Tuesday, August 19, 2014

TT PockeTTools TT-Capper Review

A while ago Todd sent me a bunch of goodies, the Ti Spork that I liked (and my office found entertaining), a new multitool, and a pocket hook he calls the TT-Capper.  Pocket hooks are a funny thing, having become popular only in the last few years.  Deryk Munroe did a lot to make them awesome, using a pocket hook design instead of a pocket clip on some of his knives, perhaps to preserve the knife's clean look or to do something a bit differently.  The response was pretty overwhelming as he started making standalone pocket hooks he called Danglers and even released a series of them that culminated in the very impressive design--the Mega Dangler, which transformed the simple stylized hook into a full fledged one piece multitool.

Todd's TT-Capper doesn't quite go that far, and it is probably better for it.  At some point these pocket hooks became giant, complex beasts. I reviewed the GearPull a while ago and it was undeniably cool, but it was quite large.  That, it seems to me, is probably as big and as complex as you want a pocket hook to ever get. The real innovation is to make them slim but still useful.  That's exact what Todd did.

Here is the product page.  The TT-Capper sells for $30 shipped (CONUS).  There are no other reviews.  This review sample was sent to me by Todd and will be given away (see below for more). 

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Twitter Review Summary: Simple and Awesome. 

The TT-Capper is made of 154CM.  Todd has left the tool with a raw bar finish.  It has a generously sized split ring hole, some jimping to help with grip, and a very good one pull bottle cap opener.  The shape of the hook also allows you to attach the hook to the bill of a baseball cap style hat, hence the name "Capper".The hook is long and deep without being silly, and the overall package is quite discrete in the pocket.  I dropped the TT-Capper on my Alox Cadet and carried it around for a while.

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It worked quite well and the Cadet never accidentally fell off.  The bottle opener was redundant on the Cadet, but its ease of use and accessibility made it so that I never used the tool's built in bottle opener--an impressive feat given how awesome the Cadet's bottle opener is.

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There are cheaper pocket hooks out there, like the mass production Tec Accessories P-7.  That comes in around $12 plus shipping, less than half what Todd charges for this pocket hook.  But the built quality here is substantial and the addition of a bottle opener is nice.  Additionally, if you were truly pressed you could use the end of the hook as a flat head driver.  Combined with an uber simple pocket knife, like the excellent Fallkniven U2, the TT-Capper/U2 package would be impressively capable, with about 90% of the functionality of a Cadet with vastly superior materials and ergonomics.  The uber minimalist could also attach the TT-Capper to something like an Aeon and have a very complete kit in just a few ounces.  

If you are looking for a pocket hook, take a look at the TT-Capper. It is an outstanding and simple design.  It is effective and the finish is quite nice.  As with all of the stuff I have seen from Todd the Capper is just a solid, useful tool.  And the price is quite nice, especially in a market where Mega Danglers can't be had for $250.

Comment below and I will pick a comment.  That person will win the TT-Capper mailed straight to their door.  If you live outside CONUS, you might have to chip in for shipping.   

Friday, August 8, 2014

Thrunite T10T Review

EDITOR'S NOTE: I published this review from my iPhone and the result was that I had missed a save, the most up to date version.  I have gone back, the day after I posted the review, and put in the updates.

The 1xAA market is SO competitive right now.  The Eagletac D25, in both the twisty and clicky versions, is a great light.  The SC 52 from Zebralight is very good too.  These two, for the last few years, have been tossing back and forth the title of best 1xAA production EDC light, with shifts caused by upgrades in the body tubes, UIs, and emitters.  It has been a two horse race for a while.  Enter a third horse. The T10T by Thrunite is a titanium version of the T10A.  There is also a stainless version, the T10S.  All three are very, very strong lights.  The question is whether its merely a competitor for the title, or the actual title holder.


Here is the product page. The T10T costs $59.95. Here is a written review. Here is a video review. Here is a link to Amazon, where you can find the Thrunite T10T, and all proceeds benefit the site when you purchase things through this link:



Here is my review sample:

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Twitter Review Summary:  Not the best, but my favorite all around 1xAA EDC light available.

Design: 2

The T10T is just a simple titanium tube, with six milled lines on the head. The head has a very slight taper to it as it approaches the light producing end of the light.  It is not flashy.  But boy do I like the looks of the light.  Its absolutely stunning, especially when all cleaned up and polished.  There is nothing to dislike about the T10T's design.  Even the aluminum and stainless steel models are nice looking, but not quite as nice (this is titanium after all). 

The simple looks are complemented by the metal tailswitch, an excellent pocket clip, and a good tailcap, perfect for tailstanding.  Thrunite hit every bullet point with this light and the design stands up well against the best stuff on the market.

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Here is a size comparison of the T10T next to a AA battery.

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The performance numbers are decent. The total lumens output is is found on medium (20 lumens for 2,340 minutes) and is 46,800.  The lumens:weight is 79.34 lumens per ounce.

Fit and Finish: 1

The threads are clean and smooth.  The pocket clip is nicely centered.  The parts of the light are well made.  But the clicky, the metal switch in the tailcap, leaves a lot to be desired.  It feels squashy and unstable.  Its not so bad that it is broken, but there have been a few times when I have thought I had turned the light on, only to find out I hadn't.  A stiffer spring would be a huge upgrade.

