Once, many years ago, almost all men knew how to sharpen a straight razor. Today, this knowledge has become all but lost due to the number of electric shavers and “safety” razors on the market. However, it has been proven that a properly maintained straight razor can last for generations, saving untold thousands of dollars that would have been spent on replacement blades or disposable razors.
Manufacturers see to the honing of blades before their razors ever leave the factory. The blade should not need to be honed again more than twice a year with regular use and proper car. However, the blade should be stropped on a piece of leather before each use to ensure the proper edge.
On the rare occasions that a straight razor must be sharpened, it should be done with a fine whet stone. It is important to limit the pressure placed on the blade to as close to just its own weight as possible. Five or ten strokes on each side with the blade held flat against the stone and the edge leading should be more than sufficient to put an edge on it.
After honing, the blade needs to be stropped. Doing this requires a length of soft, supple leather with a smooth finish. The blade should be placed flat on the strop and moved diagonally across the length with the spine leading instead of the edge. Fifteen to twenty strokes on each side should be sufficient to create the keen edge needed for a close shave.
The edge produced by this method is incredibly fine. It will last for a very long time unless the blade edge is struck against a hard surface. During use, the fine burr on the edge will stretch and change just a tiny amount. For this reason, one must allow the blade to rest at least 24 hours so that the edge can shrink and tighten back up before stropping again.