10 Best Nail Clippers For Men That Can Slice Through Thick Fingernails & Toenails

We may earn a commission for purchases using our links. Learn More. By Shawn Burns January 9, 2020 In A Hurry? These 3 Are The Best:

  1. Harperton Nail Clipper Set
  2. Seki Edge Stainless Steel Fingernail Clipper
  3. Kohm Thick Fingernail Clippers

A quality pair of nail clippers should be able to slice effortlessly through any fingernail or toenail with absolute ease.

In addition to a clean cut, nail clippers should be made with a durable material that won’t rust or dull with time. Secondly, the grip is equally important as it will be able to deliver a reliable and precise cut with each push of the lever.

But selecting the right nail clipper for you isn’t as easy as it sounds…

…don’t worry, we will help you along the way.

The reality is that all of our nails differ from one other. Some men have thin nails while others are extremely thick – therefore, it’s important to buy the right nail clipper to meetyour needs.

Secondly, depending on how your nails are set within your nail bedwill determine your susceptibility to painful ingrown nails.

Once finished with this guide, expect to learn the following:

  1. All the key considerations that are important when deciding on nail clippers
  2. Quickly learn how all the leading brands differ from one another (and which is best for you)
  3. Learn how to get the most from your new nail clippers for optimal results

Let’s get started on finding the perfect fingernail and toenail clippers for you:

Best Nail Clippers Compared

Product Best For Rating
Seki Edge Fingernail Clippers Fingernails 4.8
Harperton Nail Clippers Thick Fingernails & Toenails (Set) 5.0
Kohm Thick Fingernail Clippers Thick Fingernails 4.8
Swiss Army Victorinox Nail Clippers Travel 4.7
Green Bell G-1008 Toenail Clippers Thick Toenails 4.8
E Z Grip Scissor Like Nail Clippers Restricted Movement / Arthritis (Set) 4.7

*Ratings regularly updated based on additional research, feedback, reviews, etc.

In A Hurry? Our Top Picks:

Product Editor’s Pick
Harperton Nail Clipper Set Best Set For Thick Fingernails & Toenails

  • These clippers feature surgical grade stainless steel
  • Designed for men with both thick fingernails and toenails
  • One of the most popular sets available
Seki Edge Stainless Steel Fingernail Clipper Best Clippers For Fingernails

  • Will slice through fingernails with ease
  • Japanese craftsmanship is unrivaled
  • Stainless steel body will resist rust and never dull
Kohm Thick Fingernail Clippers Best For Thick Fingernails

  • Perfect for thick fingernails
  • Ergonomic grip allows for precise cuts
  • Stainless steel should last a lifetime
Swiss Army Victorinox Nail Clippers Best Travel Friendly Nail Clippers

  • Perfect small set of clippers to use when traveling
  • Compact design won’t take up space in pocket or bag
  • Includes screwdriver and nail file
Green Bell G-1008 Toenail Clipper Best Nail Clippers For Thick Toenails

  • One of the sharpest clippers on the market
  • Should have no problem cutting through thick toenails
  • Ergonomic grip will ensure precise results
E Z Grip Scissor Like Nail Clippers Best Clippers For Those With Restricted Movement

  • Scissor handles perfect for those with arthritis
  • Provides much needed extra leverage to get a clean cut
  • Includes both fingernail and toenail clippers for an affordable price

A Few Considerations Before Buying New Nail Clippers

During our research we uncovered seven key features that you should think about before purchasing a new pair of fingernail or toenail clippers.Here’s a brief overview on all six and why they are important:

1. Material

When reviewing nail clippers, we found that they came in 3 primary materials:

  1. Stainless Steel
  2. Chrome
  3. Rubber

Why is this important?

The basis to a quality pair of nail clippers depends on its composition. Cheap nail clippers that perform poorly will not only lead to tearing of your nails but will ultimately need to be replaced sooner rather than later.

Here’s how these materials differ from one another:

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is the best material that currently exists for nail clippers. Stainless steel naturally resists rusts and is among the strongest metals available.

Should you store your clippers in your bathroom, the naturally humid air won’t corrode or rust the clippers around the cutting edge or joints.

