Four Saw File Strokes to Sharp Scissors (Video)

Scissors may seem off topic but too many cheapos is causing good pairs to be trashed. Perhaps well-worn and dull ones will take more than four strokes with a saw file, but one good saw file will sharpen fifty pairs, and you can buy old scissors for almost nothing. Scissors for me are not off topic, they are part of my daily kit as I am sure they are for some of you. High carbon scissors take and keep a very keen edge and a good pair will last a lifetime.

A few weeks ago I blogged on scissors and the excesses of an industrial world. It was a short entry but worth the effort because I had bought five pairs of flea-market scissors, good ones, made in Sheffield, for £2.50. That’s about the price you pay for a pack of three from most stores these days. This week we filmed how to sharpen scissors at home or in the workshop, to at least regain some control of sharpening our own instead of buying into the throwaway market consumerism and economy breeds. Here is my version of non-machine sharpening scissors and shears for one of our freebies on YouTube. The reality is that anyone can do this and when someone shows you you do feel empowered to at least try. With a saw file, you, as a woodworker, most likely already have a saw file for sharpening your saws. Any single-cut flat file with a fine cut will work though, and you can sharpen any pair of scissors in under about one minute. To me, that’s empowerment and that’s power tool woodworking and sharpening at its zenith.

Those in pursuit of hand skills will enjoy this one I think. It’s the first video apprentice John Winter has filmed and edited for us.


  1. I would just like to recommend against this method of sharpening if the scissors are worth more than about 30 quid or if they have an edge angle of anything smaller than 80 degrees. Once edge sharpness becomes a factor rather than just the shear there are many more things that come into play that affect how well the scissors perform.
    As a professional scissorsmith I would always advise going to someone who makes scissors to do your sharpening work, but I can understand that scissors like these might not need such a high caliber of care.

  2. Doesn’t seem too ‘off topic’ to me Paul: we’re traing to make a more sustainable way of life generally an carpentry is part of that: any way we can learn to repair things instead of replace tham is a good thing…

  3. Many years ago someone briefly told me how to sharpen sissors. I’ve tried a time or two with poor results. I see now they had a piece of it right but either didn’t know the rest or didn’s pass it on.

    I appreciate getting the whole story. I like those old all metal sissors and prefer them to the plastic handled too light versions I find everywhere today.


  4. Thank you Paul for another very interesting and informative video!
    I did not know how to sharpen scissors properly.

  5. Many years ago there was a story going around that the way to sharpen scissors was to cut sand paper into strips. This sounds like a good way to dull scissors to me. My wife sows and she believed it and tried it till I stopped her.You wouldn’t believe how many other people have told me the same story. What do you think, is this crazy?

    1. The sandpaper idea seems to work but not really. What’s happening is the corners of the cutting edges of the shear cut is being ‘chipped’. The edges then are sharp in the sense of craggy-sharp not straight. You can’t generally see this with the naked eye. The craggy edge grabs the fibre of paper or cloth and holds the material in the cut whereas before it was slipping and not cutting because the cutting edges were rounded over. This sandpaper method will only worsen the scissor edge and temporarily work. Better the file method, which give the required shear bevel in a continuous line as shown in the video.

  6. Thanks for this informative video! Will give it a try and let you know how it worked out.

  7. thanks so much for this infomation i haven’t tried scissors yet but i have done my two sets of edging shears for the lawn and it worked perfect ,i was always told to follow the bevelled edge with differing results but this method took seconds and worked brilliantly thank you

  8. I found that the EZE-LAP diamond hones worked very well, especially on my wife’s sewing scissors. She was very happy, and I felt great until she brought out the pinking shears. Could they be tackled in a similar manner to saw sharpening?

  9. Paul:

    Do you ever worry that grinding steel in your wood vice will taint it, causing steel bits to get into your wood projects? I was sharpening a saw in my vice the other day and generating a lot of steel dust and wondered. Same when I sharpened some scissors by your method after viewing the video.
    Thanks for your excellent videos and example to the rest of us.

    Gord Clark

    1. No. I have done this all of my life and my bench keeps on serving me. I sweep off regularly, about every hour or less and even vacuum it once a day. I go from wood to metal interchangeably and never have any issues. I use a metal working vise too, for heavier stuff or when I have a lot to do in metal.

  10. After sharpening two old scissors last weekend I tried some old grass edge scissors today. My father in law brought these old and rusty scissors last year. I never managed to cut a single blade of grass with it. I remember I was thinking about trowing it away last year, as it was totally useless.
    Luckily I’m not a big talent at tidying up and today I bumped into the scissors again in the garden shed. Within half an hour I was cutting grass faster than ever. The scissors did need a fair bit of sharpening, and some sandpaper did the first rough work.
    I did save 20€ as I didn’t have to buy a new set of scissors, and saved another tool from the bin.

    Thank you very much Paul.

    Next project: cloth scissors.

    Greetings, Reinoud

    1. There you go. Saved some and that’s one thing but it cannot compare to being in control of something.

  11. It seems like one of those small diamond paddles would be good for this job.

    1. Not really. Diamonds abrade rather than cut in a continuous stroke.When you draw file as is the case when filing along the scissor edge, the steel spirals and leaves a cut edge along the edge, which is sharpness itself.

  12. Bought a pair at an estate sale for 50cents and now they are a fine tuned pair thanks to you.

  13. I am after the fact, but I first discovered Paul Sellers and his great methods trying to learn to sharpen things. I was horrible at sharpening – everything, tools, scissors, yard equipment – you name it they were all terrible and dull! Little did I know I would find a great man and a whole way of looking at the world which I had been looking for over 40 years. Not only have I learned to sharpen almost everything in our whole home but I am back to working wood using hand tools and I usually never buy anything any more without thinking about what I am buying first. I did not want to be on the consumer tread mill any longer and feel I have been freed of that process now. So, here is to Paul Sellers and his methods, outlook and attitude – I for one (and my family too) are forever grateful for such powerful life lessons and the skills that came with them – now I really do feel like a man.

Comments are closed.

Privacy Notice

You must enter certain information to submit the form on this page. We take the handling of personal information seriously and appreciate your trust in us. Our Privacy Policy sets out important information about us and how we use and protect your personal data and it also explains your legal rights in respect of it. Please click here to read it before you provide any information on this form.