Monday, October 31, 2016

The Bro Test

After some plugging around on the Internet for the creation of the Hipster Test, my meta-analysis had a lot of extraneous data laying around and I decided there was enough to make two more personality tests.  The second one, the one here, is to determine if you are a Bro.

Category I (worth 1 point for each yes answer)

1.  You wear shorts outside when there is snow on the ground.

2.  You played any of the following sports in high school: football, lacrosse, or hockey.

3.  You have a "dress up" baseball cap.

4.  You use the word "dude" as an interjection.

5.  You own a neon sign that is a beer company logo.

Category II (worth 3 points for each yes answer)

1.  You envy the body of a professional wrestler (not Rikishi) and you are over the age of 35.

2.  You drink "supplements."

3.  Your favorite drinkware is a red Solo Cup (which you use to drink "supplements").

4.  Your #1 pick for celebrity that you wish was your best friend is Joe Rogan.

5.  You have a collection of "authentic jerseys."

Category III (worth 5 points for each yes answer)

1.  You have a bar in the basement of your house.

2.  You own a bracelet made by William Henry.

3.  You proudly display your fraternity paddle over the mantle of your fireplace.

4.  You refer to muscles with single syllable words in regular conversation.

5.  You greet everyone with a hand clasp and a backpat hug.

Category IV (worth 1,000,000 points)

1. You purchased a Humvee for personal use.

Results:

0-5 points: Retire your jersey collection and you have escaped the lion's mouth unharmed.  

6-10 points:A goatee is sprouting right now.  You can still turn it around, but there will always be a bro-cloud hanging over your head.

11-20 points: Its official--full on bro status--grab a beer, get a workout in, and go to a fraternity reunion party. 

21-1,000,000: What are you waiting for--commission William Henry to make you a jewel-studded bicep bracelet in your college's colors right now!

I scored a 0.  I have very little connection to the Bro world, but I would own a neon sign of a beer company if I found one cheap.  Neon is awesome.  



Saturday, October 29, 2016

William Henry E-6 Review

This review sample was provided by KnifeArt.

NOTE: Before I start the review itself, its probably necessary for me to do a little disclaimer, not unlike the ones I did before the Strider PT review and the Maxpedition Pygmy Falcon II review.  Unlike those disclaimers regarding bad behavior of a brand, this one involves me.

A few years ago a web person for William Henry asked me to remove all of the links I posted on this site to their site.  I agreed on one condition: that someone from William Henry explain why and allow me to post that explanation, unedited, on the site.  Naturally, they declined.

This is kind of request is common (though not in the Gear World).  SEO folks don't like these stray links and ones that link to pages that are critical of a brand are not liked by marketing folks.  I get why they did it, but I am not about to have a company censor what I say without an explanation to folks that they are doing this.   I knew, of course, that they would never agree to write the response, so by offering I was, in fact, saying no.  And if they had enough guts to write it, well, I would have held up my end of the bargain, but I was confident they wouldn't accept the deal.

If this was all that happened, I would leave it alone and not mention it.  But a few months after that they contacted me again and again wanted to talk about the links.  This time they were a bit more aggressive, not threatening, but using language that sounded vaguely legal (I don't recall the exact words but it was a silly attempt to use legalese).  Meh, that stuff doesn't work on me, try someone else.  Naturally, I repeated my offer and naturally they declined.

In my 6 plus years of running this blog this is the only company to reach out like that to me.  When I was critical of a KAI product Thomas W hopped on the site and argued back.  That is a company that puts its money where its mouth is--they are willing to discuss a review and defend their position and dispute my conclusions.  That is something that earns respect in my eyes.  What William Herny did does not.  It earns enmity.

So that's the bad behavior report.

Here is the second thing--I am pretty clearly biased against William Henry's aesthetic.  Railing on their most ostentatious designs is practically a recurring segment on the podcast, but when you make knives like this and sell them for $50,000 or charge people $1,000 for what is essentially a fancy tube with a cheap pen kit inside, I am not going to be thrilled.  When you add to that line up actual bro jewelry, well, its safe to say I am a bit more than biased against William Henry.

This is all very important for you to know because, if anything, it means I am predisposed to dislike the E-6.  But the reality is this is truly excellent knife.  With two slight changes it would be among the best gentleman's EDC blades out there.  It is also proof that Matt Conable, for all of his hype for the brand and...well...the bro jewelry, is actually one hell of a knife maker and designer.        

Here is the product page. It is listed as out of stock on their page.  It may be that they are phasing out the E series or that they are just between production runs.  I don't know.  The William Henry E-6 costs $300. There are a variety of inlays, carbon fiber, box elder, and cocobolo, all coming in at the same price (Chris Reeve, take note of that please...).  There are no written reviews of this knife, which is shocking given its price tag and William Henry's visibility in the market.  Here is a thread on Bladeforums about the knife.  Here is a video review. Here is a link to Knife Art, where you can find the E-6.

Here is my review sample:

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Twitter Review Summary: A few nits to pick, but otherwise, totally underrated.

