Conduit knife sheath

Filleting knives need to be kept sharp to allow you to process your fish effectively and easily. Knives are sharp and will cut up your wetsuit, mask and anything else in your dive tub if simply thrown in unsheathed. This is how I make a quick, cheap and very practical knife sheath. Works great and I can throw my knives in with the dive gear razor sharp and no blink an eye. I pinched the idea off my late Grandfather who was a keen fisherman from Townsville for years.

What you will need first is your filleting knife and a short section of 25mm grey electrical conduit. The orange underground heavy duty stuff works but it takes a bit more heat to soften. Cut the section of conduit about 20mm longer than the blade of the knife.

Now get that gas bottle your use for making prangers and some insulation tape. Cover 3 of the 4 holes on the flame burner.
This doesn’t allow as much oxygen to the gas and lowers the temperature of the flame. This way you don’t burn the conduit…as easily! You can also stick the conduit in the oven for a bit until it is soft and floppy. I couldn’t be bothered waiting for the oven to head up! Now keep that flame MOVING over the conduit. Sit in one spot too long and the conduit will burn. Roll the conduit over to get even distribution of heat.

Obviously remove the flame from the conduit while moving it so you don’t burn your hand. After a minute or two the conduit will start to feel soft and mouldable. Once this is achieved put your knife in the soft conduit. Yes the conduit will be hot and you can use gloves if you’re not feeling manly.

Now quickly jump over to a wood vice and squash the conduit and knife in the jaws to make it all flat.
If you don’t have a wood vice simply get some bits of timber in a normal vice to clamp the conduit it. Now leave the conduit to cool in the vice for 5 minutes and then pull it out. You should have something that looks like this.

It should be a tight fit around the blade but it won’t touch the edge on the knife. To make it cover that last bit of the blade simply cut the sheath on a slight angle like so. You can shape them a little bit with a bench grinder or a file. I like to put holes in my sheath to allow for drainage of water if I put the knife in the sheath after washing it hopefully after processing a nice fish. Also if you have all the same brand knives and handles are the same you can see the blade through the holes and identify the knife.
So there you have it. Pretty simple to do and makes a great cheap sheath. No excuses for blunt filleting knives now!

Cutting Down Spears

Why would anyone want to cut down a spear? Ever had a tip snap off at the flopper hole? Bent a spear at the flopper on a long gun? Well now you should be able to recycle these old bits of steel for another gun and hopefully another fish. Other things you can do are add floppers to spears like those butterfly spears or change floppers from top to bottom. Whatever the reason you need to cut a spear down here’s how to do it.

First thing is spring steel spears are MUCH harder to drill and machine than spring stainless spears. But I haven’t come across a spear that I’ve never been able to drill…eventually. Particularly tough spears are the freedivers spring steel and the Rabitech spring steel spears. Rob Allen spears are fairly average to drill, Riffe are just as easy and Torres tuffs are like cutting butter.

The first part of chopping down the spear is getting the flopper off. This can be a little tricky depending on the manufacturer. Riffe spears are near impossible and you may as well buy a new flopper! Here is a freedivers spear in the vice ready for the flopper to be removed.
Now all you do is file off the rivet flush down with the flopper and tap it out with a centre punch. This doesn’t always work so you may have to flip it over and file down the other side and punch it out that way. Either way after a bit of stuffing around you’ll end up with a spear with no flopper like so:

Now the next part is drilling the spear. If you’re taking off 10cm from the spear obviously put a nice big pen mark 10cm from the end. Now get the flopper and position it about 1cm behind this mark. Where the end of the flopper sits is where you want your hole. Always have a little bit more tip than the length of the flopper.

So no you know where you want to drill your hole how do you go about drilling through these hardened bits of spring steel? Well the first step is a drilling jig. All this does is keep the spear locked in place by the stainless screw and it has little hardened inserts to keep the drill bit in the centre of the spear. You should be able to buy something similar from a dive shop, if you have a lathe you can knock one up on the lunch break. I used bits of silver steel for the inserts, did all the machining and then hardened them. I have two drill hole sizes, 3/32” and 7/64”. I use the smaller one for 7mm spears and the bigger for 8mm spears.

