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The Shears Can Make or Break The Cut

by Megan Dorcey on Monday, August 9, 2010

I have heard it all  from stylists about what you should and should not do when cutting curly hair, which got me thinking: What is the difference between shears and how they shape your hair?


The right shears for the job

For more information about this, I went straight to my local curly expert, Ron Valdez at Estilo Valdez Salon in Austin, TX.  There are so many different types of shears on the market, each claiming that it is one and only tool you will need.  Ron Valdez sings a different tune, “I cycle through six pairs of sheers.  You can’t tell which you will need to use until you cut down into the curly hair.  Every head of hair is different, so it responds differently to each pair of scissors.”

How can you tell when you’re using the right pair or scissors?  Valdez offers some advice, “Start off with one pair and (it) may change throughout the head.  One pair won’t always cut it.  When you close the shear and it glides through the hair and doesn’t push it out, that is the right type of shear for that hair.”

Not surprisingly, there are many types of haircutting scissors available on the market, including: barber shears, thinning shears, styling shears, tempered shears, left-handed shears and more.

One glance at these scissors will tell you just how different they are from each other. Each is designed to perform a specific task—some are used to create subtle effects while others are perfect for basic haircuts.

What Type of Shear is Best for You?

You have some choices to make before you select the right pair of scissors. Of course, you’ll also want to shop around for the best prices.

Type of Blades

Beveled blades feature one serrated edge and are ideal for layered cuts, tapered cuts and the “scissor over the comb” method.

Convex blades are razor sharp and promise a clean, smooth, flawless cut. They are ideal for slide cutting.

Type of Handles

Opposing grips feature handles of the same length that are symmetrical to the center screw. It is perfect for individuals who cut with the thumb and middle finger.
Offset grips feature a short thumb handle and a longer finger handle. This allows natural, fluid movement and is ideal for individuals who cut with the thumb and ring finger.
Crane grips feature a long finger handle and an angled thumb. This ensures less strain on the wrist and shoulder and allows a freer, open cut.

Types of Thumb Grips

Standard thumb scissors feature a removable and reversible finger resting piece that can be attached to either the left or right. This allows individuals greater versatility (with left and right hand use.

Cutaway thumb scissors do not feature the reversible finger resting piece, but does provide exceptional comfort.

Anatomic thumb scissors allow for greater radial movement due to its curved design. Thus it provides more freedom of movement for the stylist.

Rotating thumb scissors are a new advancement in the haircutting industry. They reduce hand and wrist strain and feature an open-hand grip design, which reduces thumb “travel” and creates a more comfortable experience for the stylist.

Length of Blade


You can only use one at a time, but switch if you need to.

Choosing the blade length is really a matter of comfort and preferred styling methods. You will find you probably need to utilize several different types of scissors, but your hand should feel comfortable no matter what size it is.

Short blades are useful for detailed touchups, such as cutting around the ears or very close to the skin. This type of blade is recommended for all stylists; chances are it will be used frequently for more intricate cutting. The blade should be no longer than 5.5 inches.

Long blades are ideal for cutting thick hair, slide cutting, scissor over comb methods, and bobs, to name a few.

Some other features that stylists may choose to focus on include the production material of the shears, the method of production of the shears and the tension system the shears provide.

So how can you get hands-on experience using various shears with different curl patterns?  The new stylists at Estilio Valdez ask their curly friends to come in for a cut, and Valdez even puts an ad on Craigslist for all types of curls to receive a free cut while the stylists are learning how to shape and style curls correctly.

The best advice Ron could give me was, “It’s a craft and just like any other craft, you will master it over time.”

One Comment for “The Shears Can Make or Break The Cut”
  1. by stevev363

    On August 9, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    My preference for shears has always been hikari because they absolutely make the best! My first pair were awesome for 20 years and I sold them to a coworker who loves them as much as I did. By performing regular maintenance throughout the day I only need to service my shears once a year (I do 15 to 20 cuts a day, 4 days a week. Not bad!). I have 7 different shears that I work with, my favorite is the b-dry for dry cutting which I do alot of on my curly clients. I also have 2 pair of naruto co. Shears from japan which are so beautiful but high end in price, definitely the Rolls Royce of cutting shears. I’ve used many different shears but I always go back to hikari, the investment I make by buying them means I will have the best to work with my entire career!

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