Job Of The Day: Professional Shears Sharpener

When I was getting my hair cut last week, my stylist mentioned that the professional shears sharpener had just been by.

“The what?” I asked.

I don’t know if you’ve thought much about how hair stylists and salons keep their shears sharpened. It seems like if I thought of it at all, I might have thought about a whetstone or small sharpening tool in the back somewhere, or maybe a machine that’s kind of like a pencil sharpener, but for scissors.

It turns out that “professional shears sharpener” is a job, and in this case the shears sharpener goes from salon to salon, bringing his tools with him. It’s kind of like a piano tuner, in that sense, except the shears sharpener is not necessarily also a hair stylist in the way that a piano tuner is often also a piano teacher or professional musician.

The Seattle area has at least three different shears sharpening businesses, as well as businesses that advertise knive and scissors sharpening without specifying whether they mean hair-quality shears. I’m very curious now whether shears are sharpened differently than other types of scissors or blades. Mark’s Sharps, which includes shears, knives, and chainsaw sharpening, offers two kinds of shears sharpening: “Convex Hollow Ground Japanese style” and “Bevel Edge German Style.” Prices are listed at $35 for the convex shears and $25 for the bevel shears, at what I assume is a per-pair rate. Sharp Shears, meanwhile, offers convex shear sharpening for $20 and uses the Ookami Gold system.

Convex? Bevel? Ookami Gold? Here’s a bit more information. Precision Sharpening (not a Seattle business) helps explain the difference between convex and bevel shears:

Because of its very sharp edges, the convex scissor cuts through hair smoothly and efficiently, with less force. The convex scissor is constructed for slide cutting or wisping. It runs smoothly, quietly, and very lightly. However, it has the tendency to nick and dull faster than a bevel edge scissor. It also has a tendency to push the hair more than a serrated bevel edge scissor.

The bevel scissor is very durable. It holds the hair very well and does not push it forward. It is the scissor of choice for blunt and layer cutting, dry cutting and for the cutting of synthetic and coarse hair. Its major drawbacks are that one cannot slide cut with it, because of the serration, and it runs louder and rougher than a convex scissor.

I also found a YouTube demonstration of the Ookami Gold system:

There’s a lot I don’t know about shears sharpening, so if you know of someone in the industry who would be interested in talking about his or her job with The Billfold, I’d love to learn more. It’s one of those “invisible” jobs that I had never really thought about before, but of course salons need people who know how to sharpen different types of professional-grade shears, and so we have professional shears sharpeners who get the job done.

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