Well, it’s been a long Summer(for me, anyway!) and time to get back on the horse. We left off last-time discussing scissors for cutting difficult stuff and now I think it would be a good time to mention some people, too. We have twelve people who work in the factory and warehouse, making and packing and despatching. All the jobs have their own special sounds which make up the tapestry of the dayand if one of those sounds is missing, it is immediately noticeable! The place is like a morgue when they all leave at four in the afternoon ( they start at seven) – it’s so quiet.
Everyone is very skilled at their own particular job and nobody has ever left here after visiting the factory without saying “ I had no idea all that was involved!” Everyone is fascinated and immediately really interested; the team love having visitors, too, as it makes the day more interesting for them and also they like to feel appreciated ( which they very much are). They are all very rare birds with almost unique skills which they learn when they come here and which have been passed down over the years.
The reach of History!
Since we started letting the World know that we exist, an astonishing number of people have come forward with Whiteley or Wilkinson scissors and shears that have been in their families for generations or that they have bought from an antique shop or similar establishment.
Quite a few of these have been sent here for refurbishment and our craftsmen here love doing this and are often sad to part with them. We get many requests for the age of the scissors and even how much they would have cost!
Luckily for these people ( and for me) We have a number of catalogues dating back to 1875 which can supply the required information. The oldest pair we have had here were from the 1875 catalogue and they were beautiful, almost elegant! Even more luckily for me, various grandparents had had the forethought to write the date of the catalogue on the front so I can be sure (almost ) that they are correctly dated.
In 1800, Thomas Wilkinson who began making scissors in 1851, designed a new type of scissor handle. All scissors up till then had straight shanks with similar bows (loops) on the end or finger and thumb bows of different sizes. All scissors were hand forged, then, and the shanks & bows were merely un-flattened extensions of the blades which were then curled round on themselves.
This was fine, but Thomas Wilkinson realised that this did not make for comfortable cutting and also really disturbed the material when it was being cut. So, he designed the “sidebent” handle and patented it. This was much more comfortable and enabled tailors etc. to run scissors under their bolts of material with much less disturbance to the fabric. The design caught on at once and is still used today (by others apart from us as the patent sadly ran out years & years ago).
Our big tailors shears use the identical handle design and they are used by all the finest tailors in Savile row and many others.
From the back to the front:
Early 19th C: Hand forged, straight shank scissors.
Early 19th C: Brass sidebent shear handles.
Current: Steel sidebent shear handles.