I get people all the time asking on different online forums "what is carding?" Many people are under the mistaken impression that carding and hand stripping is the same thing.
While carding tools and stripping tools look similar they are not the same technique and each tool has a specific use. I want to lightly go over the technique of carding and show you what the different tools are used for.
Carding is basically the removal of undercoat from a dog's coat. It is used a lot in short coated dogs like Pugs, Chihuahuas, Labs and the like. It is also used in sporting breeds like Cocker Spaniels and Setters to make t heir flat coat on the back lay flat and smooth. It is usually done using a tool that looks like a stripping knife, but in reality is made completely differently.
The tools above are what I use the most for stripping and carding. Top row is Classic Coarse and Classic Fine (they no longer make these knives) and Greyhound Coarse, Medium, Fine and Extra Fine carding knives. Middle row is a pumice stone, a Pearson Detail knife (again this brand is no longer being produced) a Greyhound Stripping Stone (wrapped in tape) a Chris Christensen stone and an ultra-fine Classic Comb. Bottom row is a Coat King 20 count, a Master Equipment 8 count and 16 count and a Mars Stripping knife and a Hauptner Stripping knife.
The Greyhound carding knives get used most at my shop. The way they are made they force you to hold them correctly. The correct way to hold a carding knife is at roughly a 45 degree angle to the coat. They have a flat side for your thumb to sit against and it guarantees the knife will stay at the right angle. You can see in the photos below how the knife is made and how to hold in while working the coat. I work in short, easy strokes putting just enough pressure to pull out undercoat without injuring skin. Because of how carding knives are made, most are pre-dulled when purchased and will not damage a coat when being used correctly. Use the knives ONLY when following the lay of the hair. Do not use them against the lay of the hair or damage to the skin and hair follicles can occur. Please note: not all knives are made the way the one below is. This is my favorite knife and it helps you set the angle perfectly every time and it fits my hand perfectly. A classic knife or similar knives do not have a built in "shelf" and require a bit more attention is paid to their angle. They are also usually NOT pre-dulled. If they are not pre-dulled they will need to be dulled before use. You can do this by rubbing the sharp teeth on concrete and/or placing a wet knife into quik stop and then putting them into a plastic bag for a day or two to assist in dulling the knife between the teeth. Other people run them up and down in sand, kitty litter and use them on dirty coats to help dull them. Whatever you decided to do you need to make sure they are dulled before use or damage to skin and coat can and WILL occur.
When used properly a thin layer of undercoat "fluff" will build up on the teeth of the knife.
The different knives take out different amounts of hair and different layers of hair. The coarse is a deeper toothed knife and will go all the way to the skin. The Medium has slightly shorter teeth and does not go as deeply. Fine and extra fine are wonderful for removing clipper lines and undercoat from short coated dogs. I find myself reaching for my fine and Extra-Fine more than any other. They just seem to remove more hair faster in my opinion.
As for the coat king and coat king type tools they DO card out coats on spaniels and terriers. They must be used STRICTLY with the lay of the hair or they will cut hair. The duller they are, the better they work. To dull these I use them on double coated dogs before their bath. Goldens, Huskies, Poms; the dirt in the coat will help dull the blades really fast and then you will find the hair gets pulled rather than cut. If it is pulling hair will be on both sides of the blades. If it is cut it will only be on one side. It is easy to tell the difference. You also should not see cut hair when used properly. The hair will look natural and have no cut lines in it whatsoever. I use a Coat King on Cairns and Westies in the shop to help mimic stripping and give me a natural look to my grooming. It will help you with pets and can even help preserve color and texture when used correctly.
Here is a short video clip of me using my carding knives on my dog, Kermit.
I hope this has helped a little bit in your understanding of carding. Next time I will give a short stripping overview and discuss the other tools in the photo.