Scissors are simple tools designed to cut paper and other thin materials with ease. They consist of two sharpened surfaces which open away from each other, but then can be closed so that the sharpened edges of the blades slide past one another, cutting whatever is in between. Each blade is a scissor, but they only work properly when used together, so a singe such implement is referred to in the plural form, scissors.
The origin of scissors is not certain, but it seems that they date at least as far back as 1500 B.C., when the ancient Egyptians used scissor-like devices. These where constructed from a single piece of metal (usually bronze). Two separate blades where made on each end, and a thin strip a metal attached them in the middle. The device is finished by arranging both blades near each other, with a thin metal strip acting as a spring to push them apart a small distance.
There are gaps in history after this point, but in 100 A.D., the Roman Empire is known to have adapted the design such that there were two separate blades (scissors) which pivoted in the middle.
In the 18th century, Robert Hinchliffe, of Sheffield, England, was responsible for changing scissors into the object used today. In 1761, he began mass-producing scissors using steel, rather than the iron, brass, bronze, and other simpler alloys which had been used until then.
Scissors are common in just about every home and office for cutting paper. There are many other purposes, however. These include:
- Grooming (humans and animals)
- Food preparation
- Medical care
- Cigar trimming
- Ceremonial ribbon-cutting
- Shoe repair
As well as an wide variety of scissor designs based on their use, there are other variations in design. For example, western scissors have the fulcrum near the handles, but Chinese scissors have it farther up towards the blades. Although this shortens the cutting surface, it also provides mechanical advantage so that the user can better cut materials which as tougher than paper.
Another variation is in how the blades are placed. Since neither handles nor scissors are symmetrical, not all scissors are created equal. When opened, scissors will have each blade open either up or down; if the top blade is on the right, the pair is right-handed, while if it is on the left, the pair is left-handed. When the human hand closes a pair of scissors, the thumb naturally pushes outward on the handle it is controlling. This means that if right-handed scissors are used in the right hand, the blades are naturally pressed together as they close—likewise for left-handed scissors in the left hand. However, if left-handed scissors are used in the right hand, they will tend to separate as they close, resulting in a poor cut, if any at all.