Scissors and shears are cutting instruments that operate by the action of the opposed edges of two blades. The blades, usually made of steel, are joined by a pivot pin or screw. There are handles at the ends of the blades. Scissors differ from shears only in size. Any instrument less than 6 inches (15 cm) long is called a scissors, whereas larger tools are called shears.
Most scissors have identical round or slightly oval handles, providing openings for the thumb and first finger. Scissors are commonly named for their uses: for example, buttonhole scissors, embroidery scissors, and manicure scissors. Many shears have unlike handles, one with a small opening for the thumb, the other with a long oval opening for the four fingers. Tailor's shears are usually of this type, as are sheep shears. Pinking shears, used in sewing, have a special blade that cuts a serrated edge. Tin shears are ruggedly constructed, as are pruning shears.
Spring shears of tempered bronze or iron were made in ancient Rome. The effectiveness of scissors was greatly improved when Benjamin Huntsman produced shear steel at Sheffield, England, in the 1740's. The durability of scissors and shears was improved after the introduction of stainless steel by Harry Brearley in England in 1912.
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