by David Thomas May 11, 2023
By David Thomas
There are two common scissor problems that have plagued families for centuries. One is, "Where are my good scissors when I need them?!" Hands up if your parents left crappy scissors around the house and hid their fabric or embroidery scissors for serious work.
Number two crops up when someone actually finds the good scissors and wants to cut paper. If that happens, blood pressure rises, things are thrown and tears are cried. Time to call the police.
If there were a bible for scissors, the tailors-shears-used-for-cutting-paper thing would definitely be Old Testament. Everyone would learn the parable of the little boy who cut papyrus with the pinking shears. Fear of God instilled? Check.
Scissor Memes: It’s not just us. Social media is obsessed with the horror of cutting paper with fabric scissors:
But why all the fuss? Is it really so bad to use fabric or embroidery scissors to cut paper?
Short answer, damned straight. Why? Obviously, scissors are capable of cutting paper. The problem is all the stuff that comes off the paper. That includes different fibres, as well as materials and minerals added to the wood pulp in manufacturing to make paper stronger.
Particles of kaolin clay, titanium oxide, talc and calcium carbonate are among the culprits. They create a film of grit and dirt which will quickly dull the blade and, even more quickly, drive the owner of those scissors into a frenzy.
The longer answer? Still yes, but the risk might sometimes be exaggerated. In fact, if you wipe your scissors right away, you can limit the impact. We have to acknowledge that people who love their fabric and embroidery scissors know these are fine instruments designed to create beautiful things. So, they are going to get protective and they may just hate you for even taking the risk of making them dull.
An additional, more important note of caution – the risk of personal harm grows 50-fold if you mess with a hairdresser’s scissors to cut anything. Don’t go there. (Quality hair shears are super high quality and very expensive.)
Why are fabric and embroidery scissors so sharp?
You need quality steel to make sharp blades. These are working tools that need to be super sharp or they will tear at fabrics and threads. The blade for fabric shears is also made on a sharp angle, to provide added cutting precision – and that makes them even more vulnerable to damage.
Quality carbon steel, hot forging and further hardening during manufacturing allows a craftsperson to create a blade that gets sharper and stays sharper than ordinary scissors. Read more on how to make quality artisanal scissors.
Let's be careful to not leave the impression that paper scissors are of lesser quality. They aren't; it's just they are made differently. All heritage artisanal scissors are beautiful, quality things. Fashioned painstakingly by hand from quality ingredients, paper scissors are made with a blunter angle that supplies more power to withstand the impact of repeat cuts and lint/fibre buildup. It’s also a good idea to give your scissors a regular wipe after you use them to cut open your cardboard, plastic and shipping envelopes.
Browse paper, fabric and craft scissors at Ciselier
Our journal: Read more about sidebents, stork scissors and kitchen shears
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