spencer scissors: the interview
I have known Spencer and Amanda Dudman for about 14 – 15 months now. We became acquainted, then became friends though a weekly twitter feed called #hairhour. We met for the first time at Salon International last year and have since [met] on a couple of occasions when they have visited Edinburgh to showcase their extraordinary skills and knowledge about all things scissor related. I have posted on mrhaircare previously when Spencer serviced my (very) old scissors and transformed them back to something better than I ever dreamed possible.
An unassuming brother and sister partnership they quietly go about their daily lives helping hairdressers and barbers to fully understand scissors and how to care for them.
Here is their interview:
Both: Who are you, where do you live and what are your job titles?
Spencer Scissors is a small family based business largely run from home, just outside London, though we do travel around the country visiting clients, giving in-salon scissor education, and attending trade shows.
As there is only the two of us, titles don’t really come into the equation…we see ourselves as a cooperative, with input from others as needed, so perhaps ‘Partners in scissors’ is an adequate job title for us both!
Both: How did you come to be involved in all things scissors?
Spencer was working in a mobile phone shop that shared premises with a fireworks retailer, who wanted a small business in the summer months and had seen an ad for a mobile sharpening equipment – when I was made redundant in the very early 90’s I joined him. I quickly upgraded the system to enable me to sharpen better quality hairdressing scissors (machines that others still use today). Then I met Tim Payne, the founder of Excellent Edges, who had trained for many years in Japan learning all aspects of scissor manufacture and maintenance. He invited me to learn how to service scissors properly, and I jumped at the chance to learn from him – training was intensive and spread over a number of years, taking me all over Britain, the US and for lengthy stays in Australia. Whenever Tim comes to the UK, we always end up in the workshop – and he checks my work…happily he decided quite a few years ago that I had attained Master Bladesmith level…high praise indeed from a true perfectionist!
Because I’ve been a mobile sharpener, I know the pitfalls and precisely why decent scissors (scissors with any sort of internal work) cannot be sharpened this way
As the business grew, Spencer needed help – that’s when Amanda came on board!
Both: How long has Spencer Scissors been in business?
Spencer: I’ve been selling and servicing scissors since 1994 – time flies!
Spencer: What is your day-to-day role in the company?
Servicing scissors, calling on customers and delivering scissor education workshops.
Amanda: What is your day-to-day role in the company?
There is a lot of cross over – we both get involved with answering enquiries, going on forums and posting on social media, and seeing our customers. I write the articles and deal with the website, but only Spencer services scissors, and no one else can do what he does in the UK!
Both: What challenges do you face in your business and what do you do to try and overcome them?
It is a challenge to get some people to understand that scissors need care and attention to function optimally – that all cutters need to have a daily maintenance routine for their scissors and at least an annual professional service.
Overcoming the notion that all scissor companies and sharpening services are the same: we are passionate about what we do, and we hope that comes across, that hair professionals feel that they can call on us for helpful advice. We were the first business in the UK to promote scissor care kits, the first to describe the much lengthier and complex process Spencer does as a scissor service, and write a comprehensive report etc. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but we seriously doubt the other companies out there understand and follow the steps Spencer takes in servicing.
Another problem we face is getting our customers to talk about us – some stylists and barbers feel that the service we provide gives them the edge over their competitors!
Spencer: How many pairs of scissors can you service in day?
The maximum is six – but this is without major reconstruction and correction! I’ve been known to spend over 3 hours on a pair – the owner was delighted, so it was worthwhile!
Both: What are your favourite scissors on your website, and why?
One of the hardest questions for us to answer as we only deal with great scissors, but some of our star scissors are as follows:
Spencer: BK – this is our best selling scissor for a reason: great all round entry level and beyond clamshell from Excellent Edges.
Both: Toni PS – this model has a special place in Spencer’s heart as we have customers who bought these 20 years ago – and they are still going strong – a testament to a great scissor and good maintenance!
Both: Tru-Blu – hard to pick just one from the range and we’ve had exciting news that an entry level scissors is being launched RRP £250 – we can’t wait to see this! The whole range deserves a place on our favourites list as they are consistently getting rave reviews from our customers, are hand made by a perfectionist, from Japanese Steel, perfectly balanced and cut beautifully!
Spencer: Fuji MF and the left handed equivalent, the SF – well known for the quality of the scissors they produce, this is a mid-range Fuji that is a fabulous all rounder.
Amanda: Hikari RyuCosmos AKA the Dragon – this is a beautiful and functional scissor and the price reflects the consistently high quality, research and innovation behind the Hikari brand: this is the flagship scissor.
As for thinners and texturisers, we love the Barracuda and the Croc from Excellent Edges, and so do our customers. Both are from the premium Fish Kit range, and are made of Hitachi ATS 314. Their durability and versatility makes them worthy additions to any creative stylist’s kit.
Both: Best thing about working together?
We get on and have loads of in jokes!
Both: Worst thing about working together?
There’s always work to do, meaning it’s impossible to switch off and other family members have been known to complain…
Spencer: In your opinion what would be good price for an entry-level scissor for a new apprentice just entering the world of hairdressing or barbering?
