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16 Different Types of Scissors

Three types of scissors on a cutting mat.

By definition, scissors are any device that is used for cutting materials like paper, cloth, hair, etc. A pair of scissors typically consists of two sharp blades connected in the middle by a screw with two extending levers that act as handles. There handle have holes to put your fingers through. This essentially is the grip of the scissors.

It is widely assumed that scissors are of just one general type. This, however, is a misconception. Scissors are of numerous types, with each type engineered explicitly for the field it is intended to be used in. For instance, medical scissors have further subcategories such as surgical scissors, stitch scissors, mayo scissors, etc and each of these snipping tools are specifically engineered for the particular task they perform.

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As discussed earlier, there are various types of scissors. Some of the most common ones being:

  • Sewing scissors
  • Embroidery scissors
  • Crafting scissors or All purpose scissors
  • Right and left-handed scissors
  • Gardening scissors
  • Grooming scissors
  • Medical scissors

These are just to name a few. Most of these scissors are further classified into subtypes.

1. Sewing Scissors

As the name suggests, these scissors are used for sewing purposes. They can be further categorized into specialized scissor types that carry out different precise sewing procedures. Some of these are:

Dressmaker’s ShearsAn old and rusty pair of vintage dressmaker’s shears.

These snipping tools are distinguished by their distinct, sharp, and long blade, which makes them the perfect tool for cutting fabric. The dressmaker’s shears’ blades are tapered with one blade being pointy and the other round and smooth. The round-edged blade prevents the fabric’s seams and threads from snagging. The shears also feature a convenient clipping and notching curve point. The blades of these shears are knife-edged. The blade on the top is acute-angled, allowing a more effortless and smoother fabric cutting experience compared to regular scissors. On the other hand, the lower blade is set flush on the table’s surface, making cutting through fabric easier and more accurate. The curved handle offers a smooth and comfortable cutting experience across a tabletop or counter.

The ideal length for the dressmaker’s shears is considered to be 7 inches to 10 inches. These shears are also preferred because of how they can be used to cut a number of layers at the same time.

Tailor’s ScissorsA pair of large tailor’s scissors with gold handles

Tailor’s scissors are normally smaller and shorter in measurement lengthwise. The most preferred blade size for a pair of tailoring scissors is 5 inches. Tailoring scissors are mostly used by quilters, sewers, crafters and anyone who deals with cutting through heavy, thick fabrics, leather or multiple fabric layers. These snipping gadgets feature two thick, razor-sharp blades with precisely-ground knife-edges, which are able to cut all the way through to the tip. The portability of these scissors makes them handy and convenient to carry around in a compact sewing bag. Due to their convenience and precision, these are highly popular among beginner sewers and in sewing classes and quilting courses.

Pinking ShearsA pair of razor-sharp pinking shears

Pinking shears are characterized by their unique jagged blades that create a zigzagged, serrated edge while the fabric is being cut. This snipping tool helps to prevent the fraying or unraveling of the fabric along the ridges. The serrated edges of these shears help provide a better grip for the slippery fabric pieces while they are being cut out. The curved handle of this scissor design makes it easier to cut on a flat surface like a tabletop or counter.

Pinking shears are essentially scissors whose blades are saw-toothed or serrated instead of razor sharp and straight. These shears were designed by Samuel Briskman in 1931 to avoid fabric fraying along the seams and to create a zigzagged edge for the fabric.

The pinking shears also have a practical function for woven cloth cutting, which is stopping the unfinished edges from fraying by making the edges jagged and preventing the weave from getting undone and being pulled out. The sawtooth patterns do not actually stop the fabric from fraying but restrict the length of the free tattered threads, consequently minimizing the damage.

Another use of these pinking shears is their use in decorative cutting. However, actual pinking shears should be avoided for paper cutting, or it will make the blades blunt and dull.

Buttonhole Scissors

A pair of traditional buttonhole scissors is made up of two blades; the top blade has a blunt distal end and the inside of this blade is relatively flat with tapered cutting edges and an outer edge. The lower blade has a sharp distal end and the interior of the blade is tapered. The two blades can slide over each other with both of the smooth inner surfaces of the blades closing inwards. Buttonhole scissors also feature a pair of handles with the blades stuck into them; these blades are connected to the handles with a pivot. These scissors are short-bladed, easily adjustable, heavy-duty scissors that are used for opening buttonholes and replacing buttons.

Appliqué Scissors

Appliqué scissors are easily identifiable by their offset handles and unique blades that are shaped like paddles. The blades help to thrust away the bottom layer of the fabric while cutting for cuts that are more manageable and controlled along the stitching seam. These shears are engineered to cut and trim in close proximity to the fabric while simultaneously preventing it from being damaged. These are mostly preferred for fabric that is being appliquéd and in rug making.

2. Embroidery scissorsA pair of razor-sharp embroidery shears

These are short sized scissors where the loopholes for the fingers are absent. They also have a fine and sharp tip. Embroidery scissors are designed to get close to the cloth without fraying or damaging it. These shears have a curved blade, to make getting close to the base of the fiber strands (threads) easier. This also ensures that the garment is protected from any damage during the cutting process.

Embroidery scissors are visibly smaller and more delicate than other shears. Appearance wise, they resemble typical surgical scissors because of their compact size and tip for precision, making them an ideal tool for minuscule snips that are usually required in embroidery work. They feature especially sharp blades that are able to get in between threads and grasp beads, sequins, etc. with ease.

