Everything Barbers Need to Know About Clipper Cutting

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Clipper cutting is the most traditional, tried-and-true method of barbering, and a standard technique that every barber must master. Being able to confidently wield a pair of clippers and create the most classic men’s cuts is essential to any barbering practice.

With a pair of clippers, you can create almost any cut, from high and tight military cuts to slightly longer styles like crewcuts, brush cuts, burrs, flattops, and classic tapers. Of course, clipper cutting is fundamental to the classic styles that have made a strong resurgence in recent years like the undercut and pompadour.

Of course, clipper cutting was a major part of your curriculum in barber schools, but you may be looking for an opportunity to hone your skills and learn new techniques through more advanced training. Advanced courses available at barbering schools are available in a number of different formats, from intensive one-day courses and weekend workshops to more comprehensive and immersive multi-day seminars.

Exploring the Many Methods of Clipper Cutting

The standard way to hold clippers is to wrap your fingers around the instrument with the clippers held vertically.

However, when you’re performing blending techniques, you’ll usually hold the clippers horizontally in order to be able to move the instrument higher up the back of the head.

By mastering the most common methods of clipper cutting, you’ll be able to confidently provide clients with any cut they ask for.

Techniques you can expect to explore in-depth in advanced training workshops would include:

Fading/Tapering

Sometimes called fading, tapering is especially effective for shorter styles. The taper cut is longer on the top and shorter on the back and sides. This can either be more dramatically styled or worn with a subtle blending, where the hair on the sides and back is only about ¼ of an inch shorter than the hair on the top.

Clipper Over Comb

The clipper over comb technique is popular because it leaves the hair even without having to go over it and blend. You’ll perform this technique by using a comb to lift the hair from the scalp and using the clipper to trim the hair protruding from the comb. This technique will help you to carefully determine how much hair to take off so that you don’t accidentally cut the hair too close to the scalp. If you angle the comb, you can also produce a tapered effect that will allow the hair to be longer at the top and shorter at the bottom.

Blending

Blending techniques with clippers are used on almost every men’s cut to minimize harsh lines and at ensure that the hair tapers evenly. You can lift the hair from the scalp and hold it between your fingers or a comb in order to measure it and ensure that it appears even. If a section is longer than another, you can use the clipper over comb method to even it with the rest of the hair. You’ll want to use this technique across the whole head to ensure the cut is even,

Blade On Skin

The blade on skin technique is when you use the clipper without a clipper guard or a comb. You’ll need to have a very steady hand when using this technique to avoid razor burn. The blade on skin technique works best for very close cuts such as military cuts, or for finishing touches such as cleaning up the hair around the ears or neck.

Types of Clippers in Common Use in Barbershops

There are three standard types of clippers that you’ll use in your barbering practice:

  • Detachable blade clipper
  • Adjustable clipper
  • T-trimmer clipper

Detachable Blade Clipper

The detachable blade clipper is ideal for removing large amounts of hair when taking off length or beginning a style. You won’t use a plastic guard over the teeth of the clipper, so it’ll be more effective in removing length. You can use this clipper with the clipper over comb or directly on the skin. You’ll use a varying number of blades, from the 3 ¾ blade which will create the longest cut to the 0000 blade which will create a very close, military-style fade.

Adjustable Clipper

The adjustable clipper doesn’t work by switching out blades, but you can change the blade length as you’re using the clipper to seamlessly blend the different lengths of the cut. The blade adjusts from 3/8 of an inch to 1/16 of an inch, allowing a lot of versatility in the cuts you create with the clippers.

T-Trimmer Clipper

The t-trimmer is great for finishing cuts. It’s called the t-trimmer because the corners of the blade are shaped like a t. It’s best used to shave around ears, the nape of the neck, or for the beard or neck area. The t-trimmer doesn’t have different lengths of blades, but it does have a stationary blade and a mobile blade.

Clipper Guards

Though purists often steer clear of using guards, preferring instead to use a more skillful freehand technique that incorporates a comb, guards do have their place.

There are a variety of clipper guards that barbers typically use, from #0 (shortest) to #8 (longest). As you gain familiarity with the clipper guards, you’ll learn which ones to use to achieve the right length. The lengths are as follows:

  • 1/16 of an inch
  • 1/8 inch
  • ¼ of an inch
  • 3/8 of an inch
  • ½ of an inch
  • 5/8 of an inch
  • 6- ¾ of an inch
  • 7/8 of an inch
  • 1 inch

Building a Safe Practice

As you learned in your barber courses, it is extremely important to clean and disinfect the blades and combs that you use in your practice in between each client.

Most states will require you to have a wet sterilizer and a dry cabinet sterilizer in order to clean your equipment.

Also, when using a clipper near the scalp, you’ll need to handle it with care to ensure that you don’t cut too close to the scalp, using special caution around the ears and neck.

Naturally, your routine would include sanitizing your equipment in between clients and providing a safe, clean environment for everyone who sits in your chair.

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