Scissors 101


What are Steel, Stainless Steel and VG-10?

Steel: When you take iron and add a specific amount of carbon, you can then harden the iron. In other words, steel is hardened iron.

Stainless: When you add a certain amount of chromium to the steel, the steel becomes corrosion resistant.

Stainless Steel: Steel that is less prone to stain and rust as the steel ages.

To maximize the stainless feature, the surface should be highly buffed. This is because, after grinding, the grit leaves a rough surface and scratches on the metal. Moisture can be trapped in the rough surface and the steel could get rusty. Through buffing, the roughness and scratches are smoothed out, which eliminates to a large degree, the possibility of moisture entrapment. The resulting surface of cutlery has a mirror finish.

VG-10 Hitachi Steel:  VG-10 stands for V Gold 10 (“gold” meaning quality).

Chris Christensen Celestial Series shears are made of VG-10, a unique formulation of steel with a high carbon content.  It contains various amounts of one or more of the following:  Chromium, Vanadium, Molybdenum and Cobalt.  The highest quality chef’s knives are usually made of VG-10.  VG-10 is considered a “super steel”, because it is designed to maintain sharpness and durability without becoming brittle, a major fault normally associated with exceptionally hard steel.  This quality is ideal when extreme sharpness is desired, as most other steels will not take or keep an edge like VG-10.  The Celestial Series will hold an edge three times longer than other steels.  When this type of steel is used, it is encased in layers of steel providing greater corrosion-resistance, leaving only the “super steel” exposed at the edge for fine cutting.

VG-10 chemical makeup:  Carbon: 1.0%, Chromium: 15.0%, Molybdenum: 1.0%, V: 0.2%, Cobalt: 1.5%

Chris Christensen Systems shears have additional alloying elements, like manganese, molybdenum and vanadium, to make the steel tougher and the cutting edge last longer.


What Does Ice Tempered Mean?

Ice Tempering is a beneficial process that creates a longer lasting cutting edge steel.

The disadvantage of the high content of chromium in stainless steel is that the cutting edges dull quicker. To overcome this, the steel is frozen.

How it works:

To make steel hard, it must be heat-treated. With Stainless Steel that means heating the steel above 2000 degrees F. At that temperature the structure of the material is at its optimum. To preserve this structure, the steel is cooled rapidly and tempered at about 450 degrees F. This creates satisfactory hardness and flexibility on the shear except that the chromium in the steel will not permit a long lasting cutting edge.

To make the cutting edge last longer, the steel is subjected to 50 to 60 degrees below 0, or, Ice Tempered. The shear is now much harder. All Chris Christensen Systems stainless shears are Ice tempered.


What Is A Drop Forged Shear? 

To Drop Forge a Shear, pieces of steel are heated to a pliable red-hot state, put in a die (somewhat like a cake form in the shape of the shear or tool). Half of the form is fastened to a large anvil; the other half is attached to a ram which acts like a hammer. The ram comes down on the steel, forging the pliable steel into the die and giving the steel the form of the future shear. These drop hammers are up to 20 feet high, standing on a 10-foot deep foundation. The ram can weigh 10000 lbs. or more.

Because of variances in dimensions of the shears, some of the hot steel can be squeezed out of the die cavity. This creates a large burr, which is cut off under heavy presses. Now the still-hot shear forgings are cooled off under controlled conditions to eliminate any internal stress.


What is A Blanked Shear?

To create Blanked Shears, strips of steel are cut into the form of a shear, using a method that is similar to a cookie-cutter. These Blanked Shears are then ground into shape. Occasionally, cut out “Blanks” are put into a very powerful press where the blade is squeezed into shape, compressing the steel near the edge so it will last longer.

Drop Forged tools and shears are far superior to blanked ones. The material flow of the hot metal being forged and pounded into the cavity gives the steel a much more dense structure, better quality and ultimately longer life. Naturally, forging is a much more expensive process than blanking.


What Makes A Shear Cut?

A shear is essentially a lever system.  If you were to take two pieces of metal and screw them together, they would not cut.

The blades of a shear are twisted lengthwise. This is done to bring the cutting edges up and to create a rake angle, which gives the shear room to function. Otherwise they would squeeze the material, not cut it.

