Refurbished Mid-19th Century Sailmaker’s Shears

I picked up a rusty old pair of shears at my woodworking guild’s weekly meeting. They had some extra pressure points for the thumb and pinky, which I presumed might help with cutting difficult material. I cleaned them up and did some research on them – thought I would share the results.


The first step was to disassemble the shears which were held together with a brass fastener that had two holes that you could grab to loosen or tighten.

Brass fastener

I hoped to get the shears disassembled, so I took a piece of scrap wood and put two nails in it and sawed their ends blunt. The result was a tool that lined up with the fastener.

Fabricated tool to disassemble scissors
Back of scissors with nut removed

Once disassembled, I soaked the blades in vinegar for a day and then sanded and buffed them to a smooth finish. I sharpened the steel by lapping on sandpaper against a known flat surface. I also buffed the brass fasteners to make them nice and shiny. It appears that the upper section was originally painted black but I left it as-is, with a thin coat of oil to prevent rust.


polished up and super sharp


The shears were old and the maker’s mark is on the brass fastener but it was worn off. I researched based on some clues and determined that they were made in New Jersey in the mid 1800s by Heinisch and Wiss who had innovated blade construction by laminating hardened steel to for the cutting edge with iron for the other parts of the scissors. More information here>

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