Tutorial Strop Refresh/ Restore

Discussion in 'Tutorials' started by Drygulch, Dec 28, 2016.

  1. Drygulch

    Drygulch Snowballs

    Supporting Vendor
    I have been asked multiple times for the best way to fix up a beat up strop, so you can use it for a longer period. A week ago, I got a strop in from a friend who wanted to see if it could be fixed up. The strop in these pictures is a nicely made one in Latigo. Note that this is a modern strop, not a vintage one. The process to try and bring back a vintage one may have some extra steps and take extra time to bring the leather back. A few things to keep in mind when doing this. You will never get the strop back to 100% new again if the leather has been damaged. The goal is to make a smooth surface that the razor can glide on, with nothing to catch it up. A smooth surface will realign the edge and polish it, to make a razor keep functioning.

    Understanding leather a little bit will help as well. The skin of the animal becomes the grain of the leather. Under the grain is the corium layer, which has many fibers, almost like a pack of straws. Some of these go from the grain straight to the back, and some run lengthwise in the leather. These fibers will draw moisture and oil throughout the entire piece of leather. They will also loosen with use, and become broken in. If they are stretched the wrong way, they can also cause the grain to wrinkle in such a way that the strop can not be used. When storing or shipping a leather strop, always roll loosely, with the grain facing out, and never in a tight roll. The smallest I will roll a strop is to fit into an 8x6 box.

    The first step is to figure out what condition the strop is in. Is the leather still flexible? Are any large cracks or cuts above the grain surface? Any hardening of the leather? In this case, the leather was not very dry, but the surface had been burnished to a high shine, which removed almost all of the draw. There were also quite a few cuts to the leather, some with flaps above the surface of the leather. Wipe the leather down with a damp cloth or sponge to see what you have to work with.
    1 Start.JPG
    Take a sharp knife, and cut the flaps off close to level with the leather surface. I used a sharp pocket knife. Don’t cut into the surface, as you will make more problems.
    2 Cut Flaps.JPG
    Next take a clean sponge, and wet the leather. You don’t want it soaking, but just a little water on the surface to absorb into the leather. On this strop, I used 800 grit wet dry sand paper, and kept the leather damp while I sanded. I had to keep wiping the leather off with a rag to get the leather particles. When you are sanding, you are sanding into or through the grain, and into the fibrous stuff underneath. This is OK, as you are trying to make a uniform surface to strop on, and the strop was already damaged. I sanded this piece of leather for about 10 minutes, until I didn’t feel any ridges when I ran my hand up and down it. There were a few divots, but as long as they are below the top surface, they won’t impact how the strop works.
    3 Sanding.JPG 4 Sanding.JPG
    After sanding, I wiped the leather down with the sponge again, and then with my cleaning rag until I had all the grit off of it. This leather bled red dye all over my work bench and rag, so don’t do this on a table you care about. Next step is to saddle soap the strop. I prefer the white saddle soap over the yellow, as it seems to condition the leather and is easier to work into the leather. Rub a small amount into the surface of the leather, until you have covered the entire strop. Keep rubbing until it is absorbed.
    5 Saddle Soap.JPG
    Because this strop was burnished on the surface of the leather, it was a little dry. After the saddle soap, with the leather still wet, I put a light coat of oil on the leather. See picture for the amount. After about a minute, I wiped off any extra oil. Note that I use Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Mineral oil or Neatsfoot oil will also work. (Before anyone brings it up, I have never heard of olive oil going rancid in leather. I think it’s an internet legend. My father has been using saddles and tack for over 50 years that are treated with olive oil, and had no issues with it. I’ve also never met anyone who has seen it first hand.)
    6 Oil.JPG
    This next step is one that most people can skip. I did it on this strop because there was a spongy section in the middle that I was worried was going to raise above the surface of the rest of the leather. I have a slicker tool that is a polished piece of Plexiglas in a wooden handle. I thoroughly wet the leather, on both the front and backsides, and use the slicker to compress all the fibers down on a level stone surface. This did cause this 18 inch strop to stretch by about a half inch in length, but it left the thickness consistent, and the leather with more of a firm temper than it had before. The spongy section was gone.
    7 Slick.JPG
    The next step is always the hardest. Walk away. Let the leather dry. Let the oils work their way through the fibers of the leather. With as much water, soap, and oil as I added to this strop, it took two days to dry. Once it was completely dry, I oiled it again, and let it dry again. All the fibers in the leather act like wicks, and slowly soak the oil throughout the leather. If you add too much oil at once, you really can’t get it out, so go very slowly with this, giving a full day between coats to dry. I added two more coats of oil to this strop before I thought it was good.

