Mail Order Business

By: Bob Schiessl

When I am training new sharpeners, many see or know of my mail order business, and express a desire to do business the same way. Although there are advantages to mail order, there are some disadvantages too.

I go back to the days I owned and operated a retail book store. Of course there were times we were busier than others, but things like the weather would affect us. On a very nice day we may be slow; People would be doing outdoor things. On a nasty day, people would stay in. We could be having a slow day, and I would see people walk by and not come in; this would drive me crazy. I knew if I could talk to some of those people, I had a very good chance of selling them something. So when I got into sharpening, I loved the idea of being mobile. If things were slow, I could do something about it! I’d just get out and look under some new rocks. It was like I could have all the business I wanted, if I made the calls. Also, I am a people person; I enjoy talking to them. In a mail order business, you give up the one-on-one interaction. Being mobile, my sales were higher than mail order. So why did I give up the mobile business and go to mail order? As I got older, it got harder and harder to run the routes as I did before. My legs just wouldn’t let me. So at last, I ran the routes one last time and told my customers they would have to send their work to me in the future. A lot of them were doing that already so it was no big deal. I can do far more volume mail order, (no travel time) and there are other advantages, so I’ll try to pass on some tips to set up a mail order business.

Give your old customers pre-addressed boxes to send their blades and shears in. Make it as easy as possible for them to do business with you. Offer free shipping for ten or more blades or whatever number you’d like. That may cost you some money, but it may be cheaper than driving to them. I set up an account with the post office so I could give my customers a pre-paid, pre-addressed label. As they send in more blades, you will need to replenish this account, but it is well worth the effort. Initially during the switch, I lost customers, but I regained many of those customers back just by my reputation.

Think outside of the box! Promote your service at grooming shows, dog shows and horse shows. Try advertising in magazines your customers use, but everything now is switching to social media i.e. Facebook, Twitter. Create a website with your contact info, services, customer reviews and your policies. You may start a referral program, offering a discount, by sending business cards to your current customers to give to other groomers and stylists that they may know. Starting or switching your business to mail order is not an exact science, and some forms of advertising work better than others for different people. So keep an open mind, but if something is not working out, try something different.

 

Combating Groomer’s Spring Complaints

During this time of the year, you may hear groomers complain that their recently sharpened blades are not lasting as long as before or not cutting as well as they used to.  If the blades pass your fur tests, it is likely that the blades are dulling faster due to dogs getting groomed for the first time after a long winter.

These animals have grown a thick under-coat, and it has to do with the cold and number of daylight hours. There can also be sand and dirt mixed in the coat, which will dull any blade quickly. Many of these dogs getting groomed for the first time since the winter are extra dirty and matted.

In the spring, the blades cut fur almost ten times thicker than in the fall. Even some great groomers forget this fact. They are just frustrated and so are you. The groomer could bathe the dogs first, but with fur this thick, it takes a lot of time. It would help if they at least brushed the coat prior to grooming.

What can the sharpener do to help?

First, they can explain to the groomer that more dogs are coming in dirtier. Secondly, you should also check the customers’ clippers. On an Oster, the tip of the lever may be rounded off as opposed to being square. If the lever is rounded off, replace the lever. If you can move the drive like a loose tooth, replace the gear, link and lever. On an Andis, if the drive is more than a month old, it is time to replace it. A shop doing ten dogs a day, six days a week equals to 60 grooms a week. The groomers can afford to replace the $4.50 part to replace the drive.

All in all, it is crucial to test every blade that you do, to know for sure that they are leaving the shop sharp. In a few weeks, the thick fur will be groomed or the dog will shed it, and things will be back to normal.

The Importance of Testing Every Blade

One of the best ways to become a better sharpener is to test each and every blade you sharpen. If your blades cut each and every time, customers will seek you out to do there sharpening. Think of the time you will save if they call you instead of you making cold calls or looking for business other ways. We feel this was the number one reason for the success of Nebraska Blades.

Testing will slow you down, but the payback makes up for the time spent. So how do we test? I know of about five ways to test. We have used all five ways at one time or the other.

