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Grinding & Sharpening

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A sharp cutting edge on your shearing blades is vital if you are to leave your animals smooth skinned and stress free after shearing.  A blunt comb and cutter can rip the fleece instead of cutting from the animal causing pain and discomfort during the shearing job.

The main brand types of shearing grinders are Heiniger, Lister, Supershear (Sunbeam) and Beiyuan.

You have two options:

Either you grind (sharpen) your gear yourself or you can ask someone else who is experienced to do your grinding for you.

Setting Up Your Grinder

Firstly, make sure your grinder is working safely before you commence.  It is very important to get a ‘Hollow Grind’ in your Comb and Cutter.  In order to do this you must finish off grinding in the correct position.

Here is how…….

Comb Grinding (Sharpening)

Hang your pendulum with your comb on it from the grinding hook.

With a comb on your pendulum and the grinder switched off, extend your pendulum to the middle of the disk and let it hang.

The comb should be an equal distance between the outside and inside of the disk.  Adjust your grinding hook to achieve this.

The comb should be 1cm away from the disk when left hanging.

Make sure the heel of the comb touches the disk before the tips of the comb do.  Take the comb off.

Draw a line from the middle of the shaft to the end f the disk using a pencil.

Hang your pendulum and adjust up or down until the comb pins of the pendulum are equal to the line on the disk.

Then move the disk so that the line is parallel to the ground.

Always make sure on your pendulum that your comb pins are in the ‘up’ position.

You will now achieve a hollow grind on your comb.

Cutter Grinding (Sharpening)

Hang your pendulum with the cutter on from the grinding hook.

With the grinder switched off, extend your pendulum so that the cutter is in the middle of the disk.  The cutter should be an equal distance between the outside and inside of the disk.

The cutter should just be touching the disk slightly with the heel of the cutter touching first, when left hanging.

Take the cutter off.

Draw a line across your disk and repeat the remainder of the set up used above for the comb.

Always make sure on your pendulum that your cutter pins are in the ‘down’ position.

You will now achieve a Hollow Grind in your cutters.

Grinding Technique

You need enough steel off your combs and cutters (blades) so there is a new shiny sharp surface.


Start close to the centre and swipe your cutter 2 or 3 times across the grinding disk from left to right and back again.  You need to finish the grind in the centre of the disk with sparks coming off all teeth.


Start close to the centre and swipe your comb 4 or 5 times across the grinding disk from left to right and back again.  You need to finish the grind in the centre of the disc with sparks coming off all teeth.

When checking your combs and cutters to make sure there are no dull spots tilt your blades into the light.  If there are any dull spots on your comb and cutter, it means they are not sharp enough.  If you do see a dull spot, then simply regrind until that dull spot disappears.

You will then have a perfectly matched sharp comb and cutter combination, ready to go.

Some handy tips about grinding are:

Keep children well away from the grinding machine.

Use only 40 combs per 1 grinding coarse emery paper before changing the paper.

You should always start each new shearing season with a new emery paper.

Use only 80 cutters per 1 grinding fine emery paper before changing the paper.

Always use the appropriate safety equipment to grind with.  Ensure you have goggles or safety glasses on before you start grinding.

Always wash your combs and cutters thoroughly before grinding.

Normal dish washing liquid with warm water to cut through the lanolin from the wool should be used to get your blades really clean.

Never drop your grinding pendulum.

Oil all stored combs and cutters after grinding to help prevent rusting of your blades.

These COMPLETE GRINDING SET UPS includes the following:

Motor with switch & cord, arbor, pulley, belt

Wheel(s) and clamp plate (to produce hollow grind)

Pendulum hanger, adjustable pendulum and magnetic holder


Pulleys set the grinding wheel speed at the proper RPMs

Pendulum hanger is pre-set to the correct specs for precision grinding of combs and cutters. However it is fully adjustable so shearers may grind gear to their liking.