Grip: 2

Thanks to a good length to diameter ratio, an excellent pocket clip that considers how the light will fit in your hand in use and a thoughtful tailcap design, the T10T is excellent in the hand, even with the uber clean titanium.

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There is not a check, knurl, or bit of crosshatching. Its just smooth, but again, its not that big a deal.

Carry:  2

Though the clip is a bit wide, the form factor here is excellent.  Nothing about this light makes it hard to carry.  Its nicely rounded with ZERO sharp edges. It goes in and out of the pocket with ease.  Its just nice.

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Additionally, while this isn't the most compact 1xAA light I have seen it is certainly not bad, given its battery and the space necessary to accomodate a clicky.  All of this adds up to a very good light in the pocket with no complaints. 

Output: 1

I don't want to say 169 or so lumens isn't enough.  It probably is, but it is not close to state of the art (which can be found on the Zebralight SC52) and, worse than that, its right on the edge.  At 200 lumens there is very light you can't do, especially in an EDC role.  Less than that, say around 150, and you are right on the edge.  You can still get a lot done, of course, but I'd be much happier with 200 lumens.  The .2 lumens is just perfect for a low.

Runtime:  2

147 hours on the moonlight low and more than a hour on high is damn good.  There are lights that do better, again the Zebralight SC52 comes to mind, but something can be very good without being the best.

Beam Type: 2

With a nice balance between spill and hotspot, the profile is exactly what you'd want in a do-everything EDC light.   

Beam Quality: 2

One of the better beams I have seen in a light less than $100.  No artifacts, weird shadows or shapes, a great truly neutral tint.  Very, very good. 

UI: 2

Here is where the T10T differentiates itself from the rest of the market.  First you can use the light like a normal, mode memory clicky.  But you can also turn on the light, tighten the head, and use it as a twisty.  This flexibility is a huge upgrade from the normal twisty or clicky. More than a few lights can do this, but it works well here. 

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Hands Free: 2

The light tailstands:

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It doesn't roll thanks to the pocket clip.  And its not agony when held between your teeth. Overall, this is a very good light when you are otherwise unable to hold it. 

Overall Score: 18 out of 20 

The Competition

Oh man, there is really no competition.  Everything about the T10T is better than the Fenix PD22.  Its not even really close.  This light represents new generation of lights, ones that incorporate perhaps the most important feature on a modern light--a truly useful and low low.  Compared to the Eagletac D25 and the Zebralight SC52, both of which I have owned and reviewed, I like the T10T better.  It is not objectively better, the SC52, for example has a higher high and better runtimes, but I LIKE  the T10T better.  It's UI is much nicer than either "insert animal name" flashlight.  The low here is better than the  Eagletac and the UI crushes the finnicky Zebralight.  I could see reasonable minds disagreeing, but this is my favorite and is far superior to the PD22.  This light shows you just how far behind Fenix is in the EDC market space. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Tactile Turn Shaker

When I was writing the Top 5 EDC pens list, I reached out to Brad Dowdy, the Pen Addict, and he recommended I take a look at the Tactile Turn Mover or Shaker (the Mover is the full sized pen and the Shaker is something like a 3/4 sized pen, between a full pen and a golf pencil).  I went to the site and saw the two pens and I was impressed by the impeccable lines and the stout materials.  But I thought that there was no reason to get one, having reviewed the Tuff Writer Ultimate Clicky, a very similar design using the same German nock mechanism. 

Safe to say after a good stretch of time with intensive use, I was wrong.  The Tactile Turn Shaker is a superior pen.  Its truly great and thanks to a cleaner design and thinner body, it is a true writer.  The Tuff Writer is great, but it is so heavy duty and so stout that over long writing sessions it begins to feel like your writing with a stalactite.  The Tactitle Turn Shaker quickly proved itself to be superior, as a writer to the Tuff Writer, and quickly challenged the MaxMadCo Bolt Action and the Prometheus Alpha as my favorite EDC pen.  That's some pretty hallowed company, but this thing is just amazing.  Right away you can tell, given the competition, its going to get a good score.  The real issue is whether it gets a perfect score.

Here is the product page.  Here is the Kickstarter for the new "Exotic Metals" runs of the two pens.  The exotic materials are 1) titanium (this review is the titanium model); 2) brass; 3) copper; and 4) bronze. Both the Mover and the Shaker ("s" is for Shaker and Small, that was my mnemonic I used for writing this review) are available in any of those four metals.  There are lots of pledge levels and pen material combos, but the basics are this:

Aluminum: $50 ($45 on early bird with 1 left at the time the review is written)
Brass: $60 (with $55 and one left on early bird)
Copper: $75
Bronze: $90
Titanium: $100

These prices are well within the norm and favorably compared to the Embassy Pen lines which have many of the same materials at a slightly higher set of prices without the click mechanism. 

Here is a written (and I mean written) review by Ed Jelley.  There are no video reviews, but here is the KS video:



Finally, here is the review sample with some of my favorite gear:   

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Twitter Review Summary: The high water mark for EDC pens.

