Ace Sharpening & Co
How To Sharpen Clipper Blades
To start with you need to know a few things. First, what is grit? Grit is an abrasive powder. The type of grit used to sharpen clipper blades on an aluminum clipper sharpening wheel is called ‘brown fused aluminum oxide powder’ it is the same material used to make grinding wheels for bench grinders, also it can be used as a medium for sand blasting to blast the paint off of metal parts.
Clipper blade sharpening is just another use for this material. I use what is called ‘wheel quality’ brown fused aluminum oxide. What this means is that all of the impurities have been removed so all there is left is pure brown fused aluminum oxide.
This is the quality that is required to make grinding wheels for bench grinders. If the impurities were not removed, then as soon as the grinding wheel heats up it could explode causing bodily injuries to who ever is standing by.
Not that this could happen while using powdered grit to sharpen clipper blades, (The aluminum oxide must be bonded together like it is in a grinding wheel to explode.) but I am thinking why not get the kind of abrasives that have the impurities already taken out, the impurities don’t sharpen anything, so it is best to get grit that doesn’t have any in the first place.
Anyway, the next thing is what type of cleaner do you use to clean the grit off of a sharpening wheel? That would be ‘mineral spirits!’ Mineral spirits does a good job of cleaning the wheel. I have tried most everything, but now I have found another product that works even better and that is Sunnyside odorless paint thinner. It is like mineral spirits, but it is truly odorless and you can get it at any True Value hardware store.
You can purchase mineral spirits or Sunnyside odorless paint thinner from your local True Value hardware store for cheap, or you can purchase ‘clipper wheel cleaner’ online for big bucks that has some coloring in it to make it look good and confuse you as to what it is, but all you are going to get when you open up the package is colored paint thinner.
Some groomers use a product called ‘blade wash’ this stuff is very expensive also. What’s in it? It is 3 parts paint thinner, and 1 part clipper oil. (mineral oil) If groomers really want to clean their blades tell them to use Sunnyside Odorless Paint Thinner without the oil. The oil is not necessary, it serves no purpose in cleaning a clipper blade and there is not enough oil in the mix to lubricate the blades. All you want this stuff to do is clean the blades lubrication is a separate process.
If a groomer leaves their blades in commercial blade wash over night the blades will rust. If they think the blade wash is all they need to lubricate their blades for the next days grooming they are in for a rude surprise. Even though there is oil in the commercial blade wash there is still enough solvent in it to take most all of the oil off of their blades. Blades must be oiled before using them if they have been in contact with commercial blade wash. This applies to paint thinner too.
Spray lard oil. What is it? Lard oil is an old plumbers cutting oil mostly used by plumbers in the old days to cut threads on pipe. I understand that plumbers don’t use it much nowadays so you can’t find it at your local hardware store anymore. (Check out my list of suppliers on my home page to find out where you can purchase lard oil and other items.) www.mcmastercarr.com has lard oil for cheap just call them and tell them what you want. Their lard oil comes in a one gallon jug for around $25.00.
To make spray lard oil all you have to do is mix it one part lard oil, and one part paint thinner, and put this mixture in a spray bottle, or you can buy it pre-mixed for big bucks on the internet. It might even have some cool coloring in it!
The round ‘hardwood rubbing block’ has a handle coming up through the center of it. What is it? It is pretty much what it sounds like. It is a round 3/4” thick X 3” diameter hardwood block of wood with a dowel rod coming up through the center of it. It is used to spread, and rub the grit into the aluminum sharpening wheel. (You will get a couple of these when you buy one of my clipper sharpening machines.)
OK, now that we have all of that out of the way, let’s get started sharpening clipper blades! But first, let me break this down into and easy format. If you just read everything below it will seem like wow this is harder than I thought, but remember I am telling you how to sharpen clipper blades in great detail, and it takes a lot of writing to do that.
In practice all of this is very easy and it goes very fast. It only takes 5 minutes to sharpen one clipper blade, and you will make over $1.00 per minute or $6.00 per blade. Of course at first it will take you somewhat longer than five minutes to complete a blade, but speed comes quickly once you become familiar with this process. I now do my blades at a rate of 3 minutes each for $2.00 a minute and you will too if you learn a good process and stick with it. The key to speed is to learn to do each step the same way every time with as little “fumbling” as possible then speed will naturally kick in as you your skills increase.
