We take a calm stroll through the world of cutting paper with scissors. Calm for the sake of safety and also because scissors are a lot of fun. You can see that we enjoyed ourselves testing all the different types of scissors we found. From Scotch Precision Ultraedge craft scissors to Amazon Solimo kitchen shears, from old tailoring scissors to patterned zig-zag scissors for scrapbooking. We made bright and colourful art while figuring out what the best scissors are to cut paper with. Magazine collage art, pop-up paper sculpture and bright cut-paper homages to Mattise. We have all your crafty scissor needs covered.
Reviewing Different Scissors for Cutting Paper
Vishal: Hello and welcome to Stationery Test Drive, where every week we take humble tools and exotic tools and do interesting things with them. I’m Vishal.
Samir: I’m Samir.
Minjal: This is Minjal. And this week we’re exploring Scissors!
Vishal: We are artists and designers and calligraphers and we have a lot of scissors to explore! So why don’t we start with the Scotch scissor, because we all know the brand Scotch.
Samir: The Scotch scissor for those of you who don’t know is a brand made by 3M and we’ve actually spoken about them before because they’re the ones who invented scotch tape and masking tape. So the Scotch brand is one of those very technical, historical brands, that makes a lot of stationery. Scissors in general are much, much older than the Scotch brand. The Scotch brand is only about 100 years old.
Vishal: And of the Scotch varieties, I’m guessing this is a very modern scissor, certainly in design and in materials. It’s got a rubberized grip on the insides but hard plastic on the outsides.
What are kitchen shears?
Vishal: In today’s episode we will talk about classic scissors, folded scissors, craft scissors and my favorite – these are not necessarily known as scissors in most of the world, these are called shears or kitchen shears.
Vishal: Now you can split hairs or cut hairs depending on what a shear is or what a secateur is. The kitchen scissors are great and while it is weird to show them on stationary channel, we actually used them for craft in this test. And I love it because not only is it great for all the kitchen tasks but it also has a bottle and jar opener. And one of my favorite thing about these scissors is the ‘come-apart’ blades.
The reason the blades come apart and together is that sometimes you get food stuck in between the blades and what better way to clean them than to open it out, no need for any screwdrivers or implements, the blades easily come apart when aligned properly at the catch, and dunk them into your dishwasher. Minjal what do you think about the convenience of the ‘come-apart’ blades? Because I found it very useful.
Minjal: So I think these would be closest to the rudimentary scissors that were first used. I think when scissors were first invented, somewhere around 3000-4000 years ago. I think the Egyptians used two bronze blades. So they were not the pivoted, cross blades that we see today, but they were just bronze blades that were stuck together with a connecting wire, maybe some metal wire.
Samir: I mean the thing about scissors, that we consider scissors today, are obviously two pieces of metal with handles and attached with some sort of pivot. Now this design itself is not actually that new, it’s around since the first few centuries. I think the Romans are supposed to have invented it.
The original design of a scissor which still exists in some uses is sometimes called a Spring Scissors and people who are into sewing will actually be very familiar with it. It’s a single piece of metal, two blades with a U-Bend, with a bend like that, and people who do sewing will be very familiar with it because they’re usually just called Snips.
You can get them very commonly and they’re usually used when you’re sewing, just to cut off thread quickly. So, initially it was just much easier for people like the Mesopotamians and the Egyptians to make a single piece of metal and bend it with a bit of a springy motion and have that sharpened and that was the scissor.
Minjal: The steel scissors that we use today were invented only around 1761 or thereabouts in England. That was when scissors were actually mass produced. Before that you had a lot of specialist scissors where the handles were engraved or decorated. And the country that produces more than 70% of the scissors in the world is none other than China.
Vishal: I have to share this scissor like tool – ‘Snips’ with our viewers!
Minjal: Can you cut paper with this?
Vishal: You can cut industrial grade aluminium sheeting with this and that is what it was made for. You have to be very careful because these are spring loaded. The term running with scissors being a bad thing is there for a reason.
Samir: So these are what modern spring-loaded scissors are like, in that they actually have a spring that pushes them apart and you need to press them. If you leave them alone they go back and this design that I was describing to you before were spring loaded by design because it was a single piece of metal and this would kind of spring them apart, so you would press them together to cut. But yes, let’s test this out on paper.
Vishal: I think this is a very overkill.
Samir: It’s actually really very fine.
Vishal: Yeah, because it’s actually supposed to give you that kind of fine edge on literally aluminium. These are sometimes called ‘airplane snips’ because they are used in the aviation industry where you have very fine gauge steel and aluminum sheeting.
Samir: Not bad for a piece of hardware! Let’s close this to be safe.
Minjal: The Wikipedia page on scissors is full of superstitions about scissors, one of which is obviously not handing a pair of scissors to somebody you want to actually continue being cordial with.
