Saturday, February 26, 2011

Me and EDC

First off, I am a husband, dad, and lawyer. I live in Massachusetts and I love the Red Sox and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. I am from Ohio and I miss the friendly people and wide open spaces. I like to be outside and when it is rainy, playing with my wife and son or in the workshop making something. I do almost exclusively woodworking. I love tools. I love the power and destructive force of a hammer drill, the shrill rip of a mitre saw, and the perfect edge of a freshly routed piece of wood.

I have been carrying helpful gadgets or tools since I was about 10. I got a Victorinox Super Tinker that year for my birthday. I also got a little tiny holster. Later I paired it with a Mag Solitaire and carried it on my belt everywhere I went. This was pre-Columbine, pre-9/11 and so a Swiss Army Knife (SAK for short) wasn't a weapon but a tool. I lost this little kit in Pittsburgh one year while visiting my grandmother. Later my Dad got me a Spyderco Delica on a trip out to Boston (coincidence) and I had that knife for a long, long time. It got me through a summer job in warehouse where I used it to cut boxes everyday.

I do not know a single thing about tactical stuff other than it is spelled "tactical" not "tacticool". I do not own a gun, though I wish I did and I strongly support the 2nd Amendment. I do not hunt, nor do I wish that I did. Knives, for me, are tools. They are not weapons, and that's how I look at them. Does this make me qualified to write a blog? Prolly not, but EVERYONE has a friggin' blog.

Flashlights are bit different. I have always had a flashlight. I remember the 2-D cell plastic one that sat next to my bed. I remember the Solitaire (of course) and then I remember getting a 2-AA cell light from Eddie Bauer that had rubber grips and a lockout tail cap. For a long time that was my go to light. It was like a Mag Light, but cooler., the original not the current version (hence no link love), was a favorite read of mine in law school and I have kept up with flashlight technology ever since, though this past birthday was a high water mark as I finally landed a McGizmo, a Haiku XP-G. And it was worth the wait. As you can tell from the link, I love that light.

That is it. For now.

Next up my review of the Sebenza 21 Small with some commentary on knife reviewing...

Benchmade Emissary

The Benchmade Emissary is a new knife for 2011.

The product page can be found here. A fair street price can be found here. It was designed by an in-house Benchmade designer, Warren Osborne, who also designed the Dejavoo, the Mini Dejavoo, the Opportunist 440 the Kulgera, and the oft-beloved (but not by me) 940. He seems to like metal handles as the Kulgera, 940 (a variant of the Kulgera) and the 440 all have them.

The knife has an assisted open, which I think is unnecessary in a well-designed knife. The Leafstorm, for example, has a fantastically fast and responsive opening without an assist. In bigger knives and tactical knives where a guaranteed opening is required an assist is helpful, but in a knife this size I just don't see it as helping. It is more parts to break or wear out. The knife is somewhat unusual in the Benchmade line up, though not unique, in that it has both an Axis lock and an assist. I am not the biggest fan of the Axis lock, but it does seem to work well now that they have fixed the Omega Spring problem that dogged the early versions of the lock.

S30V is a very nice steel choice, even if it is more common now than it used to be. I personally love this steel, so I have no issue there.

The grind is a bit disappointing. I have no idea why they made a false swedge. This is a light knife to begin with and I can't see that extra weight making all that much of a difference. Complex grinds, in my opinion, rarely work. Full flat grind is fine, as is a good hollow grind, but this half grind with swedge does nothing for me. Use may prove otherwise, but it is very similar to the Bradley Alias, which I owned. My biggest beef with that knife was this grind. It just isn't as smooth a slicer as it could be and in this case there is really no reason for the grind other than aesthetics. This seems to be a theme with Benchmade's aesthetics and materials over function and design. Maybe it is just me.

The knife also has an "over the edge" style deep carry clip. This is undoubtedly Nutnfancy's influence on the industry as he has hammered on deep carry clips for years now. Personally I think a well designed clip is more important than a deep carry clip, but this clip looks like both.

I also appreciate the size of the knife. It is on the small side for Benchmade knives, coming in at 3 inch blade exactly. For me, I prefer a smaller blade, something like 2.75 inches, as it is more easily carried, but if the handle is designed well, a 3 inch blade is fine. The Sebenza, for example, carries much smaller in the pocket than many knives with smaller blades. Design can do wonders here and this knife looks well designed.

The handle is aluminum, which is fine. I prefer either G-10 or FRN for weight reasons, but a well done non-steel handle works too. Titanium would have been better, as it is stronger and about the same weight, but then the price would be too high.

And here is the problem--the price. Benchmade's prices are just too high. This is not a $170 knife. It has the same steel and size as the Native which is readily available for $60. The aluminum handle is not worth $110. At $100 this knife would be a great buy, a fancy, well made EDC knife. But at $170 it is in competition with a lot of much better knives. Put it this way, is this knife, even on the best day, $70 better than the Sage II? I don't think so.

