Shaving Made Easy/Chapter 7
The object of honing the razor, as has been explained, is to abraid and wear away the edge of the blade so that it becomes as thin as possible. But when this is done, the process of sharpening the razor is still incomplete, for the edge, when taken from the hone, is left rough and unfit to put on the face. Another process is necessary, and that is stropping. The object of stropping is not to make the blade thinner, but to smooth the edge, taking off the rough surface of the little teeth which have been developed, and setting them all in perfect alignment. This gives the razor its exceeding keenness.
You should have a first-class strop. It little matters how good your razor may be if your strop is a poor one, for it is absolutely impossible to keep a razor in good condition if the strop is of poor quality or rough and haggled. Many a razor has been blamed when the fault lie entirely with the strop and the manner of using it. So called sharpening preparations, sometimes applied to the surface of strops, as a substitute for the hone, should be avoided. Most of them contain acid or emery, which is likely to gradually spoil the temper of the razor.
There are many kinds of strops manufactured and placed on the market, some good and some bad. The most common is the swing strop, made of leather or horse hide on one side and canvas or hose on the other. Some of the cheaper grades have a very coarse canvas, and unless you wish to ruin your razor, you should never put it on such a strop. In our opinion a good leather or horse hide strop is the best, and meets every requirement; but if a combination strop is used, the linen or hose side should be of the finest quality.
The strop should be not less than twenty inches long and two inches wide. Its surface should be very soft and smooth—not glazed—and you can tell whether it is so, by rubbing the hand over it. Do not fold the strop when putting it away, for if you do you are likely to crack or roughen the surface, and this will injure the edge of the blade when it is drawn across it.
After the strop has been put to a great deal of use, it will sometimes be found that it will not "take hold" on the razor—that is it will allow the blade to slip over it with little or no resistance and thus fail to impart a keen, smooth-cutting edge. The reason is that the strop has become dry and porous. Do not attempt to remedy the matter by applying oil or razor paste; these will only make matters worse. Hang the strop on a hook, and with the left hand stretch as tightly as possible. Apply a good thick lather to the surface and rub it in with the palm of the hand. Barbers sometimes nail the strop to a board and rub the lather in with a smooth bottle; but the hand will do quite as well, and indeed, we think it preferable. What the strop requires is to have the pores filled with the lather; so put on and work in coat after coat, until the leather will take up no more. Then leave the strop to dry. This simple treatment will completely change the action of the strop, and the next time you use it, you will be surprised and delighted to note its improved effect on the razor. It will have that "cling" and "resistance" which barbers so much desire in a strop, and which, indeed, is quite essential to its efficiency.