Vishal: I think that it’s a superstition that has grown out of this good safety practice. You know usually if you’re pointing a sharp implement at someone you don’t mean them well!
Minjal: The thing with scissors is that they’re used across industries. Right from gardening to medical, to grooming industry, art craft, food there is not one industry where you wouldn’t use a different kind of scissor. And, I think what we have here today in the test, almost 50-60% of these are made in China.
Samir & Minjal: Except for this one, it is a brand called Munix, which I think is made in India, that is a local brand and we will cover that at some point.
Vishal: It’s a lovely scissor, it’s one that we used on our test drives this week.
Samir: And this scissor is actually made in Japan. It’s a Savoy Stainless Steel made in Japan scissors. I can’t be sure how old this is, but I think I own it for over 30 years.
Samir: I tried looking this up recently and the brand doesn’t have a lot of online presence, but these are scissors that at least in the 80s and the 90s were very, very popular in the garment industry and that’s what this design is for.
Vishal: They almost have become the generic garment industry symbol, when you think of some stock image of a tailor’s table, you get that.
Samir: In fact we should explain that the the shears and snips which we were talking about before, those are the oldest kind of scissors. Next came something like the Savoy scissors, where the two handles were even, and that still continues because it’s convenient when you’re cutting things like paper.
The first scissors that Minjal was talking about that were made in the UK on a mass level in the 1700s, they didn’t have the technology to mold the metal straight into these shapes. So what they did was to actually make sheet metal pieces and then drill holes. So the first scissors were actually just drilled into these holes. Eventually molding became popular enough that they could just mold this shape as a single piece. So then things like this came up, which of course have this uneven handle shape and that is more used now in the garment industry because you kind of run scissors into fabrics.
Minjal: The other interesting thing I read about Japanese scissor-making is that there was a time when citizens used to carry the katana. But, with the passing of time they were eventually not permitted to carry the katana anymore, so the sword makers of Japan started making scissors because citizens weren’t legally allowed to carry weapons anymore!
Vishal: Now, let’s talk about this very colorful scissor before we move on to our test drive pieces with the different scissors.
Minjal: If you’re into journaling, these are perfect because you can get really nice shapes.
Vishal: This one is actually detachable, it’s a very funky thing, where you pull that apart and I won’t do it now because it took me forever, as an old man and not a child with too much enthusiasm. You’ve got a curved edge and a straight edge but like a wavy zigzag one. I used to love these as a kid but I never got one, so I had a lot of fun trying these out finally.
Samir: And speaking of trying these out finally, I think we should get what we have done with these.
Henri Matisse Cut-Outs with Scissors
Minjal: This is my tribute to Henri Matisse. We’ve published an article on the Inky Memo website which talks about European painters and their preferred stationery tools. While doing the research we came across the very popular painter Matisse, Henri Matisse, popular in the 20th century. In the later part of his career he was confined to a wheelchair and the only art that he developed at that point was the technique of cutouts. What he used to do is , get his studio assistants to paint with gouache on paper, he would sit on the wheelchair and cut out shapes and arrange them in really lively compositions.
So if you look at his work it is mostly inspired by botanical art, lot of animals, figures. So this is my Inky Memo tribute to Matisse, and the scissors I used were the Scotch brand and it is fairly stable as far as an art or crafts scissors is concerned.
Vishal: Samir, why don’t you show us yours?
Samir: it was just a pleasure to have something that I could really try out my papercraft with, so like Minjal, I went all out.
Vishal: Minjal, you have done pure typographical collage after Matisse and Samir you have done almost a pop-up / paper sculpture?
Paper Sculpture with Scissors
Samir: Yeah it’s paper sculpture, but I have just designed it to fold flat and therefore I guess it is a pop-up.
Minjal: And have you used all the almost all the scissors that we’ve discussed so far?
Samir: Yes, I think I ended up using a vast majority of them. So I used even the kitchen shears to do a lot of the big cutting.
Vishal: I found the kitchen shears to be surprisingly good. Even though you think that the craft ones have that nice edge and the kitchen shears are kind of old-fashioned in some ways because they’re big and heavy.
Samir: But the actual straight edge of the kitchen shear is perfectly sharp and maneuverable.
Paper Collage with Scissors
Vishal: My experiment this week is pure collage in the classic way. I don’t know how many young people watch us, but there used to be these things called magazines. And growing up I would be quite horrified to actually cut up a magazine to use it. We’ve kept magazines for 20 or 30 years just to read them and continue to read them. But once in a while you have magazines that you don’t mind sacrificing and I did not mind sacrificing this issue of Vogue India magazine for this which yes was entirely created from random pages and textures and photo shoots and things in Vogue. I used mostly the the Munix, the little one, the local brand, the Indian brand. Because it’s great to go in, especially with all these curves, to have a little nimble thing.
