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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Scissors. In hand, or out of hand?

Attack of the killer scissors.

These look like harmless scissors.  They are really deadly weapons.

Several years ago I was tying flies at an expo and somebody mentioned that they thought it was interesting that I tied flies without holding my scissors in my hand the whole time.  It really struck me that I could save more time and tie faster if I just kept my scissors in my hand.  Also before I get too deep into this story, I feel like I need to explain some genetic Gigantor qualities challenges that I have before I tell you why I threw a perfectly fine pair of Dr. Slick scissors across my fly tying room.  I'm 6'5" and have hands that are tight in XXL gloves.  Yep.  I officially suffer from sausage fingers.
Dr. Slick Razor scissors are shaaaaaaaarp!
Anyway, I had just purchased a new pair of Dr. Slick scissors, and I was going to go home and get all efficient while tying flies.  I had an order of Grumpy Frumpies to tie, and the first thing I noticed with the scissors in hand was that I had to bend my wrist further than normal to get it into the hard-to-reach areas (I'll address that later).  Most of the fly went by just fine, but as I was attaching the rubber legs and coloring them with a sharpie, I realized that there were times when my beady little eyeballs perhaps got a little bit too close to the vise.  One last wrap of thread...  WHAP, I thought I had lost my eye.  I found out that Dr. Slick scissors make an excellent weapon if you were ever to need to gouge someone's eyes out during a home invasion.  I also found out, thankfully, that I was a bad aim.  I had effectively poked myself about an inch under my eye, and then I promptly wound up Nolan Ryan style and made a sizable dent in the opposing wall with those weapons of eye destruction.
I tried a few other times to tie with scissors in hand, but I realized that I'm much more efficient if I just drop them when I'm finished with them.  More importantly, I realized that there is no right or wrong way to do it, and that it's really determined on the comfort of the tyer.  From my experience, here is a list of pros and cons of tying with scissors in hand (and take it with a grain of salt because I write this from the standpoint of an anti-scissor-in-hand-ite).


  1. It saves you time.  If saving .78 milliseconds in the process of tying a bug really gets you going...  By all means, grip those suckes.
  2. You look cool at the tying shows.  
  3. It trains your hands to do two things at once. Look mom! I'm holding a pair of razor sharp eye removers while I'm eating dinner! (Just put them down before using the restroom).
  1. It's not ergonomic on the ol' wrists.  If you are holding the scissors deep in your palm (which you almost have to do if you want the use of the rest of your tangible digits) you have to bend your wrist much more to get the scissors into the "cut zone."  Yeah, I'm probably just a wuss.
  2. You may just jab your eye out.  I'll buy my kids a Red Ryder, but NEVER a pair of Dr. Slicks.
  3. You don't really save all that much time.
All this being said, it's important to realize that this is just my opinion, and there are people who truly have mastered the technique of palming scissors while tying.  I'm just bitter because I can't make it work.

I also asked Curtis because he is a former scissor holder.  He says that he gained more dexterity by not holding the scissors in his hand, and can get a better hold on difficult-to-manipulate materials.  Also, he points out that some of the scissors that are designed to be held in hand aren't necessarily the best for cutting.  Wiss quick-clips and the "sixth finger" may be good in theory, but they lack in having an open gap and sharpness when put beside other normal scissors.  Finally, Curtis said that efficiency can be regained if he strategically plans all of his cuts with the scissors.  This eliminates the need to pick them up more than needed.

~ Cheech     


  1. Tried it for a good amount of time as well, then gave it up. IMO, better to get used to setting the scissors in the same place each time so you can find them without looking. Also, learning the steps that can save the need for cutting at all is a better way to save some time.

    1. I agree. I typically put them down in the same place, and align them so I can quickly grab them and slide them off the table by the loops.

  2. If you're tying for speed and for volume, which is often my case, then don't set your scissors down. Get a pair of Anvil scissors - sharp and small, and keep tying.

    1. Do you cut wire with your Anvils?

    2. Yep. Best scissors I've used.

  3. Check out Sixth Finger Scissors. Problem solved.

    1. I addressed them in the article. The two issues with sixth finger scissors are that they are not sharp, and they can't open wide enough to cut medium to large clumps of material. We have used and reviewed them extensively.