Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Winner Is...and the next Contest

Joseph Wain.

The last submission came in about four or five days ago, so I have already processed them all (testing a few out as banners on the site internally) and Joseph is the winner.

I received a staggering number of entries, especially for all the work involved and all were thoughtful. Many were excellent. Some were down right punny (that is pun-funny) which is hard to achieve with just images (the words, after all, were all the same).  The winning entry is the banner above.  Included in the submission was a logo as well.

Wain's entry won for a couple of reasons.

First it was very simple. It stood out right away when I saw it. It was memorable in the same way that the icons on an iPhone are memorable.

Second, and this is what set his entry above the other elegant designs, it was web-ready. Literally open the file, upload the images and I was good to go, no monkeying around with size or backgrounds. There were four images in total, two seals and two banners. The banner is up. The seals are useful and are going to start appearing in other places. If you see me on a forum (I frequent EDCF, CPF, USN, and BladeForums) you should be able to click on the logo in my signature line and it will take you the page. I am also going to use them in reviews. When a product receives a perfect score, not just a 20/20 but a 20/20 with nothing I would change, I am going to follow up the review with this logo:


This will signify that the item in question is the best of the best.  So far I have plans to add it to the reviews of the Spyderco Dragonfly II with ZDP-189 blade, the Muyshondt Aeon, the McGizmo Haiku, and the Leatherman PS4.  Other items that scored a 20/20, the TT Chopper, the Sebenza, and the Moddoolar Light, are still under consideration.

The third reason that I liked these so much is that they will translate well in a number of different formats.  If I decide, at some later date, to do a video review of something, I'd like to use the logo.  The modular design, along with the other two reasons, made Wain's design the winning one.

Thanks to everyone that participated.  It was an awful lot of work and as a way of saying "thanks" I am going to hold on to the names of people that submitted stuff that didn't win and they will automatically be entered into the next product giveaway.  They will be the only folks in that giveaway.  So even if you didn't win this time, you have a good chance of winning in the next small giveaway.

This brings me the another idea.  I don't plan on turning this into a profit making enterprise, so the ad revenue will go towards giveaways.  What I'd like to do is have two tiers of giveaways--small giveaways, like if I get a product to review and the company doesn't want it back, and big giveaways using the AdSense revenue.  I'd like to use the next installment to buy a few items for review, smaller things, and give them away.  One thing, in particular, I had my eye on for a small give away is a Kershaw Cryo.  I'd buy one to review with the AdSense revenue and then once the review was done give it away, using the comments-based lottery like I did for the CardSharp 2.

After that, I'd like to store up the Adsense revenue for a bigger giveaway, something super ambitious.  I still haven't decided what I am going to give away or when, but what I think I will do something like this.  I will open up the website for reviews of products using the 20 point scoring system, any kind of product that I have covered thus far--a knife, light, MT, or bag.  You write the article and I will post it.  At the end of the time period, I will choose the best five and then put them up for a vote.  The winner would get the giveaway item.  I am not sure how long the contest would run or what the giveaway would be, but I was thinking something big. 

It could be something like an HDS Rotary light, a Sebenza, or if people would prefer to wait, something even bigger, like a McGizmo custom light or a custom knife.  All of this is up in the air, but that is the idea--a two tier giveaway system with small stuff going out semi regularly, and one big thing going out annually or thereabouts depending on the ad revenue.

Let me know what you think in the comments below.  And congratulations to Joseph Wain.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Gear Hall of Fame: The Rolex Sea Dweller and Explorer

On January 23, 1960 Jacques Piccard, a Swiss oceanographer and Lt. Don Walsh reached the bottom of Mariana's Trench, the deepest hole in the Earth's crust.  The dive took them 35,757 feet beneath the waves (they were so deep, in fact, that the measuring equipment at the time was not good enough to calculate their depth correctly; it wasn't until years later when scientists were able to calculate the correct depth listed above).  They made their perilous journey inside the bathyscape Trieste.  On the outside of the Trieste, strapped to the hull was a Rolex Sea Dweller, perhaps one of the most famous piece of gear of all time.  Once Piccard emerged safe from the dive he sent a telegraph to Rolex telling them that the watch survived the dive and, in fact, was still keeping perfect time.  It was a pinnacle achievement in horology, a testament to an art and science that went back centuries.



The Sea Dweller used was modified from the stock Sea Dweller by Rolex specifically for the dive, but nonetheless that feat is incredibly impressive.  Rolex made its name by taking part in stuns like this. Tenzing Norgay, the Sherpa that climbed Mount Everest with Sir Edmund Hilary, also had a Rolex on his wrist when he summited Chomolungma (the Tibetan name for Mount Everest).  The fact that he had the Rolex with him is strikingly ironic.  Here is this man--an explorer in the truest sense of the word--a man bred and born in the mountains and with so little need for technology that he had never used or even seen a camera at the time of his accomplishment (this is why there is no picture of Hilary at the top, only one of Norgay).  Yet he had a Rolex on his wrist--a Rolex Explorer to be exact.


Bad ass dudes and some bad ass gear.  

Leatherman Squirt PS4 Review


Imagine this: you go to the car dealer looking for a sports car but knowing the significant other (and comptroller of the household finances) will only approve a gas sipping leaf mobile.  You arrive and the dealer tells you that the sports car you want gets better gas mileage than the gas sipping leaf mobile.  Perfect.  Sold.  Done deal.

Well for a long time in the world of keychain multitools there was nothing that had both pliers and scissors, well nothing made by Leatherman.  Then last year, they released my dream keychain tool--the Squirt PS4.  it is the sports car with leaf mobile gas mileage. 

A search of quality tools shows that few if any had both a nice set of needle nose pliers AND a pair of scissors.  It was like Kafka rewrote Goldilocks and she never finds the bowl of porridge that is just right, instead she finds hundreds of bowls of porridge that are almost perfect (and since this is a Kafka version of Goldilocks, because of her delay in sampling hundreds of bowls of porridge, she is still awake when the bears get home and they eat her, and then she wakes up and she IS a bear...).  Victorinox didn't give us the PERFECT set of tools (why, why do they have that stupid corkscrew?).  SOG didn't either.  And Leatherman kept teasing us.  I like the Micra.  Its nice.  But pliers are so helpful.  

Then the PS4 was born.  The clouds parted, heaven erupted into a choir of angels, and multitool perfection was delivered.  As you can tell, I like this tool.  I like it so much that I once decided to see just how much I could do with it.  Using only a PS4 I replaced the electrical ball chain toggle switch in a ceiling fan.  All of the screws, all of the electrical wires, everything with just the PS4.  And it worked well.  The small sized saved my shoulders.  It wasn't fast, but it definitely worked.  

Here is the product page for the PS4.  It comes in a bunch of colors, blue, red, black...you know.  Here is a written review.  Here is a video review.  Here are the Amazon reviews.  It has a score of 4.34 stars out of 5 on Amazon with 93 reviews.  And here is my PS4:

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Design: 2

The PS4 is impeccably designed.  Every tool is well-placed, well-sized, and easy to use.  The tool's lines are hand friendly and pocket approved.  The torx bits for user servicing are a welcome though probably unnecessary touch (especially given the price).  Everything is very accessible.  It is not as unconventional as the design on the Skeletool, but this is an expertly envisioned mutlitool. 

Fit and Finish: 2

As nice as the design is, the translation to real life parts is equally good.  The corners are rounded and the nail nicks work well (and are really the only feasible opening method).  The pliers aren't beefy, but they are stout given the tool's overall size and they are spring loaded.  Really nice tool.  Oh and it is less than $25. 

