How to Tune a Shear

The Drop Method: Tuning a Regular Shear

Disclaimer: If you are tuning a texturing shear, please see our other article here.

Tuning a shear is generally a simple endeavor. Exceptions are texturing shears, such as thinners and chunkers. We have covered that in a separate video and post here.

Performing a Drop Test

If your shear is not cutting right, the first place to start is with tuning - they could be too loose or too tight. If you're new to tuning your own shear, fear not! We'll get you going with a simple test known as a Drop Test (No - it doesn't involve dropping your shears on the ground). 

There are other methods for testing and tuning your shears, but this is a decent method to begin with. Always apply some oil onto your shear by the screw and work it in before tuning. Dry shears will give you an entirely different result when tuned. Try out the following steps:

  1. Hold the shear vertically by the handle of one of the blades.
  2. While holding the shear in that position, use your other hand to open the shear.
  3. Let go, and let the shear fall closed.
    • Tight: If the shear does not fall closed at all, but the friction of the blades stops the fall of the other blade before the shear closes halfway, then the shear is too tight.
    • Loose: If the shear falls entirely closed, then the shear is too loose.
  4. Adjust the tightness of the shear using the tension screw until the shear falls more than halfway closed, but not all the way.

Tuning Tip: If the blades of your shear differ in weight and thickness, be sure to hold up the thinner, lighter blade (vertically), and let the heaver, thicker blade drop closed from the horizontal position.

The Tuning Mechanisms

There are 3 types of tuning mechanisms used in professional shears that you will need to know how to use.

Hand Adjustable Tension Knob

The most convenient type is the hand adjustable knob. This one can be adjusted with your fingers. Simply turn right to tighten, or left to loosen. Listen for the "click" - each one makes a big difference in tension.

Key Adjustable Tension Screw

This type of mechanism requires a special tuning key to turn. Any key-adjustable shear comes with an option to order a shear key on our website. They are not expensive.

Traditional Tension Screw

This type of mechanism is composed of a regular screw - generally a flat-head screw, and sometimes, there is a complementary screw on the other side. To adjust it, you either need a special tool designed for the purpose, or you need to immobilize one side with a screwdriver, while you turn the screw with the other (we show a decent trick in our tuning video).

Common Shear Tension Issues

Here are the most common causes for needing to tune your shears

  • New Shears:When you buy new shears and have them shipped, they will most likely need to be tuned to work right

  • Wear and Usage: With time and use, your shears will get looser, much like a stringed instrument

  • Impact: When a shear gets bumped or dropped, the tension can get messed up

Why Tune your Shears?

Shears that aren't tuned will not cut well (or at all). To have a smooth, consistent finish on fur or hair, any shear will need to be tuned properly. It's kind of a big deal! Here's at least 3 important reason for staying on top of the task:

  1. To Improve Performance: A badly tuned shear will not cut well. If it is too loose, it will fold fur instead of cutting it, as if it were dull, even when it is not.
  2. For Comfort: A shear that is too tight places unnecessary strain on your hand during use, causing chronic conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
  3. To Avoid Damaging the Shear: A shear that is too loose will allow the sharp edges of the blades to come out of their parallel alignment, so that they cross over each other slightly when you cut. This causes very intense wear on the edge, and can cause nicks in the blade.

Tuning Frequency

How often should you tune your shears? When you buy a new shear, you should test and tune it right away. Even the best shear factories seldom tune their shears, so unless you're buying a shear directly from a local sharpener who does this in advance, the chances of your new shear being tuned right is low. We've found that there is no official tuning schedule because there are many variable that come into play, such as usage, the material of the shears, regular oiling, how your shears are stored, etc.

When you notice the fur pinching and folding instead of a clean cut, it's probably time to do this simple drop test and tune up your shears. Good grooming shears constructed of quality components will hold a tune far better and longer than cheaper, low quality shears do. 

If you find that your hand and wrist is fatigued after normal scissoring usage, it's usually a hallmark sign that your shear is too tight. Staying on top of your scissor tuning might seem like a pain in the butt, but it's really easy to do, and it doesn't take long. Pet groomers are constantly taking things like clipper blades off and on all day, so what's the big deal of keeping the best tool you got in premo condition?