How Tight Should Scissors Be? (Explained)

Getting your scissor tension right is the key to the perfect cutting experience. When scissors are too tight or loose, you might find them difficult to use.

You will want to find the perfect balance where the scissors are easy to use and cut the fabric easily. 

Here’s How Tight Your Scissors Should Be:

Your scissors should be tight enough that the blades make a clean cut without requiring too much effort from your hand. Overly tight scissors will be hard to use and can make your hand ache. Too loose scissors will move easily but will not cut the fabric effectively. 

Are Tighter Scissor Hinges Stronger?

You want your scissors to be set to a proper tension to make the best cut.

You might be tempted to tighten your scissors as much as possible since it might seem like this will make them stronger. This won’t actually improve the scissors– finding the right balance is most important when it comes to scissor tension.

If you turn the pivot screw of the scissors too much and they are too tight, you will struggle when cutting fabric. The blades will be pressed too closely together, and you might exert so much pressure to make the blades move at all. 

Having scissors that are too loose can weaken your scissors overall. Scissors can break at the pivot point when too much pressure is applied.

If you use your loose scissors on strong fabric, you may snap your scissors at the hinge. 

Can Loose Scissors Cut Well?

Without enough tension in your scissors, the blades won’t be able to come together to make a clean cut. If the scissors are too loose, the fabric can pass through the blades without being sliced. 

Your blades should be tight enough that they are making contact from the base of the blade all the way up through the tip. When the scissors are closed, the tips should be perfectly aligned. 

Loose scissors can be frustrating for the user because if they do cut, it will probably be less than effective. They may cause your material to fray and look messy as they cut through fabric.

If you use your loose scissors on thick material, you run the risk of your scissors breaking if too much pressure is applied. 

Can You Tighten the Scissors Bolt/Hinge?

Most scissors are assembled with a fully adjustable pivot screw. The exact type of screw will vary from scissor to scissor. 

You can easily turn some of these screws with a simple screwdriver. Look at the bolt and see if you have a screwdriver at home that would match. When you find a screwdriver that fits, you can turn the screw to the right to tighten or to the left to loosen.

Other models might have a small dial to adjust the tension. This is more common on hair scissors, but you might find it on other small scissors in your sewing kit.

These are easy to adjust as you turn the dial with your fingers to change the tension.

Finally, you might have a specialty bolt that requires a key to adjust it properly. You’re most likely to see this among hair and beauty scissors.

You should have received the key when you purchased the scissors. If not, you can purchase a universal tension key that should fit most brands.

As you adjust the tension of your scissors, you will want to find the right balance of pressure and usability. You will want the blades to be as close together as possible while you can still operate the scissors without too much exertion. 

One way to evaluate the tension of your scissors is to hold them in front of you and allow the blades to close on their own. Hold the scissors with the handle pointing to the ground.

Open one handle to a 90-degree angle. Keep one handle in place, pointing down.

Release the opened blade and watch what it does. If it struggles to move at all, it is a sign that your blades are too tight.

If it snaps shut automatically, it is a sign that your blades are too loose. If it moves a bit on its own but not too much, it is a good sign that your tension is balanced. 

The results of this test can vary a bit depending on your scissors. You might have slightly different results using scissors with metal handles versus plastic handles. 

Your own cutting style and preference can also influence the right tension settings for you. Some people with a stronger grip might have a higher tolerance for tighter scissors. 

The final tension setting you choose will combine all of these factors. Keep your tension adjusting tool on hand so you can continue to make adjustments until you find the tension that feels perfect for you and your cutting style. 

Are Loose Scissors Able to Cut Thick Fabric?

It’s possible that loose scissors can manage cutting thick fabric.

It will depend on the fabric’s thickness and the scissors’ looseness. Even if they can cut the fabric, you can still end up with a messy end result. 

When scissors are loose, it means that the blades are not being tightly pressed together. It can make it very easy to move the blades, but it might not put enough pressure to cut.

If your fabric is very thin, it might be able to rest in the space between the blades without getting cut. The looseness creates a space between the blades where thin fabric can pass through easily.

With thicker fabric, it’s possible there is enough tension present between the blades to make the cut. If the fabric is thick enough to fill this space and create enough pressure, the blades might manage to cut through the fabric. 

It’s important to note that sometimes loose scissors are mistaken for dull scissors. If you drop your otherwise sharp scissors and find that they are suddenly not cutting well, you could have accidentally changed the tension when they fell. 

Before sending your scissors off for sharpening, you can check the tension and make any needed adjustments. 

When Should You Replace Loose Scissors?

Loose scissors can be very frustrating to use. They might not be tight enough to cut the material at all or might make frayed and messy edges in your fabric. 

You might be able to fix your loose scissors easily with the turn of a screw. If the screw is responsive, you should be able to realign your scissors and get them cutting smoothly at a proper tension. 

If your screw is damaged, no longer controlling the tension, or even breaks, you will have to get your scissors replaced or repaired.

Depending on the quality of the scissors you started with, you might be able to have them repaired by the manufacturer, possibly even under warranty. 

If your loose scissors break at the hinge, it might be a good excuse to upgrade and purchase a new pair. Investing in a high-quality pair of fabric shears can be a practical choice for the avid sewer.

Higher-end scissors can last a lifetime with regular cleaning and sharpening. 

Final Thoughts

Adjusting the tension of your scissors can make a big difference in their performance.

If your scissors are too tight, you might struggle to move the blades without straining your hand. You will have difficulty cutting the fabric with control if they are too loose.

You can adjust the tension yourself by turning the pivot screw.

Check the type of screw you have and find the right tool to tighten or loosen your scissors at home. 


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