Theme: 2

Imagined as a keychain multitool, the focus is excellent a good selection of nicely sized everyday tools.  The tool collapses into a very pocketable size and everything is super non-threatening.

Grip: 2

There is plenty of grip in most using positions thanks to stout little handles and a very textured aluminum shell.  In pliers mode, the handles flex a little, but that happens on almost all small and medium sized multitools. 

Carry: 2

I am sort of infatuated with the coin pocket on jeans. This little guy just falls away in there.  It is beautiful.  I can carry around a good portion of a toolbox, miniaturized, in my jeans pocket and still have the regular pocket free.  I also like the keyring attachment.  It works very well, especially with the coated mechanics cable I use.  It is also no so big as to be bulky when it lives on your keychain.  

Materials: 2

The aluminum's nice and the blade is made of 420HC.  Not the finest steel in the world, not by a long shot, but in its class, there is nothing better anywhere.  Sure I'd like S30V, but it is neither necessary nor practical.  Given that most multitools in this class have "mystery steel" 420HC is top of the class.  It is also super easy to sharpen.  

Deployment/Accessibility: 2

All of the tools but the pliers are externally accessible.  All of them have good clearance for your nail to get in there and pop them out.  Excellent all the way around, especially consider the diminutive size. 

Retention Method: 2

It is a keychain multitool and the keyring attachment split ring is nice and beefy.  I don't use it, but it is better than a lot of them out there.  Also the attachment point on the PS4 rotates around one of the pivots for a little more wiggle and flexibility. 

Tool Selection: 2

You get all of the most used items: pliers, scissors, Phillips and flat head (I have always called them "plus" and "minus" ever since I was kid; it just seems more intuitive and expressive); and a decent little blade.  The file is...I guess useful, but seems a bit out of place.  That said I have actually used to a couple of times.  If I were to build this thing from scratch though I'd install the very handy looking clam shell opener found the new Sidekick instead of the file.  Still, everything I'd want with a toss in tool that isn't that bad. 


Tool Performance: 2

The pliers are really great.  They are narrow enough to do detail work and are more robust than the tweezers on the Micra.  I really, really like them.  I also like the tiny blade.  I have used it for all sorts of tasks and it does them well.  I wouldn't cut thick cardboard or drywall with it, but for everyday tasks, you can't complain.  It also doesn't look like a weapon which is a plus, unless your a mall ninja.  If you are, then your probably looking for a multitool like this

Overall Score: 20 out of 20


This is the perfect keychain multitool.  There is nothing out there even close.  At $25, it is a steal, an absolute steal.  If you have no EDC stuff (why are you even READING this blog?) then start here. It was the winner in the $50 max recommendations.  Everyone, everywhere should have one of these.  If you are in pure survival mode, the negligible weight and tiny pliers make it worth it.  If you are an urbanite where "adventure" means a new coffee flavor at Starbucks (Where the fuck is my white chocolate candy cane latte? I NEED one.), this thing is great at severing clam shells.  If you are a suburbanite like me, this guy is great--repairing ceiling fans, cutting twine at the lumberyard, or fixing a kid's toy, this thing does it all.  If I were issuing standard EDC for everyone, this would be one thing in the kit.  Plus it disappears in jeans coin pockets.  I LOVE THIS TOOL.    

Friday, January 27, 2012

5 Dangerous Things

The TED talks that have filtered into all different parts of the web, podcasts, and YouTube, are generally very, very good, but one, in particular really stands out--Gever Tulley's 5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kid Do.  Here is the video:



They are all really great suggestions, even the one about understanding the process of breaking the law.  But here on this website, it is Suggestion #2 that I thought was most interesting.

I have a 19 month old son.  He is a bundle of energy and an amateur scientist (that comes from his Mom, a professional scientist).  Those two things combined make him a dare devil.  And I really enjoy it.  I do my best to let him play with things and still be safe.  We go down in the basement and he plays around in my workshop.  I have shown him how to use the drill press and he can turn it on and pull the arm (only with my assistance).  I let him play with my screwdrivers and drills, even my new beloved Festool CSX drill.  So when I saw this talk I knew it was something that I would find interesting.

Suggestion #2 is to let a kid have a pocket knife.  I honestly think that this is a really good idea, not only for the reasons that Tulley suggests--its capacity as a tool with many functions--but also because it teaches a kid responsibility.  There are certain objects that demand our respect and attention, whether we are 5 or 55.  A small, not too sharp pocket knife for a kid of 8 or 10, is probably the safest way to teach them that lesson.  Think about it--many of the things that we do as adults are things that have far-reaching consequences.  Many of those things come in our encounter with dangerous objects--guns, knives, cars, power tools, and mortgages, for example.  Giving a kid a knife at around 8 or 10, when I got my first knife, a Victorinox Tinker BTW, is a great way to teach them about dangerous things.  You can control how sharp it is and how they use it, but they still have that sense that something they own is powerful.

This is not a "Kids These Days" rant.  We have lost faith in our kids.  Kids aren't wusses.  Their parents are.  In an effort to prevent any pain or a second of suffering we have taught them to avoid everything.  In a culture of ladders with warning labels (and yes I know that lawyers had a lot to do with that) kids aren't afraid of these things that demand our respect, they are completely ignorant of them.  They don't even know they exist.  And so when they are 16 or 18 and outside their helicopter parent's flight pattern, they do stupid and very dangerous things.  They do not have respect for powerful objects--cars, guns, booze--and the end result is like the Dodo bird that lived on an island without a natural predator, they do not recognize danger until it is too late.

Giving your kid a knife won't just teach them how to use a tool and how to interact with things, it will also teach them how to respect objects that deserve our respect.  It will act like a vaccine--preparing them for bigger danger by showing them smaller bits of danger in a controlled environment.  It won't make them a killer.  It won't make them a thug.  The parents do that.  But it might make them a little less reckless later in life.

Sorry for the political post (that's as political as I will get, I promise).  Now back to the regularly scheduled program of gear reviews and discussion.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tom Bihn Cadet


After the post regarding the Most Interesting EDC products of 2011, Tom Bihn contacted me and we worked out the arrangements for a review of the Cadet.  Tom Bihn is a bag company headquartered in Seattle that makes fantastic bags, with amazing attention to detail, all the while scrupulously honoring their Made in the USA label.  They even go so far as to tell you when things can't be made here, such as their special Dyneema fabric, which for patent/trademark reasons, must be made in Japan.  The only drawback to a Bihn bag is that they are sold only through their website or their store, which is in Seattle.  If you don't live in Seattle there is really no way to get a hands on experience, aside from ordering one.  Since your satisfaction is guaranteed (return the bag for full refund of purchase price within 60 days), it is not that big a deal, but still, a hands on review in this instance is really handy.

And hands on this was.  I am a lawyer, a public defender actually, and I travel a lot.  I am also a public defender in one of the wintriest states in the Union and all of this traveling is usually accompanied by a lot of snow and freezing rain.  The Cadet subbed in for my beloved but bulky Tumi bag and did the rounds with me for two weeks.  This was not some candy ass test.  This was down in the trenches, getting rained on, snowed on, tugged from hearing to hearing, court to court.  And the end result is really amazing--this bag looks and works great.  More importantly, after this two week test, it still looks brand new.  

But you need to know what you are getting into.  The Cadet is tiny.  I liked it because it was tiny.  Tiny is good.  With the advent of newer smartphones there is less of a need to carry around a bunch of bulk.  But you need to know just how tiny this thing is.  The Cadet gives you JUST enough space for a smartphone, and using the special sleeve, a small ultrabook or tablet, and some pens and pencils.  There is a little more room for a few files or some paper, but don't expect to lug around a Pendaflex folder.  It ain't gonna happen. So if you can live with those limitations, then buckle your seat belt, because this is a hell of a bag.

