Costly Mistakes Hairdressers Make When Purchasing Scissors
Generally, hairdressers are exceptionally skilled when it comes to cutting hair, but know little about hairdressing scissors, with no formal training provided relating to the scissors themselves. However, knowing how to choose the correct scissor allows hairdressers to make an informed purchase decision to select the most comfortable fit for them, along with durability and value for money.
In the past, only a few scissor suppliers have made a positive impact to the industry, but sadly it is more common to hear of rogue traders with very little experience or regard for their customers, so long as they make a sale.
This free report outlines different aspects of hairdressing scissors with helpful advice to help determine how to select the best hairdressing scissors for you, and covers the following areas:
Three main techniques are used to manufacture scissors providing different results as follows:
Two-piece: uses two separate pieces of metal with the blade forged and joined to the handle and is also referred to as “handmade”.
This is the best, but most expensive way to make a scissor; the scissor is fully adjustable, and this technique is typically used in Japan or China.
Forged: the scissor is stamped from one piece of metal.
The metal is heated and hammered into shape (similar to what a blacksmith does); typically used in Europe and less often in Japan.
Cast: molten metal poured into a mould.
A cheap and quick process in comparison, if made well can be quite good but will break if adjusting is attempted; typically used in Korea with very good quality, in Taiwan with good quality at times, and in Pakistan with poor quality.
When referring to the manufacturing technique, sales people may appear to be selling a two-piece scissor that is actually cast. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to tell the difference just from looking at the scissor, and even experts struggle to tell them apart. This may in-turn lead to the product being misrepresented, either intentionally or unintentionally through ignorance.
Stainless steel is the most common metal used for the manufacture of scissors, with different grades of steel determining the quality and durability of the metal as follows:
420C stainless steel (or less than 440C)
Lower quality scissors, e.g. those sold on eBay, Wish etc.
China 440C stainless steel: industry standard providing ok quality and durability.
Japanese 440C is widely used in quality scissors, including all Shear Genius scissors Student range; it provides a good combination of hardness and durability with a mixture of stainless steel, molybdenum and cobalt.
Cobalt: about 9% cobalt is all that can be used in any alloy/combination steel, often heard about by hairdressers, cobalt is very wear resistant but also brittle; in comparison, stainless steel provides better hardness but is less wear resistance.
If someone says their scissors are fully cobalt, they have at some point been misinformed as this is not possible.
ShearGenius Scissors professional and Ultimate
Hitachi steel is considered the benchmark
Damascus steel is put forward as the “new‟ ultimate; however, this product costs over $1,000.
Above JPN 440C stainless steel includes different levels of exotic metals, e.g. platinum, chromium, tungsten, and provides the best way to describe what is changing in the scissor as the price goes up.
Generally speaking, as you go up the range of quality scissors, they generally get sharper. As they get sharper, you need to use better metals for the edge to be strong enough to hold such a sharp edge.
Made from titanium scissors, this ”metal‟ may sound appealing, but it is just the coloured coating. Titanium is used because it accepts colour infusion easily and can be “plated‟ onto the scissor and doesn’t scratch easily. Generally, coloured scissors like the Rose Gold are lesser quality tarnish and scratch and are simply coloured to make them more visually appealing. In some instances, the Black Titanium quality is very good, an example of a good quality coloured scissor is the ShearGenius Phoenix and Joewell Black Cobalt, a Japanese scissor valued at over $600.
Serrated scissors are good for blunt cuts, scissor over comb, and final trims on dry hair or around hairlines as they will not “push‟ the hair out from the tip of the scissor. There are some very expensive, high quality, Japanese serrated scissors.
Asian vs. European Scissors
The tradition of scissor manufacturing originates from Europe or Asia, with slight differences in the manufacturing techniques.
Note: scissors are sometimes marked as being from Europe but are made using the Asian manufacturing style; these scissors are all manufactured in Asia (Taiwan or Korea).
