Finally! I think I found the answer I was looking for…
The question was “why do detachable blades seem to cut more closely than adjustable blades with guards?”
This came up while I was writing a post about what it means when a barber (or a client) says to give them or to use a certain number on their head. It went into detail about what the numbers meant, and also the difference between using plastic guards/combs and using detachable blades when cutting hair.
Long story short: the blades cut sleeker and the cut appears to be shorter than the guards.
But it brought up a question in my mind… Why? What makes this happen?
Cutting with shears vs cutting with clippers
The difference between cutting with shears and cutting with clippers is a pretty simple… shears leave an flat or tilted angle at the tip of the hair, and the hair leans in the direction of the angle and lays down.
Clippers cut from two directions, resulting in a chiseled point at the tip of the hair, and the hair tends to stand up. When the hair grows to where it is long end heavy enough, it starts standing up and then bends down to lay down toward the end.
But what about detachable blades vs guards?
Searching for the answer
I wasn’t able to find much information about the difference between clippers with detachable blades and clippers using plastic guards. As of this writing, I’m waiting for feedback from the manufacturers.
I eventually found one video which explained a possible reason (the first and last five minutes are sales pitches to barbers to buy his materials and products).
It went into how the two gathered the hair, mentioning that the increased number of teeth in detachable blades resulted in better straightening of the hair before the cut occurred. It discussed how the blades held more hair straight up in the cut than the plastic guards did before reaching the cutting blade.
However, that explains why detachable blades cut hair more efficiently and with fewer passes. It didn’t explain why the cuts laid down better… at least not that I understood.
However, it did pique my curiosity…
A close comparison of both types of cutting
I took a detailed look at the two types of cutting… and I may have found the answer.
I compared how my two sets of clippers did the actual cutting.
My BabylissPro Silver FX is a set of adjustable clippers which uses plastic guards to cut different lengths.
The other set is the Andis Supra ZR II, which uses detachable blades.
I looked at them with the #2 guard and the #2 blade, and what I found is that when the clippers are used the way they are meant to be used, the blades cut at different angles, so the hair will naturally lay down or stand up differently.
The cutting blade on the clippers with the guard are cutting at around a 45º angle, so the hair ends up with a 45º point at the top. This makes the hair’s structure more rigid and it stands up more.
The detachable blade cuts parallel to the head, and the angle slants as the clippers get flicked during the cut. The resulting angles are similar to the angles left when using shears, so the hair acts more like it was cut with shears, rather than with clippers.
While the hair may be cut to the same length, the hair cut with the detachable blade doesn’t stand out as far from the head, so it appears shorter.
Now this is just my observation.. I could be wrong… but I’m going to go with it for now.
I am a barber in Marietta and the Cobb County area. I graduated from the Gwinnett Barber Institute and have been cutting hair since 2019.
Atlanta has always been my home, minus eight years when I was a Navy musician in Japan and Seattle.
When I am not cutting hair, I am usually found spending time with my family or at Atlanta United matches with the Terminus Legion in the supporters section.