from waist high to head high works fine.

The important thing is that you can pull it tight and the strop depresses SLIGHTLY but almost imperceptibly under the LIGHT pressure of the razor. No need to overthink it. It just works and has worked for many generations and will continue to work as long as it is done the same way it has always been done.
 
Stropping on a strop laid on a flat surface is awkward. Stropping for a new stropper is hard enough and can take about a year to learn to the point where you are consistently improving the bevel and edge.

Make a loop with 18 inches of para cord and slip it over a doorknob. Pull it taught and strop at waist level using minimal pressure. Stop then flip without slamming the edge into the leather, the spine never leaves the strop. Pressure will roll the edge. Use enough pressure to keep the spine and the bevel flat on the strop.

Stropping is the most difficult thing to learn and can make the most difference in razor edge maintenance. It is also way under rated. The strop is the last thing to touch the edge before your face and your last chance to perfect the edge.
 
So the strop shouldn't be completely flat then? Just taught?

Which suggests that stropping on a flat surface wouldn't be as effective because there's no give to "hug" the edge enough to take out burs and realign the steel?

Yes, to some extent. I find that as there is a built-in spine-to-edge relationship with a hollowed straight, it's better to use a hanging strop with a little give than a flat paddle strop on a board. This allows for a minute amount of variance that spine-to-edge does not have on its on.

Conversely, with a knife, where the spine is lifted off the stropping surface, a flat paddle is preferable to pare down the variables, as there is a minute amount of variance already in play.

Loom strops can be slackened lightly to act like a hanging strop. My preference is for the paddle strops where the leather is underlined by a thick piece of felt. This allows for a subtle cushioning effect somewhat similar to a hanging strop but with underlying support. If one were to lay a hanging strop out on a table to strop that way, I would suggest placing thick felt underneath the strop to allow for a little give.
 
I strop slack. There's about a 3 inch deflection in the strop. Works for me. Paddles work too but I'm not a fan. Holding it tighter works also. Once.yiu develop the coordination you will be able to strop anyway you like. When I was learning(not the first time of the first tenth time) I used to strop 200 laps. Just to make sure I was doing it right. One bad move though can set you back.
 
I stropped on a flat strop for a month or so before I used my first hanging strop. I think that helped me not damage even my very first hanging strop. But I was glad to move on to the hanging strop.

The flat strop was only 12", so I didn't get as much done with each pass.

I am MUCH faster on the hanging strop than I ever would have gotten with the mounted bench strop.

I suspect that microconvexity and increased comfort from a hanging strop is a real thing, but I don't know, because I made the switch early enough in my SR shaving journey that I was not attuned to such subtleties.
 
One of the mistakes is did in the beginning was to hold the strop to tight. I watched allot of stropping videos where the razor was just skating on top of the strop. Weight of the razor was the message.
Now i use more pressure then i used in the beginning and the tension in the strop is less.
If you allow the strop to have some give and apply the downward pressure to the spine, you even out most of the irregularities in the strop. Contact with the edge can then be insured/controlled by the amount of torque you apply. This will wary from strop to strop and for different razor grinds. A heavy razor does most of the work for you, and the weight of the razor might be enough. Lighter full/extra hollow ground razor will need a different approach. If you have to much tension in the strop the radius of the strop will be from the anchor point to your hand. If you allow some give in the strop and focus the downward force on the spine, the radius will be from your hand to the contact point on the spine.
Some razors even starts to develop some resistance when you strop as the edge conforms to the strop.
Most of the razors i own is not perfect, meaning there is some geometry issues i need to work around. I think that if i put my razors on hard backed leather i would have the same unevenness i work around on the stones. When the leather is hanging it is easier to get it to conform to the geometry of the razor.
You also need to be really careful to avoid slapping the edge as you flip on a hard backed surface. That was something i did not like about the loom strop. I guess it is just a different technique that needs to be learned.
 
@JPO I do not concur with your stropping method. Admittedly, all of my SR's do not have any geometry issues.

I strop with a relatively tight strop and just the mass of the blade as pressure. The strop only deflects a few millimetres in the centre during each stroke.

My reason for this stropping method is that I want to minimise any convexity (however so slight) that could be introduced in the blade's edge.

Of course, you should strop the way that you are happy with.
 
It depends on the suppleness of the leather. If the leather is thin or supple (like the roo leather I use) it can be pulled more tightly, and it will still conform to the blade.

If it is thicker, more unpliable, you might need less tension to conform, Which may create issues.

Ymmv, but that is why I favour the leather I use. Always good contact, not much stretch even though it is thin.
 
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@JPO I do not concur with your stropping method. Admittedly, all of my SR's do not have any geometry issues.

I strop with a relatively tight strop and just the mass of the blade as pressure. The strop only deflects a few millimetres in the centre during each stroke.

My reason for this stropping method is that I want to minimise any convexity (however so slight) that could be introduced in the blade's edge.

Of course, you should strop the way that you are happy with.
It is not easy to explain this with just words in my second language. Pressure and strop tension is really subjective. I guess the point i was trying to make was that any pressure applied should be focused on the spine. Contact on the edge is provided by a little torque. It just needs to be enough to even out the strop. An added bonus is that you can reduce the radius a little, but not by much. Most of the apex rounding is cased by the leather itself flexing because it is soft. Flat vs hanging really should not matter as long as you figure out a way keep the razor with an even contact with the leather. I was not able to do it on a flat surface with the same result as i did with a hanging strop.
I do not think we disagree in principle. Less tension might mean something different for different people. you just need enough tension to ensure good contact. And like Legion said, thinner leather can handle a little more tension.
 
It depends on the suppleness of the leather. If the leather is thin or supple (like the roo leather I use) it can be pulled more tightly, and it will still conform to the blade.

If it is thicker, more unpliable, you might need less tension to conform, Which may create issues.

Ymmv, but that is why I favour the leather I use. Always good contact, not much stretch even though it is thin.
I have a Latigo strop that is on the stiffer side. This works grate on heavier razors, but for thinner ground lighter razors i do not like this particular strop. It is difficult to get the razor to conform to the strop without applying to much pressure. For lighter razors i prefer to use leather that is more supple and maybe a little thinner.
Stropping does have many variable to consider. Someone stropping a wedge might get away with something that might not work as well with a extra hollow ground light razor. The weight of the razor pressure will not work if you strop a feather light razor on a "stiff" wide leather strop.
I am still looking for a strop that is a good allrounder. The Kanayama strops is a good candidate, but to expensive where i live at the moment.
 
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