In my previous post ‘Shear Luck’, I expressed an interest in Peter Day’s cutting shears. In this post, you will read that it is not only Peter’s Heinisch shears that have an interesting history. Here is a bit of information surrounding their manufacture, leading on to a remarkable story closer to home…
Born in Bohemia, Austria in 1801, Rochus Heinisch was one of the most important manufacturers of tailors shears in the world. After he learned his trade manufacturing surgical instruments, he became recognised as a ‘Cutler’ – making other cutlery and blades such as scissors, knives and razors. It was then that he conceived the idea of producing ‘shears of malleable iron faced with steel’. Prior to his revolutionary developments, shears used were of English manufacture and had handles so badly shaped that tailors referred to them as ‘instruments of torture’.
Above: 1869 advertisement listing the various cutlery manufactured by Rochus Heinisch. I find it interesting that the tailor’s shears are shown in somebody’s hand, perhaps demonstrating the famous new comfortable handles.
The pride in Heinisch’s work is evident in his willingness to note himself as the ‘Inventor’ alongside his name on every pair. He also stamped the date into the metal on the inside of the blades, with some surviving examples dating back to 1859.
Above: R. Heinisch’s name stamped into the bolt of the shears, clearly noting himself as the ‘Inventor’ alongside a ‘latest patent’ date of 1859.
For a short while he employed Jacob Wiss, a surgical instrument maker and in his own right. Wiss left Heinisch and set up his own business, continuing to make popular cutlery and shears. After his death in 1880, his sons Frederick and Louis continued to grow the business, and in 1914 J. Wiss & Sons Co. bought out R. Heinisch’s Sons Co. Both families continued to be employed by the now esteemed company until in 1973, after 125 years in business, J. Wiss & Sons Co. was sold. No member of either family has any involvement in the business today.
This leads me on to a gentleman by the name of Mr David Anderson, who resides in St Louis Missouri, USA. Mr Anderson has been a very good client and personal friend of David Cook, CEO of Denman and Goddard, for over 30 years. Due to the great friendship between the two Davids, Mr Anderson keeps a keen interest in the happenings of Denman and Goddard.
Unbeknown to me at the time, he read my previous post (Shear Luck), and decided to give himself a new project; setting about a plan to mark the end of my apprenticeship. He searched the internet and acquired quite a collection of Heinisch shears, which varied in shape, size and condition. This was quite a feat considering, as previously explained, production of these blades ceased some time ago.
Mr Anderson then took considerable time and effort (and expense, no doubt) to find two pairs that were restorable. Over the following months he learned the craft of blade restoration, resulting in two pairs of perfectly cutting shears. Careful painting of the famous 19th Century handles followed, and after delicate assembly they were restored as good as new.
Above: Mr Anderson’s garage found itself converted into a dedicated Heinisch restoration facility for a number of months. Note the amount of pairs Mr Anderson managed to source for this remarkable project.
Above: Final preparation of the metal before painting.
Above: The famous handles after their base-coat of gloss black.
As David Cook was fully aware of what Mr Anderson had been organising, a lunch was arranged at Wild Honey to mark the end of my apprenticeship, which coincided with Mr Anderson’s visit to London. Shortly after our main course I learned the story of what Mr Anderson had been up to, and was overcome when he presented me with my own two pairs of restored Heinisch shears!
Above: Mr Anderson and I at the celebratory lunch at Wild Honey. I have no idea at this point what the elaborately decorated box I am holding contains.
I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank Mr Anderson for such a special acknowledgement of my achievement, and his kind words of encouragement as I embark on my cutting career. These fine blades will without doubt be proudly looked after and see me through my lifetime. Who knows where their remarkable journey will end..?