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MZ Toolbox2010 Tool Review: Stainless Steel Bonsai Shears

unsheathed Tool Review: Stainless Steel Bonsai Shears

Scissors or shears on this classic pattern are sometimes called “butterfly scissors,” “butterfly shears,” or simply “Chinese scissors.” The finger rings are integral to the blades, and are formed by bending the steel stock back on itself in two simple, elegant loops which, taken together, suggest a heart, or a leaf, or a pair of wings.

chinese scissors manufacture Tool Review: Stainless Steel Bonsai Shears

What probably began simply as an expedient method for working blacksmiths to forge scissor finger rings has evolved into a kind of visual signature, or trademark, for China’s Zhang Xiaoquan scissors company. The modern Zhang Xiaoquan factory in Hangzhou was built in 1957, but the company traces its origins to the 1600s. Today, scissors and shears having the same basic “butterfly” design are manufactured all over the world.

title Tool Review: Stainless Steel Bonsai Shears

The tool performing its primary function.

I have been slightly obsessed with the Zhang Xiaoquan-type scissors design since 1998 or so, when I first saw a pair of them in David Pye’s otherwise-meh 1978 book, The Nature and Aesthetics of Design. I have owned several disappointingly cheap pairs in low-grade carbon steel, and they tend to rust or wear out pretty quickly.

action shot 01 Tool Review: Stainless Steel Bonsai Shears

The tool performing its secondary function.

This is my first pair in stainless steel, and they are a complete pleasure, both to look at and to operate. They are razor-sharp, and come with a small leather button-snap sheath to protect both the tool and its human companions when the blades are not in use. And if you should actually have occasion to use them, they will cut the heck out of stuff.

The brand is Senkichi Gold, and this is the 165mm size. I received mine as a gift, and though I don’t have to use them very often, I consider them one of the best gifts I have ever been given. They are available online for $52.60 from J-Cutlery.com, although shipping to the US will probably bring the price up to around $75.

Stainless Steel Flower Scissors 165mm

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c’t – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.


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