Understanding the Difference: Open vs Closed Clippers( Explained by Barbers)

So, there have been questions on what cuts more hair, lever closed vs open.

If this is you, you’re in the right place for answers. 

In this article, we’ll go through:

  • Both lever positions and how they function
  • How much hair your lever leave in each position
  • How to use the lever to crate a fade hairstyle (From my own Tutorial)

And.. how you can always know the length your clippers cut to no matter which guards you place on your blades.

Dive in to become a lever pro!

Clipper Lever closed vs open

When the taper Lever is closed, it cuts more hair. (This is when the cutting blade is closest to the edge of the guard blade).

(Image above is the clipper lever closed) – Notice how there is barely a gap between both blades.

Then, when the cutting blade is furthest away from the edge of the guard blade, your clipper is ‘open’ and this will cut less hair.

Understanding the difference between open vs closed clippers is crucial for achieving the desired hair length.

The length your clippers cut depends on factors like:

Understanding the features and adjustments clippers offer is essential for achieving the desired haircut.

Each will play its part in how much hair is cut when your adjustable lever is in a open vs closed position.

Depending on the brand and model, your clipper may function slightly differently in open and closed positions.

If you want to find out more about the different lengths of a clipper lever, check out this guide below:

How Much Length Does a Taper Lever Add? (Clipper Lever 101)

A lot has been said about how much length does a taper lever add. Truth be told, it’s a simple answer and one you …

Key Takeaways:

  • Open vs. Closed Clippers: When the taper lever is closed, it cuts more hair. When it’s open, it cuts less.
  • Importance: Understanding the difference is crucial for achieving the desired hair length.
  • Factors Affecting Length: The amount of hair cut depends on the type of blade (fade or taper), whether the clippers are zero-gapped, and the clipper brand.
  • Usage: Mastering the lever and guards allows for a wide range of hairstyles, including fades.

So, It’s very simple to say one way cuts more or less hair, but there are other ways you can manipulate the taper lever to cut, fade, and style hair just the way you want. 

I cover this next.

Clippers open vs. closed – How To Use

Below is how you can use the lever to create seamless fades and prodice a wide range of haircuts.

My work

When your cutting blade is open/closed it just gives you extra room for gradually decreasing the length of hair in a controlled manner.

Being able to adjust the taper lever between open and closed is what gives you the ability to blend with the use of blade guards/ guide combs.  (But if you become skilled enough you may not need guards). 

But to begin with, (I highly suggest you use them!). Don’t cut off all your hair

My guide on how you can use guards on your clippers below can help you understand clipper guards.

How Do Clipper Guards Work? (Understanding Clipper Guards)

So you’ve got some clippers and guards and as you look at both? You ask yourself, how do clipper guards work?  …

This is an example of how they work:

Clippers Open vs Closed

Let’s use a lever-based clipper as an example.

If the lever is closed it leaves around 0mm of hair
If the lever is open, it leaves around 1.5 mm of hair. (These are common cutting lengths).

Now take these common clipper guard sizes:

Wahl clipper guard set
Let’s say you had a #1 guard (3mm) on your blades with the clipper lever open (1.5mm),the clipper cuts to 4.5mm. – your whole clipper will now leave 4.5mm of hair.

Just the same way, if you had a #1 ½ guard (4.5mm), lever open(1.5mm) it becomes a #2 guard (6mm).

But if you were to keep the #1 ½ guard (4.5mm) and kept the lever closed (0mm) it would cut to leave exactly (4.5mm) – stays the same cutting as the guard.

Using this method cuts hair gradually. Done right, it creates a fade effect for many hairstyles.

Open and Closed Clippers

Let’s talk about your lever.

You can manipulate the lever and guards to cut more or less hair giving you whatever style you desire.

Unless you know how to take out guidelines, I’d suggest you just get the hang of gradually decreasing the guard length, to begin with.

Keep the clipper level closed and then just change out the guards.

Start with a high guard at the top of your hair then drop to a Lower one progressively. 

So at the top of your head, you start with the taper lever closed and a #3 guard, then you go #2 and #1 all while the lever is closed.

You can read more in my guide below on how to use hair clipper guards:

How to Use Guards on Clippers (Step-by-Step Guide)

Knowing how to use guards on clippers can help you to get the look you want in a matter of minutes.  No need …

But in general, keeping your lever closed and swapping between guards a beginner does 2 things:

  • Cuts hair finer and reduces hair-pulling
  • Gives you more control
  • Makes the process of cutting hair simpler and less confusing.

The point where you don’t really need a guard is when your fading right at the bottom of your hair, here, you set the lever to open completely. 

Then slowly move it to closed (0mm remember) and blend right to the skin level.

A closed lever cuts close to the skin. For finer cuts, use a trimmer. It gets closer.

The lever closed, with no guard will basically take off all your hair so that’s why it’s the last hair length you need to produce an all-around blend. 

When you start cutting hair always start with larger guards and work your way down to shortest guards as you cut more hair. Doing this gives you more room for error and damages less hair.

Guards work with both open and closed levers. They aren’t separate.

When you use a guard and adjust the lever, you change the hair length the guard cuts.

Giving you more flexibility to amend errors and cut as you wish. This may help you to better understand:

Professionals know exactly how to manipulate this to their benefit but for beginners, as I said, just keep it closed and progressively change the guard lengths. 

Using guards stop stops your hair clippers from biting the skin.

Mastering how to interchange between guards and working your lever all helps to make you a better barber.

How do you tell if levers are open or closed?

If your lever is down on your hair clipper cutting blade is all the way back (you’ll see it move back as you push the lever), then your clippers are open.

Usually, the position of the lever can be visually confirmed by looking at the side of the clipper.

Then from here when you push your taper lever up, you’ll notice the cutting blade, will start to move up making your clippers closed once more. 

To achieve a longer hair length, you can use open lever settings.

When the taper level is all the way up, then it means your clippers are closed again.

This, as I said earlier will mean your clippers cut more hair. 

Now, there’s a subtle difference between the two but both have a huge impact on how hair is cut. 

Simply getting the two mixed up can well.. leave you with a lot less hair than you had hoped for.

So, and I must stress this especially if you are a beginner before you put your clippers to cut any side of the hair, make make you check whether your lever is open or closed.

It’s only a quick check but it stops you from making the mistake of chopping off the hair you can never get back. 

(I’m exaggerating, it will grow back but you won’t look great)

I suggest you make it a habit of checking.


In this article, we went over, what cuts more hair, Lever closed vs. open? 

Determining if Levers are Open or Closed:

  • If the lever is down and the cutting blade is all the way back, your clippers are open.
  • The position of the lever can usually be visually confirmed by looking at the side of the clipper.
  • Pushing the taper lever up will cause the cutting blade to move up, indicating the clippers are closed.
  • Using open lever settings can achieve a longer hair length.
  • When the taper level is all the way up, the clippers are closed, which means they cut more hair.

If you have found this article on men’s grooming helpful, check out other articles below to help you improve your trims and cut like a pro.


which guards cut less hair

Guards that have a larger size cut less hair than those with a smaller size. This is because the larger guard will leave more hair on your head, while the smaller guard will cut more closely to your skin. 



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