Scissor Care That Every Groomer Can Do

When you get new shears, or shears back from the sharpener, they are adjusted to cut. We at Northern Tails service Pet Groomers only, and we adjust shears they way we want them to cut focusing on the tips and the front end of the shear.

The adjustment for tension (or balance as some call it), is a screw or thumb wheel on the pivot of the shears. Beveled edge shears are adjusted to where the blades grab about ¾ an inch from the tip. This enables the blades to slice from the pivot all the way to the tips. If tension isn’t set like this on beveled 10” shears, the blades may push apart from one another in thicker coat and fold at the tips. There is a space between the blades of beveled shears that has to be there, this gives this shear the “slicing” action it needs to get through tough coat with ease. This type of edge is the workhorse of the grooming industry and can be used on any type of coat. This edge lasts for months unless you drop them or hit something in the coat and create a nick.

Convex shears have a different edge all together. This edge is a razor, and is also sharpened differently. Convex edges are honed on both sides, first on the diamond wheel to create the edge, then honed on the interior of the blade to make that edge a razor. Convex shears have little or no space between the blades because they are so sharp they “chop” through hair rather than slicing to produce a beautiful cut used in finish work. Tension is adjusted to where the blades start to grab 1/3 to ½ way down from the tips keeping the blades as close as possible to each other. If the tension is too loose on a convex shear two things can happen: the blades may grab ¾ of an inch from the pivot creating a gouge, and they can fold hair at the tips.

Note: The tension adjustment is for adjusting the way the shear cuts, its not for the convenience or ease of the way the shear opens and closes. Tension can be adjusted a little, but if its adjusted so the shear feels loose to you because of hand or scissoring problems, thats not good because they may fold at the tips. There are shears available with ball bearings in the pivot. This type of shear feels loose no matter what the tension is adjusted at.


Cleaning shears

Clean your shears daily. Wipe all the hair from the inside of the blades, this attracts moisture which can rust your shears. If the blades have grime or hairspray on them, take a Handy Wipe and rub all this off. Never leave shears dirty because it will cause problems down the road.


Lubing shears

Lubricate shears with shear lube only, it contains silicon and a light solvent. Not lubricating can cause the screw to rust and not stay tight. There is moisture in your pivot from scissoring, lube gets rid of it. Not lubing can cause tiny pieces of hair and pet dander to remain in the pivot. This will tighten the tension, slow the shear down, and may cause a binding feel when scissoring. Lube the shear, then open and close them a few times to get the lube around the pivot good. Convex shears need to be lubed more than beveled shears. Never use blade oil on a shear, it will stiffen over time. Most beauty supply stores carry shear/scissor lube.

Have a great day grooming, and read those labels.


Why is there a space between the blades of my shears?

On some shears there is suppose to be a noticable space, this is called the "Set". On beveled edge shears, it enables the shear to "Slice" the hair. Without it the hair may fold. As you open and close a beveled edge shear, you can look down through this space and see the blades only touch in one place along the blade as the shear blades open and close. This gives the beveled edge shear that powerfull slicing ability which is what most groomers want. The beveled edge is the work horse of the grooming industry, you use this edge to rough in dirty dogs or general grooming. It costs less to sharpen shears with this edge. Below is a picture of the space between the blades of a beveled edge shear. Note the small angle on the cutting edge?

Bevelled gap

The next type of shear to talk about is the Convex Shear. These shears still have a space or "set", but its very very small. It would be difficult to get a piece of paper to slide between the blades.

The convex shear cuts hair completely different than the beveled edge shear, it chops rather than slices. Why? Because the convex shear edge is a razor rather than a slicing bevel. The edge is so sharp it doesnt have time to slice, so it takes all the hair off with one wack. You shouldn't feel hair cut with a convex edge its that sharp, when you do, and it starts to push the hair, its time for resharpening. Groomers get the best finish using convex shears, and you use them on clean combed out dogs only. Any dirt or knots in the coat can cause the convex shear to dull or pit the edge, then they fold.

