Sharpen a Nail Clipper

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Posted in HomeHealth

Introduction: Sharpen a Nail Clipper

About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first ...

Many years ago when this nail clipper was new I needed to cut a couple of fine copper wires. I had nothing else at the time and I used my nail clipper. The wires made nicks in the cutting edges of the clipper. Eventually I learned a way to sharpen the clipper's cutting edges evenly and did so. (Ignore the surface rust that has appeared in the years since.)

Step 1: Remove the Actuating Lever

The jaws will need to be held in position for sharpening. You need some precision difficult to obtain by using the actuating lever alone. Remove it by squeezing the jaws together with your thumbs or thumb and first finger, or with a pair of pliers as shown here. The lever falls out of the pin. Remove the pin.

Step 2: Bring the Jaws Together

Insert a screw into the hole for the pin and put a nut onto the threads. Tighten the screw and nut to pull the cutting edges on the jaws lightly together or nearly so. They could be even closer together than shown here.

Step 3: Sharpen

The nail clipper has a flat face at the cutting edges on the front of the jaws. Grinding this flat surface will sharpen the cutting edges equally.

This clipper has a mildly convex surface, so it is easy to grind on a flat sharpening stone. Some clippers are rather sharply concave on the front of the jaws. Light passes with a very fine grinding stone in a Dremel tool will work nicely. Continue grinding lightly until all nicks in the cutting edges disappear. You may need to tighten the screw and nut a little as you go to keep the cutting edges close to one another while you grind. When you are finished, you will have two factory new cutting surfaces and your clippers will work great once again. When finished grinding remove the screw and nut. Insert the pin. Squeeze the jaws together a bit and attach the actuating lever. Wash the clipper to remove any grit from grinding the cutting edges.

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    85 Comments

    Thanks. I am glad it was helpful.

    Thanks for the tutorial! I stumbled on this while searching for an affordable decent nail clippers. In the 80's I remember buying USA made nail clippers for under $1. Eventually I lost them all and tried buying new ones made in China, but was not happy with the way they cut (hacked) my nails leaving them rough. I gave up buying new ones and bought a (new) USA made one at a train show for $4. It came in a leather key chain case and it and the case were engraved or stamped with the Illinois Central logo. I keep them hidden from the wife and kids, so they have not been lost. I no longer keep any in the cars or my desk at work as I haven't found decent ones for a reasonable price. You can pay as much as $45 for a pair, made in USA, I saw online today. I think your tutorial will help me to hone cheap, new clippers that are stamped out of poor quality steel with worn out dies and factory ground with course grind stones. I have seen, besides the $2 bulk ones at the cas register that don't cut well, $10 ones in the beauty section, but who wants to pay that much for clippers for the cars or that may be lost, when the online reviews of those brands are not so favorable either? Life used to be more simple when quality products were produced domestically at a reasonable price. Anyway.... Thanks!

    1 reply

    somehow I missed your comment. Thanks.

    Check out Harperton clippers on Amazon. Wicked sharp and made in the USA.

    new nail clipper = $2.00 (or less, choose your currency)

    I like renewing just about anything (even tools), however you have to wonder if the time spent is worth it. I mean I don't re-bend my used staples. I guess my question is: why bother?

    14 replies

    I find new clippers (China) cut worse than my old USA made ones. There is a USA made one available online for $45...perhaps I will try this method to sharpen cheap NEW clippers! The days of functional USA made clippers for a buck (or any reasonable price) are over. I stopped buying the new ones as the cut my nails so roughly! I think it is worth it.

    Re-reading my comment, seems more abrasive than I intended. Selective editing would have helped. Also, apparently there's a larger community of people who have an affinity with nail clippers than I thought. To be clear, I don’t think that re-sharpening clippers is a bad idea, though I think the die has been cast on that from my previous comment. Your approach to the problem of dull clippers is very clever. DIY sharpening is a skill I wish I had. Kudos, Phil!

    Thank you, Mike. There is probably nothing that can be written in the English language that cannot be misunderstood by someone. I remember hearing and reading that 58% of our communication is non-verbal (body language, facial expressions). 35% is voice tone. The remaining 7% is the words we speak. Both of the first two are missing in Internet posts, opening the door for a lot of miscommunication.

    Thanks for this information, Phil. Do you thing (or anyone for that matter) with more people using internet, over a period of time we may improve the writing communication skills?

    BTW - I will be sharpening my nail clipper this week end.

    I expect communication skills to slide downward. Clear writing requires clear thinking. Good grammar and good spelling are very important, too. Texting and quick posts in comment sections allow anyone to shoot off whatever comes into their gray matter without any attempt at analysis or clear communication. Look at what has been happening to spelling due to texting. Soon anyone who can forge a proper sentence will either be totally despised or a scholar-king.

    Thank you for looking at this. I do not know why it is suddenly gathering so much attention. It got linked somewhere after plodding along for a couple of years and now is drawing all manner of attention. Enjoy your newly sharpened clippers.

    I'm not sure if someone else has said so yet but it was featured in the latest Instructables email newsletter. Grats on being featured.

    The appearance of this in the Instructables newsletter surprised no one more than it surprised me. I posted this a couple of years ago and it plodded along. Very recently, someone somewhere noticed it and put it into some sort of spotlight. Since that time it has drawn lots of attention. I am happy if it is just useful to someone. Thank you for looking and for commenting.

    Good thinking - but may be it will be like formal dress code - at teens and a bit teen kids wear what they want - dress however they like but once in the open world we all dress nearly alike. Well time will tell.

    As for my clippers, those need sharpening - the cutting edges are gagged and I have to first grind the cutting edges so they meet evenly with each other.

    Take a look at the American Malaise and then at the Gigantic trash flow of good, useable merchandise flooding foreign land fills where you pay to have it trucked and shipped! You still don't get the picture? Sorry, I tried . . .

    This nail clipper was a gift from my father when I went away to college. At the time I felt an obligation to value his gift and restore it to its original condition. He died about ten years ago and now it is a remembrance of him worth more to me than the cost of replacement. I really do not like to waste things by disposing of them when they can be restored or repaired fairly simply. Although I did not mention it, the principle involved in sharpening a nail clipper as I did is the very same approach one would use to sharpen a set of pinking shears like my wife uses for her sewing projects, which I have sharpened for her a number of times. Those are more costly to replace. In the end it is your call. But, $2 here and $2 there begins to add up after a while. A penny saved....

    Ok the pinking shears completely threw me. Got an instructable, because I am really not forming a mental picture.

    This is not original with me, but comes from a paperback book on sharpening published by Popular Science magazine back in the 1970s. Everyone assumes the hills and valleys in a pinking shears need to be ground for the shears to be sharpened. But, someone at home can simply grind the flat face of the shears edges slowly on an oil stone until the hills and valleys have a new, crisp edge where the two sections of the shears meet to cut cloth. I hope you can picture what I am trying to describe. (I did once describe this and someone told me one never ever does that, but I have found it to work quite well.)

    Thanks! I DO get what you're saying!!

    Thank you for letting me know. Your grasp of the concept probably has more to do with your powers to perceive and understand than it does with my ability to explain. I had my fingers crossed that my explanation would be adequate.