Your Guide to Essential Nail Cutting Tools
Start with the Right Cutting Instrument
Some of you may not realize you have several options when it comes to trimming your nails: nail clippers, nail nippers, and scissors. What may seem like a no-brainer actually has a lot of technicality to it. Let’s explore these options in detail so you have a better understanding of what choice best suites you. You’ll learn the differences in style and craftsmanship, what to look for when making your purchase, as well as the do’s and don’ts of using these tools.
This most commonly thought of instrument owes its popularity to being compact, portable, inexpensive, familiar, and easy to use regardless of which hand is dominant. The only way to ensure you have the best tool at hand is to find a nail clipper that uses the highest quality steel possible. It should be strong, hard, and sharp so it can withstand the compression the sharpened edges endure to cut your nails over and over. Compared to a kitchen knife that has a cutting board to lessen this dulling effect, your nail clippers don’t. Without quality steel they will dull, resulting in cracking and breaking of your nails, and no one wants that!
Poor quality steel will slowly steal your money over time. By purchasing cheap clippers crafted from inferior steel (less than 42 Rockwell in hardness) you are guaranteeing the need to repurchase throughout your lifetime. It’s as if you’re cutting your nails from melted tin foil, yuck! Spend just 4-7 times more for superior quality (at least 52 Rockwell hardness) and you’ll be saving way more by eliminating the need to buy again. There’s also the added bonus of reducing waste to care for our planet.
Corporations selling these crappy products are only out to make more money by cutting costs, not by doing an exceptional job of cutting your nails. They want their product to fail so it needs replacement. Would you trust a company like that to really care about quality and functionality?
Options to Clip About
The best standard clippers
are assembled with a nearly unbreakable hinge-pin construction and are ergonomically contoured for a good fit with maximum leverage. Ideally, you would want something like the Famous TopInox® Stainless Steel Nail Clipper by Niegeloh
, the perfect example of durability, craftsmanship, and sharpness. Other mass-produced clippers have questionable quality, plated edges, non-ergonomical fit and will stop working long before rust appears. Don’t fall for the fancy rubber inserts that conceal poor quality or the 99-cent discount bowl by registers; they’re only good for cutting fishing line or thread for a little while.
Originally produced in France, French-style clippers
feature a compact and flat construction making this a perfect touch-up tool popular with gadget lovers. This type of clipper is excellent for on-the-go use like in your vehicle, pocket, wallet, or purse. Avoid purchasing unless quality craftsmanship and the source are known. Beware of products from Asia and the middle east, poor production and inferior standards make them easily breakable.
The innovative design of ring lock clippers
takes technological advantage of new materials and construction, taking the “twist” out of clippers, and putting comfort back in your hands. The Teflon-coated clipper joint never requires adjustment and is impossible to misalign, no lubrication necessary. Ring locks also feature wide jaws, a magnetic closure to ensure clippers stay closed, and a first in this industry: different grips for men and women.
Spotting a Quality Clipper
If buying a new camera or car takes hours of research, why neglect the time it takes to purchase a small product you use so frequently throughout life? When searching for the best clipper, the most important things to examine are tension, gap, overlap, plating, and steel.
Give the tool a test squeeze to check flex resistance. Too much flex causes excessive crushing action, resulting in blades that easily dull. Next, hold the clipper to the light to check if sharpened edge meets when fully closed indicating quality tool. Seeing a gap means the clipper won’t fully cut and may even rip or tear your nails. Now close the clipper and glide your finger along the blades to detect any overlap that warns of poor performance. Check for any plating of the edges and avoid at all costs because it’s often thin and may chip or peel. Last but not least, quality steel is of primary importance. Make sure it’s very hard and made of real steel, otherwise it’s junk after one or two clips.
If you want a tool well suited for both hands, with a palm grip that’s easy to use for painful or weakened hands, that’s less likely to break or crack your nails, strong enough to cut thickened/fungal nails or hard toenails, has a longer cutting edge, and performs many tasks other tools can’t, a nail nipper is right for you.
