So, I was chatting with my barber about straight shaving. He is an old guy like me and shaved customers routinely for most of his career. This is our second conversation and I have been straight shaving longer now so I have more specific questions to ask. He showed me his strop, which he keeps hanging in the shop. I was surprised at how hard the canvas side was. We were talking stropping and strop maintenance and he mentioned that he stropped in mid shave while shaving customers. His colleague lent me a circa 1965 barber school training manual and in it the section on shaving outlines where in the numbered shaving steps you restrop the blade. The manual recommended twice.
Hmmmmm, I only have been stropping before and after. So yesterday and today I tried stropping after my first pass and right before my last, ATG, pass. Big difference. Whereas I usually get some pulling on the ATG pass, especially around the lips and chin, it went much more smoothly and in fact was the best shave on my problematic upper lip I've ever had. Lasted all day and into the next. Repeated the mid shave stropping this morning with similar results.
It makes sense, why didn't I think of it before? I have a tough beard, and a single shave is enough to take that last little bit of keeness off of the edge, which is why I have to strop between shaves of course. But by not stropping in the middle, I was in effect doing my ATG pass with the dullest edge that blade would have in the shave strop cycle.
So for me, stropping mid shave will be a routine event. It gives me a closer shave and much less irritation, what's not to like about that?
As I get better at honing my attention has shifted somewhat to stropping. My barber would sharpen his blades (on an Arky) a couple times a year, and maintain them all the rest of the time by stropping. This stropping stuff is a black art, but it works.