- Straight: A straight blade is used for most applications in cutting hair, both for people and pets.
- Curved: A curved blade is ideal for cutting on curved lines to preserve and enhance the natural shape and pattern of the hair without leaving unwanted lines.
- Toothed: Shears with teeth are called thinning shears, texturizing shears, blenders, and chunkers, and they can be used to make dense, poofy hair or fur stand out less, and control the shape of the cut without removing all of the hair. This makes it an effective blending tool, used to make two different hair lengths mesh, and look more like a natural taper, which is great for removing lines and chunks.
The main purpose of the screw is to give the owner the ability to tune the tension on their shear. A shear can have a thumb screw that can be adjusted by hand, or a flat screw that is adjusted with a screwdriver. It depends on your preference
Screws can sometimes be customized to your aesthetic preference, and many brands use it as a space to place their logo and add a signature look to their shear.
Anatomy of a Shear
A proper shear comes with a variety of options that serve multiple functions for stylists, barbers, and grooming professionals. It should not only cut hair with easy every time you use it, but also last a long time, be resharpenable, and the design should be ergonomic to prevent carpal tunnel and other health issues.
Having all the premium features you need and want in a shear is not only possible - it’s also affordable. Make sure you know what work you need from your shear, and buy the tool that is best optimized for your needs.
The bend you see in the handle at number 3 is the hand rest. Depending on preference, you can find shears with no hand rest at all, or with varyingly acute bends to the left. The purpose of the hand rest is twofold. It provides a comfortable place to rest your fingers which, in return, gives more control and ease for cutting without having to open and close the blades as frequently.
The ergonomic shape from a bent hand rest can dramatically reduce the wrist contortions required from stylists and groomers, and therefore helps reduce fatigue and chronic injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
The swivel shown in the example above allows the user full control over the tilt and direction of the blade, while minimizing arm movements. This reduces many of the aches that come from holding awkward positions for extended periods of time, and helps prevent chronic injuries caused this way.
This is a great feature for pet groomers who have to deal with clients that have hair on every surface of their body, at every angle, and tend not to cooperate.
Other aspects of the shear that you should think about are the weight, size, and the thumb rest, if you’re looking at a shear without a swivel.
There are advantages and disadvantages to the weight of a shear. For example, a larger shear with heavy blades cuts through hair quicker. It’s similar to the weight of an axe: the blade simply has the mass to chop through wood. When cutting thick hair over large surface areas, a large, heavy shear can be a great asset. In unexperienced hands, however, their is the increased chance of taking off too much hair, too easily.
Maneuvering heavy shears for long durations of time also tends to strains tendons and ligaments. For this reason alone, many stylists and groomers want the lightest-weight shear available for doing the majority of their work.
The size of your shear should fit your task. While many hair stylists, barbers, and groomers will use one shear more than their others, there are situations where specialized tools are called for, especially among pet groomers.
For pet groomers, cutting hair around the feet of any dog, much less a small dog, is a clumsy endeavor if you bring in a large tool to navigate through all the tiny spaces. Working around the face isn’t better. This is where a smaller sized shear really shines.
Longer shears are great for cutting hair off large surface areas (i.e., large dogs or animals). Having more surface volume to cut means more cutting, and long shears will do the job much faster than smaller ones.
Ergonomic Thumb Rest
The ergonomic thumb rest is difficult to see in an image because 2D images don’t provide depth. What makes a thumb rest ergonomic is a 15-20 degree tilt outwards, away from your hand. This feature forces you to use the tip of your thumb to control the scissor, instead of pushing the whole finger through, which also reduces the stress on your wrist, tendons, and ligaments.
Determining the Quality of Shears
When you buy your tools, it’s essential that you understand what you are buying. There is always a sales pitch to promise you the world, but to make a good decision you need to boil your decision down to the objective facts, not the fancy packaging or the price tag.
All salespeople like to say that there is simple quality/cost relationship, where higher cost yields better quality. It makes sense for a salesperson, because a higher price yield a bigger paycheck for them, but to get the best deal, it’s better to really understand the fundamentals of what makes a good shear.
All scissor steels are high carbon stainless steels, containing about 1% carbon. Any more would make them too brittle, and prone to chipping or breaking, which means that improving beyond this ceiling requires the alloying of other elements. A favorite for scissor and knife stainless steels is to add molybdenum, which is an element that bonds to chromium and produces an alloy that resists wear better that regular high-grade stainless steels. All of the steel grades below contain molybdenum.
Other elements in these steels are added, either to make them tougher, to make them easier to work with, or to make them harder without making them more brittle. Keep in mind that the difference between these steels can be minor, whereas the price difference can be huge.
Often you pay a premium to get the very best, not because it’s 3 times harder or tougher than the second best choice, but just because it’s the best.
Since they have about the same carbon and chromium content, all of these steels max out on the Rockwell hardness scale within 58-60 HRC after heat treatment. While that range does contain somewhat noticeable differences, the difference between these steel grades is primarily the toughness and wear resistance of the shear.
This is a famed Japanese stainless steel alloy containing 15% chromium and 4% molybdenum. It is a metallurgical masterpiece from Japan, yielding a harder and more durable product than other high carbon stainless steels. It is a favorite material for hand-forged shears, and is considered the best material money can buy.
This is also a Japanese steel alloy containing 15% chromium 1% molybdenum, 0.2% vanadium, and 1.5% cobalt. It is an excellent steel that is harder and more durable than 440C, but not quite on the level of ATS 314, and therefore more affordable.
This is a Japanese steel alloy that contains 15% chromium and 0.4% molybdenum. This steel contains the basic essentials of the V10 steel, without the frills that put V10 at the top of the series. It costs less than V10, and performs similarly.
This is the bread and butter of high carbon stainless steel for blades and shears. It can contains 18% chromium, 0.75% molybdenum, 1% manganese, and 1% silicon. It is the most commonly used tool steel in grooming and hair cutting shears, due to its quality and its affordability.
What is Hitachi Steel?
The top three steel grades listed above were invented by a Japanese company named Takefu Special Steel Co. The only company licensed to produce Takefu’s high carbon stainless steels is Hitachi, and so, Hitachi is a sought after premium brand in the stainless steel market.
Common Hitachi steels are ATS 314, V1, and V10. The V series is often referred to as VG in English, and VK in Japanese. This is because the “G”, stands for gold. The letter changed to be the first letter of the word gold, in whatever language you are speaking. For this reason, we prefer to simply call it V1 and V10.
Shears: Forged vs Cast
Casting processes are easier to automate than forging. It is done by pouring molten metal into a mold and allowing it to cool and harden. This slow cooling process allows the metal to form large crystals, which leads to a brittle structure, that has to be corrected through subsequent heat treating and quenching to yield a reliable, high quality shear.
Forging is a labor intensive process that uses force to push the malleable metal into the desired shape. High level techniques put extra pressure on the edge to form a harder, more dense material, that will retain an edge better than any other method.
Keep in mind that either one of these methods can be executed poorly, and result in a bad product. The best possible outcome requires forging, but the more reliable process is casting.