Here is the Cadet's product page.  There are two sizes, the 15 inch Cadet (for 15 inch laptops) and an even smaller one, the 11 inch for iPads and the like.  I reviewed the 15 inch Cadet.  Here is a good review, though I am proud to say there are very few.  There is no Amazon page because this is straight to you product from Tom Bihn.  As such, there are no Amazon reviews or price variation.  Here is the bag they sent me:

IMG_0003

Here is my bag scoring system.  

Design: 2

The Cadet is a small bag.  A very small bag.  You need to know that.  If you can accept the size, then be prepared.  The design is like nothing else.  I have seen and used about a dozen different styles of bags and briefcases (what do you think lawyers talk about?).  There is nothing, not even my uber pricey Tumi, as well laid out and as well designed.  The smartphone pocket is a genius move.  The pocket is placed for easy access even while wearing the bag.  It also has an ultra suede lining to keep your precious phone nice and scratch free.  Here is a shot of the interior of the smartphone pocket (with a helper's hand, boy these bags are hard to photograph by myself):

IMG_0046

I also have to give kudos to how the handles meet together.  However they stitched and/or sewed it, the handles seem to have magnets in them and always meet.  It is a brainless motion, grabbing the bag and getting a move on.  I also love the Cadet Cache.  It is a little sleeve that slides inside the bag on two fabric "rails".  Here is a picture of the interior and rails:

IMG_0050


The Cache comes out for TSA check in like the tongue in your mouth (gross analogy I know, but it works perfectly).  Here is a shot of the Cache hanging out:

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Check the Cadet product page for a series of shots on how the Cache works.  Here is a photo of the Cache swallowing my iPad (and cover):

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Everything is amazingly well laid out and in the right proportion, especially the zippers, more on that later.   

Fit and finish: 2

Zippers:bags as threads:flashlights as grind:knives.  These are the details that tell you the overall fit and finish of a product and here the zippers are great.  You can tell that everything is nicely done though, just by looking.  There is no fraying or extra fabric in the interior (stuff left over after the liner is stitched in).  There are no wandering threads and all of the seams are straight.  Also, the fabric is tough without being like sandpaper.  If Maxpedition's nylon is the toughest and Tumi's is a satiny sheet, Tom Bihn's is somewhere closer to Tumi.  Tough but not 36 grit, scour-away-the-gym-floor-varnish tough.  

Carry: 2

Small bags are easier to carry, duh.  But this bag with the meet-together handles and well balanced pockets is a dream.  One thing that a lot of less attentive bag makers do is position the latches for the shoulder strap near the mid line of the bag.  This means that sometimes the bag is inverted when you pick it up and the contents spill all over the place.  Here, Tom Bihn, who personally designs every bag, put the shoulder strap latches in the right place, about 3/4 of the way up.  High enough to prevent a flip over, but not so high as to impede the zipper or access to the bag while it is being carried.  

Materials: 2

This is one of the place where I wish I could give the bag a 3.  With the Tumi bag there was no question it was bomb proof, but I feel like there was less thought put into what was used.  Everything is strong, tough, and heavy, whether it needs to be or not.  Here Bihn used the best materials for the job.  On the exterior he used tough but not rough nylon.  In the interior he used the Dyneema fabric mentioned above.  The shoulder strap latch is made out of what looked like Delrin, a super tough but super light plastic.  The Delrin piece shows an approach to the bag that differs from that of Tumi's approach.  The overall bag is considered in the selection of each and every part and the materials in those parts.  Here is the Delrin (or Delrin-like) latch:  

IMG_0032


Sure a metal latch would work, but is it necessary?  No.  You save weight there and lose nothing, really, in terms of performance.  Metal is stronger, of course, but Delrin is more than strong enough in this application.   

Accessibility: 2

The zipper to the main pouch does not open as wide as my Tumi bag's does, but surprisingly, this was never an issue.  The pen pouch is also very easy to get to, and the smartphone pocket is simply sublime in its placement, accessibility, and design.  Again, everything evinces an attention to detail.

Ease of Packing: 1

Okay, here is a sticking point for me.  Two things, first, the zipper for the main pouch, as mentioned above, does not travel all that far, probably around 1/3 of the total circumference of the bag.  The Tumi bag's zipper, like many laptop bags, travels much further allowing for vastly easier packing.  Second, the Cadet Cache eats up a lot of space in the main compartment and when full makes packing more difficult.  It is not hard, not by any means, but this is one place where the bag fell short.  Even more problematic, there is nothing inherent in the small design that makes this NECESSARILY an issue.  Little more travel on the zipper and a little smaller Cache and things would be fine.  One problem is the Cache really doesn't close.  Instead it folds over and tuck in, meaning there is a lot of material bunched up near the opening of the bag when the Cache is in use and closed.  A magnetic closure or a zipper on the top of the Cache would prevent this problem.    

Pockets/Organization: 2

Nothing wrong here at all.  The pen pocket is plenty big with tons of dividers and spacers.  The smartphone pocket, as you can probably guess by now, is amazing.  Even the main pocket, with the Cache on rails is pure genius.

Also, Tom Bihn sent me a bevy of accessory bags and packs.  Many of these are even more helpful in organizing your stuff, I'll go through more below, but one was so nice and large that it is more like a second pocket than an accessory.  The Fruedian Slip, was quite nice.  Here is a pic:

IMG_0061

The idea is that you can drop it in the bag and load it up with stuff, like a second pen pocket, or you can fill it with things with the intention that it come out.  I can see this being useful for folks that work on a job site, like an architect, who might carry it in the bag to the site, and then set up a mini work station once there and hang the Slip somewhere for easy access.  As a lawyer I couldn't take full advantage of this really innovative indepedent pocket, but I can see how some would love it.  Mind you, this makes the main pocket feel even smaller though.

Snaps/buckles/zippers: 2

Okay before I get into it, here is a picture of the Tom Bihn zipper:

IMG_0008

This really had me scared.  Typically when zippers have seals or covers they do nothing but snag the pull over and over again.  Instead of the normal OVER the pull design, Tom's zippers have a cover that slides THROUGH the pull.  I was still wary of jamming, but in my two weeks of significant use, there was never a snag or a hitch at all.  If these zippers hold up over the years, they are a massive leap forward from the standard zipper.  They are smooth as glass in use and they really do lock out the elements.  Water is not so much of a concern, but the big issue for me is snow.  Sometimes, when shuttling from court to court I would brush up against a car or a tree and the zipper's path would be crusted with snow.  The Bihn zippers make this scenario no probably at all.  Just brush off the snow and your good to go.  There is no fear or concern that debris or ice will fall into the teeth and jam the mechanism.  In fact, this ingenious cover makes the zippers significantly easier to use in all weather.  If ice is kept out in the winter, there is very little chance that dust or dirt will lodge in the zipper in the summer.

The snaps are fine, strong and easy to use.  One snap in particular will take a bit of time to get used to and it is the "Gatekeeper" snap used on the rails for the Cadet Cache.  Here is the snap up close:

IMG_0051


These little boogers are tough to unclip, and for good reason--they are the only thing holding the Cadet Cache and your laptop in place.  But they function well once you learn the trick.  You have to pull the metal gate out of the way a bit in order to be able to pinch the latch open.  There are other clips for attaching accessories, seen here:

IMG_0060


and they work very well.  I like the ball-and-socket connector as well as the myriad of connection points (little o-rings of plastic) anchored throughout the bag.  Only the Gatekeepers were hard to use and they were designed to be that way so your laptop doesn't fall out.  The rest of the latches and connections were great.  

