Thursday, June 28, 2012

Blade Show 2012 Awards

They may be a sponsor of the site, but BladeHQ also put out tons of good videos, including this short version of the 2012 Blade Show Awards ceremony. It is nice that they also included pictures of the knives that won. Ooooh, that RJ Martin/ZT blade looks awesome (could ZT get any hotter than they are right now? Amazing job).


Three notes: 1) the Twitter giveaway is over and the TT-7 was shipped out; 2) the YouTube giveaway is over and the Candiru was shipped out (funny story for a later post); and 3) the main site giveaway is still on. Anyone want a free $90 kickass flashlight?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Light and Saber Recommendation Series, 2012

Last year I marched through a review of a flashlight and a tool for each of various arbitrary but sensible price categories.  This year, instead of just updating that old list, which would be awfully boring, I decided that would explore your options out there via size.  Here are the old rules.

Here is how it is going to break down this time around:

I will recommend a flashlight and a knife or multitool in each of a few categories. Lights will be grouped by their size and battery, generally speaking.  Knives will be grouped by their blade size, unless there is something where the blade size is not indicative of the overall size of the blade (such as in the case of the Yojimbo 2 from Spyderco, which has a much longer handle than blade). 

Here they are:

Keychain Sized:

Button cell or other super small cell lights
OPMTs, very small multitools, or sub 2" folders

A perfect example of a button cell light would be the LRI Photon, a light probably everyone on the planet has seen.  A very small multitool would be something like the Leatherman PS4 and a good example of a sub-2" folder would be a Spyderco Jester or Ladybug or any of the "Cali Legal" autos out there.
Small Pocket Sized:

Small single cell lights (CR2 or AAA)
Small multitools or 2-2.5" folders

Here I am thinking of a Preon 0 or Preon 1 or any number of CR2 powered lights (or their rechargeable equivalents).  A small multitool would be something like a SAK Alox Cadet.

  
Medium Pocket Sized:

Medium single cell lights (CR123 or AA)
Medium multitools or 2.5"-3" folders

Here these categories are self-explanatory, but for the medium multitools.  In that category I put things like the Juice or the Skeletool.

 Large Pocket Sized:

2 cell lights (CR123a, AA, or AAA) or 18650 lights
Full sized multitools or 3-3.5" folders

Full sized multitools are true toolbox replacements, things like the Victorinox SwissTool Plus or the Charge TTI.


Pack Carry:

Any larger light
Any larger folder or fixed blade or a heavy duty MT.

A heavy duty MT is something like the Super Tool 300.

I am going to try to tether these recommendations to reality, though I am not going to be shy about providing a recommendation for high end items (though if I do this I will try to also recommend a lower priced item as well).  The stuff has to be readily available as a new product.  That means that you need to be able to go to a store, go to a website, or sign up for the product right away.  If you have to wait, that's fine, but stuff that is out of production will not be considered.  That means the Aeon will not be eligible :(

I wish I had a large enough review database to recommend only those things that I have reviewed, but I don't think that will happen for a long time.  Some of the things I am going to recommend, like I did last time, will be based on reputation, specifications, and my experiences with other products from that maker.  For example, after using the Candiru I feel comfortable in saying that the heat treat and performance of ESEE's 1095 steel is quite good and thus I feel comfortable in saying that an ESEE 4 or 6 would be a good pack knife.  If I did review something I will be sure to note that I did so.

I am also going to be more conscious of value than I am when doing reviews.  Value will be defined as performance versus price, with more performance per dollar being a better value.

There will be stuff that I am going to ignore, so if you want to know why your favorite is missing, read this article

These articles always take a very long time to write, so be prepared for something of a wait between them, but when they are done I hope to have two entirely different approaches to recommended gear, one based on price and one based on size.   Plus, quite a few new products have come out since last year and it will be fun to look at all of them compared to what has been out there for a while.

Friday, June 22, 2012

More Giveaways

Okay three simple giveaways.

First, I am giving away one of the finest production EDC lights available for less than $100 (in my opinion): the Sunwayman M11R Mr. Elfin.

Second, I am giving away an awesome small fixed blade, the ESEE Candiru, which I gave a perfect score. 

Third, I am giving away the TT-7.  The previous winner never contacted me, so it is back up for grabs.  

How do you win?

Simple.  I will randomly choose a winner from the blog's followers when the number reaches 200.  I will do the same when the YouTube site has 100 subscribers.   I will do the same when the Twitter feed has 50 followers.  Why I decided to have a Twitter account I am not sure, but I will try it out and see how it works. 

This adds to the already impressive giveaway total of $357 bringing the new total to about $510.




Thursday, June 21, 2012

THIS is how you use an EDC tool

There are those people that buy a Sebenza and then make room for it on their shelf or in their safe.  Perfectly legit, but boring as hell.

Then there are those of us that like to thump on our tools.  Nothing complicated or tricky, but significant use whenever we can.

"Grog like thumping tree with big knife."

Then there is Don Pettit.  He EDCs a Leatherman Wave and wears an Omega watch, good choices.  In space.  And he uses the Wave to field repair his Omega X-33 watch.  Very few people could do this on land.  He does it in zero-g and makes it look quite easy.


Don's awesome understatement of the year:

"Fine watch repair in space is the paragon of fine motor skills."

Yes, and you guys are really high up there Don.

PS: Astronauts are badasses.

PPS: If someone comments that this is easy you are deleted, not just from the comments but from the universe itself.  There will be a bright flash of light and then a snapping sound and you will vanish from reality.   

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What's in the Hopper

So I got the LED Lenser M7R from friend of the site, Juli Warner over at Leatherman today.  I had asked when I noticed that in a recent tech upgrade LED Lenser now has respectable lumens counts for their light's outputs and they have switched over to current regulation, allowing for longer outputs at closer to the max levels.  In other words the quirks that made LED Lenser stuff a bit out of the mainstream are gone. 

