Tag Archives: tailors shears

How to Look After Your Scissors – an interview with scissor-maker Nick Wright of Ernest Wright & Son

how to look after your scissors

Remember my visit to the fabulous Ernest Wright & Son scissor factory in my hometown of Sheffield at the end of last year? And my promise that an interview with owner Nick Wright all about how to look after your scissors would follow soon? Well at long last, here it is. Better late than never. Are you sitting comfortably……

Me: What’s the best way to look after your scissors Nick?

Nick: I would always say store scissors dry, and maybe wrapped in some clean dry absorbent material. We use carbon steel (not stainless) for most of our cloth-cutting products as we find carbon steel holds its sharp edge better and for longer; however it doesn’t always mix too well with moisture.
Frequently open your scissors really wide, and firmly wipe all the insides with a dry cloth (take care with your fingers!) including behind the screw area around where the two scissor halves meet. This can remove any collected lint and dust. A tiny drop of household oil can help too, right in behind the screw and worked in really well – but only very occasionally or when they really need it. Finally – I know it is sometimes tempting but please try not to ever move the screw! That’s fixed for a reason.

Me: Can you get fabric scissors and thread snips sharpened?

Nick: Yes of course – but only providing the sharpener knows what they are doing. The scissors may need re-adjusting and re-curving once they have been re-edged, and the screw may need re-setting. We do offer this service by post – unless you can get in to watch us doing them for you in Sheffield!
Good scissors have lots of re-sharpenings and many years of faithful service in them, as long as they are properly looked after.

Me: What are your top tips for keeping your scissors nice and sharp?

Nick: The usual tip I hear from the shows I visit is “keep them hidden from the family!”. But seriously, different materials (e.g. from hair to silk, tweeds, even paper) have different ‘blunting’ powers, so it can sometimes be good to keep one pair of scissors or shears specifically for one type of important job. By the way, we do make a great pair of kitchen scissors for general purpose cutting!

Me: How can you tell a good quality pair of scissors?

Nick: I always look for a distinct gap between the blades when closed – scissor blades should be slightly curved and sprung against each other, and always ‘biting’ across each other at the cut-point. The more inferior flat machined scissors have a habit of simply wrapping around things. Also I often tend to find the ‘weightier’ the scissors the better – it does usually mean they will be stronger and more robust in the long run.

So there you have it. From the man who knows what he’s talking about! That last tip about the gap between the blades is so true. I’m sure you’ve all used a pair of machine made scissors that meet beautifully all along the blades, that cut like a dream when you first use them, but then after a while don’t cut at the tips and  just seem to sort of slip around fabric rather than cut it? You’ll never have that with a hand-made pair. You can find out more about Ernest Wright & Son on their website and I have a limited range of their scissors available to buy at MIY Workshop:

  • 8″ right handed tailor’s shears £40
  • 10″ right handed tailor’s shears £60
  • large bow (handle) embroidery scissors £24
  • duck billed appliqué scissors £29
  • and now antique stork embroidery scissors £26.

A Visit to Ernest Wright & Son Ltd – Sheffield Scissor Makers

Sheffield has been a centre for manufacturing various forms of “blades” since the 14th century thanks to the many hills, valleys and rivers powering its industry. Stainless steel was actually invented in Sheffield and you’ll still find a large percentage of your cutlery will proudly state “Made in Sheffield”.

sheffieldLook at them luverly ‘ills….

Ernest Wright is one of the last remaining traditional scissor manufacturers in Sheffield and is a family run business that has been hand making scissors since 1902. As a Yorkshire lass who hails from Sheffield aka the “Steel City” and home of the scissor, I was really happy to meet Nick Wright of Ernest Wright Ltd at the Knitting & Stitching show at Alexandra Palace in October. The original Ernest Wright was Nick’s great grandfather. I kept Nick chatting for far too long at the show and he invited me to go and have a look around the factory the next time I was in town. So, recently I was in Sheffield and finally went for that long overdue visit. Here’s what I found….

big scissor signThe factory is on Broad Lane in central Sheffield and if you look up you won’t miss it!

mepamnickA big thank you to Nick and Pam for being so welcoming and letting us take up precious time in their day. Pam wasn’t even supposed to be there, she came in specially to meet us!

ernestwrightshop-dadI knew my dad would find it an interesting place, so I took him along too!

ernestwrightshop-oldscissors kitchenscissors ernestwrightshop-scissorbox As soon as you walk through the door there’s no shortage of scissors….

