How To Choose What Hair Shears (Scissors) To Buy 28 comments


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

“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

Kasho Design Master Shears

 

Joewell Classic 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

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

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

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

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

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)

Mizutani Acro Type Z Shears 6″

Kasho Silver Series Shears 6″

Sam Villa Signature Shears 6.25″

Kasho Design Master 30 Tooth Thinning Shears

Wasabi 7 Tooth Texturizing Shears

 

 


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28 thoughts on “How To Choose What Hair Shears (Scissors) To Buy

  • Christine

    Hi! I’m so glad I came across your blog researching reviews on Mizutani shears. Very clear and made a lot of sense to me! I’m a stylist with about 20years experience. I purchased my first quality shears at the Jacob Javits show in NY about 15 years ago. Shark Finns with…yes a swivel thumb. They are still my favorite “go to” shears. I was going to wait for the next show to finally try out and buy something new. Today while having them sharpened yet again… I was able to hold and try the Mizutani shears and thanks to your review I’m going to go for it! You CAN feel the quality as soon as you hold them. So excited! 🤗

  • fabzzie

    Im saving up to become a devastylist, a type of stylist who cuts hair dry, no thinning or scraping or any of that, its literally cutting the hair curl by curl, in the same manner you would to create a blunt end, would i be best getting a pair of wet cutting scissors as its the same technique or go for dry cutting scissors?

  • Overdirected Post author

    I didn’t see your comment until now, chill out. What discussion would you like to have?
    I agree the post could be updated but I don’t have access to the range of Kamidori shears you’re talking about – would you like to share some more knowledge?

    • Dan

      Haha. I’m sorry I didn’t know it was waiting to be approved. I use a few from their Dragon and Damascus collection which are hand forged in Japan, simple design and use good type of steels. While they still do carry the 440c to cater to budget customers. Check out their website http://www.KamisoriShears.com I’m in contact with them to become a rep since I’ve had a great experience using them and was doing some research to see the online present and came across your blog. BTW I did realize my comment was not shown due to waiting for you to review afterwards and couldn’t delete my less chilled out comment. Haha. Didn’t really know how this website worked and for that I apologize.

      • Overdirected Post author

        If I get the chance to play with them, I’ll give Kamisori a second look! I deleted your second comment, which was practically polite by internet standards btw. Haha

      • Lenora Magrone

        Which shear in the dragon line would be good for all round cutting including blunt, slide, mostly wet (very little dry) cutting.

  • Dan

    Hello OverDirected,

    Though a great article. I think your article is a little outdated. You used Kamisori as an example in the first part of your article but Kamisori has come a very long way since 2012, The steeles used in their Dragon collection to Damascus Collection is high quality (ATS-314, VG-10, Damascus).

  • Kim

    Hi,

    I am a student about to graduate, and I want to invest in a good double swivel shear. Do u know any good ones I should check out?

    Also, I check the ones u mention on ur blog. Most of them don’t have the double swivel.

    Is Shark Fin alright? I find one with Hitachi ATS-314 Japanese steel

  • Darah

    Hey OverDirected! I missed your posting, so glad you’re back! Found this site in the beginning of my second year in Cosmetology school- now I’m licensed! You inspired me so much and I can’t wait to read more!

  • George Bill

    I have owner 5 Salons, rather large salons with 30 stylists and up to 35 in support staff depending on the salon, I usually had 250 to 300 On weekends”. working. I retired and am in my late 60’s now, my partner is still on QVC selling his Product line.
    I started sharpening scissors in the 70’s, both with a machine, “much like a glorified grinder, and by hand. I recently started doing this again, only with better equipment, “capable of convexing, and Faceting”. Let me say that I can get good steel sharp, but cheap steel even sharper. In fact I got a new machine and when I went to wipe off the compound, it cut right through 4 paper towels “I had 2 folded in half”. and sliced my hand. That’s how freaking sharp they were. I say they were actually too sharp for the average person. In reality it doesn’t pay to buy a 500 dollar pair of shears when a cheaper pair can be sharpened and the ride line honed to be smoother than the best ones out there. When I get through with a cheap pair of scissors, they are smooth as silk, “no noise” and cut like a laser. So contrary to my own beliefs, with the newest scissor sharpening machines, you can make anything that sharp, so why spend the money on 1000 dolla pair when you can sharpen a 30 dollar pair to cut just as good, and have money left over to sharpen them every 2 months if necessary. Or get something in between and they will last 4 or more months and still save you 900 dollars. It’s much cheaper to get a 25 dollar sharpening a few times per year.

  • Mike T.

    I just came across this as I am debating which Japanese Shear company I would like to be a distributor for. I have it down to three companies being Mizutani, Kasho, and Hikari. i would just like to say I am very impressed with you have written here. I try to explain this to stylist all the time. There’s a lot more depth into the manufacturing process but this was a simple and wonderful explanation. Bravo!

  • charity

    This article is so informative. I have been legally doing hair for almost 6 years. I have had Bonika shears for a few years. I have used swivel thumb for the last 3 years. It’s great for the pain I was starting to experience. Anyway, I was wondering if the person who wrote this article could advise me to a great shear that has swivel thumb and good for both wet and dry cutting. I normally wet cut and then fine tune after the hair is dried. I really want to upgrade to the best quality I can get for what I need it for. Thank you in advance, Charity

  • Rebecca Schott

    Thanks so much! This is exactly what I was looking for. Any advice on what to do about Looney tunes co-workers that think they know everything? Lol. Thank u again

    • Overdirected Post author

      Umm… Feign ignorance?
      I don’t know if it’s my bedside manner, but if I try to talk about technical stuff with people they get really weird and defense and grumpy.
      So I just say “Boy, those are nice shears.” or “Wow, nice Sharkfin shears!” or “Yeah, that guy with the case of shears that comes by once a month sure is nice, isn’t he?”.
      Haha

  • Chase

    Thank you so much mate, you are awesome! I really appreciate your detailed and well-worded vocabulary in your explanations.
    I see that under the comfortability portion of your article, those are the Sam Villa 6.25 shears that you have a picture of. This is my first time buying shears, and I have also read your reviews for those shears and thank you for your opinions, I decided to go with them as my first real long pair (the ones I got from school is too short to cut anything.)

  • Frances

    Agreed. Thanks a lot for this explanation! Please continue with reviews on hair shears, it’s nice to read from someone with “real” opinions as opposed to common customer testimonials