To help you save time, work with precision, and enjoy your job, some tools are must-haves, while others are a luxury you’ll want to afford.
Illustration by Dominique Blaskovich
Certain tools should be a part of every proficient technician’s toolbox. Brushes, drills, and files are the obvious ones, but there are lots of other implements that can make your work easier, faster, and more exacting. And while it’s not entirely true that a technician is only as good as her tools (technique matters most), having the right tool for the job makes a big difference in the results.
NIPPERS AND CLIPPERS
According to Toni Jane Smith, owner of details a cosmetology Salon have at least two pairs of nippers.
“You need two, because you should never use your cuticle nipper on anything but skin,” she says. “When mine gets dull, I use it for acrylics to get a little extra use out of it. But generally I prefer a wide jaw for acrylic nipping and a narrow jaw for cuticles.”
“I like a cuticle nipper with a very small cutting edge that’s extremely sharp,” adds Barbara Griggs, owner of Nail Visions in Pasadena, Md. “Acrylic nippers are usually too large to use for cuticles.”
Most manufacturers offer nippers with 1/8 -, ¼, and ½ inch jaws, but jaw size isn’t all that counts. If you want a high-performance nipper, material and design matter most. Cobalt stainless steel is Smith’s favorite because, according to her, it stays sharp the longest and won’t rush when immersed in a disinfectant.
Says Jerry Mennicken, president of Mehaz International (Thousand Oaks, Calif.), “A nipper with a certain percentage of cobalt makes steel harder and keeps the edge sharp for a long time. A nipper that’s made for use on cuticles is not appropriate for use on acrylics, because nine times out of 10, you’ll break the jaw. If you were to look at a cuticle nipper you used on acrylic under a microscope, you’d see fraying of the blade.”
Heavier constructed acrylic nippers are made to stay sharp and resist breaking when chipping acrylics.
Two other components can affect nipper performance; the type of joint and the springs. Joints are either lap style where one blade overlaps the other muck like shears, or box design. According to Ari Eickert, president and CEO of Arius-Eickert (Fremont, Ohio), the box design is superior because one blade is milled out in the shape of a box and through it, a process that gives the tool greater stability.
Contends Lori Skroski, national sales manager for Tweezerman (Glen Cove, N.Y.), “Box joints were always considered higher quality because lap joints have a screw that can loosen. But now we’ve created a pivot point in our lap joints, so the screw won’t loosen up.”
Spring design is purely a matter of personal choice. Griggs says she prefers to go by feel, so she breaks the spring off. Nilsene Privette of Headliners in Phoenix, Ariz., likes a double spring because it gives her even pressure and a controlled cut.
According to Mennicken, a double spring does give smoother action because a single-spring nipper exerts some pressure against the hand, and the rubbing sensation can irritate the palm if used all day.
“We just invented a softer coil springs that’s very small and creates even less resistance,” he adds.
I f you perform pedicures, technicians say that separate toenail nippers are a must. Generally, toe-nail nippers have a longer jaw, a barrel spring, and a bar that locks the bottom of the handles together for easier handling.
THINK IN THREES
When it comes to clippers, the same trio of tools is essential: one pair for natural nails, one pair designed for cutting artificial nails, and one toenail clipper.
Says Lynn Johnson, marketing and district manager for Danielle (Buellton, Calif.), “Toenails are harder, and clipping them requires a tool with a stronger, bigger jaw.”
Experienced technicians agree that not only do pedicures require different than fingers, but that from an aesthetic and sanitary point of view, clients don’t want to see you ,using the same tool on their hands that you use on their feet.
Tip clippers are a popular new tool because they don’t put stress on the nail and cause it to break the way a nipper can.
Says Privette, “They’re a must. The handle looks like the ones on dog-grooming tools and gives you a firm, comfortable grip. It has an arched C-curve that lets you cut without breaking the nails.”
Besides preserving your work, these tools designed for cutting artificial nails save time. Says Menicken, “With an edge cutter, you can cut plastic tips, acrylics, and any wrap system on the market, saving half an hour of filing time on a set of nails. A long handle gives you good leverage so you don’t have to push very hard; a straight edge allows constant, even pressure and won’t leave that white line you can get if you don’t cut perfectly straight.”
PUSHERS AND SPOON
While some technicians say they prefer orangewood sticks for pushing cuticles, metal pushers have several advantages. “An orangewood stick can absorb germs; a metal pusher can be disinfected,” says Privette.
Adds Griggs, “A metal pusher has some more power behind it. I only use an orangewood stick to clean up polish.”
Spoons, sometimes called scoops, are specially designed to clean under the free edge of the nail without piercing the skin or lifting acrylic. Several companies have tools that are combination pushers/spoons. You also can find single designs if you prefer a curved pusher in some instances and a straight one in others.
“The spoon or scoop came from the pedicure industry in Europe, but in the United State it became a manicuring tool,” explains Mennicken. “It caught on fast because it allows the technician to clean around the nail bed easily. A special pusher can remove pterigium (the layer of skin that looks like a double cuticle) from the base of the nail without scratching the nail.”
SOME LIKE SCISSORS
According to Eickert, “In the United States, technicians use the most advance manicuring implements in the world, especially when it comes to artificial nails.” Yet despite the availability of high quality, specialized implements, some technicians still like to cut cuticles and tips with regular scissors.