Secondly, stainless steel won’t chip, crack, or wear down as quickly when compared to other materials – making this a much better investment.


Budget nail clippers often rely on a chrome plate as its much cheaper to produce when compared to stainless steel.

While chrome looks nice, it’s plating on nail clippers can easily chip and crack if you keep your clippers on your keychains, in a backpack, or anywhere that the clippers may be jostled around.

Once chrome becomes cracked, the metal beneath the surface will quickly rust and chip, which may cause serious sanitary conditions.

This clipper material is best suited for those men on a budget or prefer to replace their clippers regularly.


More of a hybrid material that is used on nail clippers, rubber is typically paired with stainless steel and is a proven way to provide extra grip for greater cutting control especially if your hands are wet or slippery.

Unlike stainless steel, unfortunately rubber can breakdown and become worn out over time.

Likely not a problem for many, it is worth mentioning.

2. Intended Use – Toenail Clippers vs. Fingernail Clippers

While we expand on this further down in our guide, it’s important to understand that fingernail and toenail clippers are two completely different tools.

Using them interchangeably is not advised as it can lead to less than satisfactory results along with the possibility of ingrown nails (especially when using a fingernail clipper on your toenails).

Therefore, we heavily recommend that you own two separate clippers for both your fingernails and toenails.

3. Personal Mobility

Depending on your flexibility and age, some men may have a hard getting the appropriate leverage to cut their toenails, especially if they tend to grow in rather thick.

To account for this restricted movement, some companies make toenail clippers with extended or scissor like handles in order to provide extra leverage.

Beyond these unique grips however, companies have also started to introduce electric nail clippers that effectively file away the nail through the use of a small motor.

While costing a fair bit more than the traditional clipper, this electric nail clippers are worth noting if you have troubles getting enough leverage to cut your own toenails.

If reaching your toes isn’t a problem for you, then you can skip this feature.

4. Nail Thickness

Whether you have thick or thin nails, the type of clipper you decide to go with can make a world of difference.

The reality is that nail clippers aren’t a one-size-fits-all purchase.

What may work well for one man could be quite painful for another.

Buying a pair of nail clippers that can’t slice through your thick nails can lead to tearing, ripping, and ingrown nails.

While it’s hard to self-diagnose if you have thick or thin nails – it’s important to at least know that your fingernails are typically much thinner than your toenails (hence why they make two types of nail clippers).

If you want to error on the slide of caution, go with clippers that are designed for thicker nails.

5. Precision/Brand Expertise

As is the case when buying sharp razor blades, there are certain companies and countries that carry with it a heritage of precision and craftsmanship.

When it comes to nail clippers Japan is widely considered the current leader in precision metal engineering.

Secondly, certain brands have specialized in only making nail clippers and have been trusted by millions of men – and in some cases, for several generations. These brands include the following:

  • Seki Edge / Green Bell
  • Harperton
  • Tweezerman
  • Mehaz

6. Types of Nail Clippers

When seeing all the nail clippers listed below and on various online websites, you will find that nail clippers come in four main types:

  1. Lever
  2. Nipper
  3. Scissor
  4. Guillotine

Here’s how each of them differ from one another:

Lever – The most common nail clipper available is the lever clipper – and the main type we review in this guide. With either a flat or curved head, it can cut through nails easily and folds to a compact storage size.

Nipper – Used mostly by manicurists, a nipper is a great way for cutting thick nails with extra leverage. This nail clipper type is great for removing small corners of your nail that may have been torn away accidentally.

Scissor – A common tool for doctors, a scissor nail clipper differs slightly from a nipper and often has a sharp end. This nail clipper type is primarily used for removing ingrown toenails.

Guillotine – The most common nail clipper use to cut straight thick nails, this nail clipper is rarely used as it can create rough and sharp edges.

7. Budget

Based on our research, to find a nail clipper that checks all the boxes above, you should expect to pay around $20 ($60 if you go with an electric nail trimmer).

Clippers priced below $10 tended to have several design compromises, while those priced above $30 typically had unnecessary design aesthetics that didn’t correlate to better results.

