Instructables
Picture of Sharpen a Nail Clipper
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.)
 
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Step 1: Remove the Actuating Lever

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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.
WalkGood1 year ago
What if you have a curved nail clipper?
Phil B (author)  WalkGood1 year ago
Several who also commented offered a couple of approaches to that problem.
david5472 years ago
Thank you, Phil. I now have the courage to cut wire with my nail clippers (if necessary). ;-)

Dave
Phil B (author)  david5472 years ago
I think you wrote that tongue in cheek. At the time I cut wire with my nail clipper, I was a college student living in a dormitory. I had no access to tools, but needed to cut some fairly thin copper wire. I would not advise cutting wire with nail clippers then or now.
david547 Phil B2 years ago
Quite right ! Thanks to our industrious friends in China I have several appropriate wire clippers and strippers. There are many parts of the world where your instruction will be extremely valuable. You have enriched humanity by sharing your insight. Thank you.

D
tdc22022 years ago
Thank you Phil for this informative instructable. I have a pair of clippers I loved and couldn't find another like them, but they were so dull I couldn't cut with them anymore. I kept them however, hoping someone would put up an instructable just like this!! Now I can use them again. YAY!
Phil B (author)  tdc22022 years ago
Thank you for looking and for your comment. In addition to the things you mention, I enjoy the look on someone's face when he or she says, "Where did you get that?" and I say, "I made it from some scrap in my garage."
bobcat19472 years ago
As you put it so well, I, too " appreciate Instructables from others that are practical and address real problems with useful solutions." I was unsuccessful with sharpening nail clippers in the manner I was using. thanks for a straight-forward approach.
Phil B (author)  bobcat19472 years ago
Thank you.
Keithr6062 years ago
I like seeing instructables that save folks money. We all don't have a couple of bucks. Savings of any kind is ok by me.
GREAT INSTRUCTABLE!
Phil B (author)  Keithr6062 years ago
Thank you.
Eddie_T2 years ago
I have touched up edges that aren't nicked with a round ceramic rod knife sharpener. The use of the bolt is clever.
Phil B (author)  Eddie_T2 years ago
Thank you.
Eddie_T2 years ago
I have another reason for resharpening. I found an old clipper in a box of trinkets, so old that it were made in the US. It is more substantial than the newer China version and more comfortable to use. It was dull so I resharpened it several years ago holding it partially closed by hand. After reading the instructable I decided to try a clamp rather than the bolt. I used a Grip-It clamp (with the handle on the clipper in the closed position) to get the right angle for sharpening. It was so easy that I plan to keep these quality "made in the USA" clippers forever. Thanks for a great Instructable.
Phil B (author)  Eddie_T2 years ago
Thank you for looking.
mikeasaurus5 years ago
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?
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!
Phil B (author)  mikeasaurus4 years ago
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.
Phil B (author)  AlphaRomeo2 years ago
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.
Phil B (author)  Jehu_McSpooran2 years ago
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 . . .
Phil B (author)  mikeasaurus5 years ago
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.
Phil B (author)  girlcousin2 years ago
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!!
Phil B (author)  girlcousin2 years ago
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.
Molo Phil B5 years ago
I used to work in a well equipped aerospace machine shop and a coworker asked us machinists to sharpen his nail clippers. Well, using expensive equipment at high cost labor hours was out of the question. So, some simple stoning did the job. Well done, Phil. Good article.
Phil B (author)  Molo5 years ago
Thank you. Simple methods are always good. Your story about the aerospace machine shop reminds me of a story about Charles Steinmetz during his time working under Thomas Edison. Edison asked Steinmetz to calculate the volume of a the glass envelope for a very large light bulb. Steinmetz calculated as best he could, noting that part of it was conical and part was a sphere. He did what he could to calculate the area where the two joined and took his approximations to Edison. Edison looked at him and asked why he did not just fill the thing with water and then measure the water it held.
Kev13 Phil B2 years ago
LOL - good story, but Edison's bad - he said "calculate" not "measure". Even without the internet, people communicate poorly!