Straps and belts: 1

Here is the Achilles heel of this otherwise brilliant bag.  Tom Bihn including their premiere strap, the Absolute Strap, in my review sample.  It was only okay.  In comparison to the new Tumi strap, it was not that good at all.  First, the actual shoulder pad portion is covered on the bottom with extra tacky rubberized material (like the underside of a mouse pad).  This is good at keeping the bag put, but it is a little TOO grippy.  When I was wearing a suit, which is everyday, the pad would wrinkle the suit.  On occasion, it would almost pull my suit jacket off when I would remove the bag.  A simply suede leather underside on the pad would be more than grippy enough and still be durable and comfortable.  If it were not for the great clips, I would have given the Cadet a 0.  Even these clips, though, do not compare to the inspired design of the Tumi clips on their new shoulder strap.  And here is the capper--all of these comparisons to the Tumi bag usually come out in favor of Tom Bihn because of cost (the Cadet is well less than half the cost of my Tumi bag), but here, their strap is only $5 less (here is the strap I have, at $35).  

Modularity/expansion: 2

Again, if I could, I would give this bag a 3 for modularity.  There is a reason people love the basic and simple Kifaru bags.  They have a billion different accessories and attachment points.  Tom Bihn's bag is the same way.  They sent me probably $150 worth of pockets and accessories and all of them work well.  I didn't use a whole lot of them, but if you were a traveler or an on-site guy or gal, these would be incredibly useful.  The Cadet Cache and the Fruedian Slip stand out among the bevvy of bags, but all were decent.  They do add up quickly, but if this is your bag, spending the extra dough will only make it nicer. 

Overall Score: 18 out of 20

Well, if you can do the bag limbo in terms of contents (how low can you go) you will be amply rewarded by buying the Cadet.  It is slim, beautiful, tough, and easy to use.  It can be tricked out with accessories until every thing as a place and every place has a thing.  It is easily in the same class as Tumi stuff, maybe a little less tough, but in every way other than the strap, superior in design.  I honestly don't think that durability is an issue and I would much rather have less weight.  This bag turned out to be a little TOO small for me, but it has sold me on the Bihn philosophy of quality and commitment to good design.  And all of this is made in the USA.  If you are in the market for a new laptop bag or a briefcase Tom Bihn should be at the top of your list.  If this guy sounds too small check out either the Zephyr or the Empire Builder.  Also, if you order one, be sure to order it with the high visibility interior fabric.  I don't know why all bags don't come with this standard, but Tom's bags can.  Thanks to Tom Bihn and Darcy for sending me a review sample.  

Monday, January 23, 2012

Dauntless Knives

TAD Gear is a name everyone that reads this site is familiar with, and if your not, you should be.  Nothing they make or sell could be described as cheap, but some of the stuff is really quite amazing.  One of their most incredible offerings is their Dauntless series of knives.

Here is the idea behind the Dauntless.  Every six months or so, TAD Gear contacts a custom knife maker, usually a very high profile person, and commissions somewhere between 10 and 12 knives (there is no final tally, and some makers, like Strider, made more than 10, according to rumor, Strider made around 100).  The maker is required to do a couple of things.  First, they need to incorporate the TAD Gear logo on the knife somewhere.  Second, they need to follow a few general design cues.  The blade, generally speaking, is between 2.5 inches and 4 inches long.  All but one of the Dauntless designs were folders (Kingdom Armory made a fixed blade version).  They all either have a metal bolster or all metal handles.  The blade itself is a modified spearpoint.  There is a pronounced choil in the handle and many have another choil at the base of the blade.  Most are framelocks.  They all have fullers (or blood grooves) on the blade and in the handle.  Finally the handle shape is generally the same.  But other than those loose criteria, the custom maker is free to do whatever they want.  The knives that have come out of this process are truly amazing works of art and awesome tools.  Some of the highest profile names in the custom knife business have taken part--Strider, Hinderer, J.W. Smith, Allen Elishewitz, and Warren Thomas, to name a few.

Here is my favorite of the Dauntless knives, the Brian Fellhoelter Dauntless Compact Ti (this is the full sized version, but they look the same):



This photo belongs to Brett Shandelson and he has kindly let me use it.  As a note, if you want to see some insane, truly insane EDC gear, check on Brett's Flickr page, found here.  The gear is awesome and the photography is amazing.  None of the designs are terrible and many are just as amazing.  In particular, I also like Phil Boguszewski's Ti version and JW Smith's traditional bolstered version.

All of the Dauntless knives can be found in a great and beautifully photographed site: Dauntless Archive.  There is also a sub forum over on USN, found here. Here is another Dauntless photo site.

Unfortunately these knives are not easy to find.  First, because only 10 or 12 are made, there aren't a lot to begin with.  Second, TAD Gear posts them on their website and they are sold out within 2 or 3 minutes.  Third, very very few hit the secondary market.  Dauntless owners are exceedingly possessive with their blades and few, if any of them, ever sell these wicked tools.  Even eBay has no real record of selling Dauntless knifes.  So, like with Atwoods, all we can do is wait and hope to get lucky.

But from the looks of these knives, the wait is worth it.

Also, if anyone has a Dauntless they'd like to part with, send an email, we might be able to work something out.  Email me at anthonysculimbrene at comcast dot net (in the usual format).  I hate to ask, but this would be a pretty cool write up.

Logos

You have exactly 7 days to submit logos.  I have a bunch now and many are really good, but there is still a custom Mini Grip out there to win. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Beautility


 
Reviews and write ups coming.

For now though, that is one pretty light&saber pair.  It is a Hi CRI Steve Ku 40DD with a pair of Ice Blue Tritium Inserts and a Filip De Coene Slipjoint Hybrid Folder.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Benchmade's SHOT Showing

Benchmade debuted or at least talked about a few blades at SHOT show.  An excellent booth review is found here:



The video is from GoingGear.com, which has certainly become one of the premiere sites on the web for EDC gear.  They have a huge selection of stuff and have stepped up their videos.  I have no affliation with them, but I always browse their site and their videos for ideas of what to get next.

Here are some of Benchmade's offerings.

New Balisong

I never noticed this but Benchmade trademarked Bali-Song.  I am not sure who was the person asleep at the switch at the trademark office that let them do that (clearly this word is genericized, even with the hyphen in the middle), but they did.  As a traditional Filipino knife with a traditional Filipino name, I would have thought no TM was possible, or that if there were a TM to be handed out it would have gone to a Filipino maker.  What's next Benchmade?  How about the flash-light TM, or pocket-knife TM, or auto-mobile TM?  BTW I have started the process of trademarking Bench-made TM.  Two can play at that silly game.

Anyway, on to the knife.  It is a single edge balisong (or Bali-Song), with a T-Latch TM and stainless steel handles (what? is "stain-less" already TM'd).  It is heavier than the BM42 (Yay! heavier...good job) and will probably be expensive.  It is also illegal to carry almost everywhere, unless you are a special user (LEO, EMS, military...).  This is a stinky offering for the vast majority of people, but the flipper set will love its traditional shape, lines, and weight. 

Gold Class 940

These Gold class knives are a huge rip off.  They keep making them so one of two things must be true: 1) they sell like crazy to make up for the smaller margins due to the uber premium material; or 2) the "uber premium material" is not all that expensive so the margin on each unit sold is huge.  Something tells me that Benchmade is not selling 10,000 of these knives, given that they usually are north of $500, so I think it is the second idea--each knife is just slightly more expensive to make than the regular model and the margins are huge on each unit--that is the right one.