10 Best Nail Clippers Of 2020 Reviewed

1. Harperton Nail Clipper Set

Best Set For Thick Fingernails & Toenails

Harperton Nail Clipper Set is one of the top-rated cuticle tools because of its fantastic, quality design and satisfaction guarantee. Harperton’s refined design is crafted from strong, surgical grade stainless steel and the set has different sizes so you can easy clip even the thickest nails on either hand or foot without risking the spread of fungus or infection between the two.

Harperton gets top-notch reviews not only for their fantastic set and quality of design, but they also stand by their product with a 30-day satisfaction guarantee and a lifetime warrantee. If you are looking for a one-stop shop on total nail care Harperton’s set will delight.

Material: Stainless Steel

Best For: Men With Thick Fingernails & Toenails


  • These clippers feature surgical grade stainless steel
  • Designed for men with both thick fingernails and toenails
  • One of the most popular sets available


  • Curved toenail clipper not great for men who may get ingrown nails

What You Need To Know

This is the most popular fingernail and toenail clipper sets for a reason – both clippers make easy work of thick nails. If you want a huge upgrade in nail clippers, get these, you won’t be disappointed.

Read hundreds of other reviews here on Amazon.

2. Seki Edge Stainless Steel Fingernail Clipper

Best Clippers For Fingernails

The super sleek, Japanese made Seki Edge are among the top-rated fingernail clippers on the market. Seki Edge clipper is crafted with a twice tempered stainless steel edge and cast-iron, super strong lever for a precise and clean cut.

The stylish and ergonomic design has a solid grip that allows for smooth and easy clipping, so even the thickest nails are trimmed and shaped with very little effort.

This is one of the best reviewed clippers available and they stand at a very modest price point especially considering the quality of the product and its nearly flawless feedback. You’ll probably never need another pair of fingernail clippers after you bring home Seki Edge.


  • Will slice through fingernails with ease
  • Japanese craftsmanship is unrivaled
  • Stainless steel body will resist rust and never dull


  • Doesn’t contain a clipper catcher

What You Need To Know

Whether you have thick or thin fingernails, the Seki Edge will get a clean and reliable cut. The twice-tempered stainless steel is extremely strong and should give these clippers a long life.

Read hundreds of other reviews here on Amazon.

3. Kohm Thick Fingernail Clippers

Best For Thick Fingernails

Kohm Large Nail clipper is just that, a large nail clipper, in the sense that it is bigger in size than the competition and has a wide handle for easy grip and action. The beauty of the large design is that you can clip and shape with ease, yet not run the risk of tearing or splitting the nail.

The brushed stainless steel design gives it a modern look and the ergonomic design helps you work less and cut with simple precision. The folks at Kohm built their product to last and they stand behind that idea with a satisfaction guarantee.

The head on this clipper is curved -making it great for thick fingernails. If you want a straight edge for thick toenails, check out the CP-240L.

Material: Stainless Steel

Best For: Thick Fingernails


  • Perfect for thick fingernails
  • Ergonomic grip allows for precise cuts
  • Stainless steel should last a lifetime


  • The large body makes it tough for travel use

What You Need To Know

If you have thick fingernails, this is one of the best clippers out there for you. It should be able to slice the nail with ease.

Read hundreds of other reviews here on Amazon.

4. Swiss Army Victorinox Nail Clippers

Best Travel Friendly Nail Clippers

I think we all know the Swiss-army knife famous Victorinox brand by now. The trusted and highly reviewed brand known for their handy knife tool, naturally, have a top-rated nail clipper as well. Sleek, light and compact the Victorinox clippers are compact and travel-friendly as they also come with a leather case to take on the road.

The stainless steel design is sturdy and well-designed for precise trimming and also comes with a nail file to soften or shape sharp edges. With a modest price point, compact design and a trusted name, Victorinox remains a popular choice for nail grooming.

Material: Stainless Steel

Best For: Cutting Fingernails While Traveling


  • Perfect small set of clippers to use when traveling
  • Compact design won’t take up space in pocket or bag
  • Includes screwdriver and nail file


  • Not a daily use nail clipper
  • Best for thin or regular nails

What You Need To Know

If you like to keep your nails well manicured at all times, this travel friendly nail clipper is small, compact, and gets the job done exceedingly well.

