Thought about just messaging you with this, but in case anyone else had any questions, here we are.
Snooks I have several different clippers for horses, dogs, cattle, sheep...lol. One pair that I've been very satisfied with for both dogs and horses is my Andis UltraEdge Super 2-Speed
. For all over clipping many groomers are dissatisfied with it, but I love it. I've had Osters and Listers and a few other brands as well but I really like the Andis brand. I have several of those. I also like the AGC Super 2-Speed
. They make a rechargable clipper if you don't want to mess with cords that works very well, the UltraEdge is great, and they have several others. Andis also carries some much smaller cordless clippers that are for light clipping---specifically pawpads or the potty area or anything other than all-over use.
Mine are all made more specifically for horses or livestock, but I'm more used to using those than pet clippers...and I'm much more happy with them. To be honest I've only used one pet clipper by Andis and was happy with it, but the horse/stock kind seem to be better made. Could be crazy but that's what I like. ^^ 10 and 40 is the blade length. I don't use a guard but I've never cut a paw or pawpad and my blades are sharp. Clipper burn is caused by someone not using coolant or oil enough. When your clippers get "noisy" (the vibration of the blades wil produce a distinctly different sound when they need oiled--just drop a couple of drops of clipper oil on each end and across the blades, wipe them off on a towel and get back to work. You can leave them on for this.), it means they need oiled. If the clippers have been used a LOT over a sort period of time(for instance, the groomer has used the same clippers all day and doesn't use coolant or oil enough), the blade and sometimes even the clipper will get HOT. It takes quite a bit to be hot enough to clipper burn a dog. It's like a minor sunburn or windburn.
A 10 blade takes a lot of the length off but still leaves some. This would be good to start out with if you're concerned with getting too close. A 40 blade gets reeeeaaaallly close. I imagine your Goldies are pretty dern shaggy around their paw pads, so eventually a 40 might be good. If I had a video camera I could easily send you a vid explaining paw pad clipping...lol. I think your best bet would be to ask a groomer to show you. That's the easiest way to learn. It's very simple and takes a matter of minutes if your dog is used to the clippers.
At the Andis website
you can view their large and small animal products by clicking on the little menu up top. The UltraEdge is under Lg Animal--Horse Products, as well as the AGC Super 2-Speed. In both large and small animal, you can go down to Light Clipping and Trimming to view their smaller, cordless clippers. (There's also some bigger cordless clippers mixed in everywhere else.) Blades usually change quite easily--they just pop right off and slide another on. Under "Blades and More" you can check out the different blades available for whichever clipper.
Now granted the clippers at a pet store or at a farm supply store will be $30-50 typically, with a few closer to $100. Through a dealer or the website carrying higher quality Andis clippers, the horse ones can go upwards of $200. I think my UltraEdge clippers were $80 when we bought them, plus extra blades and a few other things I think. Just depends on what you buy and where. I definitely think the Andis products I recommended are well worth the money though. If there are livestock shows in your area at anytime during the year, hit the venders!! Many livestock product sellers attend stock shows carrying many clippers. (Including used clippers still in very good shape.) There are also livestock feed stores who usually carry clippers, farm supply stores who should(Tractor Supply Company, Gebo's, McCoys, etc), and not sure where else to go to. Not many stores around here carry the UltraEdge and the AGC Super 2-Speed. We got ours from venders at livestock shows(we know many people who show, and I used to, so we were there anyway). Just for pawpads, I really don't think you have to buy an extremely expensive clipper. Andis does make inexpensive clippers as well that would work well for what you want to use them for.
As for guards, I just don't like using them. I've never cut an animal but I have used clippers many times. For pawpads guards are kind of useless because you won't be able to get enough hair cut with a guard. But you're right, guards allow you to not cut the dog. The blades can't even touch the skin with a guard, just the hair. Hope this helps and feel free to let me know if you have anymore questions!
-Clippet--includes oil and five guards, intended for light clipping, corded
-Lightweight Cordless--intended for light clipping, runs on AA batteries, includes oil
(the downside--after a year or less, or a few years, depending on how often it's cleaned and used, sharpening these blades or replacing them will be a problem. If Andis carries replacement blades, that's probably the only place you'd find them.)
There are others as well, but thought these might be more geared toward what you're looking for. Haven't used them before so can't give you a firsthand account of what they're like. For blade sharpening, ask a local groomer or even barber where they take their blades for sharpening. You should be able to find someone who does this.