The 940 shown is pretty staid.  The handle is, ready for this, titanium.  That is really an exotic material, right?  No lightning strike carbon fiber, no rhodium, just anondized titanium.  Eh...The steel is equally disappointing.  M4 is a great tool steel, no doubt about it, but in an EDC knife, I'd like something more rust resistant.  How about Carpenter's stainless tool steel CTS-XHP?  Instead they go with M4 and lather it up with coating, a clear cerakote that is bead blasted.  Boring.  Save your money, this thing is the definition of a gilded lily and a waste of cash.  How about getting a nice custom from some small shop where the exotic materials are truly exotic and the finish is beyond nice? Want exotic materials?  Try one of these: BurchTree Bladesworks.  Given the pricing of most Gold Class knives, the true custom is probably not that much more.   

Two Handed Bone Collector

The Bone Collector line is something I have very little interest in as I am not a hunter.  Maybe a hunter can chime in on whether or not these products hit their intended targets.  The nail knick two handed knife is just really, really not my cup of tea.  The steel, D2, is okay, but again, why not try something better, like CTS XHP?  I can't get excited about this blade at all.  

Adamas

I am not going to go into a whole lot of detail because this is not all that new.  DarkChild has a good review of his Adamas.  The knife is really big and thick.  I am not really excited by the design.  The knife is huge and the cut outs look like they would be dust magnets.  It also has more than a passing resemblance to the CRKT M16 and M21 knives.  The sheath may be the most interesting part of this blade, with its cool MOLLE attachment. 

Contigo

This is probably my favorite knife in the line up at SHOT Show, but that is kind of like saying "She's the smarter of the two Hilton sisters."   One of them, by default, has to be smarter and one of these knifes I don't like has to be my favorite, even if I still don't like it.   I really do like the reverse tanto blade style, but again, this is just too big and bulky for me to carry everyday.  If I were looking for a big and beefy blade, though, this might be a good choice.  They didn't mention steel, so I don't know what the blade is made of, probably S30V or D2.  

Sheath Dagger

This ringed fixed blade is a strange offering.  It is clearly not intended for the knife as tool, EDC crowd so I am not going to comment on it more than I have.  

916 with Pry Tip

Another specialized blade, on designed for EMS folks.  Again, outside my realm of knowledge so I am going to pass.

There were a bunch of fixed blades show, but they were not all that interesting to me.  Overall, the Benchmade line up as a lot of specialized tools in it and very few general interest blades.  The only purely general interest knife in the line up was the Gold Class 940 which I think is just short of theft on Benchmade's part.  As such, for a guy like me that doesn't stab people (other than myself by accident) or gut deer, none of these blades were all that exciting.  I will throw out the caveat that I don't have a lot of working knowledge of these specialized blades so those people that do may be very excited.  One thing I can say however is that the choices of steels, M4 and D2, is really not up to par with Spyderco's or Kershaw's offerings.  The implementation of a truly STAINLESS tool steel, CTS XHP, in the Spyderco line up and the use of 14C28N and ZDP-189, among others, in the Kershaw line up, leaves Benchmade distinctly behind the curve in terms of steel.  M4 is really hard and tough, as all tool steels are, but its rust resistance leaves much to be desired.


And for all of you that think I hate Benchmade, here is the Mini Grip review, here is the shoot out of EDC blades that the Mini Grip WON, and note the blade I am giving away--a custom Mini Grip.  I like Benchmade knives, just none of the ones they had on display at SHOT Show.

I do not, however, like their overly litigious approach to everything.  Or should I say every-thing TM?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

4sevens SHOT Show Leaks

Well SHOT Show is still going on so there are probably a few more announcements coming, but 4sevens has three major announcements that have made it out of Vegas so far.  In my opinion all three are disappointments, marking the first time I can remember where 4sevens completely missed the boat with product releases and designs.

First up, 4sevens has decided to join the "tactical pen" market which, as you know from a previous post, I think are kind of silly.  Here is the product page for their tactical pen.  When I saw it I was little underwhelmed, especially for the price.  Then a clever forum member at EDCF pointed out why this was so underwhelming.  This is a rebadge of an already existing pen, found here.  The original is exactly the same minus the stupid glass breaker tip and it costs around $30 less.  I'd prefer the original even if they were the same price, as the "glass breakers" usually end up being used more often as a "leg poker" than their intended use.

Strike One.

Second, is the Preon P0.  Here is the product page.  This is clearly aimed at the Arc AAA-P, Fenix E05 market--cheap, low lumens, long lasting keychain lights.  On low, 24 lumens, it lasts for an impressive 120 hours.  On high, 25 lumens, it lasts 1.2 hours.  Huh?  Right.  The specs must be screwed up or something because that makes no sense.  It is cheap, around $25, but the competition here is stiff.  The Arc AAA-P is a great light.  The Fenix E05, a light I got my nephews for Christmas, is an amazingly good buy (and for them an awesome primary flashlight; they are 5 and 2).  Maybe there is something we are missing, but if not, I am not sure the Preon P0 will have any market impact at all.  Especially with new challengers like the Olight i-series lights out there and stuff like the super tiny DGQ AAA.

CORRECTION: I am a moron.  The low is POINT 24 lumens or about a quarter of a lumen, which makes a whole lot more sense.  Still, even with that, this is a BORING light.  The magnet on the end is actually a neat idea, useful in machining and woodworking (giving you a portable spotlight for your stationary power tools).  But that cannot save this light.  It is just not the innovative new product design you expect from 4sevens.  

Strike Two.

Third, is the announcement that they will be releasing for sale their latest gigalight (I am trademarking that term, so don't even think about stealing it) 18,000 lumen XM-18.  Here is a video from last year's SHOT show:

 

Awesome light. No question.  But really how many people are going to buy this thing?  Even more to the point, how many people are going to actually USE this thing?  And once they do use it and post the beam shots on CPF, what will they do after that?  Nothing.   And then the price will probably be staggering.  Great technical feat, truly, but so what?

Strike Three.

4sevens does make great products, but what's leaked out from SHOT show 2012 so far has been less than impressive.  Let's hope they have other stuff we haven't seen yet.  Also, the badge swap on the tactical pen with the $30 price increase is really kinda bullshit.  They still have the best value lights out there, so this stumble isn't a fatal one, but something of a big let down.

Here is a good application for the XM18 (thanks to a reader comment below):

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

More Leaks from SHOT

So Gerber had a patent on the one handed opening mechanism for multitools (and wow look at all the good patent protection did for the consumer, we got all kinds of crappy variations on the one good idea). The patent expired and our friend Juli, over at Leatherman (she was the point person for the Sidekick review), did a video leading up to SHOT that demonstrated the new OHT (one handed tool) from Leatherman. There are two other tools, the Rebar, which we have all seen and is a smaller version of the Supertool, and a safety cutter. The OHT however, steals the show:



I still like the balisong design, but for those that need quick access, the OHT makes it possible. Now that we have a one handed Leatherman, can we officially say there is no reason EVER to buy a Gerber MT?

Also, great job Juli on the demos.  


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Leaks from SHOT Show

If you can't go, You Tube offers a pretty good seat to see all of the new wares out of SHOT Show, the annual Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoors Trade Show (hence SHOT).  Two items caught my eye.

First, the Surefire line has been significantly updated, as shown in this video:



A couple of standouts include the return of rechargeable battery lights, including a Surefire first, one that runs on both standard and rechargeable cells. Lots of stuff with selector rings too. There is even a 2000 lumen light, which all but confirms that Surefire has started using XM-L emitters. The most interesting thing for me though was the 200 lumen E1B. Thank you Surefire.

