Clipper blades - the various types There are many types of blades available for animal use of which some are designed to fit more than one make of clipper. Understand the different types of blades used on various clippers and what each blade is capable of will help make you a more efficient groomer whether you are clipping cattle, horse or dogs. Familiarizing yourself with the various types of blades will help you to achieve a quality finish and get the best out of your machine. On each of our clipper web pages we give information on the various makes of blades each clipper will accept. Blades as used on human hair clippers are generally not suitable for clipping animal hair. There maybe rare occasions when they appear to work but they certainly are not intended for animal clipping. All blades referred to here are solely for use on animals.
Blades fall into a number of categories, which may be described as: -
Traditional livestock clipper blades
Steel detachable blades
Steel Ceramic coated detachable blades
Steel screw fixed blades
Adjustable detachable narrow blades
Cutters and combs
Traditional livestock clipper blades
Comprise of two blades often referred to as "plates" - an upper plate (cutter) and a lower plate. (comb) The upper plate or cutter is the one, which moves and effectively does the cutting. Clipper motors drive the cutter at various speeds referred to as "cutting strokes per minute" (spm)
Cutter blades on some types of machines (Aesculap/Heiniger/Liscop/Stewart Oster clippers) may be positioned upon twin pointed cones on what is often referred to as the "cutter-driving carrier." (fig. 1)
Other cutter blades (Hauptner/Liscop/Wolseley) (fig. 2) may be slid over a drive block which when the motor is switched on has a rotating movement and hence "drives" the blades. The lower plate or comb blade is fixed to the clipper head either by twin screws or a single control bolt with tension spring and adjusting nut. Some combs may have twin holes towards the back of the blade (opposite side to the teeth) and these fit over "blade lugs" which keep them secure and aligned.
Some cutter blades have a plastic housing into which the drive block fits instead of the normal steel housing. (Lister/Premier) This affords less noise in the clipper head when the machine in action. It is most important to oil regularly in this area as if the block is allowed to run dry serious damage may result in the blade housing rendering the cutter blade useless.
With the traditional livestock type of blade system "tensioning" is a required skill in order to get the maximum clipping performance out of a set of blades. Most manufacturers issue "guidelines" on the number of turns necessary to tighten the blades and initiate the tensioning, whilst these often are adequate you may need from time to time to make small adjustments to the tensioning to maintain peak performance as the coat texture of the animal changes.
Over tensioning to force a machine to clip with blades which are becoming blunt or are already blunt is most unwise, and a bad practise which may well result in clipper damage. Tensioning is not really difficult, although some folk make heavy weather of it; practice is the key to success with plenty of regular work with large numbers of animals. Horse owners would appear to suffer the worst simply because they do not do enough clipping to become familiar with their machines.
Narrow type blades:
Narrow blades are traditionally used on small animal clippers and trimmers. There are two different types - detachable (fig. 3) or screw fixed (fig. 4) - and these can be either made of steel or of a ceramic nature. Detachable blades are generally used by professional groomers, and these blades can usually be interchange on a range of clippers using the "detachable" type blades.
Narrow type blades - detachable:
With "detachable" blades there are two types the "full" tooth (fig. 3) and the "skip" tooth (fig. 3a) The full tooth blade produces a "velvet" like smooth finish to the clipped surface. "Full" tooth blades are the most commonly used by professional groomers although many may use a "skip" tooth for blending or other purposes. Most manufacturers mark their blades with an "F" after the number to denote it is a full blade. (However some don't!)
Skip tooth blades usually just carry the size number i.e. #3 as opposed to #3F. (Full tooth.) The skip tooth blade is perfect for blending short areas with longer lengths. It is an ideal blade for coarse-coated dog breeds such as Terriers. The coarse or uneven teeth on a skip tooth blade will feed the hair into the cutting blade more effectively, which allows you to clip under "mats" in certain cases. (Bad mats may require a size #40 blade.) The skip tooth blade is often used before the bath for rough-cuts, and on certain dogs that require to be shaved completely.
The last category of detachable blades is the "surgical" blades. Veterinarians preparing areas of an animal's body for surgery use these blades as they remove the hair down to the skin. The most popular of the surgical blades is the size #40. Many exhibitors also use surgical blades - sizes #40, #30, or #15 for show cuts on Poodles and certain other breeds. Both the sizes #40 and #30 are considered the best blades to use when fitting attachment combs.
Detachable blades are widely used in the professional dog and cat grooming world, and most blades can be interchanged with different makes of clippers. Generally they do not fit Trimmers, which have their own specific blades usually.
However it is important to know which clippers take detachable blades and which take screw fixed blades. If you are contemplating semi serious dog clipping with breeds such as Spaniels, Poodles and Terriers you need access to "detachable" blades as the range is far superior to "screw fixed" blades.
Some clippers, which use "screw fixed" blades, will only take blades specific to that make and model. (Our clipper web pages usually confirm the blades available to each machine.) On average the narrow type blade of both types has a cutting face of about 45mm (1.75-inches) but those used on trimmer can and are often smaller.
