by Jeff Andrews, Northern Tails Sharpening
When groomers feel sharp or very pointy teeth they often blame their sharpeners. Actually it may not be their fault. Sharpeners limit sharpening to the parts of blades with cutting surfaces. Because most clipper blades are chamfered sharpeners never make tips sharp. What is the cause of the problem? Animal hair is a likely culprit.
In the illustration below look for the “sharpening part” which is sharpened by sharpeners, and then look for “chamfered or beveled part” which gives the blade its cutting size. The larger the chamfering (or bevel) the higher the blade cuts.
Sharpeners can only make the tips sharp or razor edges of the entire front of blades on three sizes. They are #30, #40 and #50 blades. They don’t have chamfers. Inspect your blades and see the differences.
Dog hair can be very coarse. With repeated use over time coarse hair can cause blade tips to become very sharp and pointy. Skip tooth blades are very prone to being “sharpened” by coarse hair. Careful! They can literally make slices in the animals skin if they are sharp enough. For this reason alone some groomers avoid using skip tooth blades. Don’t worry. If you identify the sharp teeth as part of preventative blade maintenance you can fix the problem.
In this article I will explain the fix. For our example I will use a 7 skip tooth blade. Many groomers consider it a dangerous blade. Skip tooth blades are as safe as F blades if they don’t have sharp tips which risk cutting skin or poking your hand when mounting them on clippers. How one uses a skip tooth blade determines if it is dangerous or not.
On the left is a #7 skip tooth blade. Look at the many pointed teeth which can become sharp after running through coarse animal hair long enough. If you have blades like this, or similar F blades, run your finger along the teeth periodically to check for sharpness. Even when your blades come back from the sharpener, check them for tooth sharpness.
Also look to see if any teeth of the cutter are hanging over the edge of the comb blade. As the safety manager of your blades you can prevent accidents. Truth is if a blade scrapes or cuts an animal because of pointy or sharp teeth the fault lies with you. These injuries are entirely preventable.
Professional sharpeners inspect every blade, especially the #30, #40 or #50 sizes. First they look to see if front edges of blades have turned into razors. Even the sharpening process can do cause that effect to these blade sizes. If one slips by your sharpener and you discover the problem early by following my suggestion to inspect often, here is what you can do to make the blades friendly again.
Refer to the photos below. Most sharpeners use a diamond pad available from home improvement centers. They set the problem blade on the pad, teeth on the pad and move back and forth at about a 15 degree angle until the tips of the blade are no longer like a razor. When skip tooth blades have very pointy tips use the same method. It won’t hurt how the blade digs into coats.
Run the blade back and forth with a slight downward force to let the diamond pad do its work. The motion is like buttering your bread. Go back and forth a few times and check it with your finger. Do this until you feel the blade is safe to use.
Do not press down too hard on #30, #40 and #50 blades. You do not want to grind the front of the blades off which results in the cutter teeth hanging over. Just do enough to make the front edge smooth so it doesn’t slice a pad or nick the face and ears.
Here’s another solution. Assume you just picked up a blade and it has very sharp teeth tips. Unfortunately, you don’t have a diamond pad. You don’t have time to go to the home improvement center to buy one. You are behind schedule with grooms. What do you do? How about an “old school” solution?
Take the affected blade outside and scratch tips on a smooth concrete sidewalk. We have been doing this quick fix for years. It doesn’t hurt the way it cuts. Careful, only scratch it long enough to smooth the tips of your skip tooth blades, or the front edge of your #30, #40 or #50 blades.
Remember to always inspect blades returned from your sharpener. They should have been inspected for sharp edges and teeth and repaired as needed.
If a blade cannot be repaired it shouldn’t be returned to you as “OK to use.” Professionals will segregate the problem blades and mark them, “No Good.”
Blades cannot be sharpened forever. They wear out over time. Unfortunately many sharpeners don’t pay attention to details like this. We do Northern Tails. We are groomers as well as sharpening professionals. We do a multipoint inspection of every blade we service. We go the extra mile so you don’t have to worry.
Regardless of whether your blades come back from sharpeners ready or not for safe and proper use, inspect them before using them. If there is a problem let the sharpener know. Most important, do not use unsafe blades. Fix them. For more information we have videos on teeth and repair options at our website, www.northerntails.com. ♦