What is left is an impressive light, but this is going to take a while.  The light has an innovative magnetic charging base.  It also has an 18650 battery.  It has multiple UIs, all of which are different.  Finally, it has a spectacular and pretty much unique lens focusing system (it is patented as a matter of fact).  All of this unusual and new tech in a light is going to be a challenge to review, but I am going to do my best. 

Also, word from BHQ is that a Paramilitary 2 is coming my way for review.  This is probably one of the hottest blades on the market right now and I can't wait to get one in my hands to try out.  All of you that were working on reviews of the PM2 for the Haiku giveaway, keep them coming.  More points of view are better on a knife this important.

Finally, I will be giving away two really nice items that were reviewed here in the next few days.  Keep an eye out for the announcement and rules. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Protech Sprint PR1 Review

When I write the intro paragraphs to my reviews I always try to provide some background information or interesting, but seemingly unrelated fact, that when fully disclosed works as a clever segue into the main part of the review.  Here I have two, so this is a choose your own adventure (remember those?) intro.  Feel free to skip one or the other.

Regular Intro

There was a reason I wrote about fidget factor when I did.  Nothing provokes more gear fidgeting and and fondling than an automatic knife.  A simple button press produces a thwack that would serve nicely as a firing shot for a foot race.  The action is so impressive that for many years autos were a dirty word.  But that has changed as a wave of common sense legislation has passed in various state legislatures repealing laws that barely made sense in the 1950s and make no sense whatsoever now (compare the difference in speed between a Case and an auto and an assisted opener and an auto).  With that wave coming to an area near me, I thought it was time to review an auto knife.  My new sponsor (see to the right) was kind enough to send me out a California-legal (blade under 2 inches) auto for review.  I figured that would have the widest applicability and it would match neatly with my preference for smallish EDC knives.  Cameron over at BladeHQ sent me a gorgeous Protech Sprint PR1 with a carbon fiber insert.  This is a pricey item and varying state laws would make it hard to give away, so I sent it back after the review. 

Nerdy Legal Intro

Jennifer Coffey is a State Representative in New Hampshire, the state where I work.  She recently ushered through the New Hampshire legislature a bill that legalized automatic knives (SB88), regularly demonized by the name "switchblade."  That bill not only legalized automatic knives for civilian use, carry and possession, it also did something that so far as I can tell no other state has done--it included a "preemption" clause.  In legal parlance preemption means that one authority bars or invalidates laws passed by a lesser authority when the laws of the greater authority and lesser authority legislate the same matter.  So for example, now that the State legislature has legalized automatic knives AND included a preemption clause, all of the city and town ordinances banning those same knives are invalidated and all future ordinances of the same kind cannot be passed.

Now the federal government still bans civilian possession of switchblades (see here) on federal property and has extensive limitations on their sale and transportation (and of course, if preemption works going down from a State government to a local government it also works going down from the federal government to the State government, see here for more on federal preemption, see also Article IV, Clause 2), so how legal the preemption clause is in Jenn Coffey's law is an open question.  But, the important thing is automatic knives are legal in New Hampshire and legal elsewhere as well.  With this wave of reform, I thought it was appropriate to review an automatic knife.  I chose a California-legal model (which means the blade length is under 2 inches) for review so that the review would be applicable to a wide audience and also because I prefer smallish EDC knives.  I received a ProTech Sprint PR1 from Cameron over at BladeHQ.

Here is the product page for the ProTech Sprints.  The Sprint is a brand new model for ProTech.  The model number for the knife that I reviewed is 2915.  Here is the BladeHQ link for the Sprint.  There are no written or video reviews of the Sprint yet.  Here is BladeHQ's video overview of the Sprint.  Finally, here is the ProTech Sprint I reviewed:

IMG_0002

Here is my knife scoring system.

Design: 2

The knife is tiny.  It is smaller than the Dragonfly II.  The blade squeaks in under 2 inches (1.99 to be exact) so as to remain California legal.  This places an artificial restriction on blade length resulting in a poor blade:handle ratio of .64.  The knife is thin for an auto (.39) but fat for a regular knife.  It is also a featherweight with any knife as a comparison, hitting 1.6 ounces (the SOG Flash I and the Dragonfly II clock in at less, each weighing about 1.2 ounces).  The handle scales are aluminum with an excellent, almost prismatic carbon fiber inlay.  The button is simply perfect.  It is shaped well and allows for no-look activation.  It feels different than the pivot.  Furthermore it had a very long plunge distance before it triggers the spring.  I never had the knife activate accidentally and given the amount of force in the spring and the razor sharp edge that is a good thing.  Subtle is not something that always goes with an auto knife (check out the ProTech Custom Gallery), but this knife, likely a gentleman's folder or an EDC blade, is just that. 

Fit and Finish: 2

I have mentioned this before, but it is worth repeating.  Each of the major production companies does something much better than the others.  Spyderco's designs are clearly superior to the others.  Kershaw knives are always an extraordinary value.  SOG's grinds and blade shapes are really nice.  Benchmade does build quality very well.  It is not quite up to CRK standards, but it is very good, nonetheless.  ProTech's fit and finish on the Sprint is somewhere between Benchmade and CRK and it it is closer to CRK than it is Benchmade.

The edges are rounded nicely, the blade is perfectly centered:

IMG_0011


This is a very finely crafted blade.  The inlay doesn't pass the "fingernail test" (I use this in woodworking to check tight fitting joints, if I can run my fingernail over the joint without feeling it, it is as tight as it is going to get) but it is very close to doing so.  There is no blade play even when the blade is in the open position and you grip the blade near its tip. 

