Friday, December 30, 2011

Ready to Go

So the ad revenue will definitely be enough to give away the custom Mini Grip, for sure, by the first anniversary of the site.  If I get more than enough I will use it to buy a knife or light, review it and give it away as well. 

Only issue?  I have only a half dozen or so entries.

This is a pretty simple contest.

Email me a logo you have designed that incorporates the name the of site and if I like it you win.  What do you win?

A custom Benchmade Mini Griptillian with S30V, handle colors of your choice, blade style of your choice (though I'd strongly recommend the thumb hole), blade coloring of your choice, and clip and clip color of your choice (within the range of those offered by Benchmade). 

This is a free $135 knife.  I give you the knife, you give me a sweet logo. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

High End Utility Carabiners

Carabiners were once solely known in the climbing community.  But their utility soon leaked out and everyone including your grandmother now owns a few.  Most are not climbing tools, but really items of convenience.  As with most things, some folks have decided to trick out the utility carabiner until they get little works of art.  Here are a few that snagged my attention.

Jens Anso Carabiner

Anso is a knife designer whose blades have been picked up for production by Spyderco and Boker.  He has a certain flare for gear and his Carabiner is no exception. It is made of green, blue, or gray Ti and has a custom stainless steel spring gate.  It is a full custom item and available from Anso and a few resellers for about $125.  

D22 Uncus Ti Carabiner


What I like about this carabiner, aside from the material (ahhhh! Ti), is the design.  It is actually DESIGNED to be a keychain tool.  Some of these utility carabiners are still wedded to the idea of looking like a climbing carabiner, which is nice for climbers, but limits their utility.  Here this guy looks like it could be useful in a bunch of different applications.

Cool Fall Droid 58



This is the Buggati Veyron Super Sport of utility carabiners.  Clocking in at a staggering $220, it is designed to be used with Cool Fall's super ultra luxe flashlights, none of which are cheaper than $700 new and the Tri V v.2 looks like it may be over $2000.  So with such refined partners, the Droid could be nothing less than spectacular.  It is all Ti, of course, but it is also a locking carabiner.  It can be opened and closed one handed.  It also has replaceable parts.  Finally, if you are looking for that Daddy Warbucks meets Tad Gear look you can opt for a Ti chain, a package that costs $300.   

Leatherman Carabiner

This guy was included in my review sample Sidekick and it is actually quite nice.  Unlike these other utility carabiners this one has two tools built in--a bottle opener (because you need another bottle opener, right?) and a small hex hole for use as an oxygen wrench or a place for a driver bit to rest while in use.  All of that for $5.00.  It may not be a Ti beauty, but it is pretty darn useful.

I have been carrying the Leatherman Carabiner and it is not too bad at all.  It is thin and light with hooks in the right place.  I wish the gate would open a bit more, but it is not that bad.  It is a good deal for $5.00

Most Interesting EDC Products of 2011

As is customary for the time between Christmas and New Years, I am releasing a year in review.  Instead of looking backward, really I am looking forward.  I trying to spot the gear that was released this year that will have impact in the upcoming year.

I wanted to do an end of the year award post, but I didn't feel like I had enough experience with all of the products out there.  Instead, think of this as a list of things that I really liked or want to get.  If I reviewed a product, I can speak to how nice it is and why it should be on this list.  If I didn't I am going based on specs and feedback from around the 'net.

Second I don't want to simply rehash a list of the best things out there.  I am only interested in new stuff here.  And by "new" I mean that in the broadest sense.  If there is a new emitter or blade steel, I'll count it as new.  If there is a new color or anondizing, well, maybe not.  I'll play it by ear.

Finally, I am going to give out two awards: 1) most interesting overall; and 2) best value.  

So without further ado, the most interesting EDC products of 2011:

Eagletac D25a

The new Eagletac series hits a sweet spot in the flashlight market--they are small, affordable, and bright.  They tailstand.  They have bolt on clips.  They are twisties.  They have a nice three mode UI with a bunch of hidden modes.  They also come in titanium special editions.  But the real winning feature is the high and very honest lumens ratings.  No AA light is brighter (with reliable ratings) than the D25a.  All of this for under $70 for the Ti version and under $40 for the Aluminium version means that 4sevens, Fenix, JetBeam, and Lumapower have real competition going forward.  The flashlight wars and the lumens arms race is just heating up and we are all the beneficiaries.   

Cold Steel Mini Tuff Lite

IMG_0034


I actually reviewed this product, that can be found here.  It is a really great knife.  It is also eminently pocketable and cheap, cheap, cheap.  There is really no excuse not to pick one up.  Even the normally mediocre AUS8 steel has held up well for me.  You'd be really hard pressed to find a better knife for under $20 anywhere.    

Benchmade Emissary

From super cheap to moderately expensive.  The Emissary seems to be a knife poised to hit all of the right marks.  Its size is just right, the S30V blade steel is good, the pocket clip is of the deep carry variety, and it has an assisted open.  It is a bit pricey at around $170, but Benchmade's fit and finish is always superb.  My main criticisms are twofold: first, I don't like the blade grind--simple is best; and second, I can't see any reason to buy this knife when the ergonomically superior Sage 2 sells for less with the same or better materials (titanium handle scales instead of aluminum).  

Emerson Micro Commander

What do you get when you combine a vicious blade shape, a heritage of hard use unmatched by any other brand, and a sub 3" inch balde?  One hell of an EDC knife.  The Micro Commander will almost certainly be my first Emerson and it just looks like a home run.  There are very few other baby sized blades that you can beat on like this knife.  And none have the wave opener.

Tom Bihn Cadet

Tom Bihn is a small manufacturer based in Seattle Washington and they make some of the best bags in the world.  They have incredible designs and great materials and attention to detail.  So when they release a minimalist briefcase, people notice.  The Cadet seems to synch up to what I experience everyday--as smartphones become more and more capable there is less of a need to haul tons of stuff around.  Instead, you'd rather have one or two things that work really well and are protected and accessible.  Though I love my Tumi bag, it is just too big for what I carry now--a pen or two, a highlighter, my iPhone, a few client files, a folder of commonly used forms, and one reference book.  If you add a laptop sleeve (Bihn's Cadet Cache) you have a nice laptop briefcase.  The price is high ($170), but you get some of the best materials, best designs, and the conscience assuaging "Made in the USA" label.  They bag even comes in two sizes: 15" and 11".  The 11" almost dares to shed even more unnecessary stuff--the briefcase equivalent of the limbo: how low can you go?   

TT PockeTTool Chopper 

IMG_0007


I just posted a review of this.  It can be found here.  This is one of the finest OPMTs I have ever used, Atwoods included.  An excellent, curvy design allows you easy access to all of the features and yet the tool stays small enough to inhabit your keychain and play nice with others there.  This is all well and good, but in a market where $100 is not that expensive for a single piece of metal, its the price that makes this so interesting.  I am not sure you can spend $26 better when looking for a OPMT.  

JetBeam Raptor RTT-0 XML

If you were to generate a checklist of features on a bespoke flashlight it would look like the features on the RTT-0.

  • CR123A and AA compatible: check
  • Bleeding edge emitter: check
  • Tailstanding: check
  • Output selector ring: check
The only thing missing is a pocket clip though the lanyard holes at the end of the light might be capable of accepting some sort of bolts for a clip.  Still there are few lights as powerful and as easy to use as this one and none that offer the ability to run both of the most common battery types.  

