What Is the Difference Between Scissors and Shears?

 Scissors and Shears

If you’ve ever needed a tool for cutting, you’ve probably gone straight to what you’d call a pair of scissors. These double-bladed hand tools are one of the most common in homes all over the world. But they have a close cousin, the shears, that they are often mistaken for.

While scissors and shears do indeed look very similar, they aren’t the same thing. What’s more, they’re both designed for different jobs. If you want to use your tools most effectively then it’s essential to be able to tell the difference. In this guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know.

Table of contents

What Are Shears and What Are They Used For?


Shears are indeed a type of scissors in that they feature a set of blades attached to handles with finger holes that can fit up to four fingers. When we refer to a tool being called shears, we are talking about something whose blade length is longer than six inches.

What’s great about shears is that, because of their long length, they are ideal for very specific tasks. For example, you may have a set of gardening shears or hedge shears in your shed that you use for trimming hedges, pruning shears for trimming plants and other things.

You will notice that shears have slightly different handles in that one has a much larger hole for the fingers. The idea behind this is that you have greater control and force when working with tougher materials. This might include shears that are used to trim animal fur or those that are used for cutting fabric.

There are also some dressmaker shears or fabric shears for cutting fabrics, typically those that are used in dressmaking that can be adjusted. This allows the user even greater precision when cutting. The shape can sometimes differ from scissors, being more bent and this allows for easier cutting.

Looking at shears, it’s easy to tell that, as opposed to being multipurpose cutting tools, they are designed for very specific applications. In commercial terms, you’ll often find shears being used for things like cutting metal and wiring.

What Are Scissors and What Are They Used For?


Unlike shears, scissors are a more general-purose tool. If you regularly spend time in the kitchen, you’ll likely have a pair of kitchen scissors that can be used for everything from opening packets of food to cutting up fresh herbs. There are different types of kitchen scissors but some are better than others.

You can buy scissors from almost anywhere. Pop into your local supermarket or bargain store and you’ll see an array on offer. However, some people like to go for more high-end tools and just like there are Japanese kitchen knives, there are also Japanese scissors. As you might well imagine, these are incredibly durable and sharp so are an ideal investment for your home or kitchen.

You won’t only find scissors in the kitchen but in all kinds of workplaces as well. Most people are familiar with the hairdresser scissors and thinning scissors used in hair salons. These are slightly different to the ones you would see in the home in that they have a finger rest on one side as well as much sharper blades to cut the hair without damaging it. You may have a pair of haircutting scissors in the home as well as other types of grooming scissors like nail scissors, office scissors and sewing scissors.

You will also commonly find scissors in a medical setting. There are various types of medical scissors including surgical scissors and bandage scissors. Many medics also carry trauma shears that are used to remove clothing to gain access to a patient’s wounds or injuries. Of course, as the name tells us, these are a type of shears rather than scissors.

One of the benefits of owning a set of scissors is that there are many multipurpose tools designed to do everything from crafts to kitchen work.

What Are the Key Differences Between Scissors and Shears and Which Do I Need?

After getting to know scissors and shears individually, you should be feeling pretty confident in choosing the right tool for the job. But let’s take a quick rundown of the main differences. 

● Shears have a set of blades that is longer than six inches while scissors do not.

● Shears have one handle larger than the other while the handles on scissors are more uniform. The larger handle on shears is designed for more fingers which give the user greater control and the ability to apply more pressure. Scissors may only include a smaller finger hole.

● Shears are used for more specific jobs and each pair is designed to meet the needs of that particular job. On the other hand, scissors are a more multipurpose tool. That said, some scissors are designed for specific things such as hair scissors or surgical scissors.

● Shears are normally reserved for slightly more heavy-duty tasks.

● Shears are usually more expensive than scissors.

● Shears are more versatile and tougher than scissors. The size and strength of the blade also make them much more stable.

So, if the job you are doing is quite light and general then a pair of multipurpose scissors should be sufficient. However, if you have a hobby such as dressmaking, you might need to invest in a pair of shears designed to make the job easier and more efficient.

Final Thoughts

Scissors and shears do look very similar at first glance. However, look more closely and you will see that there are some clear differences. Although most people do and will continue to refer to both tools as scissors, understanding the differences will allow you to choose the right tool for the job.
Back to blog