Grip: 0

This is a tiny knife and it is smooth and curvy, especially when open:

IMG_0008


There is no: jimping, thumb ramp, finger grooves, traction inserts, or choil.  In a knife like this, a small EDC knife or a gentleman's folder, I'd normally not dock it a point, let alone two, but this is an auto and the kick associated with activating the blade really makes some kind of traction plan nice.  You get the hang of it after a while and you can anticipate the kick, but the lack of a traction plan and the presence of smooth refined materials, like satiny aluminum scales and a glass-smooth carbon fiber insert make the grip on this knife decidedly below par.  

Carry: 2

This is a thin and small knife with pleasantly rounded or chamfered corners.  Taken together this is makes the Sprint a joy to carry.  Only the pocket clip is a knock, but no matter how you carry this guy it just disappears in your pocket. 

Steel: 2

I went through and explained the benefits of niobium here.  Basically it allows steel makers to hardened the steel even more and keep that hardness through more use.  This is the first knife I have used with S35VN steel and I am impressed.  Though the Rockwell is 60 instead of 66 like ZDP-189, in real terms and everyday use I did not notice a difference in edge retention.  The lower carbon content of the S35VN steel also makes it less likely to tarnish when compared to the uber-carbon steel ZDP-189.  I still like ZDP-189 more because, at least in theory and over the long term, it will probably hold an edge better, but S35VN is definitely in the discussion.  Given that it is such a new steel and people are still working out how to use it, I imagine its performance will get better over time (look at all the ways people have used D2 in the many years it has been a popular cutlery steel for an example).  

Blade Shape: 2

The Sprint has a modestly sized blade with plenty of belly.  This is makes it an excellent EDC choice.  I'd like a bit more straight cutting edge as the entire two inches is belly, to allow for more slice cuts, but it isn't a huge deal.   

Grind: 2

Not as simple as I would like, but pretty effective.  I am not sure why they didn't just opt for a full flat grind.  The swedge is nice but the multifaceted blade can make sharpening more difficult.  In terms of the actual grinding, ProTech did an amazing job.  This thing is sharp, crisp, and even.  "Meticulous" is probably not strong enough a word to express how clean this grind is.  

Deployment Method: 2

So we are finally here, the reason why you buy an auto in the first place--deployment.  The Sprint is, in fact, quick.  It shoots out with both speed and force.  In fact the first few times I shot the little blade open I almost lost control of it.  After a while you get used to the kick and it becomes second nature.  I loved the button, as I mentioned before.  And the opening is sure and impressive each and every time.  No missed activations or half activations, even when I was trying to do so.  I loved firing the knife open and closed, hence the fidget factor post.

But here is the thing, I am not sure autos are all that much better than simple one-handed opening knives.  Now that I have used a state of the art, high quality auto to compare to similar non-autos, I guess it comes down to this--if you can carry one legally where you live, you should try it out.  You might like it a lot, as there are features I can seem some going nuts for, but if you can't its okay.  It is kind of like living in a world with great chocolate ice cream but no strawberry.  Its not like what you have stinks, its just you might like something else more.  

Retention Method: 1

You wouldn't think something so simple on a mechanical masterpiece like this little auto would be so difficult to get right, but you'd be wrong.  The pocket clip, seen here:

IMG_0010


The clip is so tight that even in suit slacks I had a hard time getting it on the lip of my pocket. It was so onerous that eventually I just got in the habit of leaving it in my pocket floating freely.  I had to clear out the rest of the pocket because of the button, but it is small enough to ride in the coins pocket of most jeans, a real plus.  A slightly less stiff clip would help a lot.  On the plus side you aren't EVER losing this thing.  Like EVER. 

Lock/Blade Safety: 1

The button lock itself is fine, perfectly fine.  But closing the knife one handed is difficult both because of the kick on the spring and because of the size of the knife itself.  On more than one occasion did I lose control of the knife and have to start over.  Two handed closing is fine, but one handed closing requires QUITE a bit a practice.  It is not a big deal in and of itself, but the spring loaded blade, when you go to close it can put your fingers in harm's way.  Not a big deal, but definitely a change for those of us that are not used to closing auto knives.  

Overall Score: 16 out of 20

Don't buy this knife because it is an auto.  That is a huge, cool addition, but really this is a fantastic blade.  It is the perfect size for EDC use and it has great materials and fit and finish.  It is the same league as the Dragonfly II ZDP-189, and if you have followed the site for a while you know that is high praise.  The Sprint is a nice size and shape.  It has top choice steel.  It looks awesome and feels sweet when carrying it.  I'd appreciate a bit more grip and a softer pocket clip, but that is really it.  If you can get an auto, you should try this.  It is a good little knife.  With a few touches it could be among the best of the best.

I really have to give credit to ProTech.  They have a niche and they do their thing REALLY, REALLY well.  I'd like to see them make a flipper manual action knife to go toe to toe with Microtech, the auto company that gets all the praise.  If the Sprint is any indication, ProTech's marketshare will grow as auto laws fall across the country.

By the way, if your state still has laws regulating knives that were passed when we still had not summitted Everest, go take a peek at what the folks over at KnifeRights are doing.    

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Blade HQ Sponsorship

The site has an official sponsor now--Blade HQ.  See the banner on the right hand side bar.  They provided me with the review sample of the Protech Sprint PR1 that is still being tested (I am taking a little longer because it is my first Protech, S35VN blade, and auto that I have reviewed).

I was hesitant about this but after consideration and reading comments and feedback from readers, I have decided to use a sponsor.  Blade HQ was the only place I contacted.  It was not an easy decision, not because Blade HQ was an issue, but because I didn't really like the idea of a sponsor at all.  It came down to this: I want to have the largest database of reviewed gear anywhere and doing that on my budget for the site (zero dollars) is very difficult.  By pairing with Blade HQ I can still bring you good, informative reviews on new products without spending lots of my own money or taking away cash from the Haiku Giveaway.

