top of page
Featured Posts

Shear & Shear Maintenance: Edge-ucation For the stylist/barber/groomer

Shears and Shear Maintenance

EDGEucation by: The Blade Doctor Sharpening Services, LLC, Gabriel Frankewich

518-813-3664 / 518-813-6555


I. What is a Shear?


A) Where are shears made? (Country of Origin)

1) Why is knowing the country of origin important - To know the origin of the shear is to know the quality of the shear, it's not just about the name of the company.

2) Beware the company that claims their shears are Japanese made, but can't (or won't) show proof; by proof, "Made in Japan," "Made in Korea," "Made in China" should be visible on the shear. If the shear you purchase does not have "Made in...", how do you really know where it comes from? How do you know the quality of the shear? Are you trusting a sales rep to tell you the truth? Are you to trust a slip of paper that can be printed anywhere and claims certified or made in these places? The words "Made in…" hold the company accountable for where the shear is derived.

3) Made in Japan - Japanese stainless steel is best known for corrosion resistance, being lighter weight than most other types of steel, being more resistant to damage, and keeping a sharp edge longer. Japan has the highest reputation for their quality goods, dedication to engineering precision and meticulous attention to detail. Japanese steel makers have been perfecting their processes since the first samurai swords were created.

4) Made in Korea or China - Most shears that say "Made in Korea" or "Made in China" also use high quality Japanese steel. The steel is imported and the shears are forged and assembled in their respective factories.

5) Just because a sales rep claims their shear is "made with Japanese steel" or provides a leaflet, does not mean it was made in Japan, Korea, or China. In countries other than the ones we listed, Japanese steel is usually mixed with other materials which reduces its quality dramatically. This allows the company to sell you a shear for a cheaper price, but the shear will not perform like its Japanese, Korean, or Chinese cousins.


6) NEVER buy a shear that is manufactured in Pakistan! Per the Trade Policy 2012-15 ban list for the Government of Pakistan (, Stainless Steel (item# 647) is a banned item. Most of the steel imports into Pakistan are scrap metal, metal used in the automotive industry, iron, etc. Shears produced in Pakistan are of the poorest quality, even if there are claims the steel is imported from Japan, or China, it is not steel that should go into the making of shears. Pakistani shears are a much softer steel and will need to be sharpened often just to hold an edge. This causes too much metal to be removed and you will need a new shear sooner than later. Cheap is not always better.


B)     Steel types

1) Stainless steel is a combination of different raw materials and minerals (nickel, iron ore, chromium, silicon, molybdenum, nitrogen, manganese, and others) that are melted together and refined so it can be forged into many different items (knives, shears, car parts, etc). The quality of the steel is determined by the "ingredients" used. Cheaper shears have poorer steel quality causing the metal to be softer, damage easier, and not hold a sharp edge for very long.

2) Quality steels are 440C and VG-10. Another steel type you may see in shears is ATS-314. What does this mean for you?

a) VG-10: Known as "Super Steel," VG is short for Vanadium and Gold (Gold as in Gold Quality or the Gold Standard). A high carbon, high titanium, heat treated stainless steel with a Rockwell Hardness of 59-61. Contains 1% Carbon, 15% Chromium, 1% Molybdenum, 0.2% Vanadium, and 1.5% Cobalt. A harder steel than the 440C, the edge will last through wet and dry cuts, point cutting and texturing, but shines through on clean, dry hair.

b) 440C: The highest carbon content of the 400 series with high durability, heat treated stainless steel with a Rockwell Hardness of 58-60 HRC. 440C is a happy medium between both wet and dry cutting. It should primarily be used for wet cutting, but as the hair starts to dry and you point cut for texture, you'll notice that the tips don't dull out as quickly. 440C is the most popular steel type. It is a softer steel than the VG-10, but still extremely superior to most shears on the market

c) ATS-314: Another "Gold" quality stainless steel with a high carbon content; 15% Chromium, 4% Molybdenum. It has superior processing quality, is rust resistant and damage resistant. This shear holds up to thick and curly hair while keeping their edge.


3) Forged Steel vs Cast Steel

a) Forging shapes the metal while in a solid state (think of sword/knife making).

b) Casting reduces metals to a molten form (think of melting chocolate and pouring it in a mold).

c) Forged parts are stronger than cast parts.

d) Forged parts have a 26% higher tensile strength than the same cast parts.

e) Forged parts have a 37% higher fatigue strength resulting in a much longer lifespan than cast parts.

f) Forged parts have a 58% reduction in area when pulled to failure, compared to 6% reduction for cast parts. That means forged parts allow for much greater deformation before failure than cast parts.

g) In the sharpening business, forged shears are able to be bent or reshaped, when necessary, to straighten a curve or bow in the steel. Cast shears are more apt to snap because they are not able to be reshaped.

h) When metal is cast, the grain size is free to expand. This creates a product with a random grain structure. The random grain structure causes the strength to be decreased. The forging process keeps the grain structure tight and the product mechanically strong.