Pendulum holder is easily removed and reattached for ease of transport.

The arbor is made specifically for the grinding wheels

The wheels have the proper bevel to create the hollow grind that is so important for shearing

The clamp plate is made to mirror the bevel on the wheels to apply the paper properly to the grinding wheels

The grinders works on 110V! (most grinders that are available run on 220v)

The benefits:GRINDER 2016(3)

Save money on sharpening fees ($5-10/set of comb and cutter)

Control the quality of your sharpening

Payback Calculation:

  • One has to buy half as many combs & cutters because you don’t need a duplicate set or sets while the others are out being sharpened.
  • Savings – 20 combs at $14 ea & 40 Cutters at $3 ea = $400
  • No more sending gear out to be sharpened
    Savings – 20 combs @ $3 & 40 Cutters @ $2 = $140 – 10 times a year = $1400
    Grinder paid for in less than one shearing season!

ClampPlateClamp Plate with handle, two washers and nuts

grinding discs (wheels)
Pendulum is part of setup.
Emery paper and adhesive are sold separately.

Grinder XL includes a crate for shipping and storage. FREE!

The crate allows for easy storage when the grinder isn’t in use and for moving the grinder safely from job to job.
QUESTION (click for full answer)
Ok so I have been using the nasco aluminum $600 horizontal sharpener for 10 yrs and have always felt there is a better way. I shear about 1500 animals a year and would like to know why your XL sharpener is a better way to go. Please sell me ?.

Jon from Light Livestock asked me to step in and write a few sentences about the XL grinder. I’m not real familiar with the Nasco unit, but I have seen them and similar types of Horizontal sharpeners. So, if I assume something about the Nasco that is incorrect, please let me know. You didn’t say why you’ve thought there must be a better way to grind your gear. If you have had problems, what were they? Also knowing what species you mostly shear might give a clue to the performance. So I’ll make some general observations and conclusions.

1- The Hollow Grind. The disc or plate on most all horizontal units is machined flat. This coupled with the size of the disc (12″) lends itself to the sharpening of clipper blades instead of shearing combs and cutters. Can we resharpen shearing combs and cutters using this disc? Certainly. But the grinding wheels that come with the XL grinder do it much better. I suspect one of the issues you may be having is consistency. Sometimes you have a batch of gear that cuts really well, sometimes it doesn’t. There are many small things that are probably ganging up on you to cause problems. Grinding with a beveled disc that creates a hollow grind is the single most important factor in getting back on the right track. To understand the hollow grind and it’s importance, we must think of the comb and cutter as multiple pairs of scissors. If we look at any scissor-based cutting tool, from toe nail trimmers to tin snips, when we hold them sideways and look at the blades, we can see that they cross at the tips. It’s hard to imagine something as hard as a shearing cutter can flex, but they do. As the cutter is pushed back and forth across the comb by the machine fork, each time a cutter point goes in the space between comb teeth, it gets pushed down by the tension we’ve applied, and as it crosses the comb tooth, cuts in the same fashion as our cross-blade scissors. In order for this to happen correctly, the gear must be ground on a beveled wheel which creates the hollow grind. The discs which are sold with the XL grinder are machined to have the correct bevel to produce the hollow grind.

The Diameter of the Nasco disc (12″) also conspires against shearing combs. Especially if we are using flared combs that are wider than 77mm. If you were to lay a couple of these flared combs side by side on the radius, you would see that you would have to overlap the combs to keep them from going off the edge of the disc. What this means when we are sharpening is that as the combs are moved back and forth across the radius of the disc as they are sharpened the grit or emery we are using to sharpen gets worn off more in the middle of the disc; the precise point where combs tend to be the most scored (dull). The discs with the XL grinder are 14 inches, so the overlap does not occur and the Grit/emery is worn down equally.

