Scissors firm cutting it again on internet

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It is one of the last remaining factories where scissors are made by hand.

But earlier this year it looked as if Ernest Wright and Son, based on Broad Lane in Sheffield, may have lost its battle against the tide of mass production which saw off the city’s once-healthy trade in sturdy, handcrafted scissors.

Cliff Denton checking a pair of scissors at Ernest Wright & Son of Broad Lane, Sheffield

Cliff Denton checking a pair of scissors at Ernest Wright & Son of Broad Lane, Sheffield

However, the modern age may have assured the firm’s future – after a video made by photographer Shaun Bloodworth as part of Sheffield University’s Storying Sheffield project was shared around the world on the internet.

Since the video was released in June, orders have flooded in, many from Americans eager to buy authentic scissors with the all-important Made In Sheffield branding.

Eric Stones – who is working past retirement age to pass on his skills as one of two master puttertogetherers at the company – said trade had ‘taken off again’.

“They’re selling around the world,” he said. “At the moment it looks rosy for us. That’s the internet for you!”

Eric started making scissors in 1956 aged just 14 as an apprentice at the Frank Turton factory on Arundel Street.

“You’re still learning now,” he added. “Dressmaking, kitchen scissors, nail scissors, household scissors, paper hangers – we’ve done them all.

“There were hundreds of factories in Sheffield but there’s just us left now. The mass-produced scissors just fall to pieces after a few months. But ours, if you look after them, will last a lifetime.”

Orders rose from single figures to just over 100 following Shaun’s video. Then a piece by the BBC led to orders soaring to nearly 800 last weekend.

A new grinding machine is being brought in to keep up with demand.

Each pair of scissors begins as individual blank blades.

The blades are straightened, assembled and tempered in furnaces before being placed in a bath of water and oil.

Following another blast from the furnace, the handles are smoothed and polished, before the blades are ground, sharpened, glazed, plated, buffed and polished.

Two apprentices are currently learning the ropes at Ernest Wright and Son.

“They’ve been here 18 months so they might stick it,” said Eric. “I hope they do.”

The company was established in 1902 although the Wright family have been involved in the boring, hardening and tempering of scissors since at least 1860.

As far back as records can be found, Walter Wright – a renowned ‘little mester’ of Sheffield – specialised in finishing scissor blades as an outworker and was also referred to as ‘master scissor putter-togetherer’.

Since Walter Wright began in the scissors industry, several generations have joined the trade.

Nick Wright is now managing director, the fifth generation to have led the family business.