How to hone a straight razor
So you’ve gone out & got yourself a quality straight razor, perhaps you even read our straight razor for beginners post, but you’re confused on how to hone a straight razor. Honing is actually a fancy word for sharpening if you’re a little confused by what we mean. Luckily for you, as well suggesting the best straight razor for beginners in this post we’re going to discuss how to hone a straight razor so you can keep it nice & sharp & in good condition.
We love straight razors, possibly our favorite method of shaving, they just look cool & the very fact that these straight razors have a very manly allure are making men adopt them for their regular shaving routines. But keeping fashion, manliness and hygiene aside, these straight razors come with some serious maintenance regimes. Occasionally men wonder “how to hone a straight razor?” Well, here is a comprehensive guide to help you get those beautiful sharp straight edges.
How to hone a straight razor– A comprehensive guide
There are actually two ways to hone a straight razor that we suggest.
How to hone a straight razor using a strop
The most common and traditional way of sharpening a straight razor is with the help of a strop. Men, who are particularly serious about their facial grooming practices and who have also invested in an expensive straight razor should definitely opt for this method. Using a strop to hone your straight razor makes the practice all the more authentic, looks cooler & works better. However you might ask yourself, “how to hone a straight razor using a strop?” Well, luckily we’re going to answer that for you.
First of all, you need to understand what a strop is. A strop is basically a made from very thick leather, typically they are 3 inches wide but some are 2 inches & most feature a canvas strip on the opposite side to the leather that can be used for pre sharpening the razor.
As well as the traditional strop, there are now paddle versions & loom versions also but for the sake of simplicity we’ll talk about the traditional hanging strop like the recommended 3″ Red Latigo Leather Straight Razor Strop from 30 degree.
Strops have been used for centuries by barbers to help keep their blades nice & sharp & help maintain their edge, the picture on the left will give you a better idea of what a traditional hanging strop looks like.
Before you actually begin sharpening, you need to clean your blade with cotton and some rubbing alcohol to get rid of any excess oils & hairs from previous shaves.
Once you’re ready to sharpen your straight razor you should proceed to hang your strop up using the loop.
Once the razor has been hung up, you need to grab the other side using the handle, ideally hold the handle with your less dominant hand using a nice firm grip.
After that, hold the razor in your dominant hand and the strop in the other one. Make sure your stop is at about a 90 degree angle before you proceed to sharpen your blade.
When you are drawing the blade up & down the strop you should apply some pressure to the strop so it isn’t too elastic but instead it’s very stable, you do want to see some bowing however when you’re drawing the blade up & down.
It’s very important that you draw the back of the blade (also known as the spine) first along the strop, don’t place the bladed side directly onto the strop, then turn the blade over at the end & repeat but downwards. Approximately, 20 laps/strokes should make your straight razor nice & sharp.
Another tip when sharpening your razor using a strop is that once you’ve completed one lap & your blade is at the top of the strop rotate the blade to repeat but in a downwards motion however keep the razor touching the strop at all times, do not lift it up to rotate.
Once you’ve sharpened your blade, you can then shave as per your normal routine. One thing we like to finish off with is to use the strop again but after the shave on the canvas side to give the blade a nice clean, the canvas side, as mentioned above can also be used before the leather side of the strop to get iron out any kinks in the blade that may cause damage to the leather.
As mentioned above a strop we highly recommend is the 3″ Red Latigo Leather Straight Razor Strop, alternatively the Professional Straight Razor Sharpening Strop by Red Deer is also great if you are new to honing & stropping.
How to hone a straight razor using a sharpening stone
Sharpening a straight razor with a sharpening stone is another great and popular way many men hone their straight razors. The results are pretty much the same as using a hone but the methods are different, with one major difference in the outcome & that is by using a sharpening stone you can sometimes go without sharpening for at least 3 to 6 months whereas with a strop you will have to regularly hone your straight razor.
Moving on to the main part about how to hone a straight razor with a sharpening stone. To being with you have three different types of sharpening stones to choose from.
Personally, we believe the 4000/8000 combination grit whetstones work the best, but others can also get the job done well regardless. We also suggest getting a good sharpening stone holder, this makes sharpening your razor straight razor that much easier, safer & cleaner. A stone & holder kit we highly recommend is the Norton 24336 Japanese-Style Combination Waterstone 4000/8000 Grit with 4000 grit on one face for maintaining and refining a cutting edge, and 8000 grit on the opposite face for polishing cutting edges it has all.
When looking for a good sharpening stone you’re going to want to look for one that is wide enough to sharpen most straight razors, some stones are 1 inch wide but we suggest a 3-inch as this works well for sharpening the length of most razor blades all at once, again Norton 24336 Japanese-Style Combination Waterstone 4000/8000 Grit stone has this, click here fore more info.
When you begin sharpening using a stone, place the stone on a flat surface making sure there is some space between the two of you so that you can easily work.
Now slide the stone evenly, slowly and steadily across the stone so that you don’t end up hurting yourself.
Make sure your strokes are light so you don’t end up over sharpening the blade in the wrong angle, furthermore, applying too much pressure can damage the blade so go slow & steady with light strokes.
Straight razors are very much back in fashion, while using them can be tricky at first, once you get the hang of it you’re set for life. Same goes for their maintenance, especially when it comes to sharpening them. If you have any tips on how to hone a straight razor let us know in the comments section below.