I chose Blade HQ for a reason, or really a few reasons.  Prior to starting the site I experienced their excellent customer service firsthand.  Second, they have an enormous selection.  Third, they have competitive prices.  Finally and perhaps most importantly, they have real time inventory. 

What happened when I ordered the Bradley Alias illustrates why all of this is important.  During the process of ordering and shipping, the Alias II was in short supply and I had to change my order midstream.  Blade HQ's real time inventory and great customer service was very helpful.  Everything you see on their site they have in stock.  Lots of places are merely displaying their catalog, that is, things they can order.  This means that your order can take a long time to receive (they have to get it first and then ship it to you) and there is a chance that even though an item is in a given company's catalog it is backordered meaning you will have to wait even longer.   This experience really sold me on them as a company.

So when I was considering who to look to for sponsorships, Blade HQ came out far ahead of the competition.  I didn't bother really looking into anyone else.  They have good connections both in the knife industry and in the enthusiast world.  They also have helped pass laws that have a common sense approaches to knife regulation.  It is one thing to say you support legislative efforts and it is another thing to actually do something. 

So from now on you will see links to Blade HQ products in reviews (over Amazon) and you will see products sent to me for testing from Blade HQ.  I will be looking for feedback, so let me know what you think and what your experiences have been with Blade HQ, both in the past and going forward.

Filipe De Coene Hybrid Friction Folder Video Review

This is one of those things you have to see in person to get.  Hopefully, this video is close enough to convey to cool, minimal design.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Fidget Factor

Watch any knife review on Youtube and you will see one thing happen over and over again, no matter who the reviewer is or what they are reviewing--opening and closing the knife.  Click, open, push, snap, close.  Over and over again.  It is compulsive.  It is like a cigarette for someone nic-fitting.  Those of us that love gear, we like to play with that gear, even if it is something as simple as opening and closing a knife blade.

So does this matter?  I think it does.

Here is the premise of the argument: knives and lights that rank high on fidget factor are actually very nice products.  The reverse is not true, not all great knives or flashlights have a high fidget factor.  Why does fidget factor matter?  I think a high fidget factor belies a good design and is evidence of good build quality and fit and finish.

Argument #1: High fidget factor is a result of an good and appealing design

One of the hallmarks of good design is that the thing's function is obvious from its form.  That is, how it looks tells you how it works.  It is sort of like a very brief and intuitive instruction manual.  Take a look at these chess pieces, designed by German designer Josef Hartwig, to see what I mean:


Every piece's appearance tells you how it works based on how it looks.  Fidget factor is sort of like that.  Take, for example, the knife flipper.  The position of the flipper and the shape almost beg you to touch it and when you do the blade comes out.  The better the flipper design, the more you want to touch it, the more you want to touch it the better you learn how to use it.  Fidget factor makes it easier to use things and in turn makes it more intuitive to use, which means you can use something with less thought and more as a reaction--a positive when you are in a self-defense scenario or when you are doing a job that requires you to focus on something else other than your tools.  In the end, that is what good tools should do.  They should allow you to ignore the tool and simply get things done.  A great tool is one you don't have to think about, don't have to fiddle with, and don't have to do maintenance on.  You just pick it up and go to work.

Argument #2: Fidget factor is also a good indication of a high level of build quality

Flicking open a blade or popping on a flashlight is not the only way that we fidget with gear.  There is also the "fondling" part.  When you slowly open a Sebenza and hear the lockbar click into place and then, being sure to catch the sun glinting off the mirror polished secondary bevel (cutting edge), you are appreciating the knife's excellent build quality.   Well designed and well made things again crave our touches and we crave touching them.  It is another way, aside from visual inspection, to actually feel the quality of an item.  My McGizmo Haiku feels different in the hand from any other flashlight I have.  It feels like a quality item.  That feel confirms our research, our visual inspection, and our rational understanding of the item's performance.  It is a final "gut check" on a product.

And good designers know this.  Bang and Olufsen, a high end AV company, goes out of their way to accentuate these features on their products.  Here is a piece on this.  What is the shittiest part of your AV equipment?  It is your remote.  The remotes on normal AV equipment are light, plasticy, and ugly.  But they are the thing you interact with most--the thing you touch most often on your AV equipment.  To make their products FEEL, literally feel, different B&O uses zinc instead of plastic or aluminum.  Zinc has two properties that make it interesting for remotes and proof of the fidget factor argument #2.  First, zinc, unlike aluminum or other metals remains cooler to the touch.  It does not absorb heat as quickly as other metals and as a result when you pick up a zinc B&O remote it literally FEELS cool.  Second, zinc, unlike aluminum and titanium, is very heavy.  Their remotes feel substantial because they are more substantial.  It is a nice bit of synergy for B&O that zinc is also very soft and cheap to machine, even cheaper than aluminum, but the other two design oriented properties are more important.

Fidgeting with gear is fun.  But it is also useful.  It helps you decipher just how well designed something is and it helps you figure out how well made something is.  When I get a product for review, in addition to using it (usually a TON), I also like to fidget with it.  I take it in the car on long commutes.  I open and close it.  I look at it (when I am at stop lights).  I do the same thing at home when watching TV.

Fidget factor is important.  Now go play with that assisted open flipper. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Aeon Sign Ups

So here is how this will work.  Enrique has given me more information about the lights, specifications and everything.  He also also indicated how many orders we need and by when.

The light will be very similar to the Titanium Aeon with two differences:

1.  A neutral XP-E emitter will be standard (Enrique corrected me, the XR-E is what he used to get the insane runtimes, not the XP-G).