The other video that really piqued my interest was this one from Kershaw:



The Cryo is the latest in a line of Rick Hinderer/Kershaw/ZT collaborations.  It has all of the standard Hinderer touches--a multifaceted grind, a thick blade, a frame lock with Hinderer stop.  But it carries a blade made of 8CR13MoVsteel, a cheap steel and definitely not one of my favorites.  It did okay on the OD-2, but terrible on the Spyderco Tenacious.  So what's the big deal?  Well, for one, it is supposed to clock in well under $50.  And number two, at least for me, its size is just about perfect with a blade length of 2.75 inches.  It is also super slim, despite the biggish blade typical of Hinderer designs (I have to imagine they cut down the blade thickness to some degree).  I have already signed up for notification when it arrives so count on a review.  A flipper frame lock at 2.75 inches--count me in.

I will update with more stuff as it dribbles out.  

Monday, January 16, 2012

Leatherman Charge TTi Review

This review is, in many ways, like trying to review a computer or an audio video receiver (AVR). Like a computer or AVR, there are so many ways to use the Charge TTi that it is impossible to take account of everything in two months of use. I am not even sure a year would be long enough. This is simply a beast of a tool.

The TTi is the fifth Leatherman I have owned and it is, by far, the most expensive. It is also the largest and heaviest tool I have. The weight is primarily a function of the sheer number of tools it has, but also due in part to the locking mechanisms on each handle of the tool, something I am not sure is entirely necessary. The idea behind the TTi is that Leatherman has taken all of the best features of its tool line and all the best materials and put them into one tool.

There are three versions of the Charge, the TTi (link below in its usual spot, the "here" paragraph of the review), the AL, and the ALX.  The AL and ALX have aluminum handle scales, as denoted by the "AL" in their names.  The TTi, meanwhile, has titanium handle scales, a nominal weight savings of .1 ounces.  There are two other important differences.  The AL has scissors while the ALX has a safety hook on the back of the serrated blade.  The TTi has both.  Additionally, the AL and ALX blade is made of 154CM.  The TTi has an S30V blade (yes, the blade steel on my best multitool is the same steel as the best knife I own).  The TTi comes in two versions: a leather sheath version or a nylon sheath version.  I got the nylon sheath version as I don't like leather sheathes (poor winter weather performance).  On rare occassions Leatherman will sell the TTi with all of the accessories--the bit extender and all of the bits.  Those packages are not readily available, but if you can find one, they aren't a bad buy.

Here is the TTi's product page.  Here is a good street price (temporary sales price of $88, about $10 less than normal, but I have never heard of the site, so buyer beware).  Here is a good video review (it is of a Caleba's edition, but the differences are minor).  Here is a good written review.  Here are the Amazon reviews.  It has a rating of 4.38 stars out of 5 with 73 reviews.  Here is my TTi:


IMG_0038

Design: 1

Just because you can, doesn't mean you should and with the TTi Leatherman seemingly ignored that maxim of good design.  I am not sure why all of the tools have to lock.  I get the blades and files on the outside of the tool, but all of the interior tools do as well, for no apparent reason other than Leatherman thought it would be neat.  It is nice that they do, but entirely unnecessary.  Additionally, it adds a lot of weight and complexity to an already beastly device.  The TTi weighs in at more than half a pound (8.2 ounces to be exact) and that weight, at least some of it, comes from the entirely superfluous locks.  The design is very nice other than that, though.  The externally accessible tools are all the right ones and the blade is GREAT, both in terms of shape and materials.  There is nothing about the design, other than the locks, that I can even begin to fault.  This is the Cadillac of the Leatherman line and its design shows that--big, full featured, and smooth.  It is not as taut or minimal or as radical as the Skeletool, but this is still one really nice tool.  It is massive and thick:

IMG_0040


but quite nice.  The score of one is solely because of the unnecessary bulk.  And in the end, I was close to giving the TTi at two because, as you will see below, the bulk turns out not to be that big a deal.   

Fit and Finish: 2

If the threads are a great place to check a flashlight's fit and finish, and a lock or grind for a knife, the pliers are a great place to check on a multitool.  You want pliers that meet flush at the very tip and, if you can, wirecutter jaws that don't meet, but shear past each other.  The only multitool I have ever had that did both is the TTi.  Even the Skeletool, which is a nice multitool had a decent set of pliers but barely shearing wirecutters. With the TTi there is no question the wirecutters will cut (and boy, do they ever).

The rest of the tool with all of its unnecessary complexity is equally well finished.  The handles are rounded and don't produce hot spots or cause fatigue.   

IMG_0046

Purpose: 2

The multitool is unquestionably designed as a toolbox replacement.  The only thing missing is a hammer.  With so many tools and attachments and accessories, the TTi comes very close to being the only tool you need.  I carry mine in my survival bag, along with the RD-7, and together I feel like I have most of the bases covered (I also have a collapsible wood saw for felling branches and the like).  The massive number of tools fit together in a package, that while large, is not so big it can't be carried as an EDC.  I did that for about a month and it wasn't that bad at all.  

Grip: 2

Some of these larger multitools are so thick and bulky that they make it hard to get a really good grip.  The TTi is not quite that big.  If you have especially small hands I can see it being a problem.  Still for most people this is a very nice sized tool that gives you leverage in a bunch of different positions.  

Carry: 2

There are two carry options for the TTi.  First is the excellent Leatherman nylon sheath (there is also a leather sheath, but I opted for the nylon one because of leather's tendency to hold water and freeze in cold weather):


Second is the removable pocket clip.  

 IMG_0047
Both are very good options.  Personally I don't like sheathes for EDC, but in this case, my TTi will ride in my Pygmy Falcon II, living on a Nite Ize S biner clipped to a MOLLE attachment around the shoulder for easy access. The side pocket is ideal for a AAA flashlight, making this a small incredibly useful package.  A new Olight i3 may end up living in my sheath.  It also holds the bit extender accessory.  There is a small pouch behind the main pouch for the flat bit cartridges.  Everything about the sheath is excellent, even the multiple storage positions (pliers open as shown above or the standard pliers closed as you can imagine).

When I was EDCing this beast I used the clip and I have to give kudos to Leatherman for an ingenious design, using the tool locking mechanism to hold the clip in place is brilliant.  The clip is also well designed, a low rider with plenty of grip.  When EDCing the TTi the clip was fine, but the weight was a bit much.  I am used to very minimalist carry--an Aeon and a Dragonfly II in FRN.  Together they weight about 1/3 as much as the TTi all by itself.  I can see some folks EDCing this bad boy, but it is a bit heavy for me.  This is more of a personal preference so I am going to keep the score of 2 as a reward for an excellent set of options, but this is a beefy tool.  If it de-pantses you, consider this a warning. 

Materials: 2

Here is where the TTi distances itself from the competition.  There is really nothing close in terms of materials.  S30V on the blade is insane and appreciated.  The titanium handle slabs, likewise, seriously outdistance the competition.  In the end, the TTi laps the multitool world in terms of materials.  I'd give it a 3 if I could.  This is the high water mark for all other tools.  

Deployment/Accessibility: 2

The clever cuts and corner reveals on the exterior handles allow for two tools to be one hand opening (the knife and the serrated blade) and the two other tools are easy to get to with two hands.  On the interior everything as a little spur to catch a fingernail, except for the can opener which has a nail knick.  Nothing is hard to get to and everything works very well on its way to the locking open position.  Everything on this tool locks and yet it is not hard to use, open, or close--a great layout by Leatherman.

IMG_0054


Retention Method: 2

The clip here, covered, above, is genius.  I love it.  Nothing at all I would change.  I love the fact that you can remove it without tools.  BRILLIANT.  

