I interviewed 3 companies that make fabric scissors and/or sharpen them. Here’s their professional advice on how to sharpen fabric scissors and pinking scissors.
The best way to sharpen fabric scissors is to send them to a professional sharpening service. Expect to pay about $7 – 20 (£6 – 15). You only need to do this once every few years.
Crafters normally don’t have the specialist tools or training needed to sharpen scissors correctly. A big risk when trying to do-it-yourself is sharpening the blades at the wrong angle, flattening the ‘hollow’ in the blades, and nicking them.
Generic at-home sharpening tools aren’t a good alternative. Fabric scissors need to be sharpened in a specific way. DIY methods that involve cutting through certain materials can blunt and damage scissors.
Trying to sharpen pinking shears at home is not recommended. Each tooth needs to be sharpened at a specific angle and this differs between each brand. Expect to pay $7 – 14 (£6 – £10) for a professional to do it for you.
- Ernest Wright is a manufacturer of scissors. They’ve been in business since 1902!
- LDH Scissors have been manufacturing scissors since 1990.
- And Pro Sharp have been sharpening scissors since 1997. They’re a member of the Guild of Master Craftsmen.
In this post, I’ll let them explain how fabric scissors need to be sharpened properly. And what exactly at-home methods can do to scissors. Their explanation of how at-home sharpening tools work was really eye-opening for me.
Note: I’m using the term ‘fabric scissors’ in this post because it’s what people search for, but technically they’re ‘fabric shears’. Shears have longer blades than normal scissors.
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The best way to sharpen fabric scissors
Sending your fabric scissors to a professional sharpening company is the best way to sharpen them. This will cost approximately $7 – 20 (£6 – 15), plus postage and packaging for a mail-in service.
You don’t need to do it often. “A proper pair of scissors [will] only need sharpening once in many years”, said Paul from Ernest Wright.
You can find services like this by googling “fabric scissor sharpening [your area]” or “fabric shear sharpening [your area]”.
Here’s why it’s difficult to sharpen your own scissors at home:
Proper scissor sharpening requires specialist tools
Paul from Ernest Wright told me “…the angle of the [blade’s] edge actually gets steeper as you go from the pinch to point, this means there is a subtle twist along the edge, making it a very difficult shape to follow without the proper tools.”
Proper scissor sharpening requires training
Without specialist training, you might:
- Sharpen the scissors at the wrong angle. Different brands use different angles.
- Remove the gap/hollow inside the blades that is meant to be there. It’s called ‘blade set’.
- Accidentally nick the blades.
- Overtighten the scissors, making the blades crunch into each other.
After doing my research for this post, I’ve realized that I’ve made some of these mistakes in the past too. Whoops!
All 3 of the specialists I spoke to didn’t encourage DIY sharpening for these reasons. There’s a lot of room for error without specialist training and tools.
Can you use at-home scissor sharpening tools?
Large scissor brands, like Fiskars, actually sell at-home scissor sharpening tools. So are these a good way to sharpen your scissors at home?
I sent a link to this popular Fiskars sharpener to the 3 companies I interviewed. Here’s what they think about using tools like this for fabric scissors.
Ursula from LDH Scissors said “those sharpeners we’d only recommend for sharpening craft scissors, or scissors that aren’t your main tool, if that makes sense!
I wouldn’t recommend using them to sharpen your dedicated fabric scissors, as each manufacturer [has] a different angle to sharpen their scissors.“
Tom from Pro Sharp said “these devices in my opinion are the ruination of most scissors. They are quite often make/angle specific, so the Fiskar will only work best on Fiskars etc.
The problem is they all leave a small burr on the inside edge of the blade. The steel burr is best removed by cutting paper!”
Tom explained that a ‘burr’ is “a piece of ragged metal that is formed while sharpening”. “This needs removing carefully or the blade blunts itself, it drags material, or [it] can cut you.”