Here is how it goes;
Take the blades apart & lay them out in order on a cloth on top of your work bench.
Tighten or pre-adjust the tension on all of the springs, and then adjust the sockets on each blade.
Place all of the cutters of each blade in order onto a tray, (Mine is a ¾” X 9” wide X 3ft long pine wood tray with raised edges and a raised divider strip long ways down the center of the tray) and take them over to a fine wire wheel (Mine is a 3” fine wire wheel attached to a small Harbor Freight mini drill press.) and then clean all of the big stuff off of each cutter using this spinning wire wheel.
Take the tray full of wire wheel cleaned cutters over to your clipper sharpening machine and sharpen each cutter keeping all of them in order on the tray.
Run the tray of sharpened cutters over the top of your demagnetizer a couple of times to demagnetize all of the cutters that are in the tray.
Round over the sharp tips of the lower comb cutters on all of the number #40, #15, or #30 blades. If you leave these tips sharp on these blades when the groomers use them they will razor burn or cut the dogs and they will not be happy.
Take the tray of cutters over to the parts washer, and clean each cutter in a soapy solvent, then rinse with water, and dry each of them on a dry towel. Note: I use a 20 gallon Harbor Freight “parts washer” filled with their best non-flammable biodegradable parts washing solution.
After towel drying place them all back into a different “clean” tray and take them back to your work bench Spray all of the newly sharpened cutters with a 50/50 mixture of paint thinner and mineral oil and then lay them all out in order on the same cloth you dissembled them on. Re-assemble, and adjust each blade.
Package each blade (2 each) in a paper coin envelope that is marked as to which blades are in each envelop.
Fill out your sales receipt, return the blades to your customer, and collect your fee.
After you read everything below, then come back to this 10 step format and put it all into the correct perspective. Here is something to think about. Once you get your speed up to 20 blades per hour which is 3 min per blade you will have made $120.00 in just one hour sharpening just 20 blades, but even if you take a little longer you still make $120.00 for sharpening just 20 clipper blades. Speed comes with experience and the only way you are going to get experience is to sharpen clipper blades, but you need to learn a method that can get you there. Using the method below that goal is well within your reach so let’s get down to business.
If you have a new machine you will have to break in the wheel before it will work to its full potential. Usually sharpening four or five blades will get it working great or if you have a broken comb cutter use it to break in your new clipper wheel then sharpen your customer’s clipper blades after the wheel is broken in. The grit will make some little grooves in the aluminum that look like the small groves on an old vinyl 45 rpm record like Jailhouse rock. This grooving is done as you sharpen cutters by causing the grit to roll across the top face of the wheel. This is what you want. These little grooves help the grit stay on the wheel better.
Once these grooves are made, it will be working normal, and your sharpened blades should cut like butter. Even the first four or five blades will cut fine, but until the wheel is broken in, you won't get as many blades sharpened from the first few charges on the wheel.
When you see that the girt is almost gone from the wheel don’t clean the wheel, just recharge the wheel with more lard oil and grit, in my opinion there is no need to clean the wheel every time you charge it with lard oil and grit, I clean my wheel every other charge, but if you prefer you can clean your wheel every time you apply grit it’s up to you.
Most important you don't want to try to sharpen a blade if there is no rolling grit on the wheel as this will cause the steel cutter to rub on the bare aluminum, and this will cause unnecessary wear on the wheel. Never sharpen if there is no rolling grit left on the wheel. You can do it and the blade will cut, but you will wear out your wheel prematurely if you do.
When charging a plate don’t use too much of the spray lard oil, using too much oil will cause the oil and grit mixture to get too wet. If the grit is too wet it will rub off of the wheel to easy when you try to sharpen a cutter and you will need to recharge the wheel again. Use just enough spray oil to hold the grit to the wheel and no more. Try keeping it on the dry side of this equation and you will get the best results.
Here is the bottom line, for an 18” clipper wheel I only sharpen four to five blade sets max per charge, I then re-charge the wheel again. I have found on any brand clipper wheel of this size that after four or five blade sets there is very little rolling grit left, so before the rolling grit is gone completely I re-charge the wheel. Re-charging only takes about 30 to 35 seconds if you do it like this:
After sharpening four or five sets of clipper blades using a spray bottle filled with 50/50 lard oil and paint thinner, and while the wheel is still spinning full speed spray about ¼ of a full spray onto the aluminum wheel. (Any more, and you will have too much oil on the wheel and the grit will rub off too easy.) You will see the lard oil quickly spread from the center of the wheel to the outer edge of the wheel. Turn off the machine, then take a wood stick (I use a piece of two by four cut about ½” (or more) thick by 1 ½” wide and 2ft long and put it between the edge of the clipper machine wheel enclosure and the edge of the spinning clipper wheel and press the stick onto the edge of the clipper wheel to stop the wheel, stopping the wheel using this method only takes a couple of seconds.