2- Tool holder. I’m not sure what kind of device comes with the Nasco machine to hold combs and cutters while they are being sharpened. Is it a magnetic holder or spring loaded? Are there provisions for differing balance points for combs and cutters? Either way, it’s up to the operator to move the comb or cutter across the disc as it is being sharpened. Not being critical of you abilities, but in order to be consistent with sharpening and thus results, we should eliminate as much potential for human error as possible. The XL grinder comes with a fully adjustable magnetic tool holder and pendulum. This eliminates drift as the comb or cutter is moved back and forth on the disc. Eliminating drift and being precise in the spot on the disc where the tool hits the disc and comes off the disc, again improves consistency and puts the hollow grind in the correct spot on the comb or cutter. The tool holder is adjustable for the differing balance points for combs and cutters. This has to do with the grooves machined in the combs behind the teeth, and the cutouts on the shearing cutter; so as the comb and cutter continue to be sharpened and become narrower, they will still be ground correctly. Using a non-adjustable tool holder will cause particularly cutters to become ground towards the heel of the cutter, affecting it’s performance.

3- Grit/emery. So again, I’m doing some assuming here, but most people who use the horizontal sharpeners use some form of oil or wax with which they dress the wheel and loose grit as the grinding compound. Is this what you do? If so what size grit do you use? Do you use different size grit for combs versus cutters? If you do use emery papers, what is the grit size? Most loose grit isn’t coarse enough for shearing combs and cutters. Clipping blades, yes; but there’s a big difference. If you are shearing predominately camelids, the combs tend to become rather scored due to the dryness of the fiber and dirt at skin level. I would guess that part of your problem may be that you are doing more polishing than sharpening. Adequate metal must be removed each time we grind to create a sharp clean edge. The XL grinder uses glue on emery papers, 40 grit for combs and 80 grit for cutters. I’m not in a position to compare number of combs sharpened per pound of loose grit versus number of emery papers, but I do know the emery papers are the popular choice of thousands of shearers worldwide, because they work.

So those are the big differences I can think of immediately between the XL and the Nasco. Of course you must factor in the great support after the sale of the Light Livestock team, tech support from me, etc. Mostly it boils down to enabling you to sharpen your gear in a predictable, consistent manner for increased performance.

Let me know if you have further questions, Matt Best

QUESTION (click for full answer)
Ok so if I were to buy this sharpener would I be able to get the combs and cutter that I have sharpened on the XL or would I need to start with fresh C&Cs? What would your suggestion be for the number of emery clothes and should I get more than one disc for each grade of cloth.

You can use the same combs and cutters you now have. It will probably take two attempts to get your gear properly ground. I find when I sharpen for other people who have been using a different set up I have to grind all the combs, set them aside to cool, and then grind them again before they are right. It will be readily apparent when you do this for the first time the difference in the grinding pattern. The combs will take longer to “come up” than the cutters. The emeries you will be using are coarser grit, and the XL spins about 3000 rpm, so you want to change these combs and cutters over gradually to prevent overheating (blueing). You should take no more than 5-6 passes across the disc with medium pressure at a time. Better to do this and come back and redo than trying to change the grind all at once.

After your gear is mated to the new discs, they will come up fairly quickly depending on how much you punish them before changing. The XL comes with two discs which are both machined the same, so you can set up one with a coarse grit for combs, and the other with the finer emery for cutters. They can be on the machine simultaneously, so you can switch from one to the other easily. Just a quick adjustment of the pendulum pins, and you’re ready.

I find I can usually sharpen 20-30 combs on an emery, and 30-40 cutters once they are mated to my wheels. This depends on how scored the combs are, how much effort I put into washing them first, etc. I would figure on the low side of these numbers until you get going. Jon can probably make a suggestion as to how many emeries people purchase with the grinders. The only reason you would need to purchase new combs and cutters would be if they were getting really worn anyway. Here is a good YouTube video describing how to set up the discs. The XL will come with the pendulum hanger preset, so once you set pendulum length, you will be fairly ready.