View Full Version : Wide Strop, Narrow Strop, Smooth Strop, Rough Strop
11-07-2007, 06:28 AM
A few of us have kicked around this discussion on another forum and via e-mail and PM.
What works, what do you prefer and why.
For paddles we have talked about rigid and flex, wide and narrow, rough and smooth. On hanging strops is comes down mostly to wide/narrow, heavy draw/light draw. Is there a right and wrong or is it personal preference based on experience or technique?
I'm a narrow strop and stone fan myself if asked. Most of my hones, and I have many, are narrow 2" to 2 1/2". Using the X pattern just seems natural to me but mostly I prefer to hold them in my hand so like the lighter weight of a narrower stone. My favorites are all 2" x 8". Most older hones and stones found on ebay are even narrower, 1 3/8" to 2" at best.....barber hones, Eschers, Coticules, etc....
On strops I'm more on the fence. I like the proportion of a 2 1/2" strop and I like using an X pattern. I theory anyway a 2 1/2" is likely to remain flatter than a 3", most European strops are 2" at best, many are 1 3/4" (Dovo, Jemico, etc...) Most USA made/sold strops from the golden age were 2 1/2".
In my bathroom though hang 4 strops, a 3" horsehide, a 3" latigo, a 2 1/2" dual surfaced pasted horsehide hanging strop and a 2 1/2" rough latigo. I almost always use the 3" horsehide as I like a light draw with the hollow grind razors I use most often. On my few wedges though I grab the latigo. I feel I have more control or feedback when stropping heavy razors if I have a heavier draw. on light, delicate razors I like a smooth, slick strop. I notice no difference in the effectiveness of either. Linen....I rarely use it, when I do it is because I am "supposed to" use it <g>. I will more often though use a rough or heavier draw leather first.........which many will argue is doing exactly what the linen would do. They would probably be right on the money <g>. I also use a pasted hanging strop quite often. Mine are very smooth and pasted with 0.5 and 0.25 micron diamond sprays. They give me a quick refresh mush as that red rouge covered strop my barber used before every customer. Would I suggest a beginner do the same, no way. As effective as I see it in refreshing and edge it is equally as effective in removing an edge in the wrong hands.
It's interesting ready threads on stropping and honing. New guys come to us asking what is best. The more I do this the more I am convinced there is no "best" but there is more "this works for me". One guy will post what he does and three more will reply with "to much" or "not enough".
I am asked daily what I suggest for a beginner and I tell them what I used "when I was a beginner" and that may not be what I use now though. I'd start with a basic strop till I knew I liked straight razor shaving, even more I start with a pasted paddle or flatbed system and have a daily use tool and an edge renewing tool all in one to start with as it's easy on the budget. I leave the hone till way later if at all. If straight razor shaving was simply an enjoyable way to shave for me and not my main hobby I'd never buy a hone and send my razors to someone who does do it every day for honing (which is exactly what I do now). As much as I like narrowe strops I guess more guys slice their strops learning to do an X than those going straight up and down. I bet more hanging strops get sliced than paddles.
So.....what "works" for you and more importantly why....what is your reasoning or thought as to why this item or system fits your needs. Also it would be interesting to hear did you stick with what you started with or change over the years? This is not meant to be a brand discussion, simply a wide/narrow, rough/smooth, paddle/hanging type discussion.
11-07-2007, 07:03 AM
2 inch width range, preferably long. I round the corners of my norton to achieve the same effect of a narrower hone. Seems like I paid for more than I use most of the time.
1.75 or even 1.5 inches is nice. I don't have any unpasted padles, but when it comes to pasted ones this size is the bee's knees.
2.5 inches is about right. Heavier draw for wedges, lighter for hollow. My favourite now is a 2.75" horsehide Suntorbach, but I have yet to try the offerings of our esteemed resident strop maker. My previous favorite was a Canadian made 2.5" horshide strop that was much thicker and had a heavier draw. Sadly this was an antique store find and a small crack at about the halfway along turned into a tear. Restoration attempts failed due to flakiness of the leather.
11-07-2007, 07:44 AM
Personally I use pretty much the classic stuff though I've experimented with a lot of things. I use a 2 1/2" wide horsehide strop which is just like what I started out with. I use a 2" wide hone, which is just like what I started out with. I use my linen pretty much every day except for right after a razor has been honed. Sometimes I use a rough leather strop but that's only to get a dying razor to give it's last breath before seeing the hone. That's really rare though. No pasted strops for me - too sharp for my sensitive skin.
