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Posted by on Mar 7, 2017 in Tell Me Why |

Why Are Scissors an Ancient Tool?

Why Are Scissors an Ancient Tool?

Man’s earliest implements were sharpened stones, from which the modern scissors have evolved. Scissors first appeared in the Bronze Age, and archaeologists have unearthed scissors that are roughly 3,500 years old! Their use spread slowly through the rest of the ancient world through trade and exploration.

The first scissors consisted of two blades connected at the handle by a C-shaped spring. It was used to cut everything from hair to animal hides. Around 100 A.D., Roman craftsmen developed cross-blade scissors. That is, the blade-edges crossed and slid past each other when cutting. By the Middle Ages, the rich had scissors made of gold and silver inlaid with precious stones, while the poor used simpler versions made of iron or bronze.

It is most likely that scissors were invented around 1500 BC in ancient Egypt. The earliest known scissors appeared in Mesopotamia 3,000 to 4,000 years ago. These were of the ‘spring scissor’ type comprising two bronze blades connected at the handles by a thin, flexible strip of curved bronze which served to hold the blades in alignment, to allow them to be squeezed together, and to pull them apart when released.

Spring scissors continued to be used in Europe until the 16th century. However, pivoted scissors of bronze or iron, in which the blades were pivoted at a point between the tips and the handles, the direct ancestor of modern scissors, were invented by the Romans around 100 AD. They entered common use in not only ancient Rome, but also China, Japan, and Korea, and the idea is still used in almost all modern scissors.

During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, spring scissors were made by heating a bar of iron or steel, then flattening and shaping its ends into blades on an anvil. The center of the bar was heated, bent to form the spring, then cooled and reheated to make it flexible. The Hangzhou Zhang Xiaoquan Company in Hangzhou, China, has been manufacturing scissors since 1663.

Large-scale production of scissors began in 1761, when a worker at the Sheffield Metal Works in England began to make them from cast steel. These scissors were much stronger and more durable than earlier ones, and Sheffield scissors are very famous to this day. The first trade-mark, 332, was granted in 1791. William Whiteley & Sons (Sheffield) Ltd, the company is still manufacturing scissors today, and is the oldest company in the West to do so.

Pivoted scissors were not manufactured in large numbers until 1761, when Robert Hinchliffe produced the first pair of modern-day scissors made of hardened and polished cast steel. He lived in Cheney Square, London, and was reputed to be the first person who put out a signboard proclaiming himself “fine scissor manufacturer”.

During the 19th century, scissors were hand-forged with elaborately decorated handles. They were made by hammering steel on indented surfaces known as ‘bosses’ to form the blades. The rings in the handles, known as bows, were made by punching a hole in the steel and enlarging it with the pointed end of an anvil.

In 1649, in Swedish-ruled Finland, an ironworks was founded in the village of Fiskars between Helsinki and Turku. In 1830, a new owner started the first cutlery works in Finland, making, among other items, scissors with the Fiskars trademark.

Content for this question contributed by Mark Steins, resident of Tonawanda, Erie County, New York, USA