In the beginning…there were only bevel edged shears. The best shears were made in Germany, especially Solingen, Germany, the birthplace of fine steel and steel craftsmanship. Shears, knives, and exclusive cutlery were individually forged and honed by practiced craftsmen who learned through extended apprenticeship. Shear making was often a family craft, with skills handed down from one generation to the next. This was the case of the Eickert family who ultimately relocated to the United States and formed the Arius-Eickert shears factory.
And then came….the Japanese with their own high chromium steel and their new convex edged shears. These shears rapidly gained popularity and swept the hair dressing industry. Convex edges were especially great for a technique of human hair cutting called “slide cutting.” Japanese shears with convex edges had ultra smooth cutting action and were razor sharp. Soon, the convex edge shears entered the grooming industry and became the “in” thing, the hot item. Groomers ditched their bevel edged shears and within a few years the Japanese convex edge items became the favored tool. The fact that they can cost 2-3 times as much mattered little; they looked super cool and they cut like “buttah”. Another selling factor was that the Japanese shears featured ergonomic handles which not only looked great, they reduced the strain on the groomers hand, especially for the long 8-10-inch styles that groomers love. Oh yes, and we might mention the colored titanium coating that is done on Japanese type shears that many groomers cannot resist. I know I love those colors!
What happened next was predictable. The technology for making convex edge shears migrated from Japan to many other countries, especially those with cheap labor. These shears are no longer hand crafted, but are mass-produced in Pakistan, China, Korea, and other third world countries. At the same time, the global economy shifted so that German products became more expensive to import to the US. This contributed to the lessened popularity of German shears.
I think it is time to rekindle an appreciation of bevel edged shears. In my toolbox, there is a place for both.
ADVANTAGES OF GERMAN BEVEL EDGE (WITH MICRO SERRATION):
- Best for thick cutting or bulk cutting.
- Do not push hair.
- Edges do not easily nick or get knocked out of alignment if dropped, making shears more durable.
- Can cut dirty coat without dulling blades.
- German-made shears can be customized after manufacture.
- More easily sharpened, less expensive to maintain.
- Generally less costly to buy and,
- Cost less to sharpen. However, you want to find a sharpener that will replace the microserration on the shears. Microserration is not the same as rough corrugation that can be done with a file.
ADVANTAGES OF JAPANESE CONVEX EDGE
- Ultra smooth cutting action (bevel edge is more “crunchy” action)
- Can be very light weight.
- Best for finishing and obtaining an ultra plush look.
- Cutting requires less thumb pressure.
- Come in a wide variety of handle styles for more ergonomic cutting.
- Have advantages for human hair stylists, as they are best for a technique called “slide cutting”. We don’t use that technique in dog grooming.
The good news is that in spite of the popularity and success of mass-produced “affordable” Japanese style shears, the art of scissor craftsmanship has not died. At SuperZoo 2015, I spent some time with Randy Lowe of Precision Sharpening. I have known Randy for many years, but not well, and I have to be honest that I perceived him only as a sharpener. Now, however, I realize that he is much more than just a great sharpener, he is a master craftsman. Most importantly, he is customizing shears. He does a lot of work with bevel edged shears, bringing them into the 21st Century by customizing offset handles, bent thumbs, bent shanks (a handle design that keeps groomers from over bending the wrist while scissoring hard-to-reach areas). Most notably Randy Lowe has managed to develop a technique for curving thinning shears and chunkers. I’m sure the Eickert brothers would be extremely impressed. I have previously stated that this was an impossible accomplishment, but now I am a believer. I am also the happy owner of a pair of curved blending shears.
Bevel edged shears are workhorses. They can take a beating and keep on snipping! They don’t commit suicide if dropped, they don’t dull easily, they stay ready to cut. They are a great choice in a beginner’s hands because the novice groomer can “feel” the cut. They are ideal for advanced groomers to bevel thick cocker feet, detail around the eyes, shape eyebrows and bangs, and scissor inside rear legs without cutting the dog. And when your fancy and expensive convex scissors suddenly won’t cut or the weird handle breaks in your hands, your bevel edge babies will be patiently waiting to be put into action.