Curling Nippers

What are Curling Nippers?

Curling nippers are pieces of equipment that are used to smooth out the curling playing surface. Its purpose is similar to that of an ice rink zamboni, but a nipper is a lot smaller and more functional for the average person.

curling nipper

The Ice

The curling nipper makes the ice more smooth and slick. It allows the rock to garner more speed. Similar to an ice rink, after ice skates have scraped up the ice, it can make the sport more challenging and unsafe. Smoothing the curling playing surface is similar. It allows the curler have stronger performances.

People who smooth the ice typically make two trips up and down the ice. The first is down one side, and then back up the other. Pebbles, which are bumpy, chipped pieces of ice on the playing surface, should all be removed by the end of the ice smoothing.

There might be a downside to the nipper smoothing the ice. Smoother ice could also cause the rock to be pushed too far and out of the scoring areas if a player isn't used to the ice's surface. However, smooth ice generally helps players perform better.

As we learned in Curling Ice Prep, a nipper is used after the ice has been pebbled. After pebbling the ice, each pebble has a slightly different height than another. In order to curl, a smooth, textured sheet is necessary. While the pebbling textures the sheet, the nipper levels the tops of the pebble. A nipper works by using a level blade to cut the top (or peaks) of the pebble so that a smooth, textured surface is created.

We will now learn the main parts of the nipper. They are the:

  1. Blade and Protective Guard
  2. Mop
  3. Handle

Blade and Protective Guard

As we just learned, a blade is used to cut the peaks of the pebble. The blade is about five feet in length. This blade must remain perfectly straight and level. If not, you will be unable to achieve a true, flat cut.

Surrounding the blade is a protective guard. This is so nobody is able to touch the blade that is cutting the ice. Typically, this protective guard is a made of metal. On the back of the protective guard are three hooks. These hooks are used to attach the mop to the blade.


The mop is used to collect the ice shavings that are cut by the blade. The mop is usually made of cotton, and spans the width of the blade and protective gear.


Since the nipper blade and mop is on the ice, it is necessary to have a handle to push the nipper with. The handle is attached to the top of the protective guard, and then extends about four feet high for someone to push.

Using a Nipper

Before your begin to nip, check to make sure that the blade appears to be level and flat. Then, lower all the safety guards, and place your blade on the ice. Align the center of your blade so that the tee line "cuts your blade in half". Then, walk forward a few feet.

Check that the pebble you cut appears to remain level and smooth. If this happens, your blade is flat, and you can continue to nip the entire sheet. Follow the procedure below for nipping a curling sheet.

First, start by placing your blade in front of one of the hacks. Align one end of the blade with the centerline. Next, walk in a straight line to the other hack. Check that the end of your nipper remains along the centerline. As you approach the tee line on the other side, begin to turn right, and dump any shavings you have collected behind the hack.

Repeat this process for the other half of the sheet, and for all other remaining sheets.

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