HDS Rotary

The Cult of HDS had something quite significant to crow about this year--the release of a substantially new light.  HDS makes some of the best lights out there--well-designed and built like a bomb shelter, but they were largely emitter upgrades to the venerable Arc4 body.  Well, the Rotary changed all of that.  It still looks something like the Arc4 body, but this is an entirely different beast--like the original VW Bug to the new one.  The 200 lumen emitter is controlled through both a clicky and a selector ring making this one of the highest end light with a selector ring (the Spy series has something like a selector ring, but it works differently) and probably the most expensive light you can actually justify owning.  Rejoice Cult of HDS you have a new super EDC light.  Oh wait, I think you rejoiced too much.  They are sold out everywhere and not predicted to be back in stock until the first quarter of 2012.    

Spyderco Chaparral

It sounded perfect on paper--a 2.5" Spyderco with S30V steel, carbon fiber handles, and super delicious ergos, but alas the fit and finish on the Spyderco Cat and the even smaller Chicago were horrendous.  They were so bad that they were quickly phased out by Spyderco.  About a year later, Sal announced the Chaparral--a knife almost identical to the Cat, with a lockback subbing in for the liner lock.  Otherwise the knife is virtually a clone, but with significantly better fit and finish.  The end result is a slim beauty perfect for EDC.  

4sevens Ti Whistle

I am not a fan of whistles.  I don't think they justify their presence on your keychain.  That said, even I was tempted by these Ti gems.  Atwood whistles for the keychain regularly sell for more than $100, so when these came out at half that price or less, it created a stir.  They are loud, light, and tiny--great for keychain carry.  Not quite great enough for me to add one to my keychain, but if you were even close to sitting on the fence, this had to persuade you.  

Apple iPhone 4S

It is likely to spark massive arguments but from where I sit, the iPhone is the best smartphone out there.  There are tons of apps, many affordably priced, lots of accessories, and the device is just dead simple to use.  But there has been nothing like Siri.  As a person that lives out of their car and works on their phone, the addition of voice search through Siri is a huge plus.  It is things like Siri that make up for the lack of true 4G performance.  In fact, if I had the choice I would take Siri everytime.  

Samsung Galaxy S2

I am an iPhone fanboy, for sure, but even I was tempted by the huge beautiful screen and the thin form factor of the Galaxy S2.  If there was some way to convert all of my iTunes stuff instantly and it was as idiot proof as the iPhone I might consider switching.  If you don't like iPhones, this seems to be the overwhelming choice for Android phones.  It also is interesting for what it presages for 2012--an all out war between Samsung and Apple that hasn't been seen since Coke and Pepsi slugged it out at the Super Bowl during the ads and Michael Jackson's hair caught on fire.  The Galaxy Nexus also looks nice, but is a little to big for me.  

Noodler's AHAB Fountain Pen

Fountain pens are really excellent writing instruments, allowing you to vary the thickness of your stroke and giving your handwritten notes an air of class.  They are, generally speaking, however, expensive and hard to maintain.  The AHAB pen is neither of those things.  It clocks in around $20 and has a removeable, flexible nib that allows for easy switching and cleaning.  It does all of this within the clear confines of a "demonstrator" body (a clear acrylic body designed to highlight the mechanisms inside the pen).

Prometheus MC-18 B by Dark Sucks

IMG_0016


I reviewed this light, here.  It was a revelation.  I have owned more than my fair share of custom lights and this beautiful torch ranks right up there in terms of fit and finish.  The XML is incredibly bright, the 18650 battery lasts forever, and the beam profile is amazing.  People throw the phrase "wall of light" around a lot, but thus far the MC-18 B is the only light I have used that really does make a wall of light.  And this isn't some half wall that gracefully divides your kitchen from the dining room. this is a Great Wall of China wall of light.   

Most Interesting:  HDS Rotary

This was a tough choice.  There were lots of great products out there.  The MC-18 B is really amazing.  The decision by Emerson to make a truly EDC sized knife was a welcome departure from their normally colossal sized knives, but it is the Rotary from HDS that I think deserves all of the attention that it has received.  It seems like it is just about the perfect EDC light, once a clip is made for it.  It has amazing controls and a very nice form factor all with 200 lumens from a standard single CR123a battery.  In the hunt for one light to rule them all, the HDS Rotary is pretty darn close to perfect.

Best Value: TIE Cold Steel Mini Tuff Lite and TT PockeTTool Chopper

Cold Steel has something of a weird reputation.  Mall Ninjas, of course, love the over the top sized blades and ridiculous selection of swords.  Many knife knuts detest their less than useful design principles and obnoxious advertising.  But then some folks really like their price to performance ratio.  The Mini Tuff Lite announced a new Cold Steel, one that makes good knives regardless of size.  And for that, they should be commended.  But the MTL is more than just a milestone on the way to a new Cold Steel, it also happens to be a stellar little blade.  And it squeaks in under $20.  It is hard to say this ISN'T the best value.

But then there is the TT PockeTTool Chopper.  Its market niche is flooded with insanely high priced trinkets, all of which are marked with a certain beautility (beautiful and utility combined, right?).  There are Stellite Mini Sons of Pry Things that sell for $500.  There are Ti bars that sell for $175.  But the Chopper is both innovative, full of beautility, and it is $26.  Finally, it is made not by some mega corp (few OPMT are) but a machinist making a name for himself with good, well made products.  How crazy is that?

What products do you think will have an impact going forward?  Anything I missed?  Anything I shouldn't have bothered mentioning?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Morning EDC

So Santa has long since scurried away and you come downstairs in your sweatpants to a feast for the eyes made of tinsel, ribbon, and multi-colored paper.  There are presents to tear into, things to build, batteries to install, etc.  Your the tool guy in your house.  Your the person people look to when a pair of eyeglasses fall apart or something is jamming the silverware drawer.  It is only natural then, that they turn to you to for a tool to assist with all the festivities.  And like every other day of the year, you want to be prepared.  So what do you carry whilst under the tree?

First, do some research, right?  That's what we do when thinking about things: research.  Here you go: a thread about Christmas morning EDC over at EDCF.  After that you have to do some testing.  If you are like many people Christmas shopping was a primarily online affair.  So you had tons of opportunities to bust open packages with your EDC.  You know from the testing that a small blade is more than enough to tackle most chores.  Then there is the assembly--lots of toys and tools require some assembly, so what about those tasks?  I think it is clear that you should carry a multitool.  They are more people friendly and they can handle a variety of elven tasks.

I have three multitools--a Leatherman PS4, a Skeletool, and the beast, a Leatherman Charge TTi.  All would work beneath the tree, but the Charge would likely pants me, given my attire--sweatpants--and it massive weight.  So the Charge is out.  I think the Skeletool would be fine, but there are times when I wish I had scissors and delicate packages full of cashmere goodies is one of those times, so the Skeletool is out.  That leaves me with what I think is the ideal Christmas morning EDC--the small and versatile PS4.


Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

In case you missed it: ZDP-189 Spyderco Lum Chinese Folder

This is part of a sporadic series on gear that has just been discontinued.  My goal is to tip you off to this stuff while it is still available so you can avoid the massive mark ups that will almost certainly come when this stuff hits eBay years from now.  The subject of commentary today is a beautiful folding knife from Spyderco--the ZDP-189 Lum Chinese Folder.  Here is more information this specific version.  The knife was last produced in 2008.  A check on thefind.com shows no resellers with stock, but there are more than a few forums that have a few for sale at or below the original retail price.

Here is a picture of the knife:

The knife was designed by Bob Lum, a knife designer that passed away in 2007.  His knife designs were uniformly excellent.  He is known for his clean East-meets-West-stylings and the popularization of the tanto blade.  Out of a range of gorgeous blades, the Lum Chinese Folder really stands out.  Its clean, sweeping lines terminate gracefully at one end and at a razor sharp point at the other.  Additionally, when folded, the knife's rear tang does not protrude from the handle, an aesthetic and functional coup-de-grace (note this is the large G-10 version, not the ZDP-189 version):


The Lum Chinese Folder has become a platform for experimentation within Spyderco--a favorite of the hardcore fans and the company itself.  There are more than a half dozen variations--some with amazing Nishijin carbon fiber handles, a few large versions, a pair of blackened versions, a green handled version.  The list is quite long.