Unlike the large livestock traditional blade you can attach plastic combs to many of the detachable and screw fixed blades with the object of leaving a greater length of coat. However it is important to realise when using attachment combs the coat must be thoroughly free of any knots or tangles.
In recent years several manufacturers have introduced a "wide" version of both the detachable blade (fig. 5) and the screw fixed blades (fig. 6) for specialist clippers. These can be up to 65mm (2.5-inches) in width. Such blades are invariably used for the full body clipping of horses - especially the nervous variety, exhibition cattle, small studs of alpacas and large breeds of dogs.
Use of such blades, especially on horses when full body clipping is being undertaken requires a far more relaxed approach to clipping. Shorter strokes are far more likely to produce quality clipping. Any attempt to "push" the clipper will result in the emergence of "tramline" a fault of the operator not the blade! Allow the blade to do the work, use your hand to "guide" the machine.
Detachable blades are widely used in dog and cat grooming parlours, and are important blades for any involvement in serious clipping on breed such as Terriers, Spaniels, and many other dog breeds, as well as many longhaired cats.
The great advantage of the "detachable" blade is that it requires no tensioning, having been pre-tensioned at the factory before use. (The Aesculap Favourita blades are an exception - they have the facility to be tensioned when necessary.) (fig. 7) A comprehensive knowledge of the various blade sizes and the difference between the "skip" tooth and "full" blade is important especially when working on dogs.
Narrow type blades - Screw fixed:
Screw fixed narrow blades are often associated with trimmers of earlier design periods, as many of the more modern trimmers are adopting the "detachable" blade technology. The screw fixed blade comprises of a cutter (smaller) and comb (larger) blade and is usually secure to the clipper head with two screws.
It is most important to appreciate the need to align of the blades if they are to perform correctly. Attention to the manufacturer's instructions is strongly recommended. Clippers that have an "adjustable blade lever facility (this allows the cutting depth to be altered without changing the blade or attaching a plastic attachment comb) require this lever to be in the correct position at the time of fitting the blade - you should refer to the manufacturer's instruction manual.
Steel Ceramic coated detachable blades:
Launched by Wahl the early 2000's the blade was hailed as "revolutionary, and in fairness was a technology which in theory held great promise. Wahl announce - maybe a bit prematurely "These blades will remain sharper longer!"
Not to be confused with the pure ceramic blade, these were a steel blade, which in the manufacturing process was "coated " with a ceramic powder. (fig. 8) The benefits were said to several. The blades retain a cutting edge for a longer period - thus having a longer lasting life and therefore reducing sharpening costs. Comb tooth entry into the hair was supposedly easier thus allowing for more effective cutting. The "downside" was that with successive re-sharpenings the ceramic "coating" became worn and in time the blade reverted to a steel blade without the ceramic influence.
After a few years Wahl discontinued the production of the blade because it was virtually impossible to resharpened with any degree of continuity. Not all brand new blades appear to performed in the describe manner. Some failed quickly! Even the Moser factory with their skilled craftsmen experienced problems when trying to re-sharpen.
Those who possess ceramic-coated detachable blades should however not discard them, as if - de- ceramic coated and then correctly sharpened they will perform in most cases perfectly. Be warned however not all have the skill to sharpen correctly!
Ceramic narrow blades:
Ceramic narrow blades are a recently new addition to the various blade ranges normally used on dog and cat grooming clippers and they are a type of blade combination, which is was thought likely to increase in popularity. To date not all groomer's seen over enthusiastic! A ceramic blade consists of a steel comb or lower blade and a ceramic cutter or upper plate.
Ceramic blades are considered to remain cooler, and sharper than pure steel blades however initially there is a "breaking in period" during which the blade may well appear both noisier and hotter. This "breaking in period" will last for up to 8-10 hours of use after which the blade will start to operate as expected. At all times normal oiling must be applied to the blade. (fig. 9)
Steel screw fixed narrow smaller blades:
A range of blades often associated with small pet trimmers of earlier design periods, as some of the more modern very small trimmers are adopting the "detachable" blade technology. The screw fixed blade comprises of a cutter (smaller) and comb (larger) blade and is usually secure to the clipper head with two screws. (fig. 10)
It is most important to appreciate the need to align of the blades if they are to perform correctly. Attention to the manufacturer's instructions is strongly recommended - you should refer to the manufacturer's instruction manual.
Adjustable "detachable" narrow blades:
Are generally blades which have a 5 or 6 point adjustment facility incorporated within the blade housing and are a specialist blade limited to a few high quality trimmers. Such blades usually allow the operator the adjustability of between 0.3mm and 3mm and are extremely useful when detailed work is involved especially in the preparation of show animals and veterinary requirements. (fig. 11)
Currently these blades are available in both "ceramic powdered" and steel formats. Due to part of the blade housing being of plastic some sharpening outlet may refuse to sharpen them stating that they are not re-sharpenable. According to the manufacturer this is not correct and the blade can be re-sharpened.
