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Understanding the Basics of Shear and Scissor Sharpening

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Today is the last day in the office before our annual Sharpeners Jam. I have been working with knowledgeable shear sharpeners and have been sharpening for so many years I often take for granite that the average shear sharpener has a fundamental idea of the complexities and geometry of Japanese style shears. I also assume that even if their sharpening technique and equipment is different they are reaching for the same goal based on returning the stylist shear to the original edge. My assumptions are wrong.

When I first began sharpening I did not understand the purpose and the shape of the hone or ride-line. I was clueless about the shear set and alignment. But because I practiced with the philosophy “Do no harm” I was able to restore an edge on a shear that was not badly damaged by using very smooth ceramic stones and using hand sharpening to follow the angles and edges on the shears. Unless the shears were damaged by a previous sharpener or had very deep nicks, I could bring a shear back to a performing level and my customers were happy … well most of them. I had this nagging doubt that I really didn’t know all I should.

Today, I still don’t know all that I should, but I have a better understanding of the shear edge. I have toured three scissor making factories and trained with sharpeners from factories from 3 different countries. What I learned is techniques and machinery is different but there are still fundamentals that all sharpeners must abide by. This is important for sharpeners to know as well as the owners of quality shears so they can assess whether their sharpener is following those principles.

Like me in the early years, my technique was not always perfect but I met success in most of my cases. There are sharpeners who have good reviews but have not updated their techniques, knowledge and equipment. They do this by attending sharpening conventions and investing in themselves and their profession. They do this through certification programs that prove not only to the stylist but more importantly to themselves that they know what they are doing.

In 2012, I spoke at the National Beauty Tool Sharpeners Guild Convention with a presentation entitled “Sharpening Shears – Back to Basics.” I was the first woman to speak to the convention. In that presentation I covered this information that is essential to know no matter what technique or equipment for sharpening scissors a sharpener might use. This video should make my point. Please watch all three parts.