Tuesday, May 5, 2015

One ends and another begins

The #TADventures contest was a success.  The winner is: chorizoisgood with his beautiful canopy shot from April 19, 2015.  There were 58 entries and some were amazing.  Mike Rixman gets special bonus points for his blatant use of a cute kid outside, something I am particularly susceptible to. 

Thanks to Triple Aught Design and the Goddness of Gear, Raquel Donati for donating the awesome Burke Dog Tag. 

Chorizoisgood, drop me an email at everydaycommentary at gmail dot com in the usual format.  I send the Dog Tag and patches out ASAP.

With that bit of business finished, let's move on to the next contest.  

Well, its May and Memorial Day is coming up, so its time to pay our respects with another bi-annual WWP giveaway.

Here is how this will work:

1.  Go to the Wounded Warriors website.

2.  Make a charitable donation of at least $5.

3.  When you receive the donation receipt email, forward it to me WITH AN UNALTERED SUBJECT LINE (I need to have the subject lines be the same so I can sort them easily, you can delete any payment or other info in the body of the email if you want).  Altered subject line emails will not be counted.  Not only will I not be able to see them to sort them, but this provides a modicum of authentication that the donation was actually made. Send it to this address:

everydaycommentary at gmail dot com

in the normal format.  DELETE ALL OF THE FINANCIAL INFORMATION IN THE EMAIL, but if you could, please indicate how much you donated.  A larger amount won't make it more likely that you win one of the two grand prizes, but I want to keep track so that I can have a total.  I am always working on another giveaway and this data would be a nice selling point to make that one happen. 

4. I will pick four winners on Memorial Day 2015 (May 25) as follows:

a) EDC Kit #1: chosen at random.  Kit #1 includes:

--James Chapter Knife, Storm Trooper Colorway (courtesy of the blog)
--Prometheus Beta QR v2 (Scout Leather Polished Brass Edition)(courtesy of Prometheus)
--RC Fibers D15 Wallet and CF Clip (courtesy of RC Fibers)
--TT Keeper OPMT (courtesy of TT PockeTTools)
--Karas Kustoms Ink (courtesy of Karas Kustoms)
--Mini Mechanics chest EDC storage (courtesy of the blog)

b) EDC Kit #2: chosen at random.  Kit #2 includes:

--Zero Tolerance ZT770CF (courtesy of www.knivesshipfree.com)
--Malkoff MDC (courtesy of the blog)
--Bellroy  Elements Pocket (courtesy of Bellroy)
--Prometheus EKO OMPT (courtesy of Prometheus)



c) Big Heart, awarded to the person with the single largest donation:

--One of a kind, Smock Knives modded Boker Kwaiken with Dietz Flipper (courtesy of the blog)

By the way, good luck getting one of these so other way.  The vaporize on the forum boards, Dietz has vanished and Smock is making his own stuff.  This one is pretty bitchin' too in translucent green G10:
IMG_8055

d) Veteran only, awarded to a veteran chosen at random (vets do not need to donate to enter, you've done enough, simply send me an email with the subject line of "EDC Veteran's Day Giveaway--Vet" and in the body of the email include confirmation information--such as a service ID number or a picture of your military ID).
--Zero Tolerance ZT0562 (courtesy of www.knivesshipfree.com)
--Arno Bush Baby Anniversary Edition (courtesy of www.knivesshipfree.com)

This year, to spur donations, I am giving away some small prizes for biggest donation in a given week.  Note that these wins DO NOT remove the winner from the Big Heart prize. 

e) Week 1 biggest donation:

--Kershaw Amplitude 2.5 (courtesy of the blog)

f) Week 2 biggest donation:

--Spyderco Cat (courtesy of the blog)

g) Week 3 biggest donation:
--Casey Lynch Paramilitary 2 upgrade kit (includes new custom scales and over the top pocket clip)(courtesy of Casey Lynch, who needs a website for me to link to)
h) Smallest donation (chosen at random if needed):

--Buck Mini Spitfire (courtesy of the blog)

Again, the amount of the donation doesn't matter (except for the Big Heart and Weekly prizes) and large donations won't be counted more than once.   Multiple donations from the same person will be counted as one entry (please try not to do that, it makes tallying stuff up difficult).  I guess you could cheat, by faking a donation receipt email or pretending to be a vet, but hopefully if you do you will be enjoying your free gear on the slow, hot elevator ride to Hell.  I'll post how much we raise once everything is tallied.

The contest will begins today.  You can donate whenever so long as it is more than $5.

Let's do this.  Spread the word, too.
Thanks for participating.  All prizes, including the weekly winners, will be distributed at the end of the contest.   