Among these, though, the aluminum handled ZDP-189 version stands out.  First, it is the lightest of the Lum's clocking in at a feathery 2.6 ounces.  Second, it has that most amazing of steels--ZDP-189.  These two features on top of what is unquestionably one of the cleanest most elegant blades I have ever seen makes the ZDP-189 Lum Chinese Folder a knife to watch out for while browsing forum boards.  The combination of collector's favorite, amazing steel, and rock solid design means that this may be a chase knife down the line.

A few drawbacks, though.  First, I think the knife is a little too big for EDC use.  It is an exceptionally large blade.  It is not too long, but it is VERY wide.  It is curvy and all so it is not a problem removing it from your pocket, but it does take up a significant portion of your pocket.  Second, all of the regular sized Lum's have a cringe worthy inelegant pocket clip.  It is not so bad as to ruin the appearance of the knife, like, say, the Leafstorm's drunken-pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey clip placement, but it something that does not suit the sophisticated, clean Lum aesthetic.

I always kick myself when I think of the chances I have had to purchase a Caly Jr with Micarta handles.  That is a gorgeous knife and I just blew it.  Now they are impossible to find or if you do find them, incredibly expensive.  I think the Lum ZDP-189 will be one of those knives.  If you can take the width, I'd snag one right now.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Perfect EDC Knife

I have done this for almost a year now and over that time and, in fact, before I started this blog I had long kept in my head a list of features I would want on my perfect knife.  I believe that I have finalized that list (for now).

First, I think that of all the knives I have used, the Spyderco Dragonfly II is just about the perfect size and shape for an EDC blade.  The finger choil is very nice and allows for a full handed grip on a very small blade.  I also like the curved scimitar-like handle.  The length of the blade is just about perfect.  Large enough and with enough belly to do serious EDC work, but not so big as to be intimidating.  I would want something larger in a survival setting or for defense, but for EDC, the Dragonfly II's length is perfect, especially with the choil and hefty jimping.  So start out with the Dragonfly II.

IMG_0006


For blade steel, I would, of course, prefer ZDP-189.  It has outperformed every steel I have tested by a large margin.  It also holds an edge forever.  No real question here.  I have even been impressed with its rust resistance, which is not its selling point, but has been more than acceptable thus far.

As you can see, these two things get me to the ZDP-189 Dragonfly II, one of only two knives I have ever given a perfect 20/20 (the other was the Sebenza).

The thumb hole is my preferred method of deployment, keeping the thumb pad inside the hole is an almost effortless task, making deployment smooth and easy.  I could also be persuaded that a flipper is the way to go, especially with IKBS in the pivot.  Here is a shot of the guts of an IKBS pivot:

 
I have handled a few IKBS knives, one a custom and the other a CRKT Ripple, and both were stunningly smooth and very rigid.  If I could I would add that to the pivot.  If it pushed the weight beyond 2.5 ounces, though I would drop it.  Weight is more important than a smooth pivot.   

As for handle materials, I am not planning on butchering a cow, so texture is not so important.  I like the look and feel of smooth carbon fiber, and jimping on the spine and the finger choil compensate for the loss in grip.  It is really the weight that I like about carbon fiber.  That and the sweet pattern.  If I could I would opt for the Nishijin pattern carbon fiber found on a few Spydercos.  Here is a shot of it on the upcoming Spyderco R:


A couple of knives already have used this, most prominently the Spyderco Lum Chinese Folder.  Even cooler looks and still a tough featherweight.  If the weight savings is not that great (the Aluminum handled Lum is 2.6 oz while the Nishijin is 3.0 oz, but they have different steels, so I am not positive it is all in the handle) then I'd opt for white G-10.  There was already a white Dragonfly for the Air and Space Museum and it was gorgeous:

That color with the new bi-directional texturing would be awesome and we know that it is very light.   

I like the wire pocket clip a great deal, but I don't like the shiny coating.  I would prefer a gray colored wire with a matte finish.  I have found that the gray Sebenza clip just disappears on almost all fabric, so that color would be ideal.

For a lock, I'd really like an Axis lock, but that is probably not possible due to patent issues.  Absent that I'd like a Compression Lock but that would require liners and I want this knife to be light.  Given all of those restrictions I'd probably just keep the lockback as I have had no problems with it and it is plenty strong for EDC tasks.  

Other nice touches I would include are a piped lanyard hole, which looks nice and adds a bit of function.  I would also like a rounded spine like on the Sebenza.  This adds a great deal of function as it makes the knife easier to extract and nicer to handle when it is in your pocket.

So there you have it.   My ideal knife would be a Spyderco Dragonfly II with Nishijin carbon fiber handle scales, an IKBS pivot, a piped lanyard hole, a rounded spine, and a matte gray wire deep carry pocket clip.  I'd love the whole thing to come in around 2 ounces, but I think the IKBS pivot adds a bit of weight.  If it were 2.25 ounces I'd be thrilled.  I would imagine all of this would cost a pretty penny, something like $150.

Mr. Sal Glesser, thank you for your attention to this matter.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Difficulties in the Review process

I am working two reviews of two very different things right now--the Leatherman Charge TTi and the Spydero Lava. Both have encountered difficulties.

The Charge is a beast of a tool.  It is not for the faint of heart or those that don't wear belts.  It is massive, complex, intricate, and awesome.  But with 19 tools, two carry options, and lots of uses, testing it is difficult.  Multitools, by there very nature, are hard to test, absent some contrived circumstances.  I mean, really, when I am going to use the eye glass screwdriver?  I don't where glasses of any kind.  I did actually use it to tighten the pivot screw on a knife, but other than that, I am not terribly sure when it will come up.  And other tools have been equally dormant, including the tool I dislike the most on multitools--a can opener.  But this is a tool that deserves the attention and so instead of rushing out a review of a tool half-used, I thought I would take some extra time.  So that is why there is no Charge review.

The reason for a lack of a review for the Lava is different.  I craved this little knife.  I liked the design, the unorthodox blade shape, and the melted to the hand look.  It was, as I detailed here, a quest item.  But when I ran it through the tests and normal carry I do with each blade I hated it.  Not like, "Oh, it could be better," but like "I am throwing this piece of shit away."  I could not square my gut feeling about how it works with its design heritage.  I figured that I was not using it correctly or appreciating its subtle design.  So, instead of a knee jerk reaction, I decided to put it away for a month and then carry it again.  I have never done this before in any of the 42 previous reviews (in one year, how about that?), but this is a truly beloved knife.  See this thread/review.  But I figured two things: 1) Spyderco's consistent high quality means that I should give them the benefit of the doubt and try again; and 2) the knife's insanely devoted following deserves a bit of respect.  So, I am testing the Lava again.

Bear with me, I am also working on a end of year post.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

TT PockeTTools Chopper Review

I am always on the lookout for good tools, whether they are woodworking tools, gear, or electronics gadgets.  Wandering the rows of deals at the Brimfield Antiques Show is really amazing.  I know it sounds awful, but really it is not.  All of the tools and furniture speak to the woodworker in me.  I love the understated beauty and design of a nice Windsor chair.  100-150 year old hand planes are everywhere, some in pristine shape, but more interestingly some are aged with a blanket of rust and wear, showing where someone's hand fit elegantly into the body of the tool.  These tools, these rusted ones, are a few steps away from reclaiming their former glory.  In the hands of someone that knows what they are doing, these rusted tools can be redeemed and restored to impeccable shape.  Many of them are peers or superiors to the tools today because even though they are fifteen decades old, great design never goes bad.

