What Does the Lever on Clippers Do? (Level Up Your Haircut Game)

The clipper lever is a major part of your clippers. 

But what does the clipper lever do? What length does it cut to and how can you use it to produce clean cuts?

In this article, I’ll answer these questions and more. 

With that said let’s get into it. 

What Does the Lever on Clippers Do?


Quick answer:

The clipper lever controls how close the cutting blade (smaller blade) gets to the end of the guard blade/ front cutting rail blade (big blade). 

When the clipper lever is up or “closed”, more hair is cut and when the clipper lever is “open” less hair is cut. 

This is just a quick answer on what exactly the clipper lever does, but how much hair exactly is cut and how does it work with guards? 

We go through that next. 

Clipper lever up or down

The image below shows a clipper blade with the lever  “open” – more space. 

And below this is your blades with the lever “closed” – less space. 

When your lever is in the closed position you’ll notice your cutting blade and guard blade get very close. 

However, the cutting blade doesn’t overlap the guard blade. 

In a situation where the cutting blade is over the guard blade, you may end up cutting the skin.

If your clipper is brand new, manufacturers leave a bit of space between both blades when the lever is closed so no cause for concern.

zero gapped blades

Now, you can zero-gap your clipper blades which is the process of moving the cutting blade to the very edge of the guard blade

This can make your clipper cut better and improve detail, however, if not done correctly, you risk moving your cutting blade past the guard blade, which like I said, can cut you.

If you are new to clippers you shouldn’t be zero-gapping your clippers, they will still cut very well as they are. 

So, what lengths do your blades cut to with the lever up or down with no guard? 

That’s next. 

How much length does a taper lever add

It all depends on a few factors such as:

  • Whether you have a fade blade or a Taper blade
  • Whether your clippers are zero-gapped or not.
  • Your clipper brand

You can read more about this in our guide on how much length a clipper lever adds:

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 …

But for the rest of this guide, I’m going to assume we have a classic fade blade clipper, which in most cases, you often do.

When your clipper blade is closed, your blades to will cut to a pure 0 (if zero gapped).

When your blade is closed with no guard, your clippers cut will take off all the hair on your head, your clippers essentially (almost) act as liner/ trimmer.

Now, when your lever is set to open, your blades leave a little bit more hair. 

It will vary from brand to brand, but generally, with the lever open the cutting blade cuts to 1.5-2.5mm (think about it as to how much hair is left).

Again, if your clippers are zero-gapped, even if your clippers are closed you should expect it to have less hair too. 

While normally your lever open will leave 1.5mm of hair, with zero-gapped clippers, expect about 1.2mm of hair to be left while open.

So to summarise:

lever closed = 0-0.25 mm of hair left 
Lever closed but zero gapped = 0mm of hair left

Lever open = 1.5 -2.5mm of hair left
Lever open but Clipper is zero-gapped = 1.2-1.5mm of hair left.

Now you know the lengths, you can apply this to your clippers to your clipper, I explain the process below. 

what is the lever on hair clippers for

Clipper guards vary from brand to brand but on average, each clipper goes up to a #8 guard. 

I explain more in our article on clipper guard sizes

These are the clipper guards for two of the most popular brands:

Wahl Clipper Guard Sizes

What Does the Lever on Clippers Do

Andis Clipper Guard Sizes

What Does the Lever on Clippers Do

Clipper guards tend to start at 0 / ½ guard which allows 1.5mm of hair, the same amount of hair as you lever open

This is an important example of how your guards and your lever blend into each other which can help with fading,( we get to that later).

Here’s another: 

 when your clipper blades are ‘closed’ and you attach as 1 guard, as you open up your clipper (more space), and your clipper clippers turn into a 1 ½ guard. 

That’s because you opening your lever created 1.5mm which is the same length as a zero/half guard.

See how it works together. 

On the flip side, if you close the lever once more, you take away that 1.5mm of space, and your blade is a 0 but the one guard (3mm) is still on your clipper so your clippers will cut to that length (3mm).

Now, that’s how you should think about it. 

No matter what guard you have on your blade, as you go up, (close your lever), subtract half a guard (1.5mm) from the guard on your clippers.