The blades are also curved toward each other ever so slightly to maintain a point of contact along the length of the cutting edge. Otherwise the shears would tend to fold hair. Of course, this curvature of the blades creates a pressure, which is absorbed by a counter pressure in the form of a semi-circle on the inside of the blade, below the screw. This semi-circle is called a ride.

Any shear feels “floppy” or loose in the screw when completely opened. On the other hand, one should see a “crack” or light between the blades when the shear is completely closed.



The word “scissor” comes from the Latin word “cisoria” meaning a cutting instrument. The verb “scinder” means to cut or separate. The word appears in Old French between 842-1300 A.D. as “Cisoires,” from which the Modern French word “Ciseaux” derives. In late Middle English, about 1400 A.D., there is found reference to “sisours” and “cysowres.”

The word “shears” has a different derivation, originating from the Germanic/Teutonic root “Sker,” which later changed to “Skeresa.” In Old English, the word became “Scear.” The word in German is today “Schere.”

Today both words, shear and scissor, are used interchangeably in the English language. One definition is that a scissor is up to 6” in length. Anything longer than 6” is generally considered a shear. Another definition is that even sized fingerings are a scissor and uneven ones a shear.



Blending – The “blending” or “tapering” shear has teeth ground or milled very deep into ONE blade. The extreme end of each tooth has a tiny V-notch to prevent hair from slipping. Generally there are 18 teeth per linear inch. Each tooth .01” (1/32”) wide with .020” (.5mm) gap in between.

These shears are mostly used for finishing a haircut, cutting approximately within ¼” to ½” from the hair tips.

Thinning – The “thinning” shear has teeth cut deep in both blades. One blade is “edged,” the other again has the V-notch on the extreme end of each tooth. There are 13 teeth per linear inch. Each tooth is .045” (3/64”) wide with .030” (1/32”) gap.

These shears are used for “thinning” thick hair with the cut made close to the skin. Another application is to cut near the hair ends to texture the hair for a more natural look.

Texturizing – A “Texturizing” shear has fewer teeth or wider gaps to create texture. So in effect, the fewer the teeth, the more dramatic the cut will be.

We are often asked, “Which shears cut out more hair, the thinner or the texturizer?”

Answer: The thinning shear does. Per linear inch, both shears have a total cutting edge of a little over ½”. The blender measures .558” and the thinner .585”. However, don’t forget that it is not a question of how much cut one gets, but the “blender” and “thinner” are different tools for different applications.



Convex Edge
State of the art, smoother cutting blade. These are harder to make and therefore are more expensive, but worth it.

Beveled Edge
The oldest blade design a beveled edge can cut well depending on the type of steel and manufacturing process, but requires more force than the convex blade and can’t be used for advanced techniques.


Serrated Edges

A high content of chromium makes a steel stain-less. The side effect of chromium is that the cutting edges are very slippery and the hair has a tendency to be pushed forward.  Beveled edge shears overcome this problem by micro-seriating the edges. This serration holds the hair in place.

Convex edge shears are very keenly edged. To serrate the edges would be counter-productive because the edges would chew each other up. Convex edge shears often have one blade indented. This reduces the angle of the cutting edges toward each other. With that the “push force” is greatly reduced and the keen edges slice through the hair.



Ergonomics is the science of body motion. Some years ago, there was a governmental agency in Germany similar to OSHA in this country. They found an extraordinary amount of Arthritis in the beauty profession.  

This research institute videotaped and studied hundreds of stylists. They found that typically the stylists, while cutting hair, take the stance whereby their knees are flexed, the belly is sticking out somewhat, the wrist is angled upward, and the fingers, in a standard shear with the finger rest, are closing in a motion whereby the thumb leads toward the ring finger.

This motion is very unnatural and strenuous. For an example, one would never pick up a coin off the table with the thumb and ring finger. As an experiment, just try this. Move your thumb toward the ring finger while tilting the wrist backward and make twenty repetitions very rapidly. You can feel the strain in the wrist, forearm and elbow building up. Taking all the elaborate research findings into account, Chris Christensen Systems developed a shear whereby the whole handle contour, with the thumb forward, allows your hand to close in a natural motion. The whole concept is unique, definitely a first in development of shears, patented but ultimately copied by many other companies. These shears are definitely less fatiguing and a lot of people who suffered from strain, arthritis, carpel tunnel syndrome, or had calluses on their fingers, felt great relief using these shears.



