Taming Your Toolkit: Finding the Perfect Combo That Works for You

All Things Paw

By Michelle Knowles

There are hundreds of tools available to groomers these days. Brushes, combs, rakes and stripping knives, oh my! And groomers are notorious for being attracted to shiny things—be it new scissors, tables, dryers, smocks or ribbons.

Having had the opportunity to work with many different groomers over the years, I have really begun to see a pattern emerge when it comes to individual tool choices that each groomer makes to add to their toolbox. I am definitely no exception to the tool hoarding mentality, and in my last move, I was faced with many boxes of tools that I needed to whittle down. This made me think of all of us, as a whole, spending our hard–earned money on so many things that don’t serve our needs. 

Within my salon alone, the techniques and actual hand sizes are so varied and our stations are crammed full of things we don’t use. While I believe there is a use for every tool, not all of us need all of them. This is not in any way meant to limit an individual’s need to have as many tools as possible. Most of us are on a budget and the absolute essential tools like shears, brushes and other implements are necessary to do our job. These things are pricey enough without spending extra on multiple items we might never use. 

When assembling your basic toolkit, think about the types of animals you groom on a regular basis and perhaps some types of grooming that you are eager to challenge yourself with. When you understand your tool needs, it can help to make better choices when making purchases. 

Clippers

There are so many styles to choose from with various body shapes and uses; c orded and cordless, heavy duty and lightweight for details. After decades of grooming, I have found the best combination for me is a corded, heavy duty clipper that is the lightest in weight that I can find, with a body style that fits my hand, and a rechargeable clipper for face, feet and fannies. And my old clipper that has seen better days becomes my backup. So, at any given time I have two corded clippers and my detailer. The trick is to find a body style that fits your hand to limit fatigue and have enough power to get the job done.

Brushes

There are so many brushes on the market that if you had one of each, you would need a second station to hold them all. I have whittled my slicker needs to about three types of brushes, a de–matting large surface slicker, a flexible pad slicker and a very small slicker to accommodate tiny breeds. I also have a boar bristle polish brush in two sizes.

Combs

Wow, combs. A good set of combs will allow you to fluff, detangle, and help pull and shape the hair for your final finish. A mentor of mine used to say that the comb is the best friend of the brush as it finds the tangles that you might have missed. Greyhound style combs come in many different variations. The bottom line of a good comb is that it does what it is intended to do. I have decided to retain a large coarse, combo coarse/medium, fine, moon and face comb. Depending on what type of coat I am working on, I know that I will have the proper comb for the job.

Shears

While I am the last person in the world to say you should limit your shear collection, there are things to think about when making a shear purchase. The most important thing to take into consideration when buying shears is the fit of them in your hand. I am currently mentoring someone with very large hands and a shear collection that does not serve their needs. There are so many companies that sell quality shears and with each company having a diverse range of models, you are bound to find a few sets that fit you like a glove. Reputable companies will always help you find the right fit for you. 

If at all possible, I recommend going to a trade show so you can try out many different types until you find the ones that make your heart (and your hand) sing! Proper hand and wrist exercises will build the muscle in your scissor hand so that you become more proficient with your new shears. 

I would also like to encourage lefties to purchase true lefty shears instead of using right–handed shears in your left hand. There is controversy here, but as a left–handed groomer, it is still my recommendation.

Specialty tools

Stripping knives, carding tools, rakes and other various specialty items are best utilized when you can get a hands–on feel for the tool before making your purchase. If all fails and you end up with boxes and bags of tools you don’t use (this is me also), I find that donating them to beginner groomers is one of the most rewarding ways of making sure the tool finds its way into the right hands. There are also various groomer tool swaps on the internet if you have things you would like to sell. 

In the end, just because it is shiny doesn’t mean it is useful. Practicing mindfulness when spending your money will make sure you get the full satisfaction and use from your new toys! ✂️