Physics 12 Double Levers

Scissors are so useful. They are one of several common double levers.

Take a look at a pair of scissors. Each blade moves like a lever: one end goes down pushing the other end up.

Where is the fulcrum on a pair of scissors? Remember the lever turns on the fulcrum which remains in place. On double levers the fulcrum is where the two levers cross each other and are fastened together.

double levers scissors

I forgot to take a picture of my scissors. You know what they look like, don’t you? These are double levers. Do you see where the fulcrum is?

Get a piece of cardboard and a pair of scissors. Where should you put the cardboard to cut it the easiest? Close to the fulcrum or far away?


Let’s review how a fulcrum increases force. Get a 200 page book and 2 pencils. Prop the book on the end of one pencil. Put the second pencil crosswise under the first pencil to act as a fulcrum. Try lifting the book with the second pencil away from the book and near the book. Which placement makes lifting the book the easiest?


Should the cardboard be near the fulcrum of the scissors or farther away? Double check by trying to snip the cardboard from both positions.

double levers pliers

Pliers are a useful tool around the house. They can be used for gripping things or turning tight small lids. Do you see the two levers?

Another of the common double levers is a pair of pliers. Perhaps you have one to look at. Where is the fulcrum? Why are the handles for your hand to grip longer than the gripping ends of the levers?

double levers tin snips

Tin snips are used to cut sheet metal, flat plates of metal. The length of the handles can vary. As the handles get longer, will the snips part get more powerful?

On the farm I have another of the double levers. It’s called tin snips. These are used to cut sheets of metal such as metal roofing. If you don’t know anyone with a pair of these, you can look at the picture. Find the fulcrum. Like the pliers, one end of the levers is longer than the other.


Perhaps you can find some other double levers around your house. How do you recognize them?


What I Found Out:

The book lifted the easiest when the fulcrum pencil was close to the book. In the same way, putting the cardboard close to the fulcrum made cutting it much easier.

On both the pliers and the tin snips like with the scissors the fulcrum is where the two levers cross and has the bolt connecting the two.

Double levers are easy to recognize because they have two long pieces crossing each other and joined where they cross. That join is the fulcrum. Others I found included pruners for trimming plants, loppers for cutting brush and bolt cutters for cutting thick wires up to 1/2 inch thick.