Best Barber Tools: 3 Awesome Clippers for Barbering Experts
Welcome to Barber Hacks, the online resource to make you a better barber, new or experienced. Make more money by knowing how to take care of your clients, gear, and learn new techniques for advanced and beginner barbers.
Okay, this week we get into GEAR. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on gear and haven’t tried everything. That said, I have some Crowbarber approved gear that I know works, and I’m sharing it with you. Disclaimer: I am not paid to write this by any company.
Note: I will be using barbering terms while I write this, and it may be confusing for newbies, but try and take what you can from this, and know that I am not steering you in the wrong direction despite some difficulties you may have beginning to understand your equipment.
Note: I recommend picking and learning one machine to start.
First off, we’re going to start with the essentials: Levered Corded Clippers.
Levered corded clippers can be used to complete an entire haircut. They are incredibly versatile, can be used to edge up if need be, to remove bulk in clipper over comb, to fade the hair, and can even be used to club cut over your fingers if need be. They may be considered to be old fashioned in the wake of the new era of cordless clippers, but I have yet to discover clippers that are as reliable and as sturdy as the three clippers that I am going to feature here today. All of these clippers can be used alone, but I use mine along with a detachable blade clipper to get rid of the bulk before I start fading with the levered clipper. I’ll cover detachable blade clippers next post.
My go to clippers are two Andis Masters, one with a fade blade on it, and one with the regular blade. I have both blades zero gapped for extreme precision fading (zero gapping is something that barbers do in order to create flawless looking fades at low levels; you take the blades that come stock and move them closer together so that you can achieve perfect blends). A fade blade is a flatter blade that you can adjust to get the perfect bald fade, and the regular blade is something that has a slight curve and a corrugated bottom in order to slide along the head better and increase your efficiency when doing a traditional barber taper. Yes, I work with two Andis Masters everyday, and I love them.
The Andis Master has so much power (I think the most powerful fading clipper on the market with a lever) and can cut through any hair type with a silky smooth action. The finish on the Andis master is slightly grainy, as you will be able to tell with constant use, the finish is not as blurry as a Wahl or Oster clipper, but it is still an amazing finish, just different in the way the blade cuts the hair.
The lever on the left side of the blade extends more than any other lever (except perhaps the Oster Fast Feeds or Wahl Legends) making them a little harder for beginners to use (more room to mess up), but in the hands of a seasoned veteran they are indispensable. The Masters cut when the lever is extended all the way even in the thickest hair, unlike some other brands (looking at you Oster FastFeed).
The Masters work well for fading and clipper over comb work due to the power of their motor and the sharpness of their blades. Their case is aluminum and made to last, because these clippers are made like tanks. I’ve had my original Andis Masters for over ten years now, and apart from changing the blades they work exactly like I bought them on day one, and I can’t say that for any other clipper that I have ever touched. EVER. If you’re going to buy one clipper and you want it to last you for a very very long time (my clipper has averaged to about a cost of less than ten dollars a year), buy this clipper.
The one thing that I’ve heard people complain about when it comes to this clipper is that they’re too heavy. When compared to some of the new cordless clippers that are out there, yes, they are incredibly heavy, and have quite a powerful vibration to them. Another strike against the Masters is that they heat up when you use them, but I’ve never used them long enough that this has been a problem for either me or my client. Price wise, this clipper is the most expensive on the list, but it is worth every penny.
The Andis Masters pair perfectly with the two magnet Andis guards, and work without leaving a line between each step that you blend during a fade. Andis has made things complicated by putting out one magnet guards that have a small gap between the one and two guards (not noticeable to any beginners, but it is there) which makes for lines in your fade. There are ways to fade this line by using the corner of your clipper blades and a flick out motion, but that is an advanced technique and I still prefer the flawless finish that the two magnet guards give you.
From here, I go to the Wahl senior, the clipper I would be using if it wasn’t for how beautiful the Andis Masters are. The Seniors are truly wonderful clippers with an incredibly quiet and powerful motor that can cut every hair type. They also come with a blade that is corrugated for easy movement on the head, and can be zero gapped. They can also be modified with a surgical or fade blade so that you can create pristine bald fades.
The Seniors are heavy and a lot of barbers don’t like this, but they’re very well built , although I’ve never really enjoyed the plastic feeling of the front plate, it seems flimsy in my hands, but this is probably because I’m so used to using the Andis Master. The action on the lever is quite small, making this a clipper that I would suggest more for beginners, as it is easier to make less mistakes with a smaller area to blend (at least this is my experience).
The finish of the Wahl Seniors I find a little blurrier than the Andis Masters, a little smoother, which I like, but not as smooth as the Fast Feed. Once again, this clipper is corded, but there is a cordless version coming soon, and I am interested in trying it out.
The Seniors are powerful enough for any type of hair, but I’ve never really liked how flimsy the guards are for Wahl products (yes, even the professional versions). I do like the coloured guards that they have, because they make it easier for me to grab and therefore quicker for me to use, the all black professional guards confuse me, as they all look about the same, especially with the holder that they come in. I often find that there is a little gap between the one and one and a half guards on this clipper, which causes to use extra time in order to use the corner of my blades to knock out in order to achieve that super flawless finish. Once again, this might not be a big deal for everyone, but it annoys me. I find that using the corners with Wahl’s guards is easier than using the corners of the blade with the two magnet guards on the Andis Master though, so if you’re willing to learn this technique it shouldn’t be a problem.
I own a pair of these and enjoy using them from time to time just for variation, but I always go back to using my Andis Masters.
The Oster fast feed is the third clipper I enjoy using from time to time. It has a beautifully smooth and blurry finish and cuts through coarse African American hair like butter. In fact, out of all these clippers, I believe it fades short hair best. In the hand the Fast Feed feels light, and the shape of the clipper, somewhat squarer and slimmer than the previous two, feels wonderful in the hand. They are (as advertised) incredibly quiet and smooth when running, and this is nice when you are having a conversation with your customer and running the Fast Feed near their ear.
The one place where I find the Fast Feeds lacking is in the long hair realm. It depends on the style of barber you are, but if you are cutting longer thick hair with a clipper, I find that the Fast Feed struggles in this category, and its motor cannot cut longer lengths quickly and cleanly. The Fast Feeds struggle when you have the lever all the way open on thick hair, sometimes even at a shorter level like a two guard open. It also struggles a little with clipper over comb on really thick hair. Best just not to use the Fast Feed on overly thick hair, as its motor is not meant to tackle it.
I like to modify my Fast Feeds by putting a blade from the Oster number 1 detachable guard into the Fast Feed to achieve a true zero gap, but without this it is almost impossible to get them completely gapped so that they’ll take a bald line out. I will cover how to do this in a future post.
The guards that come with this clipper are garbage and fall off the clipper, increasing your chances of ruining a haircut, but the good thing about this clipper is that it fits perfectly with the Andis two magnet guards that I was talking about earlier.
The Fast Feeds can take a licking and keep going, and are extremely durable. I think this clipper used along with a detachable blade clipper (such as the Oster 76) is a wonderful combo, because the detachable makes up for the power lost and mows through the thick hair the Fast Feed cannot.
These three clippers are Crowbarber approved. You aren’t going to run into problems with battery life, or parts breaking off, these clippers are as solid and as proven as they come. I highly recommend having at least one of these in your arsenal as quickly as possible, and possibly all of them later on in your career. There are more clippers out there and more companies that are newer to the game (Babyliss I’m looking at you), but these are decades tested tried and true all. You can’t go wrong with them.
Next week we tackle detachable blade clippers,
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