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Lawyer’s way of sharpening scissors

Updated: Apr 11

Keenness should permeate every part of your life to enhance your creativity and the beauty of your activities.



I hope that this article is useful; it certainly has nothing to do with the law. Everyone has scissors, but few cut well. This problem rarely has anything to do with the scissors’ being of poor quality - they are simply not tuned properly. Usually, the simple steps described below will cause the scissors to cut well. You should bring a spirit of mindfulness to each step of the process; if you do, you are likely to enjoy the calming effects on your mind as you change a likely poorly – tuned, but potentially very useful tool, into one that is efficient and well-tuned, mostly by your own mindful practice.


1. The scissors’ hinge often needs to be tightened. If the hinge has a screw, usually minor tightening is all that is needed. Be careful not to strip the screw head. You will be able to feel the correct amount of tension. If, in use, the scissors require too much force to cut well, simply back off the screw’s tension.


Most scissors’ hinges, now, lack any screws, and the two scissor blades are attached to one another by means of a peened pin. Peening always loses tension over time, but that tension can be restored in a moment by re-peening the joint. The operation simply requires striking the pin again, ideally with a peening hammer. Use blows on one side of the hinge pin when the other side of the pin is supported by a metal block, ideally, a small anvil or other sturdy piece of metal. The block will absorb the force of the hammer blows.


Easy does it - it is almost impossible to undo peening.


2. Each blade of a set of scissors is designed to be tapered and curved so, as the scissors go through their cutting strokes, approximately equal tension can be maintained during the scissors action, heel to tip.


3. Even if you don’t wish to take steps one and two, a quick and easy way of getting scissors to cut better is to make about thirty parallel cuts through about 220 grit sandpaper. Ideally, before taking this step, you should remove any nicks in the blades using a sharpening stone, moving the stone length-wise on the beveled side of each blade. Do not attempt to sharpen the flat or concave side of each blade.


Over time, and even when scissors are new, cutting tension becomes variable. This variability is usually due to each blade’s lacking the same “spring” relative to the cutting line. A remedy, that requires great care, is to bend, just one blade slightly past the cutting-line; then do the same with the other blade. You should attempt to bend each blade so that both blades are under equal tension throughout the stroke of each cut. A vise is an ideal, but not necessary tool for this aspect of tuning scissors. Each blade may be bend by consistent force. It is unnecessary to use a specialized vice although the use of such vice is certainly convenient.


If you take the steps described above, trying to fully understand why each step is recommended, your scissors will be much sharper than before. You should use them very carefully and warn any other user about their sharpness.


Once you mastered sharpening your scissors, sharpening knives, quite a different skill, will be much easier because the mindfulness that you acquire in shaping scissors will translate to sharpening knives every other activity that you undertake.


Cut well with your self-tuned tool; think well with your self-trained mind.


From the Principal Emeritus’ collection of writings.

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