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You might think that clippers are a rather mundane tool not worth getting excited about, but I’m afraid you’re wrong! Today I’m looking at the DSPIAE ST-A 3.0 Single Blade Nippers, and it turns out they really are something special!
Lots of choices for expensive clippers
A new pair of clippers has been on my ‘to-buy’ list for quite some time now. I’ve been using a pair of Army Painter cutters since getting back into the hobby, and while they’re perfectly fine for a new hobbyist they’re starting to show their age. I decided to follow my own advice and started looking around to see what my options were. Quite quickly I narrowed it down to 4 choices: the God Hand clippers, the Tamiya 74123 cutters, the RedGrassGames Precision Nippers, and the DSPIAE ST-A 3.0 clippers.
Everyone has been raving about the God Hand clippers for a few years, but with costs ranging up to £100 they’re a little expensive for my tastes. Tamiya have a solid reputation for making high quality products, and I want to try some of the RGG products but my eye was drawn by the (admittedly rather fancy looking) ST-A 3 set with their little leather case.
Both the Tamiya and DSPIAE cutters retail for around £40-45 in the UK, which still doesn’t sound cheap, with the RGG pair costing around £35. Sometimes however you really do have to pay premium prices for premium quality, so I took the plunge.
DSPIAE ST-A 3.0 – a solid first impression!
Upon delivery we’re presented with a rather nice little box. Inside we find: our new clippers; a leather case to protect the blade when not in use; a tool to adjust the blade position; and a cloth to keep the blade dry and clean. These all fit in a soft-lined case with a lid held shut by two small magnets. I have to give top marks for presentation!
Before we start cutting things up let’s take a little look at the company themselves. ‘DSPIAE‘ sounds like another jumbled-letter knockoff Chinese brand, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. Dream, Strive, Perfection, Innovation, Advance, Excellence. Founded in 2016, Shanghai’s DSPIAE specialise in high-quality precision hand tools – let’s see if they deliver on their values.
I’ll be pitting these new clippers head-to-head with my old Army Painter pair in two simple challenges. A slightly unfair competition perhaps, but it will hopefully show the value in a good upgrade!
Let’s get ready to rumble!
The first test is removing a part from its sprue. This is of course our main use for a pair of clippers, so we’re looking for some impressive results to justify our cost!
Round 1: Army Painter
The Army Painter clippers performed pretty much as you would expect them to. Line up the blades, squeeze and wait for the snip or click sound. This is what we’re all used to, and they don’t do too bad a job. The cut isn’t particularly clean, but it’s only the sprue that gets chewed up.
You will occasionally get a little bit of pulling, so it’s best to cut a short distance from your part and clean up with a blade. We’ve all seen Space Marine shoulder pads with chunks removed at the connection points, and nobody wants that!
Round 1: DSPIAE ST-A
Now we move on to the DSPIAE pair, and wow! These things are effortless to use – lightweight, no pressure required, no resistance felt, and they’re almost silent too! These clippers go through plastic like a hot knife through butter, and they’re a genuine pleasure to use.
Our second challenge is a stress-test when clipping up sprues. When you put pressure on polystyrene it goes white – try bending a piece of sprue and you’ll see! The same happens when you cut it – the cleaner the cut, the less stress on the plastic, and the less white you’ll see.
Round 2: Army Painter
Army Painter up first to set the bar again. As you can see there’s a fair amount of white showing, and the cut itself isn’t particularly clean. Look at the sprue on both sides of the cut and you can see how chewed up it’s become.
Round 2: DSPIAE ST-A
Now for the ST-A 3.0 set. The box and documentation specifically state that you shouldn’t use them for this, or you can risk damaging the blade. Apparently I like to take a risk now and then, so let’s hope for the best and see how we get on!
As you can see once again this is a much, much cleaner cut. There’s almost no warping, very little discolouration, and both sides of the cut are smooth and flat. The cut itself was also much easier, requiring almost no pressure at all, as you can see below.