    I then reassembled it, and immediately sent it back to its home. Without taking any pictures of the finished product. The new owner is going to snap a couple of pictures and send it back to me, and I will post them here.
  2. americanshamrock

    americanshamrock Let's Make a Deal! Staff Member

    Informative tutorial. :happy088: Thanks for sharing your knowledge.
    Billyfergie, Karl G and Drygulch like this.
  3. Heljestrand23

    Heljestrand23 Well-Known Member

    Thank you, very informative!

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
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  4. Keithmax

    Keithmax Breeds Pet Rocks

    Thank you Adam!!!! Very helpful and informative.

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  5. mrchick

    mrchick Odd, Terrible Avatar

    Thank you. I look forward to seeing the finished pics when you get them.
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  6. alpla444

    alpla444 That's sweet!

    Great work Adam, and a very good and informative tutorial, well set out with clear steps and explanations of whys and why nots.

    Nice pictures, I can not wait to see the finished pics, I hope your friends camera and photography is close to yours.
    Billyfergie, Karl G and Drygulch like this.
  7. Linuxguile

    Linuxguile dating an unusual aristocrat

    Supporting Vendor
    Great post Adam!
    Billyfergie and Drygulch like this.
  8. swarden43

    swarden43 "It's your shave. Enjoy it your way."©


    Mods, this must be added to the Tutorial forum.
  9. Jim99

    Jim99 Gold Water Shaver

    Fantastic info, Adam. This really should be added to the tutorial section.
    Billyfergie, Drygulch and twhite like this.
  10. twhite

    twhite Peeping Tom

    I third that motion

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
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  11. Spyder

    Spyder Well-Known Member

    It's unanimous then:)
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  12. Drygulch

    Drygulch Snowballs

    Supporting Vendor
    Got some pictures of the strop. Owner has it back and was amazed. Note that it doesn't look new, and you can see the deeper cuts. The big difference is that the surface is even and usable.
    IMG_5390.JPG IMG_5387.JPG IMG_5388.JPG IMG_5389.JPG
    wristwatchb, alpla444, Spyder and 2 others like this.
  13. Jim99

    Jim99 Gold Water Shaver

    Adam, you do excellent work!
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  14. Drygulch

    Drygulch Snowballs

    Supporting Vendor
    Thank you.
    Jim99 likes this.
  15. Spyder

    Spyder Well-Known Member

    I absolutely love it when vintage shaving gear gets a new lease on life. My vintage strop wasn't in that bad of shape. Mine just needed a really good cleaning.
    I like the Plexiglas trick. An old barbers trick of using a glass bottle also works; perhaps not as efficiently.
    Drygulch likes this.
  16. 178-bplatoon

    178-bplatoon Well-Known Member

    Great article @Drygulch :happy088:

    Well written and lots of good pics. I'd never heard of that plexiglas trick. Seems there is always a wealth of wonderful information to be found here at TSD..:)
    Drygulch, Spyder and twhite like this.
  17. Mike-R41

    Mike-R41 Well-Known Member

    When I nicked mine with my razor I was recommended to use 400 grit sandpaper. It got it to where I like it but once I was done sandpaper and it left a bunch of powder so I got water and rubbed it not sure if I was supposed to do that but I’m still learning

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