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. Some clippers will take other makes of blades in addition to their own make. (We normally list the various makes of blades that can be used with each clipper.)
With the increasing number of blades now available understanding the different types that can be used on various clippers and what each blade is capable of will help make you a more efficient operator of your machine. Blades as used on human hair clippers are generally not suitable for clipping animal hair. There may be 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.
It is essential to understand that the making of blades is a skill developed and "honed to perfection" over many decades. The components used in the steel making add to the "cutting edge" of your blades and it ability to perform. Blades made from Solingen steel (Germany )are of the finest qualities you can buy. They may cost slightly more but that is a small price to pay for the quality!
Blades can be re-sharpened many times, and have a life span of many years dependant of the amount of use. Very few blades cannot be re-sharpened. Re-sharpening is a skill than takes many years to perfect and is dependant of the machinery used and the skill of the operator. No matter how expensive or well-made the blades - ALL blades - whatever the make or type can go blunt at a moment's notice. This is a fact of life! It may not always be the fault of the re-sharpening, the operator of the clipper or the nature of the animal being clipper. (Although in certain case these may be the reasons.) One needs to remember a blade is like a knife or any other cutting instrument and any contact with abrasive particles such as dust, dirt or grit in the coat can have a devastating effect on the blades performance. A "human" factor that often contributes to rapid "blunting"
.. is the over tensioning of blades!
Blades fall into a number of categories, which may be described as: -
Traditional livestock clipper blades - normally cattle and horses
Steel detachable narrow blades- normally cats, dogs and small animals
Steel detachable wide blades- normally large dog breeds but increasingly nervous horses
Steel Ceramic coated detachable blades - normally cats, dogs and small animals
Ceramic blades - normally cats, dogs and small animals
Steel screw fixed blades - normally cats, dogs and small animals
Adjustable detachable narrow blades - normally cats, dogs and small animals
Cutters and combs - normally sheep, goats, camels, alpacas.
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 depending on their gearing. Referred to as "single cutting strokes per minute" (spm) or in some cases as "double cutting strokes per minute" (dpm) The cutting blade is normally driven by a crank shaft fitted with a roller or drive block. Detachable blades are driven by a "drive lever. Some machines have a drive carrier and yoke system.
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 have a vertical housing "keep" into which the drive block fits. When the motor is switched on the "of set" rotating movement "drives" the cutter blades. The lower plate or comb blade is normally fixed to the clipper head either by twin screws, or a single control bolt with tension spring and adjusting nut. Some comb blades 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. Other have a complete "opening" (as in (fig. 1) ) and may need adjustment to get the correct alignment.
Certain makes of cutter blades may 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 serious 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 using your clipper. Horse owners would appear to suffer the worse - 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) ) </b>>!! 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 can usually be interchange on a range of clippers using the "detachable" type blades.
Narrow type blades - detachable:
The detachable blades are made from a size #50 (Surgical) to #3/4HT - 19mm (As made by Andis.) Blades from size #50 to size # 8.5 can be fitted with attachment combs. From size #7 to #3/4HT attachment combs cannot be fitted due to the thickness of the bottom blade. Blade sizes #50 and #40 are referred to as "surgical".
There are two types of the detachable blade - the "full" tooth (fig. 3) and the "skip" tooth (fig. 3a) The full tooth blade produces "velvet" like finish. The "skip" tooth for blending or other purposes. Most manufacturers mark their blades with an "F" or in some case "FC" after the number to denote it is a full blade. 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 "surgical" blades are used by veterinarians preparing areas of an animal's body for surgery or other purposes -they remove the hair down to the skin. The most popular of the surgical blades is the size #40. Exhibitors also use surgical blades - sizes #40, #30, or #15 for show cuts on Poodles and certain other breeds.
Detachable blades are widely used in the professional dog and cat grooming world, and can be interchanged with certain different makes of clippers. Generally they do not fit trimmers, which have their own specific blades - these often being "the screw fixed" type. Some Liveryman clippers/trimmers do use detachable blades.
It is important to know which clippers take A5 type detachable blades and which take screw fixed blades. If you are contemplating dog clipping with breeds such as Spaniels, Poodles and Terriers even for husbandry purposes you need access to "detachable" blades as the range is far superior to "screw fixed" blades. The great advantage of the "detachable" blade is that it requires no tensioning, having been pre-tensioned at the factory before use. (The Aesculap Favorita 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.
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, and small studs of alpacas and large breeds of dogs. When clipping horses with wide blades allow the blade to do the work, use your hand to "guide" the machine.
Narrow type blades - Screw fixed:
Screw fixed narrow blades
(fig. 4) Clippers which use "screw fixed" blades, generally take blades specific to that make and model. 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. When fitting the blades it is important to appreciate the need to align this type of blades if they are to perform correctly. Attention to the manufacturer's instructions is strongly recommended. Some clippers may have an "adjustable" blade lever which needs to be set in a certain position
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. Pre-grooming is essential.
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. 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 be that blades retain a cutting edge for a longer period, comb tooth entry into the hair was supposedly easier thus allowing for more effective cutting.
After a few years Wahl discontinued the production of the blade because it was virtually impossible to re-sharpen with any degree of guaranteed continuity.
Ceramic narrow blades:
Ceramic type narrow blades are a new addition to the various blade ranges normally used on dog and cat grooming clippers. A ceramic blade usually consists of a ceramic cutter or upper plate. Ceramic blades are said 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)
Adjustable "detachable" narrow blades:
Are generally blades which have a 5 or 6 point adjustment facility incorporated within the blade housing (normally plastic) 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) 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.
For a time this type of blades was available in both "ceramic powdered" and steel formats. "Ceramic powdered" have been discontinued.
Cutters and combs:
For the shearing of sheep. Different in design to traditional blades used for hair coated animals (horses, cattle, cats and dogs.) Sheep "cutter and combs" are of a different design and are generally made with fewer teeth on both the cutter and comb. Normally only "heavy duty clippers can accommodate either a horse/cattle head, or be fitted with a "sheep head. " One exception is the Lister Laser, or Premier 3000c clippers - both take the Lister "Wizard" blades (sheep and cattle/horses.) Sheep "Wizard" blades are intended for dagging purposes rather than fully shearing sheep.
Heiniger and Lister - leading manufactures in the Sheep shearing world - 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 "cutter and combs" on a shearing head is vital if the machine is to perform correctly. See details on our website (http://www.peasridge.co.uk/acatalog/CUTTERS_&_COMBS_-_Fitting_correctly.html)
When shearing it is a wise policy to equip oneself with a ratio of 3-1 cutter and combs as you may find the cutter blades needs changing frequently depending on conditions at the time of shearing. Frequent oiling of blades is essential.
Oiling of all types of blades regularly is essential!
As a functioning clipper/shearing 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 - advocated by some - is bad advice and may 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 applying oil but 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 manufacturers 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 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 moment's 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, A few 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.