Read hundreds of other reviews here on Amazon.

5. Green Bell G-1008 Toenail Clipper

Best Nail Clippers For Thick Toenails

The Green Bell G-1008 nail clippers are not only great for the money, but the industrial looking, brushed stainless steel, and wide-back handle are super friendly on grip and cutting precision. The clippers are considered to be the sharpest available and should cut through thick toenails without any difficulties.

To help ensure a precise cut, these clippers have an ergonomic handle that has 4 depressed circles for added grip. Therefore, any risk of ripping or tearing will be reduced.

The built in file along the handle make it perfect to soften sharp edges in order to not put a hole in your nice looking dress socks.

Lastly, Green Bell is the parent company of Seki Edge. Therefore it carries the same exact Japanese craftsmanship that so many men absolutely love.

Material: Stainless Steel

Best For: Men With Thick Toenails


  • One of the sharpest clippers on the market
  • Should have no problem cutting through thick toenails
  • Ergonomic grip will ensure precise results


  • Not for men who are susceptible to ingrown toenails as it has a curved blade (go with the G-1020 instead for a straight edge)

What You Need To Know

This clipper will slice through a thick toenail with ease. Green Bell has been trusted by men for decades as they reliably deliver great results.

Read hundreds of other reviews here on Amazon.

6. E Z Grip Scissor Like Nail Clippers

Best Clippers For Those With Restricted Movement

E Z Grip Scissor Like Nail Clippers are shaped like a standard nail clipper, but the lever and handle both have a circular, scissor-like handle so you can grip with ease and trim nails as if you were using a pair of scissors.

The two piece, chrome-plated steel set has two sizes so that you can get after finger and toe nails, plus you’ll love the easy grip. The clever design is highly reviewed and well-liked especially by those with arthritis because you need very little finger strength to operate them.

Besides that, you get a get set at a seriously affordable bargain.

Material: Chrome

Best For: Men With Restricted Movement / Arthritis


  • Scissor handles perfect for those with arthritis
  • Provides much needed extra leverage to get a clean cut
  • Includes both fingernail and toenail clippers for an affordable price


  • Made from chrome, so it may chip or crack if dropped

What You Need To Know

If you have any restricted mobility or a bit of arthritis, these scissor grip clippers will help you get a clean cut on your fingernails or toenails.

Read hundreds of other reviews here on Amazon.

7. Tweezerman Deluxe Nail Clipper Set

The aptly-named Tweezerman Deluxe are born from the J.A. Henckels group famous for their sharp cutting knives – see the correlation? Tweezerman’s set comes with two pairs – one for fingernails, one for toe nails – that each have unique design.

The fingernail clippers are curved to cut and shape, while the toenail trimmers are straight to cut your typically thicker toenails with ease; both are strong and made of stainless steel. The sleek looking set has an engraved Tweezerman logo and is very affordable – in fact, this is probably the best for your money if you are looking for a set.

Material: Stainless Steel

Best For: General Use


  • One of the best selling clippers on the market
  • This set includes two great clippers at an affordable price
  • Stainless steel body should last a lifetime


  • None, this is a great clipper set.

What You Need To Know

Tweezerman has won the hearts of many with this set. From the friendly body design to the uncompromising material, these two clippers will get your nails looking great.

Read hundreds of other reviews here on Amazon.

8. Keiby Citom Nail Clippers

Keiby Citom’s nail clippers bring to the table a very unique and useful design with a 360-degree rotating head that gives the ultimate in precise trimming. The beauty of the smart 360-degree head is that it sways easily as you need to turn on a rounded nail or trim sharp edges in tight spaces.

In addition, the design holds well without slippage and because you can turn so easily you’ll have optimal leverage. The stainless steel, easy-use clippers are not only a quality product, but the super affordable set is also backed with a 30-day money back guarantee.

Material: Stainless Steel

Best For: Men With Mobility Restrictions


  • Unique design allows for cutting comfort at any angle
  • 30-day money back guarantee provides peace of mind
  • Great for men with restricted mobility


  • Design has limited use cases and not for everyone
  • Toenail clipper isn’t straight – making suited only for those not susceptible to ingrown nails

What You Need To Know

This is a unique take on the classic nail clipper at an affordable price. Includes both a fingernail and toenail clipper.