Design: 2

At one point in the early 2000s the Minnesota Twins got to the playoffs year after year without spending a lot of money.  They were widely regarded as being one of the most fundamentally sound baseball teams of all time.  They made no mistakes.  They ran the bases with speed if they had it and if they didn't they ran them smartly.  They hit and were cognizant of the strike zone and the runners on base.  They played airtight but boring defense (except for Torii Hunter--he is one of my favorite players of all time because of plays like these, check time index 5:40 and remember he is older than I am when he made that play).  William Henry designs are like that, if all of the Twins were wearing outfits from Liberace's closet the entire game.

Peel away that hideous pirate engraving or the eagle or the lion or whatever else adorns the vast majority of William Henry blades and you will find, at core, a very solid and fundamentally good knife design.   

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The performance ratios are good, very good.  The blade:weight is 2.75.  The blade:handle is .79.  The ratios are very close to the top of the range for both. 

Fit and Finish: 1

Two things result in a less than perfect score: 1) the blade finish; and 2) the clumsy inlay.  Both are non-functional issues but on a knife this expensive and in this particular role, you deserve better.

When the original E-6 came out and was a D2 blade I get the need for a coating.  D2 is not stainless steel and tends to tarnish easily.  A DLC coating really helps with that.  Unfortunately the DLC coating here is a powerful dirt magnet.  Even freshly washed hands caused fingerprints.  There was literally no way to handle the blade without causing some smudge or streak.  And when handling really acidic chores, like slicing certain foods, the finish got very, very streaky.  Only a good thorough cleaning got rid of the problem.  And the irony is that now with M390 as the blade steel, the coating is 100% unnecessary.  So you get to this point--you have a coating to prevent marks on the blade that causes marks on the blade when the blade no longer needs a coating.  Also, I think the knife would look nicer with a satin finish, matching the clip and giving the E-6 a very balanced appearance.

The inlay is a more fundamental problem.

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There is a noticeable lip around the edge where the inlay doesn't match the aluminum perfectly.  Its not huge but definitely big enough to feel.  Second, the two tiny screws are pretty garish, breaking up a perfectly nice piece of cocobolo for no real reason.  William Henry could quite easily attach the inlays from the inside, using a hidden screw technique like what is found on the Millit Knives-made TAD Dauntless Mk. IV.  All of this is criticism that can be leveled against the E-6 without reference to the biggest problem vis a vis the inlay--the Mnandi.  The Mnandi's inlay is much better, much cleaner, and frankly a stunning achievement in knife making on a production scale.  By comparison the E-6's inlay is pretty poorly implemented.

Again, none of these things are functional problems, but in this rarified air its fair to be extra picky. One clever solution would be to skip the application of the DLC coating and its associated finishing and take that time and money and invest it in an extra step to make the inlay attach via internal hidden screws.  These steps may not be the same in terms of time or money, but both would make the E-6 a substantially better knife.  

Grip: 1

There is a machinist at William Henry that made the handle pattern and he was really thrilled to be playing with a new CNC machine, so he cut and cut and cut.  Pass after pass the grip took shape and it wasn't so harsh.  At the very end of the process he just went a little too far and made the tail end of the knife almost rasp sharp.  Its unpleasant, like a dirty or torn contact--always annoying and sometimes downright painful.  

Carry: 2

The knife is slim, weighs an ounce, and is about as wide as your finger.  It couldn't possibly carry any better, especially with a deep carry clip.  Every single thing about the E-6 makes it great in the pocket.  

Steel: 2

D2 is definitely below par for $300 (that makes it insulting at $600...yes Medford I am looking at you).  M390, on the other hand, is a great steel at $300.  I have said this before, but M390 is one of my favorites and the little fake out proved its an upgrade.  I could actually tell it wasn't D2.  I am not Cliff Stamp. I am not a metallurgist.  But I have a good sample of steels to pull on and I could tell this blade was keener and didn't tarnish as much.  When I found out it was M390 things clicked in to place.  And that is the best complement I could pay a steel--its good enough to have noticeable effects in the real world and not just on a spec sheet and MSRP.

Blade Shape: 2

I love this spearpoint-ish blade shape--lots of belly, a decent point, and non-threatening.  

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Its funny to say, but this blade shape is identical to the blade shape on the Techno, albeit on a blade three times thinner.  High utility and good looks.  Love it.

Grind: 2

 Phew, now this is a grind.  The edge was so thin, so perfectly slicey that I was passing through food as if it were fog.  Grapes split apart as if they were separated by telekinesis and apples were diced to a degree befitting a master chef.  This grind was just a hair behind the insanity that is the Le Francaise from Perceval.  But for that blade, this would easily be the best grind I have seen on a production knife. 

Deployment Method: 2

Oh man, this the "trick" of this knife.  The blade flies out of the handle with authority thanks to a silken pivot, a great detent, and a very good thumb stud (which does seem to be reversible).  The action is addictive and crushes the CRK Mnandi, this knife's chief competition.  Of all the parts of the knife I like this is the one that demonstrates to me Conable's skill, the detent on the button lock, which typical don't have detents, is superb.  Excellent job.  

Retention Method: 2

Clip's great, I just wish it matched the blade.  Its a small thing and one not worth a point, but just make this in a satin finish blade and leave the clip as is and it will be perfect.  