Enough of the jig, here’s how you mark your spear. Place the mark where the hole needs to be on the little hole on the jig and mark another line so when you shove the spear up the guts you know where to stop!
Now don’t go tightening the spear in the jig just yet. You may want to line the spear up so your flopper goes straight up and down (yes I’ve had them come out at 90° before!) I use a little bit of stainless or nail or whatever to make sure the spear hole in the back of the spear is vertical, THEN tighten the jig so your flopper hole will be up and down. Seems obvious but I’ve done it a few times!

Now to drill these spears I use a Formula Cobalt drill bit in the 3/32” or 7/64”. You will also need some cutting compound. You may get away without for stainless spears but with spring steel ones forget it. This is what I use, ‘Rocol’ it’s a brown turd coloured paste but it works a treat.
Another compound to use is ‘Molycut’ but it’s a liquid stuff. Either will work fine and make drilling a breeze. So set your bit up in a drill press and make sure you put a nice smear of cutting compound on the bit. Use the slowest speed possible on the drill. Don’t be tempted into “going faster means finished faster!” You won’t get anywhere. If you want to use a hand drill you can try but you will probably snap a few drill bits. A drill press is the way to go with lots a downward pressure and remember SLOW!

Once you’re through take the spear out of the jig and viola! If you can’t get through the spear which will happen on the odd freedivers spear try a new drill bit. If that doesn’t work you may have to heat up the area to be drill cherry red and then let it cool and then drill. After drilling put the temper back into the spear as follows below. Only do this as a last resort.

You should run over the drill hole with a larger drill bit to sort of counter sink it to get the burrs off. The next part of the whole process is putting a tip back on the spear. Lucky with spring steel spears they can be re-tempered which means ANGLE GRINDER. You don’t have to worry about getting it red hot because it’s going to happen down the track anyways. So go nuts and put that tri-cut back on the tip. Work one edge at a time to get a basic shape and the angles right. A few minutes later and you will end up with a nice tip like so. You will get better and better doing these tri-cuts so if the first couple turn out a little less appealing than the mother in law don’t fret, just practice on some old spears. A file isn’t really necessary after a while but it will help to clean the tip up a bit.

Note; only go hard out with the grinder on spring steel spears, on stainless try not to get it discoloured or red because you can’t put the temper back into them. It will take a while longer but then again they aren’t as hard as spring steel spears.

Now to put the temper back into the tip of the spear so it’s not soft as butter. Simply rip out that blowtorch from all those prangers you’ve been making and heat the tip up cherry red. Once it’s all hot plough it into a jar of oil. Any oil will work; I used the old stuff out of my car so it’s not critical! Don’t use water or you will cool it down too fast and the spear will be too brittle. A little smoke and smell here is normal.
Now we are back to where we almost started a spear without a flopper. Pinning floppers is an art in itself which needs to be practiced or shown. For a flopper pin I find a snap clip works a treat. Don’t be tempted to use nails or what not the pin needs to be pretty hard stainless. Some brands of spears use 316 pins and the floppers stuff up very quickly as the pin bends out of shape. Snap clips and shark clips are made from high tensile spring stainless steel and do the job perfectly, never had an issue with them. You can also use proper flopper pins from a dive shop. Snap clips fit perfectly in the 3/32” holes, bigger shark clips work well for the 7/64” holes. Use some bolt cutters to snip off a bit about 2.5mm wider than the flopper. Also check to make sure the flopper is on the bottom (yes that’s happened to me before as well!)
Now you will need an anvil of some description, a vice jaw works okay but I have a bit of railway track that’s perfect for it. Using a ball pin hammer gently rivet over one side.

Don’t go bashing it too hard and try to get it as around and wide as possible. Repeat for the other side. You have probably got a flopper that’s pretty stiff or something wrong with it. Not too worry this can be fixed! For a stiff flopper usually forcing a bit of 8mm stainless into it to make it wider will do the trick:
This should make the flopper swing open and close willy nilly. If not try some 10mm stainless or get the pliers out and wiggle it around, you should be able to pick the points of friction making it stiff. So assuming your flopper is nice and loose gently tap this area down with a hammer:
This hopefully will make the flopper swing open to about 30° and then lock open the rest of the way.
The best way to tell if a flopper is tuned properly is to put the spear in a gun and hold it upside down so the flopper is sitting down on the spear. Give the gun a sharp smack with your palm and the flopper should flick all the way open and stay there. That’s how a perfect flopper should be.