Here are two short videos showing the difference between the clippers while cutting the sprue.
The Army Painter clippers below needed quite a lot of squeezing, and you can hear the snap as the sprue flies away.
By comparison the DSPIAE cutters were a much more relaxed affair. No real squeezing required, and a much smoother cut that you can barely hear.
Post fight interview
The ST-A clippers are the clear winners in our little contest. Phenomenally smooth operation and results that my cheaper pair can’t come close to matching. They even did a solid job on our sprue, despite not being built for this purpose. Let’s take a slightly closer look at the clippers themselves however, and see what makes them so good.
These clippers are single-bladed, meaning that one side of the cutters are sharp, while the other is flat. This means that rather than ‘pinching’ the part like a pair of scissors, it’s instead bracing from one side and cutting from the other, more like a knife on a chopping board.
The position of the blade itself can be calibrated and re-positioned using the included tool. This is actually something you need to do before use – if they’re not properly set up you can force the blade too far into the flat edge, leading to dulling or breakage.
You might also have noticed that these clippers are held together with a box joint. This is something you don’t see on cheaper pairs, which will often use a rivet or lap joint. While a box joint might be overkill for our needs, it will ensure a precise and accurate cut for years, with no blade slippage or inaccuracy forming over time.
The trade-off for such a sharp blade and precise cut is that these things are very fragile. The clippers come with a little leather protector for while you’re not using them, but you still have to be careful. While talking recently with Stahly from TaleOfPainters he mentioned that he broke his pair of similar-quality RGG clippers when he dropped them off his table – you have to treat these things with care!
In addition to not throwing them around, it’s worth reading the instructions that come in the box. Correctly angling your cuts, avoiding thick plastic (and certainly no metal) and generally using the clippers correctly is vital if you want these things to last, and at £40+ for a pair you want them to last!
Are they worth the money though? In my eyes, undoubtedly! The cut is like nothing I’ve felt before, and I couldn’t go back to a cheap pair after using these.
Okay, enough talking, where do I buy them?
The official DSPIAE shop is actually on AliExpress. Those of us in the West might find that a little surprising but AliExpress is pretty much the Amazon of Asia, so we really shouldn’t.
If you’re happy to wait for shipping from China you can save a little money and pick these up for around £30 ($35 USD, €35) plus shipping from here on the official AliExpress store. If you want to have a look at their other products their store can be found here. Because you’re buying direct you have the advantage of stock being more readily available. Outside of China you’re relying on imported stock, so you sometimes have to act fast to get a pair!
If you don’t mind paying an extra £5-10 overall for faster shipping from somewhere local, your first choice should be Amazon. I’ve found their prices to be in-line with hobby stores, and Prime users have the advantage of free postage. If Amazon isn’t a viable route then you might consider looking at your preferred hobby retailer. Plenty of hobby stores now stock a wide range of tools, so there’s always a chance that your local store has a pair!
Getting your DSPIAE ST-A clippers authenticated
When your clippers arrive you can use the scratch-off panel on the bottom of the box to authenticate them. I haven’t seen this on a tool before, but I assume it’s DSPIAE’s way of fighting knock-off manufacturers. China is well known for low-quality replicas, so DSPIAE will be keen to protect their brand.
I had to do a little bit of translating, but it turns out that my pair are in fact real!
So that’s that! All in all I’m very happy with the upgrade to my tool kit. I will also be keeping an eye out for other interesting products coming from DSPIAE. If they release anything that I think is worth testing then I’ll be sure to let you know!
I would also love to know your thoughts. If you have tried these clippers or perhaps prefer another pair, please let me know down below! 🙂
pawl has been an on/off hobbyist since the late nineties but still possesses significantly more enthusiasm for the hobby as a whole than skill with a brush, and so is always on the hunt for fast, easy and lazy techniques that give good results. Despite this he sometimes still attempts to paint Space Marine helmet lenses, and occasionally even manages to stay within the lines!