Welcome to our guide on scissors!
A tool so versatile and helpful, it is a common item found in almost every household. We have curated this article to help you understand more on this useful object by providing information ranging from how it came to be to what are the best models currently on the market.
Continue reading to learn more!
What is the history of scissors?
The first use of scissors dates all the way back to 1,500 B.C., where they were used by ancient Egyptians. The design of these ancient scissors was essentially a single piece of metal, typically bronze, fashioned into two blades that were controlled by a metal strip, which kept the blades apart until they were squeezed. It was presumed that each blade was referred to as a scissor; therefore, collectively, they were scissors.
Egyptian bronze shears were also unique art objects. Following Alexander’s conquest of Egypt, a high degree of craftmanship illustrated the shears to display influences from Greek culture as well as the decorative traits from the Nile culture. Decorative male and female figures complemented each other on each blade.
The use of scissors expanded beyond ancient Egypt through trade and adventure of travelers.
Eventually, the ancient Egyptians’ design of scissors were adapted by the Romans in 100 A.D. into the cross-blade scissors that were more similar to the ones we are accustomed with today. Their modified version of the scissors had two blades that slid past each other, and a pivot was situated between the tip and the handles to create a cutting effect between the two blades. As the ancient Egyptians typically used bronze, the Romans would also use iron.
Although the development of cross-bladed scissors majorly occurred in the First Century, it became a pivotal tool for barbers and tailors in the Fifth Century.
Historians are not exactly sure who the actual inventor of scissors is. Leonardo da Vinci has often been credited with inventing scissors but this is inaccurate as scissors have existed centuries before his lifetime. However, the father of modern scissors is Robert Hinchliffe of Sheffield, England.
In 1761, Robert Hinchliffe was the first to use steel to manufacture and mass-produce scissors for public purchasing. This was more than 200 years after da Vinci’s death.
Furthermore, in 1863 Louise Austin of Whatcom, Washington invented and patented pinking shears “to facilitate pinking and scalloping and as a marked improvement over ordinary pinking irons and tools.”
Why is it called ‘scissors’?
The modern word scissors actually derives from the word sisoures, which appeared in the late 14th century.
The word sisoures itself has a long history of its origin: from Old French cisoires, the plural word of ‘shears’; from Vulgar Latin cisoria (plural) meaning ‘cutting instrument;’ from cisus (in compounds such as Latin excisus, past participle of excidere, meaning ‘to cut out’); and ultimately from Latin caedere, which means ‘to cut’.
What types of scissors are there?
Scissors exist in a wide variety of forms depending on their intended uses.
Children’s scissors are designed to ensure safety, while scissors used to cut hair or fabric must be much sharp. Then there are specialized scissors, such as sewing scissors, which often have one sharp point and one blunt point for intricate cutting of fabric, and nail scissors, which have curved blades for cutting fingernails and toenails.
Below are some of the most common ones.
Also referred to as ‘safety scissors’, these are typically used for cutting paper, such as for arts and crafts, and are specifically designed to have dull blades, or blades encased in plastic, to ensure safety.
This is a type of specialized scissors which are specifically designed for cutting and trimming hair. There are also unique scissors for clipping fingernails and toenails.
For the former, these are also informally referred to as barber shears, hair shears or hairdressing shears. They are drastically sharper than other scissors and have a smooth edge. Furthermore, they have a finger brace that is attached to one of the finger loops to give the user added benefit of increased control.
As the name suggests, these are scissors used for sewing purposes. However, sewing is the general term, which can be broken down to more specialized types that carry out different sewing procedures. Some of these include: dressmaker’s shears, tailor’s scissors, pinking shears, buttonhole scissors, and appliqué scissors.
1. Dressmaker’s shears
These have distinctive features which make them the perfect tool for cutting fabric. They can be used to cut a number of layers of fabric at the same time. Furthermore, they have one blade that is pointy and knife-edged, to allow for effortlessly smooth fabric cutting, and another blade that is round and smooth, to prevent the fabric’s seams from snagging.
2. Tailor’s scissors
These are typically for cutting through heavy, thick fabrics, leather or multiple fabric layers. They comprise of two thick, razor-sharp blades with precise edges that make cutting very smooth. They are also commonly used by quilters, sewers and crafters and are highly popular for beginner sewers.
3. Pinking shears
These are scissors which have saw-toothed, jagged blades for many purposes. The saw-tooth design restricts the length of free tattered threads and minimizing any damage to the cloth being cut; avoids fabric fraying along the seams; and creates a zigzagged edge for the fabric.
4. Buttonhole scissors
A pair of buttonhole scissors has a top blade which has a blunt distal end with a tapered cutting edges along its inside and a lower blade which has a sharp distal end, also with a tapered inside.
A unique feature that this kind of scissors has is that when the two blades slide over each other, both of the inner surfaces close inwards.
As the name suggests, these short-bladed scissors are used for opening buttonholes and replacing buttons.