After you have stopped the wheel sprinkle on your grit using a large salt shaker (with all but the center strip of holes taped shut with duct tape so you don’t apply too much grit.) I use 180 grit for all of my blades except for the smaller blades like #40, #50, T-Outliners etc I use 220 grit. Everything else I use 180 grit only (except for sheep blades you can use 110 grit to sharpen them quicker.) Sprinkle a little grit all around the wheel, then using light pressure on the wooden rubbing block; spread the grit all around the wheel with a circular motion.
Now using the same circular motion you used to spread the grit on the wheel, using the heal of your hand, put fairly heavy pressure on the wooden rubbing block while you are rubbing the grit into the wheel till the wheel is evenly coated with the grit and oil mixture. Don’t miss any spots; rub it till every part of the wheel is coated. This step takes a little more effort, but when you are done the wheel it will look like fine sandpaper.
The wooden rubbing block takes a little breaking in too, just keep using it until the bottom is black with grit, and it will start working great. Try not to rock the rubbing block while you are rubbing the grit into the wheel, always keep the rubbing block flat on the surface of the wheel, and again, don’t let one side of the rubbing block lift up while you are doing this step as it will leave a mark on your even coat of grit, and you will have to go over it again to smooth it out. Using the wood stick to stop the clipper wheel you can re-charge an 18” clipper wheel like we just did in about half a minute.
To dissemble the blades I use a small block of ¾” plywood with one end cut out in the shape of a horse shoe. The width of the cutout is the same as the width of a blade which is about 2”. With the blades laying in a row on a cloth on the work bench I put the cutout portion of the block over the blade so as to enclose the blade inside of the U shape cutout.
Then while holding the block of plywood with my left hand, with my right hand I use a 6 volt hand drill with a Phillips screw driver bit inserted into the chuck to take out each of the two screws in each blade. Just move the block around to each blade until you have removed all of the screws.
After dissembling all of the blades, and laying all of the parts out in order on a cloth on my workbench, I then place all of the cutters & combs on a tray. As I said I use a ¾” X 9” X 3ft. long board with a 1/2” trim around the edges to keep the blades from falling off the edges and there is a divider down the middle of the board so I can move the blades from the lower section to the top section as I clean or sharpen each cutter. I then clean all of the cutters and combs (as needed) with a small 3” (fine wire) wire wheel spinning on a small drill press to get the big stuff off the blades before I sharpen them.
When you are finished cleaning the cutters & combs on the fine wire wheel, take the board with the cutters on it over to the clipper machine and turn it on. If you are right handed the wheel should turn clockwise at about 1725 rpm to 1800 rpm, (for left hand people the wheel should turn counterclockwise.) Point the tips of the cutters, and or the combs in the direction that the wheel is spinning. You will need a small 12 pound pull magnet to help you hold the cutters. You will also need a small scale to measure how much pressure you are applying to the magnet as you sharpen each cutter. Only use about two pounds of downward pressure when sharpening a cutter. To test this place the magnet onto the cutter then place the magnet and the cutter onto the top of the scale and press down till the scale reads 2 pounds. When you can do this with your eyes closed you are ready to start sharpening your first cutter. Test your downward pressure periodically (like every day) to make sure you are staying within this range for sharpening cutters and combs. The reason for just two pounds of downward pressure while sharpening a cutter is that you don’t want to “spread the cutter” by pressing down too hard and then change the profile of the hollow that is ground into the cutter. The profile of the clipper wheel should match the profile of the hollow in the cutter; too much pressure will again spread the cutter and distort the profile in the cutter and also rub off too much grit while sharpening.
