Reviewing pattern scissors

Posted by Kathleen Fasanella on Feb 23, 2006 at 10:02 am / Patterns, Product Reviews / Trackback

Everybody seems to be picky about their scissors and I’m no exception. Unfortunately, I’ve had to replace my pattern scissors and it was enough of a hassle that I thought I’d write about it. Now normally one would just ring up their supplier and order a replacement pair based on model number. However, my scissors were made by Wiss (I had the Wiss #20) and Wiss changed the tooling and shaping of the 20’s. I only found this out after I ordered the new 20. At first Wiss tried to convince me the scissors were the same, a claim to which I responded in outrage. Long story short, my favorite scissors are officially irreplaceable. Not happily, I went shopping. Keep in mind we’re talking about pattern cutting scissors here. I am more than aware that most of you -and I do mean most- are using the wrong kind of scissors to cut out patterns. Most of you have made pattern scissor selection an afterthought. The most that most of you do is make sure you’re not cutting patterns with your fabric scissors. Now, am I right or am I right?

Pattern scissors are very different from fabric scissors. For one, the blades and handles are much longer. The best is a 10″ shear, called a “bent trimmer”. The reason you need a large handle is because your entire hand must fit through for the highest degree of control. You can’t fit your whole hand through most fabric scissors (I think your whole hand should also fit through your fabric scissors). Likewise, the blades must be longer because you need the ability to make long, smooth, sustained cuts. Otherwise, you can get jagged edges in the paper. Similarly, the blades are shaped differently. You need blades that aren’t so thick that they obscure cut lines. The blades must cut all the way through the tip. Many fabric scissors give you a jagged jog when cutting (paper) through to the tip.


The shape of pattern scissors is also different. Pattern scissors belong to a class known as “bent trimmers”. The handles are offset. This means that ideally, the bottom of the scissor can rest flat on the table. Most scissors have the handles balanced and aligned with the blades, like a cross. Ergonomically speaking, handles should be oval rather than round. The handles should make full contact with the palm of your hand. The greater exposure to your hand, the better (your fingers should not be doing all the work). With large handles, force is distributed over a greater portion of your hand. If the holes are too large, you have to force your hand open beyond what’s comfortable in order to take up the slack.

Here are some photos and reviews of scissors, all bent trimmers. This first pair are the worst. I think I paid about $10 for them. Although they’re shaped correctly, they’re just crap. I use them in my shipping department. These are labeled #1

Below are the best ones, my favorite pair (#2). The old Wiss 20. These cost $20 (over 25 years ago).

Below this are the new Wiss 20 (#3). These are crappy. There’s something wrong with the bolt/nut assembly. It won’t stay tightened. I replaced it once already and it still doesn’t work. Still, that’s not the only problem with these. These cost about $30.00

Below this is #4, a pair made by Arius Eickert. These are the ones I’ve decided to use to replace my favorite pair (#2). These cost $31.00

Below is #5, model number S-100 from Kai. Cost is $70. These would be okay but the blades are shorter and the handles are larger, just larger enough that the handle size adversely affects my normal range of hand expansion. And I have large hands for a woman. Actually, most female pattern makers have larger than average hands (a topic you don’t want to get me started on). These would be good for a man with large hands but anyone else can expect to have hand pain using these for long periods of time. Also, the blades are almost an inch shorter than the others in this class of 10″ bent trimmers. Still, these are a quality pair, they just don’t fit me.

#6 (below) is a pair that I only took (Kai model N7250) because the salesman insisted these were the best. I have no doubt these could be the best for fabric cutting but they don’t work for patterns. Again, the handles were quite large. If the handles are too large, your hand is taxed muscle-wise, you’re having to open your hand far out of normal range just to open the blades far enough to cut something. These cost $70. I suspect these would be just dandy to cut slippery fabrics though.

Now, the Wiss brand scissors have a nut assembly that is recessed into the body of the scissor. If you can, you want a recessed nut assembly. Here’s a birds-eye view of the original Wiss 20 (#2):

Otherwise, the bolt hanging off tends to catch on paper when you’re cutting. Below is a photo of #4 in the same vantage point. Having the raised bolt/nut is a downside to this pair but not something I can do anything about. #4 is still better than the other choices.

