It was a bright Sunday afternoon when my wife and I took our two youngest children to the ballpark. My son had his cap and glove; my daughter was slathered in sunscreen. We were ready to enjoy some hotdogs and cheer for our Triple-A team. I navigated my big Chevy truck into the parking lot to pay the attendant, and there was a sign, “Complimentary parking for Lexus drivers.” The black sign itself had a snob-factor with its sparkly gold lettering. It was a smart campaign by the local Lexus dealership to make those drivers feel privileged, while the rest of us low-lifes had to fork out the five bucks to park. Yes, it was only $5, but sometimes it is the small luxuries that make you feel like a major leaguer. In shaving terms, sometimes it is an accessory rather than a blade that makes all the difference. This article introduces the Bison Made Black Cordovan Razor Strop.
Leather razor strops are one of the iconic pieces of hardware used for generations to prepare blades for a close and comfortable shave. Even the best straight razor cannot provide suitable results without a quality strop to properly align the edge prior to each shave. It does not take a new straight shaver long to discover there is a fairly narrow range of strops on the market. There are several talented leather craftsmen who offer handmade strops, but most are expensive or produced in small numbers with weeks of waiting time before they reach buyers. These pieces are of great quality; however, it can be frustrating for a new straight razor shaver to wait a month or longer when he is anxious to get started with his new blade. On the other end of the spectrum there are a range of mass-produced strops, but they are usually poorly constructed. Although these are more affordable, the leather usually has imperfections and fails to provide the best experience for the user. This is where Bison Made comes in.
Bison Made specializes in hand-crafted leather products from materials all sourced in the USA. The founders use the motto “designed for life” to underscore that that their products are only constructed of the best grades of leather and engineered to perform well for the long haul. My Bison Made Black Cordovan Razor Strop is consistent with this concept. When I first inspected the strop, I immediately was impressed with the quality of the hardware. Many strops are produced using typical hobby-shop grade D-rings and fasteners that lack in the overall appeal of craftsmanship and appearance. Bison Made, however, utilizes beautiful brushed satin finish hardware specifically designed for their strops. I was immediately impressed. I appreciated the attention to detail and was instantly eager to learn more about this company and its products.
The hardware details were impressive, but the real measure of a strop is the quality of the leather and linen. The Bison Made Black Cordovan Razor Strop is a traditional two-piece hanging strop featuring genuine Shell Cordovan and 100% cotton linen. Cotton linen can be difficult to source and I have seen many strop makers choose to use basic canvas as a substitute. Genuine linen is a long-appreciated material used by cutlery craftsman and is considered the best stropping surface for removing micro-fine burrs from the edge of the blade that are formed during use. A few laps back and forth on linen after your shave will preserve the edge of your blade as well as help it dry thoroughly and prevent rust or finish damage.
The leather surface of the strop functions to properly straighten and align the edge prior to your shave. This gives the blade the optimal cutting edge for gliding across the skin and cutting cleanly through the beard during shaving. Although any leather strop can clean your edge, genuine Cordovan leather is a step up on the playing field. Enthusiasts of luxury leather products recognize this type of leather from high-end shoes, belts, and other accessories. While strops made with latigo or horsehide leathers offer much of the same function at a lower cost, I have found the Cordovan provides me with just the right amount of resistance, or draw, when the blade is stropped back and forth across its surface. The Cordovan used in the Bison Made strop is from the famous Horween Leather Company, one of the oldest continuously running tanneries in the USA. This may be a bit of a splurge in terms of cost, but the look and feel of the strop easily exceeds expectations of anyone with an appreciation for fine high-end accessories.
Another positive feature of the strop is the two-handled design. Because leather and linen are vastly different materials, they age and stretch at different lengths. Strops that have one handle at the bottom of both pieces can be difficult to use. Usually the leather will be taut, but the linen will be loose, or vice versa. This prevents the straight shaver from getting a good consistent draw on the strop. The strop must be manipulated to pull the material straight during use. The Bison Made strop eliminates this problem by leaving each piece independent and not binding them together at the bottom. While I personally prefer the classic strop design that allows me to hold the material directly in my fingers, the Bison Made strop has beautifully designed handles on each piece for those who prefer a contemporary finished look. No matter which side I used, the strop was easy to pull taut so that I could maintain a consistent angle with my blade and ensure a clean edge.
In conclusion, I should probably disclose that my expectations of a quality strop are extremely high. My regular strop is my Hand American Old Dog Classic 905 Cordovan Strop, which is monogrammed with my initials in gold letters. Yes, it has the sparkly gold letters and snob factor. Yes, it would have complimentary parking at any major event. It is one of my finest shaving accessories and I eagerly waited several weeks to receive it. This leads me to my final compliment about Bison Made: you can get the quality without the wait because there are a variety of strops available today. This strop is expensive at $250, but the attention to detail and quality of design will help you start your morning like a major leaguer. With the Black Cordovan Razor Strop, Bison Made definitely hit it out of the park.