So now you have a perfectly working spear that can take down another few fish. This is particularly handy if you have all the same brand gun and you bend a spear on your 1400 and then just cut it down for a spare 900 gun spear. You can also put two floppers on spears if you’re keen. Also now you blokes should be able to put floppers on threaded shafts so you can have cool looking spears with prangers or points for comps!

Sting remedy flawed

Vinegar may kill rather than cure victims of box jellyfish stings, Queensland researches found. The remedy, used for decades, causes up to 60 per cent more venom from the lethal jellyfish to discharched into the victim.

The finding prompted calls for the Australian Resuscitation Council to revise its sting treatment guidelines.

Research co-author and venom specialist Jamie Seymour says the research changed hist mind about vinegar.

AAP. Illawara Mercury, Wednesday April 9, 2014.

Shared responsibility is the best approach to protecting our waterways

An oil discharge into Botany Bay during heavy rain last month has highlighted the potential impact that industry and natural weather events can have on our urban waterways.
Following the release of oily water into Botany Bay by Caltex Refineries as part of the company’s stormwater management emergency procedures at its Kurnell premises, oil was blown to the northern shoreline and onto rock platforms at Congwong and Little Congwong beaches. NSW Environment Protection Authority Chief Environmental Regulator Mark Gifford said businesses, individuals, emergency response services and regulatory authorities such as the EPA all have a role to play to prevent and/or minimise impacts to the environment during such incidents.

“While pollution incidents can often be exacerbated or even caused by extreme weather events such as heavy rain, environmental impacts such as that which occurred following this incident on 24 March are unacceptable,” said Mr Gifford. “Industries regulated by the EPA under Environment Protection Licences (EPL) have a duty to report pollution incidents threatening or causing harm to the environment, and are required to prepare Pollution Incident Response Management Plans. “The EPA also relies on members of the public who are aware of pollution to report incidents so the appropriate authorities can act as soon as possible.” There are a number of regulatory authorities who respond to water pollution incidents, including councils, marine authorities and Sydney Water, but in the first instance people can call the EPA’s Environment Line, 131 555, 24 hours a day seven days a week to report incidents. The appropriate response agency is determined by the nature, size, source and location of the water pollution incident. Typically, small incidents are managed by the local council, but if the incident involves hazardous materials, an emergency response service such as Ports Authority, Roads and Maritime Services or NSW Fire and Rescue will be the lead combat agency in charge of the initial clean-up. The EPA provides assistance and advice to combat agencies during incidents when requested and investigates suspected breaches of environmental laws. “Regardless of whether or not the EPA has been asked to assist during an incident, as the state’s lead environmental regulator we will always have officers on standby to attend and assess any environmental impacts,” said Mr Gifford.

“The EPA takes into account a range of factors when determining our response to pollution incidents. This includes the degree of environmental harm, health impacts, community expectations and the actions of the offender,” said Mr Gifford. “We have a range of regulatory tools we can use to achieve environmental compliance, including formal warnings, clean up or prevention notices, mandatory audits, enforceable undertakings, penalty notices, legally binding pollution reduction programs and prosecutions. “Our regulatory response is designed to hold the polluter to account, raise awareness about the problem, encourage behavioural change and repair any environment damage.” In the case of the Botany Bay incident, the EPA issued Caltex with clean-up notices to implement an ecological assessment program. The EPA is also conducting a detailed investigation into the incident. For more information on reporting pollution and the relevant regulatory authorities throughout NSW: EPA’s water pollution contact page. Meanwhile, people shouldn’t swim at ocean or harbour beaches during or after heavy rain. For more warnings about safe swimming, beach pollution forecasts for the Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra regions and the State of the Beaches 2012-13 report, visit Beachwatch NSW.

Other helpful links and contacts: All boat owners should understand their responsibilities for preventing pollution under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997.

Source: NSW EPA – April 2014

Loosing a mate to the sport you love

It wasn’t easy waking up to hear reports that a spearfisher had been struck by a boat back home. It was early one morning, while I was holidaying at Surfers Paradise QLD, when I heard on the radio that a spearfisher had been struck by a boat off the coast of Currarong on the NSW South Coast. I immediately woke to grab my phone and started the frantic calls to check if it was one of my dive buddies. Three out of Four answered their phone. One phone went through to message bank.

