After about six months of use, your straight razor will begin to slightly pull on your skin. This is an indication that its blade needs honing.
All you need to accomplish this task is a straight razor hone, a razor, and a light touch. Hones are usually made of stone or a synthetic material.
Be sure to follow the hone manufacturer’s instructions for proper use.
To hone your razor, lay it flat on top of the hone and push it down the hone diagonally, with the edge leading. Do not apply pressure! Honing requires a very light touch.
Use very short strokes, but make sure that each stroke is long enough that the whole straight razor edge comes into contact with hone. After each stroke, flip the razor over on its spine and push the other side in the same diagonal manner back up the hone. Basically, you’ll form an “X” pattern on the hone using this technique. Five passes on each side of the blade should be sufficient.
You can test the sharpness of your razor by using the sliced hair technique. Simply pinch a hair between your thumb and forefinger so that it hangs down. Slowly push the blade at the hair in a perpendicular fashion. If the blade slices through the hair without a sound, you have a properly sharpened blade.
Straight Razor Stropping
After honing the blade, you’ll need to strop it on leather to completely whet the edge. In addition to stropping after you hone the blade, use 10 to 20 passes on the strop before each shave.
A strop is a leather belt that has a smooth surface. The razor is dragged over this surface with the back leading. The strop smooths the razor’s edge, making it very keen. A variety of strops are available at Amazing Shaving. The Illinois razor strop is one of the most popular.
Stropping a straight blade is perhaps the toughest technique to master. Remember to take your time and use little more pressure than the weight of the blade.
Lay the razor on the strop with the spine leading and the blade completely flat. Drag the blade across the leather. Drag the blade in a diagonal fashion so that the entire edge is treated, and use an “X” pattern, as you do when honing the blade. Strop the razor before every shave.
If you take a chunk out of your strop, you can probably smooth it out with very fine sandpaper. Once it’s smoothed out, wipe the strop with a damp cloth and treat it with strop conditioner.
Once a month, condition your leather strop with a strop paste. This will keep it supple and soft. Like your straight razor, your leather strop can last a lifetime if properly maintained.