Who Knew a German Knife Company Would Make the Best Nail Clippers I’ve Ever Used?

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I have never considered myself a “nail person” — that is to say, I have never had the patience to spend 30 minutes carefully trimming, buffing, and shaping my nails. I’ve typically relied on $5 nail clippers picked up from discount beauty-supply stores, the kind with built-in files that were about as abrasive as a laundry washboard; the results were rough, jagged nails that would constantly catch on my sweaters. But hey, it’s not like I’m auditioning for hand-model gigs, so what’s a couple hangnails here and there?

Recently, though, a particularly rough edge of my thumbnail snagged on my favorite pair of tights and caused an unsalvageable run, and that was the last straw. Clearly, it was time for an upgrade. So being the, ahem, discerning Strategist writer I am, I decided to pick up a pair of clippers made by Zwilling J.A. Henckels, a German brand that’s one of the oldest and most renowned knife manufacturers in the world. The hefty price tag did give me pause, but surely a heritage knife-maker would know a thing or two about producing blade-related objects, I reasoned — and it turns out the extra cash I forked over was well worth it, because they are the best-quality, highest-performing, and most aesthetically appealing nail clippers I’ve ever used.

A simple slide-locking mechanism ensures that the lever slots into the clipper body as snugly and seamlessly as a puzzle piece

The first thing I noticed about these clippers was how sleek and compact they are — about the length and thickness of a matchstick. They’re made from brushed stainless steel and feature a simple slide-locking mechanism to open and close the lever, which slots into the body of the clippers as snugly and seamlessly as a puzzle piece. I have very little storage in my bathroom, and I own a lot of skin-care products, so I appreciate that these don’t take up even a fraction more space than is necessary; when they’re closed, they’re so unobtrusive that I’ve nearly misplaced them once or twice. Plus you’d think that to maintain such a slim profile you’d have to forgo the usual built-in nail file, but I was thrilled to find a small filing panel on the inside lever that’s surprisingly gritty. (You might find it wanting if you’re really into nail care, but as a manicure philistine, I find it perfectly acceptable.) They even come with a luxe leather sleeve, a nice touch that will protect them in your Dopp kit when traveling. They’re what I’d imagine a pair of nail clippers would look like if Apple designed them.

So the form is clearly there, but what about the function? I’m happy to report that these Goldilocks clippers have the perfect amount of bite, not too weak where you have to really wrench to get them to cut, but also not too strong that they’ll send stray nail fragments flying across the room. My nails aren’t super-brittle, but I’m not out here doing hard manual labor either, so I hate when overly powerful clippers force me to get down on my hands and knees and hunt for an errant shard. There’s no extraneous force, no high-pitched squeak, just a satisfying snick as they cut a clean, sharp line through your nail. Plus the blades are equipped with a slightly curved ledge to help trap nail flotsam within the clipper, which you can then deposit directly into the trash.

I would be remiss not to address the price: These clippers cost $50 (though they are currently on sale for $40 on the Zwilling website). That’s a lot to spend on nail clippers, I know, especially when compared to this $20 Green Bell pair we’ve written about before, which have been a perennial Strategist favorite ever since former Strat editor Jason Chen waxed poetic about them in 2016. But the design of the Green Bell clippers seems pretty ungainly and cumbersome — not very good looking, in my opinion and definitely not as streamlined as my lightweight little pair. And Chen says the Green Bell’s extra width makes them more suited for toenails than fingernails, and I’ve found that my Zwilling clippers handle both swimmingly; they’re not too forceful that they’ll fracture delicate fingernails, but they’re still strong enough to snip tough toenails, which means you’re basically getting two clippers in one. And, well, not to cast aspersions at Green Bell, but I don’t think they can boast the distinction of winning multiple design awards the way Zwilling can; these clippers picked up a Japanese Good Design Award in 2004 and an iF Product Design Award in 2005.

I have no doubt I’ll be using these clippers for years to come, and since I trim my nails every couple of weeks, the cost per use will have dwindled to pennies by then. After experiencing the smooth fluidity and elegant precision of the Zwilling clippers, I simply can’t go back to cheap $5 ones. Cutting my nails, a pastime I once regarded as a dreary chore, is now a joy and a delight. Turns out I am, in fact, a nail person; all it took was finding the perfect tool for the job.

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A German Knife Company Makes the Best Nail Clippers