The Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts


Scissor making


The making of scissors.


Status Endangered
Craft category  Metal
Historic area of significance  Sheffield
Area currently practised  Sheffield
Origin in the UK  18th century
Minimum no. of craftspeople required
Current no. of trainees
Current no. of skilled craftspeople  6-10 (in two businesses)
Current total no. of craftspeople  6-10 (in two businesses)



Scissor making



Local forms




Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Market issues: Globalisation of the cutlery and steel industries has reduced the size of the craft. About 20-30 years ago there were approximately twenty companies in Sheffield making scissors but they have gradually closed.
  • Training issues: It takes up to five years to learn scissor making.
  • Market issues: Have to rely on making a high-end/niche product – the market just isn’t there if you rely on volume
  • Training issues: There is no formal training – all training must be done in-house, which has both pros and cons
  • Training issues/recruitment issues: It is very difficult to find apprentices – very hard to find suitable people with the right work ethic. The ‘craftsman’ mindset is disappearing – no one wants to spend all day making things.
  • Training issues/recruitment issues: It is very difficult to retain apprentices – you lose a lot of money if you take on apprentice, pay them, take the time away from the master and then the apprentice leaves.
  • Business issues: Increasing bureaucracy for small businesses such as insurance, health and safety, pensions, electrical certificates etc. take up the time of the limited number of staff in a small business, and take their time away from making or from business development.
  • Business issues: The market is there for handmade scissors and is looking to move away from disposable items and towards products for life, but it can be hard to find the time to develop new products and markets.


Support organisations


Craftspeople currently known

There are two scissor making firms in the UK:

  • Ernest Wright & Son – based in Sheffield. Family-owned business founded in 1902. Has two skilled craftspeople.
  • William Whiteley & Sons – based in Sheffield. Have been in business since 1760. Have a workforce of twelve, four of whom have unique skills. Make scissors for industry and retail and for highly specialised/bespoke uses, and make for their own and other brands.


Other information