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by Maggie Fox January 01, 2024

Supply chains are a huge challenge in the world of hand-crafted scissors

One of the most interesting (and at times challenging!) aspects of finding and marketing heritage, hand crafted scissors is the supply chain. It is complicated, it is constrained, and traversing it can take a very long time

Alpen Grande Storks

There once were thousands of large and small scissor forges across Europe. One by one, as demand for top-quality scissors was eroded by cheap cold-stamped imports, they closed. With the forges vanished an unimaginable range of scissor shapes, styles and decorations: one of the sadnesses of this industry is that moulds used to stamp a particular model of scissor blanks are unique to each individual forge. It is not possible simply to take one mould to another forge as they will not fit the machinery. When a forge closes, the scissors it made can often never be made again

When you’re talking about making a high-quality physical item like our scissors, there are no shortcuts. Their raw material (or, industry lingo, “blanks”) are made at one of those few remaining scissor-producing forges in Europe. So few that scheduling a production (minimum order of 3000-4000 pieces) must often be scheduled six to twelve months in advance. This is no guarantee that you will know when your scissor blanks will be hot-forged, however. It simply ensures that you have your place in a very, very long line. It also means that you can make those scissors from the "blanks" as needed over decades of supply and demand..

alpen petite stork

So what’s with those gorgeous, stunning Grande Storks that we never seem to have enough of? First, a little backstory: when doing research and ordering samples in anticipation of launching this absurdly niche business, I fell in love with the Grande Storks. At 6.5-inches, they were large, unusual, dramatic and very, very sharp. I really felt they were among the most stunning decorative scissors I had ever seen. I was sure they would be popular, but they were not immediately so. Initially, people didn’t seem to know what to do with these beauties, and so they languished… until they were featured by discerning journalists and editors like Matt Kronsberg at Bloomberg BusinessWeek and Carol Fresia at Threads magazine. By the fall of 2023, we could no longer keep the Grande Storks in stock. Which is when we began serious conversations with their maker, Alpen, to ensure a larger and more reliable order cadence. Which is when we again ran into the reality of the handmade scissor supply chain.

“We [are having] problems with the delivery times of the raw material,” explained Mauro Gianola, one of the two brothers running Alpen in October, 2023. “We ordered it in April and we don’t know when we will have it!"

abandoned scissor moulds from solingen

In 2023, we are still dealing with the wonders of limited production capacity of raw materials and specialized manufacturers. We will find a way to bring these gorgeous Alpen scissors back to market, but it just might take some time. We believe it will be worth the wait. 

Meanwhile – if you see something you like? You’d best grab it. Many of the scissors currently in our inventory will not be able to be made again (see: moulds from defunct forges), and replenishment of stock is highly unpredictable. It’s very challenging, but it’s also part of what makes this incredible industry, and our heritage makers, so special.

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