Barber Shop Strooping

Oct 14, 2000
When I was little and my dad would take me to the barber shop the barber used a straight razor on the back of my neck. He would always "stroop" the blade on a long leather strap the hung on the side of the chair. He would flip the blade back and forth so fast you could hardly see what he was doing. I am alittle confused about strooping. Flipping the blade so fast seems as if it would round the edge rather than sharpen it. It seems that it would be impossible to get a correct angle. Am I missing something? Is it not important to have a correct angle or was he just "that good"? Thanks, Dave

May be a dumb question but it's something I've always wondered about.
I think you meant to spell 'stropping', but I get the meaning.

An outstanding honing/stropping system is offered at They offer a dual-strop system, consisting of two leather surfaces mounted on wood bases. Included with this system are a range of powdered grits ranging from 10,000 to 400 grit.

Once I have formed the edge on a new knife, I maintain the knife edge with a small fine/medium combination stone by Spyderco, finished by 'stropping' on this system.

It's an outstanding way to establish and maintain truly 'scary' edges on a blade.
In reading about stropping, I learned that the proper way was to lay the blade flat against the strop, and leading with the spine of the blade, whisk the blade to the end of the strop, and then snap the blade perpendicular to the strap at the end of the stroke. Like you, my first thought was the angle CANNOT be consistant or 'right' with that technique. However, you are not trying to achieve the same result you did on the stone. Even when careful, you create a burr or 'wire-edge' on the knife. And bluntly, the stropping breaks off this edge. I admit, sometimes after a sharpening, the knife seemed sharper after a few cuts--I was breaking off the burr by use. I'm getting good results with a tradtional sharpening on an Edge-Pro, then a stropping on a horsehide strop, and then back to the Edge-Pro for a polish with their tapes. (Ben Dale from EP explains that the polishing tapes more uniformly remove the remnant of the stropped wire edge.) Stropping is now part of my routine.--OKG
Thanks for the replies. I understand better now but still don't quite understand how he always maintained a shaving sharp edge by only stropping.

Went to that web site. Liked the products. I wonder how well that sharpener works. Dave
Stropping between uses does not sharpen the blade. A razor, and knives utilizing an extremely steep sharpening angle are often called 'feather edges.' Sometimes use 'folds' the edge over. (A butcher's steel often does the same job.) As the edge is 'unfolded,' it returns to its state. For example, I've been playing with a Microtech LCC. After a week of opening the mail, I started to catch fuzz on certain areas of the knife. I stropped maybe a dozen strokes, and sliced a single page of newsprint, and the blade now cut it cleanly.--OKG

I remember the same thing when I was little. Seemed like the barber almost "whacked and slapped" the razor back and forth.
A while back, I decided to learn to shave with my Dad's old strait razor that he left for me. The first thing you learn about stropping a strait razor, is that to get the propper angle, you lay the razor flat on the strop, (or razor stone,) and the thickness of the spine automatically hold the edge at the correct angle. With some practice you can get pretty good at stroking the strop, flipping the razor, and stroking the other direction. Since you lay the razor flat, there is no "free hand" involved, and it is not as hard as may be imagined.
The other benefit to rolling the blade over at the end of the stroke without letting it leave the strop is a modicum of control. I destroyed my first strop by lifting the blade at the end of the stroke, flipping it over, and bringing it back down to the strop. Finally Murphy caught up with me and without any effort at all I slashed clean through the strop from flipping a little too far around. Sort of brought me up short -- a razor can be dangerous when you're zinging it around like that, and it's important to keep strict control of how you're moving the blade. Keeping the razor always in contact with the strop gives you a bit more safety.

Another note, all the advice on cutting pastes notwithstanding, a few months ago I stopped in the neighborhood barber shop where this nice old Italian guy named Giuseppe (no joke -- Hoboken's full of Italians from the old country) has been doing shave and a haircut for cheap for about the last 50 years. I asked him how he maintains his strop -- his heavily accented response was "a leetle oil on Tuesday".
Strops should not use a 'grit', Guiseppe was right.
They align the edge, it does 'break' off bits, but only microscopic ones.

A 'leetle' oil on Tuesday is all you need...if that!

Wow, what timing.I was in the barber shop a couple of days ago.This is the same barber who has been cutting my hair since I had hair.Now Sam always uses a razor on me around the edges,so I ask him how he keeps its edge since I no longer see a strop hanging like when I was a kid. He says he strops it across the palm of his hand. Thinking he's joking I say well thats better than the bottem of his shoe.But he means it he says his skin is like leather and it always has oil on it.Whatever it cuts well.