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.

  • 22
    @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
  • 2
    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
  • 3
    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
  • 21
    @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
  • 11
    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

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

You must log in to answer this question.

protected by Community Apr 23 '15 at 14:06

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .