I do a lot of sewing, so my scissors get a lot of use. Do you sharpen them the same way as you do your kitchen knives? --Leona Burnham, Essexville, Michigan
Scissors are nothing new -- you've been using them ever since you were a little kid. But a plain, low-tech pair of scissors is a deceptively simple tool. The blades on a pair of scissors bow ever so slightly inward. This creates the tension between the two inner edges that enables you to cut a clean, straight line. If you don't get a clean edge when you cut a piece of fabric, your blades are dull and need to be sharpened.
You should definitely have your best scissors (such as your sewing shears) sharpened by a professional, and even your less-expensive scissors will benefit from a professional sharpening. You can, however, sharpen your scissors at home if you have the right tool. Martha uses a Fiskars ShearSharp sharpener for her less-expensive scissors. But she cautions that even the smallest mistake made while sharpening can affect the way the two blades work together, damaging or dulling your scissors.
Henry Westpfal Company, a family-owned cutlery store in New York City, is one of the best scissors sharpeners around. Established in 1874, the store has used the same tool to sharpen scissors for more than a century: a wet sharpening stone in the shape of a wheel, much like the ones used during the 1800s. In fact, Henry Westpfal's does such a good job that Martha recommends you send your scissors there for sharpening even if you don't live in New York City.
To keep your scissors in shape between sharpenings, protect the inner edges by always closing your scissors when you're not using them. Store scissors in a protective sleeve. If the scissors didn't come with one, make a sleeve out of felt. Never keep a pair of scissors in a humid place, such as the bathroom; the moisture in the air will cause the scissors to rust.
Once every few months, lightly oil your scissors with an oil that won't stain, such as mineral oil. After cutting fabric, brush your scissors with a small paintbrush to keep lint from getting into the screws and locking them up. And remember, paper is dulling to any kind of scissors. So, keep your fabric and paper scissors clearly marked (Martha likes to use sharp-tipped permanent markers for this purpose) so that you don't use your more expensive fabric scissors on paper. And whatever you do, don't drop your scissors! This can break them or knock them out of alignment.