And for your edification and as proof of transparency (noting that the total is near the cost of an Omega Aqua Terra Co-Axial...):

Giveaways from Everyday Commentary thus far:

1.  Custom Benchmade Mini Grip 555hg with S30V steel ($130)
2.  Inkleaf Leather Moleskine Cover ($70)
3.  Iain Sinclair Cardsharp ($20)
4.  American Cutlery Over the Top Pocket Clip ($7)
5.  Boker Exskelibur II ($40)
6.  Coated Aircraft Cable ($3)
7.  RoBoT One Piece Multitool ($57)
8. Leatherman Sidekick ($30)
9. CRKT Ripple 2 ($30)
10. CRKT Mah Eraser ($100)
11. Steve Ku Quantum DD ($60)
12. LED Lenser M7R ($120)
13. Sunwayman M11R Mr. Elfin ($80)
14. ESEE Candiru ($50)
15. TT PockeTTools TT-7 ($30)
16. MBI CoreTi ($75) 
17. Ka-Bar Mini Dozier ($15)
18. CRKT Drifter G10 ($18)
19. CRKT Drifter SS ($18)
20. Lighthound 1xAAA light ($25)
21. Lighthound 1xAA light ($25)
22. McGizmo Haiku Hi CRI edition ($500) 
23. TAD Dauntless Mk. II ($350)
24. CRKT Enticer ($40)
25. CRKT Swindle ($50)
29. MBI HF-R with Zoom Head ($150)
30. Bellroy Note Sleeve Wallet ($90)
31. Spyderco Domino ($190)
32. Zebralight SC600 Mk. II ($100)
33. Tuff Writer Ultimate Red Clicky ($100)
34. TT PockeTTools 69 ($40)
35. TT PockeTTools Thumb Drive ($10)
36. TAD Gear Camo Dispatch Bag ($200)
37. Brous Blades Bionic ($180)
38. 2x Micro Systainer (courtesy of Woodcraft)($100 total, $50 each)
39. 2x Obtainum Wallet (courtesy of Obtanium Wallets)($400 total, $200 each)
40. Spyderco Dragonfly II in Super Blue (courtesy of the blog)($100)
41. Thrunite T10T Titanium (courtesy of the blog)($50)
42. Inspirs TTi 120 Pen (courtesy of Inspirs Designs)($100)
43. Kershaw Skyline with Blue G10 and Blackwash blade (1 of 211 made)(courtesy of the blog)($100)
44. oLight i2 EOS (with bolt on clip, out of production) (courtesy of the blog)($25)
45. Masterstroke Air Foil Twisty (courtesy of Masterstroke Pens)($75)

Total: $3948 given away thus far
Funds Raised for the WWP: roughly $1800 (NOTE: many of the giveaways in times past were not part of the WWP contests).

 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

RC Fibers D15 Wallet and Carbon Fiber Money Clip Review

Venture out of your comfort zone.  Andrew 2 (of Andrew 1 and Andrew 2 on the podcast, GGL's very own version of Thing 1 and Thing 2) always says this.  And with this review I did.  I am not a money clip guy.  NOT. A. MONEY. CLIP. GUY.  Perhaps it is the fact that I want to go against type and NOT be an Italian guy with a wad of cash in a money clip (both because I don't have a wad of cash and because I don't like money clips).  Perhaps it is the fact that money clips generally don't play well with other gear, are heavy, and feel like you are sitting on your keys if you keep it in your back pocket.  So when RC Fibers reached out to me, I was a little hesitant, then I remembered Andrew 2's advice and I said yes.

The kit they sent me included their hallmark item--a carbon fiber money clip--and a sleeve style wallet, much like by beloved Bellroy Card Sleeve.  Suffice to say I am very glad I followed Andrew 2's advice.  The wallet is nice, perfectly serviceable, but it was the ultra light, ultra thin carbon fiber money clip that really spoke to me during the review period.  

Here is the product page.  Here is a written review.  Here is the review sample of the two together (to be given away):

P1050423

Just the wallet:

P1050422

Just the money clip:

P1050424

Twitter Review Summary: Unlike PB&J probably better apart.

Design: 2

The wallet's size and cut are very familiar. The wallet is slightly larger than the Bellroy Card Sleeve, and it has a pocket in the back to accept the money clip.  Finally, the cut of the top most pocket allows you to show an ID without removing it, a huge plus in a wallet.  This wallet is stiffer than the the Bellroy.  The  leather is nice, not too thick and the stitching is adequate (though some contrast stitching would have been a nice visual touch).  When you have something as blingy as high polish carbon fiber to pair with the wallet, the contrast stitching is probably not necessary to bring the bling.  

