What Are Cotton Strops Used For (On Straight Razors)?

Bison Leather And Cotton Strops

A Redditor asks:

“I’ve been wetshaving for awhile now using a Merkur 34c, Feather blades, and Taylor of Old Bond Street sandalwood cream (thanks to this sub). It’s been great and now I’m looking to take the straight razor plunge. Doing research, I’ve noticed a number of the higher end strops actually have two pieces…a leather piece and a cloth or linen piece. What is the purpose of the cloth? Is it just for polishing or is there something else?”

I recently wondered about this myself.  I’ve read where some straight edge aficionados think it doesn’t make a difference and they don’t use it, just the leather.  On the other hand, others seem to swear by them.  I asked Matt of Razor Emporium, who helps make the fine strops over at Bison Leather, about it.  He said:

“It’s used as “step 1” for stropping – often sharpening pastes are applied to this side. It’s also just more coarse than leather and kind of does the “heavy lifting” of getting the cutting edge lined up. The leather is like the step 2 or final polishing of the blade. Leather is used since its grain is very tight, even and smooth so it won’t do damage to the fine blade edge. It’s also a very flat and pliable material.”

I’m currently testing one of the Bison strops with a cotton side (shown above) for a review so I hope to have more detail on this topic soon!

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  1. Jeff Hall says

    What I have gathered in my own experience about the linen strop is this;

    Use the linen strop before the leather strop just before shaving, why? It heats up the blade so that when you turn to the leather strop, the cutting edges are heated so that when leather stroping, the blade is more flexible and can be best straightened into the cutting tool that you will be using on your face.

    Basiclly, you are utilizing the linen to heat the steal in order to straighten it properly on the leather.

    If you are utilizing a stroping paste on the ‘back side of the linen’, (ie: 0.5 micron paste), you are doing a micro-hone to the blade, (a refresher) by removing metal from the blade and putting in micro “forks” / “jagged edges”. If you are utilizing paste every time you strop, you are wearing down your blade, not something I would suggest.

    If you have a good quality strop, and it is “seasoned” properly, a 20 stroke on the linen quickly will heat it up and then a 50 stroke regimen on the leather will keep the edges true and the blade sharp.

    Clean the razor each time you use it and coat it in the oil suggested by the mfg., and please keep the moisture from the hinge pin and scales, moisture will “kill” the edge.

    Jeff Hall

  2. Shave Dude says

    I applied diamond paste to my linen strop and I only use it every 4th or 5th stropping session. It has kept my professionally honed razor fresh for 2 months now.

  3. André Corrêa says

    There are two posts on the shaving101 blog that say that the lynen strop is used after the shave with a straight. To remove any moisture left on the blade.

    You can see the posts here

    and here

    • André Corrêa says

      I tried to paste the links on the comment, but somehow, I couldn’t :(

      It’s in the Q&A section of the shaving101.com blog


    • Frankie Snip-Snips says

      Andre…I find it hard to believe it would be used after the shave. That would be very unsanitary, no? From what I have gathered from old-timers…it’s used to rapidly swipe the blade, heating it up in essence, before using it on the leather strope. I don’t ever use mine…

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