I’m interrupting my food-coma-induced silence to bring you the DIY that has lately revolutionized my life: sharpening my own clipper blades! It’s a good break project too, so somewhat timely.
I’m not sure about you guys, but I find getting my clipper blades sharpened surprisingly challenging. I’ve paid to have it done at a two different places, and found myself dissatisfied with the results both times. And you have to drop them off and pick them up and wait, or wait for them to get shipped back out to you. That’s an extra level of planning I’m just not usually prepared for. Additionally, the really good sharpening guy who is local to my area doesn’t open on weekends, so you have to find a way to get to him during the week between 8 and 5, which doesn’t work with my schedule.
So when I found out that you could sharpen your own blades quickly and easily with just one thing that I already had at home, I was sold. That one thing? A whetstone.
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I sharpened my own clipper blades today and it was LIFE CHANGING. Then Suzy Q stood like a rock for her clip (my first time doing a trace, and woah is that harder than a body clip…) and that was life changing too!!! You mean #notallhorses dance around and wiggle and demand a steady stream of cookies to tolerate clipping?! WHAT IS THIS MAGIC??
I’m no sharpening expert, but I watched a bunch of youtube videos that all had the same basic consensus on the method, which seemed pretty easy. My father in law also pointed out that he’s never sharpened something and made it worse. Plus, I clipped my friend’s mare after doing a test-sharpen on my blades and found it pretty easy, even on her tight, thick hair. So that makes me a bona fide internet expert (clip job shown above).
So here’s how you do it.
- a whetstone (I use this one)
- a towel you don’t mind staining forever
- paper towels
- a bowl of water
- clipper blades
- phillips head screwdriver
- clipper blade oil
I did not suggest an adult beverage because we are working with sharp objects, but you’re an adult, you can make your own choices
First, soak or otherwise prepare your whetstone. The twinternet says 5-40 minutes. I soaked mine for about ten.
make sure it’s covered in water
Then you have the slightly fiddly task of taking your clipper blades apart. You simply need to loosen the two screws on the bottom of the clipper blades with your screwdriver. Don’t try to use a butter knife, it won’t work. I tried.
Use your rag towel to provide a surface to keep all your pieces together, and to stabilize your whetstone when you start sharpening.
There are only four pieces (plus two screws) that you have to keep track of, so it’s not too horrifying to take apart. Try to keep the top two pieces together so that you don’t have to fiddle around with them later. Step by step take-apart image below.
Brush all of the hair and dirt and grit out of your blades with a small brush (often comes with clippers), or if you lost it like me, a paper towel.
I tried to take some pictures of how dirty/rusty my blades were, but it was not the easiest picture ever. But you can see dirt and rust on the interior of the blades (this is my wide T84 blade, but it comes apart just the same as the other blades).
Next, plop some water on your sharpening stone and get ready to get dirty! I started on the coarse (1000 grit) side of the stone, and moved to the fine side (4000 grit I think, but maybe 6000) to polish/finish it off. For the blades that had only done a trace clip on one horse since they were last sharpened, I only used the fine grit side (which is why my animations are a bit different from the pictures here).
You should be able to tell the grit level of your stone by feeling it — there’s a big difference between 1000 and 4000 grit.
You are going to sharpen to the two flat sides of the toothed blade; the sides that sit facing one another when the clippers are put together. Once the blade is on the stone with water, you just start rubbing it along the stone with firm and even pressure.
You’ll start seeing dirty/gritty water appear on the stone, and that’s good! That grit is what helps clean up your blade.
Keep adding water to your stone and blade as you go, you want it to stay wet (not underwater, but not just damp) the whole time.
I use three motions to sharpen my blade. First, moving the blade straight up and down square to the stone.
I also run just the edge of the blade across the edge of the stone. This one is a bit more challenging as you have to avoid biting into the edge of your stone with the underside of the blade, and have to try to keep things flat.
Finally, I make circles with the blade along the stone.
From what I understand, using these different motions allows you to avoid making waves/divots in your stone, but also helps you sharpen different parts of the blade. But what do I know.
Keep even pressure across the blade to sharpen the whole length as evenly as possible.
Check the blades regularly to see how clean they are getting. Because you can’t test sharpness until they are put back together, I use cleanness to indicate sharpness. So when I can still see bits of dirt and rust I keep going. When the blades look really shiny and reflective, I know I’m close to done.
Here’s one blade in sunlight. It’s hard to see, but the central teeth are still dirty, so I kept going. Shortly after this, I switched to the fine grit so I could get them really polished (and hopefully sharp).
Just keep rubbing in different directions and orientations and you’ll get there.
When the blades were super shiny and reflective, I called it good. You can see in the pictures that the blades are quite shiny across the entiren length, though in person the middle section was a touch less shiny. I also did this process on the white “ceramic” blade that came on one set of clippers, and they seemed to respond much like the metal blades.
After sharpening, you want to dry the blades off really well. I put the pieces in front of the fireplace for 20 minutes or so, but a low oven would do too. Or in the sunlight if it weren’t too humid.
The last part is the most fiddly – putting the blades back together. It’s just the reverse of taking them apart, but more irritating. Place the small blade on top of the large one with the cutting surfaces touching and line the teeth up. Then place the top pieces down in line with the holes for the screws. The bar on the top pieces fits in a groove on the top blade, which is how the top blade stays in place. Then you need to line the screws up and tighten them down.
I found that by loosely winding one screw in, I could re-adjust the other half of the blade to get the second screw lightly placed. During this step you should make sure your clipper blades are lined up straight, otherwise you’ll end up with a really uneven clip (I imagine, haven’t tested this). Once everything is lined up, really tighten the screws down.
I dried the blades off again on the fireplace after putting them together, then tightened one more time. Now it is time to apply clipper oil. This will prevent your blades from rusting and keep them clean for your next clip job. Attach your blades to your clipper, apply a line of oil across the teeth, then turn the clippers on and let them run for a moment.
Soak your whetstone to get off any residual metal fillings. If you have one, use a flattening stone to resurface the whetstone and achieve a really flat surface again (if you think it needs it). I store my stone in the box it came in, after I’ve cleaned and let it air dry.
And voila! Clippers sharpened. Three sets of clippers took me two episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., all the way through clean up. Well worth the time and investment, imo!