When it comes to dog grooming, the right equipment is no game. Quality is in our philosophy and integral to our Surbiton salon.
Doggy Styling caught up with Gary Barbe, owner of The Blade Sharpener, to find out how professional dog grooming salons keep their scissors sharp, and how doing so keeps dogs safe.
Why are the right tools important when it comes to grooming?
The right tools are so important because you do not want to hurt the dog. If you think about how often a pair of scissors is being used, hundreds of individual cuts every single day, the blade is being worn down continually. It doesn’t always look like it to the naked eye, but the groomer will be able to feel when the blade is becoming dull.
Poor quality scissors will catch hair and pull hair and will be miserable for the dog. The right scissors are very, very important when it comes to grooming.
How are the scissors made to ensure highest quality?
Very good scissors obviously use very good steel and are made in proper factories. There are a lot of factories, all over the world, which can be found through these online marketplaces, and which are not using good steel. Or even good techniques.
The equipment that I use is made by the company that produces the most amount of scissors on the planet. I know that their scissors are good are their sharpening equipment is reliable because that’s what they use to keep their blades sharp.
What happens if the equipment is not to the highest standard?
If it is poor steel being used, then often it’s not possible to sharpen the blade and it can’t get sharp enough. This is because the metal just isn’t hard.
The higher quality steel, the harder it is, but also it’s a mix because it needs to be able to bend. A scissor is made flat and is then bent. Afterwards, it is twisted so that only the very edge of the scissor touches. This is called ‘scissoring’ and it is a reinforced part of the scissor. If it’s not made properly, then it simply won’t work.
Most scissors stop working due to the damage on the inside of the ride line and not the edge that would be sharpened. But the ride line must be good quality and that’s what you’re getting with high quality scissors.
Ride lines provide a support for the cutting edges of the blades, so that sharp edges don’t collide with each other when the blades open and close. Scissors without a ride line will dull faster than they would if they had one.
What is the sharpening process?
The aim is to sharpen the blades whilst removing the least amount of metal. I use the Hira-To flat hone sharpening system, as it provides the best edge possible on high end convex scissors, which is what Doggy Styling uses. I’ll set the fixture arm to move no more than 45 degrees, so that the blade edge won’t be able to be rounded. This allows us to create an exact and perfect convex angle and can be set to sharpen both left and right-handed scissors.
Scissors are bent, so the aim is to flatten them in order to work on the ride line. To do this, I rub the blade across a whetstone, perhaps starting with a 4000 grit which is an abrasive whetstone. Then I’ll move to a 6000 grit, which is less coarse, to finish.
I’ll then polish the blade off. The trick is to work on the edge of the disk as you don’t need to worry about the tip of the blade. It takes care of itself.
How would you test the sharpness of a blade?
I would always test with tissue paper, which I separate into single strand - not twin ply but single ply. Then I wet it, as it needs to be able to cut through and pull away without snagging any tissue whatsoever. It needs to be just a clean, wispy cut away from the material.
If a pair of scissors can’t do that, then a salon should know that it is time to get their equipment sharpened.
How often should blades be sharpened?
A busy dog grooming salon like Doggy Styling should, and they do, sharpen their blades every month. It’s possible to let them go longer, but a good dog groomer won’t want to risk hurting the dogs. Doggy Styling maintain their scissors so well primarily for this reason.
It’s all behind the scenes, as the customer won’t always see the investment in equipment directly. I see it, as I sharpen their scissors, which are all top-quality tools. It’s the investment in the sharpening of the tools each month that sets top groomers apart.
Doggy Styling’s philosophy is always to buy the highest quality scissors available, and then they invest heavily in maintaining that equipment once a month. That means a customer can expect both efficiency and comfort to their dog when they book an appointment.
I have the same philosophy in my business, to only use the most expensive and the best machines to sharpen blades.
You can worry about technique or something else, but at least you don’t need to worry about equipment. For me, that’s the main reason for using the best quality.
Gary Barbe is owner of The Blade Sharpener, based in Hampton, Surrey.