Great question – if you know that you want to be in the industry then investing in decent scissors from the start is well worth it, if not sure to start with definitely by Year 2/3 you need to upgrade to do the cuts properly, and must dispense with the scissors that come with the standard college kits. Decent drop –forged scissors can be bought for under £100 upwards. We have the FE range from Excellent Edges and then their BK/BA/BR range, with the brand new Brumby from TruBlu costing £250 – all great scissors to take from pre-graduation to much further along a career path…looked after, they will also serve as a decent second pair!
Both: Who do you admire in the hairdressing and barbering industries and why?
Vidal Sassoon – definitely one of the pioneers of Japanese scissors over here and he understood the importance of sharp scissors for his signature precision cuts…he would never have dreamt of cutting his client’s hair with anything approaching blunt or damaged scissors…
“KEEP SCISSORS REALLY SHARP AT ALL TIMES and spare no expense in maintaining them”
Vidal Sassoon from ‘Cutting Hair The Vidal Sassoon Way’ published in 1978 pg 20
We’re also very inspired by our customers …and we love that lightbulb moment when we see the education being absorbed, or when someone new to us tries decent in-sett scissors for the first time…knowing that pressure cutting is no longer required can be a revelatory moment!
Both: Do you think competitions and events are crucial for our industry to grow?
Definitely! Events are important on many levels:
- for inspiration – when the parameters of producing commercial looks are removed, creativity is unleashed and this is truly exciting to be involved with, even as a spectator!
- for confidence – stage work can be terrifying, but is a fantastic learning experience that can really help to boost confidence. We have to give a big shout out to Dom Lehane of Hair Club Live, for the brilliant concept of the touring Open Chair Nights – anything goes in the allotted 10 minutes on stage, which sees legends like Anne Veck and Stephen Smart sharing stage with rising stars like Michael Rackett, and others, many of whom have never presented on stage before. Also, we are involved with Davie Walker’s Best of British Barbering shows, which feature the National Apprentice of the Year competitions – another great way for those starting their careers to take to the stage and get noticed!
- the exposure these events can generate cannot be underestimated, they are great for networking, and brilliant fun!
We also love forums such as HairHour on Twitter and Friday Barber Gang etc on FB and Instagram, and member driven organisations like British Master Barbers – again they give stylists and barbers a platform to showcase their skills, inspire and be inspired, and learn.
Amanda: Tell us something about Spencer we don’t know!
He’s a really good tennis player!
Spencer: Tell us something about Amanda we don’t know!
Amanda loves French chanson!
Both: What would you change about our industry?
We would love scissor education to be embraced by the majority rather than the minority…scissors deserve more than the scant respect many show their main tools, and ultimately their clients too: blunt scissors mechanically damage hair by mashing the hair rather than cleanly cutting…and as for continuing to cut hair when there’s visible nicks in the blade…please don’t do it! We don’t really understand why scissors aren’t subjected to an annual inspection like PAT testing on electrical items.
Scissor education is so important, not only that creativity can be unlocked by understanding what different blade angles can achieve, but that it can make a major difference such as preventing or reducing the effects of Repetitive Strain Injuries like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. It saddens us to know that many stylists and barbers have to leave the profession they love, or put up with being in pain, when this needn’t be the case. We are doing our best to get information out there, but it is a struggle – if any readers would like more information, please email us.
Both: Do you think hairdressers and barbers use their equipment in different ways, or is it the same?
Certainly barbers tend to use the scissor over comb technique far more than stylists…and are generally favouring bigger scissors.
Also, we have some customers who are exceptionally busy barbers, doing on average 30 cuts per day – they know the difference always having sharp scissors makes, and so get their scissors serviced more frequently.
Both: What are your top tips for taking care of your scissors, texturisers and razors.
Daily maintenance is a must, as is a professional service at least once a year – really this should be before scissors are blunt!
Our mantra is: Clean Tension and Oil
Clean – it makes sense to remove wet hair and products off your blades as soon as you can. This is vital to prevent rust, but also using the chamois or alternative (we’re working on it!) really does keep your scissors sharper for longer. If you can do this after every haircut, that would be brilliant!
Tension – Ideally this should be checked throughout the day…and we would like to stress that it is not down to personal preference: to work optimally, scissors have to have the correct tension! Most scissors are way too loose, making pressure cutting inevitable, as force is needed to bring the blades together. However, this isn’t just stylists and barbers to blame: the UK market is flooded by scissors that are out of sett…so they don’t cut well from the start.
Oil – this serves to clean hair from the centre screw mechanism, and protect the whole scissor from rust. It is vital to use proper scissor oil – machine oil works differently and is not good for scissors: instead of flushing hair from the centre screw, it drives it in!
Please see our articles and YouTube channel to be shown the precise steps, alternatively email us and we will send more information and the links. www.spencerscissors.co.uk
I knew this would be an interesting interview, Spencer and Amanda know so much about scissors and how to look after them. I’m delighted to have got to know these guys and thrilled they agreed to be interviewed!
I would recommend them to all my hairdressing friends without hesitation.
and here is one of the best pics of Spencer from their Instagram account: