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August 2013    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 28, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Knives or Scissors?

from the August, 2013 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Back in diving's early days, any diver worth the salt in his snorkel carried a huge dive knife on his hip or leg. Later, we learned those macho appendages were the first things to get tangled in kelp or lines, so we began downsizing to lower-profile tools.

Today, some divers carry smaller knives, while others prefer scissors, especially blunt-ended EMT shears made of stainless steel. Each has its advantages.

EMT shears can cut large-diameter monofilament, spider wire and steel leaders that can be a challenge for a knife. Good EMT shears can cut a penny in half. But hinge pins on EMT shears eventually rust and break, even on the most expensive models, so many divers buy several inexpensive pairs at once. One can buy EMT shears at most drugstores, and I found a three-pack on eBay for $5.45. Leisure Pro carries XS Scuba Titanium EMT Shears for $19.95: ( www.leisurepro.com/Prod/XSSTEMTS.html )

Large-diameter ropes may be too thick for a pair of shears, so a knife, ideally one with both a straight and a serrated edge, would be more useful. It can sometimes slip into places that are awkward for a pair of shears. Knives are also useful for prying or sawing. Many divers find that compact Z-knives (which used to be called line-cutters) are effective on monofilament fishing lines, and safer to use in rough water or low visibility than a big knife with a pointy blade. Most dive shops carry Z-knives, and Leisure Pro has a Dive Rite Z Knife at $19.95, $3 off the list price ( www.leisurepro.com/Prod/DIV20592.html )

So why not carry both? That way, if you drop one tool, you still have a backup. It's best if you stow them where they can be reached with either hand, generally between your shoulders and waist. Some carry them in BCD pockets, attached with a lanyard. Practicing with these tools is a great safety-stop drill. Close your eyes and be sure you can reach and deploy each cutting device with one hand.

- - Larry Clinton

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