Blade problem or is it?

All manufacturers say their blades will fit all clippers, but it is also true that they all have different hinge sizes and they make their blades to fit this size! However, basically the blade can be adjusted to fit any clipper. Some groomers understand this and can do the job reasonably well themselves. However, I would recommend when you buy a new clipper, particularly of another brand, that you send your blades to a competent blade specialist to have them set to the new clipper. Always use a company, who sets your blades to your clipper, if they don't ask this, don't use them.

I often hear that blades were cutting on the old clipper but won’t on a new one! Many groomers assume that the new clipper is at fault but this is not always so. This happens most often on a change from Andis to another brand and the reason is complicated. Andis use a drive system that is durable but inefficient. Most manufacturers use a solid drive, resulting in a sliver of drive lever being removed every time the blade is changed on a moving clipper. Andis tried to remedy this by putting a space in the centre of the drive. This does reduce wear a little by folding into the space when you change blades but unfortunately this also happens when you hit a difficult or thick coat. The result of this is that when the lever does wear, it's only working in the centre of the blade. If you then put this blade on a clipper with a new drive lever, it starts using the whole blade again and hits a 'bump' every half stroke as the blade is now worn in the centre but not on the sides, causing snagging just like a completely blunt blade. When you return the blade to the old clipper it will still cut! Sharpening will cure this.

When you get your new clippers, make sure you read the instructions and don’t take it for granted that they operate in the same way as your last set. Even if it is the same make and model, manufacturers occasionally make modifications (usually improvements!) to their machines. Hinge lock systems (which require oiling) and 'seating-in' the blades are typical examples of areas where changes could have been made so familiarising yourself with the operating instructions is extremely important. Many blades are returned because the operator cannot get them 'seated' on the clipper! Some manufacturers make the socket ears from softer metal, making them easier to seat but the socket ears soon bend and cause many problems with rattling and chattering blades. Good blades, when new, will be hard to latch but by putting them on your clipper several times (after oiling the hinge and the blade), the socket ears will bend to the size of your clipper hinge and give a tight fit. Good quality blades will stay that way but poor quality the socket ears will splay. Don’t be fooled into buying the most expensive blades to get quality. In the current market, I find the cheapest are much better than some expensive ones!

Do not change blades between different clippers, there are dozens of hinge sizes, even with the same brand and you will get problems if you do not designate blades to individual clippers.

Ceramic blades are fast becoming the norm for many groomers. Whether you love them or loathe them, it cannot be denied that they certainly stay sharper much longer. One sharpener tells me he reckons they last up to 20 times longer than a conventional metal blade.

Many groomers complain that blades come back from sharpening no better or worse than before they were sent. There are many possible reasons for this. Firstly, it could be the sharpener has not ground the blades properly. It is most important with animal blades that they are hollow ground as a matched pair. Secondly, your blades may have been over tensioned. This can damage your clipper, especially if it is of the type with a drive cam instead of gearing. This is the most common reason for blades or clippers overheating. If you cannot easily slide the small cutter blade back and forth with your finger, then the blade is too tight and should be re-tensioned.

Another possibility is that the clipper, not the blade, may be at fault. Too few groomers realise that the drive lever on most clippers should be replaced regularly. As a rough guide, if the machine is clipping eight dogs per day, the lever will probably require to be replaced every eight weeks and the hinge every 16 weeks, depending on the make. For instance, the drive lever on a Laube clipper wears faster than most (mainly because it moves faster). Laube have now developed a new lever which lasts much longer than previously, these new ones are blue in colour and have superseded all other colour drive levers. On Andis clippers the hinge loses tension far faster than most others do. On some makes it is obvious when parts require replacing. On Laube clippers for instance, the blades become noticeably noisy when the drive lever requires replacement but on Andis and Oster models the performance of the blade deteriorates just like a blunt blade. This is because the lever is no longer moving the blade far enough back and forth.

The most important way to get long life and service from your blades is to lubricate them little and often. It is a common misconception that cooling lubricant and blade-wash are lubricants. THEY ARE NOT (although cooling lubricant does have some oil, it is not sufficient). These products have done more for blade sales than any advertising over the last ten years! If a piece of metal like a blade is hot, spraying the surface may cool the blade on the outside, but the metal is still hot on the inside and soon reheats the surface. This could eventually affect the temper of the metal. It should also be noted that spraying these products or oil products like WD40 onto hot metal could cause fumes to be released and can lead to respiratory problems or even cancer in both humans and canines.

Blade wash will sanitise and clean your blade, but you must never leave blades soaking in this and you must oil the blades thoroughly all over after cleaning. Always store blades in a box with a lid. In a moist atmosphere (like a grooming salon) rust can develop in as little as 15 minutes. Leaving un-oiled blades uncovered overnight can turn a sharp blade to a blunt one without even cutting a dog!