Before trying to use a true lefty scissor it is important to think about the type of scissor you normally use. In order to distinguish a right-handed scissor from a left handed scissor you should hold the scissor in your hand. The finger ring should be on top and the thumb ring on the bottom. If the cutting edge of the blade closest to you is pointing toward the ceiling you are holding the scissor in the correct hand. A left handed scissor will have the finger and thumb ring to the left and of course a right handed scissor will have the thumb and finger ring on the right.

Many left handed groomers have cut with right handed scissors for so long; they don’t know what it is like to cut with a “true lefty scissor.”  The natural hand motion of a right-hander using a right handed shear forces the blades of the shear together. When a lefty uses a right handed shear the natural hand motion would spread the blades apart and the hair would fold. Therefore a lefty has to modify their motion into the opposite direction for the shear to cut. This would have to be unlearned when using a true left handed shear. Also a left-handed person using a right-handed shear is working harder to get them to cut than a right-handed person. By getting them into a pair of true lefty shears, it will help them in the long run and probably extend their career!

… Remember that the learning process to use a true left pair of scissors can take a while. Don’t get discouraged when the scissor doesn’t cut or feel the way you want it to the first few attempts.



Professional tools should be oiled with specially formulated oil every day. This oil can be purchased from Chris Christensen Systems in a special tube with the proper application attachment included. A soft cloth should be used to wipe the excess oil, hair and dirt from the tool after application.

To apply the oil to scissors, apply a few drops of oil to the screw head on the A Blade and the tip of the screw from the B blade side. A few drops of oil should be placed in between the blades in the screw area as well.

DO NOT USE CLIPPER OIL ON ANY TOOL OTHER THAN ELECTRIC CLIPPERS!!!   Clipper oil has specially formulated compounds in it to reduce heat and friction. These compounds can dissolve washers and bumpers. You should always use specially formulated SHEAR OIL.

DO NOT OVER TIGHTEN THE SCREW.  In order to determine the proper tension of a screw or adjustable screw, you should hold the scissor in front of you by the thumb ring and open and let go of the finger ring blade. The scissor should not drop.

DO NOT DROP OR THROW TOOLS INTO DRAWERS OR ONTO COUNTERS! The points or cutting edges will get damaged. Tools should be stored when not in use inside of a protective pouch, case, or carrier.


Your Shears Need Service When:

Your Chris Christensen Shear needs sharpening or reconditioning when

      • The scissor is pushing hair
      • The scissor pulls hair
      • The scissor gets dropped and nicked
      • The scissor won’t slide cut anymore (check screw tension)
      • The scissor snaps at the tips (possible nick in blade)
      • The bumper is loose or fell out (warranty – call factory)
      • The screw won’t stay tight anymore
      • The removable finger rest is loose or missing (tighten 1st)
      • A blade breaks (some can be repaired to satisfaction)
      • The tool just plain doesn’t cut anymore!
      • The Nipper spring sticks or slides rough (try some oil 1st)
      • The Nipper takes too much pressure to cut (edges are dull)


Sharpening – Protect Your Warranty!

Get your shears factory-sharpened or visit only Authorized Sharpeners!

As long as your Chris Christensen Systems shears are serviced only by Chris Christensen Systems Service Center or Authorized Sharpeners; the warranty remains in force. Should anyone other than Chris Christensen Systems Service Center service your shears in any way the warranty is null and void. There are no exceptions to this condition. If you should have any questions, please call 800-654-7006 or 903-389-7949 to speak with a representative.


Repair and Reconditioning

Chris Christensen Systems offers a complete reconditioning service for all Chris Christensen shears. If you have a shear that needs a total reconditioning, you should allow Chris Christense Systems, the manufacturer, who has the experience, to recondition your tool. We will totally overhaul any scissor to like new condition. The nominal fee for shipping, handling and insurance is reasonable ($8.50 in the continental US) and it only takes about 72 business hours to send and receive your tool for this service. Call 1-800-654-7006 to get more information.


How do I adjust the Tension of my Shear? 

When you adjust the tension on a Chris Christensen Shear the blades should not drop at all, they should look like they are about to close, but then not close completely.  This is because the shears are made with a high quality alloyed steel and the blades run parallel to each other.  There is no need for the drop.


