Sharpening Blades on Professional Hairdressing Scissors

August 26, 2020

It can be tricky knowing when to send your hairdressing or barber scissors in for a trim of their own. You know the scissors aren’t as sharp as they once were but is it really time to call in the bladesmith?

What Does a Bladesmith Do?

A traditional bladesmith is someone who makes steel knives and swords over a forge using an anvil and hammer. But with most scissors and knives made in Japan and Germany, most of New Zealand’s bladesmiths are kept busy maintaining professional knives and scissors. 

When to Sharpen your Scissors 

It's difficult to tell that the scissors need sharpening as the blade’s edge deteriorates slowly. But here are a few sure-fire signs that you should make plans to have your scissors sharpened.

  • Hair bends or folds in the scissors
  • Can’t slide or slice cut without pulling the hair
  • Scissors feel gritty
  • Hair pulling on the tips

You’ll find that professional scissors need sharpening anywhere between 3-12 months. If you’re a colour expert hairdresser your scissors will last much longer than a stylist or barber who only cuts all day. Also, if you have multiple pairs of scissors which you use fairly equally, your scissors will stretch out longer between sharpenings than if you just favour one pair. It also comes down to whether you like to only cut with super sharp scissors or can live with sharp enough. 

Of course, it’s not just a blunt edge that may be the problem with your scissors. They service professional hairdressing scissors at the same time that they sharpened. With all the chemicals and water the scissors are constantly exposed to, spots of rust and corrosion can appear on the blades which are removed during servicing. Hairspray, gel and other products can build up on scissors. The sticky residue can be impossible for a hairdresser to remove but quickly comes off during the sanding process.

When it’s time to have your cutting scissors sharpened, don’t forget to check if your thinning or texturising scissors need sharpening as well. All those little teeth can become blunt and out of balance making them tricky to use.    

Sometimes it’s not until the scissors come back from the bladesmith that you realised how blunt they really were! If you’ve had a mishap and dropped your beloved pair of scissors, you must have them sharpened straight away or risk permanent damage. 

Problem with Blunt Hairdressing Scissors

People who use scissors and knives to earn a living need the tools of their trade in top condition. Just as a chef doesn’t want to slice with a blunt knife, a hairdresser or barber doesn’t want to cut hair with blunt scissors. Poor maintenance of tools causes:

  • More force needed which can cause RSI or carpal tunnel injuries
  • Poor quality cuts and split ends
  • More time needed to complete the job
  • Frustration and lack of enjoyment on the job

What Can Go Wrong When Sharpening Scissors?

Professional hairdressing scissors are a big investment so you don’t want an inexperienced person sharpening them. Scissors can be ruined if they’re sharpened incorrectly. Altering the inside blade surface can affect on the performance of the scissors and can’t be corrected.

Also an inexperienced bladesmith may hand back a pair of scissors that seems sharp but don’t last as long as they should before they need resharpening. This can occur when:

  • A coarse abrasive is used then the scissors need polishing too much to try and restore the finish.
  • Heat can occur during the sharpening or polishing stages and if the scissors aren’t constantly lubricated, the steel will soften and the scissors will dull quicker with each sharpening.
  • Adjusting the arch of the blade can cause too much pressure on the cutting edge shortening the life of the edge
  • Too little pressure on the cutting edge can cause pull or drag on the hair.

The sharpening process is important. Most bladesmiths will finish the sharpening service by testing the scissors. Cutting a wet tissue or piece of aluminium foil will confirm the scissors are sharp but it doesn’t tell how long that edge will last.

Time to Call in the Bladesmith

The sooner a hairdresser or barber has their scissors sharpened the sooner they can get back to making fast, high quality cuts that look amazing.

When you’re looking for a bladesmith there are a few things to check. 

Loan Scissors

Most hairdressers and barbers have one pair of scissors they use most of the time and if they are away being sharpened, they can’t work. Before booking a bladesmith, ask if there is a pair of scissors available that you can have on loan. 

A professional bladesmith should have a few high quality pairs of scissors they can provide to clients while they wait for their scissors to come back. Many hairdressers consider the quality of the loan scissors as an indicator of how much care the bladesmith puts into their job. We all know a mechanic whose car runs rough because he’s too busy fixing client’s cars but a bladesmith should take pride in their loan scissors. 

Mobile or Shop Front Sharpening Service

Many hairdressers are happy to send or drop off their scissors to a shop-front sharpening service provider. Others prefer the convenience of a mobile service so they’re without their scissors for a shorter time.

Finding a Good Bladesmith

Referrals are always a good idea. Ask your colleagues and friends in the industry who they use to sharpen their scissors. A referral is peace of mind that your scissors are in good hands.  

If you don’t know anyone who can refer you to a bladesmith, google ‘scissor sharpening service’ or similar and check out the online reviews or testimonials.    

A little daily scissor maintenance and servicing your scissors least yearly will keep them in excellent condition and provide you with years of quality cutting service.


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