The money clip is dead simple--a folded piece of thin carbon fiber.  The inside is left matte for grip purposes and the outside is a gleaming jewel of carbon fiber weave.  The design is simple and spectacularly eye catching. More than one person commented on how nice it looked. 

Here is a size comparison with the wallet: 

P1050441

and here is the size of the clip alone:
 
P1050439

Overall the size of both items was fine.  I'd prefer a slightly smaller wallet, but I understand that currency in other countries is bigger than ours.  Other that one issue, there is very little I'd change about the wallet or the clip.  That said, I am not sure how good both things are together.  They are just too thick and while I know its not really going to happen, I was worried that I'd crush the clip.  I get that is the premise of the entire package, but this is a case of the sum of the parts being greater than the whole.  The wallet is good.  The clip is good, but both together aren't amazing.  

Fit and Finish: 2

As someone that regularly reviews carbon fiber knives, I have lots of experience with carbon fiber, but RC Fibers stuff is on a different level.  It is, quite frankly, spectacular.  Here is an example of how polished it is:

P1050658

But more than just being eye catching, its quite functional.  It slides in and out of your pocket easily.  Additionally, the matte finish on the inside of the clip provides lots of traction.

The wallet has a similarly nice finish (no fit issues on the clip, its a single piece so there is nothing to fit together). The stitching is clean and even with no stray threads or frays.  The interior of the leather is quite nice.

Carry: 2 separately; 1 together

I strongly preferred the clip and the wallet separately.  The clip is the most minimal carry possible, even less than my Bellroy.  It added almost nothing to the weight and volume my daily carry.  Similarly, the wallet was only modestly larger than my Bellroy and in some applications I liked the stiffer letter better.  Together, I didn't like the thickness of the clip and wallet.  I also worried that something might pry the clip apart.  

Materials: 2

Two materials, both are quite nice.  The carbon fiber is especially glamorous.  While testing the wallet and clip out I got no less than three different random strangers complementing me on the clip.  It really is quite nice.

Accessibility: 2

Both the wallet and the clip allow a ton of access to the contents inside.  I really do prefer these sleeve style wallets to the bi- or trifold designs.  And money clips, well accessibility is the very reason they exist.

Appearance: 2

I am a definite fan of the look of both pieces and even the two of them together.  Maybe it was a few complements or the shine from the carbon fiber blinding me, but RC Fibers has a classy package here.

P1050665

No Spiderman wallet here, with enough traditional lines and materials to look adult.

Durability: 2

I am not going to fib you, I have been carrying and testing the two pieces for a month.  I am not sure how sturdy the carbon fiber clip is.  The wallet is leather and we all know how durable that is. But the carbon fiber FEELS durable.  It doesn't show a smidge of wear even on the edges or in the polish.  But keep in mind, a month is not a long term test.

Retention: 1

I wish the diagonal cut of the leather went all the way to the far side of the wallet, as the card in that slot (my ID usually) tended to fall out. It never completely dropped from the wallet, but it got close a few times.  I would imagine that if I used it for a longer time my ID would have surely dropped out. Not a good thing.  The wallet would score a 0 alone.
P1050661

But then there was the clip itself:

P1050660

I was sure this would never work. I was sure it wouldn't hold the stuff I jammed in it, especially with cards in it.  It never did.  It wasn't 100% stable, but it was surprisingly good.  When paired together, the retention was even better, as the clip pressed its contents against the much higher friction leather. 

Organization: 1

I am not convinced that pairing the wallet and clip make either better than they are alone, especially with the added thickness the clip and wallet represent. 

P1050662

Its not bad, with a more refined scale, it would get a 1.5, but I am just not certain the pair together are great and apart, they both have weaknesses.   The clip offers no organization at all, but you understand that going in.  The wallet, while similar to the Bellroy, isn't quite as refined, lacking the pull tab and the secure diagonal cut pocket.

Efficiency: 2

You aren't going to beat a clip for efficiency, its basically ALL storage.  The sleeve style wallet is a little less efficient, but not by much.  This is a high volume storage system.

Overall Score: 17 or 18 of 20

If you are a money clip guy and haven't seen the the RC Fibers' clip, you owe it to yourself.  I also think the wallet is pretty nice wallet, a slightly lesser design, compared to the Bellroy, but a bit cheaper.  Together, they don't offer much, if anything more than they do separately.  The clip is pretty killer and I am not a clip guy.  Thanks Andrew 2.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Brick and Mortar: Bromfield Pen Shop

Law school is miserable.  It is the closest I have ever come to feeling like a rat in a nest.  Everyone is clawing each other to get to the top spot in hopes of landing a job at firm that can help pay off the mountain of debt they have just incurred.  I would say it is a loop of misery, but the twists and turns of the law school journey make it more a Mobius strip of Misery.  So, yeah, law school sucks.  The fact that I use exactly zero percent of what I learned there on a daily basis doesn't help either.  Being a lawyer is great, but the schooling process is awful, expensive, and irrelevant.

