What’s in Your Steel?
Traditionally, high quality hair cutting scissors are manufactured in either German steel or Japanese steel. With Japanese being the much superior steel of the two due to the high carbon content and a delicate balance of other metal mixtures. German steel is very hard and brittle, that does not sharpen well, but retains it’s edge. Next in quality, is softer steel that is manufactured in China, Korea and Taiwan. Although, some reputable Korean and Taiwanese manufacturers do import and use high grade Japanese steel and Japanese craftmanship.
Poorer quality steel is produced and used in scissors manufactured in Pakistan and does not hold an edge well.
The majority of the hair cutting scissors sold on Ebay are manufactured in Pakistan and China with inferior steel, despite claims of using Japanese J2, 420, 440 grade steel. There is a large scale counterfeit scissors industry in Pakistan and China (except the well-established surgical instruments industry) and if a scissors are passed off as high grade 440c Japanese steel and is being sold for around £12 – £20, then this should serve as a red flag to you as in reality a high-end Japanese steel scissors can cost anything between five times to a hundred times this amount. This is due to the high labour costs involved and large number of steps required to make a high quality scissors.
High quality scissors made from genuine Japanese steel does not blunt after using them for a short while. They should retain their edge sharpness and durability over a long period. Titan’s traditional forging method, ceramic pack heat treatment, ice tempering and with the use of premium quality Japanese steel makes it an extremely sharp and long lasting scissors, one that you will enjoy working with.
Titan products are handmade in Taiwan using ONLY high grade Japanese steel, either in the very high end ATS-314, Cobalt VG-10 or SUS440C.
Japanese steel comes in different grades and unfortunately many scissors sellers state ‘Japanese Steel or stainless steel’ in their descriptions, without specifying which steel grade is being used. Here is a summary of the well-known ones used for high end scissors so you are better informed before making a purchase from any seller: (in order of quality):
ATS314: This very high quality stainless steel is produced by Hitachi Ltd in Japan. The steel contains 15% Chromium, 4% Molybdenum. It has an excellent processing quality, is rust resistance, damage resistance and the toughness of the blade are many times higher than those of inferior steel. This steel is also the world’s most expensive. It is regarded as the ‘Rolls Royce’ material for high-end knives and scissors. The hardness rating for ATS314 is up to HRC60~62, after heat treatment. Expect to pay anything from $400 – $1800 onwards for a well-crafted Hitachi ATS314 steel scissors such as Nigata, Kamisori scissors, Mizutani Shears and Matsuzaki scissors.
VG-10: Another very high quality steel. This steel is produced by Hitachi Ltd in Japan under private label for the Takefu Special Steel Co. Ltd., based in Takefu, Japan. VG-10 has high carbon content. Molybednum, Chromium, Vanadium and Cobalt are also included. This makes it very tough, sharp, durable and corrosion resistant steel. Top chefs favour kitchen knives that are made in VG-10 steel. The hardness rating for VG-10 scissors is up to HRC61~63, after heat treatment and ice tempering. Our Damascus Chilled Pressed Scissors are made with VG-10 steel.
JIS (Japanese Industrial Standards): The three most popular steels used under JIS are the 410, 420, 430 and 440. These steels are the commonly used steels for hair scissors, particularly the 420 series. However, of all the steels from the 400 series, the 440 category truly excels in hardness, wear resistance and strength. The 440 category comes in four grades, 440A, 440B, 440C and 440F.
440C/SUS440C: This steel is considered a high end steel used for excellent quality scissors. Out of the four grades of 440, this is the superior, top end steel due its high carbon content of between .95 – 1.20%. It is very resistant to corrosion; it is hard, durable and holds its edge. 440A and 440B are almost identical, but have less carbon composition than 440C. They also have a lower attainable hardness, but slightly higher corrosion resistance.
The Rockwell hardness rating for 440C is between 59-61 HRC, after heat treatment.
A well manufactured and crafted 440C Japanese steel scissors such as Shishato, Kamisori scissors, Akemi, Yazuki can cost between $80 – $320+.
420B (J2): This grade is commonly used for surgical instruments and scissors made in Pakistan and is also known as ‘J2’. This steel represents the lower end of the market for scissors. ‘420’ is a very inexpensive steel, which is why it is preferred choice for companies producing low cost scissors with slightly above average quality. It has lower carbon content (less than .5%) than 440C. It is also a softer steel, but is tougher material and is extremely resistant to corrosion. ‘420 Series’ has four types, 420A (J1), 420B (J2), 420C and 420D.
420HC is another type with higher carbon content where the hardness can be produced to 55–57 HRC.
Because of the softness of the steel and it’s ability to be honed to a very sharp edge, a scissors made from the ‘420 series’, dulls quicker and easily blunts, if you use it frequently. A pair of scissors made out of J2/420B steel may seem attractive to a buyer due to its relatively cheap price and razor sharpness, but in the long run, they will cost more due to frequent replacement, as they wear out quickly. The problem, is that after a few sharpenings, there is little steel left to sharpen, so it becomes a throwaway.
We do not sell cheap J2 type barber scissors, only high quality hair scissors whose steel can be authenticated by the company and designed in true Japanese style. If you are an experienced, professional hair stylist or barber, do not settle for any scissors less than 440C. Your performance depends on it!
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