So it's like I've been on a round trip. I started out with what the old timer's recommended and after a lot of experimentation I'm back to it. Every now and then I take a walk on the wild side though and try something new. Keeps things in perspective.
11-07-2007, 08:24 AM
I like 2" hones (the longer the better), since they're wide enough for me to keep the razor flat and stable on the hone, but narrow enough that they're a little easier to deal with a razor that is not perfectly straight.
I have one of Tony's starter strops and a 3" horsehide/linen Paragon. I love the hardware and materials in the Paragon, but like the width of the starter strop better. I'm guessing it's about 2.25", but I haven't measured it.
11-07-2007, 08:26 AM
I have and have had bunches of strops both old and new made of all kinds of critters and in the end they all do the job. Preferences are mostly personal. I have a couple of Tony's strops and they are probably the best new strops on the market and do a great job however my personal favorite is a vintage Double Duck Model 50 extra thick horsehide. There is just something special about that strop, a combination of exceptional thickness and surface finish which puts it in a whole other category.
11-07-2007, 08:30 AM
Some of the old ones are real classics. I often wonder how many of them were made by the same poeple. I've got one with Russian Cyrillic markings all over the top that says calf hide but at the bottom it has the usual "Certifyed, Beats them all like a certified check" and the big cross so often seen on older strops. I recentl saw a Red Imp with the same bottom markings. I also have a genuine silk "linen". In the end they all seem to work the same but some just feel nicer to use.
For strops I find the 2.5” to be most efficacious. Skinnier strops work as well, however they take a little longer to strop up a razor, and feel a little awkward when using larger/heavier razors (7/8 and up). With a 2.5” you have enough width to support even monster 12/8 wedges, yet you can still do a nice “X” pattern… I find 2.5” strops to be the quickest for me as well, and I can strop up a razor on them exceptionally fast, and I am comfortable stropping at a much faster speed than both wider, and skinner strops. I also find 2.5” strops to stay relatively flat, so there isn’t the hassle of bending/flattening a strop, or worse yet, not being able to get the darn thing flat.
Like you Tony, I prefer to hone with a stone in hand, so I typically prefer smaller stones anywhere from 2” to 2.5” wide and ideally 6” – 8” long.
For pastes, I typically prefer paddle strops – especially with finer pastes, I find balsa wood to feel the best/smoothest for me. I do however keep 2 pasted hanging strops – one in .5 micron green chromide and another in 1 micron diamond. The .5 Micron Green Chrome is for quick touchups (for some reason I get the best results with green chrome on a hanging red latigo strop) and the 1 micron diamond hanging strop is for wedges, and monster razors that are giving me a little trouble when I keep getting stuck at “almost” there – a hundred or so quick strops on a large hanging 1 micron diamond, then to a finishing hone often take care of that “almost” part, and put it right in the sweet spot. Fortunately, this strop doesn’t see much use.
As far as materials/type of strop I feel is best, hands down it’s your Red Latigo Tony. It provides excellent draw, yet is still supple (unlike the stiffer black latigo which at least for me tends to not like to remain flat very long) and seems to align the razors edge with the greatest speed. I’ve done a plethora of “strop tests” for my own personal curiosities, and I feel the red latigo gets the job done quickest, and easiest, and there is no other stropping material/hide I have experienced that has worked as well as the red latigo. In my opinion, it provides the best feedback (you can feel and on some grinds hear when the edge is ready) it’s supple, it stays flat, and it is thick/heavy – yet not TOO thick/heavy so as to warp, or be more difficult to keep flat – if in fact it ever gets out of line.
For a beginner, I hands down recommend your Beginners/Traveling strop in red latigo. It is every bit as good as my (at the time of purchase – prior to the Artisans coming out) top of the line Red Latigo strop, and for $30, it simply cannot be beat in terms of quality, or performance, by any strop I have experienced, at any cost. All of this, for a mere $30? It’s THE value buy of the hobby in my opinion, and due to it’s cost, if it ever is damaged/cut it isn’t a major ordeal, and it allows beginners (and advanced users alike) to direct more $ towards hones and razors.