2.  The light will be a three stage, instead of two stage twisty.  The old "low" around 30 lumens will now be the medium and the new mode will be a moonlight low of around .25 lumens.

We need 74 people to sign up (75 really, but if this is a go, I am getting one).  We have one month.  If we have sufficient interest in one month, Enrique will take deposits and names for the Aeon Final Editions.  He has gauged the price to be roughly $100 more than the normal Ti Aeons so between $300 and $400.  The increased cost comes from two things--more labor and different parts for the third stage of the twisty and a smaller run.

I am not going make anything on this and all of the real work will be done by Enrique, including the payment and ordering.  This is just a place to gather names to show interest.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Muyshondt Aeon 3 Stage Edition

After receiving the really depressing news about the Aeon, I hit up Enrique one last time.  My request was on behalf of you folks for one more run of Aeons.  The idea was a "Super" Aeon, one with a Neutral emitter and a three stage twisty with a moonlight mode low (.25 lumens).  It seemed like nothing more than a wing and a prayer, but there is no harm in asking, so I gave it a go.

Surprisingly, here was Enrique's response:

Hello Tony,

I'm not going to be doing aluminum lights anymore, but I suppose I could
make a last run of Aeons for your readers with a twist - three stages in
titanium, with a nice neutral white Cree XR-E. I could probably take on
the project in a month if you wanted to see if there was sufficient
interest. Exact pricing would be determined later, but based on past
experience I would expect it to be sub-$400, and there would have to be
somewhere on the order of 75 folks interested in lights for it to be
possible.

If you were able to round up enough interested parties I'd be willing to
do the same thing as what was done with the Mako when coyote conscripted
me; When things are ready to go into production take a deposit on the
lights, then take the remaining balance payment once they're ready to
ship, which keeps things simple and the lead times between payment and
shipment minimized.

All the very best,

Enrique

I am fairly certain I don't need to emphasize this point, but this will be one hell of a light--Ti body, super runtimes, three stage twisty, neutral CREE emitter, all in a tiny package.  I guess the only thing better than an Aeon would be an Everyday Commentary Muyshondt Aeon Final Edition.

Be watching for future announcements. 

Also, don't say I never did anything for you.  This AND all of the giveaways (two more to be announced very soon). 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

In Case You Missed It: Muyshondt Aeon

Well, I mentioned it in the prior post, but today I got email confirmation from Enrique Muyshondt himself--the Muyshondt Aeon is being discontinued.  Here is the email from Enrique:

Hello Tony,

The Aeon is being discontinued, yes. I have a handful of parts left to
build a few more lights but that's the last of them. To be clear, this
doesn't preclude that one day it won't be re-introduced, but speaking from
today's vantage point I have no further plans at present for future
releases on it.

I will likely release a new light at some point in the not-so-distant
future but it will be unrelated and not intended to replace the Aeon. My
time is rather more precious these days and I am moving away from any kind
of small volume production and plan to just be doing small batches of
lights so that I can build and ship everything at once when it's
available, like what was done with the Mako - it's far more straight
forward that way.

I don't have any Mako AAAs available, unfortunately. They were a
relatively small batch of lights.

I'm glad to read that your Aeon is still seeing good use - the best place
for that light is on your keys. :) Also, I have noticed the black gunk
that you found at the bottom of the battery tube as well. I have no idea
what it is but it does come up sometimes - you can wipe the bottom of the
battery with any cloth, and the stuff on the negative contact in the case
will come off with a Q-Tip. If it's stubborn, alcohol will lift it.

Take care.

Enrique

If you have read this site for a while you will know how much I love this light.  I have a lot of nice lights and access, thanks to kind makers and manufacturers, to a lot more.  There is nothing that works better in an EDC role, in my opinion, than the Aeon.  Its small size, super long runtimes, and plenty of output for its size makes it a great light.  The dead simple, can't miss UI puts it over the top.  Enrique made a light that is tougher than just about anything in the flashlight world and it is a light that uses top shelf materials in every facet of the light.

If you can find one out there, I strongly recommend picking one up.  Even three years after its introduction there are no lights in its class that are better.  

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Flashlight Updates

Three random notes.

First I sent Eagletac an email about the crooked pocket clip on my D25A.  First email was very sad.  They are not making these lights anymore because they were limited editions.  Second email was much better.  The clip is a universal clip and they would send me one for free, so long as I covered shipping.  It arrived about two weeks later and I installed it.  It is better but not perfect, say like 99% straight. 

Take aways:

1.  Eagletac's customer service is good.

2.  Unlike other companies (how many limited edition Ti lights is Sunwayman going to make?), their limited editions are actually limited.

3.  Pocket clips are regularly a problem on lights.

Second, I have recently gone back to carrying my Aeon on a daily basis, something like a sobert palete cleanser (see tip 8) for gear reviewing.  I love this light.  But I noticed that the activation and the step up to the high output was not as clean as before.  The light would flicker and then sometimes just skip to high.  I blew out the compartment.  I lubed the threads.  I cleaned the head.  Nothing.  I was getting sad when I looked at the battery.  I then noticed that the battery had been in the light for over a year.  I tried a new battery and nothing changed.  I was about to morn a little when I looked down in the battery tube and noticed that the connector was all dirty.  Three drops of de-oxit red later and the light was a smooth as butter again.  I guess it is a good thing that the batteries last so long.  This is the fourth battery in almost TWO YEARS of pretty regular use.  Yowza!  I love this light so much that the next tidbit is painful.

Looks like the Aeon is going to go out of production.  Rumors have come to my attention, perhaps because I am the Paul the Apostle of the Aeon light, that this next batch will be the last.  There is no word on why or what the replacement, if anything, will be.  I am trying to confirm this with Enrique now.  I will post once I get word.

