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This $7 medical tool is a surprising must-have in my workshop

Don't get into trouble for destroying someone's favorite scissors (like I used to!). Keep these on hand instead.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor
Medical shears
Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Sometimes semi-disposable items are a better choice than those designed to last a lifetime.

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Take scissors, for example. I have several really nice, high-quality, pricey, and definitely not semi-disposable scissors from Klein Tools and Engineer. But if you abuse them by cutting things that you shouldn't, then your really nice pair of scissors are quickly transformed into not-so-nice scissors.

Ask me how I know. It brings back memories of my grandmother yelling at me for using her best scissors; scissors she'd use for dressmaking, to cut things like wire and metal.

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A few years ago, someone suggested that I get some medical shears, and I bought a few pairs. I've used these tools in the past for first-aid purposes, but didn't think they'd be up to the the rigors of workshop use and abuse.

I was wrong. 


  • Length: 7.25-inch
  • Weight: 2.7 oz
  • Blade material: Surgical-grade stainless steel
  • Blade hardness: Rockwell hardness of C56
  • Handle material: Polypropylene
  • Tip style: Stainless-steel safety bandage tip
  • Autoclavable: Yes, to 143ºC (290ºF)

Medical shears have a lot of advantages over scissors.

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The first advantage is price. You can easily find really high-quality medical shears for about $7, which puts them in the Bic pen-pricing category. In short, it's something you can use without worrying too much about trashing it.

High quality, hardened blades

High quality, hardened blades.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

They're also tough, and feature hardened, micro-serrated, stainless steel blades, and are secured together using a strong rivet. Combine these features with the comfortable polypropylene handles and you can put a lot of pressure on these shears without having to worry about the blade being damaged or the rivet giving way.

Medical shears chomping through three core cable with ease.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Speaking of the handles, they come in a range of colors, from black to neon yellow. I prefer brighter colors because they stand out on my workbench from all the other clutter, but some might prefer more subdued colors.

Another thing I like is the tip. There are no sharp points to accidentally poke into people, making them much safer than traditional scissors.

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The shears can be put through an autoclave for sterilization, and while most of us won't have an autoclave handy, it does mean that they can be safely thrown in a pan of boiling water for cleaning.

I also have a pair of pricey -- and definitely not semi-disposable -- medical shears, in form of the Leatherman Raptor. These take the concept of medical shears and add features such as a carbide glass breaker, ring cutter, and oxygen tank wrench. I like everything about the Raptor shears apart from the the sheath that came with them, so made a custom sheath out of kydex and a belt clip.

Leatherman Raptor (bottom) vs regular medical shears

Leatherman Raptor (bottom) vs regular medical shears.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

At $100, you could buy over a dozen of the cheaper medical shears for the same money, but I've had these on my belt or backpack when venturing into the wilds for over a decade, and they've cut all sorts of materials that would normally blunt a pair of scissors -- and they're still going strong.

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But for general workshop or around-the-home use, you can't fault medical shears. They're cheap, tough, long-lasting, yet the blunt tips make them safe around kids and others who might injure themselves with pointy things. 

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