Fly tying scissors
Exact cutting and precise trimming for a perfect shaped fly
WHAT ARE FLY-TYING SCISSORS?
When you start tying artificial flies, you will find that there is an almost unmanageable amount of different tying materials and all kinds of tools. It can happen that the beginner is quickly overwhelmed by the question of what he really needs to make his first fly patterns. A good pair of sharp scissors is certainly one of them.
Especially at the beginning of your tying career, you need a lot of different things and in order not to strain your budget too much, you are probably tempted to buy a normal pair of scissors from the drugstore for a few euros. "I can cut a tuft of hair out of the coat, trim the feather and cut the tying thread after attaching the head knot with a pair of nail scissors," is how people usually argue. But here we explain why you are saving money in exactly the wrong place and why you should buy high-quality scissors designed for fly tying right from the start:
WHAT MAKES A GOOD PAIR OF SCISSORS FOR FLY TYING?
Scissors generally have one main purpose: to cut. Tying artificial flies is a creative but delicate activity, so it is not only important that you can cut different things with the scissors, but how you cut tying materials and the like is also very important. A clean, precise cut is crucial to whether your finished fly is a work of art or ends up in the bin. Good scissors make fly tying fun, bad scissors are nothing but trouble. Therefore, your tying scissors should be:
- very, very ... very sharp.
- retain their sharpness for a long time.
- cut evenly well over the entire length of the edges.
- have precisely fitting blades that run smoothly against each other and do not wear out the screw.
- allow a smooth and comfortable cut.
- lie well and comfortably in the hand.
A good cut depends crucially on the sharpness of your scissors. Especially in fly tying, many modern, synthetic materials that are used nowadays are very durable. In order to cut through these materials cleanly with just one cut, scissors with outstanding sharpness are necessary. If the scissors only "chew" on the material, the fly-tying material and possibly also your scissors will be damaged. If you have already tied the material on your imitation and only want to trim it, you will ruin the fly pattern with blunt scissors in the worst case.
On the one hand, this depends on the materials used and the special treatment during manufacture. High-strength steel alloys, which are further hardened by various processes, and special procedures for grinding and sharpening your tying scissors ensure that the blades become super sharp and retain this superior sharpness for a long time. On the other hand, it also depends on how you use your tying scissors and what you cut with them.
SHARP OVER THE ENTIRE LENGTH OF THE CUTTING EDGE
With many fly-tying materials, a clean, straight cut is a prerequisite for further processing without unnecessary and annoying extra work. It is just as annoying to have to search each time for that single spot along the cutting edge that really cuts the extremely thin tying thread with one cut. Therefore, it is necessary that your tying scissors cut evenly along the entire length of the edge from tip to screw, and not just well, but excellently.
MINIMUM TOLERANCES, SOLID MANUFACTURING
Especially with very fine, thin fly-tying material, you may find that normal scissors just not cut cleanly, but the material is only jammed between the blades, if the cutting edges do not run very precisely against each other over the entire length of the blades. On the one hand, this squashes the fly-tying material and, on the other, causes the screw to become loose due to the spreading. Both should not happen and can be prevented with high quality tying scissors as they have minimal tolerances.
For a clean, precise cut, the handling of the scissors must be easy and reliable. A sluggish screw, jammed blades or the like not only make handling more difficult, but also affect the result quite considerably. You may have noticed that some tying scissors have a tension knob instead of a fixed screw. With these scissor models you can adjust the tension of the scissor blades yourself and with higher tension you can effortlessly cut the finest materials, whereas loosen the tension a little will allow you to trim and shape your fly pleasantly.
COMFORTABLE TO USE
When tying your artificial flies, you literally have your hands full. Therefore, you should be able to easily and comfortably pick up the scissors from the tying table with one hand, operate them and then put them down again just as quickly, so that you don't have to awkwardly reach around when cutting or switch from one hand to the other.
All these features make a good pair of fly-tying scissors. High-quality tying scissors obviously have their price, but this is quickly put into perspective by their functionality. Moreover, with the right care, you will have many years of use for your tying scissors.
