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Posted by Willow Mattox on January 29, 2019
By Willow Mattox
In this article, I will discuss the basics of clipper handling and how to cut hair so that you can use your tools effectively, safely, and in a way that will make your job easier. What I cannot give you in this article is talent. An artistic and careful eye is the most important thing you can have to achieve a great look, and hopefully it comes naturally to you. If you discover that you have no artistic talent in grooming your pet, at the very least your new skills will keep your pet clean and comfortable and hopefully save you some money. I am not going to get into the specific breed haircuts because I want you to focus on your technique and getting comfortable with using all of the tools correctly and confidently. Once you accomplish that, you will be able to create styles you like and also implement patterns you may see on other dogs or in pictures. Also, this approach will help you focus on the most important aspect of grooming your pet: his comfort and health.
Common Clipper Blades
A short haircut should be done with a #5 blade or shorter. In grooming equipment, blade numbers go backwards from what you would expect. That is, the smaller the number, the longer the hair will be, and the bigger the number, the shorter the hair will be. So short haircuts will be a #5, #7, #9, #10 (named longest to shortest). Long haircuts will be #5/8, #3, and #4, and then combs, of course, leave the hair even longer. Personally, for short haircuts, my favorite blade length is the #5. It cuts through hair well, is short enough to cut underneath most matts, and is a very safe blade to use. It also is not too short and leaves a fuzzy, instead of shaved, look. In the longer lengths, my favorite is the #3 because it leaves the hair about an inch long when you are clipping with the lay of the hair (the direction the hair lays when it’s flat) and leaves the coat looking full and fluffy.
Safety tip: If you choose to use a #7 (FC) blade, you must be extremely careful! This blade's teeth are spaced a little too wide and folds of skin have been known to easily roll in between the teeth and cause severe gashes. Always pull skin tight when using this blade and never run it parallel to a fold or roll. Never use this blade on the groin area or flank, on elderly dogs with thin skin, or on an animal that is dehydrated. Unfortunately, not all groomers are aware of the dangers of the #7 blade and may even refute this information as untrue. But friend, I have met too many groomers who have found out the hard way just how unforgiving this blade can be. For an inexperienced groomer, an injury with a #7 blade usually results in a trip to the vet for stitches. That is not to say that the #7 is a bad blade. It produces a fantastic short haircut for summer that doesn't look like a Marine Corps high and tight and is a favorite among groomers everywhere.
Another thing about blades that is not immediately obvious to the novice is that blades come in a finish-cut or (FC or F for short depending on the brand) and a skip-tooth version. FC versions append an abbreviation to the number—for example, a finish-cut #5 blade would be written as #5FC or #5F. The same length of blade in a skip-tooth version would simply be written as #5. Unless you are very experienced, you should always buy the FC type of blades. Skip-tooth blades are very dangerous for the novice to use, for the same reasons I just discussed for the #7FC. Skip-tooth blades look exactly like they sound, with every other tooth being short. The purpose of these blades is to cut through coats that may be matted, tangled, or very thick. Because of the spacing of the teeth, you can easily make mistakes with them and cut your dog. I recommend only buying the FC blades if you have years of experience or are trying to shave down a double-coated breed dog and must have this type of blade. Once you have determined the length you are going to cut the hair, here are the most important tips you need in order to groom your dog like a groomer.
My Top 10 Techniques to Make Using a Clipper Easy
I hope you learned something you didn't know before!