5. Appliqué scissors
These scissors have unique blades that are shaped like paddles. This is to help easily move away fabric while cutting, maintain controlled trimming along the stitching seam and prevent fabric from getting damaged.
These are typically preferred for fabric that is being appliquéd and in rug making.
Embroidery scissors are usually more delicate than other kinds of scissors, making them ideal for miniscule snips as usually required in embroidery work.
They typically have sharp, curved blades that can fit between threads. They can cut close to the fabric without damaging it in the process.
Crafting scissors or all-purpose scissors
Crafting or all-purpose scissors have long blades with pointed edges to specially assist in making straight and smooth cuts. This makes it ideal for many kinds of fabric and material, ranging from paper for arts and crafts to fabric for sewing.
These are scissors that are specifically for cutting and trimming plants, such as shrubs, bushes and flowers. There are various kinds, including hedge trimmers, grass shears and pruning shears.
Hedge trimmers are available as manual use and powered. As the name implies, they are meant for trimming, cutting and snipping hedges, shrubs and bushes. Therefore, they come in various sizes, some that are so big they require two hands to operate.
Grass shears are to assist with manual trimming off grass by hand, for when lawn mowers may not give adequate or even cutting. Therefore, they are not used as much nowadays as there are powered alternatives. Regardless, this kind of scissors, or shears, typically come in two types: one with horizontal blades, for removing grass missed by a lawn mower, and one with vertically-attached blades, for trimming the boundaries of a lawn.
Lastly, pruning shears are not just used by gardeners but also by farmers and florists. This type of scissors are uniquely designed with long handles and thick blades to cut branches.
There are generally two kinds of medical scissors.
One is the bandage, or nurse’s, scissors which are small in size and have short blades, with the top blade having a blunt edge and the bottom blade having a sharp and pointed tip, to enable it to cut open bandages without harming the patient’s skin.
The other one is trauma shears which have a long lever arm and metal blades that are usually bent at an angle of 150 degrees; its unique design allows paramedics and medical practitioners to cut materials of clothing off injured patients quickly and efficiently without injuring them.
What is the difference between left-handed scissors and right-handed scissors?
Essentially, when one opens a pair of scissors, the blade on the right side will move upwards while the blade on the left side will move downwards. If you are left-handed, this feature may obscure your view of the line or fabric that you are trying to cut.
Therefore, in left-handed scissors, the blade on the left-hand side is the one that moves upwards.
Furthermore, the thumb-blade is closer to the user’s body for right-handed scissors while the opposite applies for left-handed scissors.
What is currently the best scissors on the market?
Based on Offers.com, the September 2020’s top pick for all-purpose scissors is the Westcott 13901 8 Straight Titanium Bonded Scissors.
For a discounted price from $9.88 to $6.99 a pair, these scissors come in a pack of two pairs, in which each have gray and yellow-colored handles and titanium-bonded blades, which are 3x harder than stainless steel.
How are scissors maintained?
No matter what kind of scissor you own, here are some tips on keeping it in top shape.
- Clean your pair of scissors after use with water and dish soap.
- Use a paint thinner to help remove any sticky residue or dirt.
- Use acetone nail polish remover to help remove glue.
- Use white vinegar to wipe the blades if they have become rusted.
- Oil the joint of the blades to the screw area regularly.
- Protect the inner edges of the scissors by always closing them when they are not in use.
- Store the pair of scissors in a compartment, piece of fabric or individual storage box to keep it from coming into contact with other objects.
- Never keep a pair of scissors in a humid place, such as the bathroom, to prevent it from rusting.
Scissors are handheld tools that have been used by humans for centuries. Its use has expanded from merely being a decorative piece to a wide range of various functional purposes, from grooming to gardening. It is important to maintain a pair of scissors by regular cleaning and proper storage to keep it in good shape.
- “Who Invented Scissors?,” ThoughtCo, 2019, https://www.thoughtco.com/who-invented-scissors-4070946
- “scissors (n.),” Online Etymology Dictionary, https://www.etymonline.com/word/scissors
- “Scissors,” MadeHow, http://www.madehow.com/Volume-3/Scissors.html
- “16 Different Types of Scissors,” Homestratosphere, https://www.homestratosphere.com/types-of-scissors/
- “What’s the Difference Between Right and Left Handed Scissors?,” Griffin Occupational Therapy, 2020, https://www.griffinot.com/difference-left-handed-scissors/
- “Best Scissors,” Offers.com, 2020, https://best.offers.com/best-scissors
- “Westcott 8″ Titanium Bonded Scissors, 2 Scissors, Gray/Yellow (13901),” Westcott, 2020, https://www.amazon.com/Westcott-Titanium-Scissors-Straight-Handle-13901/dp/B000P0LNRE?tag=offersamzn-20&ascsubtag=bst-13-1677614658033354353
- “How to Sharpen, Clean, and Care for Your Scissors,” Martha Stewart, 2017, https://www.marthastewart.com/1523005/how-to-sharpen-clean-and-care-scissors