WHAT FLY-TYING SCISSORS LOOK LIKE?
The market offers a wide range of different looking fly-tying scissors, and at least part of this is due to the individual product design of the different manufacturers, who want their scissors to stand out from those of their competitors. However, when it comes to scissors, the function should always be in the foreground, because even the most beautiful or fancy tying scissors won't help you if they don't do what they are supposed to do. Below we take a closer look at the most common shapes and types of tying scissors.
SHAPE OF SCISSORS
The vast majority of tying scissors available on the market have a classic X shape with a more or less central screw that holds the two blades of the scissors together with the cutting edges on one side and the handles and rings or eyes on the other. They are operated by the thumb and forefinger. Some fly tiers also hold the scissors like the hairdresser with the middle or ring finger, so that the index finger can be used for additional guidance of the scissors or for fixing the tying material. With these kind of scissors you can do all the work you need to do very reliably and comfortably. We recommend such scissors especially to beginners in the world of fly tying, as their handling is very intuitive due to their familiar shape.
You will also find other types of tying scissors on the market. For example, scissors with only one ring or without any rings at all, whose handels function like a spring and the scissor blades remain spread. The spring mechanism of the scissor blades is self-opening and makes trimming and tying your flies, where many small cuts are necessary, very efficient. However, they are by far not as versatile as the classically shaped scissors. Professional fly tyers nevertheless use these scissors when efficiency is also important during tying, as these scissors remain on the hand even during tying and are therefore always "at hand".
SHAPE OF THE SCISSOR BLADES
We distinguish between the shape of the scissor blades:
- Blades with smooth and serrated edge
- Straight and curved blades
- Blade width and tip
- Long and short scissor blades
SMOOTH AND SERRATED CUTTING EDGE
In good tying scissors, there are models with smooth cutting edges throughout, but also models where at least one scissor blade has serrations on the cutting edge that can be fine or very fine (so called micro serration). In the first place, it is a matter of personal taste which form of cutting edge one prefers, because the scissors should in any case be sharp enough to cut the tying material well, cleanly and precisely with both forms of cutting edge. Tying scissors with a serrated edge can be more comfortable when cutting hair and other stiffer tying materials, as the fine teeth hold the hair in place when cutting and do not push it forward. For fine work, on the other hand, scissors with smooth cutting edges are more suitable. In addition, smooth blades also allow a very slight curvature to the opposite blade, so that they guarantee a perfect cut every time at the point of cut along the entire length of the blade.
STRAIGHT AND CURVED BLADES
Whether the blades are straight or curved to one side depends primarily on the main use of the scissors. Tying scissors with straight blades are all-round scissors that are very suitable for all cutting work involved in tying an artificial fly. Blades that are slightly curved in one direction, on the other hand, make it easier to trim and cut tying materials already tied in, which you can bring into shape better and more evenly thanks to the curved shape of the blades.
BLADE WIDTH AND SCISSOR TIP
We can only recommend tying scissors with relatively narrow and pointed scissor blades. The tip does not have to be needle sharp, as we strongly advise against punching holes in tying materials or other uses of the scissor tip, as this could damage your scissors. With pointed scissors, however, you can make very precise, pinpoint cuts and cut beautifully into the tying material. The narrow blades make such very fine work easier, as they don’t need to push the tying material apart and thus cause less resistance.
LONG AND SHORT SCISSOR BLADES
The length of the scissor blades and thus of the cutting edges is mainly related to the intended use. Short scissor blades are certainly sufficient for smaller fly patterns and are particularly suitable for giving your flies their final shape. The short blades make it easier for you to apply the scissors precisely. The ratio of the length of the scissor blade to the length of the handle also plays a role here because scissors work according to the law of leverage. Long legs and short blades mean a lot of pressure on the blades with little effort, but also a longer movement path when opening and closing the scissors. On the other hand, the cutting length is also easier to control with short blades. Long scissor blades on the other hand are particularly suitable for cutting and trimming hair and feathers in a single, clean cut. With the continuous, precise cutting edge, you don't need to trim or align the tying material and you can continue working with it straight away.
