Monday, November 4, 2013

Keeping Your Scissors Sharp

Several years ago I inherited a box of buttons and bits that belonged to my grandmother. Orphaned at a young age in the early 1900's when her parents succumbed to the Great Flu Pandemic, she and her sister grew up in Saint Rose's Orphanage on the East side of Milwaukee. There she learned to sew. And she was an avid sewer and a doll doctor in the 30's, 40's and 50's. I remember her magnificent and intricate doll clothes on the porcelain dolls in the curio cabinets with the glass doors. Not to be played with. 

She was my greatest inspiration. And though she never taught me to sew or crochet, I remember that whenever I saw her she had a project in her hands. Her industriousness was her gift to me. The OCD I could do without but perhaps the two go hand in hand.

In this wicker box, with a leather cover, all cracked and aged, along with some of the tiniest glass and brass buttons I had ever seen, was a little oval stainless steel (or nickel silver) scissors sharpener. This little object intrigued me. A little over two inches long, thin and lightweight, I experimented with an old pair of scissors and was pleasantly surprised at how well it seemed to work ... for cutting paper. But surely it should work for fabric cutting as well. After all, it must have been her handiest method for sharpening her own scissors. And she cut a lot of fabric sewing clothes for her 8 children. 

My Grandmother's Kenberry Scissors Sharpener

I started doing a little research. These little sharpeners were produced and either sold or given as promotional objects by a vast array of companies like this from the Sealtest Milk Company. I found this one on an Etsy shop.

Promotional Scissors Sharpener c1950's

They also came in a variety of shapes, like these cardboard and hammered metal sharpeners with a stainless steel honing rod.

Or this plastic paddle shaped sharpener with a ceramic honing rod.

The ease of use of these small hand held sharpeners must have been part of their charm. I remember the traveling sharpener man who made the rounds to our neighborhood about once a month. He would sharpen my mother's knives and scissors. Before such services, the self sharpeners were an asset not to be parted with.

I purchased this Gingher sharpening stone 30 years ago. As you can see it has not been used a great deal. I found it difficult to control the angle and it's awkward managing of the pitch and pressure seemed like a sure way to ruin the edge of my precious cutting shears. 

Imagine my surprise to find these little portable sharpeners available again. These little Fiskars sharpeners have a ceramic honing rod and work the exact same way as the little sharpener in my grandmother's button box.

However you manage to do it, keeping a sharp edge on your shears is a must for ease of cutting the cleanest edges of all of your fine fabrics.

There are all sorts of u-tube videos suggesting sandpaper and tin foil as quick methods. Try them first with your paper shears. Just to be on the safe side.


  1. This is a great post! Also, just FYI, I have a new shop just for vintage needles, notions & fabrics, to which the sharpeners shown in this post will soon migrate: - thanks! Mary

  2. What a fantastic tool! I've seen them, but it never sunk in what they were for. I need to find mine, or get a new one.