Lubricating and cleaning your shear 

Most clipper blade disinfectants and lubes have solvents in them that will dissolve bumpers, washers and finger rings over time.  We do not recommend you use clipper specific lubricants or disinfectants because of this.  If you use shear oil or mineral oil on the screw area of the shear you will find they will never have a problem.  After each use of your shear wipe it down with a soft chamois to remove any hair and/or debris then apply a small drop of shear oil to the screw area and store.



Even in the best and most talented hands, the wrong pair of shears will yield less than desirable results. Cheaply produced shears can end in a grooming that appears “cheap” and result in a client who isn’t happy. Blades that are dull or inferior can damage the hair, causing split ends and poor quality shears can not ensure the clean line cutting that every grooming technique begins with. Shears made of poor metal quality also need to be sharpened more often. If you do not pay a Professional Sharpener with a good reputation, to sharpen your shears, the shears are literally chewing or grinding off the dog’s hair.

Dull and nicked blades also make your work more difficult. With a good quality pair of shears, made from a higher Rockwell hardness metal, your cutting edge will be sharper, and stay sharper in the long run. A sharper cutting blade also works FOR you. It is more efficient, cuts faster, cuts more hair in less time, and reduces stress on your hands. One other thing to consider is just how often you get your shears sharpened and the cost of the service.  If you are having to get your shears sharpened often, they are probably made of inferior metal.  Just think of how many times you open and close your shears during one grooming session!

There are literally thousands of grooming shears out on the market today! How do you know if you are buying quality shears?


Shear Metallurgy, the Metal Aspect of Shears & Scissors!

There are thousands of grooming shears out there to choose from, different metals, different handles, lengths, ergonomic, thinning shears, bevel, convex, this and that. . . the list seems almost endless!

If you are a beginner we recommend that you choose your “workhorse” shear. This shear will be the main shear you use when cutting hair. We also recommend a thinning shear  (sometimes called a blender, thinner, thinning shear or texturizing shear [see above]) as well.

Your talents are limited by your shears and your shears are limited by your talents.

We have talked to numerous professional groomers and they are all in agreement. They all suggest buying a shear one step ahead of your skills and talents. We agree hands down. It is wise to invest in shears that will ultimately last you for a while. You sure don’t want to be held back by the performance of your shears.

So, how do you choose a shear? The first thing you need is a little course on metal.

OK, this is easy, no need to panic. You didn’t have to minor in metallurgy to get this. Go to the kitchen, pick up a fork and look at it. Is it rusted? Is it pitted? Probably not. “Silverware” as many call it, is made out of stainless steel. Stainless steel is strong, and corrosive resistant. Now go look at that black iron skillet that grandma used to cook in. Is it strong? Do you think you could break it? That Stainless Steel Silverware is made of iron and carbon, like grandma’s skillet, mixed with other alloys (metals) to make it “stainless”. Stainless steel does not rust unless subjected to real abuse!

Stainless steel is iron, carbon, and other alloys like chromium all mixed together. This potion isn’t a secret but it is the key to a quality shear. Every grooming shear is made with a stainless steel mixture of alloys. Some shears contain cobalt; others contain Vanadium, Molybdenum (moly steel), Sulfur, Manganese, and even Silicon.

The Rockwell C scale, simply put, measures how hard a metal is. Hardness is determined by using a load to push a diamonded cone into the metal.  The depth the cone travels into the metal is the degree of hardness. The higher the number on the Rockwell C scale, the harder the metal. But, hardest isn’t always the best. Shears ideally should be hard enough to prevent corrosion and to hold that sharp cutting edge, but light enough to be easily used. We don’t want your arm falling off, but we don’t want you cutting with a shear that won’t stay sharp either.  A dull shear is not an ergonomic shear, and we want you to groom using ergonomics!

The industry standard for grooming shears is hotly debated by salesmen everywhere, however 440 Stainless Steel is universally agreed on, as being the best base for a grooming shear. You may see it referred to as simply 440 Stainless Steel or as Japanese Steel (J2). These terms are pretty much interchangeable.


Metals and Rockwell C Average Hardness:

Steel                           Average Hardness                        US Surgical Steel

420                        47 C                                                    51 C

430                        48 C                                                    53 C

440                        55 C                                                    61 C

Hitachi (VG10)          61 C                                                    67 C

Damascus                62 C                                                    71 C

Ultimately groomers want to work with the best shears they can afford. We recommend that you choose your first shears wisely. Down the road, instead of buying a new pair of shears to replace the ones you have; you can add NEW ones to your shear collection. As your skills and talents improve.