I originally started with a few different Dovo strops, which while they are/were quite good, they are also quite expensive, thin and small. Once I tried a Tony Miller in 2.5” – I have stuck with ‘em, and haven’t looked back. While Dovo’s are great strops, in my opinion your strops Tony, are on another level.
11-07-2007, 09:29 AM
Thank you Joel, I appreciate the compliments.
One of my favorites from a classic standpoint and also one I have a love/hate relationship with is the Jemico models with the padded handles. Something about the look of the long 2" width and the thick padded handles just looks classic to me. I have also yet to own one that stayed flat, Rindleder, Russian or red Russian. For other than travel use though 2" seems a bit narrow but I do like the buffed finish and overall style of those.
The black Latigo you had was really too heavy in my opinion. They never quite layed the way I liked them. I still have a starter version but it needs a little "tweaking" evey so often. I now use a lighter, more supple version with a nice feel but overall there is not much difference between types, mostly it is variation fron hide to hide.
The balsa you mentions hes worked well for me but I have only used it myself on fine pastes, 0.25 or 0.5. I know some guys on SRP used plain wood as well.
11-07-2007, 10:01 AM
I've got three strops:
1. 2.5" latigo/linen (one of Tony's)
2. the practice strop that came with above (my travel strop now)
3. 2" horseshell strop with an embossed/textured leather on the other side (MBW found it for me in an out of province antique store).
I use the horseshell the most, I really like the size, very little draw. Fun and fast to strop with, consistent results.
I like the heavy draw of the latigo too, but have been sort of struggling with it, feeling like I'm not getting the edge contact I should. I didn't follow the destructions and condition it properly when I got it. I've had to take out a few of my ham fisted nicks with pumice. I reconditioned it and have reflattened it (kitchen counter and wine bottle) because I was getting a bit of a "W" cupping action. Recent results have been really good but it's going to take some work. Serves me right for thinking "I don't need no stinking starter strop".
On my last trip I used the starter strop and really liked it. Draw wise, it's somewhere between the horseshell and latigo.
Although a new strop isn't in the immediate future for me, I'm thinking I'd like a horse hide of the same dimensions of my vintage horseshell. Of course I'll be calling Tony when the time comes :biggrin:
As for hones, fave width is 2". With Nortons, I still hone in an X pattern.
11-07-2007, 10:49 AM
I prefer my hones and strops about 2.5" wide. I really have a preference for short hones, as I tend to handhold so the extra weight is annoying, and I use a short stroke anyway for better consistency.
I've got a nice Old Dog strop with the big leather-padded rings, and some nice vintage strops in cowhide, horsehide, and horse shell, but I keep returning to the ones I started with, the Illinois #127. I've got several of them now, treated with different stuff on the leather to give them different draws.
11-07-2007, 12:58 PM
I like 1" hones. 4-5" is OK for length, but if I find it, I'd take a longer one too. I still use wide hones - 2" and 3" (both because I already have them, and because for some purposes they may be better)
For strops, I started with a leather belt (1-1.5") and moved to Tony's 3" Red Latigo- but then quickly scaled back to 2.5 or less wide vintage hangers. All are different. I have a 1.5" or so wide paddle, one side pasted with Chromium - but I am not crazy about it
11-07-2007, 02:52 PM
mparker, is that one of his new Old Dogs you got?
11-07-2007, 07:43 PM
Nope, it's one of the old old dogs. Maybe we should rename the new ones the the pup strops?
11-08-2007, 10:01 AM
i like it!
11-08-2007, 04:17 PM
I use what I use. I don't think it would make much difference at this point. I like my Russian Jemico 2". It doesn't stay flat. I like small hones, thin strops, and big razors.
I use whatever hone I find first usually. Lots of times I'll throw a hone on the sink and declare "Time to master this one".
I still use on occasion, and absolutly love, the custom 3 inch wide paddle strop with balsa wood you made for me. Its special because I considered it a gift and it still produces the absolutely most killer edge (to include stropping) of any implement that I have ever owned. The fact that I am one of the few that owns one makes it all the more special.
11-08-2007, 05:20 PM
Thank you, I'm glad you like it and it is what prompted me to look at balsa for my other paddles. At some point I'll make them up again as quite a few Vegans have taken up straights now that we have synthetic strops. A balsa paddle would solve their pasting needs without leather.
11-16-2007, 12:27 PM
This is great information! I guess a guy needs one of each just to be safe :smile:
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