The Asian manufacturing style uses balance faces to keep the scissor blades perfectly aligned to each other; therefore, the scissor can be very lightly set with the curve of the blades toward each other from the pivot to the tip. When compared to the European style scissor, they generally feel silky smooth and are also much sharper; this is because the blades are kept aligned by the balance faces.
European style scissors work on an entirely different principle; they are very heavily set and use the pressure of the blades against each other to “mash‟ the hair. In comparison to Asian style scissors, they generally feel and sound “crunchy‟.
Determining which scissor style is best depends on what you’re using the scissors for. If it’s scissor-over-comb, the European style is probably better, as it will have less tendency to push hair or slip, and will also stand up to a bit of ”knocking around‟ (see Bevel vs. Clamshell below).You can’t help but cut the comb at some point and a European style scissor is not as sharp, so therefore not as delicate as an Asian style scissor. That’s not to say you can’t use an Asian style scissor for barbering, you just need to be a bit more careful of the scissor.
Country of Origin
With “Japanese made” regarded as the benchmark, a common misconception is that a scissor with the word “Japan” or “Japan Steel” appearing on them somewhere is Japanese manufactured. That’s okay to have the word Japan on them if it is made from 440C (or above) Japanese stainless steel and the salesperson doesn’t give the impression that the scissor is Japanese made and tells you where the scissor originated from.
Asian style scissors are measured from the finger ring to the tip, and European style scissors are generally, but not always, measured from the finger rest (1/2-inch-long) to the tip. Therefore, a 6” European style scissor is equal to a 5.5” Asian style scissor; so be sure to take this into consideration when looking to buy a new scissor, e.g. if you currently have a 6” European style scissor you need to be shown a 5.5” Asian style scissor for a true comparison.
A European style thinner has the solid blade as the front blade (also referred to as the “lower‟, “still‟ or “finger‟ blade), and is typically used for blending. An Asian style thinner has the blades in the opposite relationship to each other and can (if it’s sharp enough) be used to slice through the hair.
Set vs. Feel
As is often a huge compromise between the design and performance of the scissor, the scissor set vs. the scissor feel is described as follows:
Heavy set: great cutting performance and unlikely to “push‟ the hair out of tips
Light set: silky smooth feel but can easily “push‟ hair unless perfectly sharp
The following examples intend to provide a more detailed explanation:
Example 1 – A Kasho Millennium ($795) feels so silky smooth that you can’t help getting excited about it! They are a great scissor; however, because they are so lightly set, they do tend to push hair when only slightly dull.
Example 2 – A Hikari Beam ($1,385) or a Fuji DXGF ($1,140) feel a little “crunchy‟ and you can be excused for thinking they’re not a high-quality scissor. They both cut brilliantly and will not “push “even when they are overdue for servicing. One reason they are more expensive is because they are heavily set and the blades are pushing against each other with more force, so they need to be made from higher quality metals to compensate for the eventual wear.
Determining Correct Size
Although there is no absolute method for determining the correct scissor size for an individual hairdresser, and it depends on how they are using the scissor to some extent, the following guideline may prove useful, particularly for apprentices.
The only guideline is, assuming it’s a right-handed cutter; line up the tip side of the pivot point of the scissor with the tip of their left index finger. The longest possible scissor would leave the tip of the scissor just short of the “V‟ between the index and second fingers.
Amusingly, some well-known salons have hairdressers using extremely large scissors in relation to their physical height. It looks like they’ve got hedge shears in their hand!
Bevel vs. Clamshell (Convex)
Referring specifically to the blade of the scissor, a “bevel” is where the outside edge is cut in one angle from the rest of the blade, and a “clam-shell‟ is where the whole outside of the blade is one continuous curve from the shoulder to the cutting edge.
Generally, clam-shell edge scissors are sharper than bevel edge scissors, with a clam-shell edge having absolutely no effect whatsoever on the cutting performance or action of the scissor. Although it is purely intended for visual appeal, the clam-shell blade is more likely to supports a very sharp edge with a greater thickness of metal closer to the edge.