My law school was in downtown Boston and when the rat race got too intense, I would pop in my headphones, grab my iPod (no iPhones back then), and wander around downtown.  Boston is a perfect place to do this as there are an abundance of things to see, places to go, and stuff to eat. I could wander through the Commons and end up at the flagship Thomas Mosier store and study joinery or I could walk to Quincy Market and people watch.  On one of my many peregrinations I found the Bromfield Pen Shop.  

When I walked in the door the first time it felt like I had crossed over a portal and exited in the 1950s.  There were fountain pens everywhere.  The shop was small, crowded with things, and the counters had two people behind them. In many ways, all of those long slim boxes made me feel like I was actually in an even more unusual place--the Wand Store in Harry Potter.  And now, many years later, owning a fountain pen, I see the allusion JK Rowling was making--a pen is, in many ways, fit to the owner like wands were in Harry Potter's world.

The ethos of the Bromfield Pen Shop is magical.  They have everything a pen addict could want--nearly every brand of fountain pen at every price range, any refill you could want, all of the inks made by man.  They even offer custom engraving on site.  But all of this stuff came secondary to the staff.  As I have written before, people working retail have much less knowledge about their products than folks did in the past.  At Bromfield, the time travel effect was most powerful when talking to staff.  They didn't just know a lot about pens.  They loved the experience of writing with nice pens.  Pens were a thing of beauty and appreciation at Bromfield.  No one thought it was absurd that I was tracking down a random refill, they appreciated my commitment to something I liked. It was what motivated them to work at that store.  

So if you are in Boston and want to check out a small but awesome pen store, stop by Bromfield Pen Shop.  

Friday, April 24, 2015

Zero Tolerance ZT0562 Review

I feel a bit like Al Pacino in Godfather III with Hinderer designs.  I am SO done with his aesthetic and build choices.  SO FUCKING DONE.  But, because they are fundamentally good designs, every time he releases something I go take a look and more often than not, I somehow end up with another Hinderer.  That's why it took me so long to get this knife.  Fortunately, the dagger he released for TKI and the Ecklipse are passes, but damn it, the ZT0562 was something I had to get.  And despite a long history with Hinderer gear, I have to say, this is the best or one of the two best blades he has ever worked on.  Frankly I see no reason to spend money on an XM-18 3.5" when you can get this knife for less and it gives you better performance pretty much all the way around.  Its not as exclusive as a Hinderer, though their recent output has all but killed their exclusivity, but in every other way, its just better.  

Here is the product page.  There is a step up version with carbon fiber handle scales and an M390 blade.  Knowing ZT, I am sure there will be a half dozen other variants before the design is discontinued.  Here is a written review.  Here is a video review.  Here is a comparison between the XM-18 and this knife.  This review sample was provided by KnivesShipFree, where you can find the Zero Tolerance ZT0562, and all proceeds benefit the site when you purchase things through this link:

KnivesShipFree

Here is my review sample (to be given away):

P1050406

Twitter Review Summary: Better than the real thing.

NOTE:  When I got this review sample the blade was off centered.  It was not touching but off centered.  I tweaked the pivot and it has been fine ever since.  It is such a minor flaw with such a minor fix, I am not going to deduct points anywhere, but I thought you should know. 

Design: 2 

The moment I took the 0562 out of the box I was struck by how nice of a blade it was.  I noticed how nice everything looked and how solid it felt in the hand.  I really, really like this knife.  The design, in many ways, is classic Hinderer, but thankfully, that aesthetic has been filtered through other folks because, as I referenced above, the Humvee look and feel is overused.  The jimping is tamed down.  The bulk is just a smidge less.  The pocket clip is actually quite innovative.  The flipper is a better shape.  The wide chamfer around the handle is a welcomed touch and the elimination of the quilted pattern in the G10 is a good thing. 

P1050408

In many ways the 0562 is just the XM-18 3.5" slicer grind with the aggro touches reduced to a more palatable level.  Remember the Skidz brand pants from the early 90s?  The XM-18 is going to be dated in the same way.  People will see that knife in thirty years and say "Remember that crazy overbuilt folder trend from the 2010s, when people carried knives that couldn't cut stuff well and all they did with them in flip them open and closed on video?"  The 0562 may fall in line with that trend, but its design has been altered enough that it won't be neon purple and black plaid pants. 