OK, so down to the nitty gritty,


Let’s start with a quick whistlestop tour of a pair of scissors:

scissorpartsScreenshot image from Little Less Known’s brilliant film of the Ernest Wright factory. 

When are scissors called shears? This is a question I have been pondering as fabric scissors are often called Dressmaking, Fabric or Tailor’s Shears. Well, apparently when scissors are bigger than 15cm they become shears!

All Ernest Wright scissors (and shears!) start with a forged Sheffield steel “blank”:

scissorblanks-raw scissorblanks

a kind of rough and ready scissor shape that needs to be refined.

The first step in achieving this is…… therumbler ….the rumbler! Where the scissor blades are rattled around with tiny super hard pebbles (of I forget what material!) overnight to remove the rougher parts from the blanks. Next, a bit of grinding is required, first by machine:

machinegrinding2and a scary looking machine it is too!

machinegrindingBut look at that for a before and after pic!

 After the machine grinding, some finer grinding is done by hand:


These grinding wheels literally get ground down over time and shrink in diameter. This process puts the sharp cutting edge onto the blades.

Every part of the scissors is hand worked, including the insides of the handles (or bows):


The last stage of the process lies with the “Putter”.  The job of the Putter is extremely skilled and it actually means the “putter-togetherer” ie. the person who finally assembles the scissors.

Here’s Cliff, Ernest Wright’s most charming of Putters:

cliff the putterWho also happens to be an amazing story-teller!

Cliff’s job involves assembling the scissors and hammering the perfect curve onto each scissor blade.  I’ve made that sound way easier than it is – it’s a highly skilled job which takes years of training to master and watching Cliff work is an absolute pleasure.  You can also watch him in this film by Shaun Bloodworth.

medadcliffMe and my dad with the lovely Cliff.

cliffshammerCliff’s hammer, worn down over the years to fit his thumb and the precise angle at which he works. I love tools like this that tell their own story in the marks left by the craftsperson using it.

The curve and the setting of the blades by the Putter are what gives handcrafted scissors the ability to cut along the full length of the blade, forever. When the scissors are assembled they are slightly sprung against each other and if you hold your scissors up to the light you should be able to see a gap between the blades along the length with the tips tightly touching. Only machine made scissors have perfectly straight blades without a gap and they won’t cut at the tips for long once you start to use them.

I’m super proud to be stocking Ernest Wright & Son scissors. If you fancy your very own pair for life, here’s what I’ve got in stock at the moment:

8inchshears8 inch Tailor’s Shears with comfortable angled handles to allow nice flat cutting. These shears measure 8″ in total including the handles. Right handed. £40

10inchshears10 inch Tailor’s Shears with comfortable angled handles to allow nice flat cutting. These shears measure 10″ in total including the handles. Right handed. £60

embroideryscissorsSuper sharp embroidery scissors with large bow (handles) making them really comfortable to use. These scissors measure 3.75″ in total including the handles. The ideal thread snips for dressmakers. £24

duckbilledscissorsWonderful duck-billed scissors variously called Napping or Appliqué scissors. The large blade underneath and the angled handles make these scissors perfect for trimming around appliqué or machine embroidery and for layering and trimming seam allowances without accidentally chopping a hole in your garment! £29

These scissors and shears are only available in person at MIY Workshop, they won’t be going into my online shop and I won’t be able to do them through the post. If you would like a pair, give me a ring at the workshop on 01273 693451 email me on miyworkshop@gmail.com or pop in to MIY Workshop at 33 North Road in the North Laine area of Brighton, just up the hill from Infinity Foods.

Not content with having a look around his factory I asked Nick if I could interview him about how you should look after your new scissors. Gent that he is he agreed and I’ll be posting the results soon.