1. Rub Block

2. Fake Fur

3. Test String

4. Rabbit Fur

5. Live Animals.

I will try to talk about all five ways. First, the rub block. I have a block right by the sharpening machine. If a blade does not pass the fur test, we will put it on the block and discover we must re-sharpen the top or bottom or both blades. We do not use the rub block first because number one, we know that 95 percent of the blades are going to cut the first time so rubbing every blade would slow us down needlessly. The second reason why we do not start with the rub block is because it will leave a pattern on the blade similar to used blades. In the past, I have had at least two eagle eye customers spot it and ask if we did indeed sharpened them.

Rabbit fur works very well but in the last years have become very high priced and of poor quality so we gave up on this test, and do not sell it any longer. Also, rabbit fur does not work well on larger blades.

Next, many sharpeners, as well as the Oster Factory use test cotton string. I personally do not do this method for two reasons. First, you only check three places on the blade. Secondly, you put no pressure on the clipper like a dog would. Think of it this way: If you had a dull hedge cutter, it will not go through the hedge very well but would cut one branch with little effort.

Live animals only work if the sharpener is also a groomer or kennel, but in my very early days I did try blades out on my pet cat and dog. I only got away with that for a very short time.

Nebraska Blades has, and uses all the known ways to test, but we prefer to use the testing fake fur. The strands of the fur must come straight up out of the mat without loop weaves, otherwise your clipper teeth will snag. The ways we do it is as follows: Inspect and disassemble the blades. Fix tension and your sockets with the right tools. Sharpen, demagnetize, wash, blow dry, oil and re-assemble. Test the blade on the fur. This will set the blade and show any potential issues with the blades. Please refer to our training DVD for more complete details. We have the string, fur and rub blocks in stock. We are here to serve the clipper blade sharpeners. Bob

Bad Sharpening or Worn Clipper Parts?

By: Bob Schiessl

 

At Nebraska Blades, we test cut every blade when we sharpen. We use a single-speed Oster Clipper with a somewhat worn out gear, link and lever. This is so we know our blades will cut in the real world, but all blades will cut better on a clipper in good working order.

 

When you start to sharpen blades, it is smart to take a good look at it before you sharpen. Slide the cutter out about half way. Take a look at the marks on the bottom comb. If the marks are on every tooth from side-to-side, the blade is more than likely cutting well and is just dull. If the marks are only in the center, this means the top cutter may not be making a full pass. This could indicate that there is some play in the lever in an Oster or Andis drive.

 

The Oster has three parts in its drive; the lever, link and gear. You will want to start with the lever. If you can move it like a loose tooth, or if the corners are rounded off that is bad. The lever engages the slot in the top cutter. If there is too much play it is not moving the top cutter from side-to-side completely. The link connects the gear to the lever, and if you can move it while the clipper is off, that is bad. The gear moves the link and the lever; if it is loose on the shaft it is not good.

 

So you have three parts. If each is worn by only 20% they can add up. The clipper could be running at only 75% or less. If these three parts are all bad, you can bet that the clipper has been running hard for some time.

 

The Andis has a blade drive that will go bad in about three months or less. The clipper may be working fine, but when the drive goes bad, it won’t move the cutter back and forth enough, which will effect how the blade cuts negatively.

 

If you are having very few re-sharpenings, but one customer is having trouble, try taking a good clipper in to them and let them try their problem blades on it. Don’t cut yourself short, sometimes it’s not the blade, it’s the clipper.

Careful! 40s and 50s CAN BE SHARP!

By: Bob Schiessl

 

New time sharpeners may get a phone call from a customer they just did some work for with the complaint that the #40s and #50s blades are cutting the animals. That may scare you, but not to worry. The tool to fix it only costs $440.48, but the good news is that 99.9% of sharpeners already own it. It is the pink hone that comes with the Wolff’s Twice As Sharp machine. All kidding aside, you can buy the pink or white hone from Wolff for little or nothing, part #20601. Nebraska Blades also carries the Fish Hook Sharpener, which also removes the sharp tips resulting from repeated sharpening.

 

What you do is hone the tips of the blade just like you would file your fingernails. This will round off the square ends. A good place to test the blade is on the inside of your forearm. If it sticks you, do some more honing.