One note about convex shears, just because they have the convex edge doesn't mean its good. Today many manufacturers are putting the convex edge on low grade cheaper shears, to me the metal isnt hard enough to hold this edge over time. Example, if you buy a shear for $50 and it has a convex edge, chances are that edge will round out in two weeks because the metal of the shear isn't top quality. A top quality shear you'll spend some good money on and the metal is good enough to hold this edge for months. I recommend that if you having trouble keeping a convex edge cutting on your $60 shears, why not have the sharpener put a small beveled edge on it next time. That edge will cut for months on these cheaper shears. Replacing a convex edge on a shear can range from $10 to $25 becuase they are honed to sharpeness rather than ground to an edge.

Below is a view of the space between the blades of a convex shear, there is barely a space. The only space it needs is for the blades to pass each other without binding, they need to be close together. If you loosen the tension of a convex shear or thinner too much, the blades will grab each other about an inch from the pivot screw. If this happens, dont keep using it, it needs to be honed again.

Convex gap

I posted this information for groomers, as well as new sharpeners, so you know the characteristics of both styles of shears. Some folks buy shears and really don't know any more about them except they cut hair. There is a big difference, beveled edge shears are for general grooming, convex are mainly for finish work. Sharpeners sometimes get calls from very mad groomers after they get thier shears back from sharpening and say "When I got my shears back from you there was a space between the blades, it wasn't there when I sent them to you". Yes ,it was there when you sent them, you just didn't know why. So now everyone knows the space between the blades of a beveled edge shear is supposed to be there and why its important to the way it cuts.

I hope this helped you in some way make decisions on shear purchases and what you'll be using them for in your shop. Another question I get asked is "Whats a good lubricant for shears"? In my opinion, you don't have to get special lube for them, you can use something you may already have.....blade wash! Good blade wash has several good uses for shears. First, its a lube, most good blade washes have liquid silicon in them, so does spray coolants. Secondly, they have a solvent in them. This solvent can break down the pet dander and small hair that accumulates around the pivot screw in your shear that can tighten the tension over time. When a shear slows down try the blade wash before loosening the pivot screw. When you loosen the screw it changes the way the shear cuts. To apply blade wash to your shear pivot do this. Get a Q-tip and stick it in the blade wash to moisten. Point the tips of your shears up and open them enough to have one blade straight out to one side. Now take the Q-tip and press it against the blade still pointing up so the blade wash drips down into the pivot. Open and close the shear rapidly and you should feel it naturally loosen up for you. If you open them wide again you may see some dark stuff moving out of your pivot area, this is the stuff that collected there and tightened your tension.

Have a great day grooming, and please read those labels :)



Shear Conditions : How older shears may need adjusted to get them to cut properly again

Very Pointed Shears
When any shear gets sharpened many times they get thinner toward the front of the blade.
The effect this has on the shear is they will fold the hair, its noticeable more on 10 inch shears than 8 inch.
As you see in the comparison of the top shear to the bottom one, the blades of the top shear are a bit thinner at the tips. Both shears are the same brand and model.


When the tips get that thin the shear will sometimes fold the hair.
Tension can be adjusted to make them cut, but when going from breed to breed they may fold again.
They may work good on small dogs because the hair on most small dogs will lay flat.
The coat on bigger dogs is quit the opposite, its lays on its self or lays in "bunches". When you try to cut it folds, good example is around the feet.
Why does it fold the hair? Because the tips are too pointy and there isn't enough metal left at the tip of the shear blade to make it rigid and stable, so the blades push away from each other thus folding hair.

Fixing Pointed Shears So They Work Correctly Again

A good sharpener, especially one who uses shears in grooming, will see and anticipate a shear folding hair if it has narrow tips.
The fix is very simple and non-evasive, most times you can't tell the difference when cutting.
The tips should be ground back 1/8th inch or so to give the tips enough width and rigidity again so it will cut tough coat without folding anymore.
When I see shears that look like hypodermic needles, I call the customer and discuss options. If your shears get in this condition they become very dangerous not only to your client, but to you as well. 
If the shears are in need of something, I usually get the "OK" to do the "Fix" on them.

