Alpaca Farm in Oklahoma - Alpacas at Walnut Creek

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Shearing Tips:

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Let's take a closer look at the blades!

Brand new shears with new combs and cutters but no matter what you do the shears will hardly go through the alpaca fleece.  You reposition the blades, adjust the tension, use more oil, and still the shears won’t cut.  How frustrating!  We know we’ve been there too.

Blades that are not sharpened correctly and cleaned will dull fast and make shearing next to impossible!  Even new combs and cutters need to be cleaned prior to shearing.  New blades have a protective coating.  If the protective coating is not removed the blades will gum up with hair and stop working.

Setting Comb to Cutter ~

Always use a newly sharpened comb with a newly sharpened cutter.  It is very important to let the shears run at least 30 to 45 seconds before cutting with them.  It sets the comb and cutter to each other.

Sharpening Equipment ~

Make sure whoever is sharpening your blades is using the proper equipment, at least an 18 inch honing disc.  Large animal blades (used on alpacas and sheep) are flat ground not hollow ground.  Only blades used for small animals and human hair should be hollow ground.  Inspect the blades carefully.  The areas that are sharpened (inside raised area of the blades) should be completely smooth and have a uniform finish with no visible marks.

Even perfectly sharp blades can refuse to cut!

Possible causes when your blades won't cut:

  • improper adjustment to the blade set

  • blade spring tension

  • dirty blades


Clean Blades ~

Clean, lubricated blades will stay sharp longer, cut better, and run cooler than dirty blades. New blades should be thoroughly cleaned before use, as discussed earlier.  After blades are sharpened, it is even more important that they be properly cleaned.  The fine abrasive dust used to sharpen blades must be removed.  Correctly sharpened clean blades should cut through the fleece like a hot knife through butter.  There should be no drag.

Dirty Blades ~

When any dirt, animal oils, and hair gets between the blades it will melt and turn into a kind of varnish which will slow down the blade action.  A buildup of this varnish will separate the blades and more hair will be trapped, causing perfectly sharp blades to not cut and just bog down.  The solution is to clean the blades as much as needed when shearing.  Remember to put oil on the raised portions between the blades.  Use plenty of oil when shearing alpacas or the shears will become quite hot.  Never run your blades dry.

How to Clean ~

For blade cleaning we use charcoal lighter fluid.  It will clean and leave a thin film of oil on the blades.  Don’t worry it’s not as flammable as kerosene or WD-40.

How to Store ~

Store the blades with the thin film of oil left on them after cleaning.  Wrap each blade separately.  If the blades are kept where there is a lot of moisture and they start to rust put plain white chalk where they are stored to absorb the moisture.

Blades & Shears ~

One of the best blades to use are Oster blades.  They stay sharp longer and seem to be better than other blades we have used.  Their blades are interchangeable with different brands of shears.  Our favorite comb is the Oster Shearing Comb, 13-Tooth Arizona Thin and the cutter we like is the Oster Shearing Cutter, 4-Point Thin Heel Diamond.

Everyone has been asking about which shears to use.  There are several brands out there that are very similar.  It's best to go with a trusted brand, we like the Andis 68000 Heavy Duty Sheep Shearer, they're very similiar to the shears we use.  You will need heavy duty sheep shears to get through the alpaca fleeece.  If you are new to shearing make sure you start with blades that have at least 17 or 19 teeth on the comb.  More teeth means less chance of cutting the alpaca but the shearing will go slower.  We still use 17 tooth combs on our crias and we use the 13 tooth combs on our adults and our very fine alpacas.  Once you get experienced then you can try using combs with less than 17 teeth and this will enable you to shear faster.


We hope you find this information helpful the next time you shear.
Happy shearing! :)


About the Author:  Karen Galbraith along with her husband Dave, raise and breed alpacas in southeast Oklahoma.  Karen raises alpacas full time as well as running the blade sharpening service.  They shear their own alpacas so they are very aware of the problems first time shearers encounter.  They enjoy helping other alpaca owners so don’t hesitate to call or email if you need help or have any questions.




Dave & Karen Galbraith
P.O. Box 820
Talihina, Oklahoma 74571
(918) 563-4245
email send us an email mailbox

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