And so it is today--good designs, simple fundamentally pleasing to use designs will never get outdated.  The Parker Jotter is a cheap pen, but it works very well and so fifty plus years after it was first sold, it is still selling well.  And with the one piece multitool, I think good design will win out over tons of features and fancy materials.  Atwood's best designs, in my opinion, are his simplest.  TT PockeTTool's Chopper is just such a design.  It is small, simple, and elegant.

Here is the product page.  I can find no reviews, written or video, of the product.  It is not sold at Amazon, available only through the TT PockeTTool websiteHere is a good post comparing and contrasting all of the TT PockeTTool offers with photos of the TT tools and Atwood tools for scale.  After a few posts about his tools I contacted Todd, the designer and maker being TT PockeTTools and asked him if I could borrow a Chopper for review.  Todd obliged and sent me one.  I have used it for daily tasks for about two weeks, then returned it.  Here is a picture of the Chopper:

IMG_0007

Design: 2

The Chopper is compact, but with curves in the right places, it is easy to get a good grip on the tool.  It is also covered in jimping.  There is fine jimping on the bottom, medium on the top of the bottle opener, and heavy on the rear of the tool.  The thickness of the metal used is an aid in two functions (prying and bottle opening) as well as lending the Chopper a very solid, stout feel.  Even the design choice of leaving most of the body as rough bar stock texture is a good one--it gives the tool a nice look and a bit of extra grip.  The size and weight of the tool are ideal.  Finally, it looks different from many of the tools out there, varying or outright doing away with some of the also-ran design choices exhibited in many OPMTs (compare the "homage" look of the Gerber Shard and the Atwood Prybaby--there are a lot of similarities).  All of this is nice, but it is the innovative "snag edge" box cutter that really cements this tool as a home run.  Here is a shot of the "snag edge":
 
IMG_0020

It is not sharp enough to puncture skin (absent excessive force), but it is sharp enough to cut boxes and tape with ease.  It is a GREAT addition to the suite of tools found on OPMTs.  I am not sure if TT PockeTTools or Pocket Tool X's Brewzer was first with this "snag edge" but either way it is a nice, new and useful design. 

Fit and Finish: 2

The rough bar stock texture is nice, the edges are crisp without being sharp and the two grind faces (the snag edge box cutter and the pry tip) are even and well done.  The jimping, in all three forms, is very purposeful and well cut.

Theme: 2

One of things with these OPMTs is that they have become far too large to carry on your keychain.  The Pocket Tool X Piranha is positively massive, at almost 4 inches long (3.875 inches to be exact).  Many of Peter's tools are bigger than the average key.  But the Chopper is tiny.  This is a huge plus for a OPMT as it allows it to live on your keychain and always be at your side.  The addition of the snag edge is great--it takes the place of your "pokey key", you know, the one you use to open things when you forget a pocket knife.  In addition to the size and the snag edge, the Chopper also has a very large (thankfully) lanyard hole to make easy riding on a keychain.  Its thickness means that you have to use the included paracord lanyard if you use the dreaded split ring, but if you don't.  If you use a coated mechanic's cable, like I do, it works flawlessly.  Everything works very, very well with the keychain theme.

Grip: 2

This is the Chopper's forte.  It reminded me of the first time I used the Mini Grip. I was sort of shocked at all of the jimping.  It seemed a little overboard.  Then I fell in love with the grippiness and I have never looked at the Mini Grip the same way since.  This is the Mini Grip of OPMT's.  It is COVERED in jimping.  This, plus the strategically placed curves, mean you almost have to try to lose your grip.  Even the Chopper's small size can't dent how nice this tool is in the hand.  A masterstroke of design.  

Carry: 2

The two options--lanyard or massive hole in the middle--make this is flexible tool and easy to use, even on the keychain.  Great. 

Materials: 2

S30V and a massive slab of it serve as the steel of choice for the tool.  The Chopper is almost comically thick, as its thickness when compared to its length makes it look a little fat.  Here is a shot of the Chopper next to my RD-7 (3/16" thick blade):

IMG_0012

The Chopper dwarfs even my survival blade's thickness.  Great materials and lots of it.  

Deployment/Accessibility: 2

All of the tools are accessible.  You have to flip things around to get a really good grip for the bottle opener and you are better off using the snag edge when the tool is off the keychain (though it is definitely still useable otherwise).  That said, nothing doesn't work.  In fact, again the curves and the jimping make any grip comfy and all the tools very useful.  

Retention Method: 2

Two options mean you have no excuse not to carry this on your keychain. The lanyard is the standard paracord lanyard. 

IMG_0010

The box wrench hole doubles as a pass through for other material and it was great on my coated cable keychain.  

Tool Selection: 2

I thought long and hard about this score.  I would like a Phillips driver on every OPMT.  That said, this complement of tools is very nice.  I think I might even trade the Phillips driver for the snag edge.  It is really, really handy.  But how can something get a 2 when there is a clear omission?  It comes down to just how handy the snag edge is.  Its funny, I thought I would hate it, but by the end of my testing it was my favorite tool on the Chopper.  Great tool selection, even with one omission.  

Tool Performance: 2

I would give the Chopper a 3 if I could.  This thing just sings at doing work.  It does everything very well.  The pry is useful.  The box wrench is as useful as a box wrench can be.  The snag edge is freaking great.  The bottle opener is nice, though not as good as the bottle opener on the Shard.  

Overall Score: 20out of 20

TT PockeTTools hit a home run on their first swing.  At $26, this is a no-brainer.  If you don't own a Shard and want something nicer, but can't seem to get an Atwood, this is a great buy.  In fact, even if you own an Atwood, the Chopper is more than worth a look.  This is an amazing tool folks.  It works well and speaks highly of the power of good design.  Who knows, maybe in 150 years, someone will find one of these at the Brimfield Antiques Show. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

New Ti Lights

Flashlights and Titanium go together like peanut butter and jelly, ketchup and mustard, porn and the Internet...you get the idea.  But the cost of machining lights out of titanium is prohibitively high.  Ti is usually the medium of a custom maker.  But a few companies of jumped into the Ti fray.  JetBeam released the TC-R2 (and other, smaller run Ti lights), Sunwayman released the V10R Ti.  4sevens has a series of Ti lights, many of which are out of production.

But a new company has thrown their hat into the Ti arena and the results are really promising.  Eagletac announced that they are doing special versions of their D25 series in all titanium.  This is a pretty cool deal.  The D25 line looked impressive to begin with: a simple UI (twisty, three main outputs with hidden SOS), a bolted on clip, and the ability to tailstand.  The form factor is excellent.  But then there is the bleeding edge emitters (XMLs) with awesome output.  These aren't fakey numbers either, they are using ANSI lumen standards (a more controlled form of measuring lumens).  Both the single cell CR123a and AA lights are among the best in their class in terms of output and runtime.  Even without the titanium, these are bitchin' lights. 

But with the titanium...ahhhh!  Sublime.  Here is a shot of the D25A Mini Ti (the CR123a light):


That is one good looking light.  The price is not too bad either--around $65.  All in all, I think this is a good light to spend some of your Christmas cash on.  There is an older S2 emitter out there, so be careful (not that it really matters, but I know I'd rather have the XML if I had the choice). 

As I was writing this I was talking to my wife, a chemistry professor.  She knows her elements, right?  So I told her: "You know, there are people out there that really like Titanium".  Her response?  "You know, you are one of them, right?"

