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Sharpening Myths

Over the years, we at Edgewise, have encountered a significant amount of mis-information being given to stylists and salons by our (the sharpening) industry. This post will try to debunk some of these ideas.

1. Claim: "Our sharpening method removes no metal." Truth: This is the same as saying our haircut removes no hair. When a shear is new, the metal is relatively clean and unbroken. Over time the tough hair follicles break the structure of the metal down into 'fingers' of metal. Since these fingers don't have the same structural strength as the clean (new) metal, the fingers eventually fold over, and the edge is no longer 'sharp'. Any sharpening process works to sand these small fingers of metal off and return the edge of the blade to the original 'clean' metal that was at the edge of the shear when the shear was new. Any sharpener who tells you that their sharpening process removes no metal doesn't get this, and probably shouldn't be allowed in to do work. The question is really how little metal the process removes - the less the better, and the closer to what the shear looked like when it was new, the better.

2. Claim: "Our sharpening process is done underwater." As a sharpening process works to remove the fingers of metal, described above (in 1), the friction between the shear blade and the spinning sanding wheel beneath generates friction, and with it, heat. The faster the wheel is spinning, and the more aggressive the abrasive being used, the more heat is generated. Too much heat, and the metal properties can be changed for the worse, weakening, and possibly destroying the shear. To help reduce this, some amount of water can be used to cool the blade as it is sharpened. At Edgewise, our sharpening equipment is being spun at a relatively slow speed, and with a very minimally-abrasive abrasive. While we use water as we sharpen, this is more to keep the small amount of dust down, than it is because we're worried about the amount of heat being generated (we're not). Anyone claiming to sharpen underwater is pulling off a trick we've never seen (like cutting hair underwater?), but also possibly using an abrasive that's too coarse, or working at a wheel speed that is too high, where they might have to worry about the heat being generated.

3. Claim: "We sharpen with lasers". There simply is no such thing. Anywhere. Period. Lasers work by generating a very intense light beam that can be hot enough to melt metal. But this is the problem. Any sharpening process that worked with lasers would lead to a cutting edge that was melted at the edge. Not so sharp.

4. Claim: "Anyone who uses a machine to sharpen, is destroying your shears. Hand-sharpening is best (or vice-versa)." This claim is more nuanced. There are sharpeners who do everything by hand, others who use only a machine, and others who use some of both (we at Edgewise fall into the last category). But no one method is a guarantee of sharpening quality to the stylist. In the end, the most important factor to the stylist, is the sharpener's skill with his or her hands, their experience, and their brains. Only through a combination of the three do your shears end up where you (as a stylist) want them to, or not. As an overarching principal, Edgewise tries to remove the minimal amount of metal from the shears, and deliver a shear that looks, feels, and cuts like new. How we get there should be less important than what the end result is.

5. Claim: "I'm certified by XXX, therefore I'm a great sharpener". One of the most difficult parts of the sharpening industry, is that everyone is self-taught. At Edgewise, we've taken classes from numerous training programs in the sharpening industry. Some were worth a lot more than others. Some, only required that we send them money to buy shears, and they'd send us a "certificate" showing that we were the official sharpener for that shear in that geographical area. Others actually went into much more depth, and were more valuable. As a stylist, you're probably not going to be able to sort the wheat from the chaff, by looking a the piece of paper the sharpener's waving in front of you. As one of the small number of sharpeners I truly respect said once, "my hands are my certification. I'm either going to do a good job or a bad job on the shears. But that's how I should be evaluated - not on some piece of paper." Sound similar? How many 'certification' programs can you go to in the beauty industry that were a total waste of time? Now consider again that the people teaching sharpening certification programs are all self-taught, and think how bad the training would probably be... 

6. Claim: "Our X years of experience make us the best sharpener". Think of all the stylist you know. Some of them, through extensive education, natural talent, and hard work, have gotten to the top of the industry, but only after years and years of hard-won experience. Some stylists, through immense natural talent, are great right out of school (although this is probably pretty rare). By comparison, many stylists are in the industry for decades, and never get any better than mediocre. Sharpeners are the same. Years of experience is generally necessary to become a great sharpener, but it isn't sufficient. Many sharpeners have ground on for years, but have also never gotten any better than mediocre.

7. Claim: "I'm a good sharpener because I have X, Y, and Z certifications." Our feeling at Edgewise is that we are certified every single day by the people who matter to us most - our stylists. The minute the top stylists and salons in Chicago and around the country stop believing that we're doing the best possible job for them, they'll switch over to one of our many, many capable competitors. No piece of paper or certificate can possibly mean more to us than that.





EDGEWISE® delivers the professional sharpening demanded by Chicago’s top salons and stylists.




Hikari and Keiki Professional Shears; Y.S. Park Combs, Clips, and Brushes; Marilyn, Mason-Pearson, and Spornette Brushes
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