The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

By Attila Nagy on at

Since the ancient Egyptians supposedly invented them, scissors have been a constant in human civilisation. After knives, they're likely the most common household object the average person owns. Just look around your house: you have them for your nails, your paperwork, your kitchen, sewing—even kids have their own safer versions. So it's odd that we know so little about how they came to be.

Here at Gizmodo, we love scissors. So we were curious about how they evolved over the years. What we found was amazing: the following collection of images shows how many forms and surprising types of scissors have emerged since two blades were connected at the handles by a flexible strip of curved metal, three or four thousand years ago. From scissors used on the moon to the battlefield, check them out below.


Ancient Korean scissors

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

Photo: Chelsea Marie Hicks


Circa 2nd century: bronze scissors from Trabzon, north-eastern Turkey.

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

Photo: Yannick Trottier/Wikimedia Commons


Chinese silver scissors dated to the Tang Dynasty (618-907).

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

Photo: Sotheby's/Sotheby's


Silver wick-cutter, 17th century. From the collection of the Semmelweis Museum, Budapest, Hungary.

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

Photo: Attila Nagy/Gizmodo


More a weapon than a tool: a silver-mounted Indo-Persian scissors Katar. The 7.75-inch scissors, when opened, reveal a single damascus blade underneath. 18th-19th century.

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

Photo: Heritage Auctions


Four Ottoman calligrapher's scissors, Turkey, 19th century.

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

Photo: Sotheby's


Paper scissors, 19th century. From the collection of the Hungarian Theatre Museum and Institute.

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

Photo: Attila Nagy/Gizmodo


Ophtalmologic set with three different scissors, mid-19th century. From the collection of the Semmelweis Museum, Budapest, Hungary.

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

Photo: Attila Nagy/Gizmodo


Pliers, Lagenbeck's design, 19th century. From the collection of the Semmelweis Museum, Budapest, Hungary.

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

Photo: Attila Nagy/Gizmodo


Alpaca umbilicus-nipper in the form of a baby wearing stork, 19th century. From the collection of the Semmelweis Museum, Budapest, Hungary.

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

 

Photo: Attila Nagy/Gizmodo


Three Persian bird shaped scissors, 19th century.

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

Photo: Sotheby's


Digestive-holder, Collin's design, 19th century. From the collection of the Semmelweis Museum, Budapest, Hungary.

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

Photo: Attila Nagy/Gizmodo


Steel pocket scissors, military surgery set, 19th century. From the collection of the Semmelweis Museum, Budapest, Hungary.

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

Photo: Attila Nagy/Gizmodo


An electroplated grape scissors, in the shape of crossed square toe irons with mesh patterned gutty golf balls and bats. Circa 1910s.

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

Photo: Bonhams


A rare Tiffany Studios bronze Chinese-patterned desk scissors and paper knife, circa 1910, New York.

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

Photo: Heritage Auctions


Stainless steel umbilical cord scissors, circa 1950. From the collection of the Semmelweis Museum, Budapest, Hungary.

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

Photo: Attila Nagy/Gizmodo


The Apollo 12 Lunar Module Pilot, Alan Bean, flew and surface-used these stainless steel scissors, manufactured by Weck U.S.A. The pair, from Bean's personal collection, sold for $100,000 at auction.

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

Photo: Heritage Auctions


Edwin Cook and his shears.

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

During his 45-year career as a tailor, Cook spent 30 years working with the ecclesiastical tailors, Watts & Co. During this time, he helped create cassocks and robes for most of the world's bishops, dressed royalty and supplied garments for the entire clergy of St Patrick's Cathedral in New York.

Photo: Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images


For animal hair: Sheep shearing scissors.

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

Photo: Jonathan Wood/Getty Images


This pair of scissors was used to open the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932, and then again to open the new Cross City Tunnel in 2005.

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

Photo: Paul Miller/Getty Images


These huge scissors were used for a ribbon cutting at a hotel opening in 2009 in Las Vegas.

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images


U.S. Sen. George Allen and a giant pair of Fiskars ribbon cutting scissors.

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images


Sun-Star's 7-blade shredder scissors.

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

Photo: Ohanami Japan


Fiskars Cuts+More: A pair of scissors that opens bottles, cuts through wire, shreds boxes, pierces holes, and so on.

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

Photo: Fiskars


These three scissors, from Fiskars' revolutionary Amplify Shears collection, feature smart technology that adjusts the blades based on the thickness of the material.

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

Photo: Fiskars


The Leatherman Raptor multi-functional shears feature the necessary tools for medical professionals in emergency situations.

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

Photo: Leatherman


War scissors: An M60A1 Armored Vehicle Launched Bridge (AVLB), deploying its scissor-style bridge in a rugged landscape.

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

Photo: Lance Cpl. Kevin Quihuis Jr./U.S. Marine Corps


Peace scissors: This Ukrainian Tu-160 bomber was eliminated in 2001 by an excavator with a hydraulic pair of scissors attached.

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

Photo: Efrem Lukatsky/AP


Scissors can be dangerous and even illegal, in some cases. These were confiscated from passengers at Los Angeles International Airport.

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

Photo: David McNew/Getty Images


Scissors as decorative art. Artist Steve Maloney carries his artwork A Traveller's Pile-Up.

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

Photo: Ron Wurzer/Getty Images


A nightmarish installation called Scissor Spiders was created by U.S. artist Christopher Locke. 

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

Photo: Jens Meyer/AP


More horror: Scissors inside a human body.

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

Photo: Rob Griffith/AP


And then, of course, there are the cultural touchstones. Like scissors in music.

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

Photo: Jo Hale/Getty Images


And movies.

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Most Common Tool: Scissors

Photo: 20th Century Fox


Top photo: Content developer Louis Buckley plays 'Paper, Scissors, Stone' with robot 'Berti' at the Science Museum in London, Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)