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What are the benefits of a high-quality strop versus cheap generic ones?

I’ve really been getting into maintaining my razors properly and have a cheap ($8) leather strop that I purchased on eBay a few months ago. It seems to do it’s job, but I’m seriously contemplating upgrading to a higher quality or vintage strop.

I’m just wondering if there’s any real reason to do so? Are there any benefits of using a “nice” strop, or is leather leather regardless of price point? I don’t want to spend money unnecessarily, but at the same time I’m willing to purchase something nice if there is a valid reason for it. Can I get your opinions?
 
I’ve really been getting into maintaining my razors properly and have a cheap ($8) leather strop that I purchased on eBay a few months ago. It seems to do it’s job, but I’m seriously contemplating upgrading to a higher quality or vintage strop.

I’m just wondering if there’s any real reason to do so? Are there any benefits of using a “nice” strop, or is leather leather regardless of price point? I don’t want to spend money unnecessarily, but at the same time I’m willing to purchase something nice if there is a valid reason for it. Can I get your opinions?
I find myself in a similar boat to you, I’m interested in hearing the responses.
 
I immediately saw, felt, and experienced a massive difference upon receiving my Tony Miller Horween strop. its not the expensive one either. 3"er with D rings which i like very much.

more importantly, there was a substantial difference to me with edge sharpening or refining ability.

I too started out with an ebay strop.

camo
 

Chef455

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Hmmm... I too have an inexpensive strop with which I am currently satisfied with. I'm a complete newbie to SR shaving though. But, I have a nagging feeling that there will be a few shavers that feel our cheapie strops may not be our best investment.
 
I have been using mid-range Chinese calf-hide strops (about USD 20) for the past 18 months or so. They have served me well. Hopefully, within a few weeks or months, I will be receiving my first "high-quality" strop - an Heirloom Razor Strop by @Tony Miller. Good value at USD 50 but the shipping fee was more than the cost of the strop. Of course that is not Tony's fault but mine for wanting to live in my little bit of paradise.

I will then learn if there are any benefits in using a "high-quality" strop.
 
I tried to buy a high in Strop on Amazon 2 times. Let’s say both were well over 100 dollars. Upon arrival, both or either cut or imperfect in one way on the main side of the strop leather. Well I ended up on Esty and purchasing a handmade hard shell Cordovan from a artisan maker there for around $100. No issues at all. I have a number of strops But the small shop maker made the best out of all the other three. It puts a very refined smooth edge on my blades that I feel the comfort improved by a margin or so. Nothing earth shattering to be honest. Worth it to me since I only Straight razor shave.
 
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I posted the question on reddit also and got this super detailed answer from u/deaconleather - I thought it worth sharing here.

Full disclosure, I make and sell fancy strops.

As long as you have a good solid piece of leather that is preferably veg tan (possibly combination tanned) and it is flat and free of defects, you should be good to go. I am a little skeptical about an $8 strop as that is just so absurdly cheap, but I guess if it’s working so far then maybe it’s fine.

What you get with nicer strops is a more enjoyable experience that is more customizable to your preferences. You get the option to play around with different leathers that have different draw characteristics (Shell Cordovan, English bridle, equine leather, kangaroo, etc) some have faster draw characteristics and some have heavy draw (think like resistance or friction) some break in differently, etc. Some leather is less prone to stretching and warping than others and will last longer which I would argue makes it better. You can also experiment with different backing materials like canvas, natural linen, hemp, firehose, etc. It all comes down to personal preference. If you don’t have a personal preference yet or don’t want to spend more money to upgrade the experience, then stick with what works for you. If you stick with it long enough you might want to venture out and see how you like different strops and see if it changes your experience.

I would also add that you probably don’t want to upgrade until you have your technique down or you risk putting a big gash in a nice strop.
 
Once you get into a good strop, I don't believe you will see a difference in the edge. I've used a Westholme Cordovan ($$$$$), Kanayama 50000 ($$$) Kanayama 80000 ($$$$), Tony Miller Heirloom ($$) and Tony Miller plain vanilla ($). I sold the Westholme and Heirloom strops. My most used strop is the broken in Tony Miller Plain Vanilla. Yep, let that set in. That tells you everything.

I would stay away from vintage as most worth using fetch a premium price. I've seen some at antique stores and the leather is hard. I assume most on Ebay are the same. I would have to condition the leather and restore to use. I'm not handy with leather work, so I stay away.

To me the best value is Tony Miller Plain strops ($50ish). Pick Horsehide, Steerhide, they are all good.

For a splurge and different feeling draw, I would recommend the Kanayama 50000 ($160ish). The draw is just to buttery and smooth. Just don't expect the edge to be 3x better than the Tony Miller strop.
 
a lot of good things have been said.

in the end......I dunno.

I've only owned a Bay strop that came with wrinkles in the leather. paid 14.99 for it. then I bought a Miller strop. world changed for me.

that is my experience that is unique to me. it made a difference when I was struggling in my beginnings. come hell or high water I wanted to succeed.

I'm just saying. I rarely back or support anything as I'm usually anti brand anything............Millers craftsmanship gets my stamp of approval.

camo
 
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I started with a $10 strop and then bought one of Tony's value strops (the Horween Horshide Plain Vanilla Strop). Based on my five month journey, you want a strop that you love spending time with for the simple reason that stropping on leather is really important. Now that I am beginning to get the hang of stropping, my edges are feeling that much sharper and smoother.
 
Like most things it’s a matter of diminishing returns. The difference going from an $8 eBay strop to an $80 Tony Miller Horse Hide is huge. Better hardware, better leather, real linen, better length, better finishing. You will get a better edge and the experience will be more enjoyable for sure.

Stepping up from there, the difference gets smaller the more you spend. I’ve been lucky enough to get a Shell Cordovan strop from Westholme and I love it. Shell was the classic strop material back in the day and I believe it’s the best stropping material you can get. The leather is very smooth, supple and tough. It resists stretching and cupping. It has a nice, even, medium fast ‘magnetic’ draw when broken in and feels great to strop on. When you hear it and feel it in action, you just know that it’s doing a better job on the razor. It’s the stuff of stropping legend and for good reason. It’s not cheap but if you’re confident in your technique and your strop chopping days are behind you, I think it’s worth it. Kanayama also uses this fantastic material.
 
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A high or medium quality strop is much nicer to use than a cheapie. IF you go too cheap, the strop will not even do its job properly. If it is of sufficient width, suppleness, and flatness, with a nicely fihished surface, and decent veg tanned or at least latigo tanned leather, then it will suffice. At least for a while. There are the odd $10 strops that are usable. For the most part, usable strops that do enough good and little enough harm to the razor's edge that are at least convenient and easy to use, start at around $30. I honestly believe after shaving for quite a few decades in the manly way that a decent beginner strop can be found in the $30 to $50 range, and that no matter how constrained in budget, it is unrealistic to expect anything cheaper to do much good. I have had a few, notably the $8.88 Pakistani strop sold by ebay seller "theexbay" that seems now to have taken a significant slide downward in quality but once was good enough that I didn't mind giving them away to noobs with razors just so they would immediately have something practical to strop on.

Let's be perfectly clear on one thing. A high end strop is made from horse shell cordovan leather. Period. Once you use a nice shell strop, you will understand. Until then, believe me or disbelieve me at your pleasure. A mid-range strop is a well constructed strop with a width of 2-1/2" to 3" with quality hardware and nice supple and smooth veg tanned or latigo tanned leather, be it cow, steer, bull, horse, llama, yak, whatever, hide finished nice and smooth, with no persistent set or creases, with a usable length that is, well, usable, made of course by someone who actually uses a strop and understands what makes a good strop. A low quality strop is basically something that is a strop in name only. Too narrow, too short, cheap leather of doubtful tannage, shoddy hardware, lots of range marks and natural or unnatural creases or wrinkles or dimples, scratches or gouges, split hide that has been polished to resemble top grain leather, leather that is ridiculously thin and stretchy, or construction that encourages cupping. These are not worth the time it takes to click on them, let alone worth the money paid for them. Honestly you are better off buying a piece of leather for $20 and making your own.