I hopped online, switched on the TV and started looking for information. An hour had passed and I still didn’t have a return call. I had a gut feeling that he was gone. FaceBook started to wake up and many posts started appearing in the online spearfishing fraternity trying desperately to find information. It was about half an hour later that I read on a mates wall “R.I.P” posted by a friend. It was now obvious to me, that the worse had happened to one of my good dive mates.

The day passed with many thoughts, mainly all the times that we went diving together and all the early morning calls that I would get, nagging me to go diving. Its only now that I am thankful that I did drag myself out of bed and go have a dive.

Months passed before I got back into the water. It was only then that I realised the dangers of diving. I had numerous close calls before with boats, but never really thought anything of it.
We were a drop in the ocean, I thought. We would have to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time, in the wrong 30cm x 30cm section of water, I thought. It would never happen to me or a mate, I thought. Oh how wrong I was.

Even though he was using a float and flag, was experienced and knew the area well, he still died.

At the time of writing, just over a year has passed. A day does not go by without the thought of a good mate passing away. I hope that this short life experience of mine at least gets one of you to use a float and flag, dive with a buddy and keep a damm good lookout.

I wish no one to go through the pain that I did. I wish that everyone in the ocean could work in harmony. Please keep the rules of diving at the forefront of every breath and dive safe.

King Fish Cup

THE KINGFISH CUP – A yearlong competition split into three geographical zones along the coast where each quarter divers submit photos and a 200 word story of their capture to the USFA.  All entries will be posted online on our website and on the USFA Facebook Page.  Great quarterly prizes and bragging rights will be up for grabs.  There will be a Kingfish Cup shirt with iron on transfers available for divers to record their catches on their shirts as bragging rights.  This is mainly aimed at the younger demographic who frequent the social media and aims to create friendly competition and all round traffic to the website.

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The spin offs for this will be the exposure the website and Facebook sites gain and the follow on quality information and resources we can then offer from that same site.  It will also tie in with the sponsorship with the traffic justifying the support from suppliers for prizes.  Long term archives will be created full of photos and stories which will in themselves be a drawcard to the site as the entries grow.  This is just a brief overview, but we are not far off having everything in place for this program to go live!



Sambas and Blackouts

Shallow water blackout is a loss of consciousness caused by cerebral hypoxia towards the end of a breath-hold dive in water typically shallower than five metres (16 feet), when the swimmer does not necessarily experience an urgent need to breathe and has no other obvious medical condition that might have caused it. It can be caused by taking several very deep breaths, or hyperventilating, just before a dive. Victims are often established practitioners of breath-hold diving, are fit, strong swimmers, and have not experienced problems before.

Samba is a loss of motor control. It is a partial loss of physical or mental integrity and generally occurs up to 15 seconds after reaching the surface, normally during your first breath after a dive. It happens due to not having enough oxygen in your brain.

Watch this video on Sambas and Blackouts by Erez Beatus an AIDA Freediving Instructor and Judge, Former Freediving Coach for Israel and Former Freediving World Record Holder.

Thankyou and credit to the North Shore Underwater Club and Erez for this essential and valuable safety video.

History of the Skindivers Magazine

In February of 1951 the Underwater Spear Fishermen’s Association (USFA) produced its first magazine, “Spearfishing News”. With USFA secretary Jim Ferguson as editor this publication consisted initially of 6 typewritten pages. Produced monthly it contained hints on spearfishing and equipment, information on rules, monthly and committee meetings, clubs, trophies and a Man of the Month section.

Spearfishing News continued being produced by the committee every month until September of 1952 when it first appeared as a commercial publication of 24 A5 pages. After the first 2 issues, Jim Ferguson wasn’t happy with the new format and reverted to a roneo’d publication for the November issue.

At the November committee meeting of the USFA Jim Ferguson was requested to outline his plan for the future of the magazine. As the committee wished to continue with a commercially printed publication Jim Ferguson resigned and a magazine committee consisting of Edward Du Cros (Editor), Keith Vagg (Associate Editor ) and Jeff Jackson (Advertising) was elected with their first issue being in December of 1952 and with a cover price of one shilling.

In July of 1953 the magazine finances were investigated and found to be chaotic. Over a period of 8 issues the magazine had suffered an average loss of 52 pounds per issue with the June issue recording the largest loss of 76 pounds with a net cost of One shilling five and a half pence per issue. It was recommended that the sale of magazines to shops at 9 pence each be discontinued. It was also recommended that drastic measures be taken to remedy the losses immediately as the financial future of the association was in jeopardy.