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Lock: 2

The lock was stable, easy to engage and disengage, and the finish version of a button lock I have seen.  AG Russell credits Conable with essentially overhauling the button lock and having used one before I can see why the improvements are big deal.  The Conable designed button lock might be one of my two or three locks in the knife world.  Very, very good stuff.  Take the superior performance as a lock and add to it the awesome detent and you have a true engineering feat.  

Overall Score: 18 out of 20

The E-6 is awesome.  It makes William Henry's decent into the HumVee world of bro accoutrements  even sadder.  Why make bracelets with skull links and rubies for eyes when you can do this?  Alas the reasons is probably simple--the margins on bro jewelry are probably staggering.

In the end the E-6 is a great knife, a knife that I would happily carry for a very long time with little consideration of alternatives.  Think of it as a lighter, nicer Benchmade Valet--the size, thumb studs, and action are very, very similar, but the E-6 has that extra bit of polish and some ineffable quality that makes it better than the Benchmade.

If you were on the fence about whether to buy the E-6, buy with confidence--this is a truly superior piece of cutlery and makes for a sublime EDC.  Ignore the coating and its dirt magnetism...the action is killer and the grind is amazing.  Pay no attention to the brand shenanigans and requests to take down links.   

The Competition

All of this is great but for one thing--the Chris Reeve Mnandi.  The Mnandi and the E-6 are probably as close as competitors get--even more similar than, say the Mini Grip and the Delica.  With the upgraded steel on the E-6 these knives are just so close.  In the end, the Mnandi is a better knife, though it is much closer than I originally thought.  With the upgraded steel and the Mnandi's downgraded deployment method I think it is close enough to say that preference should decide.  The Mnandi's overall design, its stunning pocket clip and perfect inlay puts, it ahead of the E-6 in my eyes, but I wouldn't disagree with you if you saw it the other way.  If the coating on the blade goes away, the E-6 might edge out the Mnandi. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

William Henry E-6 Overview

This is a fun knife to review, so look for it at the end of the week.  Until then:



This is one interesting blade. And yes, I got the name wrong in the video.  It is the E-6 EDC blade...

Saturday, October 22, 2016

CRKT Mossback Hunter and Bird and Trout Review

I don't usually do two product reviews at once, but these two knives, while not different versions of the same model, are so closely related it felt silly to split them up.  Both knives are CRKT knives, with SK5 steel, G10 handles, pocket style sheathes, and were designed by Tom Krein.  Both are competitively priced for what they are.  And both are just really solid knives.  They won't blow you away.  They don't have any bling.  But the do what knives are supposed to do--cut--and they do it very well.  There is something to be said for just being solid. Think of these blades as the knife equivalent of baseball's least glorious pitcher--the Innings Eater. 

Here is the product page for the Hunter and here is the product page for the Bird and Trout. The Hunter costs $39.95 and the Bird and Trout (B&T) costs $34.95. Shockingly there are no video or written reviews, though my overviews can be found here (Hunter) and here (B&T).  Here is a link to Blade HQ, where you can find the either knife, and all proceeds benefit the site when you purchase things through this link:

Blade HQ

Here are my review samples:

The Mossback Hunter:

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and the Mossback Bird and Trout:

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Twitter Review Summary: Great bones, decent materials = Great Value

Design: 2

The longer I write this site, the more I come to love the work of guys that keep it simple.  You can keep your hype complex, beefy, hole-covered knives.  Give me work from folks like Jesse Jarosz, Ethan Becker, and the Master of Simplicity--Bob Loveless.  In this School of Anti-Excess, Tom Krein is like the Vice Principal.  This pair of knives came from Krein designs and they are, simply put, lovely.

The Hunter is a classic drop point hunter with a 3.25 inch or so blade.  The B&T, in case you are unaware, is a very hold knife type, basically a field use paring knife designed for processing small game and fish (hence the name: Bird and Trout).  If you aren't a hunter, this class of knives, which includes a wide variety of blades made by different companies, work very well as fixed blade EDC knives, both because they are relatively short and they are exceptionally thin.  This makes them easy to carry and great cutters. 

The blade:weight for the Hunter is: .72 and for the B&T it is: 1.41.  The handles are purposely large as with all Krein designed small knives so the blade:handle is all thrown off. As I mentioned above, B&T patterns are great fixed blade pocket knives and the performance ratio proves it. 

Fit and Finish: 1

Both knives had a few nagging issues.  First, the tang stood proud on the handles on both the Hunter and the B&T.  It wasn't offensive or anything, but it was noticeable.  There were differences from side to side on the scales for both blades:


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It is hard to see in the picture, or at least hard to see how bad it is, but the scale are a bit asymmetric. The left side is significantly thicker than the right, especially near the rear of the blade.  Both moderls were like this.  These issue were noticeable but had little impact on performance.  Importantly the edges were still very clean and the coating was even.

Handle Design: 2

Krein's handle designs are exceedingly simple, more of the jelly bean/blob genus than the Becker genus, but they work very well.  Importing these simple shapes over from his custom line not only fits perfectly in CRKT's user-centric line up, it is also something easy to do on a mass scale.  Both knives fill the hand well without been puffy, fat messes.  

Steel: 1

SK-5.  Its not terrible.

Blade Shape: 2

I positively love the shape of the Hunter, with its Loveless drop point and ample belly.

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The B&T is a little slender for me, but it too is classically trained:

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Why people mess around with recurve tantos and other random, weird unsharpenable bullshit is beyond me.  This is good stuff.

