The quality of the metal and the workmanship.
"Quality of the metal"
Inexpensive shears are made of inexpensive steel that willnot hone to as fine an edge as a better grade, more expensive, metal. This effects the sharpness of the scissor blades and how well they hold an edge, as well as the smoothness of the blade action. You want sharpness in order to not bend the hair while cutting and to provide good definition in your cuts. The action of the two blades determine the amount of effort it takes to open and close the blades as well as the smoothness of cutting strokes.
Workmanship is another factor influencing the scissoring action. Cheap shears are assembly line produced with much of the work done by machine. The best shears are handcrafted by trained craftspersons (much like master groomers) who take responsibility for each tool from start to finish.
The truth is that some groomers can achieve fantastic results with cheap scissors. A talented master can compensate but the cost of compensating for poor quality tools is paid for in accumulated stress to the hand and wrist. Many average or better groomers don't see their scissoring results "take off" until they use higher quality shears.
"Japanese or German?"
Convex edge or bevel edge: Japanese or German? Which type of shear is best? Perhaps the biggest decision you have to make in purchasing shears is whether to get a "Japanese style" convex edged, or the "German type" bevel edge. Convex edges are hollow ground to an extremely sharp edge, giving a very quick and smooth action, sometimes referred to as "butter cut". Bevel edges are often serrated which gives them a somewhat more firm, or crisp cut. Which is best? Your best is determined by your taste, comfort, and scissoring technique.
"...convex edged...can be more n you are ready for."
Hollow ground, convex edged shears are great for full body sculpting such as bichons and poodles. They also work very well on thick coats and are great for scissoring down cockers. These scissors are extremely sharp and fast, and can be more than you are ready for.
"...beveled and serrated....for the beginning groomer."
High quality stainless steel blades with beveled and serrated edges are my choice for scissoring soft schnauzer type coats and super fine coats like maltese. The serrated blade holds the hair while the other edge cuts. They are also a good choice if your scissoring technique does not open the scissor blades very wide. I would recommend this type of shear for the beginning groomer.
"Beveled, Convex, Semi Convex Shears."
A beveled edge is thicker than a convex edge and this thickness helps support the sharp edge of the blade. This means that the scissor will never cut as well as a convex shear and the edge will deteriorate more quickly.
"...ball tip shears....for the beginning groomer."
A ball-tipped shear might also be a good choice for the beginner, as the blunted tips are less likely to accidentally nick, snip or gouge around the face and other sensitive areas. Ball tips are also a good choice for the experienced groomer when working on an especially unruly pet.
"Every grooomer deserves
Curved or straight blades? Although you can do everything groomers need
to do with straight shears, curved blades can really help with topknots,
faces, ears, feet, and rumps. Turned upside down, they can help you set
angulation, tuck-ups and terrier underchests. I have a small 5.5"
curved shear that makes defining Schnauzer eyebrows a snap. Large 10"
curved shears are great for trimming rear skirts on Golden Retriever,
collie mix, and other undercoated type dogs. Every groomer deserves
"...longer...smaller...lighter. What size is best?"
What size is best? The fully equipped professional groomer should have a tool box with several sizes of shears. The reason for using longer shears is to scissor off more hair per cut. This increases efficiency and also can help achieve a smoother finish. I first started using 10" shears when grooming Bedlington Terriers, with coats that show every snip. If you are scissoring large areas, such as Standard Poodles, you might want to try 10" shears. They are also great for setting the topline on Bichons, and shaping the body on any medium to large sculpted groom.
There is something to be said for smaller shears, 5.5" to 6.5". They allow for good control, and they will work small areas with the least amount of stress to your hands. This can be an important consideration if you are starting to feel the effects of accumulated stress syndrome.
Why use a larger, heavier tool when a smaller light weight one will do?
Most groomers choose to work with 7.5 to 8.5" shears. For hairdressers, these would be considered huge, but they are average for our work. Here is an important point: you want to use that size shear where you are going to use the whole blade. If you are not comfortable making big cuts, then don't buy big shears. If your technique is still at the snipping stage, and you are mostly cutting with the top 1/3 of your blades, I would advise you to get a smaller shear and practice using more of the blade.
Your scissoring style as well as what kind of work you are doing should be factors in your choice of shear. Are you doing lots of mixed breed clip downs with cute faces? A curved 7.5" stainless steel, serrated edge, could be a good investment.
What is the difference between shiny-surfaced shears and satin-finished shears?
In general, shiny-surfaced shears resist corrosion and pitting better than satin-finished scissors.
What is the right length of the scissor for me?
Most scissors range in length from 4.5” to 8”. To choose a basic cutting tool, you should measure the length of the blade against your middle finger, and the overall length of the scissor against the extended palm of your hand. Most women are more comfortable working with a 5” or 5.5” scissor, while most men prefer a 5.5” or 6.0” shear. Longer shears, such as 6.5” to 8” scissors are good for scissor over comb work and longer styles.
Thinning Shears VS Blending Shears
What about thinning shears? Let's clarify our terms here. Thinning shears are actually shears with two blades with notched teeth. They are good for bulk thinning such as Cocker coats. The shears that have one straight edged blade and one blade with teeth are really "blenders", and yes, you should have at least one pair. Blenders can also thin. Uses for blenders include finishing teddy bear faces on Lhasa or Shihtzu types so as to not look choppy; blending clipped areas
on terrier heads to erase clipper lines; erasing unfortunate scissor marks; thinning and blending Cocker skirts; scissoring sporting breeds for a natural look (especially heads and necks); scissoring tops of feet on Newfoundlands, Samoyed, etc., where you want a natural looking "cat foot." Basically, blenders are great for any work where you want a softer definition.
Thinning/blending shears can save time and produce more uniform results when softening “lines” and “corners”, feathering, thinning bulk, or adding volume. Thinning shears come in many styles. The finer the teeth on the shears, the softer and fuzzier the dog's coat will look.
The more teeth, the more hair is removed, but they do it without leaving cut marks - the blending is better. 46 tooth shears cut your grooming time way down. The less teeth, the less hair is removed, but they can leave more marks.
Twin Twin Shears
"Twin thins" are two pairs of shears fastened together - a blender and a straight edge. The straight scissors cut behind the blending scisdsors, removing length and weight of coat. They are used where you want to take off length, but have the softer finish of the blending shear. Twin thins are excellent for scissoring long straight coats, such as Lhasa, Shih Tzu and Maltese,and scissoring Pomeranians or Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers without making scissors marks. They are also good for taking length from tails on many dogs and having it look more natural.
What's the deal with "ergonomics"? Glad you asked. In recent years scissor manufacturers have incorporated some ergonomic design elements so that the handle of the shears better suits the natural hand position and movement of the thumb. Most common is the offset thumb ring, where the thumb ring is slightly shorter and angled differently than the finger ring. Bent thumb rings are even more angled, and swivel thumb have free moving thumb rings to accomodate the movement of the hand. On the finger side of the shears, the shank is sometimes curved for more comfort. A short shank is another element that can make a pair of scissors more comfortable for smaller hands, or in controlling longer blades. Your hands will tell you which of these features they like. Pay attention and "listen" to your hands. My hand told me it doesn't like the swivel thumb. But it is a happy hand when using an offset bent thumb and curved handle.
Think through your choice. Your next shears should move your work
forward and add to your toolbox. Happy grooming!