Yes.  I admit it.  I have a problem.  I love Titanium. 

Then she threw down the gauntlet.  Titanium is nothing really.  Silver, eh...Gold, well okay, but nothing special. 

"You really want a rare metal to fashion into a flashlight," she says to me, "get one made out of Rhodium, then I will be impressed."

Rhodium, FYI, is a super inert version of platinum.  Only rarer, more useful, and vastly more expensive.  It is by far, the most expensive metal (as of 2010, it is roughly $88K a kilogram while gold was $36K).  So, Photon Fanatic, how about it?  An all rhodium light. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Do You Still Need a Flashlight?

We all browse Bernard's great site and take a gander at what other people are carrying.  One trend I have noticed is the number of people that use their smartphone as their flashlight.  So, in this day and age, where the smartphone can take the place of your credit card and buy you a cup of coffee, is it necessary to carry a separate flashlight at all?

There are lots of quippy answers to this question.  There is a 100% chance of darkness everyday, after all.  But really, do you need a flashlight?  How about an even more pointed question: with very good flashlight apps (I recommend the easy to use: Flashlight.) on smartphones do you still need a standalone flashlight?

Before I throw out my opinion let me say this:  I am not sure there is any reason to EDC a multi-cell light anymore.  Lots and lots of makers, custom and production, have ratcheted up performance on single cell lights that the bulk and extra output/runtime on multi-cell lights does not make up for the increased size and weight.  In an EDC role, peeking under tables for dropped keys in a restaurant, or carrying the trash to the corner, there is no real practical reason for something that puts out more than 200 lumens.  And now we have a range of single cell lights that can do that: the Incendio and the MiNi Quark 123 to name a few I have looked at here.  More than 200 lumens in close quarters is more likely to blind you than help you.  Also, some of the lights out there have insanely long runtimes (I just switched over to battery #4 for my 18 month Muyshondt Aeon).  So I think a good case can be made that you don't really need a multi-cell light for your average, run of the mill EDC use.

But this still doesn't answer the question about whether you need a light in general.  I think the answer, even with the advent of the great smartphone flashlight apps, is still yes. The flashlight app functions sort of like a Photon keychain light.  Most use the smartphone's built in flash as a flashlight.  Some of the older, less powerful versions, use the smartphone's screen backlight as the light source.  I prefer the flash versions.  It works well illuminating hallways on the way to a bathroom in the middle of the night and it does a great job of finding the door knob on dark evenings.  But really, that is it.  If you have to go see what is outside in the middle of the night or you want to light up an entire room with a ceiling bounce, the flashlight app is not going to help you.  Additionally they are battery guzzlers.  In situations where you need your light, say in a power outage, for example, it is probably not that good to drain your cellphone's battery by using it as a flashlight. 

At this point, I cannot see why you'd opt for only a smartphone flashlight app over, say, an Aeon or the MiNi Quark 123.  The size and weight of the light are negligible.  Check out how tiny the Aeon really is, next to a AA cell and a CR2 cell:

IMG_0001


The performance of either of these lights is quite impressive.  And the cost, well, for the MiNi, its is a few stops at Subway more than the flashlight app.  But it can meet 90-95% of your daily illumination needs.  A flashlight app can't do that.  It is better than nothing, but as LED tech becomes better and lights get smaller, I can't see a reason to consolidate yet another gadget into your smartphone.

I have one of these flashlight apps, and it works well, but it functions only as a back up, only in a pinch.  And if you can afford a smartphone, I can't see how $40 for a MiNi Quark is going to break you.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Buying Custom Gear

So you have scoured the Internet and saved your pennies for an expensive production light and when you receive it you are still disappointed by the quality.  Or you have been looking for that unusual pocket knife and you finally found one only to have a buddy buy the same one at the same time.  It might be time to step up to some custom gear.  Hopefully I can give you a little primer on what to look for and what to avoid as a consumer looking to buy custom gear.

The Internet's ability to allow a person to reach customers instantly all over the world and to gather people with similar, uncommon interests ("There are other people like you that collect flashlights?  Really?") has been a boon to custom gear makers.  Additionally, the commoditization of goods including knives, flashlights, watches, pens, and other gear means that people are willing to pay more for that piece of custom craftsmanship.

I have entered into about a half dozen transactions with custom makers.  Some of them were great (McGizmo) and some were not (Lummi).  Most were somewhere in the middle.  I am not going to highlight specific people (other than that reference right there) but I feel confident in my determinations after six or seven different experience.  Of course your mileage may vary.  It may even vary with the same custom maker.  These people are not machines, they are craftsmen and if you want quality you have to pay and you have to wait.  That means there is a lot of variability in this whole thing.


Here are some tips to buying custom gear:

1.  Check Reputation

There are places where you can find out about a particular custom maker's reputation.  Forums are really helpful in this respect.  There are tons of folks out there that have tons of gear, custom included.  Forums allow you to interact with people that have the very best stuff in the world.  In addition to all of the forums listed on the "Resources" page, another place to look are forums specifically for custom gear.  Here are a two:

Custom Guns and Knives
JerzeeDevil Forums (be careful at work, some posts are NSFW)

You can find a lot of custom stuff on both of the knife forums (bladeforums.com and knifeforums.com).  YouTube is also a good source of information on custom gear.  It also gives you a chance to see the stuff in someone's hand to get a sense of size and dimension.

In the best of all worlds you can go to a store or a show and see a custom maker's stuff.  Where I am, in New England, this is virtually impossible.   How awesome would it be to get this in your hands to check out:



One big caveat in this whole reputation check, is post-purchase rationalization, a commitment to one's previous decisions, even if they are wrong.  If you drop a grand on a knife, it may be hard to see it's flaws. 

2.  Email, Email, Email

The more sophisticated folks have a good website that is up to date.  That doesn't necessarily mean that a good website equals good gear.  Plenty of great and talented makers have lots of skill at the lathe or grinding wheel but not so much at the computer.  McGizmo's main storefront is a sub-forum on CPF and he is, without question, the best custom maker I have ever dealt with--quick, on-time, and superb products.  This is what awaits you:



If they return your email promptly it is likely they will be more professional and deliver the goods as promised and on time.  There is always a chance that bespoke goods will take a bit longer to make than predicted and this is when email is handy.  If you have to hound them for updates, it is not a good sign.  They should be sending you regular updates.  I don't mean daily stuff, but when the order with Lummi went south it was weeks after the delivery date before I could get a real response.  That's not the way to do business no matter what your selling.

3.  Make a detailed "contract" or want list

Very few folks will make something to your specifications.  And really you probably don't want that to happen.  Your sketch on the back of a napkin may be impossible to convert to reality.  It may also be more difficult than worthwhile to implement.  If, however, the maker willing to indulge you then make a specific list of what you want.  The more specific the better.

If you are picking from their pre-existing designs, it doesn't hurt to be specific either.  There are usually options and upgrades available and the more specific the better.  If you want wood handles, ask for pictures of various pieces.  If you can, pick out the wood grain you like best, for example.  You might want to grab the piece that looks like this:



If you can get custom anodizing, see a sample of a pattern beforehand.  Ask about details if there are options.

4.  Save your pennies

There is no such thing as "cheap" custom gear.  It is all expensive.  Even slabs of metal without moving parts are expensive.  Most makers will want some sort of upfront deposit, to cover materials in the first instance.  Many will require entire payments up front.  When the prices easily hit four digits, plan on buying gear months if not a year later.    