Design: 2

Looks can be deceiving because while APPEARING simple, the Shaker is anything but.  The look is so clean in part because of some truly superior machining (more on that below) and because of Will, the maker, and his ability to hide fasteners.  The clip buries nicely into the tail area of the pen and the grip section is scored nicely with some machined in ridges.  The overall design is simply flawless.  There are so many small touches and neat ideas that it took me awhile to fully appreciate just how cool the pen is.  The size is also perfect.  Big pens are great if you work in an office or write only at a desk but if you are on the move, I have found that these 3/4 pens work perfectly.  Finally, and perhaps most noteworthy, Will did a lot of work on the pen to make it light despite the material.  Titanium is light in comparison to stainless steel, so on knives it feels different, but in the pen world, where a lot of high quality stuff is resin, it feels like a boat anchor most of the time.  Here, the Shaker design calls for a significant amount of material to be removed and the pen's feel is amazing because of it.  The pen is still plenty stout, but it feels much better.

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Fit and Finish: 2

Okay, here is a quiz.  Where does the pen body screw apart?  Not near the grip section, that is a machining line for added grip. Not near the top, close to the nock.  In fact, the pen unscrews at the midpoint.  You might be able to see it in this picture if you look very, very closely.  There is a hair line that is potentially visible on the lower half of the pen body, where the titanium looks more silver than black.

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This is a testament to the pen's fit and finish.  Frankly the machining here is off the charts amazing.  The nock feels great (as this nock always does).  The grip is well cut and effective.  The taper towards the writing end of the pen is consistent.  There nothing at all to complain about here, as it relates to how this pen was made.  There is some stickiness in the threading, but that has to do with the material (titanium is notoriously sticky) and not the fit and finish.  This is one of the finest items I have reviewed in terms of fit and finish, from custom lights to high end knives.  The Shaker's fit and finish is simply insane.  The seam isn't just finger flush, its almost invisible, and the rest of the pen is that good.

Carry: 2

As beefy has the clips have been on other EDC pens like the TuffWriter and the the Alpha, the Shaker's is thicker still.  It also has a nice round finish and it isn't so tight as to be annoying.

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The pen's heft is enough to remind you your carrying it, but not enough to be a problem.  I also like the sleek body, as it makes stowing and retrieving the pen incredibly easy.  The titanium is quite tough and dropping this in a pocket won't make you worry for the Shaker.  It can take a hit or two and still look just fine.

Appearance: 2

I get that some folks don't like the 1950's Space Blaster look of the TuffWriter.  I also understand that the Alpha can appear a bit ostentatious.  Both have strong looks that can polarize people.  But the Shaker's super clean appearance can't possibly offend someone.  It harkens back to the classic Parker Jotter, but with build quality and size that suggests the pen is tougher than the Jotter.  Every element works well and mates well with everything else and nothing seems disproportionate or out of place.  Simple, clean, and elegant.  Finally, the brushed finish will hide scratches well.  This is a gorgeous minimal design.

Durability: 2 

In the two weeks or so I had this pen, I put it through the ringer.  First I did not one, but two back to back depositions.  While they are audio recorded and transcribed, I am bit Type A and so I also try to do verbatim or near verbatim notes (using a note taking system I devised in high school).  The two depositions took about 3 to 4 hours.  I took roughly between 30 and 40 pages of notes.  It was exhausting.  After that I did the lawyer equivalent of lightning round hearings interviewing lots of people for quick court hearings.  I was in a secured facility, standing up, writing on cinder blocks and talking to very (understandably) stressed people.  It was a lot of pressure and a horrible writing environment.  Both these tasks, in the past, have killed lesser pens.  Here the Shaker was not just fine.  It worked superbly well.  I can't speak to long term durability, but my weekly routine was more than enough to kill not one but two Retro 51s in under a months time.  Given the materials and the build quality, I have no reason to think the Shaker would fall anywhere near that fast.  Its not the TuffWriter, but its plenty tough for 99% of the folks in the world. 

Writing Performance/Refill: 2 

The pen takes a number of refills and is most importantly compatible with the Parker refill.  This means it works with Parker refills which are available everywhere, Fisher refills which are great for EDC use, and it comes with the excellent Schmidt 9000 Easyflow refill, my favorite of the Parker refills.  Finally, if you want uber-fine lines you can pick up the Moleskine gel refill in the Parker format. The versaility of the refill format is second to none.

Balance/In Hand Feel: 2

This is where the Shaker kills everything else.  This pen is as balanced as a scale.  It has enough heft to feel "there" but not so much that it taxes you as you write.  The double depos would be enough, with even a decent "in hand" pen, to give me Captain Hook hand, but the Shaker didn't.  Instead, I was fine.

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Its not just the size here, though I like that as well.  Its the balance.  Loveless knives were known for their wonderful balance and I think, given Will's machining of this titanium unit, he might just be known for that same thing in the pen world.  Simply put, there is no EDC pen that I have tried that is better in the hand than this one.  Home run.

