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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Shear Technology - What's In A Professional Grade Cutting Shear?

So, does anyone know what kind of metal goes into a professional grade cutting shear? Some people guess Titanium. Others guess Steel. Those are good guesses, but not correct. Let's break it down. Remember in high school science class, you learned that alloys are a mixture of metals or possibly mixtures of metals and elements.

So to get regular ole steel, you take iron, carbon and nickel and a few other elements, but mainly those three. The more carbon in the mixture, the harder the steel will be. This is how you make regular ole steel. The problem with this recipe is that regular steel is prone is rust and corrosion and that would be disastrous for professional grade cutting shears.

So, chromium is added to aid in the resistance of corrosion. In fact, in order to be considered stainless steel, the mixture has to contain at least 13% chromium. Does that mean that it doesn't stain? Yes, but more importantly, it resists corrosion. However, there is still a problem with this recipe. Any guesses? It's the nickel.

According to the CDC (Centers For Disease Control), 20% of the US population is allergic to nickel. That translates into 64,000,000 people in the US alone. Maybe you've worn a pair of jeans with a nickel snap at the waist and after wearing them, you had a red circle near your belly button where the snap was. If so, then you are probably allergic to nickel.

It certainly wouldn't be good for a cosmetologist to be cutting around the neck and ears with shears that contained nickel and an allergic reaction broke out on the client. Or maybe on the hands of the cosmetologist. You know how allergies can be. You can develop an allergy one day, when you didn't have one the day before.

Surgical Stainless Steel was developed with a very low content of nickel for this very reason. Dentists use equipment with this metal. Surgeons use tools with this metal and of course, Cosmetologists use professional grade cutting shears made with surgical stainless steel. The main two countries that produce surgical stainless steel are Germany and Japan.

In the Cosmetology industry, there are five main grades of surgical stainless steel used in making professional cutting shears. The grades 410 and 420 are mainly used for making barber shears, mannequin shears and pet grooming shears. The blades for these shears generally have a beveled edge or maybe a serrated edge with a 40-45 degree angle. The metal in these grades are too soft to be very sharp. The cost of these shears are between $20-$50.

Once a cosmetologist gets "behind the chair", generally they will need to work with shears that are made with at least a 440c grade of surgical stainless steel. These shears usually have blades that are semi-convex with a 30-35 degree angle. The metal in 440c's are harder than 410's and 420's and can be sharper. They are generally used for everyday cutting. The cost of these shears are between $200-$300 per shear.

If a cosmetologist wishes to enter into the world of advanced styles like slide cutting or point cutting, then they will likely need to use higher grades of surgical stainless steel like Cobalt and ATS. These shears are considered the Cadillac and the Ferrari of the professional grade cutting shear industry. The cost of a pair of cobalt shears ranges from $300-$500 per shear and an ATS can cost anywhere from $1000 or more per shear.

Cobalt and ATS shears contain full convex blades made with what's considered a much harder steel and are extremely sharp. They slice through hair like they are floating on air. The higher grade of steel, the longer the blades will last before they need sharpening which is considered normal maintenance for professional shears. Mannequin shears may need sharpening every 500 cuts, while 440c's, Cobalt's and ATS's may last up to 2500 cuts before they need sharpening.

The components of a professional grade cutting shear include the pinky tang, used to aid in stabilizing the balance of the shear, the finger holes, the bumper which keeps the blades from crossing over each other and causing a nick or cut on the client's ears or neck, the tension screw which allows the owner to adjust the tension of the blades and of course the blades.

If the tension of your shear is too tight, the blades will be forced when cutting which wears them down sooner, creating a sooner need for sharpening. The average cost of sharpening is about $35. If the tension of your shears is too loose, the hair will bend over the blade, causing an incorrect cut. To create the perfect tension, adjust either the dial or inset tension screw until the blades form a soft V when the shears are opened and then released.

Ergonomics is the applied science of creating tools that allow the user to perform their work duties more efficiently and safer. Another word for this is Biotechnology. In the cosmetology industry, shears have been created that help to alleviate a common problem of wrist pain, elbow pain and shoulder pain. The Classic style shear, when used requires the user to hold their elbow out straight when cutting in order for the blades to be parallel to the floor.

However, the Offset shear was created with the thumb hole slightly closer to the tension screw allowing the user's elbow to be dropped to a 45 degree angle when cutting with the blade parallel to the floor. Even further still is the Crane shear, which is so angled in the handle that the user's elbow is almost completely at their side while cutting with the blade parallel to the floor.

The 3-Ring shear allows for more control, which is especially great for beginners and the Swivel shear allows the user to turn the shear from front cutting to top cutting without moving their wrist much at all. These style varieties aid in bringing comfort and relief to users that suffer from wrist, elbow and shoulder pain. It has been said that the Swivel takes some getting used to, but is worth the trouble.

Cleaning your shears thoroughly after each client is very important. Use a disinfectant like rubbing alcohol removing all hair fibers and hair product. Dry with a clean cloth, and use a good quality shear oil at least once a week, maybe twice a week. A couple of drops will do the trick. Never leave your shears on the counter. They can drop to the floor, causing damage to the shear. They can get stolen or a child might pick them up and get hurt.

Your cosmetologist generally has to have had over 1500 hours of training before they can be licensed by the state to cut your hair. And before they can begin their practice, they have to invest possibly hundreds of dollars in their equipment to cut your hair with. This is something to think about the next time you sit down in that comfy salon chair. Maybe you could express your appreciation in the size of your tip.

Shear Technology information courtesy of Icon Shears

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