By Jonathan David
I have a scissor addiction. There, I said it. And you know what? I’m proud of it! I’m a firm believer that you can never have too many scissors.
But in today’s market, it seems like there’s a scissor for just about everything—and they range in price from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars. But why is that?
The answer to that question lies within the materials used and the manufacturing method. Scissors and shears are the same thing, but in the scissor industry, we typically refer to anything six inches and under as a scissor and anything over six inches is referred to as a shear.
There are two methods used to manufacture shears; those that are cast and those that are forged. Let’s start with the method of casting. Casting is a method of using high temperatures to liquefy certain types of metals and then pouring the liquid metal into a mold.
This process uses softer metals because their melting point is lower and the metals are more easily used in the mold of a scissor. The advantage to this process is the metals are lower cost and they can be made on an assembly line with less effort, thus keeping the costs rather low. These are the shears you typically see in a sealed plastic on cardboard package, manufactured in factories and priced rather low. Seems like a great deal, but now come the disadvantages.
Cast metal has a few rather significant disadvantages. First is the quality of the metal. Metals that can be easily melted and poured into molds are not as hard, therefore they cannot hold a sharp edge with extensive use resulting in more frequent sharpening. Because these metals are softer, they usually require more grinding with each sharpening which results in a much shorter overall life of the shear.
The second major disadvantage is that cast metals can have imperfections within the metal. Very small air bubbles can form in cast liquid metals making them more prone to breaking if dropped, or revealing the air bubbles along an edge during sharpening, therefor requiring more of the metal being ground down to achieve bringing the edge back.
The third, and in my opinion, most significant disadvantage is that cast shears cannot be rebalanced and realigned if they’re dropped or have some contact issues between the two blades of the shear. If you drop your cast shears and they bend, even slightly, and are no longer cutting well, a sharpener cannot manipulate this type of metal without the risk of the metal snapping.
When we have our shears serviced, the sharpener will not only sharpen the edges, but they also balance the shears and make sure the two blades have a continuous plane of contact to cut the hair. When the two blades are not making contact, a sign of this is the shears are folding the hair. They will manipulate the shears by hand and bend them slightly so they make contact with one another.
Cast metals are not pliable and the tension caused from trying to manipulate the metal can cause it to snap or can be extremely difficult to make the two blades make continuous contact again. Typically, cast shears end up in the trash after a drop or several attempts at sharpening them, so you’re out the cost of the shears, the cost of servicing and now the cost of replacing the shears.
The second method of manufacturing shears is those that are forged. Forged shears are the gold standard in scissor manufacturing. This method consists of the various parts of a scissor being cut from a prefabricated sheet of metal and then being welded together. The finger holes, shanks and blades are all made separately and then welded together later in the process.
The advantages to this process are plentiful. First, the stainless steel is blended with other selected alloys for extra hardness, yet remain lightweight. The sheets of metal are tested for hardness and given a Rockwell rating. The Rockwell rating is an industry standard number to identify the hardness of the metal. Once the sheet of steel is approved, the manufacturing of the scissor begins.
Scissor designs begin on a computer and then each piece is wire-cut from the sheet of steel. The pieces are then welded together and go through a series of steps including grinding, heat treatments (to harden the metal), polishing and flattening—all by hand—and then are finally assembled, honed and sharpened. Each shear is then tested and packaged for shipping to the warehouse.
The metals used in this manufacturing process are harder, higher quality metals and the process is an art form. The quality of the shear and the hands-on process to ensure quality add to the overall cost.
The way I see it is that it’s a better economical decision to buy quality shears. The cost of buying, frequent sharpening and replacing low quality shears over time will far exceed the cost of buying quality shears, even one at a time, and building a strong collection that you’ll have for years and years to come! ✂️