Take Aways:

1.  The Muyshondt Aeon is a BAMF light.

2.  Clean your connectors, especially on these battery sipping lights.

3.  Keep DeOxit on hand for cruddy connector problems.  Here are some other gear maintenance aids to have around. 

4.  GO BUY AN AEON NOW BEFORE THEY ARE GONE.  I will not sell mine under any circumstances and I think most owners will agree with that.  Once they are all sold they will skyrocket in price on the secondary market.  Unless you want to swap one of these to me for my Aeon, you are out of luck.   

Sunday, June 3, 2012

ESEE Candiru Review

If the Candiru were a person, my treatment of it during the testing period for this review would have violated nearly every provision of the Geneva Convention.  Suffice to say I tortured this little booger.  I did the normal stuff--cut paper, cut cardboard, shave hair off my arm (which it did with ease), but I also used it like a large fixed blade.  I used it to pry stuff.  I cut thick plastic with it (more on that later).  I cut open probably twenty wet, stinky bags of mulch.  I even batonned with it.  In the end, the Candiru kind of snorted and laughed at me and then asked for more.  Jeff Randall and his company have done it again.  They have made a fixed blade knife that can soak up hard use with aplomb.

But here is why the Candiru is so interesting.  It is their first blade that can be easily and readily EDC'd.  There are some competitive options that can be EDC'd too, but not as conveniently (see below for more).  So the question that a consumer of gear now faces is simple--do you EDC a folding knife that can't do all of the things the Candiru can or do you carry the Candiru? 

After three weeks with the little knife that could, I can say the answer is clear.  I am a folding knife guy at heart.  Always have been and always will be, but I can't really see the advantage of carrying a larger, hard use folder over the Candiru.  In other words, as between some of the behemoth's out there, like the full sized Recon or the Adamas, and the Candiru, I'd take the Candiru 9 times out of 10.  Why bother with the increased cost and size and weight of these knives when the Candiru can do all of the hard use tasks they can BETTER?  Now, of course the Candiru's blade is smaller and thus the big folders may do better in a tactical role, but for me, with little reason to employ a knife tactically, I can't see buying one of these huge folders.  The Candiru truly changed my perspective on fixed blade knives.

I will note, for sake of completeness, that there have been lots of small fixed blade knives, many from custom makers, but the Candiru is significantly cheaper than they are.  Its not really fair to compare it to a $400 custom or even a $120 Bark River Knife and Tool.  But this is a knife so good that "fair" doesn't really matter.  I like the Candiru's package--its shape, size, and sheath, better than those higher end items.

I saw the Candiru around the web and decided to email Jeff Randall over at ESEE.  He sent me one for review and I received a few days later.  The package was incredibly small and I had original thought there was some error.  But then I took the knife out and discovered that this thing is really very small, and in an EDC knife, small is a good thing.  I have carried it pretty religiously over the past three weeks and we have done a lot of outdoor work and hiking so I had plenty of time to test its abilities.  This is a truly great little tool.

Here is the Candiru's product page (with all of the specifications).  Here is the Amazon link (with a good street price):



The knife is very new so there are no Amazon review scores.  This is the first written review.  Here is a video review.  Here is the Candiru Jeff and ESEE sent me for testing (resting on top of a local mountain, though in Massachusetts "mountain" is different than "mountain" in Colorado; this particular hill is about 1200 feet):

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For a quick refresher, here is the new Fixed Blade Scoring System.

Design: 2

The Candiru's handle and blade shape are just about ideal for everyday outdoors tasks--simple, simple, simple.  It is a little odd for cutting out newspaper articles (though who reads newspapers anymore?) or other office-type chores.  But in it intended role it is really sweet.  I used the knife very hard and extensively for two weeks.  I cut a bunch of boxes down to size.  I remodeled part of my basement, using the Candiru to fit pieces of trim together.  I went on three hikes and a bike ride.  I batonned wood with it (yes, full on batonning, of a 1.5 inch diameter piece of dry pine).  I trimmed off a rough plastic edge on one of my son's toys (ironically, this cutting/prying task was probably the hardest use).  I pried a little with it during the remodeling.  All of this work led me to the inescapable conclusion that this simplest of designs is also among the best.  I even used it without paracording the handles (I did this to save weight).   

Fit and Finish: 2

The grind on some fixed blade knives is really shamelessly bad.  They figure that a hard use blade doesn't need a dainty "clean" edge, so why bother.  But the Candiru came out of bag (not box) super sharp and cleanly ground.  The coating was even and the stamped logos were crisp.  The sheath had no stray threads, excess glue, or sloppy seams.  Overall, it was significantly better than the fit and finish on the RD-7.  

Blade Shape: 2

The blade is just about perfect when it comes to shape.  Its gentle curve makes for a very nice belly and the grind and shape combined make for a nice tip.  Here is a profile shot of the Candiru:

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Nothing flashy at all, just great purposeful shape.  I will note that it is similar in shape to another favorite knife of mine:

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Maybe the point on the Dragonfly is dropped a bit from the Candiru, but this is very close to the elegant and high utility leaf shape that makes the itty bitty Spyderco a favorite of mine.

Grind: 2

I mentioned this before, but the grind on some lesser fixed blades is really quite awful.  The grind here though is even and very clean.  Also note the large secondary bevel.  The cutting edge is just so good and wide that there are no problems whatsoever with sharpening.  Great in an EDC knife and probably pretty helpful for field sharpening.  

