Nippers, clippers, pushers and more

Metal implements are one of the mainstay tools of a nail technician station. They provide many services, are sanitize-able, and last a long time. Quality implements cost more, but since they rarely need to be replaced, it is well worth investing in these multi-functional tools!

Nail nippers come in many sizes and styles, and perform a wide variety of purposes in a nail salon. You can choose from different jaw sizes and joint types, and use them for manicures, pedicures, and acrylic fills. How do you know when to use which nipper? Read on for descriptions of the various types, styles, and uses.

One key point to keep in mind when using nippers, whatever type or the usage: Let the nippers do the work, not your arm muscles. With high-quality nippers you will rarely need to exert a lot of pressure because extra-sharp blades will make it easy to cut nearly anything. If after a while you feel that you need to exert more and more pressure, it may be time to get your nippers sharpened.

Nippers & Clippers: Some call them clippers, some call them nippers; in nail tech terms, they really describe the same thing in most instances – they are implements for clipping or nipping at natural nails or nail enhancements. In general or layman terms: the ones with handles and spring-action are nippers. The ones with the fold-away handle and leverage-action are clippers. Generally you clip finger and toe nails, and nip at nail acrylic and cuticles (see instructions within this site for proper useage guidelines!). However, the terms have become interchange-able these days, so don’t get caught up in the name. Rely on the overall size of the implement, and the jaw size to determine the proper usage of the implement, regardless of it’s name. Then you can consider spring action, joint type, and the material it’s made from; not to mention price, when making your choices. See pictures below for more help in telling types of implements apart from one another.

Cuticle, acrylic, or pedicure: Many times the size of the implement determines it’s use. Generally, with the largest being for pedicures, medium for acrylics, and the smallest for cuticles. The hand size of the nail tech can also affect the size of the nipper she chooses.

Box Joint or Lap Joint? Less expensive nippers are usually (but not always) made with a lap joint. Higher quality (and more expensive, but generally worth it) box joint nippers insure against the skewing and side-ways motion of the blades, especially when cutting tough, thick nails and exerting a lot of pressure. When a lap joint gets loose it may catch a nail in between the blades and “bend” it. Besides being painful and very uncomfortable, this is really bad for the nails. Box joint insures that the blades that are positioned directly opposite each other will remain perfectly aligned and provide a smooth, clean cut. That said: since nipping acrylic is very rough on nippers, many techs find it easier to purchase several pairs of less expensive lap joint nippers, and simply throw each pair out as it gets dull, rather than using (abusing) and then re-sharpening more expensive, quality nippers.

Jaw Size: Nippers come in full, half, and quarter size. This refers to the proportion of the jaw (the part that nips), and not to the overall size of the nippers. As you will see from the pictures below, each jaw size comes in a variety of sizes and styles. Generally, the smaller the jaw, the more delicate the work. The largest jaws are usually the most heavy duty (but not always!). A very general rule of thumb could be : 1/4 jaw cuticles, 1/2 jaw acrylics, and full jaw for toenails. However, there is always an exception to every rule. Much of it comes down to personal preference, hence why manufacturers make every combination of jaw size with nipper size, as well as variations in spring and joint types.

Springs: Single spring is as you’d expect, equipped with a single spring. The spring action is what allows you to actually perform the nipping action. Many techs choose this type for cuticle clean-up. That is not to say that you cannot use this type for acrylics however. Just always be sure to have one pair for cuticles and a separate pair for acrylic nipping. The double spring is generally made for heavier work than a single spring. It is usually a good choice for nipping acrylic. Some techs like the control they get from a double spring however, so they use one double spring for cuticles (generally 1/4 jaw), and a separate pair of double springs (usually 1/2 jaw) for acrylics. The barrel spring is the toughest of all springs, and usually found in high-end, heavy-duty and toenail nippers.

Materials/Construction: Stainless steel, carbon steel, etc. Each type of metal has different factors to consider as far as strength, ability to hold a sharp edge, and whether or not it is completely rust-proof.

Pushers: As the name suggests, are used to gently and efficiently push back the cuticles during nail services. Larger surface area blades are for toenails, while the smaller for nails.