In September of 1953 Secretary, Dick Barton reported on the reaching of satisfactory financial arrangements and the production of the September issue with a name change to the Australian Skin Diving & Spearfishing Digest and in November of 1953, Keith Vagg took the reins of Editor.

Producing the magazine continued to be a struggle and in July 1954, the production and Editorial role for the magazine passed to Phil Knightly. Unfortunately, this did not work out and in November 1954 he was replaced with Richard Dreyfus, who worked in the Mirror office. Richard Dreyfus was empowered to produce the magazine on the USFA’s behalf on the same conditions as agreed to with Phil Knightly.

Australian Skindiving and Spearfishing Digest 1958 November
Australian Skindiving and Spearfishing Digest 1958 November

By January of 1955, it was reported that the handling of the magazine was unsatisfactory and the services of Mr Dreyfus were dispensed with. An endeavour will be made to obtain the services of some other interested person in the spearfishing world. The Feb-March 1955 issue was produced by Dick Barton as temporary editor until September of 1955 when Ray Cooper became the editor. In August 1956 John Thompson as the USFA’s Business Manager took on the task of producing the magazine,  until October of 1960 when H.R.Smith & Biro with Bob Smith as Editor produced the magazine for the USFA.

Once again this commercial agreement did not work out and in March of 1961 the USFA again resumed control with a new editor and a new name. With Jack Evans as editor and the title, Australian Skindivers magazine production ran smoothly under his stewardship until he reluctantly relinquished his position as editor due to overseas commitments. Jack Evans last magazine was the June/July 1969 issue.

Australian Skindivers Magazine 1969 – July-August – First cover in colour

John Gillies was then appointed editor with the July/August 1969 his first issue and also a first for the ASM, a coloured front cover. However, by July of 1970, a financial storm was gathering. As always finances were very tight and with the production of Australia’s first commercial magazine in the offing, advertisers became reluctant to pay. The USFA was then in the position of not being able to pay the printers for the release of the June/July 1970 issue.

Australian Skindivers 1970 Vol 20 No 6 June,July - Final Edition
Australian Skindivers 1970 Vol 20 No 6 June,July – Final Edition

In July of 1970 Skindiving in Australia hit the newsstands and advertising support for ASM completely dried up. Meanwhile, payments owing from advertisers were pursued and several months later enough money was in the kitty for the release and circulation of ASM’s final issue. The irony of the situation was such that if advertisers had met their commitments and paid their accounts on time, ASM would have continued.

I had joined the USFA in 1962 as an 18-year-old youth and recall how eagerly I awaited each monthly issue of ASM. With regular contributions by Ben Cropp, Ron & Val Taylor, Wal Gibbins, John Harding and a host of others, I would dream of being able to take part in similar adventures.

In December of 1970 “Fathom” magazine appeared in newsagent’s stands. Produced by Gareth Powell with John Harding as Editor and Roy Bisson in charge of design,  Fathom set new standards in production and design and continued for 10 issues until early 1973.

The USFA continued to pursue its own publications. In 1972 Norm Leibick produced several issues of a USFA Newsletter followed by Bill Suters reverting to the ASM name, producing several typewritten issues with the USFA’s Gestetner printer.

In May of 1974 Merv Sheehan began producing Skindiving News from the Metropolitan Zone and with its adoption by the state became Skindiving News from the NSW Zone with its Jan/Feb. 1979 issue with a name change to The NSW Skindiver with the July/August 1988 issue with the final issue in June 1998.

With Shane Spicer as Publicity Officer, several issues of Scale Tales were produced with issue 1 appearing in 1999 and issue 4 in December 2000. Then with Merv Sheehan as Editor and Adrian Wayne supplying the facilities of Waycon Pty. Ltd. The Underwater Fishing and Free Diving Magazine was produced for three issues between December 2001 and Feb. 2003. In March 2004 Oliver Wady as editor and Adrian Wayne’s staff at Waycon produced Spearfishing, Free Diving and Film Fishing News.

With this issue of “Australian Skindivers Magazine” we enter an exciting new era of production of a news magazine for our membership. With everyone’s help, long may it continue.

We have scanned over fifty editions of Skindivers Magazines from the 50’s and up. If you have one we don’t please share it with us.