Snap on combs, Guards, Duck Combs, cheater combs. They are all the same thing. It doesn't matter what they are called, they are a VERY versatile tool. They allow you to set length without scissoring and afford you more styling flexibility because they come in lengths that blades are not available in.
What they are is a plastic or metal EXTENDER which snaps onto a short cutting blade. They keep the cutting edge of the blade away from the skin and the teeth of the comb guide the hair to be cut over the blade before it is cut.
There are several different types of Snap On Combs. Plastic, metal, flat bottom and rocker bottom. They all have their specific pluses and minuses. Each groomer will have their preference as to which one works best for them.
The one thing they all have in common is HOW they work. The combs do not do the cutting, the blade underneath them does that. As a result they do not heat up and since they do not allow the cutting part of the blade to touch the skin they do not cause irritation like metal blades can.
The combs can be used with or without a vac system, but when used in conjunction with a vac system they make your grooming jobs much easier and faster. They allow you to get better results on drop coated dogs (shih-tzu and yorkies) and because they can leave more hair than a regular blade can, they allow you to minimize the amount of scissoring you do in your shop.
Most importantly they allow for consistency that scissoring does not. Any groomer can use snap on combs and get the same length every time, where scissoring can very slightly from groom to groom and groomer to groomer. That is important if you have multiple groomers in your salon. It will also allow for a better finish than scissoring if your scissoring skills are not as good as you would like them to be, or for new groomers who are still developing their skills because it minimizes the scissoring needed to finish the groom.
Snap on combs are PERFECT for:
· Teddy Bear heads
· Setting angulation
· Faces and bellies on dogs who clipper burn
· LONG clips (over an inch long)
· Double coated dogs getting clipped short
· Schnauzer and Cocker backs
· Setting longer legs on a poodle, cocker or shih-tzu
· Soft coats that blades leave marks on
To get the best results from a set of snap on combs you will need a FAST clipper, a 30 blade for the metal combs or a 30 or 40 for the plastic combs.
In order to get the best finish possible you will need a well prepared dog. Clean, dried correctly and fully brushed out! Small tangles that a blade could go right under or through can not be left in the coat if you are using plastic snap on combs. They will fall off the blade if they hit tangles and you are then open to the possibility of cutting hair MUCH shorter than you wanted to. The metal combs will go through SOME matting, but not big areas, especially if the mats are close to the skin of the dog. The way the metal combs attach is different than the plastic ones and they will stay on better, causing fewer “accidents” with the blade being exposed. A comb coming off the blade can result in an embarrassing situation where you make a swath with a 30 or 40 blade into coat you were trying to leave longer. In some cases MUCH LONGER! This can cause you not just embarrassment, but it can cost you a client as well as some clients have no sense of humor and fail to understand that accidents happen and hair grows back.
Each brand of snap on comb has their own sizing. As a result it is very difficult to give you exact sizing information, so I am going to give you this list based on the combs which I have used the most in my salon.
Remember this is a GUIDE ONLY and not an absolute. Your results will vary based on the suction of your vac system (if you are using one), the length of the blade underneath the comb as well as the type of coat you are using the comb on. Poodle type coats will yield a different length than shih-tzus or Pomeranians. Experimenting with the comb set you have is the best way to figure out what you need to use to get the best results for each and every dog. Always use a longer comb than you think you are going to need if you are unsure because you can always go shorter, you cannot put it back!
· #3,#4,#5 are VERY short and usually are used on faces and bellies of dogs who are prone to irritation. They are also useful in grooming Westies, Cockers, Schnauzers and the like when you want a length of 10-7f but do not want a CLIPPERED look. These combs leave a natural look to the coat and sometimes mimic the look of a hand stripped coat.
· #2, #1 1/2 and #1 are PERFECT for bodies of poodles and poodle type coats, double coated dogs, shih-tzus and the like where you are looking to mimic a 7f to a 4f blade. The look is very plush and almost looks as if the coat were groomed a week ago (which is what most owners like anyway!). In double coated dogs it is felt that you can help avoid Clipper Alopecia (the hair failing to grow back in properly) by using a snap on comb instead of a blade.
· Zero combs are my favorite for owners who want, short but fluffy, and for that first puppy haircut. It leaves a coat at about an inch long when used with the lay of the coat. These are also great on Teddy Bear heads and bichon or Portuguese water dog faces.
· A, B C combs are longer than an inch, and are great for legs on lamb cuts, teddy bear cuts, furnishings on schnauzers and other terriers. They are also wonderful when people are looking for FLUFFY cuts on their dogs. I use an A comb more than just about any other comb in my salon. These combs are WONDERFUL for the longer style heads and can be used after you master the technique to achieve a bichon head or poodle topknot (for pets).
· D and E (in some sets S) are VERY, VERY long combs, which are perfect for suburban clips on cockers and wheatens (if not matted). I use an E comb on most of my cocker legs and almost all of my Scotties and Westies legs in the summer when people want them SHORTER to avoid bringing in leaves and trash from the yard.
You can use snap ons to sculpt with as well. You do that by holding the comb AWAY from the skin of the dog and cut the hair where YOU want the hair to be, not where the skin will dictate they will be if you follow the dogs natural contours. This is extremely important when working with legs. If you sculpt the legs instead of following their contours you can easily and quickly create column style legs on any breed. When doing Suburban clips, Lamb clips or teddy bear type trims I sculpt the legs from the knee DOWN. Float the clipper off the knee and go straight towards the table. That will give you FILL where the body itself curves inward.
If you start to see lines in the coat, there are a couple of tricks to getting rid of them. First you can overlap the clipping, by going at cross angles to the original cut. This will allow you to minimize the marks. Next you can go in reverse of the lay of the coat to help minimize those marks. Remember that reverse clipping will be shorter than following the lay of the hair.
When clipping drop coated breeds you need to follow the lay of the hair, even if it is not straight. I usually find that an angled clip will yield better results. Instead of going straight down the sides, go at a roughly 30 degree angle from the shoulder toward the table. DO NOT go down the back towards the tail. That will leave marks when the hair falls into its natural location. An angle makes for a smoother cut; a more natural look.
When using snap ons on really thick coats I find that a little dematting spray great to add lubrication to the coat. The combs will slide right through the coat and you will get a better finish than you get without the sprays on harsh or thick coats.
After setting the lines with snap ons, you will need to do some combing and scissoring, but used correctly these valuable tools will increase your speed and improve the quality of your work IMMENSELY.
Remember, not every situation is the same. Adjust your tools and techniques to the dog you are working on and you will have great results every time.
Here’s to happy, SAFE grooming!