“If the natural nail is week, I use scissors; if it’s harder, I use a clipper,” says Griggs. “For tips, I like small curved scissors because I have more control and can see what I’m doing.”
Griggs also recommends very sharp, straight scissors for cutting linen and other wrap/fabrics.
According to Privette, every technician should have a small pair of fabric scissors that are used on nothing but fabric. Generally, scissors that are specially designed for cutting delicate material have very narrow, sharp blades.
“The blades should be extremely sharp, come to a thin point, and meet perfectly,” adds Skroski. “The scissors should conform to the hand, so they shouldn’t have too small a thumb hole.”
Some states, like California, do not permit pedicurists to use a blade on the foot (sometimes call callus shavers or Credo blades). If you work in such a state, a good alternative for removing heavy calluses is a rasp, which removes dead skin and callus buildup without cutting the skin. At Fromm Industries, rasps are designed to prevent skin from shedding on the floor. Foot files also do the trick and come with coarse-and fined-grain sides, so you can remove dead skin and smooth the area afterwards.
Since ingrown toenails and other problems that come from wearing constricting footwear are common, special pedicure implements are also worth taking a look at. While some technicians prefer files from ingrown toenails, there are special nippers that have a long, slender nose on the cutting edge, so you can go in on the sides of the nail and trim sharp edges.
Smith says her toolbox hold s lots of specialty items because they make her life easier and her job fun. For retrieving tools from disinfectants, she keeps pairs of hemostats (a compression tool used in surgery) and tongs. She also uses tweezers and orangewood sticks for nail art and decals. And for working with nail charms, she has an all-in-one charms tool, which has a drill bit on one end and a net attachment for removing and securing the charm bolt on the other.
“The combination tool should be professional use only,” notes Smith. “I retail a charm tool that has a net attachment only so clients can remove and replace the charm as needed. But if they had the drill why would they need me?”
If you prefer paint-on nail art, a magnifier is an eye saver. The miniature lamp-style magnifier sits on your table, while the goggled-design magnifier takes up very little space.
Nipper grips are also a nifty idea for the technician who wants a high degree of comfort and a non-slip grip. They fit any pair of nippers, are removed so they can be disinfected, and come in a variety of colors.
And for a tool that’s easy to find anywhere, remember that a blow dryer isn’t just for hair. “I use a compact blow dryer to dry the primer into the nail,” says Griggs. “The heat penetrates fast and more time I can save, the better.”
Next time you’re looking for ways to shave a few more minutes off your service time, look to your toolbox instead of your product. There are sure to be a few time-saving tools you don’t already have that can nip excess time from your service.
TLC FOR TOOLS
Your tools represent a professional investment that wants to preserve and protect. Prior to disinfecting, brush the blades of your tools gently with a soft cloth or brush and remove dust and glue with acetone.
Tools always ne disinfected between clients. Some states do not allow dry heat sterilization, and most state boards say just a 10-minute immersion in a liquid disinfectant kills any bacteria. If your tools are made of metal that possibly will corrode, do not leave them in a disinfectant or sterilizer longer than necessary. (Some disinfectants contain rush inhibitors.)
At the end of the day or after disinfecting, put a pin drop of lubricant on nipper joints. The professionals are Arius-Eickert Co. recommend working it in by opening and closing the jaws a few times, then wiping off the excess. If nippers are constantly oiled, the oil will not oxidize and cause a rusting effect, say educators at Tweezerman.
Handle your tools with care: Do not throw them in drawers, drop them in a jar, or use them for anything other than for what they’re intended. A hairdresser would never cut a thread with her shears, and you should not use clippers or scissors for this either. At the end of the day, tuck tools neatly in their cases or wrap them in a cloth and store them in your drawer.
Remember, any sharp blade is very delicate. No matter how hard the metal, blades can get microscopic nicks if dropped, and even if they’re treated with tender loving care, they will eventually dull if your manufacturer has sharpening and reconditioning services, take advantage of them at least once a year.
If tool quality enhances your artistry, knowing how to select the best is important. One of the things that makes tool shopping tough is the fact that the old saying, “What you see is what you get” doesn’t always apply. If you align three pair of nippers next to one another, chances are you cannot pick the quality tool from the one what will break in a week or rust in a month. To help you shop. Here are hints from top technicians and manufacturers.
- “Ask a nail technician with at least 10 years’ experience which brands last the longest without rusting.” Janet Lee, Antoine de Paris
- “Touch t, feel it, and try it out. Ask what it’s made of and whether or not will rust if left in alcohol for two days. I’ve had ones that did.” Charlene Stanovich, nail technician
- “Look for the name Solingen. It is a city in Germany and many manufacturers use tools from there, because a tool cannot have this name on it without meeting quality standards that increase the integrity of steel.” Ari Eickert, Arius-Eickert
- “Look at the sharpness of the nippers and try them out. See how the jaw size works for you. Always test scissors to cut linen before you buy.” Mari Giordano, nail technician
- “Look for high quality stainless steel and you’ll have tools that last a lifetime. If you try to save pennies, you’ll end up buying six pairs a year. Also, ask about guarantees and free sharpening.” Jerry Mennicken, Mehaz international
- “Get cobalt stainless steel. I’ve been disappointed in less.” Toni Jane Smith, nail technician