BLADES OF GLORY. Cutting-Edge Advice for the Scissor-happy!by Victoria Thomas
As the most essential implement in the pro's tool-kit, high-grade, rust-resistant steel scissors are the hairdresser's counterpart to a master chef's set of gourmet knives. Master stylist Garret Hamabata, Vim and Vigor, San Francisco, says, "My scissors are a part of my body. They are the most important tool in my life, and I would not be able to live without them." His blade of choice: HIKARI. He's used the same wellmaintained pair of New Cosmos 5 1/2" for 13 years!
"The scissors cut hair like you are cutting through clouds and slice through hair like butter. About five years ago, I decided to purchase the 6 1/2" New Cosmos. I use the longer scissor for thicker, longer hair and also for when I get more aggressive with texturizing techniques. As my career and success have progressed, I have treated myself to new HIKARI scissors as a reward."
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE YOU BUY:
#1 PRIORITY: 58-62 on the HRC
Not too hard, not too soft, but JUST RIGHT. Just as Goldilocks had to choose her mattress, the hardness of the blades as measured by the Rockwell Hardness Scale or HRC (also simply called the Rockwell scale). Your ideal scissors should be rated between 58-62 on the HRC. This rating will be indicated on the package when you purchase your scissors. If the rating of the metal is below this four-point range, the blades won't hold an accurate edge. If it's harder than 58-62 HRC, it will be too fragile to withstand grinding (sharpening), and may even be brittle enough to shatter!
#2 PRIORITY: ACCURATE ANGLE
The cutting edge of your shears should be about 50 degrees. If the angle is greater, you'll feel like you're "chopping" or sawing through the hair. If the angle is lower, you'll feel like you're "folding" the hair. All of these sensations are danger-signs that you will not have sufficient control over the tool to give the consistently great cut that your clients expect and deserve.
The 'run' of the scissors should feel effortless. The blades should close softly, and yet be able to easily stay open in any position. Sam Villa, Founding Partner and Chairman of Allvus and Education Artistic Director for Redken 5th Avenue NYC, designs his own professional collection of shears, the Sam Villa Signature Series. He comments, "When selecting any tool, pause and ask yourself, is it comfortable in my hand? The moment you place a tool in your hand you will know if it can work for you or not. My shears with their offset handles and other features are all about ergonomics for less fatigue on the thumb, wrist, and tendon."
#3 PRIORITY: FINE-TUNING
A fixed or moveable support or amplifier for the little finger helps to balance the shears and reduce effort during cutting. Look for shears with an adjusting screw with bearings, so that the tightness may be kept accurate at all times. If your shears have a "screw loose", so to speak, the shears "bite" into the hair, leaving a ragged edge. Also look for replaceable rubber rings which insert into the finger-holes of your shears for a perfect fit.
As basics, Villa recommends that every stylist own a 7" dry cutting shear (his designs feature longer, larger blades to reduce constant sharpening costs) and reversible blending shears to extract weight from hair.
Your shears will come with manufacturer's instructions about cleaning, sharpening and oiling, and many scissors are even sold with their own special lubricant to make their maintenance easy. The first step is selecting the best possible pair you can find-they are an investment in your own excellence, and in your professional future.
Michael Flowers, top stylist, Van Cleef Hair Studio Salon, Chicago
I'm 5'5" and I weigh around 140 lbs. I have small hands, so I usually use a 3 1/2" to 4" shear. Nothing special. The smaller sizes work really well in my hand. I use other tools. When I need to cut a straight line, I have a tool called a "Peanut"- it's a small clipper, it's very efficient. One of the things I'm really good at is time-efficiency. You don't have to take a lot of time. You can give the client a wonderful experience and still get them in and out, but in a nice way, of course!