Below is an illustration of what has to be done to get more width at the tips of the blade.


If the tips are fixed as shown, your shears should work properly again. By looking at this shear, most good sharpeners can tell you've used them for many years and they are probably your favorite shear.
Sharpening once usually isn't the problem, shears get this way from being sharpened over many years. Let the sharpener fix them while they are being sharpened. Shears can only be fixed so many times when in this condition, so now may be a good time to just "let go" and find a good replacement.

Shear Handles

I get 1000's of shears to sharpen every year, and I see some very bad decisions made by fellow sharpeners. This condition is probably the worst that can happen to someones shears, its called "The Grinding of Handles".


I know you've seen this on your shears sometimes and this can be avoided 99% of the time. Who ever did this to these handles doesn't know the correct way to adjust shears. Imagine someone doing this to your expensive Kenchii shears....OMG!

As shears get sharpened the tips will eventually get a "gap" over time and won't close all the way. Cutting with them like this will snag hair at the tips. You check for this by closing your shears, and if they are open a tiny bit at the tips, the handles need adjusted outward to let the blades close all the way again. The fix is very simple, you bend the handles outward enough until the tips close all the way again. Now the exception to this rule is cast iron shears. If the handles need widened, then grinding them like shown may be the only way to get them to work. If you try to bend cast handles they will snap like a potato chip.

Choose a good sharpener even if you have to mail out, there are plenty of us out there.

Be Safe, Have Fun, and Read Those Labels :)


Grooming Tools - Why is caring for them more important now than ever.

Pet grooming is the most aggressive form of hair care in the world, and it takes a toll on our equipment as well as our bodies. If your an "Old School" groomer like me, your use to equipment that lasted years and not months. With this in mind, we can't take anything for granted anymore, we may have to work hard at grooming and equipment care equally.  

I don't want to sound repetitive "Blade Care, Blade Care, Blade Care", because it sounds like a broken record. And most importantly, I don't want to make anyone feel stupid, thats not the case and I apologize if I did. But equipment care will really save you money on sharpening and clipper repair. Some folks are doing a great job maintaining their equipment, and I believe that ANY maintenance is better than not doing anything at all. But some folks have no idea where to start, or why is their equipment is breaking down, and why blades stop cutting so quickly. Its an area of grooming they probably never had schooling on and had to wing it themselves. These are the groomers my video's and articles are provided for, and I will help them win the battle of equipment care once and for all. They will be more happy with the operation of their tools, and have one less thing to worry about.  

What exactly is an "Old School" groomer?

I have been making reference to this term for many years and when you break it down to understand it the term makes sense. You may be an Old School groomer and not even know it.

To start off lets go way back in time, to a time when pet grooming started its mechanical innovations, probably in the late 1960's and 1970's. This was the time when the Oster clipper was the undisputed king of the clippers. Double Ducks, Monks, Gators, Fromm, and last but not least, Oster shears were the back bone of the scissor specialists. There were very few styles offered from these shear companies, and everything was very basic. Clipper blades purchased were mainly Oster, and they had the name "Oster" engraved on the blade, and not inked on like it is today. The blades seem to tarnish somewhat, but when they were sharpened we could count on the edge lasting many months with proper care.

Old Schooler's didn't have the luxury of having a mobile sharpener stopping by every month, or doing all the clipper repair they needed. When things got dull everyone mailed out to Oster or Andis to have their stuff sharpened. In time, several other mail-in sharpening services started to open up because the demand was there, and no one wanted to wait 2 or 3 months to get blades back. When you mailed out equipment you knew it wouldn't be back for some time, so you were forced to learn how to take care of the equipment you kept to work with. You cleaned blades every night so the edge would last, sometimes a couple times a day depending on how nasty the dogs were. Shears were wiped clean between dogs and NEVER set in the way where a dog could kick them off the table. Every groomer was more aware of the condition of their equipment, and they had to learn how to fix anything that went bad or you didn't work. 

