The Upside of Downsizing
For reasons of ergonomics and precision, groomers should consider the value of adding smaller clippers, trippers and shears to their toolboxes.
Shears and clippers are the most important pieces of equipment that professional groomers use, which leads to a lot of discussion about which of each is the best. Stylists ask each other, experts, manufacturers and distributors all the time, “What’s the best clipper (or shear)?”
Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s the right question. Which tool is best depends on what you are trying to accomplish, your level of expertise, your budget and your physical makeup—i.e. do you have small hands, carpal tunnel syndrome, big thumbs, etc. The most important factor is your own personal preference.
Whatever your preference is, be willing to try different things in all categories of tools, supplies and equipment. It will often prove worthwhile.
Oster was the first clipper manufacturer to move from the beauty industry into the pet field with the A2 clipper, which was the predecessor to its popular A5 clipper. Similar to the A5 in size and style, the powerful A2 had blades that fastened to the clipper with two Phillips head screws—no fast blade change there. Groomers asked for an easier clipper, and Oster responded with the lighter, detachable-blade A5. Andis soon followed with the smaller AG clipper, and that started a trend that has continued to today—downsizing.
Groomer and stylists work hard, and their bodies work hard too, especially hands, wrists, arms and shoulders. A smaller clipper is easier to hold and lighter, meaning less stress on the body—not to mention, they are often easier to get in and around awkward areas, especially on smaller dogs.
How small? As small as it needs to be to get the job done. Wahl makes the almost pencil-sized Stylique, which runs on a AA battery and has a blade a quarter-inch wide. Ever make too wide a scoop on the corner of a tiny dog’s eye? This tiny trimmer will solve that, and it’s great for creative styling patterns of all kinds. Conair’s Palm Pro trimmer with a one-inch blade uses a AAA battery and is small enough to hide in the palm of your hand, making it ideal for working with skittish animals. The two included attachment combs are also useful for trimming faces and ears.
Most of the trimmers that run on AA or AAA batteries are, not surprisingly, not very powerful. They aren’t meant to be. They should be used only on clean, dry hair and not expected to do the job of a bigger trimmer. They are handy, easy to use for specific purposes, and quiet enough to reassure most pets, even on a first groom.
Trimmers are available with blades from a quarter-inch wide to nearly the one and three-quarter inches of a standard clipper’s detachable blade. They can be battery operated, rechargeable or used with a cord while the clipper charges. Power levels range from that provided by a single AA battery to sufficient to do a lot of your finish grooming. Blade lengths tend to be around that of a #30 or #40 blade, but some of the more powerful ones have blades that can adjust right on the clipper, from about a #30 to a #81/2 length. The latter, used with special attachment combs (snap-on combs intended for standard clippers do not fit trimmers) are those most suited to full finish grooms on many dogs.
According to Carmen Slaven, product marketing manager for ConairPRO Pet, the company’s 2-in-1 trimmer has a five position blade that can be used for any size pet. “It has a very quiet motor and will do a full body trim on small to medium dogs,” she says. “It’s very convenient, not to mention versatile. It also includes a fixed trimmer blade that is about a #30 blade length.”
Although Slaven does not recommend doing rough cuts with this type of clipper, it can and will do almost anything else you need it to.
Megan Mouser, Andis’ education manager, says that smaller clippers and trimmers are not only essential tools in the grooming industry, but will help save time.
“For efficiency, I suggest using a 5-in-1 clipper, like the Andis ProClip Pulse Ion, to eliminate switching blades during prep work or detail work,” Mouser says. “The versatility of an adjustable blade clipper will save you time, and allow you to easily switch between #40, #30, #15, #10 or #9 blade lengths. To speed up your grooming process, I recommend starting with all your shortest blade work first. For example, if I am grooming a poodle with a clean face and clean feet, I will use my #30 blade length to groom the feet and face, then switch to a #10 blade length to do the sanitary areas. I find that the time saved switching out blades really adds up over time.”
Andis has a number of trimmers, including the Artistic Grooming Trimmer, which has a blade about half the size of a standard clipper blade to make working on small faces and feet easier.
Wahl Clipper Corporation has always been a leader in providing smaller, more versatile trimmers. Its Arco SE trimmer revolutionized finish grooming on smaller dogs, and the now-popular five-position blade on a lightweight, rechargeable clipper made styling small dogs in fairly short trims a breeze.
“A small clipper or trimmer is an essential piece of equipment for regular grooming,” says Martha Palmer, director, professional animal division, for Wahl. “A small clipper or trimmer gives the user the ability to do small-area detail work that is hard to get at with a larger clipper. Small clippers or trimmers are good for using on toy breeds or for pads, sanitary areas, cleaning feet, shaving ears or doing detail work around the nose and eyes.”
Wahl offers several fixed-blade trimmers, as well as the best-selling Arco and the newer lithium ion rechargeable Bravura for five position versatility.
Most 5-in-1 clippers and fixed-position blade trimmers need good blade care, as they run at fairly high speeds, causing friction and wear if not maintained properly. Palmer recommends removing loose hair using a pipe cleaner, business card, blower or canned air, then placing three drops of oil along the top of the blade teeth—at the left corner, right corner and center—after every use to maintain good cutting performance and a long service life.
Aesculap of Germany now offers its adjustable blade trimmer with a 3-in-1 blade in the United States. Look for the Akkurata, a smaller, lightweight clipper that still has the reliability and careful engineering of the company’s better-known detachable blade clipper.
While standard clippers will always be necessary in grooming salons, using lighter-weight clippers for part of the day can reduce repetitive motion injuries to a great degree. Just changing to a different clipper that requires a slightly different hand position for a while can pay dividends in reducing hand stress. Jacqueline Laube of Laube Clipper Corporation has long been a proponent of ergonomically correct equipment, and the company’s clipper line reinforces that belief. Most of the clippers are lightweight, and many have ergonomically designed handpieces that put the tool’s weight where it is easiest to hold. The Speed Feed 5-in-1 clipper in either rechargeable or corded continues that tradition.
When you are looking for the best clipper, consider that there might not be just one ideal choice—perhaps the true best option includes a couple of tiny trimmers for feet, eyes and ears, a 5-in-1 for the many ¾-inch to two-inch trims that come through the salon and a standard detachable blade clipper for the rest. The right tool for the job may end up being several tools, all benefiting your health and longevity in grooming. PB
Carol Visser has been involved in the pet industry since 1982 in various capacities, including grooming in and owning a busy suburban shop, working as a product expert for PetEdge, teaching seminars and training dogs. She certified as a Master Groomer with NDGAA in 1990 and as a Certified Pet Dog Trainer in 2007, and she continues to enjoy learning about dogs and grooming at her small salon in rural Maine.