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Pinking shears have a utilitarian function for cutting woven cloth. Cloth edges that are unfinished will easily fray, the weave becoming undone and threads pulling out easily. The sawtooth pattern does not prevent the fraying but limits the length of the frayed thread and thus minimizes damage.
These scissors can also be used for decorative cuts and a number of patterns (arches, sawtooth of different aspect ratios, or asymmetric teeth) are available. True dressmaker's pinking shears, however, should not be used for paper decoration because paper dulls the cutting edge.
The cut produced by pinking shears may have given its name to (or been derived from) the plant name pink, a flowering plant in the genus Dianthus (commonly called a carnation). The colour pink may have been named after these flowers, although the origins of the name are not definitively known. As the carnation has scalloped, or "pinked", edges to its petals, pinking shears can be thought to produce an edge similar to the flower.
The word "pink" can be used as a verb dating back to 1300 meaning "pierce, stab, make holes in". The French word piquer and Spanish word picar are derived from the Latin pungere meaning "to pierce, prick" and related to "pungent".
Louise Austin of Whatcom, Washington, received U.S. Patent 489,406 on January 3, 1893, for "pinking scissors." The patent describes how "pinking scissors" are superior to the existing tools at the time, "pinking irons" and "pinking cutters." The operation of the shears are described as "pinking" or "scalloping." There are references to "cut ornamental openings in the body portion of fabrics," but no references to the more utilitarian function of preventing fraying. One of the primary early uses of pinking shears was the formation of decorative edging for patchwork quilting squares.
Samuel Briskman, of Brooklyn, received U.S. Patent 1,959,190, for a method of manufacturing pinking shears, and U.S. Patent 1,965,443 and U.S. Patent 1,970,408, describing the shears themselves, in 1934. He formed the Pinking Shears Corporation and set up a factory at 102 Prince Street in Manhattan. His firm milled the teeth into the blades. Wiss made the actual shears and had the exclusive sales in the USA and through their agents abroad. Briskman was also entitled to sell abroad under the name of Pinking Shears Corp. through his agents. He had one son, Artie, who worked with him. Sales fell off after a change in the type of fabric that was popular. Briskman died in February 1967, and was known as an inventor and philanthropist at that time. Norman Wiss, Sr. was the one who pushed for and who managed the agreement with Briskman.
Benjamin Luscalzo, of Chicago, Illinois, received U.S. Patent 2,600,036 on June 10, 1952, for his improvements to pinking shears. He provided an adjustable tension means connected to one of the blades or jaws of the shears which kept the teeth in efficient cutting relationship so that the cutting plane is always perpendicular to the pivotal axis. In other words, Benjamin Luscalzo brought traditional scissors and the pinking blade together to create what we know today as pinking shears.
Method of Making Pinking Shears (Model A) U.S. Patent 1,959,190, Filed March 17, 1932; Issued May 15, 1934
Pinking Shears (Model A) U.S. Patent 1,965,443, Filed March 17, 1932; Issued July 3, 1934
Pinking Shears (Model C) U.S. Patent 1,970,408, Filed September 19, 1931; Issued August 14, 1934
The Perfect Pinker U.S. Patent 2,174,222 Metropolitan Cutting Co. Crane Brand, A Florian Product
- "Pay Articles from February 1967 Part 3 - Site Map - The New York Times". Spiderbites.nytimes.com. Retrieved 2012-09-17.