For sale: Clippers that mow easily through a bushy bridle path and quietly and crisply trim whiskers and ears. But not ideal for body clipping...
If only horse clippers came with such straightforward descriptions. Most don't, of course, so you're left on your own to evaluate the dozens of models on the market.
The task may seem daunting at first, given the array of designs and options available. Clippers come with different motors, speed ratings, power levels or other features. Plus there are the more subjective elements, such as how a unit feels in your hand, how easy it is to use and how good a clip it produces.
As numerous as the options are, you can simplify your shopping equation by deciding at the outset how you will use your prospective purchase. Will you be shearing off your horse's winter coat? Or just trimming the unruly long hairs that grow on his lower limbs? Tidying up a bridle path and muzzle? Will you want to tackle all of these jobs and more? When shopping for clippers, as in making many other decisions, you'll want to begin with the end in mind.
Fortunately, clipper manufacturers help steer consumers in the right direction through their promotional literature and labeling. Thus, when you're getting ready to select a set of clippers, it's wise to start by becoming familiar with the basic product categories. For example, most models described as trimmers are designed for light applications, such as tidying up whiskers and ears. These units may also be called finishing trimmers or carry recommendations for use in "quick touch-ups." In addition, some are specifically called "ear trimmers" and those referred to as "quiet" and "for light use" are also intended for use around the ears.
Heavy-use products are generally constructed to handle body clipping or trace or hunter clips, where large swaths of hair coat are removed from the body. These clippers are built for big jobs, and they are usually made with a durable and larger casing. Because they are more powerful, some tend to be noisy and too big for the precision work of ear trimming or whiskers on the muzzle.
Many of the medium-range clippers on the market fall somewhere in between. Some of these middle-range machines are labeled for general clipping, and the product description may say that they are suitable for thick, matted or coarse hair. Medium-range clippers can be used to trim whiskers, clip around the head and clip legs; some may be suitable for body clipping, but larger clippers tend to handle those jobs more quickly and efficiently.
Beneath the Casing
Many features are important to clipper performance, but a model's motor ultimately determines the jobs it can do. There are four different types of clipper motors:
- A universal rotary motor operates using a stationary electrical component and a rotating component, which is mounted on the motor's shaft; the center component follows the rotating magnetic field, driving the blade. The motor spins very fast--at 10,000 or more revolutions per minute (RPM)--and the power is "stepped down" through a series of gears. Clippers powered by a universal motor are generally suitable for heavy-duty jobs like body clipping and cutting through thick or matted hair. But they generate a lot of heat and require a fan to cool the motor, which can make them fairly noisy. Some models are relatively large because they house a gear system.
- Pivot and magnetic motors are similar in design to one another: When the magnet in each unit is energized, it pulls the arm toward it, which drives the blade. The magnetic model has only one arm that pulls the blade in one direction, then a spring pulls it back the other way. The pivot motor's arm is magnetized both ways so it pivots back and forth. Pivot and magnetic models tend to be fairly quiet but generally have less power and are more suitable for light to medium jobs.
- A permanent magnet motor is another rotary model, but instead of operating with a gearing system, most permanent magnet motors are direct-drive--when the motor spins, an attached shaft moves the blade back and forth at the same speed. Permanent magnet motors are found in a variety of uses, from light to heavy-duty. In fact, these motors can be so small, they are often used to power the vibrating mode in pagers. Because they do not have a gearing system, the larger models are less noisy and produce less vibration.
Inputs and Outputs
Evaluating a clipper's speed and power can be a bit challenging. Some manufacturers supply information on watts and strokes per minute, but these terms are easily misunderstood. Wattage, for example, measures how much power is consumed, not how much is produced. "It all depends on motor efficiency," says Octavio Alen, a senior engineer for Oster. "A product may say 40 watts, which means it's consuming 40 watts, but it may be producing 25 watts."