Speaking of handles, these are important. Below I’ve taken various photos with #2 as the point of comparison. First shown is #1 (with #2). Surprisingly, these handles don’t fit as badly (the blades suck) although the larger hole is a little too large. The thumb hole is also too round. Oval is better.

Here is a comparison of #2 and #3, both Wiss. You can see there is no way that 3 is like 2. The 3’s are heavier and clunkier. You want the lightest weight scissor you can get. However, both have the recessed bolt feature.

Below is a comparison of #2 and #4 (the ones I’m keeping). These handles look most alike although the angle of the thumb hole of #4 is not like #2.

Below is a comparison of #2 and #5. Do you see that span bridging from the thumb hole to the main grip? That’s not good for 2 reasons. One, it’s extra weight. Two, the design forces you to have to open your hand a lot wider in order to open the blades far enough. Do that all day and your hands won’t be happy.

The last comparison is of #2 and #6. Regardless of what the salesman said, these aren’t pattern cutting scissors. Still, if you compare the angle of the main grip and the thumb holes, these aren’t aligned like #2. Now, these (model N7250) look pretty and neatened up but it doesn’t mean they’re ergonomic to the extent you can cut all day with them. Plus, the holes are larger. This taxes your hands.

I hope this will help you make a better decision regarding the purchase of pattern cutting scissors.

24 Responses to “Reviewing pattern scissors”

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Jeff
February 23rd, 2006
2:27 PM

Fascinating. I love everything in this world that has to do with hand-eye coordination (except computers.) I am not a pattern-maker but…scissors! Sorry you couldn’t replace your ole # 2’s. I am the same way about artist brushes, though painting for years has affected my carpal tunnel, in the left hand only. I’ve dreamed of switching to my right hand to paint except, I’d have to get a nom de plume!

I am not trying to get you started on the hand thing but, those that use their hands alot, and especially fingers, well, they get bigger, as you know. I look at everyones hands, try and guess what they have done in life. (yep, he’s a tile setter…oh, there goes a farrier.) I use my own as a barometer for how much I’ve invested in them. They still have a little urban quality left in them. So, were you born with big hands or, did they grow as you wore out the Wiss #2’s? Show us your hands?

This would be an excellent little pod-cast tutorial. I’m thinking income for you.

Kathleen
February 23rd, 2006
3:02 PM

So, were you born with big hands or, did they grow as you wore out the Wiss #2’s?

I was born with big hands. I have this theory (okay, not theory, call it a wacky idea) that women who are born with large hands either have Asperger’s Syndrome or have characteristics of the syndrome. In any event, women with large hands seem to have stronger -than is typical for females- technical and mechanical abilities. In fact, I’ve never met a good, professional pattern maker with little (read: typical female sized) hands. Moreover, I’ve noticed that the girlier a girl is, the smaller their hands are. Many of these girls have hands that look like toys to me and I want to play with them. They’re so tiny, they look like toys. It’s amazing to me that they can pick things up and hold them with such itty bitty teeny tiny little fingers.

Show us your hands? I’d have to show them in comparison with a man’s hands, otherwise you couldn’t tell. My hands are the same size as my husband’s although not as thick, nor do my fingers have the same girth. I wear a man’s size large glove. And, I’m a small person. I’m 5’5″ and my bones are (comparatively) tiny. For example, my wrists are the same size as the average 4’10” woman, so I am a “tall petite”. I have met one woman (about my height) who has hands larger than mine but neither she nor her husband care to admit she’s nearly as autistic as I am.

I’ve often thought of asking people to send me tracings of their hands but I figure that totally trancends the boundaries of propriety and worse, feeds one of the objects of my perseverations :)

Eric H
February 23rd, 2006
4:35 PM

Jeff;

Do you feed the bears when you go to Yellowstone?
Do you get out of your vehicle at Lion Country Safari?

Please don’t get her started. Stick to scissors.

