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I needed to sharpen a pair of scissors, so I did a quick Google search to learn the technique. I was very surprised to find a number of sites suggesting that scissors can be sharpened by cutting a piece of aluminum foil. It doesn't make any sense to me, and I didn't bother to try it. But there were enough references that I'm curious whether anyone has ever actually tested the claim and formed a conclusion. I found an assortment of comments from people saying it works or doesn't work, but nothing convincing either way.

For example, This Old House makes the claim.

Fold a sheet of foil several times and cut through it with a pair of dull scissors to sharpen the blades.

Aluminum Foil to Sharpen Scissors is a YouTube video illustrating the technique.

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    @Tanath, it sounds like you're describing stropping, which straightens out a folded-over cutting edge without removing material. Sharpening removes material to create a new, sharper edge. – Mark Feb 1 '15 at 19:54
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    Yes. Regardless of what you call it, it makes it more effective, which I think is the intent. – Tanath Feb 2 '15 at 18:14
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    I have no evidence for this, but intuitively it makes a lot of sense. Aluminium is harder than many steels, especially cheap steels likely to be found in scissors. A handy way to polish steel parts is to use wet aluminium foil, which degrades into a grinding agent when rubbed on something hard (I've used this technique myself, often). I don't know whether this would work for sharpening, but it ought to at least polish the steel. Be interested to a properly sourced answer. – John Doucette Apr 17 '15 at 22:09
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    @JohnDoucette "Aluminium is harder than many steels…" Really? I always thought aluminium is softer than most types of steel. Sure, there might be some exotic(?) aluminium alloys that are harder than the softest steels, but I doubt that's what is in aluminium foil. – ESultanik Sep 3 '15 at 16:26
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    Yeah, I should have been clearer. It's aluminium oxide that is harder than most steels (Moh's hardness of 9). The oxide forms on the outside of aluminium foils and powders. See: reade.com/Particle_Briefings/mohs_hardness_abrasive_grit.html – John Doucette Sep 3 '15 at 17:38
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I could not find experimental evidence, but the majority of people on a sharpening forum seem to agree that it will not work. https://www.bladeforums.com/threads/sharpening-scissors-with-aluminum-foil.847263/

Here it is discussed that dirt and rust may be removed which facilitates cutting, but it is not sharpening per se. https://adventures99.wordpress.com/2014/02/16/is-it-true-sharpening-scissors-with-aluminum-foil/comment-page-1/

All high-quality scissor manufactures I looked up do not list aluminium foil for sharpening, this can be seen as weak evidence against the efficiency of it.

  • The same question has been asked at the Physics SE (here), and in my answer I add some considerations on the possibility that aluminum oxide film might be abrasive enough to do some sharpening (spoiler: probably not). – stafusa Nov 22 '18 at 11:42

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protected by Community Apr 23 '15 at 14:06

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