II. Shear maintenance

A) Educating yourself to know how to take care of your shears is just as important as knowing how to cut hair or apply color. Beauty school teaches you about the ins and outs of hair; but what about your shears? If your shears are not sharp enough, broken, have the wrong tension, etc., you could potentially damage or make mistakes on your client’s hair.

1) Cleaning your shears: Cleaning the shear properly removes product residue and hair which, if left on your shear, will cause damage over time. It will cause your shears to rust, become pitted, nick easier, and dull faster. Shears should be sprayed with, at least, 75% rubbing alcohol and wiped with a microfiber cloth. Microfiber is best because it is stronger and thicker than most towels or wipes which will help prevent you from getting cut when wiping down your shears. It will also allow you to feel snagging from any nicks or burs on the blade.

2) Oil your shears: At the end of every day, wipe down your shears to remove any hair and product residue. Apply a drop or two of lightweight oil to the pivot area with the blades open. Open and close them with your regular cutting motion. Wipe off excess oil with your towel, close the scissor and put it away for the night. This way, your shears will be clean, lubricated and ready for the next day.

3) Check, and if needed, adjust your tension: At least once a week you should be checking the tension on your shears. Once cleaned and oiled, hold the thumb side of the shear in your left hand, shears pointing to the ceiling. Lift the finger ring with your right hand until the leg is horizontal to the ground then release the finger leg. The leg should fall between 2/3 to 1/4 of the of the way closed, for proper tension. If the blade falls more than 1/4 of the way closed, it is too loose.

a) To tighten the tension, turn the knob or screw slightly to the right (clockwise). On shears with clicking knobs or screws, one or two clicks are usually enough.

b) Also test to make sure the tension is not too tight. Too tight is just when you feel too much resistance as you open them. You don’t want to have to fight the tension with your thumb to open and close the blades.

B) Have your shears professionally sharpened – If you are taking care of your shears correctly, they should last about 6-12 months between sharpening. Beware the sharpener who does a mediocre job just so you have to have them back sooner than later and spend more money on sharpening.


C)      Do’s and Don’t’s:

1) Do:

· Clean, dry and oil your scissors at the end of every day of use.

· Check your scissors for adjustment, at least once each day of use.

· Handle your scissors with gentle care.

· Protect the cutting edges from touching anything except human hair.

· Record all identifying marks and any serial numbers, in case your scissors are stolen or lost (a digital close-up photograph will be handy).

· Store and transport your shears in padded cases or pouches and make sure the blades are closed in order to protect the cutting surface!

· Always keep your shears closed except when cutting hair, never place them on a bench with the blades open, as this can nick the edges.

· Have them professionally sharpened regularly (every 6-12 months).

2) Don’t:

· Don’t let your shears run out of adjustment.

· Don’t let them corrode or get dirty.

· Don’t cut anything with them except hair.

· Don’t drop or toss your shears when putting them down.

· Don’t lend your shears out. Other people have different hands to you - someone else using your scissors with a hard hand will alter the scissors balance and make them feel different after one haircut! (They don't care for them as much as you do and might even damage them!)

·  Don’t "pressure cut" (torque the blades together). This means squeezing harder with your thumb when the scissors start to go dull. it will cause excess wear on the scissors if you do so.

· Don’t allow your shears to come into contact with any sterilizing solution, perm solution, color, or other chemicals, as they will cause corrosion and rusting (pitting).


III. Shear Sharpening

A) One bad or improper sharpening can remove up to 5 years of life from your shears, and potentially ruin your client’s hair. The wrong edge-type can shred and tear the cuticle, causing major damage to the structure and foundation of the hair column.

  B) The original edge geometry and type MUST BE MAINTAINED through each and every sharpening service

1) Shears have 3 basic types of edges. Beveled, Semi-

Convex (Micro Bevel), Fully Convex. These three edge types describe the shape of the edge, as well as the shape of the face of the shear.

2) Beveled - Beveled edge shears, like this fabric scissor, is an example of what a bevel looks like. Older German shears like Jaguar, Boker, C'Mon Cadillac, Dovo,

Revlon etc used this edge type. They can be quite sharp, and hold an edge for a long time, but for razoring techniques or dry cutting these edges chip and fracture quite easily, resulting in a rough and crunchy cut. 

3) Semi-Convex (Micro Bevel) - Semi Convex, or Micro-Beveled, edges are basically a mini version of the Bevel. If you have a Titanium Coated shear for instance, you will

notice just at the edge there is a thin hairs-width line of exposed silver. When a titanium coated shear is made, the shear is finished completely and then the titanium coating is applied to the entire shear. Well, what about that edge? The factory will just cut off a minimal amount of steel at the correct angle to leave a razor-sharp edge for slicing through hair.

4) Fully Convex - Fully Convex shears have faces that look like airplane wings. They are one continuous surface that is never interrupted by a cut in or bevel. For example,

the Hikari pictured here is a freshly sharpened Fully Convex shear. Convex edge types are the smoothest, most razor-like edge one could possibly have. With the types of high carbon steel we use today (440c, VG10, ATS314), a convex edge type will provide the stylist with the absolute best performance.

