One of the last scissor manufacturers in the world.

Five generations and 116 years of traditional working practices saved from bankruptcy: Paul Jacobs is convinced that the craft of scissor-making should not be left to die.

From the digital world to traditional handicraft.

Paul Jacobs was looking for his own brand. The software developer from Holland wanted to find a product which he could see and touch – a complete contrast to the digital world in which he used to work. By chance, he discovered a scissor factory in Sheffield. The family business Ernest Wright had been producing high-quality scissors for 116 years, until it was on the brink of collapse in 2018. Paul and his business partner Jan Bart made their decision in just an hour to buy the company. What made him save the company? "I fell in love with it immediately. Products like wheels, paperclips and, of course, scissors will never disappear. And the good thing is that everyone has a pair of scissors at home.

The love of detail is timeless.

The company in which machines from 1936 are still in operation was in need of an innovative boost. Paul and Jan improved the processes and renovated the machines. "Instead of going about things using the trial and error method, we defined fixed processes," says Paul. Thanks to his background in software development, a website and a webshop were also added to the mix. But one thing still hasn't changed over the 116 years: the love of detail when making the scissors. "In the workshops, you can feel the love and passion of each of the artisans. This can also be felt in the feedback which we get from our customers. We receive letters, e-mails and some customers even fly in to pick up the products in person, for example from Australia."

 

A new chapter in scissor-making.

After buying the financial assets and paying the rent for the building, Paul and Jan bought back all of the machines and re-hired the staff who had already lost their jobs. "It was time to be a part of the history of Ernest Wright," says Paul. At the beginning, the new owners were treated with some scepticism. "It's a funny story. After 116 years, you're on the brink of collapse and then two Dutchmen turn up with no experience from the field and promise you all sorts of nice things. And so it's only normal that the employees were initially a little wary," recalls Paul. Only once the pair had a new extraction system installed to improve the working conditions did this feeling subside. "All of a sudden, they knew that we were serious about our plan – and they all got their tools out to start work."

Here, tradition is written with a capital T.

The art of manufacturing scissors lives on at Ernest Wright in Sheffield. 

Scissors from Sheffield – traditional handcrafting in its sharpest form.

From Holland to England and back. With Brexit imminent, Paul and Jan decided to set up a small warehouse in The Netherlands and a location in Sheffield between which the stock can be transferred back and forth. They have already made the odd commute. The Mercedes-Benz G-Class in which they initially drove became too small at one point. "So we changed for a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter," reports Paul. "The vehicle is great for us. It drives fast, smoothly and reliably. What's more, it's comfortable and above all spacious." Paul's quality aspirations for the company's scissors are as high as those which he places on the quality of the chosen means of transport. "We didn't have to make any changes to our Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. The eight-hour journey passes like a flash."

The art of scissor-making:

    1. Forging:
The basic shape of a scissor blade is forged in steel using a die. It includes a drilling mark to enable simple and precise alignment of the two halves.
    2. Grinding:
A machine which has been in operation for more than 50 years takes off the first layer of material. Then the further stages of refining occur by hand. Here the blades are given the initial shape for their cutting edge. A belt-sander is guided through the handle of the blade in order to sand the insides.
    3. Hardening and rumbling:
This is where the steel blades are hardened. Depending on the model, this occurs either using salt hardening or vacuum hardening. Both methods deliver the same result: a rock-solid blade which stays sharp for a long time. Next, the hardened halves are treated overnight in a deburring and polishing machine called a rumbler. This serves to remove any sanding marks and give the blades a smooth appearance.
    4. Assembly:
The blades are now ready to be put together. It's a delicate task which involves hammering the perfect curve into each blade. A highly-skilled task which takes years to learn and which sets handmade scissors apart from those manufactured in series production.
    5. Edging and sealing:
After the scissors have been put together, they are then given their sharp edges. Using a rapid movement, both blades are closed together for the first time.
    6. Polishing, quality control and engraving:
After being polished to a mirror finish, the quality control manager checks all finished pairs of scissors. Only when the product and the finish are approved will the "Ernest Wright" name be engraved.

Hand-made vs. mass-produced.

Paul Jacobs foresees a long future in the scissors from Ernest Wright. He can see a trend developing particularly among the younger generation: "The throw-away society is falling out of favour. Today, people are concerned more about protecting the environment and seek sustainability in the products which they use. They ask themselves the question: do I want to keep buying a product over and over again or shall I buy one which was hand-made and which will last a lifetime? And you don't have to be rich to do that." One thing which is missing, however, is young successors interested in the craft of scissor-making. Paul reasons that this is due to the possible assumption that working in a scissor factory pays poorly and that the work is tough. "But that's not the case. We're not mass producing here. Our products are of a high quality and thus more expensive, which also has an effect on the wage of our employees." Paul has clear aims for Ernest Wright: expansion of the company, a scissor museum in Sheffield and convincing more youngsters to become interested in the art of scissor-making.

Quality meets quality.

The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter delivers the required tools to the scissor-makers.    

 

In rank and file.

 

Every pair of scissors from Ernest Wright represents more than a century of knowledge, passion and character.    

The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter as a scissor transporter.    

The history of the Ernest Wright scissor manufacturer is proof of why Sheffield is famous for its steel.

Hand in hand.

Delivered directly to the workshop: scissor-maker Cliff is waiting for new blanks.

Photos:

Louis Cieplik

More links to discover:

Ernest Wright Scissors – ernestwright.co.uk, @Instagram, @Twitter  

The conversions shown were made by independent third-party providers. The providers and the conversions were not checked by Mercedes-Benz. The photos in no way serve as an evaluation by Mercedes-Benz of the provider and/or conversions in question.

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