After learning the reality of his battles with Tesla, I lost a lot of the respect for him that was apparently sheer propaganda anyway.... Determined, but not so bright. Pun not intended,but hey... Anyway, barring poor quality clippers, this is a good thing to do - thanks!
esmith37 Kev132 years ago
Hey, Edison still deserves respect. Sure on paper Tesla had a good chance of being a better scientist, but Edison had business sense, and Tesla was a little bit on the "crazy crazy crazy, gonna build me a planet cracker, and maybe a death ray" side of the fence.
I suppose Edison might have said - 'find' and not 'calculate' or 'measure' the volume. This is just a guess.
Sure you value them 'cause they were your dad's but damn it, you don't need a reason to learn something interesting. So what if they only cost $2.00? You learned something, did something, and taught something. Life is good. Thanks muchly!
The sharpening takes less time than a trip to the store, so it is time saved, not time spent. I didn't even do the screw trick, I just held the clippers closed while I rubbed them on the sharpening stone. Took about 1 minute. So now I have half an hour to waste on instructables.com instead of going to the store.
Phil B (author)  electric_piano_5k2 years ago
New items from the store may be sharpened by machine to an acceptable standard, but I remember the days before carbide tipped sawblades when people with high standards sharpened new sawblades before using them. Just because something is from a store does not mean it is ready to meet a high standard.
Well money can BUY but the fun is DIY
Phil B (author)  electric_piano_5k4 years ago
Good man! Thank you for your comment.
Lt.Greg Phil B2 years ago
Yeah. Mike - I was pretty surprised by your original comment. I thought --- :"He doesn't understand the whole point of this site!". (Now, of course you do -- but my goodness man - you had me wondering!) The whole point (at least for me, at any rate ) is that you CAN fix, modify or improve something by yourself, and that you DON'T need to go buy it new!

As a former Public HS science Dept. employee I can tell you this - probably two thirds of the kids in school today can't even light a match, and think that a two- week old cell phone is an ancient relic! Hand them a box of matches to light a Bunsen burner and they whine - "Where's my cigarette lighter?" as they tentatively strike the match and wince! This site proves that there are still plenty of the under-30 crowd who "get it", and who could probably survive on their own, were TEOTWAWKI ever to arrive.

One final thing - If the pin which holds the lever has a hole through it which a small pin holds the lever on, and this little pin ever breaks, you can fix it by using a section of paper clip cut to the appropriate length, and held in place by bending back the tips of the paper clip. I have also made a temporary repair to a pair of eyeglasses this way when I lost the tiny screw, by passing a paper clip through the lined-up hinges and using a very small pair of needle nose pliers to bend the tips so the clip won't fall out. (This worked so well, I once left it in place for a year!)
Greg
Thanks! I tried cutting sand paper to sharpen them, but it didn't seem to help much. It never occurred to me to do it like this.
This is actually a really good idea and something I would show my dad. He has a pair of nail clippers that he got when he was in Vietnam (for the war, not just to visit) so he held onto them and still tries to use them for sentimental reasons I guess. So despite buying new ones, he still likes his nam ones....
Eddie_T2 years ago
BTW, as stated in an earlier post I used a ceramic rod about 5/8" diameter for sharpening.
Nervo192 years ago
Oh...and google books dot com has scans of Popular Mechanics from 2005 to the 1920's to read for free! I've recently been reading one per night. I love them!

sreeci2 years ago
Simple hints like these make life so easier.
My nail cutter is 22 years old made in England, (Cooks) that was so blunt that I couldn't use it any more on my nails.
I did exactly what Phil instructed, but held the cutter on vise used smooth round file on the mated surface, gave a 30 run over it, especially caring for the edges.
There... I have a brand new nail cutter.
Thanks a million Phil. You made my life easier.
Phil B (author)  sreeci2 years ago
I expect your nail cutter has a history with a lot of memories from over the years and you will recall them whenever you use it. Here in the USA MasterCard does their "priceless" advertisements. They go something like this. "Price of a manicure: X pounds and shillings, price of a replacement nail cutter: Y pounds and shillings, sharpening a nail cutter you have had for 22 years yourself and enjoying the memories of times past: priceless."
Yankeeheart2 years ago
Never would have dreamed this. What a great idea!
Phil B (author)  Yankeeheart2 years ago
Thank you. Quite a number of things we assume are throwaways can actually be sharpened.
rippa7002 years ago
Thanks - I have been pondering that job for a while. Good post.
Phil B (author)  rippa7002 years ago
Thank you for looking. I am glad you can use it.
Bill WW2 years ago
Nice as usual, Phil, I will give it a try. I have been on a sharpening kick lately.

Phil B (author)  Bill WW2 years ago
Thank you. Sharp implements are a joy to use.
carmstrong22 years ago
Phill, and all, for those interested in Hebrew Scripture, look up Mark Biltz -- Eclipses on YouTube. You'll be amazed at how the current world events are recorded in celestial cycles, as revealed in matching NASA Lunar and Solar eclipses with Hebrew Calendar dates! On May 28th, this year (2012) Mark made an update to that 2008 presentation, including an amazing celestial event that harbingers cataclysmic World events soon coming!

He opens up much more of the Hebrew Records relative to today, so go and watch in awe!

Oh, most of his presentations are found on Vimeo - look for El Shaddai Ministries.

On this sharpening guide GREAT! I've long wondered how to do it! Just didn't want to ruin a clipper trying!
Phil B (author)  carmstrong22 years ago
Thank you for your comment. I will look for the videos. I hope you can use this Instructable to keep your personal grooming tools sharp and ready.
nevadita2 years ago
I wish many more people would repair things that can be repaired, but because it is easier to throw away things and buy new ones, specialy with so many chinese disposable things they make, humans are contaminating the Planet in such way that we are destroying everything and the time is near when it will be impossible to live on the Earth. We all should be more conscious and responsible by repairing whatever can be repaired. Perhaps many would say they will die before that time comes, but.............. what about the future generations? what are we leaving to them? PLEASE, think about it!
Do you think it would work on the blade of a paper cutter?
Phil B (author)  Susan Cirigliano2 years ago
I assume by a paper cutter you mean those devices seen in many schoolrooms. They are about 12 x 12 inches with a rule across one end. A long lever with a blade built into it can be brought down to cut paper in a straight line. We had one in the office where I worked. In 17 years I sharpened it twice and I had only the side walk outside the front door as my tool. I removed the cutting strip on the cutter's bed. I held it with the cutting edge flat on the sidewalk. I held it at a slight sideways angle of 5 to 10 degrees and moved it around in a figure eight pattern until any wear or rounding on the top cutting edge was gone. The I removed the curved knife from the lever and basically did the same thing with it while trying to give the whole of the curved length equal treatment.. Even if the sidewalk was not perfectly flat or level, it still worked quite well.
I'll do it..YUP.!
Dandie2 years ago
Smart advice !
thinkpadt302 years ago
Thanks for posting this instructable! Instead of taking mine apart, I just held them like I was clipping a nail, keeping the edges firmly together. I then used a large diameter. Dremel tool that was the same diameter as the curve of the clippers. It took less than a minute to load the tool into the Dremel and to sharpen 2 clippers. They cut so much better now!. 2 tips: be sure to wear eye protection when running the Dremel. With such a high-speed tool, an eye could easily be permanently damaged. Also, trim your nails after taking a shower or bath. The nails are a lot softer, cut much easier and accurately, and won't split like toenails sometimes do.
Phil B (author)  thinkpadt302 years ago
Thank you for your comment. The first time I sharpened my clippers, I had just read a book about sharpening and was using an oil stone to sharpen many things. I did not own a Dremel, but do have one now. Thank you for your tips.
Thank you for this. I have some nail clippers I had to buy when I was staying in Germany for a few months back in 1992. They were the only ones I could find in town and they cost 35 marks back then which was about $21 in real money. The girl told me they cost so much because they were made with "very fine materials". Anyhow I like them and call them my Mercedes nail clippers. Now I can sharpen them. Thanks.
Nicely done!
Phil B (author)  whisperonthewind2 years ago
Thank you.
henster223 years ago
My nail clippers are curved and dont have a flat top!!!
Phil B (author)  henster223 years ago
I empathize with you, but see Prfesser's comment below on how to sharpen clippers like yours. These is a way.
Thanx
I also have another use for nail clippers.
You can use them to sharpen a knife!!!
Check out my step by step on it
Phil B (author)  henster223 years ago
Yes, I saw it. I am surprised that works. I did one on using the teeth of a carbide tipped saw blade to sharpen a knife. It was not listed as one of the related Instructables, but there are a lot of Instructables on sharpening knives and other things.. The long corner edge of a carbide tipped saw tooth removes metal quite effectively and makes a very sharp edge. See it at: http://www.instructables.com/id/Sharpen-A-Knife-Quickly-and-Easily/

Thanks for looking.
All my nail clippers are zamak. I broke a pair of finger nail clippers trying to cut my toenails.
pudicobar5 years ago
Nice work. I, too, like renewing my old stuff. In fact, I love old stuff. Like my old car (i'm knowing almost everything about it, so I don't have to take it to mechanics), my old house, my old tools. I hate wasting a still useful thing. Obviously, sometimes it's time to buy a new thing to replace, but...
Phil B (author)  pudicobar5 years ago
Learning how something works often allows you to refurbish something someone else is sending to the junk. Someone once threw out an almost new Briggs & Stratton vertical shaft lawnmower engine. The soft key (less than 25 cents in cost) that aligns the flywheel on the crankshaft was partially sheared from the mower blade hitting a tree root or a dried gopher mound. That changed the spark timing so the engine would not run. I replaced the key and installed the engine on a friend's favorite lawnmower with an old fatally worn engine.
Yeah. Knowledge is power. Read 1 Samuel 13:19-22 and see what I'm talking about. God bless you.
Phil B (author)  pudicobar5 years ago
Your point is well taken. To add to it, if you go to 1 Samuel 17:50, you see that when knowledge like that in 1 Samuel 13:19-22 is not available, a knowledge of very simple things can overcome or make irrelevant even the latest in technology. Thanks, and God bless!
Prfesser5 years ago
Good instructable! One reason for sharpening nail clippers is that even new ones can be pretty bad. Sharpen them, and they snip through tough nails cleanly. For hand-sharpening the concave clippers, wrap a sheet of sandpaper round a dowel and use as a sanding drum.
Phil B (author)  Prfesser5 years ago
The sandpaper around the dowel would be very helpful for anyone without a Dremel. I did not have one until about ten years ago, and I am 62 years old. Mine had belonged to my father-in-law before he died. Thanks.
Ok that must be very old, mines taken tonnes of abuse without being any less sharp or dented, cutting reasonably thick wires, stray jean threads and other stuff, occasionally I get round to cutting my nails too! But it's always good to know this stuff, mine are stainless though so I suppose I don't lose any sharpness to rusting... Funny there's a marked difference in how fast you have to sharpen scissors that aren't stainless and ones that are...

One thing, couldn't you have simply tied the handle down to save you the bother of removing it?
Phil B (author)  killerjackalope5 years ago
Perhaps I could have tied or taped the lever to hold the jaws in place. I thought the screw and nut would give me more precise, more certain adjustment. Stainless steel would likely stand up to copper wire much better than steel. In time even stainless will dull. Sharp tools are a joy to use.
I know it will, I have a bad habit of losing my razor, partly because I walk around the house shaving while being late for things and often resort to a pair of nail scissors when time is on my side, they've been sharpened twice now and they're not that old.. It does solve the quandary I get in to over my butt chin which is just not easily dealt with...