The shape and size of the fingerholes in the handle of your tying scissors, also called rings or eyes, should be such that you can easily, quickly and safely pick them up from the tying table with one hand. It becomes very complicated if you need both hands to use your scissors, because usually the second hand is already holding the tying material to be cut or has already shaped the material on the fly pattern so that you only have to cut it to size. It is very annoying if you have to leave the material and then grip and align it again just because you can't grip or operate the scissors properly. On the other hand, the rings of your scissors should not be unnecessarily large either, because for a clean, pinpoint and precise cut, the scissors must not be loose, but lie well in your hand.
HOW TO KEEP YOUR FLY-TYING SCISSORS SHARP FOR A LONG TIME
If you are the proud owner of a new, razor-sharp pair of tying scissors, then you naturally have every interest in ensuring that this precision tool works well and reliably for as long as possible. With a little care, you will enjoy your tying scissors for years to come.
WHAT YOU SHOULD AVOID
Even though it may seem banal and logical, use your tying scissors exclusively for cutting suitable fly-tying materials. In practice, however, situations arise all the time that require a sturdy tip, such as pricking or capping a dosing tip for glue and varnish, cleaning a glued-up hook eye or punching a hole in the zonker strip to be able to pull it onto the hook. Unfortunately, it happens often enough that the tying scissors are within reach and are briefly misused. Saying it clearly: Your tying scissors are MUCH TOO BAD for all this work! Not only will you ruin the tip, but you will also bend the blades so that they get tilted or become loose.
Certain fly-tying materials are also taboo for your new tying scissors. Metal wires, metal tinsel, fur skin and similar materials blunt the cutting edge and can cause nicks on the blades. For such hard, thick, and resistant materials, a good pair of scissors from the craft shop will suffice. If you treat yourself to a new pair of tying scissors, the ones you have been using up to now can of course also be used for these rougher cutting tasks.
Get into the habit of putting your tying scissors in a fixed place on the tying table. This way you can find them quickly and have them at hand, even if the table is covered with tying materials in the heat of the moment. Toolbars for fly-tying vises and other tool holders do a good job here. This way you not only minimise the time you spend frantically searching for your different fly-tying tools. Above all, it prevents you from accidentally dropping your scissors on the floor. Such a fall can bend the blades, ruin the tip and damage the screw.
CAN I SHARPEN MY FLY-TYING SCISSORS?
If you handle your tying scissors conscientiously, you will work well with them for a long time and cut cleanly. But even the sharpest cutting edge made of the hardest material will eventually become blunt. You can find special tools for sharpening scissors on the market, but we advise you not to use them, because on the one hand they are not cheap and on the other hand you need experience and skills to use them properly. In the worst case, you will blunt the edge of your tying scissors even more or even nick them. It is even more complex with serrated cutting edges, which make it almost impossible to sharpen them yourself.
Perhaps there is a fine-grinding shop in your town that also sharpens scissors. If the blades have become loose, they can also tighten the screw and thus bring your tying scissors back into shape. Alternatively, ask your hairdresser where he has his scissors sharpened. In either case, ask about the price beforehand, because sharpened scissors are not new scissors and sharpening should not be more expensive than buying new ones. Especially because you can still use your existing tying scissors for coarser work on the tying table.
HOW MANY FLY-TYING SCISSORS DO I NEED?
We have already answered this question in part above because there is no such thing as a perfect pair of tying scissors. To ensure that your new tying scissors stay super sharp for a long time, you should give your previous tying scissors a second life for certain tying materials or use a good pair of household or craft scissors. These are absolutely sufficient for coarser materials and at the same time protect your tying scissors for fine work. So at least these two types of scissors should always be on your tying table. Whether you need a pair of micro-serrated tying scissors in addition to the smooth-edged ones, or whether you want to be able to choose between straight-blade and curved-blade tying scissors, depends solely on you, your preferences, and your tying habits.