Clickety click click click go the shears boys and these vintage 1950s, Sheffield Combination hand shears have no doubt seen a lot of wool in their time.
Whilst most blade shears can be used straight from the factory more often than not, they’ll only give a rough cut and most operators would not be able to shear for very long before wearing out their hand.
With this in mind, every shearer would modify his shears to suit his own hand shape and shearing style which was often a complicated business.
Called ‘doing up shears’ the process could take a few hours and consisted of five stages:
This involved bending the blades back, usually with a special device called a “pull back”, so that the shearer could take more wool with each ‘blow'.
The shearer would make a hollow grind on the blade to make sharpening faster and easier. Most shearers would also grind the points sharper so the blades enter the wool more easily.
This is the process of cutting notches and spikes on the blades for a knocker, thumb rest, and cockspur.
Putting the driver on:
This was an adjustable leather strap that could be tightened around the shearer's hand to steady the shears and provide hand support.
This involved bending and shaping the blades so they lined up and cut against each other in an optimal way for ease of shearing.
Whilst mechanical/electrical shears are the ones you’ll more likely find on a shearing floor, hand shears such as these are still used for specialist cutting.
Commercial blade shearers shear on average 140 sheep in an 8-hour working day, but some will shear over 200 sheep in a day.
Stamped with the famous Sheffield of England brand on their blades and still sharp as the day they last liberated a fleece, these beautiful examples of ulitarian industrial simplicity and efficiency can still be seen in use today at shearing competitions and on various stud farms across the world.
Display them on the shelf or as a centrepiece on a dresser they are simply beautiful but I wouldn't suggest offering to give your loved one a badly needed lockdown haircut with one of these unless you’re absolutely certain ‘puddin bowl' styles are coming back in vogue!
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