Tapering with ScissorsTapered Cuts: Scissor over Comb
Most people understand the basic terms in haircutting: blunt cuts, layering, clipper cuts, but some of the terms that are particular to tapering the hair can be deceptively simple-sounding. For instance: the term scissor-over-comb means just what it says, but it’s not as easy to do until you’ve had some practice. The purpose of this discussion will be to help you understand how (and why) to perform a scissor-over-comb cut.
We all know that layering the hair helps distribute the bulk of the hair (particularly the coarser hair types) and that the larger majority of men’s hair styles are layered cuts that incorporate a significant degree of tapering as the hair moves toward the perimeter of the growth area. Well, when the hair is being cut into a very short style, sometimes attempting to elevate the hair from the scalp and hold it in the fingers isn’t possible.
Granted, most tapered men’s hair cuts are created using clippers, but you may not always have access to clippers and frankly, a stylist comfortable with his or her scissors may find the transition to clippers a bit unwieldy. There’s also the fact that even with clippers, you still need to follow up with scissors to blend some area of the cut.
It’s in these situations that scissor-over-comb is most useful. Because you can position the comb more closely to the scalp and use it to hold the hair in a specific position, you can use the comb to substitute for your fingers and create shorter layering than you could without the technique. (Using your fingers to hold the hair limits the shortness you can obtain to the thickness of your fingers.)
Specific techniques for scissor-over-comb
You can use scissor-over-comb to create uniform layering by simply using the depth of the comb as a guide or positioning the comb in a uniform distance from the scalp as you move along the head. Often, a stylist or barber will use his knuckles as an additional length guide. With practice, you can manage to create very precise layering and cuts with this method.
The finer-toothed side of the comb is used to lift the hair to the desired elevation and the scissors are then held over the comb to cut the hair to the desired length (typically indicated by the guide).
In some cases, a tapered cut is desired (where the hair’s layers become shorter as you move toward the lower hair lines). The steepness of the tapering is monitored using the knuckles of the hand holding the comb, so that the comb is held in the hand, a knuckle of the finger rests against the head and the end of the comb angles in to the scalp. This creates an angled cutting line from the bottom perimeter line upward, with the shortest lengths being at the perimeter hairline. The length is then monitored by the pitch of the comb as it is held (whether flat against the scalp, on the teeth edge, or at some angle in between).
Cutting and Crosschecking
Once you’re comfortable with positioning the comb, you can start practicing your cutting. It is recommended that you do this on an old manikin that has been cut too short for other standard cutting practices. You can set guide lengths by aligning the comb vertically along the head at the angle you wish to set your tapering lengths and making guide cuts on either side of the section you are cutting.
Once this is done, you can begin cutting your layers using scissor-over-comb and simply follow your guide lengths for cross checking purposes. A practiced stylist can cut virtually any cut using scissor-over-comb, though some cuts work better performed using different techniques. However, when it comes to creating short, tapered cuts without using clippers, scissor-over-comb is definitely the way to go.
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