So that's that for the "cheap generic" strops. Now we are looking at the benefits of a high end strop vs a midrange strop. It is 99% a matter of enjoyment. As I intimated earlier, a nice shell strop is an utter joy to use. It does not do a better job of stropping the razor than a proper midrange strop, though. So if you want value for your dollar, as in many things, avoid both the lower and upper tiers, and look for a middle of the road, "decent" product at a decent price. Generally, $40 to $80 will get you there. YMMV but I really can no longer recommend looking for anything less than $30 or so even for a beginner, at least as a general rule of thumb. THat doesn't mean you cannot find a cheaper one that will work, if you look hard enough. It also doesn't mean that lack of experience will not allow you to be satisfied with a lesser SSO, or Strop Shaped Object, until you learn better.

Tony MIller now sells a line of strops specifically meant for a beginner on a budget who is concerned about messing up a more expensive strop while learning. That is an excellent starting point. For non beginners, his horse strops look like a pretty good buy, though the only strop of his that i have used was the Latigo in the recent passaround which I am sure has a completely different draw from the horse but is indicative of the good quality level that i presume his horsehide strop to possess.

My favorite strop is a particular cowhide strop of my own making, followed closely by my Kanayama. Sometimes I feel like I like the Kanayama better. Both please me very much, to use. I have others, buffalo and Latigo and no definitely ascertainable species origin strops that definitely work, but I just don't feel the love. ANd it is not just cost or pride of ownership. Some strops merely function. Some others perform.
 
Like most things it’s a matter of diminishing returns. The difference going from an $8 eBay strop to an $80 Tony Miller Horse Hide is huge. Better hardware, better leather, real linen, better length, better finishing. You will get a better edge and the experience will be more enjoyable for sure.

Stepping up from there, the difference gets smaller the more you spend. I’ve been lucky enough to get a Shell Cordovan strop from Westholme and I love it. Shell was the classic strop material back in the day and I believe it’s the best stropping material you can get. The leather is very smooth, supple and tough. It resists stretching and cupping. It has a nice, even, medium fast ‘magnetic’ draw when broken in and feels great to strop on. When you hear it and feel it in action, you just know that it’s doing a better job on the razor. It’s the stuff of stropping legend and for good reason. It’s not cheap but if you’re confident in your technique and your strop chopping days are behind you, I think it’s worth it. Kanayama also uses this fantastic material.
Have you tried a Kanayama? Although they are both cordovan, I found them very different.
 
My only experience is with my first strop which was a 2" (perhaps 2.5"? I don't know. Needed x-strokes regardless). It was fine. It withstood the beginner nicks and I'm happy I had it. My Tony Miller strop that I got a few weeks ago is so nice though. Just in fit and finish alone the strop absolutely destroys my first cheaper strop, plus the 3" is so much easier to use.

I feel like I will have this strop for a very, very long time. It's an integral part of straight razor shaving, why not put money into something long lasting.
 
Have you tried a Kanayama? Although they are both cordovan, I found them very different.
I’ve never had the pleasure of trying a Kanayama but have thought about getting one. Westholme uses Horween Shell Cordovan and I find it very good. Is be interested to know the difference to Kanayama’s Japanese Shell. I understand he offers various leather thicknesses.
 

Acmemfg

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Not exactly inexpensive, but cost notwithstanding, the best of my strops is a a Tony Miller “Roughout”. It’s a lot less spendy than a High end cordovan. But the feel of the draw and resulting edge are (for me) perfect.
 
I remember watching the WILLIPETER99 superfast 3:49
straight razor video on YouTube in awe. His strop looked
short, thin and battle-weary. And he only did about 10
laps. It just goes to prove that you don't need a great strop.

That said, I have been fortunate to get a hold of some
Kanayama's because I live near Tokyo and was able to visit
the workshop where they are made. I appreciate the crafts-
manship that goes into the making of a high-end strop.

You can buy a Toyota or a Lexus...both will get you from
point A to Point B. It just depends on how you like to roll.
 
I’ve never had the pleasure of trying a Kanayama but have thought about getting one. Westholme uses Horween Shell Cordovan and I find it very good. Is be interested to know the difference to Kanayama’s Japanese Shell. I understand he offers various leather thicknesses.
The Westholme I had was about the same thickness as the 50000. The Westholme felt glassier,magnetic and the Kanayama more velvety.
 
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