How do you choose the right stripping knife for the job? There are so many different brands, and the decision can be as difficult as choosing a pair of shears. Stripping knives are broken down into four basic types:
• Extra Fine: For head, ears and detail work.
• Fine: For Head, neck and general finishing.
• Medium: For general body stripping.
• Coarse: For body stripping on large breeds or extra-coarse coats.
When choosing a knife, it's best to try and get to a show so that you can feel the handle in your hand. Some handles are more comfortable than others and they need to fit your hand correctly just like a pair of shears.
Many of the old time breeders and handlers made their own knives to meet their needs. I've seen old kitchen knives turned into stripping knives. There are many companies out there now that are now making knives. The best that I have found are the Greyhound knives by Ashley Craig. Check out ashleycraig.net.
Another common stripping tool is a stone. This can be used to either remove the soft undercoat and some of the dead outer coat by using it over the top of the coat with the lay of the hair. Using a small narrow piece, you can also strip the outer coat using the same technique you would with a knife. I find the harder stones work better than the softer stones for using with the stripping technique.
Once you have chosen a set of knives, (yes you will want the whole set because as described above, they each do different things!) You will want to make sure they are dull. Some companies now sell them pre-dulled. If your new knives are not pre-dulled, you will want to dull them yourself. First, make sure the ends of the teeth are dull by rubbing the ends on a rock or the sidewalk. The grooves between the teeth are ground in, similar to how our shears are sharpened. There are a few different ways to dull your knife. One is to sit and cut a piece of cardboard with it. (Time consuming!) Another is to run it through dirt or sand. (Also time consuming!) The best way that I have found is to get the blade wet with water, put quickstop on the blade and put it in a plastic bag overnight. Quickstop is a corrosive and will dull the edge. Clean the excess quickstop and rust off with some steel wool or a wire brush, disinfect, and you're ready to go! Yes, they won't be as shiny as they were when you bought them, but with them dull, they won't cut the hair.
Now you are ready to go! I will cover technique in another blog!
If you are planning on going to Intergroom this year, Pam Lauritzen and I will be presenting hand strip seminars! Come see us!