The ratios aren't amazing, but you know that going in.  This is a porker.  The blade:handle is .72, which is decent (better than the Delica, for instance), while the blade:weight is distinctly pedestrian at .64.  Ratios aren't hard use knives' strong suit (unless you happen to be the Paramilitary 2), so don't fret too much.  

There is one curious thing, something I am going to note but not subtract points for.  In all of the debut videos ZT went out of their way to say that the thumb studs were blade stops and not thumb studs.  Jim McNair mentioned in a few that they were domed to prevent people from trying to use them as blade stops.  That is a good talking point, but when I got the knife I was surprised to see this:

P1050414

and this:

P1050415

Yep, the knife has a stop pin.  That's fine, but then why bother with the thumb stud/blade stops at all?  I have had a bunch of knives that have just blade stops and they work fine.  The knife would look cleaner and better without them, but having them isn't a huge issue.  Its just striking given that KAI USA drew our attention to them in the first place.  

Fit and Finish: 2

Its getting pretty boring to write these sections on ZT products as they are uniformly excellent and my rendition of the 0562 is no different.  There is not a single real issue I could knock even if I wanted to. 

Grip: 1

Ah...a bona fide mistake.  The double finger groove feels great in the normal forward grip, as these finger groove handles are want to do, but when you use any other grip it is just about unmanageable.  This is a perfect lesson in handle design.  These finger groove handles all FEEL great for about ten minutes when you are using the knife in this grip:

P1050411

But stray from the path and you will be punished.  These finger groove handles are design cheating.  They feel good superficially and they look ergonomic, but they are in fact, both hard to use and not ergonomically correct for the anatomy of the hand.  I have referenced this before, but it bears repeating--as the hand closes to tighten one's grip, the fingers come together.  If there is something that impedes the fingers coming together is prevents you from getting the strongest possible grip.  This came from Kyle Ver Steeg, a hand surgeon.  Its something he has referenced many times and in doing some research of my own, it is 100% true.  These finger groove handles are just a failure and while the ZT0562 isn't so bad its just below par.  Its not a failure, I just think that the handles on the 0560 or even the XM-18 itself are better.  

Carry: 1

This is a big knife.  Even with the low ride clip it still feels like a pendulum swinging in your pocket when you run.  But the really weird thing, the thing I strongly disliked, was this:

P1050413

There were more than few times that this inexplicable hook poked me in the leg.  Now I know its for the blade stops but there are two responses to this--first, the blade stops are unnecessary given the stop pin, and second, even if they were necessary there are solutions to this problem.  Strider found one:

P1010066

Get rid of either the superfluous blade stops or this claw thing.  Neither are necessary and both are annoying.

Taken together these two quirks--swinging in the pocket and the claw thing--are worth a point.

Steel: 2

The Elmax disbelievers are silly.  They seem to be hellbent on science, but take only the crudest approach to the subject.  They also seem to miss the notion of sample size.  Even the Almighty Lego has errors (their error rate in 13 per million parts, well better than anything I have ever seen in manufacturing data).  So don't worry and just go with it.  Elmax is an amazing steel.  Even after REALLY thumping (like "Did I break this thing?" thumping) through some green red oak, the edge was fine, maybe not shaving sharp, but pretty close.  The Anti-Elmax crowd is a confluence of two of the worst features of internet communities--bro science and pig piling--combined into one, with a dash of fanboyism thrown in for good measure.  The reality is simple--Elmax's makers have millions invested with thousands of man hours perfecting the product using state of the art technology run by some of the best metallurgists in the world.  Given the money at stake, they ain't fuckin' it up on a broad level.  Just not going to happen. 

Blade Shape: 2

Slicer or Spanto or whatever.  These are marketing words, buzz words, but whatever the name the shape is pretty old fashioned, and damn good; its a drop point and a very refined one at that.  It has a nice pronounced belly, a good degree of tip stability, and a clean look.   Excellent.

Grind: 2

I am not so sure I buy the utility of the so called slicer grind, but it doesn't make things worse, so I am okay with Hinderer putting it on a bunch of knives.  According to the Hinderer marketing, by lowering the grind line across the length of the blade it shortens up the angle making the knife slicier at the tip and more robust in the rear (oh God, innuendo alert...).  Is it a huge or even perceptible upgrade over a full flat grind or a hollow grind?  Nope, but if people like it and it doesn't make stuff worse, I am fine with it.  The grind here is actually quite good, with a nice wide cutting bevel.  The knife failed the "apple test," cracking them instead of slicing them, but most folders this big fail that stringent slicing test.  

