by David Thomas May 07, 2022
Craft scissors are escaping the shadow of the artisanal knife
First question: where do you keep your scissors? Second: are they any good?
Hands up if you keep a banged-up pair in the kitchen junk drawer, next to a pair of dead AA batteries, behind the twist ties and that Ziploc bag with eight half-burned candles, still covered with icing, from your kid’s last birthday cake.
No respect, right? Well, maybe the reason your scissors get less respect than your knives is you have quality knives and crappy scissors. If you ever got the chance to try a quality pair of craft scissors, everything could change.
This is a common scenario that leaves traditional makers of artisanal craft scissors scratching their heads.
“We hear that question being asked a lot,” says Paul Jacobs, co-owner of heritage scissor makers Ernest Wright of Sheffield, England.
“Why would you have a great set of knives but crappy scissors in your drawer?”
The main reason it keeps happening is because you never had a chance to try a quality pair. If you did, odds are you won’t go back to the crappy pair in the junk drawer.
Look in the kitchen of any good cook and you’ll find a set of quality knives. Once a chef experiences the magic of razor-sharp blades, it’s easy for them to get drawn in. The knives become a part of the ritual of cooking.
Quality, handmade scissors deserve our respect. Eronomically designed for comfort and ease of use, and forged from the highest-grade stainless, craft scissors not only have twice the number of blades that knives have, they are much harder to make, explains David Pallarès.
He should know. Pallares Solsona is the third generation of a family firm that makes both craft knives and scissors in Solsona, Spain. The former is a bigger part of the business, but the latter is more specialized and commands higher prices.
“We have 22 workers, and all of them can make knives,” Pallarès says. “Only three or four can make scissors. Making knives is level two. Scissors is level 10.”
Despite that, many people might have no problem shelling out close to $1,000 for knives and would never even consider paying $100 for a luxury pair of scissors that can be just as easily sharpened and will also easily outlive you. One reason is a lot of people just don’t get exposed to heritage craft scissors. Once you get a pair in your hands, the weight, design and power of quality scissors will win you over.
So that’s the trick, for craft scissor makers – just get people to try them. Once you hold them, hear them in action and feel the control when they close, you will get the bug. You have all the precision of a master sword in your hands.
“The best scissors have that whooshing sound of the blades passing when you hold them close to your ear,” explains Caroline Ward, part of the Whitely family that has been running William Whitely & Sons for centuries in Sheffield. (Together with Ernest Wright, Whitely are the last two of a dying breed of heritage scissor makers in England.)
Pallarès remembers the first time he took his scissors to a market. He didn’t have any marketing to dazzle, just one kind of shears on a table. And he watched as a woman picked them up. “She pulled the handles and felt the blades come together. Then she smiled, looked up, and said ‘I’ll take them.’ “
Quality, it would appear, makes its own reputation.
Here are a few reasons scissors trump knives: one, they have double the number of blades. The best handmade scissors, like knives, are forged from high-quality steel that is hardened to a level that stands up to precision sharpening.
And the process for scissor manufacturing is much more complex, requiring a dozen or more steps and years of training for artisans to master the final steps to marry two unique custom blades.
And while knives come in a variety of sizes, the range of scissors is mindboggling. If you can cut it, there is probably a specific kind of scissor designed for that task, whether it’s for trimming nosehairs, clipping a 400-year-old bonsai tree, slicing a boiled egg or cutting fabric for the fashion industry.
Driving awareness of the magic of craft scissors won’t happen overnight. It’s not like this article is the first to flag the plight of a world full of people with crappy scissors in their junk drawers. We came across a magazine article from 1997 in Working Mother, in which one frustrated mom shared her distress over what she characterized as “one of the big questions of all time.”
“Why are most of the scissors in the world bad scissors, anyway? Every room in my house you look in, there is another pair of bad scissors.”
We can relate. But it also reminds us of a great story in The Onion, with a lead that echoed that “big question” and carried the headline “Good Scissors Not in the F@cking Drawer”.
"Arguing that there was no conceivable reason they should be anywhere else, local woman Nora Jay confirmed Wednesday that the good scissors weren’t in the f@cking drawer where they belonged..."
Yes, we can totally relate.
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