A hairdresser showed me this move. She said she had also spoken to a surgeon who uses a similar technique. It allows you to safely keep the points of the scissors away from whatever else you are doing, without taking them completely off your hand and putting them down. A couple of years ago I wrote about Palmer’s proper method for using scissors, which deals with how to hold the paper to make a straight cut.
For this, you will need to have a scissors with single finger metal bows. The bows are the “handles” of the scissors, the enclosed round part that you put your fingers in. (1) This might be a good excuse to ditch those plastic handled Fiskars and buy some real scissors, such a pair of drop-forged chrome-plated ones made by Mundial, which are an excellent value.
Basically the scissors are spun 180 degrees on the middle finger.
When you are done cutting with the scissors, take your thumb out of the bow.
Twirl the scissors, using your index finger, so that the point is facing towards you.
Then your fingers are free to grasp another tool or manipulate an object without fear of stabbing it. Don’t stab yourself, though.
When you are done and need to use the scissors again, twirl them back into position by using your ring finger, then reinserting your thumb.
Usually we use one hand per tool and occasionally two hands per tool. But using two tools in one hand requires dexterity and practice, like handling chopsticks or holding an awl and threaded needle at the same time for heavy leather stitching. Generally we keep the cutting edge of tools pointed away from us, although David Esterly mentions wood carvers are trained to spin their chisels around and place them down on the bench handle first, so as not to damage the edge.(2)
I imagine this move come in handy in a number of circumstances. Cutting strapping and double stick tape when mounting books for exhibition currently comes to mind. Others?
(1) J. B. Himsworth The Story of Cutlery: From Flint to Stainless Steel. London: Ernest Benn Limited, 1953. Chapter 10 deals with scissors, the whole book is great. Filled with interesting historical tidbits, like early nineteenth century Sheffield knife grinders, who often died of silicosis, sometimes had their grinding stones used as their gravestone.
(2) David Esterly, The Lost Carving: A Journey to the Heart of Making New York: Viking, 2012.