Get Acquainted with Fly Tying Scissors
Updated: Nov 6, 2021
Household scissors usually come in pretty standard form, which is to say they are typically on the larger side and relatively inexpensive. I know that in my house there's about 3 or 4 pairs laying around in various drawers, but they are all the same familiar style. Having more than one pair of these is more of a matter of convenience than utility. After all, cutting things like paper, tape, or loose thread doesn't really require much precision.
On the other hand, us fly tyers have different needs. We require scissors that are smaller, very sharp, and work effectively in tight places. For this reason it's common to find several different types of scissors on many fly tying desks, each with their own unique niche. Now, that's not to say that some fly tyers can't get by quite well with a single pair, but even someone like me that only occasionally sits at the bench and ties a relatively limited set of patterns can still find value in getting more specialized with tying shears.
Popular brands like Loon Outdoors and Dr. Slick each offer a healthy selection of scissors for every aspect of the tying process. One thing you'll immediately notice is the price of these little scissors can be on the higher side. Cheaper varieties can be found, but the old saying "you get what you pay for" definitely applies here. These pricier versions are crafted with extra precision from hard materials such as steel or even tungsten carbide (which Dr. Slick says is 7 times harder than stainless steel) and can even feature bonus additions like adjustable tension or a built-in wire cutter. Good tying scissors will typically feel better, cut easier, and last longer.
If just getting started in fly tying, one suggestion would be to start with a quality all-purpose tying scissor. This style will accomplish most tasks very well and you may even discover they are the only pair of scissors you ever need. In fact, up until a few years ago I mainly just used this one single scissor type and did totally fine. My current pair from Dr. Slick does many jobs very well and even has a micro-serrated edge to help bite into and cut slippery chunks of hair (like synthetics) easier.
Besides the versatile all-purpose style scissors, another style that many tyers find extremely useful is a scissor with fine tips. Typically a bit smaller in size overall, these scissors have thinner blades and excel at getting into tight spots and making precise, small cuts. If you tie a lot of very small trout flies (which I don't), these should be quite useful. But, even a streamer junkie like me even finds these very helpful at times.
In my opinion, the last of what I call the "core" scissors to have are hair scissors or a noticeably beefier scissor like the Loon Prime. Whether these scissors are made with very stout blades, serrated edges, or a combination of both, they are good to have when cutting larger chunks of material time and time again.
Besides these standard styles of tying scissors, many other examples are available with some being pretty specialized and innovative. Just a couple other examples to note include:
Thinning or tapering scissors have one standard and one slotted blade. This special design cuts less fibers on each clip which helps to quickly and gradually thin out areas where fibers may have been tied-in too thick. They are also great for helping to blend two colors more naturally together and the slotted blade could even be used to help tease out dubbing.
Like two razor blades, Razor scissors feature thin, very sharp blades that cut various materials with ease. The price of these scissors is usually a bit more in comparison to more standard designs, but if you're willing to pay a bit more for additional sharpness these are worth considering.
In addition to the all-purpose, fine-tip, and larger scissors I currently have on my tying desk, I also utilize either an old worn pair of household scissors or a fishing plier that features a built-in wire cutter. Either of these can be used for cutting hard materials like wire ribbing or bead chain.
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