Clippers, Trimmers & Shears, Oh My!
Knowing how to care for and maintain critical grooming tools is vital to keeping them in tip-top working order.
Photo courtesy of Scaredy Cut
No matter how carefully groomers select the tools they use to make pets beautiful, something can always go wrong. In fact, Murphy’s Law dictates that if something can go wrong, it will—eventually. Knowing what that something is likely to be and how to fix it can prevent downtime and frustration.
The consensus among experts is that the most frequent complaint about clippers is blade heat. Hot blades increase the risk of clipper irritation on pets and can make clipping uncomfortable for them. Excess blade heat increases wear on blades, dulling them more quickly, and can actually slow down the clipping process, as hot blades take longer to go through coat and lead to rough clipping. Yet, groomers demand high speeds for a nice finish and a clipper that will keep up with the need to finish as many dogs as possible in a short time. What’s the solution?
Diane Betalak, Andis grooming educator, says maintenance is key to preventing blades from heating up too fast. “Keeping your clippers and trimmers clean and oiled on a daily basis really helps to keep the blades cooler and sharper longer and also reduces wear and tear on the clipper’s motor and blade drive,” Betalak says.
She recommends that groomers employ the company’s three-step cleaning and cooling process with each use of the clipper or trimmer for the best results. The process involves cleaning the blade with a clipper brush to remove large hair fragments from the blade and using Andis’ Dry Care high-pressure air cleaner to remove debris from hard-to-reach spaces.
“Step 2: clean, disinfect and cool the blade by using Andis Cool Care Plus spray,” she adds. “Step 3: use the Andis five-point oiling system to lubricate your clipper and keep it running at top performance—three drops across the teeth of the blade and one drop on each back rail. Following these simple steps will keep the blade lubricated, help it run cooler and extend the overall life of the clipper.”
Jacqueline Laube, of Laube Clipper Corporation, agrees that blade heat is the most common problem faced by groomers. “Proper lubrication is your greatest ally to preventing heat,” says Laube. “Heat is caused by friction. Making sure to keep the blades well oiled is key.”
She also points out that there are other important issues involved in keeping blade heat to a minimum. “It is important to note that coolants and disinfectant aerosol sprays contain minimal amounts of actual lubricant,” Laube says. “These sprays blast away dirt, hair and other unwanted objects, but can clean away oil and dry up lubrication. As oil is crucial to keeping friction at bay, it is vital to keep blades oiled, even after using a spray. Blade oil is a simple and inexpensive step; any mineral oil (baby oil) will do well. [However,] to prevent damage, we suggest that you remove your blades from your clipper to ensure that no oil finds its way to the motor or other electronic components.”
Other issues groomers often grapple with related to clippers include how noisy and how heavy they are. Manufacturers are sensitive to these concerns and have addressed them in various ways. For example, the ConairPet Pro clippers line tackles noise and weight challenges by offering a number of clippers to suit every need, from the powerful Turbo Groom II to the super-lightweight and quiet Brushless Motor Clipper.
An alternative answer to the noise complaint comes from Scaredy Cut. Detachable combs similar to snap-on combs go onto a special scissor blade to guide the length of hair that is cut. Because the comb is touching the dog, it allows a frightened dog to become accustomed to the clipping process without the buzzing of a motor. “Most groomers I’ve talked with were trained to hold the clipper near a pet, without actually using it to cut yet, to accustom them to the vibration,” says Matthew Michel of Scaredy Cut. “Scaredy Cuts offers a great companion activity to that warming-up period where some actual grooming can be done.”
Another common but less recognized problem with clippers is incorrect blade tension. “Sometimes sharpeners will add tension in a blade to achieve a smoother, closer, sharper cut,” Laube says. “This tension is not necessary and will actually make your blades dull faster. The cutter blade should slide back and forth freely when not attached to a clipper. Laube Clippers have a patented blade stroke that allows the user to have a lighter blade tension, which will generate less heat than other clippers.”
Many groomers keep multiples of each blade size on hand in order to swap them out as soon as they begin to heat up. Having marble, steel or other conductive material nearby can serve to cool blades more quickly by placing them face down on the chosen material. And keep in mind, a high-speed clipper does not need to be on high all the time—using it on lower speeds when possible will decrease heat, as well as prevent wear and tear on blades and clippers.
Rich Stuart, sales manager for Wahl’s North America Professional Animal division, finds that although heat, vibration, noise and weight are common complaints from groomers, these issues are becoming less prevalent as the industry responds with new generations of clippers, such as Wahl’s KM10. “Our KM10 two-speed, corded professional clipper alleviates all those problems. Our KM10 is the latest in corded clipper technology,” Stuart says.
Wahl also pioneered the adjustable-blade trimmers that are smaller, lightweight, cordless and quiet; the Arco SE, Bravura, Chromado, Figura and Motion are all great sellers. Other companies have comparable offerings, as well. Andis offers the Pulse Ion trimmer, and Aesculap has introduced the Akkurata.
Stuart recommends cleaning and oiling blades after every use of a clipper, but perhaps his most critical advice is to be careful not to drop it. “A clipper is an electrical appliance; there are delicate moving parts inside to make it operate to its fullest potential,” he says.
After the Fall
Dropping any vital tool can be painful—literally. Michael Mailman, president of Economy Supply Company, manufacturer of the popular 44/20 line of shears, reminds groomers not to follow their natural instincts to grab a pair of falling shears, as you could get cut. Let it fall—a good quality floor mat may minimize damage—and then inspect it carefully. Depending upon how a shear lands, there could be bent tips or nicked blades, or the set of the scissor could be off. A thinner could have the straight blade dig into the teeth, breaking or nicking one.
“If the shear falls in the open position, pick it up like that, carefully inspecting the blades for damage visually,” Mailman says. “Take a soft towel or chamois and wipe down both blades, looking for nicks or chips. Push the tips gently apart so [do not] cause further damage, and slowly close the shear, feeling for any catches or irregularity, or spots where it becomes looser or tighter and then back again.”
If there is any indication of damage, send the shears in to be repaired and/or sharpened, as using them with any damage can make it much more difficult to repair later. If you carefully open and close them a few times and they feel fine, especially if they’ve landed flat on their side, you may have gotten lucky.
Whatever a groomer’s issue is with their main tools—noise, heat, vibration, weight—rest assured, there’s a manufacturer working to provide an answer to it.
Carol Visser is a Nationally Certified Master Groomer and Certified Pet Dog Trainer. Formerly a pet product expert for PetEdge, she and her husband Glenn now own Two Canines Pet Services in Montville, Maine, which provides grooming, boarding, training and day care services to Waldo County.