8~)

BTW, even *I* am banned from asking about thread and needles.

Alissa
February 23rd, 2006
6:10 PM

Kathleen, I was studying the pictures you posted (since I purchased some Kai scissors recently, both for myself and as gifts–I like them quite a lot), and it occurred to me that I wasn’t seeing their longest pro version in your pictures. Take a look at this page (www.kaiscissors.com/products.html#newscissors). It looks to me like the you got the N7250 (10″ @ $59.50). Which looks sort of “stubby” compared to your old reliable #20 (handle to blade, that is). Then take a look at N7300 (12″ @ $79.95), which looks flatter across the bottom, is longer (obviously) and seems to better reflect the proportions of your old scissors than N7250. What I can’t tell is whether they’ve simply made the handles larger as the scissors got longer (which wouldn’t necessarily be great), but thought you might want to see them anyway.

I very much enjoy reading your blog.

Thanks!

Alissa

Freda
February 24th, 2006
5:26 AM

The hand fatigue, carpal tunnel thing is the reason I switched, years ago, to Olfa rotary cutters. As someone with small/medium hands I find the rotary cutters much more comfortable. I use them for cutting patterns and fabric, find them to be very accurate and you get very smooth cut edges with no jags.

Lauren Cole Abrams
February 24th, 2006
5:33 AM

Kathleen, I have never done any pattern cutting but used to do graphic arts years ago before it was all done on computers and I just wondered if you have ever considered using an xacto knife to cut out your patterns?

I suppose you could use either one, depending on how adept you became with them….just curious though…

Kathleen
February 24th, 2006
7:13 AM

…I was studying the pictures you posted …and it occurred to me that I wasn’t seeing their longest pro version in your pictures… It looks to me like the you got the N7250 (10″)…

Yes, I did get the 10″ N7250’s and labeled them as such in the post. All of the scissors in my comparison study were 10″. I realize the N7250 come in longer lengths, as do the other scissors I rated. For a fair comparison, I only rated 10″ scissors (apples to apples) which is the standard length for pattern scissors. The N7250 weren’t appropriate for more than just that reason. Those are fabric scissors, they grip. Pattern scissors need to glide. The S-100 also comes in a longer length which comparatively, would make them heavier than the other scissors in their class, another downside.

The hand fatigue, carpal tunnel thing is the reason I switched, years ago, to Olfa rotary cutters. As someone with small/medium hands I find the rotary cutters much more comfortable. I use them for cutting patterns and fabric, find them to be very accurate and you get very smooth
cut edges with no jags.

I realize a lot of (mostly, home sewers and the newest of DEs) people use the rotary cutters and I really did not want this to descend into a discussion of tool comparatives because scissors provide a different function. For one thing, I’m cutting heavy oak-tag paper, not tissue. Second, scissors -don’t beat me up here- are more accurate for hard patterns. I’ve done the whole comparative testing thing repeatedly over the past fifteen years and scissors consistently provide greater accuracy between cutters (people). The process must be consistently reproducible and not dependent on the skill of one single person. If you’re only cutting a layer or two of fabric over tissue, rotaries are a great time saver, no doubt, I’ll never argue with that. However, if you cutting hard patterns that must be digitized as they are a master set from which hundreds (if not thousands) of garments are cut, the inadvertent skewing of lines -say, only 1/16th off- those differences are exacerbated and dramatically magnified. Rotaries are unbeatable time savers if 1. the cutter is experienced with rotary cutters and 2. you’re only cutting tissue and a layer or two of fabric. Otherwise, repeated testing shows scissors to render best results. Now, without fail, DEs argue with me about this but the inalterable fact remains, that if they stay in business, they eventually use scissors to cut patterns.

I have never done any pattern cutting but used to do graphic arts years ago before it was all done on computers and I just wondered if you have ever considered using an xacto knife to cut out your patterns?

For unusual circumstances (intricate cut-outs) I have to use exacto knives now. It quickly becomes tiring tho, having to apply the pressure needed to go through oak-tag (the tip of your index finger will become numb). Also, again, these aren’t as accurate on hard tag and you’ll need long straight edges with weighted pressure to cut long lines which is something one must do a lot of. Also, I think the people suggesting other tools have not spent entire days cutting out oak tag patterns. There’s a big difference between cutting occasionally and doing this day in, day out, eight hours a day.