Cutters and combs:
The blades used for the shearing of sheep, these are different to traditional blades used for hair coated animals such as horses and cattle, as they generally have fewer teeth, and will normally only fit a machine fitted with a "sheep head" The current exception to the rule is the Lister Laser, or Premier 3000c clippers both of which take the versatile Lister "Wizard" blades which can be used on both sheep and cattle/horses. It should however be noted the "Wizard" blades are intended more for dagging rather than shearing sheep, although they will produce a reasonable result on a small number of sheep. The two leading manufactures - Heiniger and Lister produce a large selection of cutters and combs for a wide range of shearing conditions and wool styles, as well as specialist blades for Alpacas. Lammas, Goats, and Camels. (fig. 12) Narrow cutters and combs are also available for certain shearing machines which accept this type of narrow blade. (fig. 12a)
Knowledge of the correct way to set up the blades on a shearing head is vital if the machine is to perform correctly. Either consult our website or read the manufacturers manual. Generally it is a wise policy to equip oneself with a ratio of 3-1 cutter and combs when shearing sheep as one may be involved in frequent cutter changing depending on conditions at the time of shearing. Regular oiling of blades is essential.
Oiling of all types of blades regularly is essential!
As a functioning clipper head comprises of two pieces of metal moving backwards and forwards several thousands of times per minute if they are not frequently lubricated they will very soon become hot - indeed extremely hot! Such heat will quickly cause the "dulling" of the blades with the result they go blunt rapidly and will not cut again until they are re-sharpened. (A process which can involve several days as blades usually have to be sent to a sharpening establishment.)
Regular oiling with good quality clipper oil is a routine requirement. It is important to discipline oneself to adhere to this principle, as it is easy to become engrossed with the clipping and totally forget to oil the blades. Such errors will soon become costly in both time and frustration! Lubrication with products such a diesel fuel, which may be advocated by some inexperienced operators is unacceptable, and very likely to lead to substantial internal motor damage. Use of WD 40 is another undesirable habit!
Use good quality oil - clipper hair oil is a preferred choice, and apply it liberally but regularly - every few minutes. Blade saturation is both wasteful and likely to be harmful to internal machine parts. Machines should be angled slightly upwards at about 10 degrees when apply oil and not in a vertical position. (Running the motor in this position may cause some of the lubrication to be sucked back into the motor with ensuing damage resulting!)
Blades sharpening needs to be done on the correct type of machines and by professional operators who have undergone training preferably by manufacturer's of various clipper makes. Blades should be sharpened as a "pair". Recognising the differences in blade sharpening techniques is important to the blades performance. Correctly sharpened and suitably cared for blades will last for many years. Rust, which is occurred by neglect, should be avoid as it can seriously affect blade performance. A good discipline is to clean and oil blades immediately after use and suitably wrap and store in a dry situation.
All operators, undertaking the clipping of animals, should have a comprehensive knowledge of the various types of blades available and their specific uses. On our clipper blade web pages you will find detailed information on each blade. We are constantly adding additional information to our blade pages as we collect data from various end user sources.
All persons who clip animals should always have access to a second freshly sharpened or new blade, as any blade used - irrespective of the make of clipper, especially when used on an un washed animal may go blunt at a moments notice. A half or partially clipped animal is not desirable!
Before switching your clipper on make certain both blades are correctly fitted, the right way up - especially cutter blades, and that all screws have been suitably tightened. Blade tensioning should have been carried out to a point were only the final adjustment is required. It is considered unwise to run clipping machines of the larger type without blades.
Attachment combs are normally made of a plastic, some do have metal blades. Those intended for "fixed narrow blade" machines are usually attached by sliding the comb on the blade. The "snap" on type comb with the expanding clasp which clips over the rear of the blade, are generally intended for the "detachable type blades as used by most professional dog clippers. They are not intended to fit the "detachable" wide type blades as used for large dog breeds or for full body horse clipping.
Combs can only be attached to "detachable" narrow blades from blade size#50 to size #8.5. Blades from size#7 downwards will not accommodate the comb attachment, due to the increasing size of the comb blade.
The purpose of the attachment comb is to leave a greater length of un-cut hair than the blade alone would normally leave. The alternative to this method is to buy one of the special depth blade (Blades from size#7 down to size#3 all of which leave specific lengths of un-cut hair. It is important to remember however that if you use an attachment comb you must be very particular with the grooming of the coat. No tangles or knots - otherwise the comb may well refuse to pass through the hair, and the clipping process could be painful to the animal!
When doing full scissor trims on Lhasa type dogs, or various puppy cuts, attachment combs are worth a try. Initially until your technique improves you may experience some unevenness, but that will diminish as you practice. Bear in mind it is most important to clip following the angle of hair in the direction of coat growth to avoid leaving marks. Use the comb to get to the approximate length and then scissor over it. When confronted with an overgrown coat, this can save a lot of time. Try using a longer comb and going against the grain for a smoother, more plush finish at the same length. Start with a comb a couple of sizes longer for the legs on these dogs; or for a short version, use a #4, #5, or #7 on the body and a comb on the legs.
Finally if you are the owner of one of those dogs that experiences clipper burn at the slightest touch of the blade, try fitting combs. Generally the size #5 comb will provide you with a length close to that of a size #10 blade.