Wednesday, March 28, 2012

BushidoMosquito's Custom SAK Rambler Review

NOTE: It is with a sad heart that I post this addendum to this review.  After a few complaints from various folks and my own efforts to reach out to Aaron, it appears that life issues have interfered with him completing or even responding to folks about their knives, some of whom appear to have paid or made deposits up front.  I have no idea who is right and I am not able to mediate a dispute like this.  The issue is that too many people have reported problems for it to be an isolated incident.  Deal with Aaron at your own risk, as it always has been.  Now, however, keep these problems in mind.  Once these issues are resolved I will post more and remove this warning from the review. 

Gear geeks will pay extra for four things: sexy materials, innovative design, top shelf fit and finish, and superlative utility.  The Bushido Mosquito Custom SAK Rambler has all of those things in spades.  Hence I paid a bit more for it than the normal Swiss Army Knife (SAK) Rambler.  Aaron Solomon, aka BushidoMosquito, has been making ultra high quality custom SAKs for a while now.  Google "BushidoMosquito" and "Custom SAK" and you will treated to pages of gorgeous eye candy--brass, titanium, and copper scaled versions of your favorite SAK.  Seeing these I contacted Aaron through EDCF and arranged a deal.  It is hard to put into exact money terms the cost of my Rambler because things changed after the order (I had asked for something, as it turns out, was mighty difficult).  I'll let Aaron post prices in the comments section (or I'll post them after I talk to him).

So the normal "here" paragraph is going to be much abbreviated.  Here is the normal Swiss Army Knife Rambler.  Aaron has no website, this is a full custom order, a one of a kind so far as I know, and as such there is not a whole lot of information.  These knives are readily available, i.e. they can be ordered, but they are true custom items.  Additionally Aaron's workspace is not terribly sophisticated so the work is painstaking and slow going.  But the results are truly awesome:

 
Be prepared for a wait.  Given his insistence on truly great fit and finish, he might have even closed his book for now (that is, not taking new jobs).  Here is Aaron's contact information:

bushidomosquito at gmail dot com (in the normal format)

So now we come to the controversial part of this review: how to categorize this little gleaming gem.  Is it a multitool or is it a knife?  In a very strict sense, it absolutely is a multitool because it has multiple tools, but the primary tool, the one that the device is based around is a knife.  I think it could go either way, especially with a SAK like this one, but I am going to consider this a multitool and evaluate it as such.  The primary reason for this classification is because: 1) while based around a classic nail-nick pen knife, the thing that makes this knife something I'd carry are the things OTHER than the knife; 2) ranking it as a knife would only allow me to discuss a few of the tool's best features.  Ultimately this is a judgment call.

Design: 2

Aaron took a well designed SAK, the Rambler, and made it even better.  It is not really even in the same league anymore.  First, this Rambler has a really elegant and well-designed pocket clip (upon request by me).  It also has a small green tritium locator, something that not only adds to the "pimped out" feel of the tool, but makes it easier to find (a feature that is always helpful).  As it was when it was stock the Rambler would have probably scored a 2, but as it is now, well I would give it a three if I could.  Superlative design in every way.  Want more evidence of its design perfection?  The cool torx bolts allow for user changes of the tools in the event that one wears out or isn't what you want.  Plus I think they give it a distinctive industrial look. 

Fit and Finish: 2

Again, the Rambler starts out as a pretty nice little tool, as all Victorinox tools do, but now with Aaron's polish and care, the tool is nothing short of a gem.  All of the edges are rounded, the Ti is mirror polished, and the tools inside are cleaned and polished.  Honestly Aaron's work makes this tool more akin to the zero tolerance work of a superb watch than the fit and finish associated with a knife or multitool.  Again I would give it a three if I could.

Theme: 2

I think of the Rambler, especially in this configuration, as a sort of light duty, everyperson device, something that would be at home in a woman's purse or on a man's keychain.  It has four very useful and basic tools.  Its size and weight give you no excuse to forget it at home.  As such, the tools and the size fit the theme well.  It also makes you wonder why you carry other things when something this small and light can do so much.  It gives the Leatherman PS4 a run for its supreme small utility crown.  

Grip:  2

This is a speck of a tool.  But it is not designed for high pressure uses.  Instead it is designed for light, every day tasks.  With that in mind, the grip is actually fine.  Aaron's Ti scales make it feel nice in the hand and the pocket clip adds a bit of dimension, helping with the grip a bit.  For what it is and how it works, I couldn't expect much more. 

Carry: 2

Thin, light, slim and perfectly sized to carry anywhere for any reason, this is a joy to carry.  It works in a suit, in jeans, even my pajamas.  This is what everyone should aim for--invisible carry. 

