Are you in the market for some new nippers, but don’t quite know how to tell whether you have a set that will operate properly?

“It’s actually easy to tell a good pair of nippers,” says Hall Of Fame farrier Danny Ward, who operates the Danny Ward Horseshoeing School in Martinsville, Va. “Gently close the nippers until they hit the stop, then look toward the blades as you hold them up to the light. The blades should be perfectly parallel and slightly parted — about 31/1000th of an inch to be precise. You should be able to see a razor-thin ray of light between them.”

When you squeeze the handles, the blades should come together to eliminate the gap and you shouldn’t see any light between them.

After checking the blades, it’s also important to check whether the tool operates smoothly. The nippers should open and close smoothly, with no drag or side play.

Determining whether the nippers are properly heat-treated also is fairly easy, yet vitally important to the quality of the tool.

“Just look carefully at the top of the tool,” Ward explains. “You should be able to see a distinct line on each blade where the heat treatment has changed the look of the metal.”

For more tips about buying, using and caring for nippers, pick up a copy of the July/August issue of American Farriers Journal.

Keep an eye out for our upcoming video with Al Aguilar of Alamo Tools, demonstrating the process for rebuilding nippers.