Thank You – Fiskars

Tailoring. Would you call tailoring, skill or technology? It is a subtle combination of both. If we are talking of custom made clothing, you still need a human to skilfully take measurements, mark and cut. Then technology takes over and helps sew it all together. But before sewing was mechanized, there were seamstresses who possessed the skill of sewing and knotting.

But not so long ago in India, tailors had to have another skill. A skill which would take several years to master. This was the skill of cutting cloth. Not the measuring or the marking, but the very simple act of using a scissor on a piece of cloth. But how did this become a skill? We all do a pretty good job of it today on the very first try.

We Indians never thought of scissors as a machine deserving a high degree of precision. For us it was just 2 pieces of some metal, sharpened at some angle and connected with some bolt or rivet. There were only 2 sizes available for the 2 well known uses. A bi-metal giant, 10-12 inch long, for tailoring and a narrow one for cutting hair.

The bolt or rivet would always loosen after the first few uses and this was when you needed skill. Lots and lots of it. It really was an art, needing all the dexterity possible by human hands – and then some more.

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Not only did you have to generate the vertical scissor action, you also had to constantly use your palm and fingers to apply and maintain a horizontal force to keep the blades in contact. This contact had to be just right. Too little and the cloth wouldn’t cut, too much and – well, it wouldn’t cut. This complexity also increased depending on how many layers of cloth or the actual material you were cutting.

These scissors needed constant resharpening and was again a skilled job carried out by a guy with a simple pedal operated grinding wheel. They would sharpen knives and scissors at your door step. Every tailor would wait for his own, reliable grinder as the tailors skill was based on the way the scissor was ground and honed. Any changes in this weekly ritual meant a loss in time spent on retraining your hand.

Because there was no standardization in either manufacturing or honing, the lowly, simple scissor became a temperamental beast, taking on a life of its own. It was also a one master creature, forever binding the person who understood and mastered it.

This will all appear absurd and a figment of my imagination to this generation. But the reign of the errant Indian scissor was ended by Fiskars. The first international brand available in India. It was almost magical.

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They were very light and imagine our surprise when, as a nation, we collectively realized that it was neither the weight nor the skill that kept us all away from cutting to our hearts content. Finally cutting was freed from the clutches of a few skilled workers. Fiskars were available in several attractive shapes and colors and many models for different needs. It went for several years without rusting or resharpening. You could even buy one for cutting small branches or flower stems. Wow.

A bit of information for the proud nationalistic Indian. Fiskars is not an Indian company owned by a Maharashtrian and a relative of Tendulkar. This would be a common mistake since the restaurant Tendulkar’s has become so famous. The credit of bringing this Finnish marvel to India goes to the otherwise redundant and brain dead Indian engineering conglomerate – Bajaj. They just used their ill gotten wealth to import, yes import and not manufacture, Fiskars into India.

  • AND THAT’S ALL I HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THAT *