Grind: 2

Again the Krein simplicity translates so well into a production blade--the very pronounced hollow grinds here make for excellent slicing knives even with average to thick stock on the Hunter.  The B&T, which is basically a field paring knife, the grind is actually exceptional, especially at this price point. This is a knife that will fillet muscle and fiber, snap through tape, and sever boxes.  I liked it so much I used the B&T in the kitchen quite a bit.  The Hunter is good, the B&T is great and a very good rendition of a knife type known for its slicing capacities.  

Sheath Carry: 0

Brace yourself for the surprise--its a fixed blade review and the sheath is a problem.

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These are pretty sad and shitty sheathes.  Both knives would be really excellent with a kydex taco-style sheath with some Tek-Lok.  Alas what you receive with either knife is basically a tube sock with a plastic insert.  Over the months I have had and carried these blades the sheathes have progressively lost their holding power.  Now it is to the point where the blades are close to falling out with a good shake.  Even a Condor style leather sheath would be better.   

Sheath Accessibility: 2

As crappy as they are, its easy to get the knives in and out.  There is no snap or buckle to fidget with.  The sheathes are so tight you pull your pants off getting the blade out (though that is a real problem when it comes to retention).  These a good sheathes when comes to take out and putting in your knife.

Useability: 2

You'll love the handles so much that even with more expensive knives in your collection, you'll reach for these blades over and over again.  More than just about any knife I can think of, these knives feel better in your hand, given the materials, than  knives that cost two or three times as much.  The simplicity of the two Krein handles, which are different from each other, really work and are task appropriate.  Even with the slight fit and finish issues mentioned above there is no impact on how the knife feels over a long period of use.   

Durability: 2

SK-5 can take some hits and the G10 here is bulletproof.  The knives aren't super thick, but they are thick enough for their intended jobs.  I would pry with the B&T at all, as the tip is verging on Kershaw Leek-levels of thin, but its done okay and for a majority of the testing period, its main user was a 6 year old (with close supervision all of you helicopter parents).  That alone makes me confident that even though the B&T is a field use paring knife its not going to break on you.  
These knives scream to be used, to be messed up, to be beaten to death.  If you haven't chipped the edge after a few years of ownership, your doing something wrong.

Overall Score: 17 out of 20

Both the Hunter and the B&T are solid fixed blades.  They lack the gleam of a Bark River or the flourishes of a Fiddleback Forge, but for the money, like the King of the Budget Blades, you will find little that works as well as these blades do.  In fact, I think given how good they are and how bad the sheath is, its probably worth $40 or so to have a custom sheath made for these knives.  If they were keepers I would totally do that.  The Hunter with a good taco-style kydex sheath running Tek-Lock would be awesome.   If you need a knife to toss in a truck, a toolbox, or a backpack and leave there you will be delighted when, months after you forgot about them, you look around and find either of these blades.  They are another in a long line of very good CRKT knives, knives that while having an issue or two work well and provide very high value.  And heck, if CRKT released these with polished micarta scales and S35VN steel, along with the aforementioned sheath upgrade, well, damn, I'd be really happy to pay $150 or more for on.  Hint, hint...

Monday, October 17, 2016

September 2016 Carry

August faded away and fall nestled in quickly.  The change from shorts to jeans has made carry a lot easier.  It is also brought with it weather that let's me fire up the camp fire a bit more often.  I got a few new items in, but one item absolutely dominated my carry this past month--the Olight S1R Baton.  Its not just a great light, it might be the best production light ever made.  The review will be chock full of comparisons because this is a great that rivals some of the very best. 

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Olight S1R Baton and the GEC Small Jack #25

The Small Jack was a gift from my uncle-in-law.  I think of it as the Dragonfly II of the GEC lineup--its compact, but capable with a slightly wider than average blade.  The 1095 works well here as it is not a knife I thrust into hard use situations.  As a slicer its very nice, though I am careful to keep it clean.  The patina thing isn't my favorite.

I love cooking over an open flame and by cooking I mean searing meats and toasting other things.  I am not a chef by any means, but the camp iron is a good way to transform otherwise boring ingredients into something downright delicious.  Here I took sourdough bread added some peanut butter and buttered both sides to make something both my oldest son and I scarfed down. 

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Spyderco Techno and the HDS Rotary

The Techno is probably my all time favorite Spyderco, even though rationally I know the Dragonfly II is better.  The look, the in hand feel, and the insane fit and finish make this a knife I can never get rid of, regardless of what comes down the pike.  And the Rotary, well, its still my go to light when SHTF. 

Working in an office has marked reduced the number of knives I like to carry and the ZDP-189 version of the ZT0450 is one of them.  Its feather weight, solid lock up, and great flipper make it ideal.  It has also made the 940-1 redundant.  I greatly prefer this knife to that knife even though the materials aren't all that different.  The flipping action is so much better on this blade than on the all titanium version I reviewed a year or so ago. 

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Olight S1R Baton and the Zero Tolerance ZT0450ZDPCF

As I prepare for two different shoot outs I have amassed some nice stuff.  One of those pieces is this gem, the Steelcraft Mini Bodega. 