Tool Selection: 2

Nothing is missing, well, except a hammer and hammers on multitools generally stink.  I truly love the safety hook as a package opener and rope cutter.  I love the eyeglasses screw drivers which have a variety of precision uses.  Even the can opener, which I hate, is not that bad at slicing open clam packs.  

Tool Performance: 2

All of the tools perform quite well, but it is the knife, the scissors, and the pliers that deserve high marks.  The pliers are just amazing.  I wish they were spring loaded, but other than that I wouldn't change a thing.  These pliers rival the finest stand alone pliers I have in my workshop.  The blade, likewise, is a great shape and length.  Finally the scissors are incredibly sharp and surprisingly tough.  Overall, everything works exceedingly well.

Overall score: 19 out of 20

I debated this score for a long time.  The locking mechanisms for the internal tools is entirely unnecessary and adds weight, but in the end it didn't really impact the carry of the tool, in part because of the perfect pocket clip.  But I still want to dock it a point.  There is no reason for the weight, but that is the not big issue here.  It is a small problem for an otherwise truly superior tool.  The design, other than that one thing, and the materials are second to none.  If you want one tool to handle 99.99% of your tasks or you are looking for a full sized multitool, the TTi needs to be on your short list of research targets.  In the end, I'd be surprised if you bought something else.  This is a great tool.

Friday, January 13, 2012

What this isn't

This isn't:

1.  A profit making enterprise.

2.  A store (never thought I'd have to say that, but one of the recent comments prompted me).

3.  A place where manufacturers can place products (I'll take submissions, of course, but only if I think you will be interested in them).

4.  A place where you will see analysis of a vast array of products (EDC stuff and other utility tools only).

5.  A professional gear blog.

This is a gear blog, that is definitely the case.  But it is not like the more "professional" gear blogs out there.  I think you know what I mean.  I read three and I like many others.  Personally here are my favorites:

Gear Patrol
ToolGuyd
Uncrate

There are tons more.  But these are really just a series of ads with a pinch of commentary and analysis, much like a celebrity interview on Jay Leno's show is really a commercial for a new movie.  Additionally, these places have...um...well more than one person.  I know that Gear Patrol has an editor (which would be really nice) and a photographer (again nice).  Here, I am a one man show.  These sites also cover a very wide range of things, things that I will never, ever cover.  You will not, for example, read anything here about grooming products.  Ever.  I don't comb my hair on a regular basis and sometimes when I am in a rush I use my gel aftershave (that I got a Wal Mart) as hair gel too.  Not on purpose, mind you, but because really I don't care that much.  I don't want to be a slob, not by a long shot, but I leave the Bieber impersonations to someone else.

The final difference in the list above is the most important, I think.  Unlike those sites, I actually use the stuff and provide a systematic way of reviewing things.  A quick read of the "gear blogs" show that they MAY have hands on time with something, maybe, but even those "hands on" articles involve minimal use.  As I have said before, I like to carry a knife until it needs resharpening.  I like to carry lights for two weeks.  Many of things I have reviewed are things I own or have owned.  In those cases the carry time is even longer.  So the difference in perspective is huge, I think.

The vast array of products they cover means that they have only a scant knowledge base for each product.  They may be able to explain an f stop on a camera and that the Benchmade Mini Grip has a blade of 154CM steel, but I am not sure if they can give reasons why 154CM is better or worse than VG-10.  I think I can.  It is not because I am a steel expert, far from it, but because I have had lots of experience with both.  I may not have the machine of people they do, but I do have the experience they are missing.  

All of this adds up to something that is a bit rougher around the edges than the uber-slick pro gear blogs out there.  No matter how hard I try there are typos in the stuf that goes up (that one is on purpose).  I try to fix them as I see them, but I want to put something out two or three times a week and that means that I am under some time pressure and perfect spelling goes out the window.  If this were a full fledged operation with an editor that wouldn't happen.  But I hope that the few typos are made up for by the depth of content and the systematic method of review of products.  Unlike those guys I don't depend on ad revenue or product placement, so I don't have an allegiance to any particular manufacturer.  I can have loyalty to only one group--you the reader.   I don't do this for a job, to supplement my income or for any other financial benefit.  It means that I have no reason to be swayed by a manufacturer.  They can't offer me anything that work as a bribe.  I really don't need another knife or flashlight, so offering me freebies won't change my opinion.  And since I don't keep any of the ad revenue like the pro gear blogs do, I could give a shit if you click on the links or not, other than the fact that it is fun to give stuff away. 

Those gear blogs have their place.  I read them regularly.  But I hope that this is blog is different.  I hope that my opinions, perspectives, and voice are clear.  I hope that the systematic nature of the reviews I do is helpful.  I also hope that I never have to talk about "man makeup." Ever.   

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

TorchLAB Moddoolar Pocket Review

Its been a while since I did a flashlight review, but boy do I have a good one for you to start off 2012 (I figure since this is the year the world ends, may as well have a good flashlight on you to see you through The End Times, right?).

I can only imagine what it was like, as a flashlight fan, to see the original Surefire 6P (then called Laser Products).  It must have seemed like a revelation.  And then the hits just kept on coming.  The lights got smaller and brighter, the parts were interchangeable.  It had to feel like the beginning of new era (because it was).  Having carried the Oveready Moddoolar for two weeks makes me feel like I was handling the first 6P.  It is clear in my mind--there is a new standard for flashlights and it is the Moddoolar.   It is not just that the light is bright (it is); its not just that the light is highly, as the name implies, modular (it is); its not just that the light is incredibly rugged (it is); and that the light as the fit and finish of a custom light, which it is.  It is that it is all of these things together.  There is really no other light that operates in this space.  You have custom lights, but they are usually closer to shelf queen than street sweeper.  You have modular lights, like the Surefire E series, but they are neither as bright or as beautifully finished.  You have lights like the HDS, which get close on some of the these fronts, but fail the brightness test.  Bright, modular, rugged, and beautifully finished--only the Moddoolar has all of these things.

Moddoolar is a collaboration between Oveready and Torch Lab.  The owner of Oveready met the engineer behind Torch Lab on CPF and after a few small batch custom ventures they set up the Oveready store, which if you have not been, click on the link and peruse.  I'll wait.  Okay your back.  The venture started with boring out Surefires for higher capacity batteries and swapping out emitters.  Eventually, Dan (Oveready) and Tom (Torch Lab) decided to make an entirely custom light and the Moddoolar is the result.  I sent Dan an email and a few days later, I had one for testing.  He sent me a three mode head, a single cell body tube (700 lumen Hi CRI or 800 lumens on neutral), a two cell body tube (1000/11000 lumens), a Triad tailcap, and two 18350 batteries (which charge in the Nano charger many people already have).  The two cell tube also fits a standard 18650 rechargeable battery.    

Here is the Moddoolar product page.  I am happy to say that for the second time, I am the first to review a light, as there are no other reviews of the Moddoolar on the web.  I covered this light way back, here.  There is no Amazon page, obviously, and there is absolute price uniformity as there is only one source.  The options are staggering--single cell or multi cell lights, three different emitters (cool, neutral and Hi CRI), single mode or multi mode heads, gray or silver bezels, black or natural hard anodizing, multiple clips, different clickies, and one hell of a tailcap.  The head, body, and tailcap options are all compatible with at least one Surefire model (check each part's individual page for full compatibility) so you can even do CROSS brand flashlight lego-ing.  