Materials: 2

The blade steel is the only thing Aaron didn't actually upgrade, but the SAK steel is very good for utility/light cutting tasks.  Everything else is new and substantially upgraded.  The scales and clip are all titanium.  There is a green tritium insert (noting of course that green is the brightest color in tritium inserts).  Everything is top shelf and the soft SAK steel serves its purpose well in this tiny tool.

Deployment/Accessibility: 2

Aaron's work on the tools themselves and the brilliant design make each of these tiny tools surprisingly accessible.

Retention Method: 2

I am not a fan of keychain carry in general, reserving the keychain for keys and VERY light, simple tools.  As such, I wanted a pocket clip and Aaron was kind enough to oblige.  Here is a picture:

IMG_0050


Really, the clip is a thing of beauty.  Not only is mirror polished, it also functions absolutely flawlessly.  It holds tight but not too tight.  It does not snag, it does not stick out to far, and, as you can see, it carries very deep in the pocket.  Out of all of the pocket clips on all of the gear I have, this is right up at the top for my favorite design.  Keep it simple, snug, and slim.  Great, great job Aaron.

Tool Selection: 2

Pliers would be great, but unforunately the SAK design does not accomodate them easily.  So with pliers off the list I would want in the following order these tools: 1) knife; 2) scissors; 3) Phillips driver; 4) bottle opener.  You get them all hear, and two throw ins: a flathead driver and a file, which is surprisingly helpful. 

Tool Performance:  2

I LOVE the real, 3D Phillips driver.  Nice and pointy, but plenty of heft for light tasks.  The knife is a little small, but again for light tasks it is enough.  The scissors are actually very nice, exceedingly sharp and precise.  I loved all of the tools and that extra polish Aaron added made them nicer. 

Overall Score: 20 out of 20 (Score Suspended until further notice, see above)

There are items that I have given a 20 out of 20 to and they were great but not perfect.  This, on the other hand, is a truly perfect 20 out of 20.  Aaron's work takes a really good little multitool and made it an absolute jewel.  Many of my lawyer friends carry tiny SAKs for trimming stray threads and popping the occasional post-trial brew and all were impressed with this gem and NONE were gear people.  I really, really love this guy and if you can work your way on to Aaron's wait list it is worth it.  But be patient, the dude is a one man show with primitive tools working in a closet--seriously.  If I could I would give this a higher score...it is just great.  It is one of the first items I have really lusted for that turned out to be better than I thought it would be.  Great job Aaron.

22 comments:

  1. This is awful! Why would you post something like this? In fact, I don't know that I can continue to read your blog after a post such as this! The lust to have one of these is so strong that I don't know if I can sleep at night! "Damn yous guys.....damn you!"

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  2. I second his comment. So much gear, not enough money

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  3. Wow! My work has the power to cause insomnia? Cool. Thank you Anthony for the glowing review. I know from reading your blog how hard it is to squeeze all 20 points out of you. I feel like the student that got an A+ from a professor that never gives an A. 5 requests showed up in my inbox within 5 hours of this being up.

    So, to what everyone is wondering, the price for a Rambler like this is $225 and a Classic would be $180. I had hoped to bring that price down but the amount of time involved in getting everything perfect is much more than I had expected.

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  4. Well, Aaron this piece deserved it. I took far longer than I normally do to review this because I wrote the review once, found it was too glowing, scraped it and did another two week testing period. I am confident that I got it right, having carried this for twice as long as normal. It is a perfect shirt pocket stowaway.

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  5. Well thank you again, the emails keep rolling in. I'm working with a friend in Canada to get production going on Alox scales for 91mm SAKs and titanium scales and liners for 93mm SAKs. I will make sure you have one of every new release we make for review.

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  6. Great review of a very cool knife! I had not heard of Aaron's work before, looks incredible.

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  7. Hmm. This custom project is a bit esoteric for my tastes; but I must say, the pocket clip looks great! Never would have thought of that. Now I want one on my SAK Cadet...

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  8. What a great knife! I carry a plain little Victorinox SAK on the keychain for each of my three vehicles, with a larger knife in the console of each for more rigorous duty. I have never needed the large ones, but I use the little SAK almost daily. The file is the one that has surprised me as most frequently used. I have considered moving up to the Rambler. I think there are a couple in a TSA lot I bought a while back. Must open that box soon.

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  9. Where is this Aaron now? I placed my order since last June and he didn't replied my email, send picture of his new product for comparison as he promised and update of my order.... :(

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  10. I was wondering the same thing. I placed an order last spring and have not had an update from Aaron since August. Based on his last update, I thought the Rambler was close to done. Hopefully every thing is ok with him.