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Muyshondt Aeon Mk. III and the Steelcraft Mini Bodega

It is still bonkers how good this knife is.  Even my Dad, who has a passing interest in gear, was blown away.  Normally when I tell him the price of something like this he just groans.  But here he saw where the money was used.  This blade is outstanding in every way. 

I had a chance to cross a knife off my list that I have been wondering about for a while--the Al Mar Falcon.  This is the bigger, clipped version of the Hawk.

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MBI HF-R, Al Mar Falcon Ultralight, Tactile Turn Shaker

Though it took a while to get around to it, I am glad I landed this knife because it is awesome in every way the Hawk was awesome, plus a few extra ways.  This is a good blade.

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MBI HF-R, the Al Mar Falcon, and a freshly pick Macoun apple (all are delicious)

One of my very favorite fall traditions, right up there with Thanksgiving, is apple picking and the Falcon came with me--its a great apple slicer and peeler and the AUS8 is 100% worry free.  Paired, as here, with the MBI HF-R, this is a super capable and super light kit.

October has the one and only holiday that necessitates a flashlight--Halloween.  This is the Super Bowl for us flashoholics.  I recommend you start thinking about what you will carry soon.  Mine will be the old stand by, the same light I have carried for the last three Halloweens--the HDS Rotary.  Does everything, does it well, just the right size and has just the right amount of throw.

Busse Watch:  Called again last week.  I was told "maybe by the end of the year."  Oh well, this year's Chopocalypse will focus on mid-sized knives.  I need one more to round out the trio.  I am still bummed, but oh well.  And no, I don't think it will be here before the end of the year.  I am hoping it is here before the end of 2017.  If not, then I might be disappointed. 2-20 weeks...BULLSHIT.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Tactile Turn Slider and Glider Review

Imagine you are a freelancer for the New York Times tasked with writing a story about the new "Maker Revolution."  I hate that term, "Maker" but whatever.  Where would you start?  I would start with Will Hodges of Tactile Turn.  He has also the bona fides (curious side note: bona fides has two correct, different pronunciations to go along with two different meanings; bone-a fee days = credentials, as in the sense I just used, bone-a fide, rhymes with "hide" means something like legitimate or real)--massively successful Kickstarters, great craftsman skill, a niche focus, and the classic beard/flannel shirt combo.  Great story.

But as I have been very clear about over the years, this site is about products and not stories of their makers.  I'll leave the Magical Thinking to other folks.  Here I focus on how good stuff is.  And if we are talking about Will Hodges made things, they are as good as it gets.  Each of his pens has been amazing, designs that I would not change at all.  And so we arrive at this:

Will Hodges:Machined Pens::Mike Trout:Baseball.

That's right, the debut of both was spectacular.  Their continued performance is equally good.  Neither leave room for fans to want more.  And so when Hodges drops new products we should all pay attention.  Recently he dropped two bolt action pens--a large (the Glider) and a small (the Slider).  So naturally, I have high expectations, but a sneaking suspicion that Hodges will meet them yet again.

But there is one twist to this story: the MaxMadCo Bolt Action Pen.  Simply put this is an absolutely perfect design of a bolt action pen--simple, slim, and very functional (unlike a lot of other bolt action pens).  So the bar is exceedingly high here.  The MMC Bolt Action is probably one of my favorite pieces of gear in the entire world, right up there with the Spyderco Dragonfly II in ZDP-189.

Can the Mighty Hodges meet that challenge?  Read on to find out.

Here is the product page. There are eight variants of the two sizes: aluminum, steel, brass, copper, titanium, DLC titanium, zirconium, and damascus.  I had a Glider in Zirc and a Slider in Ti in for review.  The Zirc pen is $199.95 and the Titanium pen is $79.95.  Here is a written review from the great Ed Jelley. Here is a video review.

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Twitter Review Summary: Top flight from Tactile Turn...what did you expect?

Design: 2 (both)

Classic Tactile Turn design traits--tight groove pattern on the barrel, clean, clear lines, and a thick pocket clip.  Its all there.  This is unmistakably a Tactile Turn product.  

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On thing that is a bit odd is that the opening for the tip of the pen to go through is a somewhat wide, not a big deal, but it does look a little funny.  I am also not sure why this is the case.  Just a point to make, not really a bad or a good thing.

Its Tactile Turn.  Its good design. 

Fit and Finish: 2 (both)

I could repeat that line again, and sub in "fit and finish" for design.  Its equally true, but there is one thing I want to point out.  On my Shaker, the fit and finish is so good that even staring right at it I can't see the seam between the top and the bottom half of the pen.  Here on the Glider and Slider, I can.  Its not a bit deal, for God's sakes most pen companies would kill for Will's tolerances in this area, but this the first thing I have seen from Will that tells me he is making stuff as opposed to using his Q powers to magically create perfection each and every time.  Still leagues above many production pens and as good as my Edison (review on that will be coming soon).  

Carry: 2 (both)

The Zirc Glider, the heaviest possible combination of types and materials, is a thunk in the pocket, but nothing outrageous.  Its not like carrying an 8 ounce knife.  Its heavy, but in a "you know its there" kind of way instead of a "God this a pain" kind of way. The titanium Slider was super polite.  

