Sharpening Grinding your Sheep Shearing Blades Comb and Cutter

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I can remember as a young fella, countless times I sharpened my own blades for shearing sheep, thinking that I had my blades sharpened only to find that the blades weren’t even working half as well as most of my shearing mates. It wasn’t until I sat down with a good shearing friend of mine that we worked out where I was going wrong. 

There is plenty that can go wrong when sharpening your combs and cutters but unless you know “How To” grind your shearing gear properly you will only make your job shearing that much harder. Sometimes it can feel like you are pushing a loaded dump truck through the wool if it is not cutting properly. This can cause wrist injuries as well as a bad temper and frustration. It also tears the wool off your sheep instead of cutting the wool which hurts your sheep.

A comb and cutter work like a pair of scissors when you are shearing your sheep. Scissors have a hollow grind and so too does a comb and cutter. Here are some major points to consider when grinding your shearing blades.

  • You need to set your grinder up precisely to get the right height and distance from the edge of the grinding plate.
  • Start and Finish off on the same spot each time.
  • When you finish grinding the sparks need to be going straight up off the grinding wheel.
  • The comb and cutter need to have a hollow grind to enable them to work like a pair of scissors.
  • Change your emery papers regularly. A general rule is 20 combs and 40 cutters. Or when the sparks become dull when you grind.
  • DO NOT drop your grinding pendulum. This will bend the pendulum shaft causing a different angle everytime you grind. Buy a new pendulum if the shaft is bent.
  • If there is a glue bubble in your emery papers change the emery immediately. Your equipment will not sharpen properly and your blades may fly off the pendulum when grinding, creating a hazard
  • Use a wire string to put your cutters on, after the grinding session so they stay the same thickness for the life of the cutter. This makes for an even grind.

I use these instructions from Phil Jones who designed the Expert shearing pendulum. This is how I set my grinder up and how I grind other shearers combs and cutters as well. You cannot go wrong following these instructions.

Operating Instructions for Cutters

1) Draw a line through the middle of your grinding disc and attach the disc to the Grinder. 

2)  Draw a line through the middle of your cutter. 

3) With the drawn-on cutter on the locating pins hang the pendulum from the grinder and adjust the pendulum length until the line through the cutter and disc line up with the cutter 25mm in from the side of the disc. Tighten the hanging tube nut.

4) With a cutter on the pendulum hang it from the grinder hook. Adjust the grinder hook in or out until the cutter sits flat on the grinder disc as it touches the dics. Tighten the grinder hook adjusting nut on the grinder. You are now ready to grind.

5) Grind by landing your cutter on the disc moving towards the nut, take it to the centre of the disc and then to the very outside of the disc, ensure you use all of the emery. On the last stroke move from the inside of the disc to the position where you set the length of the pendulum and snap it off the disc. 

6) Check in a good light check all cutting edges around the tips of all teeth are sharp. Look for rounded edges if they appear resharpen. 

Operating Instructions for Combs

1) Draw a line through the middle of your grinding disc and attach the disc to the Grinder. 

2) Draw a line through the middle of your comb.

3) With the drawn-on comb on the locating pins hang the pendulum from the grinder and adjust the pendulum length until the line through the comb and disc line up with the comb 5mm in from the side of the disc. Tighten the hanging tube nut. 

4) With a comb on the pendulum hang it from the grinder hook. Adjust the grinder hook in or out until the heal (bottom) of the comb hits the grinder disc and the tips (top) of the comb is a match thickness (2mm) off the grinder disc. Tighten the grinder hook adjusting nut on the grinder. You are now ready to grind. 

5) Grind by landing your comb on the disc moving towards the nut, take it to the centre of the disc and then to the very outside of the disc taking 2 to 3 teeth off the edge of the disc. On the last stroke move from the inside of the disc to the position where you set the length of the pendulum (3 above) and snap it off the disc. 

6) Check in a good light, check all cutting edges where the tip of the cutter would have rubbed are sharp. Look for rounded edges if they appear resharpen. 

Safety Instructions 

  • Always wear eye protection 
  • Always wear ear protection 
  • Always press directly inwards towards the disc 
  • Keep small children clear of work area Care and Repair 
  • Wipe excess grinding dust from magnets 
  • Never use air pressure to clean the magnets 
  • Never oil or lubricate the pendulum 

Blade sharpening is just one of many aspects of sheep shearing but it is no less important then learning how to shear itself. Feel free to comment below with any problems or concerns you might have with sharpening your shearing gear.

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