Grip: 2

The grip area on EDC pens is always a challenge.  The temptation to make it really pronounced (read: overdone) is huge.  But here Will's choice, as with all of his choices, was the right one.  The entire grip area is made of nothing but subtle machined rings.  They are hard to see and even harder to photograph, but I tried anyway:

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Despite their appearance they are effective at making sure the pen doesn't move around.  They do an excellent job of locking your fingers in place but they are not so prominent that they become uncomfortable over time.  Again, its clear to me that Will planned this pen as a pen first, and then made it substantial later.  This is a writer first and foremost and the grip is yet another thing that tells you that.

Barrel: 2 

The barrel's brushed appearance is not just perfectly in step with the pen's overall minimalist look, it is also great at hiding scratches and dings.  Additionally, it allows you to remove the pen from your pocket with ease.  There is no tugging or snagging that sometimes happens with the overly tactical EDC pens.  While I know it doesn't really do anything for the function of the pen the fact that the barrel screws together seamlessly is a pretty cool feet.

Deployment Method/Cap: 2 

I have always been a fan of capless pens for EDC use.  Its just one less part to lose.  If you aren't getting up and moving around a lot, this is no big deal.  But if you are moving around, writing in all sorts of places, in a rush, grabbing things and going, like I am, a clicky or twisty pen is really the way to go.  I can take a cap, especially if it posts, but in the ideal world, all EDC pens would be capless.  The Shaker is, as you can see, capless.  Yet another feather in its cap (PUNTACULAR!).

Overall Score: 20 out of 20; PERFECT SCORE


Simply put, this is my ideal EDC pen.  It is tough and durable, but doesn't forget that its main job is to write.  It has no delusions of grandeur that it is, in actuality, some kind of ninja weapon.  It doesn't look like a medieval torture device or a medical tool from a horror movie.  It looks like a pen designed by the Bauhaus (which is a very good thing in my mind), and it writes superbly well.  

In some cases I worry about giving out a perfect score.  It has happened very rarely, averaging about 4 per year.  I am concerned I didn't test the product long enough or I was enamored with some new feature.  But here, I have no doubt.  The Tactile Turn Shaker is the perfect EDC pen.  Go buy one before they are gone.  You won't be sorry you did.    

The Competition

I as mentioned above, the competition at the top of the EDC pen heap is pretty tight.  The Alpha's Fineliner refill is amazing, a better writer for those of us that like bold (and I mean BOLD) lines, but it has a cap.  The TuffWriter is tougher than this pen (hell, its tougher than most knives I own), but it is nowhere near the writer.  The MaxMadCo pen is also excellent, but the super slick body made it not as good in the hand and not as good in the pocket (or out of the pocket, because the clip and barrel couldn't generate enough friction to keep it in place).   The Shaker does everything exceedingly well and thus, while I could see purchasing any of the other three pens I listed here for specific reasons, the Shaker would do just as well in those roles most of the time and is better in other aspects.  If you don't have any high durability pen, if this is your first foray in to EDC pens, then the Shaker is the right place to start.  

Monday, August 4, 2014

AG Russell Odin's Eye Review

NOTE: This review was formatted for Everyday-Carry.com.  It was written when I worked for them and they decided not to run it.  However, Mr. Russell was kind enough to send me this product for review and when someone as illustrious as AG Russell sends you a knife to review, you are pretty much compelled to do it, even if, like here, its not in your knowledge base wheelhouse.  I gave him my word that the review would be published, so despite the delay here it is.  

Introduction

AG Russell is one of the finest knife designers in the business.  He also happens to be one of the best businessmen in the business, going from being a traveling salesman to using social media to promote his business.  His catalog is like a little knife magazine every two months and it is less of a shill piece than the other REAL knife magazines out there (the fact that is true shows the sad state of print right now).  Even though he has been in the business for 60 years, and the company is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2014 he is still pumping out new designs.  One of those new designs this year was the Odin's Eye Neck Knife. 

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I wish I had more tactical experience to make this review better, but I did what I could.  AG chose this item for me and I appreciate that, but in the end I had to rely on someone with more tactical knowledge than I have to give you good and useful information about this product.  I am telling you this up front as a disclaimer of sorts.

Before I get to the blade itself, you need to be aware of a bit of history.  This design is a push dagger.  Push daggers were originally designed to be an easily concealable fighting weapon, not utility tools.  As such, there are widespread legal restrictions on carrying daggers, especially push daggers.  Check your local laws as push daggers, and daggers in general, are heavily regulated. 

Product Description

The Odin's Eye is a small push dagger style knife.  It comes with a hard plastic sheath, a ball chain necklace, and the knife itself. 

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It is small and light.  There is a finger hole for added control and to prevent the push dagger from being lost or dislodged from your hand.  The blade is made of 8Cr13MoV.  It is designed to be a neck knife for use in defensive situations.  The hope is that by being light and flat, Odin's Eye will always be with you and always be ready to defend you. 

