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I use Andis AGC2 clippers. They were recommended by a professional groomer and have worked well for me for the past couple years. My dogs have fairly soft fine hair and it doesn't have any issues cutting. Nice clippers and sharp blades are really essential. I have a small cheap pair and it really doesn't cut through anything.

As far as your other questions go, I typically clip against the grain of the hair, but then the standard trim on my dogs involves shaving the neck and top of the ears closely with a #10 blade. I'm not sure about doing other clips.

I would recommended getting blades the size that you need, and not using combs if you're currently using them. That will work much better.
 

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They are about $150 I think.
 

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I have always heard to only cut when clean. I've tried both ways and it's much easier when the coat is clean. Dirty coats don't cut well and will dull the blade.
 

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I definitely takes some practice. At least if you make a mistake it will grow back and you can try again!
 

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You might be able to get something cheaper too. Like the Andis 1 speed should work fine. I would just avoid anything wireless, and invest in the right sized blades instead of getting the plastic combs.
 
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