Deployment: 2

This, Mr. Hinderer, is how a flipper should deploy.  Rumor has it that the latest XM-18s flip better, but the two I had were pretty bad.  The 3 inch was more broken in and it could go without a wrist flick but I practically had to meditate to make that happen.  The 3.5 inch wasn't making it, no way making it, without a bit of wrist action.  Here the 0562 fires without fail every time, no wrist flick required.  This is a damn good flipper just like almost all of the KVT-equipped knives I have tested.  The detent and pivot are so dialed in at this point, it almost goes without saying--ZT's flippers are goddam rockets launching. 

Retention: 2

P1050416

This is a very nice clip, better than the original and better than a lot of other clips.  Its funny because Thomas mentioned not giving two shits about clip designs and then ZT releases this clip.  It can be switched to both sides easily, buries deep in the pocket, helps control the knife moving around as much as it can, and looks good.  This is an excellent clip.  It can't do magic though and this knife sways a lot in the pocket, but that's not the clip's fault (and I already deducted a point for it in the Carry section above).    

Lock: 2

P1050409

As faultless as the flipping action on ZTs are, the locks are equally well dialed in.  There are no stickiness issues, no problems with engagement, lock rock or wiggle when engaged.  They are just rock solid.  

Overall Score: 18 out of 20

There aren't too many objective ways to cut it--the ZT0562 is a better knife, price blind than the 3.5" XM-18.  The reasons are numerous--better flipping action, better handle scale pattern, deep carry clip, and less aggressive but equally effective jimping.  When you factor in the price--yikes, its a suckers bet.  And if you step up to the CF version, well, I am not sure you can get an XM-18 in M390...and that knife STILL has a price advantage on the XM-18.

As a standalone product the ZT0562 is a marvelous large EDC or hard use folder.  I still prefer the Paramilitary 2 as it is almost as stout but much lighter and a much better cutter, but this is a close second.  The flipping action is really surprising.  Thomas et al hit a home run with this one and if you don't like the PM2 or want something Hinderer-ish, this is an excellent choice. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

ZT0562 Overview

There are certain knives that I simply have to review, knives that I feel like have to be in the catalog of reviews for this site to be useful and relatively comprehensive.  The ZT0562 is one of those knives.  I got this review sample from Derrick over at Knives Ship Free.  Over the years I have reviewed a mountain of Hinderer stuff and I can honestly say that this knife is one of the best--better than the source material (the XM-18 3.5") but slightly less portable than the XM-18 3".  Damn good knife and review coming soon:


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Quick Hits: The SO Close Edition

NOTE: This post contains my only political statement ever.  I have never and will never tread these poisonous waters again.  The political discourse in this country has never been more fallow or base.   

Prometheus EKO

Prometheus, as a brand, is basically to EDC gear what Terrence Malick is to films.  He doesn't make a lot of stuff, but the stuff he makes is totally awesome (fuck you...Tree of Life was genius).  The EKO is definitely good, but, in my mind it falls short in one crucial aspect.  That's not to say its a bad tool, its not, but it is not quite the revelation that Jason's other stuff was.  Here is the Kickstarter page, where the EKO goes for $50 (early bird and second chance were less at $40 and $45 respectively).

P1050428

The package is quite nice, coming in a small piece of 1/8th inch plywood.  The EKO is intended to ride on your keychain, but in the plywood piece, I found it did well in my wallet.  The EKO has three tools--a "cutting edge", a cap lifter, and a hex bit hole.  All work well, with the caveat that the cutting edge is really just a long snag edge.  It is great at dicing up boxes and opening packages but it can't slice paper or make feathersticks.  If you accept that limitation, it is a very good design and I had fun chopping down boxes for recycling.  Some folks might object to the inclusion of a purposely dull blade, but they miss the point.  This is not a knife replacement, this is a keychain multitool and an exposed edge wouldn't work well there.  The cap lifter works but it is a bit odd in how it does so, but once I got it, it popped bottles open with a few pulls.  Not ideal, but not wretched.  The size is just right too, matching a real key's dimensions.    

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The main problem I have with the EKO is a simple one--it lacks a pry edge.  There are a number of ways to integrate one on the current design.  I am not sure if I want one because every other OPMT has one, but the reality is--we have been conditioned to expect it.  I have also found that of the OPMTs I like, the pry edge is the second most used implement after the cap lifter.  There are two other things that keep the EKO from the upper echelon of scores--its material and its price.  Titanium is a great material, I love it, I really do.  But, with an edge, even one that is purposely not sharpened, titanium is lacking.  It just can't hold up over time.  More importantly, even if I wanted to sharpen it, I couldn't.  Bummer.  I'd prefer this tool in stainless steel.  It might be heavier, but given its overall size, it would be that burdensome (many keys on your keychain are made of brass after all) and it would then allow you to sharpen the edge as you see fit.  I rarely mention price, but here, three tools for $50, is really striking.  That's a lot of money for what you are getting.  The Shard, an all time great OPMT is under $10.  TT PockeTTools makes a lot of stuff in this price range with more implements.  The price is not a deal breaker, I bought a RUT after all, but it is striking.

