Matt Lybeck, a Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., farrier sharpens his nippers during a demonstration for the Wisconsin Farriers Association.  All Images: Jeff Cota

How to Sharpen Nippers

Wisconsin farrier demonstrates how to get the most out of your nippers in just 10 minutes

Are the reins on your nippers touching? Does it take more effort to nip the hoof wall? It might be time to sharpen them

Improper usage or dull blades leads to inefficient work and potential arm injuries.

“Folks that have nipper trouble tend to take big bites,” says Chris Gregory, a member of the International Horseshoeing Hall of Fame. “The secret to making nipping easy is to run your nippers ¼- to ½-inch of the blade. If your nipper blades are an inch wide and you nip an inch every time, then you’re using maximum force to cut every time. When you cut ½-inch, not only is it easier to stay in line, but you use a lot less force.”

In addition to rein placement and effort, there is another telltale sign that your nippers need adjustment.

“Just hold them up and look,” Matt Lybeck explains. “You want a tiny gap, but not much. There’s quite a gap in the jaws in Figure 1.”


As nippers dull, it is more difficult to remove hoof wall. The difficulty is accompanied by a good-sized gap between the blades. “You want a tiny gap, but not much,” Lybeck says.

The Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., farrier leads the Wisconsin Farriers Association members through a 10-minute, step- by-step demonstration on how to sharpen nippers. The tool that Lybeck works on has been sharpened at least twice during its lifetime.

“That’s part of what was making the reins come together,” Lybeck says. “I don’t recommend sharpening…

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Jeff Cota

Jeff Cota has been a writer, photographer and editor with newspapers and magazines for 30 years. A native of Maine, he is the Lead Content Editor of American Farriers Journal.

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