Steel and Coatings: 2

I am pleasantly surprised that after three weeks of pretty hard and regular use that the cutting edge is still rust free.  The coating is a bit tackier than the coating on the RD-7 and vastly thicker than the normal DLC coating on cheaper fixed blades.  It also feels and appears less flaky than the coating on some Cold Steel offerings.  A friend lent me a SRK and the coating seemed to want to leap off the blade.  It looks all cool and Boba Fett-like, but it does not instill confidence in me in terms of rust resistance.  There was no flaking, chipping, or rubbing of the really excellent ESEE finish.  

Handle Design: 2

At first I was worried about the skeletonized handle and hotspots.  I used this knife to cut fiberglass insulation for about an hour and the handle was fine.  If I were keeping it I would probably paracord wrap it but for grip and coolness not comfort.  You can get a full three finger grip on the handle and I like the fact that it is not super bulky.  On a knife like the RD-7, you need that bulk to both balance the knife and to make sure it stays in your hand during really strong chopping swings.  This is not a chopper, it is a cutter and so with the different purpose the slender handle serves the Candiru quite well even without handle slabs or paracord.  Also, if I were keeping this blade I'd probably opt for paracord over the Micarta or G10 handle slabs to keep the knife nice and slim. 

Sheath Accessibility: 2

IMG_0018

A simple flap covers the handle of the Candiru in the sheath.  Once lifted, the flap reveals a knife that is really locked into the plastic liner.  That keeps the knife put even through the most violent shakes I could manage.  Yet, when called into duty the plastic liner releases the blade quickly and quietly with little fanfare or fight.  Very, very good, especially when compared to the no hold at all sheath the RD-7 came with.  That thing stinks and it is a shame because it is the exact same materials as this little guy and this thing is a real winner. 

Sheath Carry: 2

The sheath is a very basic nylon sheath with a plastic insert for the blade:

IMG_0012


It uses velcro to stay shut. It is very, very thin.  I like the fact that it is this thin.  There is a pass through for a belt and a eyelet for lashing.  I actually just carried the knife and sheath in my pocket.  It was a good change of pace carrying a knife in a sheath as it did not beat up the other occupants of my pocket.  Because of its small size the Candiru in the sheath is about the same size as a Spyderco Military when closed (Candiru & Sheath: 6 inches; Military: 5.5 inches).  This point is an important one.  You can carry a large hard use folder in the same space that you can carry this tiny fixed blade.  You get a more toughness but less reach.  The implications are clear--for EDC tasks that require a bit more punch, I'd opt for the Candiru over a large folder because they occupy about the same amount of space when carried. Can't get much better than that.

Useability: 2

I am really impressed at how this knife handled some really brutal tasks.  As I said above I batonned with the knife with no real problem.  I also used it to cut insulation and that was a lot of pull cutting tasks.  I buried the knife in the paper side of the batting and pulled through the insulation.  I did this probably ten or fifteen times.  Even in that unusual grip the bare handles worked well.  I was wearing gloves while doing this and the Candiru worked fine (they were classic yellow leather work gloves).  I would imagine that useability would improve with paracorded handles.  Additionally, despite all of the cutting I did the knife still has no dings or chips on the edge and the coating looks pretty darn good (note the tiny bit of wear ahead of the ESEE logo).  Excellent useability.

Durability: 2

The Candiru is not as thick as the RD-7, but it would an awful slicer if it were that thick and still this small.  That said it is thicker than the Sebenza (which, surprisingly enough has a very thick blade for a folding knife, thicker than the ZT350, for example).  The handle, even though it is skeletonized never flexed or bowed.  The coating, as has been said already, held up well.  The tip of the knife is actually quite fine and even that helped up well.  The 1095 steel ESEE uses and their heat treat are quite good.  The knife is still sharp (and came wicked sharp) after some serious thumping.  The belly did take a bit more wear than the other parts of the blade but that is normal.  It just means you have to pay a little more attention when sharpening.

Overall Score: 20 out of 20 (PERFECT!)


I worked and reworked this review twice.  I spent an extra week with the blade and did some other abusive things to it just to make sure.  I can't say this any other way--I loved the Candiru.  I really did love it.  I am not sure I could justify a large folder for EDC anyway, but with the Candiru out there it is even harder.  Why carry a knife that MIGHT fail when you can carry one that CAN'T fail?  I guess someone out there could make it fail but it would be in circumstances so unlikely in normal use that it is for all intents and purposes impossible.  This is a truly great fixed blade--simple, sturdy, and small enough to carry with you all of the time.  If you are an outdoors person or have a non-office or desk job, you should carry this knife.  If you are looking for a camp knife that might make your large survival blade feel like the other woman, you should carry this knife.  If you are fan of knives or penis-invading catfish (I resisted throughout the entire review, but I couldn't help it), you should carry this knife. 

It is a bit pricier than the small fixed blade from AG Russell, the Woodswalker, but it is heaping gobs more stout (no doubt about full tang here) and is super slim in its sheath.   There is also a Bark River Knife and Tool small fixed blade, the Pocket Bravo, that looks to compete with the Candiru, being a higher end option (in fact there are probably a dozen BRKT knives that qualify as small fixed blades).  The Pocket Bravo, however, hits your wallet for more than twice the price of the Candiru and its sheath is anything but slim.  Both alternatives feature stainless steel blades, but the Woodswalker doesn't look stout enough to take a batonning and keep going and the Pocket Bravo, while the same length, gets all of the portability related dimensions (weight and sheath size) all wrong.  There are about a million custom fixed blades like the Candiru, but they are all more expensive.

One last thing that is hard to calculate is the fact that like Becker blades ESEE knives really become a platform for modification.  There are dozens of sheathes out there and lots of different handle scales.  The secondary market is just starting to make stuff for the Candiru, but once this little booger starts selling like crazy, and honestly I think it will, we will probably be treated to a whole slew of innovative things--kydex sheaths and pimp-o-licious handle scales.  

This knife just about begs you to be outside.  Go enjoy the out of doors and a sweet little blade.

