Every hairdresser and barber wants sharp scissors. Cutting hair with anything less causes frustration. The hair bends, folds and pushes off the end of the scissors. It’s not only annoying and time consuming for the stylist, but it can also leave the client with split ends and a less than perfect cut.
Scissor Tech is keen to make sure you get the longest life out of the high quality scissors or shears you bought from us so we’re keen to pass on some tips about keeping them razor sharp.
A bladesmith is a person who sharpens professional quality knives and scissors. Ask a colleague if you don’t already know a good sharpener/bladesmith then hold on to their number. If you’re a busy barber or hairdresser, their service is worth its weight in gold.
How regularly will you need their service, you might ask?
You will need your scissors sharpened every 3-12 months. If you spend most of your day cutting hair (as opposed to doing colour treatments etc), it’s likely to be closer to the three month mark but scissors that you don’t use as often may go 12 months between sharpenings.
The sharp life of scissors also depends on the preference of the user. One stylist might think a pair of scissors is fine to keep using while another will feel like they’re blunt. And if you have butter fingers and drop your scissors, you must organise for them to be sharpened before using again. You can sharpen professional scissors around ten times before they need replacing.
Most hairdressers and barbers never see their scissors being sharpened. It’s all a bit of a mystery. They drop off a blunt, useless pair of scissors and they come back with a new lease on life.
Bladesmiths are experts in their craft so as they say ‘don’t try this at home’. You could do yourself a serious injury or destroy your good pair of scissors. Either option doesn’t bear thinking about really!
Below is the sharpening process boiled down into five not so simple steps that a craftsman makes to super sharp scissors.
Step 1 – Checking the Scissors
When a bladesmith first picks up the scissors before doing anything else, they will check them all over. Damaged scissors may have a few nicks that will need taking care of. The chemicals in colour, perming and straightening solutions plus being constantly damp can cause spots of rust and pitting which is a sign of corrosion.
The highest quality scissors will show signs of neglect if they aren’t cleaned and dried at the end of each day. Some scissors have a nasty sticky residue on them from treatments or finishing products that are hard for a hairdresser to remove with normal cleaning. The bladesmith will make a note of all areas of the scissors that need special attention.
Step 2 – Taking the Scissors Apart
Now that the bladesmith knows what work needs to be done, it’s time to take the scissors apart using the scissors’ screw. The bladesmith may have another look at the separated scissors to see what’s behind the hidden part of the blades. Then it’s time to get to work.
Step 3 – Stripping & Sharpening
Any rust, corrosion or residue is first removed from the blades of the scissors. The bladesmith then uses a custom made hairdressing sharpening machine to make fine adjustments to the angle on the blades. Adjustments can be as fine as half a degree to the scissors’ angle or bevel.
The ideal setup for a bladesmith is to have access to five different sanding discs on the machine. This allows for the most desirable coarseness of sandpaper to be used without the need to change the disc each time.
Sharpening scissors depends a lot on their origin. If the scissors are Japanese made, it’s a more time consuming sharpening job than a German made pair of scissors. Japanese scissors are sharpened to a very thin point called a convex edge. The razor-sharp edge means the scissors are ideal for a range of cutting techniques such as sliding, slicing and chipping.
Japanese scissors also have a ryde line on the hollow side of the edge that runs from the tip to the back of the blade. If the scissors aren’t ground on the ryde line, they won’t have a smooth cutting action. Hairdressers use less force to cut with well sharpened Japanese scissors than German ones.
The bevelled edges of German scissors aren’t as angled and one or both blades may be corrugated. The fine lines of the corrugations hold the hair and stop it from moving around. This style of scissors is perfect for blunt and layer cutting, dry cutting, synthetic and coarse hair. The corrugations mean the scissors can’t slide cut but are more durable and ideal for barbers.
The tips of the scissors are shaped so they don’t nick the hairdressers’ knuckles.
Step 4 - Polishing to a Shine
The blades are buffed and polished to a beautiful shine. The bladesmith reassembles the scissors and checks the tension isn’t too tight or too loose. If the tension isn’t right, the blades risk permanent damage.
Step 5 – Test
Before the scissors are ready to go back to their owners, the bladesmith will test them. A wet tissue works well to check the scissors can do a nice clean cut with no frayed edge at the end. Some bladesmiths prefer to do the test using aluminium foil. If the scissors don’t pass the test, they’re taken apart and placed on the sanding discs again. After reassembly, they retest the scissors.
Once you receive your scissors back from the bladesmith, be sure to do a little maintenance every day to keep your scissors in top condition. A sharp pair of professional hairdressing or barber scissors are a pleasure to use. Find yourself a good bladesmith and you’ll feel like you have a new pair of scissors after each sharpen.