While holding the cutter (or comb) with the magnet lightly touch the backside of the cutter onto the wheel first, then let the tips come down keeping the cutter perfectly flat on the wheel. Use enough pressure to get a good shower of sparks (about 2 pounds.) If you press too hard, you will rub the grit off too soon, and you will have to recharge the wheel again with more grit. The key to this step is to relax! Do like Bruce lee said; “Be like water.” maintain control, but keep your whole body relaxed. If there is any tension in your hand or arm you will cut a second face on the face of the cutter and there will be a dividing line showing the two faces that have been cut. To avoid this mistake you have to relax your hand, your arm, and your whole body, and let the dead weight of your arm put the downward pressure on the cutter and not your muscles.
Keeping everything perfectly flat, put a little forward pressure on the front side of the cutter by pressing on the front of the magnet closest to the tips of the cutter. I use my index finger for this job, and my thumb, and middle finger to hold the outer sides of the magnet. Don't rotate the cutter forward, (keep it flat on the wheel) just apply forward pressure with your index finger.
Remember, it is important to keep the cutters, and combs flat on the wheel at all times. In other words while you are relaxed and being like water let the cutter relax onto the face of the clipper wheel as well, do not allow any vibrations or chatter between the cutter and the face of the clipper wheel, keep it smooth, feel it. Start towards the center of the wheel, and move the cutter in a straight line (this is important) from the center of the wheel to the outer edge of the wheel using about two pounds of downward pressure to get a good shower of sparks with out rubbing the grit off the wheel. When sharpening do not allow any vibrations, chatter, or hopping between the cutter and the face of the spinning clipper wheel. If you get any just press of hold the cutter a little firmer till you get a smooth grind. (I have a complete write up called “The Touch” that you can read later after absorbing all of this first.)
With two pounds of downward pressure I do about 12 to 14 passes to take off between 1 ½ thousandths to 2 thousandths of metal from each cutter. To give you an idea as to how much metal needs to be removed a human hair is about 3 thousandths thick so you are not removing all that much metal, but if you remove less than that your blades will not last as long as they should and may not even cut very well after you are finished sharpening. To measure how much metal you have removed you need a gage with a dial indicator. You can purchase said gage from Treyco for $150.00 or you can get one from Ace Sharpening for $100.00 with instructions on how to use it. The nice thing about having one of these gages is that you can count how many passes it takes for you to remove 1 ½ to 2 thousandths of metal, again for me it takes about 12 to 14 passes, but for you it may take more or less depending on just how much pressure you are actually using and how fast you move across the face of the clipper wheel for each pass. I have found that each person is a little different in how many passes they need to get the correct amount of metal removed, but to start with 12 to 14 passes should get you there more or less.
After you have done 12 to 14 passes on the clipper wheel at two pounds of downward pressure move the cutter closer to the outside edge of the wheel, stop for a moment making sure the cutter is perfectly flat, lined up on the wheel, (using a laser or string to line the cutter up on) and maintaining your same two pounds of downward pressure, move the cutter back and forth ¼” each way several times to make sure everything is lined up correctly then lift the cutter straight up off the wheel. (Don’t pull the cutter off sideways or you will grind a bad spot into your cutter always lift the cutter off the wheel straight up after you have stopped moving back and forth ¼”.)The laser or string should line up across the center of the clipper wheel and the comb cutter should be lined up on the laser line half way between the front rail of the cutter and the back rail of the cutter. Most sharpeners use this same method to sharpen the top cutter as well, but I like to move the front teeth of the top cutter back towards the center line of the wheel to about ¼” from the tips of the teeth and sharpen there. What this does is strengthen the look of the rub pattern to where more of the tips of the teeth on the rub pattern show stronger in the center of the cutter.
If you don’t know what the rails are when you turn the cutter over you will see that the teeth are raised and also there is a back strip of metal that is also raised as high as the front teeth. The front teeth are the front rail and the back raised strip is called the back rail. On a comb cutter center the two rails over the center line of the wheel using either a laser light or a string to mark the center of the clipper wheel.
Rub patterns: You can buy an Andis rubbing block from a place called “The Edge Pro” it is made of a certain type of cast iron and it extremely flat and smooth on both sides. After you have sharpened a top cutter place the cutter onto the flat side of the rubbing block and with even pressure rub the cutter back and forth using about 1 pound of downward pressure to simulate the sharpening pressure. If the cutter has been sharpened correctly you will see that the tips of the cutter have been rubbed on the rubbing block and the pattern of the rubbed tips will look like a rainbow or straight across the tips with a slight arch which is not quite as pronounced as the arch in a rainbow.