 

At Nebraska Blades, we hone every #40 or #50 blade that is sharpened. That way they never get too sharp on the ends of the teeth. Do not spend too much time on them, just a few seconds each. If we wait until they are sharp, it does take more time.

 

A belt sander or a grinding wheel will work as well, but you may take far too much off and ruin the blade. NEVER do them on your Clipper Honing Machines; you may cut a low spot on your plate, and you then will have problems sharpening blades in the future.

When to Replace Sockets

Greetings from the heartland! The winter months are almost over!

Today, I will explain when it’s time to replace sockets on clipper blades. At Nebraska Blades, when a new customer calls and asks for prices, we tell them the price and that we replace all bad parts. If they agree to this, fine. If not, we tell them they should look for a different sharpener. It’s like asking for a tune-up, but not replacing bad plugs or wires; it’s going to come back and bite you.

The first thing to look at is the ears of the socket; they may be missing or bent. If they are missing, replace the socket. If they’re bent, use Nebraska Blades Socket Setter to repair them. The setter will bend them back without over bending, plus square them again. For some new customers, we have replaced as many as 50 percent of their sockets. After the first time, we rarely have to replace them again. We find that 100 percent of blades come for sharpening need to be bent in, which is a quick job with the socket setter.

Nebraska Blades Deluxe Socket Setter

The second thing you find is the socket may be bent down at the place where the latch engages the socket. This is mostly caused by the customer using two clippers, one with a trigger to release the blade and one without; then they forget and try to pull the blade off without using the trigger. You can square it up by using the other end of the deluxe socket setter.

The last thing that can go wrong is that the socket is damaged at the point where the latch hits the socket. You may not be able to see it, but it will not engage the blade. Replace this socket. We use all Andis sockets, but it may be a good idea to use the correct one for your blade be it Andis, Oster or Wahl. You can see all this up close on our “Clipper Blade Sharpening” DVD.

Check Your Tension?

One way to speedup clipper blade sharpening is to set the tension of the blade with the Nebraska Blades’ Clipper Blade Scale before you sharpen. To do this, slide the top cutter out about half way. Look at the ware pattern; it should be clear, very shiny and on every tooth. If so, this blade was cutting well; it’s just dull. You more than likely will not have to do anything with the tension, even if it feels too light.

Nebraska Blades' Clipper Blade Scale $29.95

If the blade does not have a good pattern, maybe the blade was given to you by mistake; make a test cut to see. If it does not cut, check the tension, it should be about 2.5-3.5 pounds. Are the screws loose? Is the glide shot? If not, now is the time to add tension to the spring. I have used different tools to do this, but Nebraska Blades’ Tension Set Pliers have a special grind with red markings that align with the spring (Figure 2). Also, do not forget to set the sockets at this time. The Tension Set Pliers are also useful for setting the Deluxe Socket Setter, as seen in Figure 3.

Now do all of your sharpening, demagnetizing, cleaning and reassembling of your blades; 97 percent to 99 percent should cut well. Take care of the few that do not by adjusting the tension or re-sharpen if need be, but re-sharpening should be very few.

Applying pressure to the spring with the Nebraska Blades' Tension Set Pliers $17.95

Remember, the range is 2.5-3.5 pounds of tension. This is just a rule of thumb though, I have had blades at three pounds that were iffy, but cut great at 3.5 pounds. Also, some blades were at two pounds or less, but cut very well. Use as little tension as possible, as long as the blade still cuts well. Too much tension will dull the blade, and it may heat up too much (it is also bad for the clipper). If you need to take tension off, you can do this with a screwdriver at the end of the process.

If this is not clear to you, you may want to take a look at the

Another useful trick to setting the socket with the Tension Set Pliers

Nebraska Blades’ Clipper Blade Sharpening DVD. The instructional DVD is just over an hour and half that breaks down clipper blade sharpening. The DVD is $49.95 (plus shipping), or can be purchased as a combo with the Clipper Blade Repair DVD for $89.00 (plus shipping). To order any of our Nebraska Blades products, please call 1-877-643-4885.