The vibrant city of Meerut with its rich history and culture is famous for its unique, inexpensive and one-of-a-kind scissors. The scissor manufacturing industry has been thriving in Meerut since the 17th century. Locals say that a resident blacksmith by the name of Akhunji combined two swords to cut leather in 1645 during the Mughal period to create the first pair of scissors in India.
The artisans employed in this cottage industry have inherited the knowledge of making these extraordinary pieces from their ancestors. Scissors in Meerut are of three types and manufactured based on their functionality, composition of material used and size and weight.
The main types of scissors based on their function are tailor scissors, barber scissors, utilitarian scissors, paper cutting scissors, footwear industry scissors (for cutting the leather used in manufacturing footwear), sports goods industry scissors (manufacturing gloves, leather cricket balls etc.), gardening scissors, grass cutting scissors, copper wire cutting scissors, carpet cutting scissors, glass cutting scissors, leaves cutting scissors, thread cutting scissors and vegetable scissors to name a few.
Scissors have two parts namely the handle and the blade. Though steel is largely used to make the blade of all the scissors, the form of steel determines the type of scissors manufactured. Carbon steel is used to make scissors in which the blade and the handle form one continuous piece. Carbon steel is strong and maintains its sharpness. These scissors are usually plated with nickel or chromium to prevent them from rusting. Stainless steel is used to make scissors in which a plastic handle is fitted to the metal blade. Stainless steel scissors are light and rustproof.
Kainchi Bazaar houses close to 600 units and employs approximately 70,000 craftsmen with every pair of scissors passing through almost 22 pairs of hands with each person being an expert in a different process like cutting, sharpening, welding, polishing and more. All the scissors with the exception of those fixed with a plastic handle undergo the processes of polishing, electroplating, nickeling, chroming and powder coating.
The unique characteristics of Meerut’s scissors are its strength, sharpness, sturdiness, smoothness and durability and the craftsmen attribute this to their meticulous handwork. The manual labour coupled with attention to detail makes the scale and quality of Meerut’s scissors far superior to the ordinary machine-made scissors. It is this that has made Meerut’s scissors popular with tailors and barbers across the country who are still using this precision tool for their handiwork.
There are a variety of Meerut scissors with each type suited to a purpose with specific blades, weights and lengths, either tapered or blunt tipped, matched to its use. The blades are made of material that is sourced from scrap salvaged from railway rolling stock and automobile industry of junk buses, cars and trucks.
A noteworthy specialty of these scissors is unlike most other scissors, these scissors can be repaired and reused many times. A popular idiom “Dada le, potaa barte” (bought by the grandfather and still used by grandson) floats in Meerut and stands as a testimony to its innovation, quality and durability.
Meerut scissors received the Geographical Indication Tag (GI) in 2013.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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