Read hundreds of other reviews here on Amazon.

9. Mehaz 668 Pro Angled Wide Jaw Toenail Clipper

Mehaz 668 is the top-notch toenail clipper for clipping and manicuring thick nails. The wide-jawed toenail clipper is a straight blade, neatly set at an angle that will make shaping and cutting on corners a snap.

There is a built-in file to smooth out edges and a nifty clippings catcher to help corral those pesky nail clippings from going all over. Mehaz 668 is ambidextrous as well, which is important for an angled clipper; simply adjust the handle if you are right or left handed and trim away. Like their most of their stout competitors, Mehaz backs their product with a lifetime guarantee.

Material: Stainless Steel + Rubber

Best For: Cutting and Catching Toenails


  • Rubber grip provides extra control
  • Clipping tray will make cleanup much easier
  • Wide angle jaw gets a firm grip on the toenail


  • Bit more expensive for just a toenail clipper

What You Need To Know

If you hate finding toenail clippings days after you were done clipping, the added catcher tray will be a welcomed addition. Mehaz puts together a strong clipper that makes trimming much easier.

Read hundreds of other reviews here on Amazon.

10. Grooming District Premium Nail Clippers

Grooming District’s Premium clipper set is one of the best for your money because you get so much for such a great price. Great for travel, you get a handy case, nail file, emery board (for filing of sharp edges), and, of course, a nail clipper suitable for both fingers and toes.

The sleek design is crafted with tempered stainless steel and matte finish to reduce slip. The size of the clipper and strength of the blade is beneficial for cutting thick blades. The clippers can be shared with the ladies as well who may want to use it on tougher nails or shape their acrylic nails with the emery board.

Read hundreds of other reviews here on Amazon.

How To Cut Your Nails The Right Way

While you have been cutting your finger and toenails since you were only a few years old, we wanted to share with you a few simple steps that can not only lead to better looking nails but also a much more comfortable cutting experience:

1. Soften Your Nails Before Cutting

A simple warm shower or bath is a great way to soften your nails before they are cut.

A softer finger or toenail will make it easier for the clipper to slice through the nail with ease.

Furthermore, a soaked nail won’t flick nearly as far when being cut – allowing for a much easier cleanup process.

2. Clean Clippers Before Cutting to Reduce Any Chance of Infection

A quick dab of alcohol on a cotton ball is a great way to remove any surface bacteria on your nail clippers.

This can be especially important if you are accident-prone and have cut your cuticles a few times when working the edges of your fingers.

3. Get Comfortable

While resting your foot on the toilet seat may be convenient as you can simply flush the clippings down the drain once finished, try taking a seat on a chair or ground instead.

It is a bit more comfortable and will allow you to concentrate on the cut rather than worrying about dropping your new nail clippers into the toilet.

4. Clip Your Hands at An Angle

Fingernail clippers have the distinct curved edge that allows them to get around the nail with ease – use this to your advantage.

However, as you work your way around try not to go too close to the nail bed – make sure there is a bit of excess nail that remains (you will see why in a minute).

5. Clip Your Toes Straight Across

There’s a reason why toenail clippers are straight when compared to the curved fingernail clippers – it’s due largely to the fact that your toenails are highly susceptible of becoming ingrown.

To ensure you don’t get an ingrown nail, make sure that you cut your toenails straight across rather than along the edges like you do with your fingers.

6. File the Rest Away

Once you are done making all the cuts of your nails, it’s time to file.

As we made mention earlier, when cutting your nails, you will always want to leave a little bit of excess nail remaining.

This will allow you to file down to the base of the nail for your fingers to look your best.

We do also recommend giving your toenails a light file as well, as this will help to prevent the sharp edges of the freshly cut nails making a hole in your favorite dress socks.

Nail Clippers Buyers Guide & FAQ

Construction Traits of The Best Nail Clippers

For any of the cheap nail clippers that you buy for only a couple of bucks – they are largely comprised of a nickel-plated body. This design, while it looks great on store shelves, just simply isn’t one that will last you for years.

