drdrA at Blue Lab Coats started a series on her favourite lab equipment. This seemed to me to be a spiffing idea. Even if I cannot bring myself to describe my lab equipment as “hot.”
Here is one of my favourite pieces of lab equipment: a simple, elegant, Swiss made precision instrument.
Dumont Number 5 forceps.
I’ve come to appreciate the pleasure of working with a new set of good, sharp forceps. It’s amazing what you can manipulate with them. Don Abbott was reported in the book Observing Marine Invertebrates as often saying something to the effect of, “There is no substitute for good forceps. None.” And he was right.
Forceps come in a lot of different materials. Most are steel. Titanium is good for people working with salt water or saline, because titanium is more rust resistant, but titanium is soft. I’ve found strength of the tips to be the most important factor for me, so am now usually using forceps made of an alloy called Dumostar.
Unfortunately, the pleasure of working with sharp new forceps is balanced out by the agony of trying to keep them sharp. It seems that no matter what you do, or what they’re made of, how carefully you try to handle them, those fine tips always end up getting bent somehow. Particularly because I work with crustaceans, I always have to be handling exoskeleton, which are prone to bend the tips of forceps because it’s hard.
And dropping them gives you that same visceral reaction as locking your keys in the car: You realize it the exact instant the forceps / car door has left your hand.