Tom Willmon
February 24th, 2006
7:41 AM

My left-handedness narrows scissor choices to not much. Wiss makes a supposedly left-handed bent scissor, but it is merely left-handled – the blades are the same as in right-handed scissors, and block my vision of the cut line. (It completely escapes me why they would go to the expense of making new forging dies and not doing the blades right.)

I inherited a pair of Wiss #20W, 10″. They are nice enough that I am learning to cut right- handed, a frustrating task. Might be reliably accurate in a couple years .

Jinjer Markley
March 3rd, 2006
2:36 PM

Kathleen,
I use a pair of decidedly non-bent trimmers made by Clauss to cut my tag patterns–The non-bent thing sucks (but I practically didn’t have to pay for them, so they’re my current best option), but they’re smooth and the blades are thin and the handles are comfortable. Did you see any when you were looking? They do have two 10″ bent trimmers:
http://www.claussco.com/bent.htm

oh yeah, and I have a friend with teeny, teeny hands. In some ways she’s girly (fellow dancer), in some ways she’s just not (ambitious, headstrong, doesn’t put up with crap). Def. not Asperger’s, though.

Samantha
March 6th, 2006
12:27 PM

Hello Kathleen, I just discovered your site today, and I’m finding it very interesting and entertaining! I just read these posts about the hand-sizes…and I thought I would throw in my 2 cents to further your research. I’ve always been good at spatial/visual things, and technical/mechanical things and I’m girly and I have smallish hands…but then I’m 5’8″ so maybe my hands aren’t all that small…just small for my size?? I wear a size 7 to 7 1/2 glove size if that gives any perspective. Thanks for the info on the scissors (and all the other excellent information on this site), now I know what to look for in a pair of pattern cutting scissors.

La BellaDonna
March 14th, 2006
3:10 PM

I can’t wait to go home and measure my blades. I have a bunch of different scissors that I value to different degrees, but they’re all bent trimmers with oval handles. I have to pick my tools fairly carefully, since I have very narrow hands with very long fingers. I wear a size 8 glove for the length, but the palms are narrow in comparison to the fingers.

What about thread and needles? Hand or machine? Do you have favorites, and if so, why? And is it my imagination, or is the thread currently on the market really, really crappy?

(And I was given a packet of 1857 hand needles, which, as you probably know, pre-dates the development of the tapered hand needle, with its widest point in the center. So cool!)

Debra
February 24th, 2007
8:26 AM

Kathleen,

The pattern scissors I have used for many,many years are not any of the above, I use those for fabrics. I use “Belmont 8TU” Made In USA.
They look like tin snips. When I began patternmaking I used several like the scissors you have described. An older patternmaker than I mentored under encouraged me to try the Belmont style, I was against it, I tried , I didn’t care for them, they are heavy and were “different”. Well he MADE ME cut with them for one 8 hour day. He said I would never go back to the others. So I took him up on his challenge. Needless to say I LOVED them! I have never gone back. They have very short blades but they just glide around curves of any size. I used them so much they felt like an extension of my right hand …ha..ha.. I could do wonders with those snips, everyone called me “Edward Scissor hands”, if you have ever seen the movie Edward clips objects amazingly! Its funny. I have used this type for 20 yrs now. this patternmaker taught me many things I will never forget.
He’s gone now but I feel he left some of his knowledge with me, and I think I have big hands too by the way, long fingers though.

Ellen
April 15th, 2007
7:04 AM

I’m with the belmont girl. I have Clauss 1612 and before that Eastman PS100 and there is also Compton Pattern Shears A4101
If you want to see what they look like go to http://www.claussco.com click on industrial products catalog click on pattern shears. They are called Pattern Shears for a reason if you are going to cut serious amounts of Hard paper this is the way to go. The whole idea with the long handle is leverage it’s going to take the pressure off your hands and you don’t need big long blades to cut paper but you do want accuracy and control

Karen Hull
March 2nd, 2008
12:49 PM

Kathleen,
True pattern cutters, model 212 for $28.05, like the original Compton Pattern Shears A4101, are available from John A. Eberly, Inc. http://jaeberly.com/id49.html where I’ve purchased them recently. In addition, Eberly offers a large number of manual and electric scissors and shears. Nice photos are posted on this website.