The biggest fallacy of the nickel-plated clippers is that once they are dropped a few times the coating begins to crack exposing its inner body to the elements. Naturally when steel is exposed to water it will begin to oxidize and eventually rust will inevitably form.

The last thing you need to be worrying about is if your tetanus shot is up to date when simply cleaning up your finger or toe nails!

Therefore, what we like to recommend for men everywhere is to rely on nail clippers that are fully 100% stainless steel.

A full-bodied stainless steel design will never rust nor is it susceptible to mold growth – therefore it’s all but guaranteed to last you for several years.

Just as a quick note: I see a lot of men keep their nail clippers on their key chain for easy access. While this may be incredibly convenient, just remember if the clippers have a nickel-plated body they will likely deteriorate quicker due to them constantly hitting the keys on your keychain when simply walking or tossing them on the counter.

Beyond body construction one of the key components to any nail clipper of course will be the cutting edge.

What sets the nail clippers listed above apart from the inferior clippers found at bargain prices will be the sharpness and precision of the blade.

When deciding on the best nail clipper for you, you will want one that has both top and bottom blades that line up perfectly in order to get a clean cut on your nail.

The biggest sign of a cheap or well-worn nail clipper will be tearing of your nail when you cut it.

A finger nail clipper should enact a slicing motion when the top lever is pressed down. A quality nail clipper should never pull or smoosh your nail when cutting.

Secondly, a top-rated nail clipper won’t leave those pesky little nubs near your cuticles on the edge of your nail (especially your toe nails). Instead it should be able to cut those little nubs clean off.

Common Questions About Nail Clippers

During our research we came across a lot of the same questions about nail clippers. Here we wanted to take a minute to address them to help you understand some of the nuances if you were curious:

You Can Use Finger and Toe Nail Clippers Interchangeably – But Should You?

We are all guilty of this scenario;

You go to your bathroom, look in the medicine cabinet and only find the toe nail clippers. You think for about 2.3 seconds on whether you should try to find your finger nail clippers.

You decide to just simply wing it – besides what’s the worst that could happen??

Well not a whole lot – but finger and toe nail clippers are two very distinct tools.

Here’s why:

First and foremost, nail clippers for your hands will generally be a bit smaller than those designed for your toes.

The reason for the difference largely has to do with the size and thickness of your finger nails compared to your toes. As you would likely guess– your toe nails will be thicker and subsequently requires a larger tool to cut them.

The larger handle on a toe nail clipper achieves this leverage making it much easier to cut the nail.

Conversely you can of course use a toe nail clipper on your hand – however the oversized head coupled with the cutting power makes it hard and somewhat dangerous when cutting nails that are pressed against your cuticles.

Simply put, it’s hard to get a close cut on your finger nails with a toe nail clipper.

Now you could use a finger nail clipper on your toes, however it will require much more effort that may lead to slippage on the handle.

Secondly, given the thickness of your toe nails, using an undersized clipper may shorten the life span of the blade by making it dull.

Size aside, one of the large distinct qualities between these two tools is the shape of the cutting head.

Finger nail clippers will have a curved edge that allow you to navigate around the edge of your nail with relative ease.

Toe nail clippers tend to have a completely flat edge (or at the very least a shallow curve) to account for the natural slight curve of your toe nails.

If your toe nails tend to have more of a curved shape to them, you should be able to find a toe nail clipper like the Haperton.

How often should you replace nail clippers?

If you are experiencing any sort of pulling or tugging (particularly on the edges) when clipping your finger or toenails, it’s likely time for an upgrade.

A new clipper should be able to slice through the finger or toenail effortlessly.

Clippers made from stronger metals, such as stainless steel, should have a much longer life when compared to chrome plated steel, aluminum, and others.

What is the best way to sterilize nail clippers?

We find that the best way to clean a pair of nail clippers before using is to get a cotton ball, soak it in alcohol, and then rub it along the cutting blade.

This should prove effective in remove much of the bacteria that is on the surface.

What are the different types of nail clippers?

Nail clippers come in a few different varieties:

  • Finger and toenail clippers (your standard nail clipper)
  • Rotating head nail clippers (for elderly folks)
  • Professional podiatrist clippers (for ingrown or thick nails)
  • Scissor grip clippers (for greater leverage)

Determining the right nail clipper for you will depend on a variety of factors including size, mobility, and simply how thick your nails grow in.