5.  Wait patiently

Along with the wait for saving up money, prepare to wait once you have paid.  This stuff wouldn't be so sought after if it wasn't amazing.  And it wouldn't be amazing if it were quick and easy to make.  Yuna Knives has an excellent estimated delivery policy.  It would be great if you could just order a custom product and have it delivered, but that is unlikely.  Again, McGizmo usually only posts what he has on hand, but few custom makers have so established a business that they can make multiples of a given item with confidence that they will sell.  That much unaccounted for expense is hard to deal with for small scale folks.  So in most instances it is a waiting game.  And as was said before, be prepared for unforeseen delays.  It is likely they will happen and it is what takes place AFTER that that matters.  If the maker is prompt and makes contact soon that is a good sign.  If you get radio or email silence, that is a bad sign.  

6.  Use Paypal

Paypal is amazing.  You know that.  But what you might not know is that there dispute resolution system is superb.  I have had the unfortunate opportunity to use it once and it worked perfectly.  It gives you so much confidence in buying.  It cuts through all of the legal baloney of dealing with people over state lines and overseas.  I am very pleased with Paypal and their insurance is worth the money.  Nothing else I have found on the Internet offers the ease of use and power of Paypal.  If the custom maker doesn't take Paypal, move on unless there is a VERY good reason to not worry about wonky transactions.

7.  Go to the head of the line

One way to skip the agonizing wait for a custom piece of gear is to go to a custom gear reseller.  There are a host of sites that sell custom knives.  Here are a few with larger collections for sale:

Blade HQ
True North Knives
Plaza Cutlery
Steel Addiction
Knife Art

These sites offer custom knives, at a reasonable price, and offer them for immediate delivery, something that custom makers can't usually pull off.  These sites buy knives from makers, usually at shows, and then resell them for a slightly higher price to customers.  The maker ensures that his products will be sold, the resellers ensure a stock of unique and high quality products, and the customer gets to skip the wait.  You have some selection but not a ton.  You can't, for example, ask for a modified version of a knife you see.  What you see is what you get.

For flashlights, it is a bit more difficult to find resellers.  A reliable place for custom stuff is the B/S/T forum of CPF, found here.  Aside from that, there is little else out there that offers custom lights.  One interesting trend is the combination of high end production lights and custom mods, found at True North Knives.  There LensLight and Starlingear have combined to make some unique looking lights.  You can find more about them here.  They are not my thing, but I can see why people would like them.  They are definitely different. 

There is some really spectacular custom gear out there and the Internet makes it possible for us to have access to unprecedented levels of quality.  You pay for it.  You'll wait for it.  But it is worth it.  My Haiku convinced me.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

OKC Ranger Bush Series RD-7 Review

NOTE: I am not going to review the RD-7 in sense of applying the 20 point scale.  I haven't owned enough fixed blade knives (two exactly, a Cold Steel Recon Tanto in college and the RD-7) to know what to look for in a bunch of specific criteria.  Instead, I am going to give you my feedback on the knife in a more free form way.

About a month before my RD-7 arrived New England was hit with a bizarre October snowstorm.  The storm dumped about a foot of thick, wet heavy snow around my house bending a few branches and breaking some more.  We cleaned up, but it was the spur for me to get serious about a survival pack.  I wanted to have the pack equipped with a large knife.  The research I did was subject of three articles, the "Going Through the Process" series, found here, here, and here.  After the snowstorm we had some of the trees trimmed back and the remainders were left on the front yard for me to deal with.  I have a pretty nice axe and a stump to split wood on along with a very good system for processing wood, but the RD-7 came along for some chopping and testing.

For a bit of explanation I am going to go a little wood nerd on you, but just a little.  All the wood I cut was green (as in "freshly cut") red oak that had been cut from the tree two days before my testing.  I processed it for firewood to use in the fireplace we have on the first floor of my house.  Red oak, if you don't already know, is a tough, open grain hardwood with a very high specific gravity (kiln dried it is .71, wet it is .95, yikes!).  Many of the YouTube videos that show people splitting or chopping wood with a knife show them using lesser woods, evergreens, poplar, and the like (the linked video looks like dry pine, which is practically styrofoam when compared to wet red oak).  These are good tests, no doubt, but oak, especially wet oak is a brutal test on a knife.  Among common North American hardwoods only hickory is a better (i.e. more challenging) test.  Oak has two things going for it--first, it is very dense (as you can see by the measure of specific gravity, which is not density per se, but a good approximation of it).  Second, it is very fibrous.  Think of it like this: a potato and a steak may have a similar density, but the muscle fibers in the steak make tearing it apart to eat it more difficult than tearing apart the potato.  Oak is like a very stringy piece of beef while pine, poplar, and even the very dense maple are close grain woods and thus more like a potato.  This is a long way of saying that red oak is a very good testing medium.  It is not terribly practical because you are never going to try to tackle an oak with just a knife in the wilderness, they are just too big and too tough, but I figured if the RD-7 could handle very green oak, it could handle most anything else.    

Here is the product page, though I will forewarn you: it is terrible. OKC's entire site is disorganized, hard to use, an uninformative.  The specs don't even include the blade steel.  The Knifecenter page (next link) is better and the steel appears to be 5160.  I paid $49.95 plus shipping for my RD-7.  Unfortunately, the Black Friday Special sale price is significantly lower than the next closest price now.   Here is a representative street price (even thefind.com could find nothing cheaper than $88).  There are no reviews, written or video, that I could find, but here is some good feedback on knifeforum.  I got my RD-7 at Chestnut Ridge Knife Shop and it was a great transaction--fast and easy to make online. 

The knife is large and solid in the hand, with 3/16" thick 5160 steel, a 7.5" blade and a 5" handle.  It is full flat ground (yipee!).  The knife is a full tang knife with a tang pommel.  The micarta scales are nicely finished, though I noticed they were flush with the top of the tang, but not the bottom (not that the bottom matters all that much).  They are also a bit square.  The sheath is a nylon sheath with a plastic scabbard insert.  It is MOLLE compatible, but not all of that good at retaining the knife.  The knife can and does move around a good bit.  I may upgrade to a custom sheath, maybe even one from Chestnut Ridge, down the line.  Mine was gray powder coated and the coating was even and nice.  The edge was surprisingly immaculate given the knife's role as a chopper, and was razor sharp.  It could push cut paper when I received it.

My first test was to cut a dead branch off of a larger limb.  The branch was dry and around 2-2.5" thick.  I used alternate direction swings while chopping and the knife produced what could only be described as a fountain of wood chips. The limb came off in about a minute.  The knife did produce a few hot spots on the hand, especially on the top of the handle slabs as they are, as mentioned before, a bit square.  Here is the result of the chopping test:

IMG_0011

The limb was completely severed and the chip shower produced a lot of good kindling pieces.  Here the weight of the blade, which is quite substantial, really helped power the cuts.  Switching directions and taking an aggressive hack was easy.  Overall, very good at chopping.  And since that was the reason I originally bought the knife, I am pleased with the purchase.

After the chopping test, I decided to try batoning the knife through a more substantial piece of wood around 3.5" in diameter.  I cut it into a manageable 18" long piece with a bow saw.  Here is a good shot of the wood put back together to demonstrate its size.

IMG_0007

If that is the "before" then here is the "after":

IMG_0008

There is significant debate over the utility of batoning wood.  Whatever side you fall on, however, it cannot be ignored as a way to stress test a fixed blade knife.  I set the blade into the top of the log with a gentle swing.  A few knocks from another piece of wood put the RD-7 deep into the log.  After I pushed the blade spine below the surface of the log I used the protruding portion of the blade to continue the process.  I took probably ten or fifteen whacks, a few on the handle side, but the majority on the tip side, and the wood came apart.  The knot you see above was probably 80% of the work.  Overall, batoning is slow compared to splitting wood with an axe or a maul.  Over the years I have become pretty decent at splitting wood, not like "North Woods Lumberjack" good, but I can split just about any piece under 8" in diameter with one or two swings.  I would have probably split 5 to 8 pieces of wood in the time it took me to baton this one piece.