He also mentioned that these at-home sharpening tools “are made from plastic and this wears. When it does, the wrong angle appears often making things worse.”
When I asked Paul from Ernest Wright if the Fiskars sharpeners were OK for fabric scissors, he said, “I wouldn’t say so, it looks like this device sharpens a blade’s edge from the inside and outside of the blades, this looks like it would flatten some of the hollow we’ve put into the inside blades.“
They were all against using general scissor sharpening tools for your fabric scissors. Fabric scissors have a very specific angle and shape that these tools ignore.
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Can cutting through certain materials sharpen scissors?
If you google ‘how to sharpen fabric scissors at home’, some popular DIY methods are suggested:
- Cut through fine sandpaper
- Cut through aluminum foil
- Cut through steel wool soap pads
I asked the professionals if this was a good idea.
Paul from Ernest Wright said “We have heard this before. Most of the time, we get a call or message saying that the kids did this and that the scissors are not cutting properly anymore.
These materials might help take burrs off the edges of scissors, but really, they all sound like materials that would do more to blunt a pair. So, we will never recommend doing this and expect sharp scissors.”
Tom from Pro Sharp agrees. “These methods are basically useless and can cause damage to a fine edge, so no.”
“If you are going to use these methods of sharpening scissors you will need to use a lot of blade side pressure when you cut through the material of choice”. “This can upset the set or bend in the blade that makes a scissor work“.
A writer for Threads Magazine tested the DIY aluminum foil method on her pinking shears. She reported “It hadn’t worked for me in the past, but in the interest of scientific rigor, I retried it and documented it – every variation of it – on five pairs of dull pinking shears.
Not one was improved in the least.
Besides that, Pat at Simply Sharper says it can damage your shears.” (source)
It sounds like these popular DIY methods aren’t effective.
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Can you sharpen pinking shears / scissors at home?
Pinking shears cut a zig-zag edge. They’re often used to stop fabric fraying.
Ursula from LDH Scissors said “each tooth of a pinking shear needs to be sharpened individually, so we don’t currently recommend trying to do this yourself. We always recommend taking your tools to a professional to get them sharpened.”
Tom from Pro Sharp said “it is not possible to sharpen pinkers at home. These need sharpening at the correct angle and all makes differ. They must never be sharpened between the teeth with a file.”
If you don’t have a local store that can service your pinking shears, using a mail-in service is a great option. Expect to pay about $7 – 14 (£6 – £10) plus postage and packaging. Pro Sharp offers this service to UK crafters.
More info about scissors:
If you’re looking for a new pair of scissors, LDH Scissors has a quiz to help you decide what type you need.
Pro Sharp offers a mail-in scissor sharpening service. They’re based in the UK. They sharpen all types and makes of scissors. This includes brands like Japanese Kai, and William Whiteley, the oldest scissor manufacturer in the world (started in 1760).
More posts about fabric scissors:
- Can you cut paper with fabric scissors? I asked 5 pros.
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Email correspondence with Tom at Pro Sharp on 12 March 2021.
Email correspondence with Paul at Ernest Wright on 8 March 2021.
Email correspondence with Ursula at LDH Scissors on 25 February 2021.
Simply Sharper. ‘Mail in sharpening pricing’. [online] Available at: http://www.simplysharper.com/pricing.php [accessed: 27 March 2021]
Pro Sharp. ‘Scissor and Shear Sharpening’. [online] Available at: https://www.prosharp.co.uk/services.asp?c=c2 [accessed: 27 March 2021]
sepsharp.co.uk. ‘DRESSMAKING AND UPHOLSTERY’. [online] Available at: https://www.sepsharp.co.uk/dressmaking-and-upholstery [accessed: 27 March 2021]
P. Keay (2017). ‘Q&A: Sharpen Pinking Shears’. [online] Available at: https://www.threadsmagazine.com/2017/01/09/qa-sharpen-pinking-shears