5) Ride Lines (Hone Lines) - No matter what, a shear MUST have a ride line (with a few minor exceptions). The way

a shear or thinner blade is bent and twisted requires there to be a smooth, flat, uniform surface for the blades to ride and lap along. Otherwise, the two edges would dig and grind into each other. The photo here shows clearly the ride line on the inside of the blade. It is even and uniform, following in perfect parallel to the edge of the scissor. It travels down beyond the pivot and around like a fish-hook. This line should NEVER be on both sides of the inside of a blade, or swollen/missing/uneven. A few things can be the cause of a ride-line disaster. If your shear is missing it’s ride line, or has one that is horribly formed, perhaps you should find a new sharpener. 


IV. How to vet a sharpener

A) Protect yourself – Choose ONE shear. Give a new sharpener one shear to test his/her ability. Once sharpened, take the time to test the shear on hair, see how long the sharpening lasts, feel the blades (they should feel like new). If you give up all your tools right off the bat, and he/she turns out not to be good, there is a chance all your tools could be ruined beyond repair, or at the very, least too much steel removed, reducing the life of your shear.


B) Make sure you take detailed photos of the shear prior to handing it over and compare the finished product to your photos. Your shear should look like it just came from the factory; you should not be able to tell it was even sharpened. Improperly sharpened shears could have the following:

  · Beveled

· Burn marks

· Washed out tips

· Missing or uneven ride-lines

· Crushes hair rather than slicing

· Uneven blade/waves

· Scratch marks


C) If you have proof that the sharpener ruined your shear, hold him/her accountable. Your sharpener should have Care & Custody Liability insurance (which means even though we don’t own the item, we are responsible for it when it is in our care). Your sharpener should have no problem replacing your shear if, in fact, they caused the damage and it cannot be repaired.


D) Do not fall for gimmicks! Beware the sharpeners who claim they sharpen with lasers, ice tempering (using a block of dry ice as part of their process), sonic or harmonic water sharpening. Ask to see their equipment. Also, don’t listen to sales reps that say things like you are not professional enough if you don’t purchase or use their products.


E) Don’t be afraid to ask questions!

1) Can I see your setup/equipment? 

· Whether a sharpener is setting up in the salon or has a van he/she works from, there should be no problem with them giving you a little tour. If your sharpener is secretive of their equipment, that is a red flag indicator.

· If you see a bench grinder, or something that resembles a bench grinder, beware. Bench grinders are known to remove far too much steel and burn metal. These should only be used on blades such as knives or more industrial types of metal, not beauty shears.

2) Do you have before and after photos of your work?

· As stylists, barbers, groomers, we always photograph our work. It is our way of showing prospective clients "I know what I'm doing, you can trust me." Sharpeners who are highly qualified may not take photos, but without evidence of the work they do, how can we be sure? The photos being taken should show, in high detail, the edges and ride lines of the shear. We’re not here for an art show, we’re here to see, in high detail, the work a sharpener does.


3) Do you showcase your work on social media?

· Sharpeners should not be afraid to post their work on social media. If you search a sharpener online and can’t find proof of their work, they may have something to hide… work that is not high quality. Even as something as simple as an Instagram or Facebook page with posts of before and after pictures and reviews, should be kept up and current.

4) Can I see a list of references?

· Just because the sharpener has references doesn't guarantee he/she does great work. It is, however, a great way to take their temperature. If they can only provide 1 or 2 references for your area, or only a handful, perhaps they don't work for as many places they claim. BE SURE to follow up on those references. Often times we see sharpeners use the names of salons they haven't sharpened for in the past few years. If they make claims of working with a company, call that company and verify, ask if they liked the sharpening, ask if they still use him/her, and if not, why not?

5) Are you insured?

· This may seem like a redundant question, but do not assume a sharpener is insured or will replace your shear if it is damaged beyond repair. Ask if they have Care & Custody Insurance. Ask if they will replace your shear if damaged beyond repair.

6) How long should my sharpening last?

· A sharpened shear should come back to you looking as pristine as when it first arrived from the manufacturer. You should not be given a beveled edge on a convex style shear. You should not be able to see buff marks or streaks on your shear. If sharpened properly, the shear should last you approximately 6-12 months before it needs to be sharpened again. Of course, this varies depending on usage or if they get damaged, dropped, nicked, etc.

· If you have your shears sharpened and think they need to be done again after only a few weeks, or even a few months, then they weren't sharpened correctly. Some sharpeners provide mediocre sharpening just to ensure you call them back again so they can get paid. This not only causes stress on you, but stress on the shear. Too much sharpening, or poor sharpening, reduces the life of your shear.


Feel free to reach out to The Blade Doctor for questions, to schedule a sharpening appointment, or to purchase our Phantom Edge line of shears, thinners, clipper blades and accessories.


The Blade Doctor, LLC.

Gabriel Frankewich (Owner) 518-813-3664

Tricia Frankewich (Admin) 518-813-6555

Instagram: @The_Blade_Doctor



Recent Posts
Follow Us
  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon
  • YouTube Social  Icon
  • Instagram Social Icon
bottom of page