OK, the outer edge of the clipper wheel is where your cutters will get sharper quicker because the outside edge of the wheel is moving faster than the center of the wheel. That is why I have you stop on the outer edge going back and forth ¼” a few times for a moment holding the cutter perfectly flat just to make sure the grind is a good one before lifting the cutter off the wheel. The bigger the wheel the faster the outside edge moves.
Using a magnifying glass, check the grind lines on the bottom of the cutter to make sure they go all the way from the back of the cutter to the tips of the cutter, and all the way across the full length of the cutter.
If you see that the grind lines do not cover the bottom of the cutter completely, then sharpen it again until you see that it is sharpened all the way across, and all the way from the back to the tips. Always check each cutter before you put it back into the tray. This will save you from having to re-sharpen it later after you have re-assembled the blades. A cutter that does not have grind lines across the full face of the cutter will not cut and will have to be re-sharpened until you get grind lines all the way to the tips of each tooth.
When you get done sharpening all of the blades, while they are still on the tray, run the tray back and forth across the demagnetizer a couple of times.
On #40, #15, and #30 blades, the grind lines will go all the way to the tips of the comb. When sharpened, these blades will develop a sharp edge on the tips of the combs that must be rounded over. (Note; on #15 blades this only happens after the blade has been sharpened a few times,) If you don’t round these sharp tips over your customers will complain that the tips of the blades are too sharp, and or causing razor burn, or even cutting the dogs. I use a flint hard felt buffing wheel on a 6 inch bench grinder with some Okami gold or green compound (your choice) on the felt wheel to round off the sharp tips of the combs. (Do these sharp comb edges before you clean and dry the blades.)
#40 blade combs are the worst for cutting a dog if you do not round over the tips of each comb. You can also use the Okami Gold buffing wheel, or my fiber buffing wheel to do this job, but it is kind of hard on these particular buffing wheels and that is why I now use a diamond hard felt buffing wheel to do this job followed up with a flint hard felt buffing wheel. You can get diamond hard, and flint hard buffing wheels from Ace sharpening & Co.
To clean the blades, I use a 20 gallon parts washer that I purchased from Harbor Freight Tools. I also purchased a flow through parts cleaning brush that has a hose attached to the handle. The cleaning fluid is pumped through this handle by the parts washer and out through the bristles of the brush making it very easy and fast to clean the freshly sharpened cutters.
I use Harbor Freights non-flammable biodegradable soapy cleaning fluid in my parts washer to clean each of the cutters. Then I lay each of the cutters out in a row, and in order in the bottom of a laundry sink. (The laundry sink already has about 3 inches of water in it.) I then rinse each cutter back and forth in the water to get the cleaning fluid off.
Then I lay all of my cleaned, and rinsed blades in order, in a row, on a dry towel. While they are still lying on the towel, I blot them dry with another dry towel then put them all back into the “Clean” tray and carry them back to my work bench for re-assembly. I only use my clean tray for clean blades, and my dirty tray to carry dirty blades.
To sharpen ceramic blades all you have to do is clean the ceramic cutter and sharpen the lower metal comb blade. The ceramic top cutter will stay sharp for about two years. Once it gets dull you can replace it with another ceramic cutter or a metal cutter, either way it will work well. You can sharpen a ceramic cutter using a 600 grit diamond flat bench stone, but the result vary from OK to not OK so that is why I never try to sharpen a ceramic cutter anymore as it is more trouble than it is worth.
The 600 grit diamond hone is good to sharpen the Wahl Arco blades. To sharpen Arco blades use water and don’t use too much pressure when sharpening on a diamond hone. Let the diamonds do the cutting. If you press too hard, it is like forcing a saw blade to cut through wood faster than it wants to, and you won’t get as good a job, but the very best way to sharpen Arco 5 in 1 clipper blades is to sharpen them on a true flat clipper wheel using 240 grit.
After all of your blades have been sharpened, and cleaned it is time to re-assemble them. I have several tools to help me complete this job easily, and quickly. First I have a special pair of pliers that have been ground to fit the contour of the blades springs. I use this tool to pre-tighten each spring back close to its original factory tightness without changing the actual shape of the spring.
This is an important step because if the spring is too loose it will not press the top cutter down onto the comb hard enough for the blade to cut hair properly. To test the spring for correct tension you will need a food scale or some type of similar scale that reads from 0 to about 10 pounds. (The weight scale needs to read up to at least 5 pounds.)
