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Iron shears


Found on the grounds of Hyde Abbey, Winchester, Hampshire, in 1895.

Scissors, more common than scissors during the medieval period, were used for a variety of domestic and industrial processes. Small scissors such as this pair were suitable for needlework, etc. Larger ones could cut cloth or had more rigorous domestic or craft uses.

Blacksmiths usually imported iron for scissors from Spain or Sweden because it was not economical for them to use their own material or to source it from the scarce and unproductive ores of medieval England. Medieval scissors consisted of six parts: bow, hilt, blade, hilt, recess, top of blade and tip. The blacksmith, who worked on a flat surface for cutting and with a chamfer for edges, first took one piece of wrought iron to create the blank of the handle and the blade of the scissors. The left scissor blade always overlapped the right one. Then a carbon steel cutting edge was welded to the blank. It was welded with a hinged joint, which in welding is the joining of beveled edges at opposite angles, as opposed to a butt joint, in which two flat ends are simply joined. A butt joint meant that less steel had to be used, making it economical. It was very important to cool the steel quickly after welding on the workpiece to make it hard, but it was also important to harden the steel after cooling so that it would not become brittle, which occurred as a side effect of rapid cooling. Delicate and gradual heating was the way to harden. The scissors were then shaped properly.