Home » How Do Hair Clippers Work? [Explained]

How Do Hair Clippers Work? [Explained]

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Although most modern hair clippers are very easy to use, people still don’t know how they work. How does this tool drive through your hair fast, cut it and give you a sleek look? What makes the buzzing sound you hear? If you are looking for answers to these questions, you have come to the right place. In this article, we’ll touch on everything you need to know about electric hair clippers, including their parts and how they work together.


oster fast feed hair clippers

There’s no big deal about how electric clippers work. It’s not rocket science or quantum physics. Instead, its mechanic principles are pretty basic. 

It all begins with a power source, without which the clipper would just be a random piece of metal lying around. The power source depends on the type of clipper; in cordless clippers, the power source is a built-in battery, and in corded clippers, an AC power outlet.

The job of the electrical outlet or battery is to power a motor. This motor is very simple and small, and it is connected to a set of comb-like blades. These blades are located on the tip of the clipper, and with the help of the motor, they move back and forth sideways, cutting any hair at sight.

The cutting is achieved by a scissors-like action. When the hair clipper is moved, the hair is placed between the teeth of the blades. Then the blades slide on top of one another to cut the hair. That’s how hair clippers work!

But obviously, these are not the only things to know. Let’s begin by having a look at the different parts of a hair clipper and then examine how they function together.

Asides from the blades and motor, hair clippers don’t have many moving parts. That’s why their working principles are easy to understand. 

The main parts of the hair clipper include the power, the blades, the motor, and the guards. Now let’s pick each of these parts and explain their functions and mode of use. So, grab a cup of coffee, and let’s go for a ride!


wahl series 100 cord
My old corded Wahl-100 series

Hair clippers are electrical tools, so they need electricity to function. Generally, there are two types of clippers: corded or cordless.

The corded hair clippers come with a cord of about 6 to 8 feet long and an AC power outlet, meaning you have to plug it directly into an electrical outlet to power it. They have a large power capacity because they have a reliable and continuous power flow. As such, you won’t have to worry about charging it or running out of power during its working time. 

However, they can be a little inconvenient. This is due to the length of their power cord, as you won’t be able to take them far away from the power source.

You should also be careful and not cause any harm to the power cord. Any damage to the cable will cause your clipper to stop working. Hence, you should avoid twisting, coiling, and turning the power cord to prevent strain or harm. As long as the power cord is safe, it’ll function effectively.

Cordless hair clippers are not so different from corded ones, with the only difference being the lack of cord. Instead, they have built-in rechargeable batteries. That means you don’t need to plug them in before use. You can just pull them out for a new haircut anywhere and everywhere.

But their batteries don’t last forever! They last around 60-120 minutes on average, and that’s why they’re a popular choice among home users and not in professional environments.

Also, the battery will eventually wear out and lose power. As it nears the end of its lifespan, it’ll experience difficulty holding its charge. So bear in mind that you might need to replace the battery occasionally.

Related Article: Can You Use Hair Clippers On Beard?


hair clippers motors

The motor is probably the most important part of a hair clipper. The relationship between the motor and a clipper can be likened to a car and its engine. After the clipper is powered, the motor gears up and projects its motion onto the blades, making them move and cut hair.

However, not all hair-clipper motors are the same. There are many different types of motors used in hair clippers, with the most popular being:

  1. The rotary motor
  2. The magnetic motor
  3. And the pivot motor

So, let’s take a look at each of them.

1. Rotary motor

What we love about rotary motors is their great power and blade speed, which is the reason they are used in the most powerful hair clippers in the world. Rotary motors balance their power, speed, and size excellently. 

Although they are usually more expensive than other clipper motors, they are very good for bulk hair removal and heavy-duty cutting. As a result, professionals use rotary motor clippers despite their hefty price tag.

2. Magnetic motor 

The magnetic motor has a few moving parts with a very simple design and is often found in cheaper hair clippers. Nonetheless, it’s very reliable.

Its working principle is pretty simple. It has a spring and an electromagnet working together to move the blades back and forth at high speeds resulting in smooth hair cuts. 

Although it is less powerful than the other motor types, it lasts longer and is affordable.

3. Pivot motor

The pivot motor is the middle ground between the three clipper motors and is similar to a magnetic motor in terms of working principles. It also employs an electromagnet and spring to move the clipper blades back and forth, but it works at a reduced blade speed with a power of at least twice that of a magnetic motor.

The high power makes it ideal for bulk hair removal and doesn’t give a hitch when driving through wet hair (you should never use a clipper on wet hair, and here you can read why). Finally, the pivot motor runs cooly and doesn’t make much noise.


hair clipper blades

The hair clipper blades are comb-like in shape and placed at the tip of the clipper. They run perpendicular to the scalp in a scooping motion and are responsible for cutting the hair strands.

When in use, the clipper is positioned so that the hair strands come between the teeth of the blade, cutting them to a uniform length. 

Generally, there are two kinds of hair clippers blades. The first one is the single surface moving blade consisting of a stationary blade and a moving blade. Both blade edges have a row of spaced teeth that holds the hair strands in position for cutting. The moving blade collects the hair strands and moves them toward the stationary blade. The hair gets cut once it’s between the two blades.

The second type has two sets of moving blades. However, the working principle of this type is not much different compared to the single surface moving blade. The only difference is that these clippers move and cut faster than the single surface-moving blade ones because they have two moving blades. You can relate it to simultaneously cutting your hair with many pairs of scissors. 

Also, this type of clipper blade is self-sharpening. As the blades run against each other during use, the bottom blades sharpen the top blades and vice versa.

No matter your clippers’ blades, sometimes they might pull hair. This happens either because the blades are not running at the correct speed or because they aren’t sharp enough. 

If this happens to you, apply a few drops (at least two) of clipper oil to the blades and try again (read this article to learn how to oil your clippers). The clipper oil lubricates the blades allowing them to run at the correct speed. If this doesn’t work, you might need to replace or sharpen your blades.

Related Article: “Seven Reasons Your Hair Clipper Is Not Cutting And How to Fix It


wahl magic clip guards

The guard, also known as a guide comb or attachment comb, is an accessory attached to the clipper blades that allows you to cut your hair at different lengths. The importance of clipper guards can not be overstated. They ensure that certain hairstyles, like fades, are easily achievable to non-professionals (Btw you can read our “best clippers for fades” article if you want to try fading at home). 

The guard sizes are either measured in millimeters (mm) or inches (in) but also graded in numbers, meaning each guard number is attached to a size. Usually, the grade number is between 0-12, with the guard size increasing as the grade number increases. For example, Number 1 is an ⅛ inch guard or 3mm in size, while Number 8 is a 1-inch guard or 25mm in size.

The table below shows some popular guard sizes with their clipper guard numbers.

Guard NumberMillimeters (mm)Inches (in)

Related Article: What are the different types of hair clippers?


We are now at the end of the ride. We’ve fully explored everything you need to know about how hair clippers work. We’ve discussed the working principles of a hair clipper, including its parts and how they work together. Let’s have a quick recap of everything we’ve discussed.

Hair clippers are electric and need a power source to function. They can be corded(plug-in clippers) or cordless (built-in battery). The electric power turns on the motor, and the electric motor powers up and projects its motion onto the blades, making them produce a back-and-forth motion and cutting the hair strands. Finally, there are the clipper guard combs that allow you to cut your hair in different sizes. Each size is designed to cut the hair to different lengths.

We hope we have helped you understand how hair clippers work! If you have any more questions, let us know in the comments section. 

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