Although they look like pliers or wire cutters, make no mistake that these are NOT hardware tools. When properly adjusted and shaped, the edges will not crush too hard.
Nail nippers feature an intentional blade gap that can be seen if held up to the light, whether the blades are straight or concave. This gap disappears when the tool is compressed, providing a progressive cutting action that’s much healthier for your nails. Because the edges are hand-filed to create the gap, nippers don’t require the same hardness as clippers. But since the edges touch like clippers, they dull over time and will require occasional re-sharpening. Again, we emphasize quality steel when it comes to this tool because sharpening poor quality steel is like sharpening a wooden knife. You also need to know that the moving parts of a nipper require lubrication for longest lifespan. A lubricating pen makes this maintenance quick and easy.
There are several types of nippers you can choose from depending on it’s purpose.
are the smallest and best suited for difficult fingernails or normal toenails.
have longer, stronger handles and blades, increasing size for additional cutting leverage of thickened and extra tough nails.
Ingrown nail nippers
have a straight cutting edge and narrow-pointed tip to allow cutting corners to release pressure.
Only the tips are meant for regular use. If you want a straight tip, cut around the nail following the natural nail bed then file flat to prevent chipping, cracking, and breaking. There are also specialty nippers
for the toughest nails, like a double-jointed nail nipper and front cutter that maximizes force at the expense of using a heavier tool.
Identifying Quality Nippers
Nail nippers have a lot more criteria to look for: blade gap and edges, handle length and grips, box joint, double and barrel springs, and proper assembly. You’ll want to look for a gap between blades that gradually disappears as you squeeze. Without it, you’ll crush your nails, and with a gap that’s too large the nail won’t fully cut. This can not be achieved without hand-filing each tool for the perfect gap. The blade shape also determines it’s use: curved for general nail nipping, and straight for corners of ingrown nails.
If you want better leverage for tougher nails, select a tool with longer handles. Textured grips also make it easier for use in damp environments like the bathroom after a shower. The last thing you want to do is hurt yourself by not taking this into consideration.
Examine the joint to see if the two halves overlap (lap joint) or if one handle threads through the steel of the other (box joint). Box joints indicate a higher level of craftsmanship, making for more durable tools with cutting edges that never misalign.
The re-opening action of a nipper is due to a spring that eliminates the need to reposition after each cut. Double springs and barrel springs (most durable) provide the smoothest friction-free squeeze action, they just flex. Lever or single springs use friction to press against the opposite handle and are easily replaceable.
Proper assembly is key to crafting a nipper that isn’t too stiff without any wiggle. If the blades are loose, you risk damaging your nail from misaligned edges. Lubricating with mineral oil and waiting a couple days can solve issues with a new nipper that feels too stiff. If that doesn’t work, it may be defective and should be exchanged.
Many people are surprised when they find out scissors are the best tool for cutting nails. But once you learn how to use them for this purpose, you’ll discover that scissors leave a clean cut with little filing necessary and a low risk of cracking or chipping the nail. With proper use and hard steel manufacturing, this virtually indestructible tool lasts for decades, making it a great investment. But you won’t find handcrafted scissors made of high quality steel in big box stores, hand tensioned for precision with a smoother shearing cutting action. Lets get into the details as to how scissors work and why this is not a tool to fear.
Compared to cuticle scissors, nail scissors have longer and wider blades. A shearing cut means the sharpened edges never touch, only the flat of the blade touches the opposite side, while the sharpened edge only touches the nail. So why sharpen if they don’t touch? To concentrate the force in a narrow space, where the opposing pressure creates the shearing action. The superior 52-54 Rockwell hardness of quality steel will also require less resharpening.
Warning: don’t screw with the screw! Every step the craftsman takes during this process is so precise that you won’t want to mess with it. The balance of swivel and tension is achieved by the screw threading and permanently locking into position. If it’s tightened, you may strip it out. If loosened, you lose the bite and screw won’t hold--falling off and getting lost. The solution requires re-machining and re-furbishing the bottom half of the scissors, which is technically possible, but manufacturers don’t do.
