With shearing now in full swing for many shearing contractors and farmers who shear their own sheep, maintenance and care of equipment is an essential part of a successful season.

Tom Kennedy Shearing Supplies recently hosted a gear night for shearers, with Hefin Rowlands from Heineger UK sharing some key tips for attendees on comb selection, changing combs and cutters and maintenance of kit.

“You would only use the best-quality engine oil for your Mercedes’’, quipped Hefin, “and the same should be true for your handpiece; only high-quality oils should be used’’.

Chainsaw or thicker oils should not be used as they tend to be sticky and act like a glue.

Shearers clipping sheep with a large amount of sand in the fleece should only use a very fine clipping oil, as thicker oils combine with the sand to form a paste.

Hefin urged shearers to use genuine parts only when having their handpieces serviced, especially bearings, as spurious parts can damage a handpiece or effect its performance.

“A handpiece is an expensive tool and needs to be looked after. Putting the best gear in your handpiece will repay itself 10 times over.’’

Bevel size

Using a medium or longer bevel comb (5mm to 7mm) is recommended by Hefin, especially after the wet weather experienced over the winter and spring.

The use of a longer bevel will aid in parting the fibres of the wool.

“Bevel selection is all about getting that comb tip as close to the skin as possible.

“If I were to go out shearing now and I started to nick sheep, I would go further down and use a medium or long bevel comb. If I’m having to push that hard (and cutting sheep) I’m not getting the best entry with that comb. Move away from comb names and think more about bevel lengths.’’

Hefin also highlighted how shearing with your hand flat will help on entering and parting the wool.

“You might think you shear flat, but get someone to video you and watch it in slow motion to make sure your hand isn’t tilted.”

Changing combs

Hefin, a seasoned shearer himself, changes his combs every 15 minutes and his cutters every hour.

“Grinding is a process of taking metal off, so if I left my combs on for an hour, I am going to have to grind it down more to get it sharp and get that feather edge.’’

Tom Kennedy noted that the more that combs and cutters are worn down, the harder they are to sharpen and he echoed Hefin’s thoughts on regular comb and cutter changing.

Grinding and changing papers

Within 15 minutes of shearing, the combs and cutters will have crossed over each other 56,000 times, according to Hefin. This is why he recommends changing them so regularly, irrespective of the number of sheep shorn. Hefin recommends changing the cutters and combs as above, to allow for ease of sharpening again.

Pendulums should be correctly set up with the guide provided with each grinder so that the hollow in the combs and cutters is not lost. Hollows can be checked through rubbing the comb or cutter on a grindstone.

At roughly €7 per paper, Hefin recommended regular changing of papers on grinders, with those handling large numbers recommended to change the paper each day.

“If you are to shear three more sheep in the day through changing the papers and having sharper combs and cutter, you’ve made the job easier on yourself and paid for the paper.”