And if you are curious, you can pledge on KS with no risk--the project, like all of Jason's stuff, is already funded. 

Overall Score: 17 out of 20 (1 off for Materials for an unnecessary and actually detrimental use of titanium (prevents sharpening of the edge and raises cost); 1 off for Tool Selection for the missing pry edge; and 1 off for Tool Performance for an awkward cap lifter)

Malkoff MDC

Its a question that people love to ask--would you rather come close to greatness and fail or live a life of relative success without ever truly trying for the spectacular?  Would you rather be Tom Petty, consistently cranking out very good albums or a director like Richard Kelly (who wrote and directed the amazing Donnie Darko and the...um...less amazing Southland Tales)?

Gene Malkoff, long famous for his drop in emitters for Surefires, is a great light maker.  The MDC, found here, is his first run at a true everyday carry light comes perilously close to perfection at a budget price of $99.  But, in the end, one small thing, one little detail sends the design careening towards silly.  So...damn...close.

The pocket clip here is a design abortion.  It is horrendously bad.  Not only does it ding everything it comes in contact with, it is TOO deep seating to easily retrieve the light and borks any possibility that the light could tailstand.  This is grounding-into-a-triple-play-with-the-bases-loaded-and-no-one-out bad.

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The rest of the light is phenomenal.  Its plenty bright, its got a legit low, its solidly built and the head is fully potted.  The UI comes in two flavors, high first or low first, and I got the WRONG one (my fault, I hit the wrong radial button), but overall the MDC does so much so well that the light is still worth considering despite the bullshit clip.  Hell, just take the clip off.  That's an awesome light.  

Its not small but it is not lardy either, with extra bulk for extra bulk's sake.  Here it is next to a Zippo.

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In many ways the MDC is an ideal EDC light, except for one glaring issue.  Ugh.  It kills me for something to be this close, yet so far away.

Overall score: 18 out of 20 (1 off for Design because of the wretched placement of the clip; and 1 off for Hands Free because this thing can't tailstand)

AG Russell Acies2 

AG Russell is, without question, the most underrated folding knife designer of the past 20 years.  If you randomly purchase a knife from his site, chances are very good that it will not just be a good knife, but a favorite of yours.  Until I got the Acies2 the streak of good knives ran three long.  But alas, the Acies2 is a Sebenza built by committee and it was a committee that knew buzzwords and tech but not the essence of what makes the Sebenza special.  This is a knife built with great materials that has great specs but is lacking in crucial ways. You can find the Acies2 here.  It was part of the Sebenzalternatives Shootout, found here (it came in second). 

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Let's start with the good.  The steel is awesome.  You know my love for ZDP-189 by now and I think it is still one of the top four choices for an EDC blade (M4, M390 and S35VN being the other three).  Similarly you know my love for efficient handles and blades.  The Acies2 positively crams in blade, not just length but height as well.  This is a long wide blade in a short knife.  Prestidigitation required.  And then there is the excellent grind.  The dished high hollow grind is excellent and the cutting bevel was something of a miracle.  A major hat tip to AG Russell on that front.

But this is where the train goes off the rails:

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No, no, no.  This thumb stud is wretched.  I know some folks like it, but they don't write this blog (Scurvy...you really should write for this blog or start your own...for now, the comments work).  As for me, I hate it.  I hate it both conceptually and as implemented.  Conceptually, it fails because it violates one of the primary heuristics of good design--it dictates how it is supposed to be used instead of allowing the user to decide.  There is one and only one way to approach and use this thumb stud.  All other methods-coin flips and slow rolls--will be punished with skin splitting agony.  And as implemented I just can't see it.  It is too close to the handle and too sharply cut to be effective.  I am not sure if it has to do with the fact that this is a Kershaw stud that was originally on knives with assists, but whatever the reason, I hate this thumb stud more than any other I have tried.  It is a major problem with the knife.  The other problem is more of a cosmetic issue, but it is a "car that was keyed the entire length of my driver side" level cosmetic issue.

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The clip is large, thick, protruding, and ugly.  Surprisingly because of how it is positioned its not a screaming hot spot, but it is just brutally ugly.