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  11. I have an order placed with him as well. I assume that you guys put down 1/2 deposit on the knife. I have heard that has been dealing with some personal issues. I believe that he is now living in Fairfield, Iowa. He has not returned an email from me since 9/2012. This is not good business. He does good work, but needs to communicate MUCH better. If he cannot uphold his end of the business transaction, he needs to refund any deposits made and or make good with his word. I would not recommend ordering from him until he corrects this and gets his business life in order.

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  12. Thanks for doing this Tony. I got burnt as well and sincerely hope that Aaron corrects this. Life problems come up, but he needs to communicate with people. I agree with conventional wisdom that says to only pay upon completion and pictures for an order unless you are requesting the maker to use special/unique materials. With this economic climate, I tend to be of agreement. -thanks

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  13. Thank you Tony. Hopefully Aaron gets things straightened out, but I'm still reluctantly prepared to write off my deposit (despite the fact I'd still be thrilled for him to come through). In a recent post he made on a popular multi-tool site he recaps some of the issues he's had and said he was overwhelmed with orders and fundamentally isn't good with business. I can understand this, but even with that admission it goes beyond understanding why he can't offer the courtesy of a response.

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  14. Hmmmm. Will add another entry to this list. If anyone here's from him, would be nice to know where things stand.

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  15. I am out $90 for 1/2 of the deposit as well. If he can't fullfill the orders(which by now is clearly apparent), he needs to refund to all parties vested. If not, this is a crime. As we all know, it doesn't matter if business is done via email or at a tangible store. We work hard for our money and this not only hurts his intregity, but also hinders doing future business with other on-line presence makers who request up-front deposits. Aaron Soloman i.e...Bushidomosquito, you need to apologize for your actions, pay up and move on. You have left a VERY bad taste in my mouth and I know that Tony probably feels like shit about this even though he has absolutely nothing to do with the end product, only giving an initial endorsement...UGHHH!!!

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  16. You know it's funny, but you try to be nice, try to be understanding and give the guy a chance to make things right and he seems incapable of doing so. I've sent him several emails, tried contacting him through known associates, and used IM. I'm not mad, he's hit a rough spot, but dang; he can't even be bothered to respond and say, "yeah man, I messed up bad, here's what I'm going to try and do..."

    Here's the latest information I could find on him.
    http://forum.multitool.org/index.php/topic,40804.0.html
    The last two posts as of this writing was from a forum member there indicating their issues with him.

    I'm out $100 for a deposit myself and only on my most optimistic days do I think I'm ever going to get anything out of that beyond a valuable lesson in being far more selective about putting down that large of a deposit for custom work. Although to be fair, when I contacted Aaron everything was going well and he came highly recommended from multiple sources.

    I don't hold Tony responsible and it sucks Aaron has put him into this awkward situation. And Aaron, I really think it's time you man up and start responding to those who have done business with you. This will only get more difficult the longer you wait.

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  17. Sadly, im out $400 due to this as well. GL everyone.

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  18. tangodown here from most forums....I am out a pile of knives and material, I guess. No commo for over 3 months. 304 S. C St, Fairfield Iowa is last known addy for him. I am a few hours away in Macomb IL. I may go throw an egg at his house. I am pretty pissed. More than the money the knives were special to me as one had my badge number on it (a hand ground zero edge Emerson karambit and another which I have carried over 15 years and was having it rehabbed.) Maybe he just got a new email or something....I am trying to look at the bright side. My next step in a week or two is use criminal and civil mechanisms to recover my losses.

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  19. Add another to the list. This guy must have made thousands scamming people with his vaporware BS.

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  21. I just discovered the Waiter Plus (the plain Waiter is just missing the pen and is in production, Plus is out of production) and I super like it and will adopt it for a suit EDC. Take a look for yourself. Here's a review: http://www.bladeforums.com/forums/showthread.php/342872-the-maximal-Minimalist-SAK

    I don't drink wine but having the corkscrew would be nice for a lot of people and I'd definitely use it for picking knots and holding a small screwdriver because I wear glasses. On the other hand, I carry an Alox Bantam which is the Waiter minus the cork screw. I think you'll like the combo tool: bottle opener, can opener, flat head and Phillips with correct technique all in one tool. Half the thickness of the Cadet, love it. The Alox is out of production but the cellidor is readily available for around $12.

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  22. Victorinox actually makes something similar to this custom rambler: the Moneyclip
    http://www.victorinox.com/ch/product/Swiss-Army-Knives/Category/Elegant-Pocket-Tools/Elegant-Pocket-Tools-74-mm-84-mm/Money-Clip-Alox/0.6540.16
    Not Ti but Al. You miss out on the philips driver and cap opener, but the blade is longer and sturdier (it's a 84mm knife). And I got mine at thegoodstuffshop.dk for Dkk 275 ~ $48,50. It's readily avaliable elsewhere on the net as well.

    Happy holidays everyone
    Jakob

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