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Professional Shear Sharpening Advice From A Bladesmith

By Scissor Tech

shear sharpening tips

At Scissor Tech, we know all about professional shear sharpening thanks to our experiences of working with world-renown bladesmiths. We ourselves don’t sharpen shears, but we’re definitely into helping you care for your hairdressing and barber shears. Especially if you’ve purchased your hair shears from us!

We want you to have a long and happy relationship with your professional handcrafted steel shears. A big part of that long life is keeping them sharp.

So we interviewed an experienced bladesmith in order to pass on the information to you, so you’ll know everything that’s important about professional shear sharpening.

If you’re new to hairdressing and you need a bladesmith to sharpen your shears, we recommend you ask a colleague to refer one or do a little research and ask a few questions before trusting your investment to a bladesmith.

disassembled hair shears

Q. What should I consider when looking for a bladesmith for shear sharpening?

Some people will tell you mobile bladesmiths aren’t as good as those with a shopfront but it’s not true. Mobile bladesmiths are usually just as experienced and have access to the same equipment from their van. Being mobile, you won’t have to leave the salon so it’s a convenient option for many hairdressers and barbers.  You also get your shears back the same day normally within the hour.

When deciding on a bladesmith, ask if you will have access to loan shears while yours are being sharpened. You may be without your shears for half an hour to an hour, even longer if the salon has several pairs it needs sharpened. You should expect a pair of loan shears that are of similar or better quality to what you’re using. Often the loan shears are a good indication of how much a bladesmith cares about what they do.

Q. How often should you do sharpen your hair shears?

Most hairdressing shears need to be sharpened every 3-12 months depending on how they’re being used. But a hairdresser who is only cutting part of their day because they do colour treatments and blow waves may be able to leave it 12 months between sharpenings. A hairdresser who only cuts and barbers will likely need to have their shears sharpened quarterly. But it’s personal preference, what feels sharp to one person might seem blunt to another.

If shears are dropped, they need resharpening. Some people think dropped shears are rendered useless but that’s not the case as long as the tip hasn’t been broken off.

Most professional quality shears can be sharpened 10 or more times before they need replacing.

Q. How does a hairdresser know their shears need sharpening?

A blunt pair of shears will cause the hair to bend, fold, catch or push off the shears. Dropped shears also need sharpening. Sometimes shears need servicing and sharpening because they have been used on clients’ hair that’s dirty. When a client visits the salon or barber shop with sand or dust in their hair, the particles blunt the shears. Hair products such as gel or mousse can leave a sticky residue on shears that is hard to remove without servicing.

shear sharpening tool of the trade

Ever seen one of these?

Q. How does a bladesmith sharpen shears?

A bladesmith starts by checking the baseline for how the shears are working before taking them apart. The shears are stripped down and checked for nicks, corrosion and rust which are taken off.

The shears are then put on a custom-made hairdressing sharpening machine. These are specially designed and can cost many thousands. The machines allow very fine adjustments to be made to half a degree to the current blade angle or the angle can be completely changed to match the style of cutting required. The shears are closely inspected to ensure the blade is balanced, even along the length.

The shears are buffed and polished. The tip of the shears is shaped to make them safe and to provide some protection in case they’re dropped in future.

The reassembled shears are tested by cutting a piece of folded wet tissue. The cut should be a straight line that follows the line of the blade. If the shears aren’t cutting properly, the tissue won’t have a clean cut and may be frayed at the end. If the shears don’t pass the tissue test, they’re taken apart for more work.

Q. Can a bladesmith damage a pair of shears if they sharpen them incorrectly?

Yes, if the stone used to rebalance the shears is too coarse, the ryde line can be damaged or the shears won’t polish up to a high shine and will catch and pull.

Lower quality machines don’t have multiple honing discs so the carbide and aluminium oxide discs need changing to get the best finish on the shears. Changing discs can be time consuming so a bladesmith can be tempted to use the one disc.

Bladesmiths with high quality machines have ready access to five discs, and the knowledge from the manufacturer to provide a better quality finish.

Q. Are Japanese made shears sharpened differently to German shears?

Yes, it’s much quicker to sharpen German shears because there is no ryde line like Japanese shears have.

The other differences between the two types of shears are Japanese shears are hollow ground and German shears are flat. German scissors are robust so they’re better for barbers but don’t have the razor sharp edge that Japanese shears have.

Q. How do you sharpen thinning shears? Do you worry about all the teeth?

Yes, the teeth are rebalanced on a flat stone. They go through a few different grades of flat stone before buffing off. Depending on the number of teeth, they can be finicky to sharpen properly.

The folded tissue test is used to check all of the teeth are sharp.

Q. When do you know that a pair of shears can’t be sharpened again?

Some bladesmiths will tell you your shears can no longer be sharpened but it is often not true. High quality shears can usually be sharpened around 10 or more times before they need to be replaced.

Q. Do old shears need to be thrown out or can they still be used for something?

Old shears can be repurposed with a harder angle.

So cutting shears used on women’s hair can have a harder angle added and used on men’s hair for shears over comb cuts.

Fine serrations can be added to shears so they feel sharper for longer and are ideal for cutting straight lines.


Thanks for coming by the Scissor Tech Blog!

NEXT POST: Our Top 3 Best Professional Hair Shears Brands


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About Scissor Tech

Scissor Tech has been established since 1998. And we are now expanding our range to sell our products online and overseas. We have been providing a professional, reliable mobile service exclusively to hairdressers & barbers for the past 18 years. This includes sharpening and servicing left handed, thinning and texturing scissors.

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