Sally’s Blog: The Evolution of the Sidebent Handle.
In the year 1800, Thomas Wilkinson designed and patented the sidebent handle you can see on most scissors and shears today. Up until then, all scissors had straight shanks (the bit between the pivot and the smaller, oval thumb bow). Sometimes, the finger bow was longer or bigger than the thumb bow to fit more fingers in so that the user could apply more force; often the bows were the same size, for light work. There were no laser cutting machines or band-saw cutters then and everything that needed to be sewn or woven, wound or spun, ordinary clothes, thick, warm jackets, curtains, upholstery, saddles and leather items, ropes & strings, and so on, would be cut by scissors.
Here are two pairs of shears from around 1850, alongside our present day 10 inch Sidebents and in the centre a shear from the early 1800’s!
In the images above, you will see how the sidebent handles evolved from a simple bending up of the thumb bow (centre), then to a bigger finger bow, then the thumb-rest (left and right back two shears).
Thomas Wilkinson came up with a design which would cause less disturbance to the fabric (or material) being cut and bigger bows to accommodate more fingers. He bent the thumb bow up, away from the other bow and that was the start.
Some of the shears were so big that they couldn’t be made by simple hand-forging of two pieces of steel and so the blades were hand forged and the handles were cast steel or cast brass, which were welded on to the blades, usually using a brass weld. Who had hands big enough and arms strong enough to wield these all day?
A lot of the bigger shears had large bolts (also hand made) which propped the shears up so that the operator could just slide their hand in without having to waste time getting their hand underneath the shears to grasp them.
Anyway, the patent eventually ran out and most scissor makers incorporated the sidebent design into their scissors and shears. It became so universal that sidebent shears of all qualities and makes, all-metal and plastic handled, can be bought just about anywhere. It goes without saying, that ours are the best, of course!