Best Nail Clippers For Men: Selection Process

Finding the perfect nail clipper to slice effortlessly through even the most stubborn of fingernails is tough.

However, after several hours of research, testing, and other reviews, we think we found the best nail clippers of 2020.

About The Author

Shawn Burns

Shawn is the founder and senior editor at Tools of Men, the leading style and grooming source trusted by men in 187 countries. He started this site with the goal of teaching men proper grooming habits and sensible style. He is an expert in all things men’s grooming related. His work has been mentioned on countless sites including The Wall Street Journal, NBC, AskMen, Vice, WikiHow, and the New York Times.

Trimming your nails sucks, and it’s not your digits’ fault. Technology is to blame. Nail clippers. Blech. With a one size fits all design, it’s impossible to get your whole nail in one clip. And curling over the bathroom bin doesn’t make us any more likely to keep the floor clean of our cast offs.

And yet, for more than a century, we’ve been keeping our nails under control using the same little imperfect machine. How is it that this crummy design won us over?


The device started wriggling its way into our hands and hearts in the late 19th century. Early clippers looked like fat tweezers and worked when you squeezed them. Well that sounds convenient! Inventors started improving: in a patent from 1881, the mechanical nail-biter gets a lever to add vim to your trim. Fancy! This same device also worked as a glove-buttoner and was designed to be dangled from a belt or watch chain as if clipping your nails was something that didn’t gross out other people.

But the nail clippers didn’t go gangbusters at the time. Part of the reason was that manufacturing them was expensive. So production never really got far off the ground.

The nail clipper’s heyday really came in the 1940s when William E. Bassett of Connecticut made the apparatus cheaper and a bit easier to use. Improved manufacturing techniques, gleaned from when his company was making artillery components for the Army, allowed Bassett to produce a clipper on the cheap. And some tiny design tweaks make it easier on the user. Those two little nubs that keep the arm from swinging out of place while folded? That was a Bassett addition. He also gave the lever a little ripple designed to better catch the thumb. People picked up that design and haven’t put it down since.

Today they’re so cheap they’re almost disposable. Bassett’s TRIM clippers—or some other nearly identical model—will set you back only about a buck or two. Perhaps our problems with nail clippers pass with the action, or perhaps they’re so cheap that we don’t feel like we have the right to complain. Whatever it is, the nail clipper could still stand to do a better job.


Instead of spraying shards of cast off nail, they should trap the shrapnel, or deposit it neatly somewhere. According to Andrew Johnston, the owner of Klhip, a company that recently reimagined nail clipper, the key to proper cutting is sharpness. The cutting edge of the traditional model “crushes and snaps” the nail. He likens the process to chopping carrots. “If you apply pressure with a dull blade, the carrot goes flying,” says Johnston. “But if you have a sharp knife, the carrot slices either stick to the knife or fall on the cutting board.” Storing the average clipper next to the sink or at the bottom of a makeup bag will cause its blade to quickly dull.


The clipper’s thin profile also contributes to its unenthusiastic chopping technique. The reason is that the slim parts—designed so that the clipper is not a burden to carry around—have a lot of give, so the jaws don’t meet with quite as much oomph as if the parts were more rigid.


Johnston has solved this problem by making his nail clipper out of injection-molded stainless steel that’s been heat treated to make it extra hard. The blade on his clipper stays sharper for longer and it doesn’t have nearly as much bend. But in order to get better performance, you’re going to have to shell out $50. Sure, Johnston’s model is a better ergonomic design, with the arm connection kicked to the back and extending forward, but the price point is too high for most of us to even consider.

What we really need is the 2012 version of a Bassett moment—give us all the nail-cutting good stuff, but at a price that will work for the masses.


Rachel Swaby is a freelance writer living in San Francisco.

Giz Explains is where we break down whatever science or tech questions are scratching at the backs of our noggins. Got questions of your own? Shoot us email at [email protected] with “Explain this!” in the subject line, and we’ll see about answering.


Image: US Patent #244,891

Bassett USA nail clipper

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