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Difference between a mechanical handpiece and an electric clipper?

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When I first started shearing sheep, I had no idea what an electric clipper was. All the professional shearers and main stream farmers I new used a mechanical handpiece. It was only after I had been shearing as a professional for 20 years did I discover the electric sheep shearing clipper. 

The reason I started using an electric clipper was because I started shearing small and hobby farmers sheep flocks. It was easier to plug an electric clipper into my generator and shear a small number of sheep then to set up my overhead gear and shear with a mechanical handpiece. I would have the sheep shorn and be on the road by the time I had set up my mechanical shearing equipment.

The main differences between the mechanical handpiece and the electric clipper are:-

The Electric Clipper Features

  • The electric clipper has a small electric motor inside the barrel of the clipper itself. They can vary in size from 180watts to about 350watts. Some are larger but with no real benefit.
  • An electric cord joins the clipper directly into the back of the clipper or the clipper can run on a battery pack system.
  • The barrel of the clipper is much bulkier to handle, due to the motor inside the barrel.
  • The barrel is longer as well to cope with the motor and the extra moving parts.
  • The speed of the cutter moving across the comb is approximately 2500rpm with some as high as 2900rpm.
  • As you put load on the clipper by pushing it through the wool, the rpm drops as the motor is put under load.
  • The electric clipper is mostly used by small farmers with smaller mobs of sheep. It is easy to set up, very portable and doesn’t involve a lot of other equipment to go with it.

The Mechanical Handpiece Features

  • The mechanical handpiece is powered by an overhead machine which is run from mains power. These overhead machines are much more powerful then the small motors in the electric clipper. The machines range in power from 300watts to 700watts.
  • The overhead gear has a shaft that connects from the overhead down to the handpiece which the handpiece is connected to and drives the handpiece
  • The barrel is very slimline and comfortable to hold.
  • The barrel is also shorter as there is no motor inside the handpiece.
  • The speed of the cutter going across the comb depends on the overhead setting. It can range from 2700rpm to 3500rpm. Factory set at 3500rpm.
  • As you put load on the handpiece by pushing it through the wool, the handpiece does not lose rpm as the overhead motor is much more powerful.
  • The mechanical handpiece is used by professional shearers and farmers with existing overhead gear.

As you can see there are advantages and disadvantages to both machines. It costs more to setup a mechanical handpiece system and overhead gear then it does an electric clipper. The mechanical handpiece does provide more power, which is good if you are shearing hundreds or thousands of sheep but if you just have a few to shear then the electric clipper would do the job very well indeed.


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