While you should own a real strop if you are committed to straight razor shaving, I recognize that some people aren’t ready to jump in feet first. Or, maybe your saving up for that premium strop or want to practice your stropping skills on something inexpensive. To that end, I’ve compiled this list of five inexpensive strop alternatives. Most of these items you already have. If you don’t own them, they are inexpensive to purchase.
1. Leather Belt
A leather belt is the obvious and most easily obtained alternative to a strop. I’ve said it many times already, but a strop is a piece of leather. So is a belt. While strops are made from better quality leather than most belts these days, a belt is still leather, even though its probably been sanded and dyed. The better quality of belt, the better results you’ll get. To use the belt, just attach it to a hook using the belt buckle, wrap it around a rack, or mount it on something sturdy. Then, hold the other end and use it just like a very skinny strop. You will eventually want a real strop though. While they are still leather, there aren’t many horse hide belts that come in 2.5″ or 2″ widths. Nor are there many cowhide belts that come in that width either.
The paper texture and printing ink serve as an excellent medium for stropping. The ink even acts as an abrasive of sorts, polishing the edge of the razor. While not nearly as good as leather, newspaper serves in a pinch. To strop on newspaper, fold the newspaper so you have approximately a 3″ wide stropping surface. Lay the paper on the edge of a sturdy table. Hold the newspaper on the top with one hand and strop normally. The folding provides enough cushioning to replicate the deflection of a normal strop.
Seriously. There is very little that distinguishes a cotton component of a high quality strop from regular good old fashioned denim. In fact, the only difference may just come down to type of weave in some cases. While cotton does not substitute for a good leather strop, it comes pretty close. Stropping on jeans is as simple as putting them on, and stropping on your thigh. It helps to sit down while doing so. Alternatively, you can fold the jeans and lay them on a table similar to the newspaper method above.
4. Palm of Your Hand
As crazy as this might sound, the palm of your hand is leather. It is also a very good stropping surface. In fact, some people prefer to finish stropping on their palms after stropping on leather. To strop on your palm, hold out your non-dominant hand and strop in a very small x-pattern on the pinky side of the palm.
5. Back of a Legal Pad
Surprisingly the back of a legal pad works pretty good. However, its not nearly as good as any of the above strop alternatives. In addition to the back of the paper pad, cardboard also works in a pinch. To strop on it, place the pad on the edge of a table and strop normally.
6. Used Seat Belt (Bonus!)
A cloth strop is an expensive addition. However, the benefits are worth the cost. However, there are some low cost alternatives for those with a DIY frame of mind. Used seatbelts can be had for a dime. Alternatively, you can cut up those used jeans for a cotton strop. All it takes is a little DIY know how to attach some sort of mounting hardware. One way is to punch a hole in the top and loop a leather thong through it. More intricate methods are also available.