Monday, May 23, 2011

Gear Evo, Part 1

This is the first in a series of commentaries on improving existing gear.

Here is the premise of these commentaries. Imagine this--the designers and engineers at your favorite gear company come to you and say: what would you improve or change about this?

Spyderco Jester

This is one of my favorite designs for a a knife and probably my favorite keychain knife of all time. It is a bit too small for everyday/utility use (plus, as good as it is, it is not better than the Dragonfly), but dangled on a keychain it is a sweet little blade.

Here is what I would do:

1. CF scales. Lots of folks like Titanium and I do too, but it scratches too easily to be nice after keychain dwelling, even for a month. CF, on the other hand, holds up quite well to pocket assault and battery. My Skeletool is three and half years old and it still looks sweet.

2. ZDP-189 blade. Having a Dragonfly with ZDP-189 has convinced me--this is the best steel out there. I was hesitant, worried that it would be brittle or would stain easily, but thus far, nothing. Goodbye S30V, you have been unseated.

3. Stonewashed finish: If your going to have a sweet blade, give it a stonewashed finish to hide scratches, especially if it is a keychain blade.

Novatac 120 series

Somewhere in all of the different models and options and programmability there is an all star light here. The form factor is really nice. The beam is beautiful, bested only by the highest of high end. And this is the light that started the low low trend. But there are some problems. So really this is an addition by subtraction thing.

1. Drop the spring. A flashlight is essentially a circuit with the battery supplying power to the bulb via some kind of connection. Some lights use the body tube. Others, like PD designs use an internal sleeve. The Novatac uses a crappy, breakable and easily lost spring. GET RID OF IT. It is cheap and junky.

2. Better pocket clip. First, don't clip it bezel up. That is a no no. Also, make it sturdy. I like bolted on clips, but having the Leatherman Serac S3 has shown me that is not the only way to go. Make it a washer and stick design so that you can unscrew the clicky from the body tube and take it off and then unscrew the bezel and swap it in. Tool-less swapability is a HUGE in the power tool world. I think it is coming to gear and this would be an EASY, CHEAP, and AWESOME fix.

3. Cerakote. Seriously, I know it is expensive and I know that it is not easy, but as a high end option offer cerakoting. It is amazing looking and will set you apart from the Fenix, 4seven, and Jet Beams of the world. Now HDS did it first, but that was such a limited run. Go for it.

4. Haiku UI with hidden programming. This is something I would recommend for ALL flashlights. Have programming be a "hidden feature" like the special modes on the Preon, but for the regular UI: last level memory with three simple steps in the Low-->Medium-->High order. I like 1%, 30%, and 100% as the output levels, where 30% is about 30-60 lumens. High at 200 lumens would be nice.

Spyderco Leafstorm

This was a originally a custom design. And people loved it. They begged Spyderco to make it and they did and it is a pretty good little knife. Then the original EDC photo blog made it famous. Brainsploded's mod took a sweet knife and made it better. And with the natural color G10, why not let everyone have fun? And while your at it, fix the GODDAM clip. Seriously.

1. Spare scale and dye. Include a spare scale in the package allowing users to dye it the color of their choice. I'd opt for a nice royal blue, but the murdered out option has a classic appeal.

2. Straighten up the clip. I hate the clip. It works but it looks SO messy AND it is a missed opportunity. It could be a guard against over extending the lock bar, like the clip on the Sebenza (another sign that it is a masterpiece of design).

4Sevens MiNi 123

Probably one of the best, if not THE best light for the money out there. But even then there are a few things you could do to make the light better. How about a new emitter? Just kidding. Enough with the freaking emitter updates. How about these instead:

1. Three stage twisty. I hate strobe mode. Hate it. Get rid of it and go to a three stage, low, medium, high twisty. Like the Aeon, but with a super low low.

2. Allow for rechargeables. All serious lights allow for these and we know the MiNi's work with rechargeables, but not perfectly. Change that.

3. Add a bolt on clip. This is a small light, but the Ti Bitz proved, at least to me, that you can use a clip on a tiny light. Plus there is precedent in the 4sevens line. The 2AA MiNi has a bolt on clip.

Kershaw Leek

So this is one of those knives that is always on my "buy list" that I never seem to get around to actually purchasing. One of the reasons is that I think that with a little tweaking this could be an all time great blade (though I think there is a good case that it already is).

1. Sleek Leek. I love the lines on this blade. I also like the flipper opening. With those two things it seems to me that there is an OVERWHELMING design pressure to make the blade's lines even simpler. Get rid of the thumb stud/blade stop. Put an internal blade stop in the handle and make the blade even cleaner. It might even look as stunning as Philipe De Coene's knives (a new custom European maker). Take a peek at one of his blades:

The Leek, minus the stop bar, could be a production version of these design gems.


BTW, Philipe is working a new blade and it looks to be both awesome and affordable. I have dealt with him personally and he is great. Like all true artists, production schedules are not perfect, but still, you get a work of art.


2. Simple Clip. I'd like a version of the Vantage clip with even straighter lines and no cut out. A simple, understated bead blasted clip would be perfect.

3. Full Flat Grind. If we are removing lines to improve the clean look of the knife, let's get rid of the hollow saber grind and go full flat grind. Oh and it is will make this slim knife an even better slicer.

I am sure there are a ton of other improvements. Drop me an email or a comment and I'll publish the best suggestions. Nutnfancy got EVERYONE to add jimping. Maybe we can get one company to do just one thing.


  1. Phillepe does amazing work. I love the aesthetic of his knives. If you are getting one of his blades I will be very interested to hear your impressions.