This Is Not an Ambidextrous Scissors

Boker V 88 Razor Steel Scissors

I purchased this scissors at a flea market last weekend, basically because it looked weird.

I thought it might be ambidextrous, but after playing with it a little, and doing a bit of research, I realized it is not a genuine ambidextrous scissors. But it is an interesting design.


Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 9.41.36 AM
The 1944 patent claims this is an ambidextrous scissors. Source:

Simply putting a thumb and finger ring on each side does not make an ambidextrous scissors. Otherwise any scissors with symmetrical ring holes would be ambidextrous. For a scissors to work properly, the top blade must be attached to the finger ring, so a scissors has to be right or left handed.  This arrangement accentuates the natural action of the hand as it closes, so the cutting edges are squeezed together. If a left hander tries to operate a right handed scissors, the natural action pulls the cutting edges apart, putting the action at a mechanical disadvantage. So a genuinely ambidextrous scissors is a mechanical impossibility, at least if it operates with thumb and finger rings.

Secondly, there is a discrepancy between the patent drawing and the actual product. The patent drawing shows the curved areas of the rings that could be used right or left handed. The actual product uses the same shape on each side, making it uncomfortable to use left handed. Would this difference invalidate the protection of the patent? Possibly this was done to save money when making the mold for casting.

Detail, before immersion in vinegar
Detail, after four hours in vinegar

Nevertheless, I decided to clean the scissors and sharpen them. These scissors are very comfortable and convenient to use by right handers since it doesn’t matter which way they are picked up.

After taking them apart, I immersed the scissors in white vinegar for four hours, occasionally removing surface rust with a Scotch Brite pad. I’m amazed at how well the vinegar works, and still surprised how satisfying it is to fix up a tool, returning it to useable condition. It just feels good.

If you are interested in the “proper” way to cut paper with scissors, check out this 1927 illustration from Palmer’s A Course in Bookbinding for Educational Trainning 

Miriam Schaer (see first comment) sent me this photo of a lefty scissors (note the top blade attaches to the finger rings), with even weirder placement. I can’t make sense of where you would put your fingers.

Photo: Miriam Schaer,

8 Replies to “This Is Not an Ambidextrous Scissors”

  1. Hi Jeff! Love these! I have a similar pair of scissors in my collection. The double finger holes are horizontal, coated in green, and labelled ‘lefty’ on the blades. These scissors were made for the teacher to assist small children in learning how to cut. Somewhere, I had an illustration that showed this, but it seems to be among the missing. I’ll send you a picture directly.

  2. I am pretty sure the child puts their fingers in the interior finger holes and the teacher uses the exterior finger holes. Definitely clunky-and am fairly sure this is why these scissors never really caught on!

  3. Makes sense. Thanks!

    This is quite interesting to me, off the top of my head I can’t think of another tool specifically designed to teach someone how to use that tool. And hand tools that are used by two people at the same time are pretty rare: some saws, some Asian style wood planes…others?

  4. Lots of planes, especially crown molding planes. Rock drill, with one man holding it straight and the other hitting it. Anvil with two smiths working, especially where one is holding the workpiece and a shaping tool or cut-off tool and the other is striking the tool with a hammer. Great wheel lathe. A lot depends on where you want to draw the line of “one tool”.

  5. Or maybe a more sophisticated formulation on my part would be where the line is between providing power and providing skill. A treadle lathe, as you know, since you have one, separates the mechanical power rotating the lathe and skill in turning. Of course there is some degree of skill to keep the treadle operating.

    The rock drill is an interesting example in that there seems to be an equal degree of skill (and trust?).

  6. Conroy also added this:
    “Looking for both men to put in skill is a good refinement. Equal trust? I’d say the man with the drill is a lot more trusting.

    Applying the “equal skill” test to two-man saws is interesting. Probably the pitman with a pitsaw is just power. But with a two-man veneer resaw, held horizontally and cutting downward, I would guess that the skill and strength are shared pretty evenly. I can’t assert that from experience, though.”

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