Claire M
March 5th, 2008
6:52 AM

In response to Jeff and Kathleen’s hand theory, I have tiny hands and score 30 on this test!!!
http://www.msnbc.com/modules/newsweek/autism_quotient/default.asp

Kate
March 5th, 2009
12:23 AM

If you use small sharp detail scissors, what do you suggest? I’m trying to find some for my son who wants to do papercrafting.

Tools and Supplies
December 7th, 2009
6:12 AM

[...] D -Bent trimmers. The pair shown is a Wiss 20 or rather, what used to be a Wiss 20. The new Wiss 20’s are not the same -and I do not care one whit if the new owners of Wiss say I’m crazy- and I’m at a loss to replace them. I’ve been meaning to ship these off to SouthStar for a hands on comparison but have yet to do so. I bought these as a student over 20 years ago. Oh, I use these to cut out pattern pieces. Another entry reviewing features of scissors is here. [...]

Sabine
February 18th, 2010
7:57 AM

now that i continued reading here….my patterns are paperboard, so the thicker stuff i cut out with an exacto knife and the thinner with my cheapo paper scissor-so you are right about your assumption, in my case at least, about not having worried yet about pattern scissors.

For fabric Kais will stay my favourites for the foreseeable future. As you pointed out large hands(mine are a full 7 1/2″ long)…I find the Kai ones JUST big enough. Before that I had Mundial ones, which LOOK like Wiss, but I never bought any Wiss ones. One reason I really like them is that that the handles are covered in rubber and with that warmer on my hands, cold really hurts me.

I don’t buy men’s gloves though-they are too wide, XL ladies ones do fine, the rare times I can get them. And now you got me curious about Aspergers….

What is Reshoring -circuitously
March 3rd, 2010
10:22 AM

[...] like that when it’s something that will never sell in large quantities. That and having my scissors cloned. Who knows, maybe I can find a way to go after all. I think it would be very educational to see how [...]

dosfashionistas
March 3rd, 2010
5:15 PM

Kathleen,

From your comment of Feb 23, 2005 re hand size: I had a good rep in Dallas as a pattern maker. I have small hands, short and stubby.

Sandy Peterson
October 27th, 2012
10:17 AM

“Below this is #4, a pair made by Arius Eickert. These are the ones I’ve decided to use to replace my favorite pair (#2). These cost $31.00″

Kathleen, I would like to buy these scissors, but the link isn’t working. I tried to search for the scissors but I don’t see anything. Where did you purchase yours and do you know if they are still available?

Sandy Peterson
November 29th, 2012
10:21 PM

Kathleen, I’m confused. Are pattern cutting scissors for cutting oak tag and fabric scissors for cutting out the traced pattern (block) on fabric?

Sandy Peterson
December 6th, 2012
9:47 PM

Forget my last question, Kathleen, I figured it out, duh!!

Quincunx
August 20th, 2014
7:27 AM

Awhile ago I had the privilege of trying out a pair of old Wiss #20. They were lovely. With how they felt in my hand fresh in my mind, I went scissors shopping among the scissors that were easy to find for the home sewing crowd. The ones which felt exactly like the Wiss in grip were the 10″ Fiskars, the ones still made in Finland, not the similar 8″ made in China. They are NOT PATTERN SCISSORS, it was easy to feel the difference because the Fiskars blades resisted one another a tiny bit as they closed and the Wiss had next to no resistance. This is info for the home sewing, fabric cutting, only wants to buy scissors they can pick up and try first, market only. My hand is 6″ long exactly (a useful ruler) and “short and stubby” also fits them. And now that I look it up, so would a women’s glove size large. Just because they are stubby. That explains some things.

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