Question: What is my most expensive tool?

Barbershops are famous for being fertile ground for conversations about a wide variety of subjects. While I stay out of politics or religion, just about anything else is fair game.

I was surprised to see how many people would ask about my equipment and the cost and expensive nature of barber’s tools. I really didn’t think there was much interest in that part of the barber world.

Like any field, there is a wide range of costs for equipment. I know people who have the cheapest tools available and perform well with them, and people who have the most expensive items and yet have no business cutting hair.

I’m somewhat middle of the road when it comes to spending. I don’t mind spending the money, as long as I get what I am buying.

One of the main reasons that I only buy major equipment from Atlanta Barber and Beauty Supply is that I can get real-time advice about equipment before I buy it. I can hold the tool, operate it, and even try it out (somewhat) in the store before taking it with me. There have been a couple times where the purchase just did not work out for me, and they allowed me to bring it back (a nicety from them that is never to be abused).

However… their focus is not shears… it is electric tools and appliances, and consumables…

…and my shears (they are not “scissors”) are my most expensive tool in my setup. My main set costs more than every set of clippers, trimmers, and accessories for them, combined.

That is how important I consider my shears.

My Hattori Hanzos

I do almost all of my cutting with my 5.5-inch Hattori Hanzo HH-3L shears. My set has a swiveling thumb grip which aids with ergonomics and maintaining the health of my hands and joints.

I have been cutting with these shears for almost a year and a half, and they have been used on over 3,000 haircuts in the past year. I never had them sharpened over this time, and they cut better than my Bonika shears, which I have sharpened every three months.

Note: this is not a slam on Bonika… their shears are fantastic, and they custom-sharpened my set for certain barber-cutting scenarios. There are certain types of hair that my other shears struggle with, yet these blades handle them with ease.

People travel in from all over the country to study shears-sharpening with the owner, Bonnie Megowan.

I tell new barbers not to buy Hanzos as their first set. But rather, get the Bonika shears first and cut with them for a couple years, first. The may find that they are perfect for their needs. But when they need more, to take a serious look in investing in a set of Hanzos.

If the name “Hattori Hanzo” sounds familiar, he is the character in the “Kill Bill” movies who forged The Bride’s samurai sword.

The director, Quentin Tarantino, says that the character was named in tribute to Sonny Chiba’s (the actor in the movie) former role as the real-life historical 16th-century Samurai in “Shadow Warriors” (“Kage no Gundan”).

Hanzo’s customer service

When I bought my Hanzos, I didn’t just buy “a pair of scissors.” I bought a high-end professional tool backed by a ton of support and additional perks.

Hanzo Shears has a sharpening service where their rep comes out to the shop and picks up my shears and leaves me with a loaner set to use while they send mine to the factory.

I was a bit apprehensive at first, expecting a full-on sales pitch to the cutters in the shop, but my rep, Vera Collins, was 100% professional and a class act. She came in, waited for me to finish with my customer, and got all of the paperwork done in the background so I could see other customers without interruption.

The sharpening service also comes with a protection plan for the shears… an insurance policy of sorts… if my shears get lost, stolen, or damaged, I can pay a deductible and have them replaced.

Hanzo’s cutting classes

The company’s first-class nature extends far beyond the product. They offer cutting classes year-round where they break down haircutting into micro-sections.

Their classes at last year’s Premiere Hair Show in Orlando were very useful. I learned concepts about the construction of hairstyle that had never been broken down for me before, and I was able to go straight to work with what I learned from them the very next week when I was back in Atlanta.

Now…. full disclosure…

What I learned was not what I had expected to learn from the description of the classes. While in hindsight, the description of the class was “accurate” to a point, it was really a microcosm of the class’ description. That having been said, however, the classes were only 90 minutes long, so there was no way they could effectively break the whole thing down. But what they did teach was taught and demonstrated so effectively that it stuck and I could use it immediately. So “no harm, no foul” at all!

Also, the classes are, of course, an opportunity for Hattori Hanzo Shears to sell their tools to the students… and they didn’t disappoint there, either… I’ll explain…

A lot of seminar “classes” I have seen have been just enough information about something, and if you want the whole story, you have to buy XYZ…

However, Hanzo’s classes were the most useful classes I have ever taken at a hair show. The other most useful classes I have taken were put on by Chris Bossio at Tomb 45 – a manufacturer of haircutting products such as color-enhancers, precision shaving tools, and a line of products which simplify recharging barbers’ tools. I just started using their Shave Gel last week, and has worked so well that now I ‘m trying to buy it in larger quantities.

That having been said, when someone attends a Hanzo class, they don’t just get real and useful information, they receive pretty deep discount offers from the company…

…which I am probably about to take advantage of at the end of the month at their next class in Atlanta.