Appearance: 2 (both)

If the Zirc is heavy, its fine because gosh is it a pretty material.  Its not just "black titanium."  There is a bit of luster there that is hard to define, something like a combination of titanium and obsidian.  Its great looking.  And this is on top of the already great lines.  Both pens are easily "2s" but man is that Zirc pen great. 

Durability: 2 (both)

Both are built like a brick shithouse and both have clips that could carry a person's body weight (not really, but it sure seems like it).  I have no complaint here or with any of Will's pens on this front.  I beat my pens down like a thug carrying out a hit and every Tactile Turn product has held up quite admirably. 

Writing Performance/Refill: 2 (both)

The Slider runs a Parker style refill and the Glider a G2 one.  I like both, but if I were being honest, I like the G2 refill a bit better.  The Parker compatibility opens up a wider array of options, but the G2 refill itself, as shipped, is better.  Its a matter of preference really, as the EasyFlow 9000 that the Slider comes with is still pretty great, but the incredibly small line of the G2 allows me to write in my megatiny print.  Its one of my tricks, like being double jointed, I can write really small.  I sat down one day after lunch and wrote my two son's names on two grains of rice.  It was actually pretty easy.  I got almost both names on a single grain of rice before it broke into a bunch of pieces.

Balance/In Hand Feel: 2 (with the Glider being very close to a 1)

Here, the Glider, in Zirc, is just a bit too heavy for me.  There are a lot of moving parts up top and that, coupled with the denser material, starts to throw off your balance.  Its not exactly off, but close.  The titanium Slider was dreamy. 

Grip: 2 (both)

Tactile Turns's signature, tight milling is both nice to look at and great in the hand.  These are tough pens and you could using them with wet or dirty hands, but the look so nice you could also use then when wearing a suit.  Its hard to complain here--you get the best of both worlds.  

Barrel: 2 (titanium); 1 (zirconium)

In the end I liked both, both looked classy, but the zirconium barrel was just a bit to bulky to use over a long period of time.  To jot a note or sign a document, both are fine.  But if you plan on taking pages of notes, you better have some limber digits because the zirconium pen is heavy and the barrel is extra bulk.

Deployment Method/Cap: 1 (both)

And finally, after three reviews, there is something I am not completely blown away by on Will's pens.  The bolt path here is not as clean or as precise as that on the MMC.  That pen snaps into place and out of place with a thoughtless flick.  Here, you have a bit of manuvering to do and sometimes the pen can get stuck.  My Zirc model actually got stuck in the open position a few times--the bolt was retracted by the pen tip was still out.  A few times with both pens, the bolt didn't fall exactly into the bottom of the track and when I went to write, the pen tip snapped back inside the pen itself. 

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This is proof that Will Hodges is great, but mortal.  For anyone else, this pen would be a high watermark.  For Will it is slightly less than perfect, which means its below his average.  Still great though...

Overall Score: Glider: 18 out of 20; Slider: 19 out of 20

The Glider and Slider have one issue--a hitch in their bolt-action giddy up that the MMC Bolt Action Pen does not.  To be fair, only the MMC has that super smooth, spring action feel of the bolt action pens I have tried.  Both the Glider and Slider are truly great pens and without the MMC Bolt Action, it is entirely possible that the Slider would have scored a 20/20.  But the MMC does something that no other bolt pen does and it does it in a slimmer package than any other bolt action pen.  And for that, it bears on the conversation here.

If I were choosing between the two pens, I'd take the MMC, but I wouldn't think it was wrong to go the other way.  The Glider and Slider have a better grip and they are more stylish by a country mile.  I also think these pens further cement Will Hodges reputation in my mind.  He does great work.

The short version of this entire thing is simple--the non-Zirc Slider isn't perfect, but it is very, very good.  The MMC Bolt Action is better, but it too is not perfect and the scores would be so close (if the MMC Bolt Action had been scored) preference can dictate your pick.  For what its worth, the price is about the same on the two pens as well, when you price comparable materials (as Ameer points out below, they aren't exactly the same price, but close...).

CORRECTION: They aren't "comparable" in terms of price.

Finally, here is the Zirc model resting in a NockCo case.  Love this set up.




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Sunday, October 9, 2016

Tactile Turn Slider and Glider Overview

Wil's stuff is amazing.  We know that.  The Slider and Glider are his newest work and it is attention grabbing.  Here is my overview (review to follow on Friday):

Friday, October 7, 2016

Olight S1A Review

Let's whittle down the battery formats quickly.  Two cell lights and 18650s are too big for pocket carry and I don't carry a backpack around daily (I do carry a briefcase, but I don't want to have to empty it out at the magnetometer), so they are out as EDCs for me.  I like the performance, but not the availability and cost of CR123as (though I think both drawbacks aren't as bad as most think).  This leaves the 1xAA and 1xAAA as my ideal format.  As between those two I think I'd prefer the 1xAAA as it offers a size advantage with no real cost in terms of the lumens, especially with Surefire's emitter that somehow gets 300 lumens out of a 1xAAA (rechargeable only).  The 1xAA is a very good one and one that many people like.  But it is not my favorite.  I'd opt for a 1xCR123a instead.  It's all very close now that emitter tech has leveled the output differences to a degree.  As between the three, they are so close that it basically comes down to which light I like better.  And with the S1A, the decision is even more difficult.  This is basically the S1, with a few tweaks, in the 1xAA format and that is a very good thing.  The S1 is the best production light out there under $100 (I edited out the word "probably" in this sentence, there is really no question).  