Here is my take on batoning.  Batoning is convenient.  You can do it in a smaller space.  It takes less skill and effort.  You are less likely to injure yourself with an axe deflection or flying piece of wood.  It also allows you to tackle smaller pieces of wood, which is an advantage.  It means that you don't have to cut down massive limbs to start a fire of build a shelter.  With an axe, at least at my skill level, a piece smaller than 2" in diameter is hard to split, but when batoning that is no problem.  I think batoning is a valuable skill to have, but not an essential one.  I like the ease, lack of skill, and low energy exertion of the process compared to splitting wood with an axe.  I also like the ability to process less than ideal sizes of wood.  Finally, an axe or maul is not a practical tool to carry with you in a survival pack while a knife the size of the RD-7 is perfect for such a kit. 

The RD-7 handled this test with ease.  The blade sunk into the wood and I could hear cracks and snaps as the limb's internal tension was released by the splitting action of the RD-7's blade.  I would have taken another inch or two on the blade to make strikes easier, but it was not a big issue.  Again, the weight of the blade helped out tremendously.

Batoning wet red oak is brutal on the edge of the knife.  After chopping, the edge was fine.  Not pushing paper sharp, but still fine.  After batoning though, it was all but done.  The middle portion of the blade was dull while the tip and the portion near the handle were sharp.  Fortunately 5160 steel sharpens easily and a few strokes on the Sharpmaker brought it back to a razor's edge.    

IMG_0005

The knife performed very, very well.  After sharpening it I gave a bath in WD-40 and cleaned it up.  There was no chipping of the secondary bevel.  The coating is still entirely intact though a bit discolored.  The handles are nice, but a bit square.  The size, weight, and shape of the blade are excellent.  When batoning I would opt for a slightly longer blade than 7.5" but it is still plenty long and anything longer is more of hassle to carry.  The knife is big enough to do a lot of things and still small enough to control in precision cuts.

At $49.95 this knife is a shockingly good value.  It feels like larceny.  Unfortunately, that seems like a once a year price.  At $88.95 it is still a good deal, but not the screamer it is at the lower price.  I would probably opt for a BK-7 if I had to pay full price for this knife.  Still, this is a choice between two great blades.  As a fixed blade, I am more than pleased with the RD-7.   The sheath stinks, but I am not too worried about that as replacements are readily available (for around $45) and it works for my purposes right now.  Sanding the handle slabs to be a little rounded would also be good, but that is a matter of preference.  Without the twenty point scale to work with I am not sure how to summarize this product.  It feels like the same level of quality, design, and fit and finish as a knife I would score as an 18, but that is just a guess and horribly unsystematic.

One caveat though when you buy this knife:  the temptation to go on a chopping spree, felling limbs and small trees, is overwhelming and will make you look nuts.  I had the excuse of clearing branches to make me look slightly less crazy, but the urge is irresistible and giving in is tremendously fun.  I went chopping, slashing, and hacking nuts after the two "formal" tests and it was a blast.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

New Spydercos

It looks like EDCF is down, so while we are all moping around, I thought I'd cheer everyone up with a peek at the new Spydercos.

So the first look at new Spydercos with pricing information is out.  BladeHQ, one of my favorite knife sites (excellent selection and service with not too bad pricing) has a bunch of new Spydies up for viewing, here.

There is, of course, the much anticipated Spyderco Techno, which at $191, is a pricey small knife.  It does have Ti handle slabs, a framelock, and it uses the very well regarded Carpenter CTS-XHP steel.  According to Sal Glesser, the XHP steel functions like D2 but is significantly more rust resistant.  This is a gorgeous knife and the first Spyderco collaboration with a Polish designer.

Then there is the stealth entry in this group, a knife I could find very little information about, the Spyderco R Nishijin.  It looks like a fancied up Endura with a finger choil.  I can't find the price or the steel, so you'll just have to keep your eyes open.

Then there is what I think is the most interesting of these new knives, the Sage 4.  It is has a Ti bolster and DESERT IRONWOOD handles.  Of all the natural materials out there, Desert Ironwood has to be my favorite.  It polishes up to a beautiful finish, it is smooth, and the grain pattern is gorgeous.  This Sage honors the mid spine lockback of Al Mar's design.  The knife is $194 and uses S30V steel.   Here is a picture from Blade HQ (this is the only image on the net right now, so I apologize for the BladeHQ background, but they are decent folks, so I don't care if this is a bit of advertising):

There are a bunch of other cool knifes--a new Gayle Bradley, a range of fixed blades, including a traditional Northern European knife, the Puuko, and a blackened Tenacious.

My favorite though has to be the new Sprint Run Jester.  I have wanted the Jester to come back for ages.  It is a superior design when compared to the similarly sized Ladybug.  And now it is back.  It has VG-10 steel, a gray G-10 handle, and a piped lanyard hole.  It will clock in around $65.

All these new Spydercos, some we had not even heard of prior to BladeHQ's postings, make me so excited.  I am like a kid at Christmas time.  Oh wait, I AM a kid at Christmas time (well, a 34 year old kid).  

Monday, December 5, 2011

Winner and New Contest

Well, it is December 5th and as promised, I have selected, at random (or random enough for my purposes), the winner.

Erik Bickel is the winner.

Erik contact me at anthonysculimbrene at comcast dot net.  I sent you a message via Google, but just in case, I am posting it here too.  The Inkleaf Moleskine Cover will go out to him tomorrow.  

I really want to give a big shout out and thanks to Inkleaf Leather.  The cover was beautiful and a great product to give away.  Check out their entirely handmade stuff. 

So, with that done, it is time to announce the next contest.  I plan on having the give away ready March.  As the site has developed over the past year I have made a few aesthetic changes that I really think made the site easier to use, but I am still lacking a logo.  I'd like a logo that somehow incorporates the name of the site.  And here is where the contest comes in: you design the logo and send it to me in a JPG format image.  Ideally I'd like it a banner-style logo, to use as the banner above, but that is not a requirement.  You may enter as many times as you want but only if each entry is a unique logo.  Since this takes a bit of work on your part so I am announcing the contest well before the March giveaway.  Hopefully a few Photoshop masters will send me a logo made over the Christmas break.   

In March, around the time of the site's one year anniversary, I will announce the winner (technically I started this in February, but March synches better with the adsense revenue).  That person will win a custom Benchmade Mini Griptillian with a thumb hole opener and S30V steel (using the "customize a Griptillian feature from Benchmade).  It is basically a 555hg with better steel.  As you remember I really, really liked the Mini Grip 555hg.  The winning logo will be laser etched into the blade.  It seems like the perfect give away--a very nice EDC blade with great steel, lock, and opening mechanism.  I am still figuring out the color details, like the color of the blade and the handles (i.e. black oxide or satin finish, I prefer satin, but black oxide looks really cool with the dark blue handles).  Let me know in the comments what you'd prefer and I will take that into consideration when ordering the knife.

This is being paid for with the site's ad revenue and right now we are at about $73 (in this case, I am going to plug the ads, which normally I could give a shit about, seeing as it lets me give you stuff sooner, so CLICK those ads).  I can withdraw the funds at $100.  Once I have that much in the account I will withdraw it order the Mini Grip (which is $135 as I want it configured).  I imagine that will be some time in January or February.   

