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.
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
Nail cutters are usually made of stainless steel but can also be made of plastic and aluminium. Two common varieties are the plier type and the compound lever type. 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. Other patents for an improvement in finger-nail trimmers are in 1876, William C. Edge, and, in 1878, John H. Hollman. Filings for complete finger-nail trimmers (not merely improvements) include, in 1881, Eugene Heim and Celestin Matz, in 1885, George H. Coates (for a finger-nail cutter), and, in 1905, Chapel S. Carter (son of a Connecticut Baptist church deacon) patented a finger-nail trimmer with a later patent in 1922. Around 1913, Carter was secretary of the H.C. Cook Company of Ansonia, Connecticut which was incorporated in 1903 as the H. T. Cook Machine Company by Henry C. Cook, Lewis I. Cook, and Chapel S. Carter. Around 1928, Carter was president of the company when, he claimed, about 1896, the "Gem"-brand finger nail cutter made its first appearance.
Around 1906, the L.T. Snow company manufactured nail cutters. Around 1908 (or 1911), the King Klip Company of New York manufactured nail cutters.
In 1947, William E. Bassett (who started the W.E. Bassett Company in 1939) developed the "Trim"-brand nail cutter, the first made using modern (at the time) manufacturing methods 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. In 2001 the W.E. Bassett Company acquired the Cook Bates implement division of Pacer Technology.
Other manufacturers include Evenflo (China), Revlon (Korea), and DOVO Solingen (Germany).
"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."
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