Design

I have ZERO tactical experience.  My knowledge of tactics came from 8 years of taekwondo where people quickly realized that I was both uncoordinated and had an uncanny ability to absorb lots and lots of beatings.  In other words I have no relevant experience.  I was the guy that the referee had to stop the fight for at tournaments, out of fear that I was too dazed to realize I was bludgeoned.  Suffice to say, I am not your tactical guy. If you have any questions about how to be a punching bag, well...I am your man, but other than that...So I decided to ask a person that knew something about tactical and defensive use of weapons.  One of my good friends has been an martial arts instructor for over 25 years and black belt even longer.  But he is not just a strip mall black belt.  He also worked as a police officer for 20 years and led a significant amount of their training in fighting techniques.  He has extensive experience with bladed weapons having used them, taught others to use them defensively, and having made them by hand himself.  Given all of this history, he seemed like a good source.

I showed him the Odin's Eye, which I was carrying for testing purposes (by the way, I hate carrying a knife around my neck--the ball chains are necessary to prevent you from being choked by your own tool, but they irritate my skin; this guy rode in my top pocket).  He instantly recognized the design as a modified push dagger and he had a few comments.  First, he liked the finger hole.  It was clear to him that it both added a degree of control and prevented loss during a scuffle. 

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Both good things.  Traditional push daggers have a T-shaped handle that allowed for use with a closed fist, but it was not as secure as the Odin's Eye finger loop.  He also noticed that the blade was very keen and well ground, coming to a very nice point.  But he had serious reservations about its length.  In order to keep the knife small enough to work as a neck knife, the Odin's Eye has a very short blade, shorter than a traditional push dagger does.  Here is the Eye next to a Zippo:

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The end result is a blade under 2" and something that may not, according to my friend, offer enough penetration, especially in cold winter environments where it may not make it through thick or layered clothing. 

Performance

Its hard to evaluate the performance of a fighting tool outside of a real fight, so I am not going to even pretend.  Having been beat up in tournaments many times (note I did not say: fighting in many tournaments) I can attested to the wisdom of that sage quote from Mike Tyson--everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.  Even those beatings are many steps removed from a true self-defense scenario so I can't imagine the nerves involved there.  I am, I hope it has been made clear, a huge wuss.  I avoid fights and I have, thus far, been lucky in doing so.  To that end, I am not going to offer any feedback on how this knife would perform in a real fight.  I just don't know.

But I can tell you that it is one hell of a stabber.  The 8Cr13MoV is super thin and super sharp.  I have never had a problem with 8Cr getting sharp and this was a perfect example of its optimum edge.  I was able to easily plunge it through about 100 pages in a phone book (it was a bear to find a phone book, let me tell you) with a punch of small force.  It was nothing at all really.  The blade is also good at slicing, which I would take to be a rough equivalent to slashing in a fight.  Aside from the penetration ease afforded by a dagger blade shape, it allows for pretty mindless slashing as either side is sharp.  I also liked the finger loop in both situations, thought it seems clear that the slashing scenario is the one where a push knife is most likely to be dislodged.  Here it seems almost impossible for that to happen.  This thing isn't going anywhere.  

Conclusion

The Odin's Eye is both a clever design and an indication of just how fertile AG Russell's mind is when it comes to new products.  I wish I had more relevant experience to do justice to the product he sent me, but I can tell you that this little blade does stab and slash well.  It is not as useful as a utility cutting tool as the angle your hand is at when gripping the knife does not afford any precision at all.  Additionally, I was very impressed by the sheath. 

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Sheathes are one of the great mysteries of production fixed blades and this one was nothing short of excellent.  The big question I have is how effective this would be as a defensive tool, given its short blade length.  Living in New England, I see people bundled like Ernest Shackleton 6 months out of the year.  A sub-2" blade just doesn't seem like its enough.  But maybe in the heat of battle with adrenaline pumping you could push it through all that mess.  I just don't know and frankly I'd prefer to not find out.  I am not going to score the Odin's Eye given my lack of experience, but I can tell you that it is well-made, well-designed, very sharp, and much harder to dislodge than the typical push dagger.  Its thin and light, and thus easy to have on you.  The sheath is quite excellent.   

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Hipster Test

Worried that I might be a hipster I did some research and after a good meta-analysis of the topic I have distilled what I have learned into this very useful Hipster Detection Test.

Category I (A "yes" answer to any of these questions is worth 1 point)

1. Do you have a mustache in a month of the year other than November and are not a member of law enforcement (there is a fascinating legal and cultural reason for the mustache--law enforcement connection leading back to a famous Supreme Court case)?

2. Do you own a Newsies-style hat?

3. Have you received your first non-military tattoo in the last seven years?

4. Do you have thick black frame glasses?   

5. Do you find pot bellies slightly attractive, especially if the person has legs that are wrist-skinny?

Category II (A "yes" answer to any of these questions is worth 3 points)

1. Did you discover Filson in the last five years?

2. Do you own a pair of jeans that tapers towards the ankle?

3. Do you wear wrist bands of any kind other than a watch?

4. Do you like the look of a vintage "Woody" Jeep?

5. Have you participated in any of the following: Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, or any other torture/endurance race?

Category III (A "yes" answer to any of these questions is worth 5 points)

1. Do you like craft beer?

2. Do you have a beard longer than two inches?

3. Do you regularly ride on a fixed-gear bike?

4. Do you consider city parks the great outdoors?

5. Do you occassionally not shower for more than two days in a row while sleeping in a normal bed (i.e. mattress and boxsprings)?

