No matter what the manufacturer said on the box, sharpen your clipper blades.
Self-sharpening claims are a sales gimmick. Every blade must be sharpened to maintain its edge.
You could take them to a professional. But often they charge you more than your clippers are worth. Instead, I recommend you sharpen your own clipper blades.
With just a few tools, I can teach you this useful skill in about fifteen minutes, saving you a lot of time and money. Anyone can learn how. And it’s especially useful for tradesman who use clippers all the time.
Many guides I’ve seen online teach you bad practices that ruin your blades. But don’t worry, you can’t ruin your blades with my guide.
Below, you’ll find out how to sharpen your clipper blades the easy way. Plus, I explain how to keep your blades sharp longer.
Table of Contents
- How Often Should You Sharpen Your Clipper Blade?
- Things You’ll Need Before Sharpening Your Blades
- Choose a Good Work Area
- 10 Steps to Sharpen Your Clipper Blades Steps
- Clipper Maintenance Tips
- A Sharp Blade Is a Reliable Blade
How Often Should You Sharpen Your Clipper Blade?
There’s no easy answer because everyone uses their clippers differently. But as a rule, you should sharpen them every six months.
If you use your clippers all day, like in a barber shop or dog grooming salon, then you’ll sharpen them more often. Some barbers I know put their clippers through so much hair they need to sharpen them every two months.
An easy way to tell when your clippers need sharpened is when they pull hair or nick skin. But you need to sharpen your clippers before that happens, especially if you’re using them on people.
So, the best trick I’ve found is to sharpen them once their performance drops enough for you to notice. Remember how amazing they worked when you first bought them? They should work that well every time you turn them on.
Things You’ll Need Before Sharpening Your Blades
Your main purchase will be a whetstone. I highly recommend you buy one. Remember, taking your blades to a shop will cost about the price of one whetstone. A quality whetstone will last you years.
I know it seems like a lot of stuff. It really isn’t. Most of the supplies on the list are common kitchen items.
Screwdriver: Any old screwdriver will do. Just make sure it fits the clipper’s screws. You don’t want to strip them because it’ll cause a whole other series of problems.
White Vinegar: I use white vinegar instead of blade wash. Although I agree that blade wash works better, it’s linked to certain cancers. Avoid it.
Small Bowl with Warm Water: You’ll use this mixed with a splash of vinegar for the blade wash.
Paper Towel or Rag: Anything non-abrasive will do. A microfiber cloth is the best option, but I’m not picky. If using paper towel have plenty ready.
Tooth Brush: I use an old toothbrush to scrape off the gunk between the clipper blades. But a regular brush works fine, or a scoring pad.
Marker: Preferably permanent marker, either red or black. We’ll use the marker to tell how much surface area your whetstone has removed.
Whetstone: Oil, Water, Diamond: There’s plenty of different sharpening stones. I can do a whole guide on sharpening stones alone. If you plan to only sharpen your clipper blades, then a 3,000 grit and 8,000 grit combo is all you need. You can also use the stone for your kitchen knives, so it’s well worth the price.
Container and Water: You need to soak the whetstone before using. Rummage through your kitchen for a bowl or Tupperware to fit the whetstone in. I use a casserole dish. Fill it with room temperature water, just enough to cover the stone completely.
Choose a Good Work Area
You want an open, clean work area to sharpen your clipper blades because the work can be messy. Hair from between the blades and the clipper body often gets everywhere. Whetstones require water, so don’t work near anything electrical.
I recommend you don’t work near your laptop or the kitchen table. A garage is perfect. I live in an apartment and sharpen my blades on the dining room table.
I lay a towel down and then place everything I need on it. That way I don’t have to worry about eating hair in my next meal. When I’m done, I scoop up the towel and throw it in the laundry hamper.
Really, anywhere you feel safe and have plenty of light will do. The important thing is that you have room to work and feel comfortable trying something new in the space.
10 Steps to Sharpen Your Clipper Blades Steps
Place everything on the table. The first step involves your whetstone, the tub of water, and the clippers. For now, tut the rest of your supplies to the side.
Your first sharpening attempt will take a while, be patient. Once you’ve got a knack for it, you’ll bang the job off in ten or fifteen minutes. The important thing is to follow the steps closely and don’t rush.
Pay attention. Sharpening your blades isn’t hard, but you can learn to do a few things the wrong way and damage your blades.
Step 1: Prep Whetstone
I use a two-sided stone with two different grits: 3,000 on one side and 8,000 on the other. If you have two separate whetstones, that’s fine.
Prepping the stone depends on the type. Because I use water whetstones, I soak them in a tub of water for about ten minutes or until saturated.
You know when a whetstone is ready when bubbles no longer rise from the stone. Once the surface of the water remains placid, I remove the stone and place it onto the towel. Keep the 3,000-grit side up as you’ll use that side first.
