How to Sharpen Hair Clipper Blades
The better your hair clipper blades work, the easier it is to give yourself a trim that you can be proud of. Taking a few extra steps to maintain and sharpen your clippers can make the entire process of grooming and hair maintenance less time-consuming and tedious. Not to mention, using sharp clippers is a much more comfortable experience since a sharp blade is less likely to pull your hair or nick your skin while cutting.
Not sure how to make your clippers as sharp as the day you bought them? Here’s a step-by-step guide with all the information you need on blade sharpening for clippers.
Why Is It Important To Have Sharp Clipper Blades?
Clippers can give you professional results, whether you need to give your hair a trim or to manscape choice parts of your body hair. However, a dull clipper blade can make your grooming process a real pain.
Dull blades are more likely to cut unevenly or snag the hair. You’ll know when it’s time to service your clippers because they won’t work well, and you may not like the effects. Most clippers require sharpening when they tug on your hair while cutting, or they might even nick your skin.
Ideally, though, you might see that the blades were dull before you place them against your skin. But we know that it doesn’t always work that way, and a dull set of clippers can be really frustrating. If you don’t want to buy new clipper blades all the time, which can be really expensive, then its time to invest in some stones of different grit and do the sharpening yourself.
Most clippers that have blades that you can sharpen. Yes, even your Wahl clipper blades can be sharpened so that they are better able to cut your hair without pulling. Additionally, you can sharpen most razor blades using a whetstone. Although, razor blades are designed to be inexpensively replaceable, so it is an option to just purchase a new blade.
What You’ll Need
Although you may find many possible hacks all over the Internet telling you how to sharpen clipper blades, the best way to do this is to take it apart, use a whetstone with medium grit, and put it back together when you’re done.
While it may sound like a lot of work, learning how to do it right can be a great time saver for your morning routines. Don’t be intimidated by the idea of sharpening with stones, the process is really simple and it will give you professional quality results that last for a long time.
If you get and keep around a few simple tools, including one or two sharpening stones, you can maintain your clippers so that you don’t have to send them in for professional service. Additionally, it will save you the cost of buying your clipper blades new every time they dull. Not to mention, whetstones are handy to have around the place, since you can use them to sharpen most anything with a blade, including your kitchen knives.
Essential Tools for Sharpening Clipper Blades
- A screwdriver. The best way to know what kind of screwdriver you need is to look at your clippers and see what kind of screws are holding the blades in place. Since you’ll be using the screwdriver to remove the blades from the clipper base, be sure you have one that properly fits and is the correct shape. You will need to use these screws again when reattaching the blades, and you don’t want to strip them during the removal process.
- Cleaning tools. Once you take your blades apart, you will likely find them dirty with hair and other buildup. Use a tool to clean the blade, such as a wire brush, steel wool, or even an old toothbrush or other microbrush to make short work of scrubbing them down until they’re like new.
- Blade cleaning solution. You can make your own blade cleaning solution by combining water with white vinegar or 90%+ isopropyl alcohol. This solution will help to remove rust and buildup. If you intend to purchase commercial blade wash, keep in mind that these, while convenient, contain carcinogens. Vinegar or rubbing alcohol solutions are good substitutes. To get the most out of it, mix the vinegar or alcohol with warm water.
- Clipper oil. This is necessary to lubricate the blades and keep them sharper for longer. If you don’t have clipper oil, you can substitute hair oil as well. Your ideal oil will be light in color and of a thin consistency. Oils that are too dark or heavy are more likely to clog the blades.
- At least one sharpening stone. A coarse whetstone, honing stone, or sharpening stone is a key part of this process. In most cases, these are all different words for the same thing. For the first pass, you’ll need a coarse whetstone of about 4000 grit.
- A towel or rag. Things can get messy during the sharpening process. You want to give yourself plenty of space, have extra water for rinsing, and keep some rags or paper towels available to help you clean and keep things tidy.
Optional Tools and Products to Sharpen Clipper Blades
- A fine grit stone. A fine whetstone of about 8000 grit will allow you to finely hone the edge and sharpness of the blade. This not only gives you a more honed edged with fewer barbs than you might get with a coarser stone, but it also helps to ensure that your sharp edge will last longer.
- While most people prefer to work by running the blade at a fairly flat angle against the stone, others like to have something to hold the blade as they sharpen it. You can use a strong, flat magnet to hold the blade. Just be sure that whatever holder you have has a strong grip, or it may be more trouble than its worth.
- For those who are using clippers with ceramic blades, it’s necessary to use a diamond sharpening stone. You won’t have good results sharpening ceramic blades with ceramic stones. Instead, you need to find a stone that is specifically designed for sharpening ceramic blades. This information should be available from the clipper manufacturer as well.
- A permanent marker to mark the blade so you can keep track of how much you have sharpened and whether you’re sharpening in a straight line.
How To Sharpen Hair Clipper Blades: Step By Step
Most clippers have two blades that need to be sharpened. The first blade will be the larger one that remains in place and combs through the hair. The second, smaller blade moves and works to chop the hair. For well-functioning clippers, you want to hone both of these blades so that they work smoothly together to cut the hair without pulling.
- Soak the whetstone before use. Read about your sharpening stone before use. Some manufacturers recommend soaking the stone in water or oiling the surface. If your whetstone needs to be soaked, submerge it in water until bubbles no longer rise from it.