At times you may see scissors that appear to be clam-shells, but on closer inspection you notice a tiny bevelled edge; done for ease and speed. Shear Genius recreate full clam-shells on all clam-shell scissors.
Straight vs. Offset
Straight or “opposing” scissors are where the finger and thumb rings are directly in-line with each other. Offset is where the thumb ring is further forward than the finger ring.
Which is better? In general, an offset scissor is ergonomically better than straight, because your thumb more naturally closes aligned to your index finger than with your ring finger. Therefore, the further forward your thumb is in the scissor, the more natural the action and the less strain on the arm. In addition, the lower your elbow the less strain on your shoulder, potentially preventing serious injury over the long-term.
Exceptions to this are that the longer the scissor, the less important the offset is; and quite simply, some people just can’t get comfortable with an offset scissor.
Balance of the Scissor
A well-balanced scissor has a constant pressure for the whole closing action from the jaw to the tip.
There is no such thing as an either-handed scissor! You will find either right-handed scissors or left-handed scissors, but it is not possible to have both a right- and left-handed scissor.
A right-handed scissor has the finger blade at the front when in your hand. If you put it in your left-hand the finger blade will be at the back.
A left-handed scissor is a mirror image of a right-handed scissor and the finger blade will be at the front blade when it’s in your left hand.
Years ago, it wasn’t possible to purchase left-handed scissors, which is why it is not uncommon to meet older, left-handed hairdressers using right-handed scissors. They unfortunately had to adapt to what was available at the time.
The natural human action with a scissor is to push forward with your thumb, and often you don’t even know you’re doing it. If the scissor blades are in the correct relationship for the hand they’re being used in, the thumb blade will be the back blade and therefore the blades will get pushed together by your natural action. If it were the other way around, the blades would be being pushed apart instead of together.
A left-handed hairdresser using right-handed scissors has had to learn to “hook‟ their thumb and pull back on the thumb ring in order to push the blades together to make the scissor cut properly. This is often terrible for their carpal tunnel, causing a great deal of pain.
Anyone who sells a right-handed scissor to a left-handed apprentice or very early stage hairdresser is unfortunately likely to be committing that young person to a long life of pain and a short career!
“If you drop your scissors, they’re worthless” – said by scissor sales people to increase sales of new scissors, although untrue.
“These scissors go back to Japan for sharpening” – unless they’re Joewell’s, that’s not the case because Japanese factories have not undertaken retail sharpening for many years.
“You can get a good scissor from Pakistan” – untrue!
This section covers the two most commonly used clippers in the Hairdressing industry.
Firstly, the Wahl Taper in its entire configurations i.e. Super taper, Stirling and the new Wahl Stirling 4 which uses the new and vastly improved Shunt motor.
Secondly, the nearly unbreakable Wahl cordless rechargeable trimmer.
What do you use to clean the clipper with? Usually hairdressers use the neck brush. There is no point in using a neck brush as this merely glosses over the outside and can’t get into where the build-up is, which is in the gaps between the teeth. Sometimes it’s that pathetic weenie brush the clipper manufactures supply with a new clipper. Sometimes I think the manufacturers want the clipper to self-destruct ASAP. I recommend using an old strong bristled tint brush or old toothbrush.
The recommended oiling regime is to put two drops of Wahl Clipper oil on the top blade and work it in by working the lever arm before every haircut. Yes, every haircut.
The reason is without oil the clippers will not work properly without oil and after one haircut the clipper will not be working 100%
Furthermore, on top of the recommended oiling regime I recommend carrying out what I call a “Pommy Bath” once a week.
A “Pommy Bath” is a heavy oiling that washes out [most...hence the term] of the hair from between the blades. It’s much easier than the proper [but difficult to line the blades up back again] method of taking off the blades and doing it.