Here are the official rules:

1.  Only submissions in a reasonable sized JPG format will be accepted (banner style preferred).

2.  The logo must contain or reference the name of the site "Everyday Commentary"

3.  You may enter as many times as you want, so long as each entry is unique (no palette swaps).

4.  All logo entries become my property to do with them as I want once submitted.

5.  I will choose the logo I like best and that will be the winner, no random choice this time.

6.  Entries will be accepted from now until March 1st.  The winner will be announced on March 15th.

7.  I can change the rules at any time.  I won't in a major way, but I say this in case I forget something or a detail I can't work on before doesn't work (like the JPG format, for instance).

[UPDATED RULE] 8.  Use the subject line "Logo" in the email. 

Spread the word about the contest.  The more entries the better. 

Send all entries in a reasonable sized JPG format to: anthonysculimbrene at comcast dot net

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Going Through the Process, Part III: Final Selection

At this point I have the list of large fixed blade knives down to four choices:

1.  The Kabar Becker BK7
2.  The Ontario Gen II SP42
3.  The Cold Steel SRK in Stainless Steel
4.  The Cold Steel Leatherneck

The list from Part II was modified for a few reasons.  First, I realized that while it would be nice to have a top of the line fixed blade, I am just not going to use this thing enough to justify the costs of a Busse.  They are spectacular knives, no doubt, but I am not enough an outdoorsman at this point in my life, with a little guy to watch after, that it makes sense.  When he gets older and we start doing more serious outdoor adventures, maybe I will revisit the idea of acquiring a Busse.  The other thing is this--while the Boss Jack is a great knife, I really want a Busse Battlemistress.



If I am going to lay out this much money for a knife, around $350 (knife and sheath are sold separately) I want to get exactly what I want, not something close to what I want.  I learned this lesson the hard way with the Sebenza purchase.  I bought a bunch of "Sebenza like" knives before I bought the Sebeneza.  It seems funny to say this, but saving up and just buying the EXACT thing I wanted would have saved me a ton of dough.  So, no Boss Jack.

I also switched the order of the Cold Steel knives.  The thinking here is pretty simple.  Both are in the price range and while the Leatherneck is about 3/4" longer in the blade, both are still long enough.  If I can get stainless steel it just might be worth it.  This knife is probably going to do a lot of sitting in my car, waiting for an emergency.  As such, a little stain resistance would be very nice.  The price difference is not all that great, given what you are gaining: $102 for the Stainless SRK and  $55 for the Leatherneck. 

So with the candidates chosen, I started doing some research.  I have watched a ton of videos on each knife, though there are few out there are on the SP42.  In that case I watched other videos from the Gen II series.  I think that video reviews are really helpful at seeing the actual size of things.  It is hard to imagine, even with a tape measure nearby, how large these knives are.  It is also hard to see them in action.  I live in a place where it is virtually impossible to see knives in person, outside of a random gun/knife show (and even those have dried up).  Videos help fill that gap.

All of these knives meet my criteria laid out in the first post, so now I make a list of things that are pluses.  I do this with cars all of the time, both for me and my friends (I love buying cars so I have helped three coworkers buy cars, negotiating for/with them and giving them my "method").  I usually breakdown pluses into three groups worth different points.  A big plus is worth 5 points, a medium plus is 3, and a minor plus is 1.  I devise a list and rank the attributes, then I plug in the data.  Usually I have a preference going in, but sometimes I don't.  Most of the time the preference wins.  When we bought our most recent car--a Subaru Forester, which is a great first kid car--we did this and the Forester came away as the clear favorite.  It was the clear favorite going in so that wasn't a surprise.  But when we bought my car, a Toyota Collora (ugh...), it was not the clear favorite and again was a clear winner (largely because we were commuting 250 miles a day and price and gas mileage were important).  Here are the pluses I have developed in this search and their ranks:

5 points

Full Flat Grind (I want to use this as a chopper and splitter and a full flat grind does this better)

Tang Pommel (by this I mean the tang of the knife passes through the handle and out the back, for use as a hammer or as a place to strike the knife)

Sheath with Molle Attachments

3 points

3/16" thick or greater blade thickness

Between 6"-7 1/2" blade length

Stainless Steel

G10 or Micarta Handles

1 point

Finger choil

Kydex sheath

Bonus item (some knives come with little food prep knives, others with sharpening stones)

Best possible score is a 30.

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This is where I was in the post when I found the knife I ultimately bought, the Ontario Ranger Bush Series RD-7 with Black Micarta handles.  Here is the post detailing when I bought it.  First, let me say that I feel really awful that I was not as comprehensive as I could have been in the initial search. I really did try, not only for the blog and you the reader, but also because I wanted to get the best knife possible for the money.  I had a self-interested motive and even with that I missed this knife.  I totally and completely missed this knife.  I can, fairly, I think, blame the incredibly disorganized website that Ontario knives has.  It is just hard to navigate.  Look, instead, at Spyderco's site, which has multiple search methods, a good search bar, and "related" product suggestions, making it virtually impossible NOT to find something you are looking for.  Also, OKC does not play well with Google as the RD-7's product page didn't even come up in a Google search.

Here is the RD-7's product page, which is four layers down from the OKC home page.  Going back and applying the pluses above to this knife, you will see that it comes out ahead of all of the knives on the list I had.  It scored a 25 out of 30.  The BK7 got a 17, the SP42 got a 11, the SRK got a 15, and the Leatherneck got a 17.  The RD-7 smoked the competition in terms of what I was looking for, and then there is this: I got the RD-7 at price less than ALL of the competitors.  I got mine for $49.95 on a Black Friday Special.  The best price I could find on a competitor was around $54 on the Cold Steel Leatherneck.  And then there is this: the RD-7 and the BK7 are very similar knives and the BK7 was my favorite, but the RD-7 had three things that I wanted that the BK7 was lacking: 1) a nicer handle material; 2) a full flat grind; and 3) a finger choil.  Plus it was basically the same size, used a similar steel (1095 v 5160) and was about $15 cheaper.  Thus when I saw the RD-7, knowing that I was very close to buying the BK7 for more, I jumped on the deal.

In the end this experiment didn't work exactly the way I wanted, but it did prove a point.  Using a very careful research method allowed me to figure out exactly what I wanted.  I was able to purchase something quickly and at a good price because I had already narrowed down the list of contenders and features to a precise set of requirements.  That's very handy to do.  It means when you see EXACTLY what you want you can take advantage of price discounts and buy something better than what you would have been able to if you had an inchoate set of ideas just floating around in your brain.

I don't do this for every purchase, but I do use this three step method a lot and I have rarely been disappointed.  I got the knife in the mail two days ago and I am going to use it this weekend to clear some fallen branches in my front yard.  I will report back on how it works.  Preliminarily though I can say that this is one bad ass piece of steel.  It has a heft to it that inspires confidence.  Also the gray blade coating looks sweet.  I never understood the fascination with these size blades until know.  They are really nice in the hand and very capable.  Its time to do some chopping.   

Friday, December 2, 2011

OPMT/Neck Knife

One of the new OPMT makers, TT PockeTTools has released (and sold out) of his very first true edged tool (many of his designs have a "snag edge" some capable of piercing tape and paper but not your hand).  It looks really great.  Here is the tool:


I have no affliation with this gentleman, but that is a pretty sweet looking OPMT/neck knife.  Even the sheath is bad ass with the contrast bolts popping against the orange kydex.  The cord lanyard covers up the v-notch pry bar at the end opposite the blade.  The steel itself is a favorite of knife knuts, S30V in 5/32" thick stock.  All of this is really great, but what about the price?

Get ready...

Brace yourself...

$36 without the sheath, $41 with.  Yowza.  That looks to be a good deal.

I am in line for a review sample of the TT Chopper, so I will let you know what the quality is like once I get this guy's brother in my grubby mitts.