If you must have an Axis lock this is a fairly nice knife, but it is not a good value. The same or better materials can be found elsewhere cheaper.

Not a home run.

Next up--a bit about me and EDC

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Spyderco 2011 Catalog

It arrived last week in a slim yellow envelop. I had requested one about three months ago and every day I would check to see if it had arrived and then, just when I was losing hope, the knife knut equivalent of the swim suit issue arrived--the Spyderco Catalog 2011. And just like the swim suit issue, it was full of sleek and sexy curves. But instead of the stunning Brooklyn Decker we get a peek at stuff like the slick Native5.

The PDF version of the catalog can be found here.

I am going to state this up front: I am a Spyderco fan. I had an original Delica that was "lost" (a later blog post) and ever since I have been a devotee. These are folders for people that like folders. Light, well built, easy to use, and not crazy pricey--Spydercos just speak to me.

So as my first post I am going to go through the catalog and point out some of the blades that look intriguing. I can't think of a better way to start off.

The Delica and Endura FFGs are new from last year's catalog, but they have been out for a while so I am going to skip them. Great entry level folders but others have already said a ton about them.

On page 14 there is the first of the "OMG/WTF" knives--the ZDP-189 British Racing Green Dragonfly 2. The Dragonfly is probably one of my top three favorite knives of all time and the Dragonfly 2 has a lot of improvements (love the more durable, discrete, and replaceable wire clip). But the steel choice puts this one over the top for me (here is a good steel chemistry chart and here is a good explanation of what all that stuff means). ZDP-189 is a super high carbon steel (twice the carbon of the industry favorite S30V) with all of the benefits of that chemistry--great edge retention, wicked sharp...all of the things a good EDC knife should be. It is a little tarnish prone, but nothing is perfect. The street price is around $60. It is a long lasting scalpel that weighs in at 1.2 ounces. BUY. Don't wait. BUY. The choil, the Spyderhole, the steel, the jimping, the clip, the steel. It is a great knife made better.

On page 18 there is Spyderco porn. Beware. It is a Military (the "Millie") with a Chris Reeve Integral Lock (the framelock) with convex Ti handle slabs, "shell" logo type striations, and iridescent heat treating on the handle. The Millie is a beast of a knife. The Ti version with the framelock was awesome. But this version is over the top. It is probably the nicest production knife in the Spyderco line up and certainly one of the most expensive. Awesome blade.

On page 22 there is the G-10 Native5. I have never been a Native fan, what with the partially obscured Spyderhole, but its size is surprising--shorter than a Delica by a wide margin, but with a long blade and a choil (choils rock, BTW). This Native5 is a Bourne to Bond version of the far dressier Sprint run Native in CF, but it still looks really sweet and abandoned the ugly and awkward grind of the Native4. It also uses the next gen Crucible S35VN. Don't know much about that steel, but I am sure Joe will tell us. Drawback #1: it weighs 5.1 ounces. Ugh. That is a pocket brick. Drawback #2: price is TBD.

I am going to skip the value line additions as they have been covered everywhere too and I find them boring. Good knives, just not interesting.

The Leafstorm isn't new, but it is a swell little EDC knife with surprisingly good ergos. The Lady Bug gets an H1 version, a ZDP version, and a H1 Hawkbill (last year's VG-10 Hawkbill is going for big bucks on eBay). Buy the H1 and sell it two years from now for $120. Someone will buy it.

Ed Schempp's stuff is weird looking but great ergos. I personally dig the Mini Persian 2 on page 36. I wish it had Damascus steel. I am not a fan of damascus steel at all. It is expensive. It is usually complex and ugly. And it is not anywhere near as high performance as REAL ancient damascus steel (see here). But this one knife, this one design SCREAMS for it. Maybe we will get a sprint run.

Speaking of sprint runs, they are underwhelming. A Millie in Carpenter's new steel, an orange jigged boned Delica (which makes the 25th Anniversary version less special), and a new Dyad. Okay, the Dyad is cool, but the rest stink, especially compared to last year's ZDP-189 Walker. That was a friggin' awesome little knife. And like the original, it too will sale for an insane amount in a few years.

I don't like slippies, but Spyderco makes some sweet ones, if you have no choice. A Ti UKPK and a CF UKPK look good for those on the other side of the pond or in more restrictive countries.

The fixed blades remain virtually unchanged, except for a new handle material on the Bushcraft (G-10 instead of the highly unstable spalted maple, they should have asked a woodworker about spalted maple) and a Black Oxide Warrior for stealth throat slittings, I guess.

All in all, a good not great year. ZDP-189 in more pocket friendly knives is a good idea. I would love to see a CF Dragonfly 2 with a ZDP-189 blade or a Jester in ZDP-189 (I like the Jester shape much better than the Lady Bug).

Next up: Benchmade Emissary--single, double, triple, or HOME RUN?