Like the MDC, there is so much potential here, but again, these two products prove how challenging it is to make a good piece of gear.  Even the greats, like AG Russell, can't win them all.     

Overall score: 17 out of 20 (2 off Deployment for the worst thumb stud ever; 1 off Retention Method for a pretty ugly clip)

Osprey Flare 24/7

What do you want in a general use backpack?  For me, the Pygmy Falcon II is pretty darn close to perfect--tough, riding the organizational balance between the Sarlaac Pit-like hyperorganized computer bags of the world that seem to eat more stuff than they store and the Dora the Explorer bullshit that was the Topo Designs Daypack (not the lowest scored item, but the only thing I have reviewed that I truly hated with a bile-filled passion).  Despite owning and loving a classic I still want to try new stuff and that's why I bought the Osprey Flare (purchased with my own money). Here is the product page.

Normally I have a hard time trying out bags, as I work using a briefcase, but this pack went with me to the hospital when my second son was born and then suited up yet again for our trip back to the hospital 4 days later when he needed emergency treatment.  I lived out of this bag for 5 days and in the end, it turned out to be quite nice.  

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Osprey makes a positively staggering range of packs and the Flare is from their general use line.  Their heritage as a technical pack maker shows and their roots as a company based on custom bags made by one dude also shows.  Even their general use stuff is very unique.

The Flare is a light bag, without bulky, overbuilt fabrics.  It is also extremely comfortable, both in hand and on the back, even when fully loaded.  The grab handle is truly grand as are the shoulder straps.  I would note that the waist and sternum straps are very thin, feeling like dental floss across your torso.  Inside, the bag has a sleeve for a laptop that is not removeable (boo), but it is thin and works well as extra padding.  The interior is covered in neon yellow to make sure you don't lose anything.  The middle pocket is very organized with lots of slots and places to stash stuff.  The outside pocket is a mesh number that you can easily access without undoing the buckle.  There are two water bottle pockets in the normal location and both are made of stretchy fabric that doesn't lock the bottle in place.  The zippers are excellent and have yet to mismatch.  There are two lash points on the rear of the bag which function very well and are thankful reprieve from the overtly tacticool MOLLE found on a lot of bags. 

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The balance between hyperorganized and minimal is hard one to hit and I feel like the Flare 24/7 comes down too close to the hyperoganized side.  Its not as bad as many of the bags out there, but it is a bit too busy for me.  Compared to the PFII or the Bihn Synapse, it seems like someone went pocketastic at the design computer.  That said, its not as bad as Tumi bags that have a million pockets 999,999 of which are so specifically designed that they only hold one thing (no more "chord pouches" please).  This is clearly the bag's biggest weakness.  The other issue I had was with the lack of a waterproof bottom.  The more I look at bags, the more I think this is a requirement.  You put your bag down all over the place and a piece of rubber or plastic on the bottom makes such a difference.  You can just wipe your bag clean and roll on.  Here, you can't.

This isn't a stinker by any means, but it is clearly a step below the Synapse and the PFII.  Very good but not great.

Overall score: 17 out of 20 (1 off of Materials for a thin overall build and lack of a water resistant bottom; 1 off Organization for being a bit TOO pocketastic; 1 off Straps and Belts for floss-thin front straps)

Friday, April 17, 2015

Go Outside, Snap a Pic, Win Triple Aught Design Gear

Father Winter was downright abusive this year, crushing us with foot after foot of snow.  But Spring has made its way back from its long trip and all sorts of spring-ish things are happening--grass is growing, the trees are budding, I even opened up my son's sandbox yesterday.  And this weekend, we are going back to our old wilderness stomping grounds.

Raquel, from Triple Aught Design, was an awesome guest on GGL (found here) and was kind enough to send along a piece of gear for a giveaway.  The gear in question is a sweet little custom multitool from Jim Burke.  Here is the product page.  Here is the Dog Tag in the wild:

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and

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The tool is quite a clever design with an oxygen wrench, a 1/4 inch bit holder, an integrated cutter (with cleverly hidden corners), the obligatory bottle opener, a flathead driver, and spanner (for those pesky custom pivots).  Think of this as a field take down tool for your knife that can pop a brew and cut some webbing. 

You could go over to Triple Aught Design and buy one, oh wait, you can't, they are all sold out.  So how do you win this gem?  Simple--post a picture on Instagram of your outdoor Spring adventure with the hashtag #TADventures.  No repost, no do this do that bullshit.  Just snap a picture of you on an outdoor adventure and use the #TADventures hashtag and your entered.  Two Friday's from today, May 1st, I'll pick a winner and send the DogTag out.  Also, I will throw in some Triple Aught Design patches to the kit.