It should be simple for me to say: if you liked the S1, but prefer the 1xAA format get this light.  But it in fact these lights are surprisingly different.  The S1A has more in common with the S1R than the original S1. This is because the S1A UI incorporates a mode memory feature.  Is this difference a good thing?  I am not sure.  I do know that if you like the 1xAA format, this is the light to get.   And no, Scurvy, you can't sell me on the Zebralight's extra janky UI. 

Here is the product page. The Olight S1A Baton costs around $50-$55. Here is a written review. Here is a video review. Here is a link to Blade HQ, where you can find the S1A, and all proceeds benefit the site when you purchase things through this link:

Blade HQ

Here is my review sample:

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Twitter Review Summary: Pick your poison...if it is AA batteries, this is the one to get.

Design: 2

It's surprising how a good body tube design can make a flashlight useful, well after its emitter has been left in the dust.  The McGizmo Haiku is still a great light in large part because it is body tube is the best ever designed--right size, right shape, right everything.  And the S1 series of lights has a similarly good body tube.  The hex head and button placement are perfect.  They have the magic diameter to length ratio that feels good in the hand (though the S1 is not as good as this light in that regard--a bit too stubby).

The performance ratios are good.  The lumens:weight is: 250 (600/2.4 ounces, which is 1.3 ounces of battery plus 1.1 ounces of rechargeable AA cell).  I can't give you the maximum lumens output (runtime multiplied by lumens) because the specs don't give us runtimes for each mode. 

Fit and Finish: 2

The one thing that has surprised me about the S-series of lights, even after I had figured how just how good the side switch, emitter/reflector, and size were is how Olight has been able to consistent produce high quality lights.  Over and over and over again, with now five samples of S-series lights having gone through my hands, I can say with more confidence than normal that they have their machining and QC dialed in.  The threads are clean and smooth.  The parts synch up with vault-like tightness, and the emitter head is amazingly dirt, dust, and debris free (one of the many benefits of a TIR reflector--no space for dust to live).  Even the anodizing, which is often where production lights cheap out, has been consistent and hardy.  

Grip: 2

Its not just that the knurling is good, though that is also true.  It happens to be the fact that the light's size is just right to put a medium sized male hand right on the clicky when you hold it.  

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Of the S-series lights I have reviewed, this is probably my favorite in the hand.  That extra bit of length gives you a very solid purchase without some of the mild finger yoga required by the smaller lights in the series.  

Carry: 2

The pocket clip is horrendous, like a jagged tear across canvas of a Renaissance master's painting, but fortunately for all of us, it pops off easy, and without it, the S1A can live pretty uneventfully in a coin pocket of a pair of jeans.  Perhaps it is a Freudian Slip then that the product page specs section claims that the light has no pocket clip.  Either that or Olight's web design person knows the real story--the pocket clip is like the pin on a grenade--you have to remove it before using the actual device.   

Output: 2

The Output category is one that I am not so concerned about anymore in terms of lumens.  All of these lights are blindingly bright at the time they are released and then, as emitter tech changes, they get surpassed by the next gen lights.  Here the 600 lumen high (on rechargeables) and the .5 lumen low are great, exactly what you want.  

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Really, the thing now is seeing which of the companies choose Hi CRI or at least non-disco tints.  Though the S1A lacks a Hi CRI emitter, it does carry a very good tint and thus scores a 2.  I'd really like to see Olight release a special edition of these lights with a bolt on clip and a Hi CRI emitter.  We'd be in custom light territory at that point in terms of feature set, so it would stand out in the crowd even more than the lights do now.

Runtime: 2

Can I be honest for a second?  All of the decent lights have good runtimes now.  Unless you pick your light at random or buy a Mag, you'll get something useful.  The runtime on low (.5 lumens) is 25 days.  That's pretty darn good, but not Zebralight crazy.  That makes Olight better than average, but if you are reading this blog you are only considering lights that are better than average.  Its not Zebralight awesome, but it is pretty darn good.  

Beam Type: 2

One of the interesting things about S-series TIRs is that they are really great up close.  They provide a hugely useful beam at 30 feet.  At about 100 feet, it stinks.  I prefer the beam type on the Surefire Titan Plus in this regard.  But as an EDC light, which this clearly is, the utility of the beam up close is so high, I can overlook its less than stellar at a distance performance.  Saying your light's beam type is second to Surefire's is a good thing.  

Beam Quality: 2

If the TIR limits throw it does so with the trade off of producing a scintillating beam pattern.  There are no holes, no gaps, no artifacts.  The spill is even to, with pleasantly diffuse edges and the hotspot is blindingly intense.  As a theoretical object, without reference to its real world throw performance, there is nothing I would change here.  The beam looks absolutely gorgeous.  

UI : 1

This is really the only flaw here--the combination of the new mode memory feature and the debounce times required to switch modes conspires to make an imprecise and somewhat clunky UI.  I'd prefer either the original S1 Baton UI or, if you want to do mode memory, go with the McGizmo set up.  This makes it impossible to go from off to either high or low directly, but it makes switching modes easier and convenient.  It's hard to pin down what the issue is precisely--the debounce time on the press and hold or the debounce on switching from medium to high with the light on.  Somewhere in those two functions lies the issue, it's just hard to tease out where. 