3. Crafting scissors or All purpose scissorsA pair of razor-sharp black and green colored all-purpose scissors

These scissors feature long blades with sharp and pointed tips and are used for cutting straight, long and smooth slices in a number of different materials. These scissors are also used in smaller, restricted areas. In sewing procedures, they are mostly used for non-fabric shearing purposes such as cutting out patterns from paper. They are also referred to as crafting scissors. Other than in sewing, they are used in arts and crafts, in kitchens, for packaging and wrapping purposes, among many others.

4. Right and Left-Handed Scissors

Usually, scissors are best suited for right-handed people, whereas left-handed people struggle to get on with day-to-day chores if they have to use a pair of scissors. For the latter, there are specially designed scissors called the left-handed scissors. Since scissors have blades that overlap each other, they are asymmetrical. These irregular blades are independent of orientation and shape. The top blade forms the same diagonal as that of the right-handed scissors irrespective of the point of reference.

A human hand is also asymmetric, and when a pair of scissors is closed, the thumb and fingers do not close perpendicularly, but instead have a lateral component to the motion. To be precise, the thumb thrusts out from the palm, and the fingers are pulled inwards. For right-handed scissors, the thumb blade is closer to the user’s body; on the other hand, left-handed scissors work with the opposite of the principle.

5. Ambidextrous scissors

They’re quite rare, but ambidextrous scissors are also available in the market. These scissors are designed for use by both left and right-handed people because they have symmetric handles, which means there is no difference between the thumb and finger holes, allowing everyone to use it easily. Other than the symmetrical handles, these shears have very strong pivots enabling the blades to only rotate and not move laterally. Even though most ambidextrous scissors have the upper blade on the right, like most right-handed scissors, left-handed people are still able to use them without any issues.

6. Gardening scissors

Gardening scissors are specialized scissors used for gardening and horticultural purposes. There are many sub-categories of these scissors, such as:

Hedge Trimmers

A hedge trimmer, also known as a shrub trimmer or bush trimmer, is a popular gardening tool among gardeners. It is a handheld tool meant for trimming, cutting and snipping hedges shrubs and bushes. It comes in different sizes and designs, depending on the size of the hedges that are to be trimmed. They also come in two types, which are the manual and powered trimmers.

Grass ShearsWood-handled metallic grass shears

Grass shears are another widely admired gardening tool. These are significantly different from pruning shears because of their long handles and perpendicular orientation to the blades. These are primarily used for cutting grass, lawn maintenance and grass pruning from an upright position. These shears come in two different kinds, one with horizontal blades and one with vertically attached blades. Horizontally bladed grass shears are used for removing grass missed by a lawn mower, while grass shears with vertical blades are used for trimming the boundaries of a lawn.

In 1939, a new version of the vertically bladed grass shears was designed which featured a long-handled lever on the top accompanied by wheels at the bottom of the shears. This development allowed the gardener to trim the lawn edges of tricky areas such as sidewalks and driveways as well. Grass shears are not used as much nowadays due to power trimmers having replaced them by offering an easier and quicker service.

Pruning Shears

Pruning shears, also referred to as hand pruners in the USA, are a type of specialized gardening scissors meant for plants. These scissors are very strong and are preferred for pruning hard and long tree branches regardless of their length or thickness. They have been used to cut branches of up to two centimeters in thickness. These are used by gardeners, arboriculturists, farmers, florists and nature conservators. Their newer versions are called loopers, which are larger in size and come with two long handles, primarily used for branches thicker than pruning shears can trim.

7. Grooming scissors

Hair Cutting ShearsA barber cutting hair with the help of the barber’s shears

Hair-cutting shears are specialized scissors that are particularly designed for hair cutting and trimming. They are also informally referred to as barber shears, hair shears or hairdressing shears. These hair snipping tools are drastically sharper than other scissors and have a smooth and sharp cutting edge. They come in varying sizes with the 5 and 7-inch bladed shears being the most widely used ones. The hair cutting shears have a distinct appendage, which is identified as either a finger brace or a tang and this is attached to one of the finger loops thus giving the hairdresser an added benefit of increased control while trimming a client’s hair.

Hair Clippers

Hair clippers, informally known as hair snips, have a striking resemblance to a pair of scissors in their appearance. These are specialized clippers with razor sharp blades used for cutting and trimming hair. They have the same working principle as that of scissors but have a different shape and design. Their primary designs were used to make shears for trimming sheep wool and were named handpieces or machine shears.

8. Medical Scissors

Bandage Scissors

Also known as the nurse’s scissors, these snips are small sized and short bladed and come with long handles. Out of the two blades, the top one has a blunt edge, and the bottom one has a sharp and pointed tip. They have taken up the name “nurse’s scissors” because they used to be used by nurses during medical practice, allowing them to cut open a bandage by slipping these scissors under the bandage without actually slicing or harming the patient’s skin.

Trauma ShearsA picture of a pair of trauma shears that are used for cutting a patient’s clothing for urgent medical cases.

Trauma shears informally referred to as tuff cuts, are a category of scissors that are chiefly used by paramedics, medical practitioners, and other emergencies medical personnel to swiftly and carefully cut clothing off injured patients. These shears have a plastic handle, a long lever arm, and metal blades, with the blades, usually bent at an angle of 150 degrees. This orientation of the blades gives them an odd appearance compared to other, more conventional scissors. These shears feature a wide, blunt tip, which allows the user to slide across the skin, reducing any injury risks to the patient while cutting off their clothing.

These shears were specially designed for external use and are strictly prohibited for any surgical or invasive procedures. These shears are particularly efficient because of their jagged construction, allowing them to pierce through strong fabrics like seat belts, denim, and leather and even light metals as well as through other tough surfaces. They are also widely popular with fishermen, soldiers and scuba divers as better substitutes for knives.


With all this knowledge in your back pocket, the next time you come across a pair, we are sure you will be able to identify them in the blink of an eye.

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