How Does a Beard Trimmer Work?
All of today's beard trimmers are powered by an electric motor, which is, in turn, powered by some type of battery or outlet. The internal motor is used to make two rows of parallel razors oscillate, back-and-forth, like jagged teeth, across one another. Cutting in rapid succession, these teeth trim blades of hair based upon desired length (AKA a "length setting"). An electric beard trimmer may have anywhere between 1-50 length settings. Each setting is based on how far the oscillating blades are when the edge of a trimmer makes initial contact with the face.
The philosophy behind an electric trimmer has been around since the 1800s. Early "manual clippers" operated on a similar principle, with a person squeezing two fingers together (a la a pair of scissors) to get the razors to cross. Manual hair clippers were a grind, however, and they lacked precision. This problem was solved by an independent manufacturer named Leo Wahl, who invented the original electric beard trimmer back in 1921 (For more on this, please see "A Brief History of The Electric Trimmer in America" below).
What Do I Need to Know About a Beard Trimmer Before I Buy?
The most important thing to know is whether you're in the market for a precise shaver, or a device that you can use while on the go. If you're a cosmetologist, or you plan on using the electric trimmer professionally, you'll also want to look into whether the blades have any history of irritating certain types of skin.
If you're purchasing a trimmer for personal use, it's helpful to research the trimmer's battery source. If a trimmer's battery runs low, the razors could begin to seize. Short of carrying a charger around with you, the best bet is to purchase an electric trimmer that uses lithium-ion power. Lithium-ion batteries are known to last 6-10x longer than any average rechargeable. These batteries also keep the trimmer buzzing at full power, which means you can mow straight through stiff clumps of hair.
As a precaution, you may also want to read some of the electric trimmer's customer reviews. Reviews are a great way of identifying any problems that could arise 3-4 months after an electric beard trimmer is being used.
A Brief History of the Electric Trimmer in America
The first electric hair trimmer was patented by Leo Wahl, an independent manufacturer from Illinois, in 1921. Up to that point, people were using what were known as manual hair clippers. These clippers were operated by squeezing two metal handles together, causing a pair of oscillating razors to cross. Manual hair clippers were dangerous, however, and exhausting. So Wahl simplified the process by replacing the metal handles with a motor.
Seven years after Wahl's invention, Jacob Schick received the original patent for an electric razor. Ten years after that, Remington mass-produced the first electric razor that was sold in America. At around the same time, Philips, Co. introduced what we now recognize to be the three-blade-rotating system. It's worth noting that all of this was occurring toward the end of the Great Depression, which makes it remarkable that each of these companies - Schick, Wahl, Remington, and Philips - are still considered leaders in the industry today.
Today's electric beard trimmer features a lot of technological advances. Certain models include an LED display, electro-chemical engineering, and anywhere from 1-50 length settings (among other highlights). With an eye toward the future, the grooming industry has even begun to experiment with electrolysis. Imagine a laser being an integral part of your electric beard trimmer's design.