What's Up With Nippers?

fishpond-aluminum-clippers.jpgFew things in fly fishing are routinely as disappointing as your ordinary nippers. This is one of the few product categories that the manufacturers just haven’t seemed to ever get completely right. On the one hand, you have your budget snips, like the Dr. Slick nippers I used for years–usually these are built on nail clipper designs, and while they work fine for heavier tippet, gaps in where the teeth meet and cheap metal mean your chances of cutting anything smaller than 5X cleanly soon dwindle to nil.
On the other hand, you have your expensive clippers, like the Fishpond Pitchfork model (the most expensive ones I’m aware of at $22, pictured). Fishpond’s Pitchfork is advertised as a long-term solution with stainless steel blades. While Fishpond’s products are usually excellent, I haven’t gotten any longer-term use out of my Pitchforks than any previous pair of much cheaper nippers (usually, about a year before I start cussing every time I tie on a fly). This is especially frustrating as the Pitchforks have removable blades (which could presumably be sold much cheaper than the machined aluminum body), yet these blades are not available separately.
Blade technology is not expensive: disposable razorblades make it obvious that cheap, sharp cutting solutions are out there. What we have here is a golden opportunity for a savvy product designer to come up with a system of *replaceable* nipper blades, possibly on a system like the Fishpond Pitchfork. Any sharp edge will eventually wear down, and anglers clearly don’t mind paying for a quality product: someone needs to provide it.
Do you bite the tag end off your #22 midge knots with a single, razor-sharp tooth, kept carefully filed each night? Know of a pair of nippers that miraculously will not wear out? Let us know in the Comments section!

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  • Bill Smith

    Cost bit more than $22 – but years ago I bought a “Waltons Thumb.” Never failed me, regardless of which of it’s many tools was called to task! Don’t know if it is still on the market.

  • Indeed, None of them works for me. The simple design just can not exert enough leverage to bite off the small tippet. In my opinion, either go to the dollar store for a real nail clipper (cheap) or buy one of those scissor clamp.
    http://www.drslick.com/products_scissorclamps1.asp

  • simonuca

    What about ceramic nippers? did anyone tried them? I do have the Pitchfork from Fishpond for a couple of years and doesnt have nay trouble… I dont cut 8x tippet tho

  • What about .89 fingernail clippers? I end up losing too many nippers and hemostats to invest too much $.
    Another option: a multi-tool on your belt has a sissors that works well, plus make it easy to open a beer.

  • Tom Porter

    3 words: William Joseph Hemocuts.

  • Nick

    Orvis Ceramic Nippers
    I have 2 pairs one from 1999 and one from 2005
    same simple design, no rust, no wearing out
    cuts 150 lb mono as easily as 1 lb tippet
    it even cuts GSP superlines super easily
    the only thing it won’t cut is my fingernails because its not curved

  • ninja

    Tie Fast is the way to go. You can re-sharpen yourself and one-piece design is ultra durable.

  • Phil Romans

    I purchased a pair of Orvis nippers with the large thumb end for $12. Only one end cut. The sharp edges did not meet. pretty poor quality for Orvis. I will send them back.

  • As the designer of the Pitchfork clipper and co-founder of fishpond, I thought I would add that the blades on the Pitchfork clipper are NOT replaceable. The screws that hold these into place are secured with Lock-Tight. For precision purposes, the blades are ground together so that they are aligned and able to cut up to 8x tippet.
    The cost of development and process of creating the Pitchfork clipper demands a higher price-point than the average nail clipper. Fishpond is proud to create beauty into every piece of equipment we make, and often times this comes at a higher cost than our competing products. Let’s face it, there are plenty of cheap options out there that will effectively cut tippet. However, we feel that the Pitchfork is the most elegant tool on the market to do this job. It may not be for everyone, but based on the strong support from thousands of satisfied users of this tool, we are proud of what we have created.
    John Le Coq
    Co-founder/fishpond