I’m sure you’re thinking, “how will I ever cut my nails on my other hand with such fine scissors?” Although most are made for right hand use, there are specialty scissors for left hand use and a new innovative ambidextrous tool called “Nissers”. You can also play tricks like using a reverse grip by flipping the scissors over. With a little patience and practice, you will become a pro and enjoy cutting your nails this way.
“But it’s so sharp!” Would you eat a steak with a spoon because you’re afraid of cutting yourself with a knife? Of course not! So do not fear scissors, there is no danger at all with proper care and use. The moving parts however will require occasional lubrication, just like nail nippers.
There are six options when it comes to scissors: nail, toenail, Nissers, combination, baby, and diabetic scissors.
are easier to control than nippers and have more precision.
require very hard steel to cut through shorter and thicker nails.
Look for short thick blades and long shanks to get extra leverage.
The strongest available and most unique, Nissers
, are often called universal nail scissors because they are ambidextrous and can be used on fingernails, toenails, and toughened/hardened nails.
They combine the shearing cut of scissors with a nipper-style handle.
have an unusual shaping halfway down the the blade where it narrows abruptly to a very fine and thin pointed tip.
This all-purpose manicure scissor is a “Jack of all trades, but master of none” since it can cut nails with the thicker portion while trimming skin and hangnails with the tip.
It’s perfect for traveling or emergency touch-ups when other tools aren’t available.
As you would imagine, baby scissors
are much smaller with round, blunt safety tips to better trim delicate and thin fingernails.
are just a larger version baby scissors, ideal for those with delicate skin or medical problems.
What to Look For
Scissors have a different set of criteria to meet quality standards, including outside grinding, sound, feel/tension, adjustment, blade, sharpening, nicks and gouges. There is a huge difference in the manufacturing of this tool that can be seen by whether it had final shaping after assembly by outside grinding. That means shortcuts were taken, a good indication of poor quality. Examine the shank and joint to see if the screw is ground flat, the two halves are too perfectly matched, or the shape and finish of the screw perfectly matches the handle. Handcrafted scissors don’t show these signs of machinery.
The next test requires your listening skills. Open and close the scissors next to your ear. Quality craftsmanship will have a gentle, smooth, almost melodic susurration sound, not gravelly, hitched or rough.
Test the tension by opening and closing the blades a few times and notice the closing action. You should note a gliding action of the blades, without hitches or grinding indicating incorrect tension or curve adjustment. Good scissors are hand-tensioned at the factory for the perfect shearing action. NEVER adjust scissor tension at home! If the tension is too tight, it will dull quickly. If it’s too loose, you’ll bend or rip your nail. But there should be some looseness to them when fully opened beyond operational use which disappears once no longer over-opened. Test them out by holding one scissor loop so scissors are vertical, then raise the other loop to its highest point and let it drop. If well crafted, it will only close to the cutting point (where the blade flats begin to touch) and no further.
Since scissor blades are curved, they must be adjusted so the blade flats touch throughout the entire open-close action. This curved is shaped by hand with hammer and anvil, then checked to ensure no space or grinding develops until each half is matched precisely.
Another sign of poor craftsmanship is inside grinding after assembly. Shortcuts can be noticed if grind marks do not extend into the joint, meaning the grinder shaved the scissor blade after to create a shelf so the scissors close, resulting in a larger gap between blades. Because they no longer glide, you are bending and tearing instead of cutting.
Now take a look at the sharpening by opening the scissors as wide as possible and looking closely at the sharpened edge. Note how sharpness extends toward the joint. To get the most cutting surface, you want a tool with a longer sharpened edge. Also check for any nicks and gouges along the edge. They will not have a smooth cut and may damage/tear the nail.
If you’ve made it this far, congrats! You are now an expert compared to most of the public. Impress your friends and family next time you notice them grooming their nails with this knowledge. Give them some tips and help them evaluate their current products. If you’ve taken the step to upgrade your tools, let them see the differences and what results they offer. Help us change the world by educating others. Grooming with quality instruments should be a treat, not a chore. But most of all, it should accomplish the task flawlessly. Happy clipping, nipping, and cutting to all!