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It is widely believed that paper blunts scissors. But it is difficult to imagine why paper should be more harmful than say hair.

Is paper really any worse for scissors than hair, or any other object?

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I thought this was going to be a Rock-Paper-Scissors question. –  Tom77 Jun 15 '12 at 17:10
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Any type of cutting will tend to dull the blades of the scissors, factors will be types of materials (cutting and scissors), how he blades are made, and how often they are used. Much of the paper out there has many chemicals added to it such as clay, which can be abrasive on scissors causing the to wear a bit faster. –  Wayne In Yak Jun 15 '12 at 20:24
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2 Answers 2

Yes. Unless you're only using them to cut paper. Then you probably won't notice for decades.

From the provided link...

  1. All females say that paper blunts scissors
  2. All men say 'Impossible'.

This part is straight forward....

  1. The females are using the scissors as a tool in a specific application; cutting hair, fabric, or anything that requires accuracy.
  2. The men just want to cut whatever happens to need cutting (paper, cardboard, duct-tape, tin, wire, thin rocks, etc.) with whatever tool is close at hand. Any foul-ups in accuracy can be fixed with more duct-tape.

The cheapest pair of children's safety scissors will cut paper and, as many parents know full well, they will also cut hair (and most fabrics). Very poorly.

Scissors cut things! Don't mix up scissors that you use for fabric with scissors that you use to cut paper because fabric scissors are a lot better when they are super sharp and paper dulls scissors. You won't notice it too much on paper because you can still cut paper with really dull scissors, but when you go back to cutting fabric, you'll have a sad face! -source

Do not cut anything else other than fabric or thread with your favorite sewing scissors/shears. Especially paper dulls blades very fast ==> there is nothing more frustrating and tiring to your hand than using dull scissors. Non-sharp scissors can damage fabric. Your cutting accuracy will also be affected if the scissors/shears are trying to chew through the fabric rather than cut through it. ...snip... trusted sharpening companies to do this as once messed up scissors will only be good for paper cutting jobs after. -source

"Super sharp" is key. Fabric and hair are thin "floppy" fibers that bend out of the way easily.

The steel of the scissors is of course very hard. However, it is important to note:

A sharp edge is a thin edge.

And it is the edge that is easily blunted by the minerals found in most paper.

There are four popular minerals used in paper filling and coating: kaolin clay, calcium carbonate (available as ground or precipitated), titanium dioxide and talc. Both titanium dioxide and talc, however, are consumed in small quantities for special applications where extreme whiteness and opacity, or pitch control are required. Hence, the workhorse minerals employed in the paper industry today are precipitated and ground calcium carbonates and kaolin clay. -source

  • Barium Sulfate and Precipitated Calcium Carbonate (typical fillers) have a Mohs-Hardness of ~3.0.
  • Titanium Dioxide (used to increase opacity & brightness) has a hardness of ~5.75.
  • A copper penny has a hardness of ~3.2.

Cutting up copper pennies will most assuredly dull scissors. (The progression from 3 to 4 on the Mohs scale reflects an increase in hardness of approximately 25 percent. -source)


The Bottom Line

From a guy that sharpens stuff for a living...

Caution! Tools I Sharpen Will Be Extremely Sharp! They Must Be Handled With Awareness.

If you are uncomfortable using extremely sharp scissors or shears you can easily reduce their sharpness. If your shears are stylist, barber or grooming shears simply cut on a paper towel until the sharpness is reduced to a level you are comfortable with. If your shears are for cutting fabric or other materials make several cuts on a piece of 20 pound copier paper until you are comfortable. Razors or surgical scissors should never be reduced in sharpness. They should be maintained to extreme sharpness in relation to their intended procedure. -source


Postscript

My wife and I have a simple agreement...

  • I don't cut paper (or anything else) with her fabric shears and she doesn't cut up flagstones with my chainsaw.
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Are you sure it wouldn't be worth the spectacle (and price of a new chain) to watch the Mrs chew up flag stones with a chainsaw? You sharpen things for a living and your name is Rusty? Oh the irony (rusty irony) –  user7560 Jun 17 '12 at 6:49
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-1 for casual sexism for no purpose, and the poor quality of most of the references. The comparison to copper pennies makes no sense to me. (Are the hard particles small enough that the paper will shear along the cellulose fibres instead, making them irrelevant? Possibly not, but there doesn't seem to be anything here say shows that.) –  Oddthinking Jun 17 '12 at 17:07
    
@Oddthinking Did you find the quote here convincing (from a company that sharpens scissors)? "If you are uncomfortable using extremely sharp scissors or shears you can easily reduce their sharpness. If your shears are stylist, barber or grooming shears simply cut on a paper towel until the sharpness is reduced to a level you are comfortable with. If your shears are for cutting fabric or other materials make several cuts on a piece of 20 pound copier paper until you are comfortable." –  Avrohom Yitzchok Jun 18 '12 at 14:38
    
+1 for "Any foul-ups in accuracy can be fixed with more duct-tape." despite the fact that this answer really is not valid. –  Chad Jun 18 '12 at 18:36
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@Avrohom: Is it right? Maybe. Probably. It seems plausible. Is it convincing? No, not without them providing details of how they know this to be true. Experts get things wrong. People who claim to be experts get things wrong. Companies who claim to employ experts get things wrong. –  Oddthinking Jun 18 '12 at 19:02
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Silica, the forgotten component in paper. Fibres used in paper-making, e.g wood and straw, contain silica, i.e. silicon dioxide or to most of us sand. This is a very hard mineral, harder than steel, so it blunts it.

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This post does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this post by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.

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Can you provide a reference? Do all papers contain silica? –  Rory Alsop Mar 10 at 12:45
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Welcome to Skeptics! Please provide some references to support your claims. –  Oddthinking Mar 11 at 1:27
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