To test a blade, slide the top cutter over to one side of the comb, (but not all the way out of the comb) then holding just the edge of the comb place the opposite edge of the top cutter onto the top of the scale. Press down on the edge of the comb forcing the top cutter back into the blade causing the scale to read the pressure of forcing the top cutter back into the blade.
This pressure should read between 2 ¼ to 2 ¾ (3 ¼ lbs tops.) If it reads less than 2 ¼ pounds then the spring is too loose, and if it reads any more than 3 ¼ pounds then it is too tight for a normal blade. If a spring is too loose then it must be tightened. Remember, 90% of blades that don’t cut is because the spring tension is too loose so it is very important that the spring pressure is correct.
For additional spring tightening I use a pair of vice grip pliers. The top cutter has to be completely removed from the blade before this adjustment can be made. The place where you tighten the spring is the back end of the spring right where the spring makes a half circle from the top of the spring down to where the screw goes into the bottom of the spring. Each spring has two of these rounded ends, and they both must be tightened evenly.
Adjust the vice grip pliers down to where they just touch the top of this half circle, and the bottom of the same half circle. Next tighten the vice grip pliers just enough to get the pliers to close a little more. Now place the pliers back onto the spring and close them till they lock closed. Do this same thing to the other side of the spring, and you are ready to check the spring tension.
If after you have checked the spring tension you find that you did not tighten the spring enough to get the spring tension in range then tighten the vice grip pliers a little more and do it again to both sides of the spring until you have reached the proper spring tension.
If after testing the spring tension you find that you have over tightened the spring then you need to loosen it a little by lifting the top part of the spring with a small screw driver until the blade tests correctly. I slip the small screw driver under the top part of the spring and over where the screw comes up under the spring and twist, test then twist again till you get the proper reading on the spring tension. After a little practice you will get this step down as it is very easy to do.
When I lay my blade parts out on the table I leave the spring, and the socket together, I don’t separate them. I just pick up this assembly and tighten the spring, then I lay that spring down and tighten the next spring till they are all done, then I go back and pick each one up one at a time, and tighten each socket, and then lay them back down.
To tighten the sockets I have a small bar of cold rolled steel that measures ¼” thick X 5/8” wide X 1” long. All you do is lay this bar into the socket, then using a large pair of pliers pinch the ears of the socket against the 5/8” width of the bar. This will tighten the socket just barely too tight.
This is good because then when you put the blade onto the clipper the hinge of the clipper will spread the socket to its proper adjustment, and the blades will not rattle. This is how to fix blades that rattle, just tighten them with this bar and then put them back on the clipper. This little trick makes your customers very happy to say the least.
Re-assembly; Before you re-assemble each blade, squeeze a thin line of clipper oil on the bearing surface of each cutter and comb using an oil bottle like the one that comes with a new pair of clippers. For the top cutters put a line of oil on the sharpened side of the teeth and also on the two back bearing surfaces of the top cutter that mate with the back rail of the comb. Do the same to the comb’s teeth, and back rail.
Next align the top cutter of each blade back onto the top of each comb. Apply a thin line of oil into the groove of each top cutter that the spring Teflon guide rides in. This groove is a place where there is a lot of friction so be sure you don’t forget to oil it.
Next pick up each of the blade assemblies one at a time and place the screws back into their screw holes and tighten each one with a Phillips screw driver rather snugly. You don’t want to fully tighten the screws at this point because you still need to be able to move the top cutter forwards or backwards so you can adjust the blade for proper setback of the top cutter.
The screws do however need to be tightened enough to hold the top cutter in place and not slip out of adjustment when you adjust the top cutter forward or back for the setback adjustment.
“Set back” is the distance of the tips of the top cutter set back from the tips of the comb. If there is no set back of the top cutter, the blade will not cut hair, and could even cut the dog. To adjust the setback of the top cutter I use two small flat screw drivers. The blade width of the first one is 3/32” and the blade width of the second one is 1/8”. You can get these small screw drivers at you local hardware store.
I start with the first smaller 3/32” screw driver to move the top cutter back. To move the top cutter back using the small screw driver I insert the screw driver just behind the back edge of the socket where the screw goes through it. This sandwiches the tip of the screw driver between the inside back side profile of the spring that is shaped like a “C” and the back edge of the sockets screw hole.