Category IV (A "yes" answer to any of these questions is worth 1,000,000 points)

1. Have you ever purchased any of the following: an axe with a brightly colored painted handle, an extension cord covered in cloth, a tool box that is painted red and costs $75, a Sebenza at more than MSRP, or any item colored "Famous Red."

Score Guide:

0-5 points: The Hipster stink is about you, be careful.  You can still turn this around.  Go to Target and buy a cheap digital watch.  

6-10 points: Quick!  There is a flea market with vintage stuff on Sunday morning in the large city near you.  You can pass in both normal and Hipster society without much notice. 

11-20 points: Full fledged Hipster.  Your handsewn, horween leather wallet is on its way with pocket chain attached.

21-1,000,000: Its over, you have made it to Level 10, Elite Hipster status.  As Andrew would say, buy some mustache wax and sit in the mustache growing chair at Best Made's New York store.  

Just so you know, I scored a 5.  I like craft beer.  I like bourbon better, but that just makes me a redneck.  Oh man, which is worse: redneck or hipster?  Time to do some more research.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Standard Bearer Blades

Almost every one of the major knife companies has a standard bearer knife in its line up.  Boker's line up is too large and unfocused and Buck seems to be unsure of what kind of knife company it is,  but for Benchmade, Cold Steel, CRKT, Kershaw, SOG, and Spyderco, there is a knife (or pair of knives) that is perhaps the perfect representative of the company, the best value, and the best seller.  Having finally reviewed all of them, I am going to summarize what I have found.  I was going to do this as a Shoot Out but it got very unwieldy very fast.

First, let me define the standard bearer--this is the blade that rests in the hallowed spot in the market--above entry level but below the expensive enthusiast only blades.  They usually have better than entry level steel, they have been in the company's line up a long time, they are frequently used in marketing campaigns, and they have roughly the same size. Often there are two models--a big and a small one (in sticking with my preference for smaller blades I systematically reviewed the smaller of the two or three standard bearer blades).  They also have step up features, usually the company's signature technology.  They are also the platform for sprint runs and variations.  Finally, they are usually the company's best seller.  These are the Honda Accord/Toyota Camries of the knife world.

Here are the standard bearer blades I have reviewed (in alphabetical order, no favorites yet):


I would have included the Gerber Instant on this list, but the week I was intending on buying one, they issued a recall because the lock failed on many models.  Boker's line is too mixed up and Buck really hasn't figured out where to go yet.  The Vantage line was good, but troubled.  The 110 is great, but not exactly in the same league as these knives, design and features-wise.  Victorinox makes a little thing called the Cadet, maybe you have heard of it, but again, not what I am looking at here.

So with no possibility of a coherent shootout here I am going to rank them from worst to best, with comment about why the knife is where it is on the list.

#6: Kershaw Leek

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This Ken Onion design is long in the tooth.  The newer Hindered models, like the Cryos and the Thermite are much better, but they don't have the history that the Leek does (the Cryo 1 in G10 would rank second or third, I am not sure).  The Onion knives really put Kershaw on the map in the mid-90s.  I wish they would have kept the Random Task in the line up as that is better knife than the Leek.  I dislike the weak tension spring and the uber-thin tip.  The pocket clip is meh.  But this is still a worthy EDC.  It is super slim and slices like the Devil.  Its a bit chunkier than it needs to be thanks to the steel handles, but it is a darn good blade.  Its worst here because the other knives are so damn good.  Just like one of the Kardashian sisters has to be the smartest, one of these knives has to be the worst.  Have I ever told you about my dream for an integral Leek with the Random Task blade shape?  Oh it would be awesome.

#5: Cold Steel 3" Voyager

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Its a small knife with none of the benefits of being a small knife or a big knife with none of the benefits of being a big knife.  As Anonymous A.D. pointed out in the comments on the review of this knife--it is a total afterthought in the Voyager line, which really starts at 3.5".  But even an afterthought that weighs this much and runs the fabulous Demko Tri-Ad lock is really damn good.  Its not too pricey either.  If you need a beater for an EDC, look no further.

#4: CRKT M16
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More features does not equal better performance and here nothing could be truer.  The additional lock for the lock is as ridiculous as that phrase is describing it.  The grind is really ugly and awkward.  But the price is good, the handle is nice, and the flipper works like a charm.  There is a reason this thing has sold like gloves in winter.  Its the best of the "flawed" standard bearers.  The rest are amazing knives and I am just picking nits, but even here the knife is special.  

#3: Spyderco Delica

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Ah, my first real knife and even now, three models later, I am still enamored with the Delica.  It is practically perfect--thin, light, easy to open.  With a full flat grind it is probably a better slicer than the standard model.  With ZDP-189 it is a world class production knife.  I don't like the VG-10 steel, but it is definitely decent.  I am not thrilled with the exposed tang in the closed position.  And the blade:handle stinks.  Other than those three things, there is nothing bad here, and those three things are like complaining about Kate Upton's lip mole.  

