The Art of Blending

The Art of Blending

Novice groomers often struggle with setting patterns on breeds such as Schnauzers, Scottish and other terriers, and Spaniels. Properly blending pattern trims like these is an essential skill that will elevate a groom from “meh” to “marvelous!” 

One key thing to remember is that one cannot correctly blend a pattern cut if the clipped area is too short. If the back coat is taken down with a 10-blade (or a 5 or 7 in reverse), no blending willmake that trim look right. To create a smooth transition from the clipped area to the furnishings, there must be adequate length on the trimmed part of the pattern to enable beautiful blending. 

Let’s use a Scottish Terrier as an example. Most pet Scotties have a fairly dense coat, but occasionally, you will come across one with a thinner, finer coat. Thinner coats will look better using a longer blade, such as a #4 or a #2 guide comb. A #5 blade typically does a nice job for the more typical, thick coat. A skip-toothed blade will leave a more natural finish, but if you only have “F” or finish blades, they will work, too. 

Beginning behind the ears, clip to set the pattern. If you are in doubt, check a grooming book or look up images of Scottish Terriers on the AKC or other websites to learn the pattern lines. As you approach the area where the clipped pattern ends and the furnishings begin, guide your hand on the clipper so that you ever so slightly lift the blade off the body and glide it so it floats off the furnishings. What you want to avoid is digging the blade in to create a sharp line where the clipper work ends and the longer furnishings begin. 

Once you have set your clipped pattern (and trimmed the head and tail appropriately for the breed,) you can do a few other things to help your blending look smooth. Lightly going over the furnishings with an Andis Deshedding tool will remove any dead coat your brush and comb missed and help smooth the area so the furnishings lie nicely. If they are still too thick and bulky, you can use thinning shears, going up under the furnishings at the line where the clipped area ends, to remove a small amount of coat. Just take a little at a time, then comb and stand back to see how things look. 

The magic of blending is leaving enough coat on the clipped pattern area, avoiding digging a sharp line where the furnishings begin, and using your tools to help the furnishings lie flat where they meet your clipper work.

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Daryl Conner has been devoted to making dogs and cats more comfortable and beautiful for almost 40 years.  You can find her happily working at FairWinds Grooming Studio with her daughter and infant granddaughter, or typing away at her latest grooming-related article. Daryl was awarded both a Cardinal Crystal Award and Barkleigh Honors Award for journalism.  She shares her meadow-hugged antique Maine farmhouse with her practically perfect husband and too many animals.