What is the best way to test and see if your shears are sharp? As a sharpener, I put shears through more than one test to see if they are performing. As a stylist, your first test is strangely enough, to check the tension. Many shears will seem dull and will not perform because the tension is too loose. Sometimes the scissors will feel sharp when they are really dull because the tension is too tight. There are several great videos that show how to adjust the tension.
- Video on how to adjust the scissor screw tension if you have a knob type adjusting screw
- Video on how to adjust the scissor screw tension if you have a regular screw
- Video on how to adjust the scissor screw tension if you have an odd “UFO” type screw
Once you are sure your adjustment is correct my suggestion is to give your shears these three test:
- Cut hair. Is it pushing, snagging, folding or requiring more pressure?
- Cut some dry tissue with your scissors using as little side pressure as possible. (Yes, I know you are told not to cut paper, but this is just for a test and it is thin, clean tissue.) Let the shears slowly close together. This may find problems to the hair cutting may miss such as tips that pull, nicks and more.
- The final test is to cut single ply wet Puff tissue or similar product. If it tears instead of cuts this is the first indication your shears need sharpening.
I find that as a sharpener a shear may seem to cut hair but fails on of the other tests and vice versa. Each test is looking for something different.
Cutting hair tells me how thin an angle is on the shear. Is the edge still crisp or has it rolled over?
Cutting dry tissue tells me if there is a consistent edge all the way down the shears or have some of the blade ceased to perform.
Cutting wet tissue indicates if there are nicks or burs remaining on the edge. Roughness of any kind will cause the cut to be ragged. The shears may cut hair with a straight cut sufficiently but will drag when attempting to slide cut.
If the shears are quiet this indicates if the inside ride area was sharpened correctly. If they are noisy they will probably fail the wet tissue test but pass the hair cut test. If the shears are quiet but push hair they may cut the wet tissue perfectly but the outside edge was not sharpened to a crisp sharp angle. Testing by shaving the hair on the arm, catching the edge against a plastic pen and feeling the grab or testing by gently touching with your thumb can indicate the small angle of the edge but will not tell you if the burs and nicks are gone.
As you see there are several methods needed to determine whether shears are sharp. The responsibility of the stylist is to be sure that shears are kept sharp and are honed correctly before they get to the point where they are chewing the hair and causing frizz and split ends. Test your shears in these manners every 2 – 3 months to see where your edge is and after a sharpening if you feel your shears are not performing as expected. Before calling a different sharpener, give your current sharpener a chance to see what the problem is. Most reputable sharpeners, as does Bonika Shears, gives a warranty period of up to 30 days on their sharpening even if the problem is due to something that happens to the shears after the sharpener leaves.
New shears and freshly sharpened shears often need a 2 – 3 haircut break-in period for smoothness but a shear that has been sharpened incorrectly will usually be recognizable right away and will fail one of these sharpness tests.