Nail clipper

Nail clipper
A variety of nail cutters; the cutter on the left is in the plier style, the centre and right cutters are in the compound lever style
1902 advertisement from Good Housekeeping for Carter's nail cutter, produced by the H. C. Cook Company of Ansonia, Connecticut

A nail cutter (also called a nail trimmer or nail clipper) is a hand tool used to trim fingernails and toenails.



Nail cutters are usually made of metal but can also be made of plastic.[1] Two common varieties are the plier type and the compound lever type. Recently,[when?] a third variety of the push-button type has been introduced.[by whom?] All are common household objects. Most nail cutters usually come with another tool attached, which is used to clean the dirt out of nails. A nail trimmer often has a miniature file fixed to it to allow rough edges of nails to be manicured. A nail file allows for removal of any excess nail that is jagged or has been missed. Nail cutters occasionally come with a pocket knife or a nail catcher. The nail trimmer consists of a head which may be concave or convex. Specialized nail trimmers which have convex clipping ends are intended for trimming toenails, while concave clipping ends are for fingernails. The cutting head may be manufactured to be parallel or perpendicular to the principal axis of the cutter. Cutting heads which are parallel to the principal axis poke are made to address accessibility issues involved with cutting toenails.


Razor (top) and nail cutter with bone handle (bottom) found in a grave of the Hallstatt culture (c. 6-8th centuries BC)

The inventor of the nail cutter is not exactly known, but the first United States patent for an improvement in a finger-nail trimmer (implying such a device already existed) seems to be in 1875 by Valentine Fogerty.[2][original research?] Other patents for an improvement in finger-nail trimmers are in 1876, William C. Edge,[3] and, in 1878, John H. Hollman.[4] Filings for complete finger-nail trimmers (not merely improvements) include, in 1881, Eugene Heim and Celestin Matz,[5] in 1885, George H. Coates (for a finger-nail cutter),[6] and, in 1905, Chapel S. Carter (son of a Connecticut Baptist church deacon)[7] patented a finger-nail trimmer[8] [9] [10] with a later patent in 1922.[11] Around 1913, Carter was secretary of the H.C. Cook Company of Ansonia, Connecticut[12] which was incorporated in 1903 as the H. T. Cook Machine Company by Henry C. Cook, Lewis I. Cook, and Chapel S. Carter.[13] Around 1928, Carter was president of the company when, he claimed, about 1896, the "Gem"-brand finger nail cutter made its first appearance.[14]

Around 1906, the L.T. Snow company[15] manufactured nail cutters.[16] Around 1908[17] (or 1911), the King Klip Company of New York manufactured nail cutters.[18][19]

In 1947, William E. Bassett (who started the W.E. Bassett Company in 1939) developed the "Trim"-brand nail cutter,[20] the first made using modern (at the time) manufacturing methods[21] using the superior jaw-style design that had been around since the 19th century, but adding two nibs near the base of the file to prevent lateral movement, replaced the pinned rivet with a notched rivet, and added a thumb-swerve in the lever.[20] In 2001 the W.E. Bassett Company acquired the Cook Bates implement division of Pacer Technology.[22][23]

Other manufacturers include Evenflo (China), Revlon (Korea),[20] and DOVO Solingen (Germany).

Popular culture

"Think of a repertory of insignificant things, the enormous work which goes into studying them and gaining a basic knowledge of them. A history of nail cutters, two thousand volumes to acquire the certain knowledge that until 1675 these small things had never received any mention. Suddenly in Mainz someone does a picture of a woman cutting a nail. It is not exactly a pair of nail cutters, but it looks like it. In the eighteenth century a certain Philip McKinney of Baltimore patents the first nailcutters with a spring attached: the problem is solved, the fingers can squeeze with all their strength to cut toenails, incredibly tough, and the cutters will snap back automatically. Five hundred notes, a year of work."[24]

See also


  1. ^ So that they appear less threatening to children, especially those who are afraid of being cut by the cutters. These may be manufactured as "child-proof" nail cutters.
  2. ^ US 161112, Fogerty, Valentine, "Improvement in finger-nail trimmers", issued February 24, 1875 
  3. ^ US 183256, Edge, William C., "Improvement in finger-nail trimmers", issued October 17, 1876 
  4. ^ US 205088, Hollman, John H., "Improvement in finger-nail trimmers", issued April 17, 1878 
  5. ^ US 244891, Heim, Eugene & Matz, Celestin, "Finger-nail trimmer", issued July 26, 1881 
  6. ^ US 342780, Coates, George H., "Finger-nail cutter", issued August 24, 1885 
  7. ^ "Deacon Selden Carter dies". The Day. May 25, 1916.,3009292&dq=chapel+carter&hl=en. 
  8. ^ A brief history of the nail cutter is printed in The Size of Thoughts: Essays & Other Lumber, Nicholson Baker, New York: Vintage 1997. ISBN 0-679-77624-9.
  9. ^ US 797937, Carter, Chapel S., "Finger-nail trimmer", issued August, 1905 
  10. ^ US 797938, Carter, Chapel S., "Finger-nail trimmer", issued August 22, 1905 
  11. ^ US 1436010, Carter, Chapel S. & Carter, Hedley P., "Finger-nail trimmer", issued November 21, 1922 
  12. ^ An Export Shipping Tour of New York City, American Industries, Volume 14, Number 5, National Association of Manufacturers, December 1913, p.43 (retrieved 30 August 2010 from Google Books)
  13. ^ Notes, News and Personals, Modern Machinery, Volumes 13-14, May 1903, p. 167 (retrieved 30 August 2010 from Google Books)
  14. ^ [1], The American Exporter, Volume 102, John C. Cochran Co., 1928, p.162 (retrieved 30 August 2010 from Google Books)
  15. ^ In 1889, Levi T. Snow became proprietor of the Strong Fire Arms Company (founded 1884 and previously Strong Cartridge Company, founded 1881) -- see Strong Fire Arms Company
  16. ^ Beats Them All: The Snow Nail Clipper, advertisement in Hardware Dealers' Magazine, Volume 25, January 1906, p.32 (retrieved 30 August 2010 from Google Books)
  17. ^ Antique Nail Clippers ~ King Klip (retrieved 30 August 2010 on
  18. ^ The Era Druggists' Directory, Volume 15, D.O. Haynes & Co., 1911 (retrieved 30 August 2010 from Google Books)
  19. ^ 1910-20's "KING KLIP" Steel Nail Clipper (Japanese; retrieved 30 August 2010 from
  20. ^ a b c Baker, Nicholson, "Clip Art", Annals of Technology, The New Yorker, November 7, 1994, p. 165-7 (retrieved 30 August 2010)
  21. ^ Giving Stories: The Bassett family has a history in the Valley, The Valley Community Foundation of Greater New Haven, Connecticut (retrieved 27 August 2010)
  22. ^ W.E. Bassett Purchasing Assets of Cook Bates Division of Pacer Technology, Business Wire, 27 August 2001 (retrieved 27 August 2010 from
  23. ^ about us, W.E. Bassett Company (retrieved 27 August 2010)
  24. ^ Julio Cortázar, Hopscotch (1963)

External links

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