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by Maggie Fox October 06, 2023

Why many of us are losing our grip

William Whiteley Classic British Kitchen scissors

One of our scissor makers, William Whiteley, was founded in 1760, at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Unparalleled by almost any other event in human history, Industrialization rapidly ushered in dramatic social and economic upheaval - both good and bad:

"Before the Industrial Revolution, artisans with specialized skills produced most of Europe’s manufactured goods. Their work was governed by the traditions of their craft and the limits of available resources. Human and animal muscle and the waterwheel were the era’s main energy sources."

Diminishing use of human muscle, and removing rural people from access to inexpensive, healthy foods and into crowded urban environments resulted in reduced physical strength and overall health, for both men and women. In the United States, the "pre Industrialization" period from the 1700's to early 1800's saw a peak in population health that was not achieved again for over 100 years.

This of course isn't news, and ironically today those of us lucky enough to live in highly developed countries are healthier and live longer than almost any populations in human history, largely thanks to technology. But one legacy of the switch from "brawn" to "brains" remains: our overall diminished physical strength. According to recent research it continues to decline, particularly when we look at hand grip:

"In a study of Americans ages 20-34, occupational therapists found that men younger than 30 have significantly weaker hand grips than their counterparts in 1985 did. The same was true of women ages 20-24."

Fennek grandi grandi forbici tailors shears

So what does that translate into? In our case, where we have sourced heritage-crafted scissors, made in the same was for generations (ie: back when average grip was stronger because people made more things with their hands), we have heard from a very small number of people that they initially struggle with the "stiffness" of some of our scissors. Accustomed to cold-stamped, plastic handled and lightweight snips, picking up a pair of hot forged stainless steel blades can often be an unfamiliar experience, much like using a high-quality knife for the first time.

Fennek Tessuto Fabric scissors

In addition, it's extremely important to select a pair of scissors that "fit", both your hand strength and your hand size. For example, when looking for fabric scissors, we are far more likely to recommend the Fennek Tessuto 8" Fabric Scissors for the casual crafter, with the monumental 12" Grandi Grandi Forbici being more suitable for the professional (or those who just love the look of them - we have a pair on our mantelpiece!). On each product listing we include a size chart, with the illustrated hand shown as an average 7-inches, so it's possible to see scale (not always obvious when comparing product images). 

scissor hand size illustration

Handmade scissors are, by their very nature, made in a well-fitting manner so that the blades will cut precisely instead of tearing (which is how cheap scissors work). All scissors loosen with time and use, so if these beautiful tools are made more loosely fitting to accommodate lower-than-average hand strength, they simply will not continue to cut precisely. One of our makers has a durability standard of 80,000 snips over the lifetime of a pair of their scissors! When tailors have their shears refurbished after years of use, this typically involves sharpening, and, most importantly: tightening and fitting the blades together again.

Whether you're selecting a pair for yourself or as a gift, we would be delighted to work with you to ensure that you choose a pair that is the right weight and size for both you and the task at hand. If you're not sure, please feel free to use the "chat" icon at the bottom left of this screen or contact us. We believe that everyone deserves to use luxury scissors, and above all, we want your scissors to be a delight to use and last a lifetime!



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