Dikes, that's "diagonal cutters" to you. . .
Selecting String Cutters
© Frank Ford, 1/29/99; Photos by FF, 1/27/99

Generally, any old wire cutter will work to snip strings. But, some work much better than others. I've found there are two reasons for the difference.

One is simply a matter of quality. You get what you pay for. Sort of.

Once, I stopped the Snap-On truck and bought an expensive pair of Snap-On diagonal cutters only to find that they simply couldn't cut .009 banjo strings no matter how hard I squeezed!

Expensive wire cutters do last longer and stay sharp even when cutting steel strings. The best ones I've had were the "Knipex" brand. I believe they're German; they have really hard jaws.

Here's the other reason some work better than others: The jaws may not meet precisely, which was why my Snap-On cutters found it increasingly difficult to cut skinny steel strings.

I figured out a cute little trick for picking out the best pair among those on display at my local hardware store.

I take a single edge razor blade along when I'm shopping for new string cutting dikes. When I'm interviewing a candidate, I'll grip the blade with the cutters (lightly!) like this:

If the jaws meet perfectly, the razor blad will stand straight up:

Sometimes the blade snaps to an angle like this, or worse:

These cutters will have difficulty with those thin .008 octave G strings on a 12-string guitar. I'm surprised how much variation I find in the rack of otherwise identical cutters!

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