This was what an "Old School" groomer was all about, and they are still out there working in shops everywhere.  They are easy to spot also, when every other groomer in the shop gives the mobile sharpener 10 blades and 3 pairs of shears, this groomer will only give 3 blades, one shear, and will ask for the parts to fix the minor things wrong with their clipper.  Are you an Old School groomer? Old habits are hard to break!

The grooming business is getting bigger.

Today we all see the progress our industry has made over the last twenty years. It has gone from a 2 million dollar a year business, to a 2 BILLION dollar a year business and that number may be higher yet. More families who have pets are going out and getting a second and even a third pet, plus buying all the accessories. New grooming schools have been started all over the country in hopes of turning out new groomers to meet the need. Corporations have got into the business of pets with the introduction of the "Pet-Somethings" through the 80's, 90's, and 00's. 

Now that the industry has more pets to groom, everything has gone from a normal pace to a fast pace. That means more pets to groom and less time to groom them in.  No one has the time anymore or can make time for this very important part of grooming, equipment care. I feel the clippers and blades are not made as well as they were only a few years ago, and equipment care should be in there someplace everyday just to keep them working.

Going Back To Basics. 

Today we have faster clippers, faster grooms, cheaply made tools, and more dogs then we ever had in the shop at one time, this means our awareness of everything has to be heightened. I'll help you with the information you need about your equipment care, thats my job. Remember how I described an Old School groomer?, we have to be headed back that way when it comes to our blades, shears and clippers or they just wont last. 

Years ago I wrote and article about blade care basics and it surprised everyone that read it because it was filled with "Old School" techniques. These concepts were never mentioned or taught by any grooming school anyone had ever attended that I interviewed. Equipment care was dropped from the schools or time drastically reduced covering it to keep costs down. Read the article and see if it sounds like a good idea to you and if you may want to start a basic program like it mentions. Some care is better than no care.

Article: "Basic Clipper Blade Care" (click to open)


Be aware of clipper problems. 

Our clippers are 50% of our cutting system, its not just the blades. If blades don't cut when you get them back from sharpening, its not always the sharpening that caused the failures. So, I've made video's for popular clipper models that will allow you to follow along and check the parts on your clipper at the same time. These video's have helped many groomers who received blades back from a sharpener (me included), when some of the blades didn't cut very well or just dragged through the coat. The size of blades that bring out clipper problems after they get sharpened are #10 blades and #7 blades. If there is anything loose or worn out in your clipper, blades will not cut properly. Just because your clipper isn't that old don't assume everything is OK with it. Clippers are not made the same way they were even 5 years ago. A good rule of thumb is to change your blade drive when you get your blades sharpened. The link below will take you to the video page on my website, once there scroll down to the video that checks your brand of clipper. Get your clipper and follow along with the video and check each component along with it. The files are named :"What to check on your (brand name) clipper if the blades don't cut after they get sharpened". These video's helped many groomers indentify and replace worn clipper parts and made their blades start cutting immediately.

Video: Click here to go to the video page, then scroll down to the video needed.

Again, I'm don't want to make you feel bad if your equipment care isn't what it should be, and I apologize if I come across that way.  If you feel your doing OK with equipment care thats fine, you have a system that works for you. But if your having all sorts of problems and don't know where to start, then my website is a good place to begin. Using one or two of my suggestions could possibly stop needless sharpening and most clipper problems. With my help you can get 3, 6, 9, or even a year out of a sharpening. Those are real numbers and sometimes it takes a workstyle change to accomplish what many are doing already. I get emails regularly thanking me for having such an informative website available. You NOW have a better choice!

Be safe, have fun, and read those labels :)