Samir: I think essentially people who are not used to using scissors often try to do this, which is to move the scissor along a curve whereas what you can usually do is keep your hand steady and move the paper itself and that’s usually what gives you the best results with scissors.
Vishal: I mostly used glossy magazine paper and it was really fun to do. I also used the kitchen shears for a lot of the bigger images, where I just was picking out the pages and cutting out a large section.
Minjal: I’ve always wondered, is there some method to the collage madness?
Vishal: No, I just opened the magazine, looked at images that I thought were interesting or had nice swathes of color that I would like or gradients that I would like or textures that I would like, patterns and then I just cut them.
Vishal: There were maybe 20 or 30 pages cut and of them I used about 10 or 12 overall. So it’s a matter of curation first of all but also just stream of consciousness, putting ideas together as it goes. Sometimes typography can leap out at you and you know make something nonsensical or funny out of it.
Samir: I think in some ways it’s very similar to what Minjal did, in that maybe in her case it was only different in that she created the shapes, but the general process is the same where you kind of have the shapes ready and then you move things around, you find the best position.
Minjal: Yeah I thought the composition was the more fun part of it, where you where you’re just putting things together.
Vishal: True, I don’t think any of us had the specific composition in mind when we started the page.
Minjal: But is really incredible that you can produce fantastic work with this humble, really humble tool.
Vishal: And let’s not forget you need glue, which we will cover very soon in an upcoming episode, because all of these are just glued down pieces of paper.
Minjal: I used Fevistick, which is an Indian brand, the tube applicator.
Samir: I think as a person who does a lot of paper art, I actually don’t use scissors that often. Most of the time I am more fond of the the precision of using a craft knife.
Vishal: And that brings me very helpfully to the one problem I had with this entire thing and where I had to cheat away from our mandate of using only scissors for the test drive. Counterforms.
Counterforms are basically, let’s say the inside of an O, the inside of an A, the inside of this hoop, which I wanted to cut out with the scissors and I tried but it doesn’t actually work that way. You won’t get a clean cut unless you gouge in at some point and then try to make something. So for this I used the good old craft knife.
Samir: I’d say, I mean that is definitely a huge shortcoming in scissors. I think the strength of them is the fact that you can do things which are not planned, which in some ways is what we’ve all gone for, where we just kind of cut into something and then figure it out along the way.
As far as the counterforms are concerned, traditional chinese paper cutting is actually done almost exclusively with scissors, which I found very interesting always. A lot of their patterns and chinese paper cuts are generally used as kind of decorations on glass windows.
Vishal: So what, do they pinch the paper up?
Samir: Right, so because they’re doing kind of symmetrical shapes, they just fold the paper over and cut shapes which become symmetrical.
Vishal: And also only works on paper that can then be free folded down into a very flat thing.
Samir: I think what I’ve also figured out and this is something I will need to look into at some point, there are probably scissors which are capable of making that initial puncture in a very sharp way, which these people use and I have never really found one that does that.
Vishal: A kind of a needle-nose scissor.
Samir: The problem with most regular scissors is that they have quite a thickness to the blade and therefore you can’t just sort of make a clean puncture into paper, it makes a hole rather than a cut, but I assume there are scissors out there which are much more precise, so those would solve the problem of the counter form.
The other thing I’d like to mention is that there is a single city in China that is responsible for I think something like 60 or 70% of the world’s scissor production. I think it’s Guangdong which is the largest manufacturer of scissors.
Vishal: Just purely on an artistic level I think we all enjoyed making collages. Like you said we’ve not done this for a long time, I’ve certainly not done this for maybe decades, maybe since school.
Samir: Yeah, it was just fun to do something where you assemble things rather than plan them out from the beginning.
Minjal: Also for some people like me drawing straight lines is a challenge, cutting straight lines is also a challenge. I think a lot of people face that problem. So this particular piece helped me because most of it were whimsical shapes, with no structure or guidelines to follow.
Samir: I think as I said that’s the strength of scissors and maybe more of us should play around with scissors once in a while because it kind of frees you from that need to have very precise shapes.
Vishal: I think we can see across this spread. if you have been thinking of using scissors and have a pair of scissors that you’ve not used, use them for easy, creative projects. You can use color paper, and if you have magazines lying around or other books that you want to get rid off with pictures, cut them up. Why not? Until then, I’m Vishal.
Minjal: This is Minjal.
Samir: I’m Samir.
Get the different scissors for art and craft projects
1. Scotch Multi-Purpose Scissor – https://amzn.to/3Q74i6O
2. Mr. Pen- Craft Scissors Decorative Edge – https://amzn.to/3Q7nBwQ
3. Stainless Steel Folding Scissor – https://amzn.to/3MqRW6P
4. Sewing Scissors Set – https://amzn.to/3NZ053u
5. Amazon Multipurpose Scissors – https://amzn.to/3xpfrbY
6. Multi Function Kitchen Scissors – https://amzn.to/3xpoWba