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It's not a deal breaker by any means.  The light still works, it is relatively easy to use.  The direct from off to high or low is nice.  It's just that none of this is 100% consistent.  It's like 70% consistent.  Once you get the hang of it, that number goes up to around 95%.  But there is no reason it can't be 100%.

Hands Free: 2

The magnetic tail is not a gimmick.  Its great and should be a standard feature on all EDC lights.  Add to that a perfectly flat tailcap and a good anti-roll hex ring on the barrel and you have a great light to use without your hands.  

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Overall Score: 19 out of 20

I can't say enough good about the S1A.  Its great.  For the money its about as good as production lights get.  I might actually prefer it over the S1 just because of how nice it is in the hand.  Overall, this a great light.  The UI thing is a weird issue, hard to pin down and hard to explain.  Its not omnipresent, but shows its head often enough to notice.  But don't worry about that.  Your only real decision now is which battery format you like best.  If you like 1xAAA go for the Surefire Titan Plus, if you like 1xAA go for this or the Zebralight.  If 1xCR123a is your preference the S1 or the Mini S1 is the way to go.  The entire S-series is great.  But, as Yoda told Obi-Wan...there is another...


Monday, October 3, 2016

How One Flashlight Started This Site or the Curse of the Nitecore

It may seem odd, but there were two forces that conspired to make this site a reality.  The first was the fact that with my first son on the way and with the fear of mounting expenses, my fun budget went from small to non-existent.  The second thing was my love affair and then sudden divorce from the Nitecore EX10:

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As you can see I had a very nicely upgraded version with the titanium bezel and the pocket clip.  The light itself was pretty sweet--Piston Drive mechanism, three outputs, a 130 lumen high, all from a single CR123a battery.  This was a present from my wife for my 31st birthday.  It was a light that started my gear obsession.  I carried a folder since high school when my Dad returned from Boston with a Delica in tow.  But my flashlight game was weak.  The Mag Solitaire was a long time companion and it was terrible.  It was so bad that eventually I just stopped carrying it.

Then I moved to New England and power outages became more of a thing, especially in the winter. I wanted a light and it was right around this time that I discovered the great Flashlight Reviews.  I read everything.  I watched as new emitters were released and I found the rabbit hole that is CPF.  Then I discovered the McGimzo PD design and I was enamored, but I couldn't bring myself to spend $500.

It was around that time that the Nitecore brand took off and the release of the D10/EX10 lights was super exciting.  I found a retailer that offered a pocket clip and a swap out on the bezel.  The crenelated bezel was very handy and allows for light to leak out when the light was placed emitter down on a surface.  It was, at the time, the closest a mere mortal could get to the amazing McGizmo customs.

And my awesome wife bought it for me for my birthday.  Weird as this sounds I can still remember sitting in a booth at a restaurant looking at it, while she was in the bathroom.  It was a glorious upgrade from the Solitaire.  

This was my kit at the time:

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It was basic, but it had all my bases covered.  I still have the wallet and watch.  Let's not talk about the knife--it was terrible.

About a year later a massive ice storm hit New England.  We were without power for five days.  Through all of the hassle, the Nitecore did me well.  It's ability to tailstand was great and the then crazy high of 130 lumens was blinding.  Living without electricity for that long was not pleasant, but it was not as bad as I would have imagined, in part because I had a nice light.

Then one day the clip came loose and the screw fell out.  I had to send away for a replacement.  It was not an easy process to get the screw.  But reattaching it was a monumental hassle.  The clip actually did not screw into the light.  The screws passed through holes in the end of the tailcap and inside the tailcap was a small threaded plate.  You had to align all six screw holes to reattach the clip.  In the process the light got beat up and the clip got damaged.  After that, it was never right.  The clip kept falling off and the backing plate threads got stripped.  I sent off for another backing plate, but it too had the same problem.

After about three months of hassle, the EX10, my favorite light of all time (up to that point) basically drove me crazy.  I decided I would try to sell it to recoup some of the costs.  I found EDCF in part through an effort to sell the light and that sent me down the path that led to this site.  It also started by scoring method as I created the basic 10 point scale for the search for the EX10's replacement.  

The EX10 had another part in making this site.  My wife contends that selling the light, a light she got me as a gift, was rude.  In hindsight she was right.  She also contends that selling the light caused there to be a curse placed on me whereby I would never be happy with a piece of gear, regardless of how good it was.

And so, the EX10 begot my method of searching for gear, my scoring system, and my insatiable (or cursed) hunger for new and interesting things.  And that is how the EX10 started this site.

Postscript

I eventually did get a McGizmo--it too was a birthday present.

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It was the McGizmo Haiku and, despite what you might think looking at the long list of lights I have reviewed since, it has been everything I wanted in a light and still is even five years after I got it.  That light is just amazing and even with a "weak" emitter, the reflector and form factor are so good I still regularly carry it.  Its a beautiful piece of kit.  It is also proof that you should just save up and get what you want from the start.  I spent probably $800 on lights before I bought my McGizmo.  I could have just bought the McGimzo from the outset and saved myself $800.