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Friday, June 1, 2012

TT Pocket Tools TT-7 Review

And so, the student becomes the master.

It is that way with Jedi and apparently, it is that way with one piece multitool (OPMT) designers.  There have been one piece gadgets for over a hundred and fifty years.  Here is a particularly cool design:


Yet, Peter Atwood created a market and a design sensibility that pushed these tools into new territory.  The Prybaby was such a cool little idea.  Peter's designs since then have ranged from interesting (the Captive Bit series), to uber collectible (Stellite Mini Son of Pry Thing anyone?), to played out (Ghost).  It has been a while since Peter really made something completely new and interesting.  All of his stuff is excellent--great materials and fit and finish--but there hasn't been something truly innovative from the Atwood workshop in a long while.  And really, what incentive does he have to change?  People scoop up literally anything he offers in seconds so why do something different?

For folks that don't have as rabid a fanbase innovation is the name of the game.  Todd over at TT PockeTTools has done that.  I reviewed a Chopper a while ago and it was a really exciting, game changing little multitool (innovative, well-made, and inexpensive).  It deserved the 20/20.  Todd came up with a new design, the TT-7 and sent me one for a review.  His boundary pushing focus again created at tool that changes things.

Here is the product page for the TT-7.  It is a custom item and thus there is no Amazon page or Amazon reviews.  This is the first written or video review anywhere.  Here is the TT-7 I reviewed:

IMG_0015

Design: 2

You might have noticed the thing that makes this little tool extra special.  In case you missed it here is another shot:

IMG_0021

How about a three dimensional Phillips driver?  AWESOME.  Okay, so it is a three prong Phillips driver, but this thing REALLY, REALLY works.  I was messing around one day with the TT-7 and I took apart the strikeplate on the door in my office at work.  These were massive screws, probably 10 or 12 d screws and the TT-7 really held fast and pulled them out.  The rest of the tool is equally nice.  I like the traction plan a lot and the overall size is perfect both in length and width for the keychain. Here is the TT-7 on my keychain (along with the just review Preon 0):

IMG_0024


Fit and Finish: 2

The raw bar finish is so appealing to me, sort of the same way a stonewashed finish is--it already looks pocket worn and used like the great tool it is.  All of the edges are well-cut and nothing is too sharp, but the jimping is very grippy nonetheless.  I was most impressed by two little details--a sign that things are done right--first, was the ends of the lanyard and second was the grind on the Phillips driver tip.  The lanyard was perfectly heated leaving no stray thread.  The grind on the Phillips head was very even and allowed for plenty of torque--those 2D bits can cam out quite often.  None of that here.  

Theme: 2

As a basic wrench-based OPMT, the TT-7 is really well equipped.  Furthermore, the size of the tool is great for keychain carry completing an always with you, based covered approach to a wrench tool.

Grip: 2

Todd's tools really outshine the competition when it comes to grip.  The twist assist finger grooves and ample, different kinds of jimping make even the tiniest tool virtually undroppable.

Carry: 2

I really loved the Chopper, but it was a bit wide.  Not too wide, mind you, but just wide.  The TT-7, in contrast, does very well on the keychain mixing with all of your keys with ease, even the skinny ones.  I used the lanyard as the hole might have been too small for the coated aircraft cable keychain, but either way, the extra rope gave me extra room to use the tool still attached. 

Materials: 2

The TT-7 is made of 154CM and the lanyard is nice paracord.  I like bout materials a lot, but the raw bar finish on the 154CM is outstanding.  The TT-7 is not quite as thick as the Chopper, but the loss in thickness is okay.  It makes it all the more carry-friendly.  

Deployment/Accessibility: 2

All of the tools are well laid out and the overall tool is quite nice.  Nothing blocks or hinders anything else, which is hard to do on a tool this petite.  

Retention Method: 1

I mentioned this before, but it bears repeating--the attachment point (which is occupied by the lanyard on delivery) is a little thick and can be a challenge to mate with a split ring.  Split rings are my enemy and I am out to make sure everyone converts to something nicer and easier to use.  

Tool Selection: 2

The overall complement of tools is quite impressive for such a small package.  Todd's design has both Standard and Metric box wrenches, a small pry tip/flathead driver seen here:

IMG_0017

the remarkable 3D Phillips driver, and the wrench can be used as a bottle opener.  Additionally, the edge of the pry/driver can be used to pierce packages, though it is not a purpose built snag edge like on the Chopper.  I really like the complement of tools here, all of the bases are covered in a very small and slim package.

Tool Performance: 1

As well-rounded as the tool selection is, the bottle opener and the pry tip are not perfect.  The Phillips driver is so nice I almost still gave the tool a 2 in this category, but I couldn't quite do it.  While using the pry tip a piece of wood got wedged in the lanyard hole.  It might have been a one in a million shot, but it happened, so I am telling you about it.  Second, the bottle opener, the most used item on any OPMT, is not as a easy to use as a dedicated design.  The Chopper's bottle opener was just about perfect.  

Overall Score: 18  out of 20

If you are looking for a OPMT with lots of tools in a super slim package, the TT-7 over something that very few other designs do--a true three dimensional Phillips driver.  For that alone it is deserving of consideration.  The rest of the package is very well rounded and the fit and finish are outstanding.  I'd like a dedicated bottle opener but that always adds bulk.  For a package as slim as the TT-7 is, you'd be hard pressed to find something better.  Add to that fact this one--the TT-7 is only $36 and readily available and I think this is one of better OPMT out there.  The Chopper is a little more user friendly, but the TT-7 is significantly more svelte.

Want a TT-7 for free?  Todd has authorized me to give this one away, so sign up as a user and post in the comments below.  In a week I will choose one at random and that person will win the TT-7.