Then by twisting the screw driver I force the spring to move backwards thus forcing the top cutter to move back with it. Do this to the other side of the spring making sure you only move the top cutter back the same distance you moved the first side.
For small thin blades like the #40, #30, # 10, #15, # 9 etc the set back of the top cutter should be about 1/16”. If you set the top cutter back too far on these blades it could cause them to leave corduroy like lines in the dog’s fur while the groomer is grooming the dog.
For the larger thicker blades like the #7F, #5F, #3F, #4F etc the set back should be just under 1/8”, but it can be slightly more than that and still not be a problem. On some of these larger blades the 3/32” screw driver may be too small to get the setback you need. That’s when I use the 1/8” wide screw driver tip to make the final adjustment.
If you happen to set the top cutter back too far, and you need to move it forward a little, use a small pair of bent nose needle nose pliers to pinch the back curved end of the spring where it curves around the socket screw hole (like a “C”), and at the same time pinch the front edge of the sockets screw hole. This will force the top cutter to move forward. You may then need to re-adjust the top cutter to get it to where you want it again using one of the small tip screw drivers.
This takes a little practice at first, but if you take the small amount of time it takes to learn it now in the long run this method will save you a lot of time later on.
After you finish adjusting all of the blades it is time to do the final tightening of each of the blades two screws. I made a small horse shoe shaped fixture out of plywood mounted on the top of my work bench. The cutout in the fixture is the width of a #3F blade. The closed end of the fixture is pointing away from me on my workbench, and the open end of the fixture is pointing right at me on my workbench. This fixture is permanently attached to my work bench and is used to hold clipper blades in place while they are being tightened to their final tightness.
I place each blade into this cutout with the tips of each blade pointing in the direction of the closed end of the fixture, (tips pointed away from me) and then using a large Phillips screw driver I use both hands to tighten each screw. This is so much easier on your hands! It takes very little effort, and is much faster compared to trying to hold the blade with one hand while you try to tighten the screw with the other hand. Or, you can do like I do now and use an adjustable battery drill and set it to the maximum tightness you want to tighten your blade screws (mine is set on 9, but different drills will have different settings) When the screw is fully tight the drill will “ratchet” and with not tighten the screw any further. The drill is much quicker than using a manual screwdriver.
Once all of the blades have been tightened, it is now time to package the blades for transport back to the customers. I use # 3 - 2 ½”X 4 ¼” coin envelopes to package my blades two per package. The first blade goes tips down into the package, and the second blade goes tips up into the package. This keeps the tips from bumping into each other and possibly causing damage to the blades tips. But before I put the blades into the envelopes I mark each envelope as to which blades are inside so the customer can see at a glance which envelops have the blades they are looking for. You can purchase these envelops at Office Max, or Office Depot.
All of this no doubt seems like a lot to remember and do, but in practice it is very simple and quick. Trust me! It is much harder to write, or read this than it is to do it. On average it takes only 3 to five minutes to completely sharpen and package one blade.
If you would like free personal hands on, 1 on 1 training to learn how to sharpen clipper blades, just for purchasing one of my clipper blade sharpening machines if you are able, you are welcome to come to Kansas City, MO, and I will be happy to teach you. Remember to bring your old clipper blades, and you can sharpen them while you learn!
I hope this information has been a help to you. My greatest joy is your success!
James A Hammons
Ace Sharpening & Co
Notes; I will add new information to these notes as new questions arise.
1. Here is a tip from one of my customers Jesus Hernandez. After sharpening clipper blades in hot and cold temperatures inside his garage workshop Jesus found that the colder it is inside his workshop the better his blades sharpened. His shop was cool in the morning and hot in the afternoon. In the cool of the morning the grit lasted much longer on his wheel and he was able to sharpen more blades before he had to re-charge his wheel. In the hot afternoon he had to re-charge his wheel much more often and the grit did not seem to stay on the wheel as well as it did in the morning. After talking this over with Jesus we concluded that the cooler it is in your shop the harder the lard oil sets up on your wheel causing the grit to stay on the wheel longer. I personally never thought of this because my shop has always been air conditioned and it never gets hot while I am sharpening clipper blades, but it makes perfect sense. What happens to lard oil when you put it in the refrigerator? It hardens up! The best way to keep grit on your wheel longer is to cool your work area! Jesus says he is going to go out and buy an air conditioner for his shop. Thanks Jesus for a great tip!