PATTERN TOOLS: The Heinisch Scissor

I remember back in the early 60’s working in the garment center as a fabric cutter. When scissors needed sharpening you would never take them to a cutlery shop, you’d wait for the scissor man to stop by. He would come around about every other month. He’d push his four wheeled cart in and out of elevators from 35th to 40th street and east to west from 5th avenue up to 10th. He knew most of the fabric cutters, pattern makers and clothing designers in this fashion jungle. He’d show up in the factory with his pushcart and a grindstone wheel on top. He’d walk up and down the aisles and ask who needed their scissors sharpened. It used to cost about a buck to have your scissors sharpened back then. Pricey! The Heinisch scissor, would set you back about a buck and half because of its size. Fourteen inches edge to edge. The cutting blade alone was 7 inches long, and weighing in at almost three pounds. These scissors were so enormous that they had a support rest for the thumb when you were using them to cut fabric. The scissor man would set up his temporary shop at one end of the factory loft. He’d pump that grindstone peddle with one leg and get the grinding wheel humming. He’d set the blade on it and you could see the carbon sparks flying off and the shrieking sound of the grinding wheel as he kept pumping the pedal. The Heinisch would always stand out as the luxury model on the cutting table with the other scissors that had just been trimmed. R. Heinisch sold his business to the Wiss family in 1914.  The foundry was located in Newark New Jersey on the corners of Bruce street and 13th avenue. The pair that I have sitting in my studio probably have cut through enough yards of fabric to stretch across the states. The old bones of the tailor’s hand seems to have shaped out the handles of these scissors like an old pair of gloves.

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3 comments on “PATTERN TOOLS: The Heinisch Scissor

  1. Ann Schmitt says:

    Did you see the documentary on HBO called “Schmatte – Rags to Riches to Rags”? Watching it was enough to make you cry! I never worked in the NYC Garment Center but I have worked in the business in the Bay Area since the early 80’s and have seen it decline so much over those years. I still have my old heavy scissors and I can relate to your wonderful blog on the Heinisch Scissor.

  2. Glenn Hansen says:

    I never cease to be amaazed at what can found on the internet. I’m the librarian in Oakland Or and we have a knit club that meets every Friday. I thought it would be fun for them to see the scissors my grandfather used to cut matress ticking in the early part of the last century. So, I looked up R Heinisch and to my delight found your site with a photo of “my” scissors. My pair are remarkably precise down to the very tip. The knitters /quilters said it was too bad they can’t find scissors today with that wonderful thumb rest. Thanks so much for the information and for adding to my family history.

  3. I have a pair from my grandfather. He was a pattern maker from 1930’s to the late 60’s. I wonder how old they are.

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