Here is the Moddoolar (with the single cell body tube) I was sent for testing:

IMG_0011

I was also sent the two cell body tube.  Here is the light in that configuration:

IMG_0020

Because this is a full custom light sold from only one store, it may be hard for folks to do size comparisons.  Before I get to the numbers, here are two size comparison (one with the single cell tube and the other with the two cell tube):

IMG_0018

and:

IMG_0021

The first shot is a McGizmo Haiku, the single cell Moddoolar, and a Lumapower Incendio (which is THE smallest or one of the smallest single cell clickies on the market).  The second shot is the double cell Moddoolar and the Surefire G2X Pro


Design: 2

If you don't like rechargeable batteries, this is probably not the light for you.  It can still run on regular CR123a batteries, but not as well.  Oveready does not recommend running them when using the light on high, but they can work well for low and medium.  Additionally because of its hard use purpose, the light is not small.  As you can see above, the single cell body tube is pretty long.  Both body tubes are thick.  But all of this is part of the design philosophy--cutting edge performance.  In that sense, the Moddoolar design is impeccable.  The tailcap is easily the best I have ever seen, the body has that perfect length to diameter ratio that many lights miss (especially in the single cell tube set up).  The heat sinks are effective because even on high, it takes a while for the light to heat up.  There are even small reflectors or optics around the trio of XPG emitters to help capture even more light.  The threads are stoutly cut V threads (so stoutly cut I thought they were acme threads) and the tubes have dual o-rings.  Every single feature has been thought out and if you can accept the requirements of a hard use light, namely the rechargeable batteries and stocky frame, then there is nothing to complain about. 


Fit and Finish: 2

Like the grind on a blade, the threads of a flashlight's body tube are a great place to check the fit and finish.  Look for slop or play when the parts are connected.  Also look for misthreadings or difficult to thread parts.  Here, like all of the parts on the Moddoolar, the threading is impressive.  They synch together with almost magnetic ease.  This light is in the same class, in terms of fit and finish, as a McGizmo.  It is not QUITE perfect, like Don's lights are, but it is pretty darn close.  Stunning for a first effort and great all around. 


Grip: 2

Here is a picture of the clicky end of the light (in single cell mode):

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and here is a picture of the light in use:


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Note how my thumb works through the gap in the tailcap.  Also note, though you may not be able to see it, how my finger rests in the bend in the pocket clip.  These two things make the light perfect to control in the hand.  This grip is the key to the magical feel of the Moddoolar in the hand.  It makes the light feel so natural, like an extension of your arm.   It also gives you precise control of where you are throwing light.  No light, including my McGizmo, has felt as natural and as comfortable in my hand as the Moddoolar.  And because the tailcap remains the same with the two cell body tube, the superb grip is the same as well.  Awesome design, incredible forethought.

Carry: 2

The single cell design is fine for pocket carry.  Its diameter makes jeans pocket carry a little difficult, but the clip is great and the size is fine for riding on the edge of your regular pocket.  The two cell design is a little bit more of a challenge.  I'd give the two cell design a 1 because like the MC-18 B I reviewed last year, it is just a little too big to ride in the pocket comfortably.  If you carry your light in a bag, then both are perfectly fine.  


Output: 2

We get to the BIG ISSUE: output.  Nothing runs even close to the Moddoolar's output in this form factor.  No custom light (though Mac's stuff comes within 200 lumens) and no production light.  This is a light that is the size of a large single cell CR123a light and can put out roughly 700 lumens (or 800 if your not a tint snob and require a Hi CRI emitter).  What does that mean?  Let's take a look at the comparison shots.

First, the control (which is the bulkhead door of my workshop) with overhead lighting:

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Second of the control with no light:

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Then the Surefire G2X Pro on Low:

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Then the Surefire G2X Pro on High:

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The Moddoolar on Low:

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Moddoolar on Medium:

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Moddoolar on High:

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The Moddoolar does not produce the same wall of light that the MC-18 B does.  Instead you get a very, very bright hot spot.  The difference between the G2X Pro and the Moddoolar was close to night and day.  Imagine the G2X Pro's tight hotspot three times larger and three times brighter.  That is the Moddoolar.  The pictures aren't lying.  This is a dazzling bright light.  On High with a ceiling bounce, the light comes close to replicating a fixed ceiling lamp in terms of brightness.  The tint is noticeably better.  Also, and this is a point of contention with a lot of flashaholics, the low on the Moddoolar is a real moonlight/firefly low.  It is barely enough for the camera to pick up and certainly low enough to save your night vision.  The medium is a little bright for a close up work light, but it is still within the acceptable range.  This much firepower in this small a package is stunning, both literally and figuratively. 


Runtime: 2

Using the unusual 18350 battery (which the same length as a CR123 but larger in diameter) you can get ridiculous runtimes, even on high with 800 lumens (18 minutes).  On low you get two days.  Two days of useful light is pretty impressive in any package, but in a package that can also light up the side of a mountain like a car headlight, well that is an amazing bit of tech.  


Beam Type: 2

This beam is very clearly trying to play it both ways.  There is very little spill, as you can see above, but the hotspot is so big, thanks to the three XPG emitters, that you can use it like the spill on a regular light.  I like the compromise that Dan and Tom made here, and that is what beam type always is on an EDC light.  Sometimes you need a thrower and sometimes you don't.  The very best lights do both very well, and the Moddoolar, following in the steps of the Haiku, is right in that space.  


Beam Quality: 2

The neutral tint option was excellent, enough for my non-flashlight loving family members to comment on how nice the light was.  There are artifacts because of the three emitter array configuration, but only at very, very close range, something like less than two inches.  That is not really a drawback at all.  Great tint and smooth beam.  


UI: 2

Okay you can choose from from three UIs: single mode, low-medium-high, and another variation that puts high first.  It is a click and then another click that sends the light into the next mode.  All great.  Simple, easy to use, great.  The light gets a 2.  But, and this is one small bit of criticism I could levy against the Moddoolar, why bother with this? Why not, instead, just add mode memory like the Haiku and that allows you to pick the order.  If you want the light to come on in medium, just turn it off in medium.  Then there is no arguing about output order or anything like that.  


Hands Free: 2

If I could give the light a 3 I would.  It tailstands with the stability of a pyramid.  It won't roll and operates beautifully in a ceiling bounce.  Great, great, great.  


Overall Score: 20out of 20

This is a light without equal in the marketplace today.  There is no light this rugged, this bright, this small, and this finely designed and made.  There are lights that are any one of those things, or even any two or three of those things, but not all of them.  I don't need a light this rugged, but if my son or daughter were a LEO or in the military, they would go out into danger with one these lights.

I still think that the McGizmo Haiku is the perfect EDC light, mainly for the slimmer size and mode memory, but if you wanted a light that would take a beating and be fine, maybe the Haiku is not for you.  In that case, the Moddoolar is.  I could be convinced, pretty easily, that the package with the two body tubes and the three mode output is the best light available today, regardless of price.   Let me say that again because it is a bold statement and I mean it:  there is an argument, and a good one, that this is the best light available today, regardless of price.  I have owned or used well over two thousand dollars in flashlights in the past four years and this light is right at the top of the list in terms of performance.  For the price, around $330, you save money over a McGizmo and get a light that is its equal and in some ways better. 

That's great, but here is the big deal with this light--unlike many of the other customs out there this light is READILY available.  Want one?  Go buy one on Oveready.  Their service was superb, by the way.  If they don't have one, sign up for a notice and you can go buy one when they come in.  No pay up front, no agonizing wait, no missing the order window.  You can just go buy it.  And you should.  Dan and Tom through down the gauntlet.

Maybe Dark Sucks will make a single cell (or smaller light) and return the favor.  We are living in a flashlight golden age, enjoy it.  I know I am.