But if you open your lever, add 1.5mm (½ guard) to whatever guard is on your clippers 

You can also get very detailed on the numbers if you want a very cutting length and you can always find out the length you’re cutting to by just doing some addition.

Add up
 #1 guard  + lever open is the same as  3mm + 1.5mm/1.2mm(is zero gapped).

This gives you an overall cutting length of 4.5mm which, is basically a 1 ½ guard. 

A guideline is the clear line made when hair is at two different levels.

A guideline is where you want to swap out guards but keep the same length.

Let’s say the guideline was 3mm of hair.

That’s the same as a lever #1 guard lever closed but also a 1/2 guard lever open. (Same length, different guards)

But because they are the same cutting length, as you change guards at that guideline, you won’t see a difference, they just blend into each other.

But now you have a shorter cutting length which allows you to move down, slowly cutting hair as you close your lever to meet a new guideline!

For example:

You could start with a 1 guard, lever open, and if you had two guidelines, one at 3mm and another at 4.5 mm of hair…

You could start at the 4.5mm hair guideline and as you go down towards the 3mm hair guideline, slowly close your lever bit by bit so that by the time you reach the 3mm level guideline, you’d have blended the two lines together. 

You know how a clipper lever and blade work together, you can use this to cut faded hair

This guide has been a quick overview of understanding how your clippers work, but did you know this is only a small part of mastering your clippers?

Why not cover, cleaning, oiling, troubleshoot, and even how to use your clippers to fade using the 1-minute Clipphub cheatsheets from the New Clipper Mastery Bundle?

Fast-track your clipper mastery by grabbing them below:

I go through that next. 

How to use hair clippers lever

The steps I lay out below will be a brief guide on how you can use a lover to blend hair.  

If you want a more detailed breakdown of this process check out my article on how to blend fade lines.

It’s mainly about moving the clipper + blade down gradually but understanding how much hair is removed for it to blend all together. 

Also to help you better understand, a guideline is a line you set with your clippers that clearly shows the length of hair you working on compared to other parts. 

Here’s how you can use what you’ve learned to easily cut hair:

But if you prefer written content, I provide a rough outline below.

Step 1: Trimmer to set the lowest guideline 

The first step is to use the trimmers/balders to set in the bald guidelines for the taper

Step 2: Lever Open, no guard 

The next step is to use the clippers with the lever fully open to set in the next guideline, maybe like 1cm thick

Step 3: Lever halfway, no guard

Then blend the line between the bald and the open lever by putting adjusting the lever halfway

Step 4: 2 guard levers closed

Next, use the 2 guards with the lever closed to flick out the hair for a smoother transition to a bulkier/high-top head of hair.

Step 5: 1 ½ guard lever closed 

Then get the 4.5 mm guard on with the lever closed and do the same flicking out, but slightly lower than you did with the 2 guard

Step 6:  1 guard lever closed 

Now to finish off, grab your 1 guard with the lever closed again, and make go up slowly, then flick out as per usual

Step 7: 0 guard, lever closed 

Then to blend out the harsh 1 line, use the 0.5 guard

Step 8:  Detail 

Do these steps for all of the sides of your hair that need fading. 

I go through these steps in more detail, in my guide on how to use Clipper guards on hair clippers.


In this article, we asked the question, what does the lever on a clipper do? 

Your clipper lever dictates how much hair is left on your blade. 

When you leave it open, it leaves ½ a guard or 1.5mm worth of hair on your but when it opens your clippers to a 0 and take all the hair off your head. 

Using a guard can blend hair lengths together to make a new guard length which you can use for fading. 


What is the lever on clippers used for?

The lever changes the blade’s position, adjusting the cutting length from shorter to longer hair lengths.

Should I adjust the lever when cutting different hair lengths?

Yes, adjusting the lever helps achieve a more even cut and makes it easier to transition between different hair lengths.

Can I use the lever on any type of clipper?

No, not all clippers have a lever. It’s typically found on adjustable blade clippers not detachable blade clippers

If you have found this article helpful, check out other articles below on this topic. 

Patrick Boulang

Patrick Boulang

Patrick is the Primary editor for Clipphub. He has sales background however has always had a passion in barbering and personal self grooming. He now he spends most of his time giving information to hair clipper users to get them comfortable with personal grooming and improve their work on clients as he believes anyone can become skills with their blades.