- Remove the blades from the clipper device. Your blades will normally be attached to the clippers with screws. Removing them should be a simple process of using the screwdriver to loosening and unscrewing these. Make sure to pay attention to how the pieces are attached so that you will be able to reassemble them when the time comes. Be careful to put the screws in a safe place, since they will be small and easy to lose. You will now see two different blades. The larger blade is the one that doesn’t move. It works primarily as a comb, while the smaller blade moves and clips the hair.
- Give the blades a good scrub. For the longevity of your clippers, you should be in the habit of cleaning your blades after use. However, you won’t be able to get at everything until you take it apart. Once you have removed the blades from the base, you have your best opportunity to deep clean. The parts that aren’t exposed will often have a lot of build-up from oils and hair. Brush any remaining hair, buildup, and debris out from between the teeth. In some cases, your blade may have rusted, so it’s a good idea to use your blade cleaning solution to remove the rust. When using the solution, soak the blades for a couple of minutes, and then carefully use a cotton ball or towel to wipe away rust and buildup.
- Once the blades are clean, dry them with a towel. Use a cloth or paper towel to dry the blades of excess moisture. This is a good moment to tidy everything before you move onto sharpening the blade with the stone, so refresh your water, and neaten your area.
- Using the permanent marker, mark the blade with a straight line. This should be done prior to beginning the sharpening process. Your line will help you know when you have worn down the blade enough. Additionally, you can track that you have ground down the blade evenly.
- Sharpen each blade by running the blade across a whetstone. As you sharpen the blades, try to keep them at an even 30-40 degrees. Then move it forward along the length of the whetstone. You don’t need to use a lot of pressure to hone the blade. If it isn’t moving smoothly across the surface of the stone, lubricate the stone with some water. As you sharpen, be aware of your angle. You need it to remain at that same small angle so that the forward motion works to sharpen the entire blade and not only the jagged edges or teeth. After five to ten swipes, it should look shiny, and any teeth should be evened out.
- Clean off any residue from sharpening it. As you sharpen the blades you will likely see little metal powder that had been ground off during the sharpening process. Clean this off using a dry cloth. Then, turn the blade over and repeat the previous sharpening process.
- Fine-tune the edge. If you have a fine honing stone as well as your coarse one, you can use it to create a slightly sharper and finer edge, using the same motions as above.
- Allow the blades to dry completely before reassembly. It’s generally not enough to use your rag to dry the blades. Since clippers are electrical devices, it’s better to be safe and allow them to air dry for some time as well. While you are allowing the blades to dry, go ahead and check that the body of the clippers is clean. Clear out any hair and buildup.
- Put the clippers back together. When reassembling, make sure that the blades are both facing the correct direction so that they can move back and forth against each other without a problem. This might mean taking care to correct the alignment and spacing as well. Then screw the blades back into the base using the same screws that you removed from the clippers in the first step.
- Apply oil to the clippers. You should oil regularly, about every-other to every third use. Nonetheless, it’s especially important to oil the blades after you have cleaned or sharpened them. This step offers lubrication that prevents overheating and reducing the kind of friction that will wear down the blades prematurely. To apply oil, don’t go overboard. A drop or two directly onto the blades will do. Use a cotton swab to gently spread it over the blades, and use a rag to wipe away any excess.
- Test the clippers by turning them on. Once you are done with the sharpening process and have your clippers reassembled and oiled, turn them on and run them for a few minutes to test them. This will not only tell you if there are any problems with your assembly, but it will also further hone the clippers.
How Often Should You Do This?
Keep in mind that some clipper models are self-sharpening. If you have self-sharpening clippers, then it can be a good idea to simply clean the blades before going on with the sharpening process. Then give them a test. In some cases, a simple cleaning will be all that your clippers really require.
However, not all self-sharpening clippers are created to the same quality. Even more importantly, there will be times when, after heavy use, even self-sharpening clippers will need a little extra honing to give them a good edge.
How often you’ll need to sharpen your clippers will depend on the frequency of use. If you use them frequently, then you might need to sharpen them a couple of times a year. More infrequent use will mean less frequent sharpening as long as you take care of the blades.
Until you get into a pattern with your clipper use, or if your clipper use is inconsistent across time, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on their performance, that way you can sharpen them before they start to cause problems. Remember, you don’t have to wait until they are tugging your hair and or cutting you. If their performance isn’t satisfactory, or you don’t find them as smooth as when you first purchased them, then they might need some servicing.
Tips To Take Better Care of Your Clipper Blades
The better condition you keep your blades, the less often you will have to sharpen them. The key to keeping them sharp is cleaning and oiling. Consistently cleaning the blades removes the hair, rust, and other build-up.
At the same time, oil help to reduce friction between the blades, allowing them to rub together longer before wearing down. To oil the blade, apply a couple of drops of clipper or hair oil to the blades. Too much oil can add gunk and buildup to the blades, so make sure to wipe away any excess after applying the oil.
Ultimately, being willing to maintain your clippers will keep them running better for a longer time. If you clean and sharpen them before they get too dull, you can prevent stress on the mechanical parts of the clippers, while also preventing discomfort from clippers that tug and pull your hair.