#2: SOG Mini Aegis

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Color me shocked.  After one bad experience after another with SOG's SAT pivot I was ready to throw in the towel.  Good thing I didn't.  This is an AWESOME knife.  Complaints, hmmm, let me see, complaints....I'll let you know when I think of some.  Oh...it runs a merely average steel, using AUS-8, but that's about it.  Its a three inch blade that weighs two ounces.  What else do you want? How about a price at or under $50.  Pretty amazing.  And then there is the deep carry clip.  Very, very good SOG.   

#1: Benchmade Mini Griptilian 555hg

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The thumb stud version would rank behind the Delica, but the 555hg, with its thumb hole opener and sheepsfoot blade is awesome.  I wish Benchmade would make their split arrow clip standard, as it would move the contact point out beyond the handle texturing and fix the only very small flaw I had with this knife.   The Mini Grip 555hg is a knife anyone--workaday guy/gal or knife knut--can be happy with for a very, very long time.  I love this knife and this is one reason why Benchmade is always in the discussion when someone asks for a recommendation.  The knife also happens to weigh 2.56 ounces.  Great, nearly perfect blade.  

Here are some other notes, left over from the potential shootout that got to complicated.

Best Steel: 14C28N (on the Kershaw Leek)

Designed as a inexpensive steel just for Kershaw, this Sandvik steel is very good.  In my use it has stacked up nicely to steels perceived as more premium, such as S30V. 

Performance Ratios: SOG Mini Aegis

Nothing is really close here.  2 ounces in a 3 inch blade is kind of ridiculous. Super, super awesome. 

Favorite Deployment: Thumb Hole (on the Mini Grip)

I like the thumb hole a lot, better than the flippers on both the M16 and the Leek and leaps and bounds better than the thumbstuds.  The smoother pivot and less friction between the tang of the blade and the locking mechanism makes the Mini Grip smoother. 

You can find all of these knives at:

Blade HQ

or

Amazon

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Nilete Quiete Review

In the gear world, innovation is king.  And if innovation is king, the Nilte Quiete is downright regal.  This is a pocket knife completely rethought from the ground up.  Every single feature, every design choice is carefully and meticulously considered.  The end result is a knife that is without peer.  It is completely and utterly unique.  This is minimalism scrubbed to is purest essence.  The Quiete is a glorious blade, but it is a knife so shorn of adornments and features we are used to, it might be too much for some folks.  Those that can see the beauty are handsomely rewarded.

In the Al Mar Hawk review I compared that knife to a Ladderback chair--light and solid with all of the parts working together to improve the whole.  If that Hawk is a Ladderback chair, this is the cantilever chair, a form so pared down that it is almost completely different from its predecessor.  There is no question this knife is innovative and beautiful, but the real question is whether or not it is a good EDC knife.  I think it is, and hopefully I can defend that position in this review.  

Here is the product page. The Nilete Quiete costs around $300 plus international ship (as there are no US distributors, you can find them at Lamnia FI here). The knife is designed by Massimo Fantoni.  Here is a written review. Here is THE video review.  Here is the review sample (sent to me by Nilete):

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Twitter Review Summary: Like nothing else in the world.

Design: 2

The Quiete has more in common with sculpture than it does the horde of G10 handled tactical knives being sold today.  Every screw and line has been carefully considered and the end result is a superb tool, both in the hand and to the eye.  The Quiete makes a statement every time you pull it out of your pocket and instead of offending people or scaring them off, they just might come over and ask you about the knife.  The funny thing is when you tell them it is Italian made they give you a look that says: "I knew it."  For all of the precision the Swiss bring to the table and all of the bombast that American designs are known for, no one makes a knife look as sexy as the Italians and the Quiete is one of their best examples (NOTE: By way of disclosure, I am biased as I am Italian).

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The knife's ratios are very good.  The basic specs are good and I am going to give them here because the product page has them in metric.  The knife weighs 2.14 ounces and has a blade length of 2 7/8 inches.  The closed length is exactly 4 inches.  This results in a blade:handle of .72.  The blade:weight is 1.37.  This puts the Quiete into the second tier of performance ratios, right there with the SOG Mini Aegis, but just short of the Al Mar Hawk and the Kershaw Chill.  The difference is largely found in the very wide and perfectly flat ground blade.   

Fit and Finish: 2

The fit and finish here is marvelous, better than that found on the "Big Three" (CRK, Strider, and Hinderer) and equal to that found on Taichung Taiwan Spydercos and Al Mar Knives.  In short, the Quiete is as fine a built knife as you can buy without spending four figures on a custom.  The interesting thing here is that unlike many knives where the fit and finish is so high to appeal to finnicky knife knuts, the fit and finish here is necessary to fully exploit the materials and the design.  Anything less than perfect and the knife might not work.  You'll see why as we go on in this review. 

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Note the bright stonewash finish the beautifully rounded handle scales (they aren't just chamfered, they are rounded on both sides for an excellent in-hand feel).  

Grip: 2

Simply put, the grip on the Quiete will surprise you.  With all of the curves around the edges and the fantastic choil (Spyderco take note--THIS is how you do a choil), the Quiete is really, really good in the hand.