Step 2: Disassemble Clipper Blades
While the whetstone soaks, remove the clipper blades from the clipper. There are two screws on the face of the clipper blade to take off. Be careful not to drop them. They’re easy to lose. Put the screws aside, somewhere you won’t forget. I place mine in a mug on the table.
I call the bigger blade that doesn’t move the comb blade. The blade that moves I call the cutting blade. I use these names throughout the guide.
Step 3: Clean the Blades
You’ll find the unexposed parts of your blades full of gunk. Oil adheres to the back of the blade and hair sticks to the oil. It’s a mess.
You need to clean the blades to sharpen them properly. Grab the toothbrush and scrape off all the bits. Then dump the blades in the bowl of water and vinegar. Let the blades soak for five minutes.
Use the paper towel to wipe off the residue stuck on the blade. Dry them off completely.
Step 4: Mark Blades
With your marker, highlight the flat surface of the blades. The flat side is the side of the blades that rub together and cut hair.
By marking side of the blades that you’re sharpening, you’ll know when you’ve worn down the blade enough with the whetstone. It also tells you what areas need more sharpening.
Step 5: Sharpen the Comb Blade
Lubricate the whetstone with a splash of water so the blade sweeps smoothly across the surface. Sharpen the comb blade first.
You want to set the blade down so it’s perpendicular to the stone. The teeth sharpen sideways along the stone, not with the length of the stone.
With back-and-forth motions, glide the blade across the surface of the stone. You don’t need a lot of pressure, just enough to maintain control of the blade.
Evenly rub away at the stone, use its entire surface area. This adds longevity to your whetstone.
Remember to place the entire blade on the sharpening stone, not just the teeth. Many videos and How-To guides tell you to only sharpen the teeth. That’s wrong.
The rail on the bottom blade must match the top blade perfectly. Solely sharpening the teeth creates uneven wear. You may not notice it the first time. But after three or four sharpens, they’ll pull hair and nick your skin.
After 15 passes rotate the blade so it points in the opposite direction. Then do another 15 passes. The marks you made with the marker should have worn away. If they haven’t, make a few more passes.
Step 6: Sharpen the Cutting Blade
Dunk the whetstone into the container of water to rinse off the stone.
Follow the same process as the comb blade. Place the entire cutting blade onto the surface of the whetstone and make your passes.
Remember, the teeth must point towards the close edge, not down toward the long edge of the stone.
Step 7: Change Grit
Dunk the whetstone. Then flip it over to the 8,000-grit side and repeat the entire process again. Make fifteen passes, then rotate, and make fifteen more passes.
Rinse the stone between the different blades. And check to see if your marker has lifted completely off the blade surface. Make extra passes if some marker remains on the blade.
Step 8: Dry Blades & Assemble
With the hard part done, dry the blades completely. I like to let them air dry for an hour to make sure no moisture sits between the blades or striations.
Before assembling the blades back onto the clipper, confirm that the clipper body is clean. Your toothbrush will make short work of the blade housing. Hair and other gunk often stick on the inside.
Step 9 Lubricate Blades
Your blades won’t stay sharp long if you don’t lubricate them. All clippers ship with clipper oil. If you’re out, baby oil will do.
Place a drop on the blades, nothing more. Then run the clipper for a minute. Let the oil get in to the running mechanism.
Wipe away any excess oil before using the clippers again.
Step 10: Clean Up
Throw out the extra water in the sink and the hair clippings in the trash. Some people like to store their whetstones in water.
I think that’s only a good option if you use it monthly and don’t want to wait for it to soak. I wipe it off and store it in the box.
That’s it. You’ve learned how to sharpen clippers blades.
Clipper Maintenance Tips
There’s no secret answer to keeping your blades sharp longer, just old-fashioned maintenance. Sharpening your blades is the hardest part of that maintenance.
The other two tricks to long lasting blades are oiling and cleaning.
Remember to oil your clipper after every use and never use more than you need. If you’re too liberal with the oil, you’ll junk up the clipper and it’ll run poorly. One or two drops should suffice.
Cleaning your clippers isn’t hard either, although it can be annoying. I use the brush that came with my clipper and wipe the surface hair off the comb blade.
Then I get a smaller brush and sweep whatever I can reach under the cutting blade. Clean your clipper before and after you run it. Also, protect the teeth with the included guard. One lost or chipped tooth and you’ll need a new blade.
A Sharp Blade Is a Reliable Blade
Blades are simple, effective tools. A well-kept edge will last you years.
Now that you know how to keep the edge of your clippers clean, oiled, and sharp, you won’t have to spend any money on your clippers. My first set of clippers lasted ten years without a single trip to the repair shop.
But the best part of this experience is that you learned how to use a whetstone. Now you can practice sharpening scissors and kitchen knives.
A sharp blade will cut every time you want it to. Whenever you lose confidence in your edge, get out the whetstone and practice. Reliable people hone reliable blades. So be reliable and keep your edge sharp.