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

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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!


Shave tutor and co-founder of sharpologist. I have been advocating old-school shaving for over 20 years and have been featured in major media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Lifehacker. Also check out my content on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!View Author posts

6 thoughts on “What Are Cotton Strops Used For (On Straight Razors)?”

  1. Cellulose is an abrasive. By rubbing the razor on the canvas it restores the keenness of the blade by acting like an extremely high grit hone. It also microconvects the edge geometry making the blade smooth on the face. The leather gives a finer polish still through plastic flow and coats the blade’s edge with a thin layer of oil to protect the blade. If tape is used on the blade during honing a slight amount of slack should be used on both. Weight of the blade pressure on the canvas as to not damage the delicate edge. Pressure on the leather about 5-7lbs. 50 strokes on the denim and 50-70 on the leather until the blade starts to feel like it’s sliding on the material without initial resistance. The blade should feel like it slides well/smoothly on each material with very little resistance when blade is done. Blade will last a LONG time between honing this way. Months and months. Hope this helps. I use the latigo premium strop from SRD and the SRD denim/canvas. Take care.

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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

    1. I tried to paste the links on the comment, but somehow, I couldn’t 🙁
      It’s in the Q&A section of the blog

    2. 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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