“Once a week take the clipper [if possible] to a basin and put plenty of clipper oil on the top and bottom blade and in the gap between the blades. Turn the clipper on and work the lever arm back and forth and tipping the clipper on its side to help break up the hair. Put more oil on [oil will be dripping out and breaking up and carrying the dirty black
ground up hair with it]. Keep doing this until you find the oil is running fairly clean. You won’t get it all. You can’t over oil a clipper. “
There are countless times I have been handed a clipper and by merely giving it a Pommy bath and a Tune, got it working again. This is not to say a full service wouldn’t make it better still, but at least the clipper would cut again and get you out of trouble.
Should the clipper play up, perform the “Pommy Bath” and then a Tune and wait to see how the clipper works before calling in Matt for a service. In most cases, [apart from a drop or some electrical problem] this is a fix.
With the clipper clean, oiled and going, hold the clipper level with the lever arm up, that is in close to the skin cutting position. Proceed to screw in the black tuning screw clockwise until the clipper makes “that horrible chattering noise,” and then reverse the screw out until it stops, then reverse it out a further one quarter of a turn. Do it a couple of times to make sure of correct tuning.
There you have the main things that make a clipper work i.e. the cleaning, oiling, tuning and blade tension. When they are in harmony the clipper is balanced. All the other screws and parts are basic.
WAHL TAPER The Assessment
Visually check for a cracked case. Wahl still uses that pathetic relic from the 40s i.e. that hard, brittle Bakelite type material that cracks should it be dropped or strips the threads out if any undue pressure is put on any of the screws. Should the case be cracked, it is usually best to replace the clipper be replaced as the case, coil, blades and most likely cord, also the switch may need replacing.
Check the power of the Coil by tuning the clipper. Should the Coil give off any wrong sounds, [sort of a dull muffled missing sound rather than that sharp loud chattering sound] I recommend the clipper be replaced or at the very least you may need new blades to be fitted. Very likely more parts will be needed, most likely a new coil. Sometimes a new set of blades are a fix but very likely the coil is weak and in no time, they just stop in the hair.
Electrical: Give the cord a pull and twist to check for wire fractures and operate the switch to check for any faults. Any power problem, you may need your cord replaced. The post, [set in the case and not replaceable] that the switch arcs on sometimes get burnt and pitted, so the switch won’t work as it should. Better to buy a new one.
I cannot stress enough that, though these Wahl Taper clippers are an easy thing to fix, they at best, only just work, and any little thing wrong results in them not working. If you are at all concerned don’t attempt a fix.
These clippers don’t require any tuning and are thus an easy fix. There are several things that can go wrong with them.
Blades need replacing if any teeth are missing, the plastic piece between the blades break, or if they are plain dull.
Batteries need replacing if they won’t take a charge or run out of power too fast. On older models a new wiring harness needs soldering in to enable the easy click in/out of the ni-cad batteries.
Putting a dob of Sewing machine grease on the plastic White Cam slide will make the Trimmer run nice and quiet. Purchase a tube.
On occasion a motor needs replacing as do switches.
Scissor Sharpening – A ShearGenius Speciality
As trained blade-smiths with 20 years of industry experience, your precious scissors will be sharpened by experts.
We use a 6-step water-cooled abrasive process, with diamond honing and finishing on a Japanese water stone. (The stone itself is worth more than a lot of the scissors it sharpens!)
Your scissors will undergo a complete service including resetting and re-balancing, and we also replace bump stops and tension washers at no charge and carry a large range of parts for most scissors on the market.
We sharpen to factory specifications on all brands of scissors, and shape tips to the individual hairdresser’s preference, e.g. fine, medium or thick.
Our mobile service is Victorian based, and our in-salon service will have your scissors back in your hands in about 20 minutes (depending on scissor type). We also offer loan scissors at no cost whilst we rejuvenate your blades, if required.
In most cases we can do everything that needs to be done to a scissor in- salon; however, if we do come across a problem requiring the workshop well loan you a scissor and return your scissor once repaired.
With clients including most franchised and “named” stores for many years, you’ll be glad you chose ShearGenius for your upcoming sharpening service. All our work is guaranteed, and you get to test your scissors before we leave.
If you have other questions regarding your equipment or any of our products, feel free to reach out to us. Contact us today.