I was recently discussing shears and I wanted to reprint the stuff I wrote here in case it helps anyone else out!
Buying Your First Pair of Hair Shears/Scissors
You pay for many things when you buy shears. You pay for design, gimmicks, steel, and craftsmanship. Let’s look at the cheaper end of the spectrum:
If you’re buying a $350 shear from Kamisori (For example, could be Dannyco, or any number of shear manufacturer), then you’re paying for the design, and gimmicks. Because that’s all the budget of the shear has room for – so you get average steel, average craftsmanship, but you get the Kamisori design and your shear is covered in little rhinestones and jewels and looks “Cool”.
“Cool” Hair Shears
If you’re buying a $350 pair of Kashos, or Hikaris, or Joewells, you’re paying mostly for steel and craftsmanship. You know from looking at them that none of their budget was wasted putting rhinestones on them or making them look pretty. (Well wasted is subjective I guess, to each their own)
Kasho Design Master Shears
Joewell Classic Shears
To gauge a company, look at what they focus on in their lower end shears. Using Kamisori again, the steel and craftsmanship is lower in their lower end shears than Hikari’s steel and craftsmanship is in their lower end shears – so something tells me in the higher end of the spectrum, Hikari steel and craftsmanship will be better than Kamisori.
I don’t believe that companies would make average shears, and then at a certain point arbitrarily start making excellent shears – Hikari/Kasho/Joewell shears are all very similar in quality. It starts at a certain point and goes up very steadily and evenly as you go up the scale in price. It doesn’t go cheap shear – cheap shear- cheap shear- amazing shear. Which is why I don’t recommend spending a lot of money for high end shears from companies that produce lower end shears at all.
Steel makes a difference, as does the hardness. 440c is really the bare minimum steel for a good shear (440a is below it, and 420 is below that). Most low end shears are 440c. The next step up is a molybdenum alloy, which can be found around the $300 mark. Above that there are all sorts of different alloys. Cobalt is popular. You can test how much cobalt is in your shears by holding a fridge magnet to the handle (not the blades. Magnets don’t belong anywhere near shear blades.) and seeing how magnetic it is. The more cobalt, the less magnetic.
Hardness is another factor in the steel and craftsmanship. A rockwell hardness of 55-56 is about average. It has to be hard enough to hold an edge, but soft enough not to be brittle – there are shears out there with a rockwell hardness over 60, which is very brittle. Go much below 55 and it’s too soft. The softer the metal, the finer an edge you can put on, but the shorter the edge will last. The harder the metal, the longer the edge will last, but it won’t be as sharp.
Dry cutting is best done with a shear that is a bit harder, that lasts longer and isn’t as razor sharp. Razor sharp blades can catch the cuticle and “skin” the hair – you’ve probably noticed if you’ve used shears right after they were sharpened and went to do a dry cutting technique, and little white fluffs appeared out of nowhere. That’s cuticle you scraped off.
ted.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/hikari-Bdry163-300x128.jpg" alt="Hikari B-Dry Shears (These are 1k shears!)" width="300" height="128" /> Hikari B-Dry Shears (These are 1k shears!)
That said, the angle of the edge, and design of the shear blade will effect how it cuts much more. And that is something that entire books have been written about.
In general, heavier blades (fatter, wider, more mass) will do better with larger sections and dry cutting, and thinner blades do better with thin sections and wet cutting. Sword blades are when there is a ridge or spine going down the length of the blade. (Many thanks to Mike Bowers for illustrating the difference between a sword blade and just a curved blade!)
Mizutani Sword D19 Shears
Good steel is forged, not cast. That doesn’t need addressing, because all shears above a certain point are forged – not counting unknown companies or ebay. Don’t listen to hype about “hand forged” and stuff – companies try to evoke the image of an old swordsmith pounding on glowing steel with a hammer, and quencing it in a trough of water. Hand forged just means there’s a person operating the machine. It’s just a bigass weight that is lifted up and dropped on a piece of steel over and over while they fold it. (Bigass weight is a technical term btw)
If a company is using that as their primary selling point, it’s because they don’t have anything else.
Titanium coatings are often put on cheap shears to sell them more. Titanium coatings are how they get the colorful rainbow looking shears, or black, or blue, etc.
Random Titanium Coated Shears
There are many different edges, but convex is the standard and like forging, above a certain price point all shears will be convex. (Unless specifically designed not to be, like serrated shears.)
Then there is overall design. Some people like fat blades, crane handles. Some people like wiggly handles with three finger rings and rhinestones.
Goofy Looking Shears
Some people like swivel thumbs. I don’t. Swivel thumbs are something worth trying out though – they are a good idea, not a gimmick. (Although they do almost fall under that label sometimes)
There are all sorts of other things that fall somewhere in or around the gimmick border: Pivot types (tension screw, leaf spring, ball bearing, etc) and stuff like teflon glides in the pivot, etc. Those shouldn’t be a big consideration to what shear you get.
So all this information can do is give you some very basic guidelines.
Do you want to do a lot of precision cutting, fine detail? Maybe a shorter length, lower hardness steel and a more dainty shear will be your best match. (If you pay attention, most Sassoon guys use daintier shears)
Do you want to get in there and go nuts? Maybe a longer length (remember the more mass your shears have, the more hair they can handle), harder shear will be your shear.
Do you want a shear to match your bright purple zebra print apron (cringe)? Maybe a titanium coated, bejeweled shear will be your best match.
And all of that aside, sometimes there will just be shears that are more comfortable, that you just like more, even though the steel and craftsmanship isn’t as good as other shears you have.
Sam Villa Shears
If you’re in school and looking to get your first real pair of shears, then the best advice is to buy the best quality shear you can afford from one of the best companies you can find. I recommend Kasho or Hikari, but there are many good companies out there.
Why? Because if you’re new, it’s going to take time for you to really develop a taste for how a shear feels – what is important is to have something you KNOW is good right off the bat. All the experienced hairdressers will tell you to just go to a hair show and feel all the shears until one feels right. I don’t think that’s a good idea, because if you’re new, I don’t think your sense of how a shear feels is developed well enough yet.
It’s like when people buy their first guitar, the advice you’ll get is go to the shop and try them all out and buy the one that feels the best – but if you’re new to playing guitar, you might come home with a guitar that doesn’t stay in tune, sounds crappy, the intonation is off, and the finishing is sub-par. Because although it felt the best, your ear wasn’t developed enough to hear the problems in intonation, you didn’t know enough about guitars to see the problems in the craftsmanship and materials, etc.
It’s much better to get a guitar you know is well made and adjust to that at first, and then start to customize and narrow your range down.
Very Well Made (And Expensive) Shears from Hikari
Back when I was in hair school, lots of girls bought cheap shears, and now they’re still buying cheap shears, and they go around saying how good their cheap shears are and how expensive shears are just the same as cheap shears (How do they know this when they don’t ever have any, I wonder?).
Getting cheap shears for your first pair is like drinking the titanium coated, bedazzled kool-aid. Get the best you can afford!
Check out some reviews of shears I’ve written – I haven’t exactly reviewed a billion shears (because I don’t HAVE a billion shears! If anyone wants to donate theirs… Haha)