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It doesn't hurt one bit that the knife is incredibly light and perfectly balanced.  Given the knife's size, something equivalent to a Mini Grip, the amount of control you have is really amazing.  This is also another exhibit in the argument against jimping.  The gentle rolling humps on the spine of the blade are definitely NOT jimping, but the knife's shape is just right, making them or even real jimping entirely unnecessary.  The gentle bumps do look very nice though.

Carry: 2

The size, the rounded edges, and the incredible weight make this knife a perfect pocket companion.  You could carry it every day of your life, in slacks, in jeans, in shorts, and it would be virtually invisible.  Despite is nearly 3 inch blade, the knife can hide in your jeans coin pocket (depending on the brand).

Steel: 2

14C28N is an American exclusive to Kershaw, made for them by Sandvik.  Here is the data sheet.  Its a steel I really like, capable of holding an edge well, not chipping, and being very corrosion resistant.  It is significantly less expensive than other new steels, in part because it was designed to be inexpensive, but on a dollar for dollar basis, there is no steel I have used that is a better performer.  Sure, M390, M4, Super Blue, and ZDP-189 are better, but they are also much more expensive.  The trick is that this is a stainless steel hardened by both carbon AND nitrogen (usually steels are hardened by one or othe other, with nitrogen being used in steels that are in tools used around water).  
Because of its high hardeness, around 60 HRc, the 14C28N can take a very thin grind and the Quiete has that grind.  The end result is a slicer that works very, very well.  I have used the knife for food prep (cutting up grapes and fruit for my son's lunch) and never had a problem. This is a great all around steel.

Blade Shape: 2

The blade shape, like the rest of the knife is not like anything else.  It is part sheepsfoot, part wharncliffe with a bit of a belly.  Its like the Benchmade 555hg and the Cold Steel Mini Tuff Lite had a baby.  

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Weird as it is, it works very, very well.  I had no problems whatsoever with the knife in any task.  In slicing and chopping food it was great.  In package opening and box deconstruction it was fine.  In thread cutting and very light precise work, it was excellent.  There was really nothing this little blade did poorly.  Well, okay one thing--it doesn't stab all that well.  But it stabs more than the enough for an EDC knife.  

Grind: 2

Oh my, what a grind.  SOG is generally the company I think of when I think of impeccable production knife grinds.  But this grind, this super keen full flat grind is, perhaps, a step above even that.  It is really a marvel.  

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The blade is quite tall and all that height is truly leveraged well, bringing the actual cutting bevel to an impossibly thin edge.  I wouldn't chop with the Quiete to vigorously, but this is a kitchen knife level slicer.  

Deployment Method: 0

I know, I know--there is really no deployment method that would work with the Quiete.  Anything would screw up the aesthetics.  But as much as looks matter, and you're lying if you say that don't at all...after all few people carry plain old box cutters, I just couldn't get over nothing.  I'd even take a nail knick.  Really anything at all.  As it is, you can get the knife out one handed, as the video review shows, but its not pretty and really even in a two handed grip, you are getting the blade all funky.  I love the look, but I'd kill for a thumb hole.  I know it would require a redesign of the handle, but all of this sculptural beauty sorta jibes with the Spyderco vibe.  If you are an aesthete then just ignore this score and consider the knife perfect.  But if you have even a passing notion of being a knife user your going to want something that isn't here.  

Retention Method: 2

I already laid out why I think certain knives, like the Fallkniven U2, don't need a clip.  Here the case is even stronger.  The Quiete's handle is quite comfortable and a clip would certainly ruin that.  Additionally, it would screw up the aesthetics and unlike the lack of a deployment method, you can carry a knife quite nicely without a clip, especially one of this size.  Finally, the lanyard hole is excellent, large enough to accept the included yellow paracord.  I am still not IN LOVE with laynards, but this is a darn good knife to lanyard up. 

Lock: 2

This is a lock back that has ZERO, absolutely ZERO blade play.  I was surprised given the miminalist construction and the thin G10, but this thing doesn't move a smidgeon.  I loved the feeling of rotating the knife into the locking position and hearing, feeling, and seeing the lock bar snap into place.  

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The  innovative rendition of the lock back, using a single spring bar of 14C28N, gives the knife a look and feel like nothing else.  The Pure Lock Back, the name Massimo gives his design, is to traditional lock backs what frame locks are to liner locks--its just cool.  And here, it is in service to the sublime minimalist aesthetic--it makes the knife simpler, cleaner, and lighter.  Amazing job.

Overall Score: 18 out of 20

The Quiete is, quite simply, an experience.  Holding it, using it, and carrying it, are all sublime joys.  Opening it...not so much.  But with all of this innovation and flowing curvy beauty its hard to get worked up about the need to use two hands.  As a cutter the Quiete kills it.  As an EDC, its light weight and people friendly blade are great.  And you can be pretty certain you'll be the only one of your knife buddies carrying it.  There are less than 500, in all six variations, of the Quiete in the world.  And they are pretty awesome.  But the Quiete is not for everyone, just for those with good taste, which means you.  For those that like the Gerber aesthetic...it may not work so well.   

The Competition

Being 100% serious, there is no competition for this knife.  It is so unlike anything else on the market that it just doesn't make sense to put it up against anything else.