Monday, May 2, 2016

Review: SpifyLab - Sparkey


FIRE FIRE FIRE. I do so like fire starters and other goodies, and I was intrigued when an electric firestarter came past my way. This was the next in the line from SpiffyLab, who were the minds behind the Tactical Sharpie Marker I covered a while back. This is certainly a design from the same lineage, and the two tools could certainly sit side by side and look like a set.

The Sparkey by SpiffyLab is an electric firestarter, designed to ignite steel wool, and nothing else. The principle has been known for some time, with a small battery, anything from a AAA up to a D cell, or a 9V, and fine grade steel-wool, you can ignite the steel wool by running the charge through it, and the resistance to power ratio heats the wire up.

The Sparky uses two (2) AAA batteries to ignite steel wool. The 'Sparky' produces about 3.0-3.5 volts which is more than enough voltage to ignite steel wool or even a foil gum wrapper. It is designed with a twist cap, clip, knurled grips, and O-Rings to resist dirt and moisture in several spots. It is built with a tough, lightweight aluminium body, and a copper conductor tip.
It features a solid copper conductor tip, for optimal conductivity as next to silver, copper, is the most conductive metal. The aluminium body Sparky weighs in at just under 90g (3.1oz), with battery and the overall length is about 16cm (6.5") long and is 1.6cm (0.625") in diameter.

Interestingly, the Sparky is safe to touch and is vented. Even when exposed, the conductor tip and body can be touched without any harm coming to the user, due to the low power of the batteries, and the nature of skin conductivity. Just replace the cap when not in use to reduce accidental discharge.
So you might be continuing to ask "How can Sparky ignite steel?"

By touching the positive and negative "terminals" on the Sparky (the copper conductive tip, and the threaded aluminium body) to steel wool sends a current through the wool, and it heats up the fine "wires" because of resistance. The heated temperature causes the iron to react with the oxygen (O2) in the air and creates iron oxide (FeO2).


This reaction releases heat, heating up the next bit of iron and so on, causing a cascading reaction through the steel wool. It runs visibly through
the bundle of steel wool like a fuse, and as it burns through, you have your chance to use it to ignite your kindling, as you would with other firestarting methods.

As the makers point out, the science of this is pretty cool, even if a bit gimmicky. I managed to get the Sparkey to work easily enough, but getting it to catch on tinder was a little trickier, due to the nesting way the steel wool burns, keeping the burning steel away from tinder. However, it did work, after some fiddling. I expect it would work to ignite iron filings too, and probably work well to set thermite off as well (I didn't have any one hand to test ...).

Needing a very specific fuel to initiate the ignition, this is a pretty niche product, but, if you happened to want a low physical-effort firestarter, and have the capacity to store appropriately fine steel wool, this is an effective tool, especially if you had a surplus of AAA batteries not useful for anything else.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Re-bloging: on double sided daggers, axes and the art of utility.

DJ Urbanovsky, the knife and axe-maker extraordinaire behind American Kami has had some great successes recently, two more of his knives have been put into production by Boker (check them out here) . I have had  the pleasure of fooling around with a couple of the American Kami blades, in my tactical kitchen knife, the Super Colubris, and the Boker Mid-Tech Colubris which was part of a pass-around review.  He is a maker of fine, dangerous and finely crafted blades, and recently, he's been making daggers. Pondering these as he grinds, fits and finishes these, he had some thoughts, which he was good enough to share:


Since I am in the middle of assembling a ton of them as I type this, one of my thoughts on daggers: So, obviously most people tend to look at a dagger and think "That right there is some man-killing-as-shit," or that it is a single purpose design and good for nothing other than making holes in bad guys.


Read the rest of his thoughts here on Breach-Bang-Clear

Because there is always some window-licker that tells me I'm going to go to jail or some such:

Where I live, double bladed knives are listed as Prohibited Weapons.

In order to possess a dagger, a person would need to obtain either a:
So, know your local laws, and collect, train with and use the tools that best meet your needs and applications. Thanks again to Mr Urbanovsky,and be sure to check out his work!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Review: Outdoor Gourmet - Tandoori Chicken

This is the third of the pre-packaged instant meals I wanted to cover, following on from the Back Country Roast Chicken, and the Outdoor Gourmet Butter Chicken camping meals and I wanted to go through them all. This is the Tandoori flavoured chicken, which comes with a yogurt sauce.

As with the Butter Chicken, and the Roast Chicken, the pouches are tear open and zip-lock sealable, in order to cook your meal in the same retort you then eat out of. The Tandoori chicken meal includes a sachet of yogurt sauce, which needs to be removed before the boiling water goes in, and is added following the 10 minute "cooking" stage.

There were a number of nice ingredients in the mix, making for a nice variety of textures and tastes in each mouthful, even though, in something that escaped me when I bought them, included red capsicum, which I'm mildly allergic to (but it didn't seem to have too bad an effect). The meals are listed as a 370g serving size, with a 190g net package weight (obviously this equates to the cups of boiled water that goes in).

With that serving size, you are getting 1830kJ (437kcal) from the meal, or at 100g as a reference you are getting 486kJ (116kcal) per 100g. It's a pretty filling meal, but you'd need to have several to make a full days nutrition, or even more than just these to make a complete meal in any given setting. But when you need a flavour filled, hot meal, especially after a long hike, or getting caught in inclement weather,  these might just be the ticket.

The Outdoor Gourmet Company gives a 3 year "best before" on all their products but also state it is safe to eat beyond that, provided it’s stored appropriately and the packaging remains sealed. These could easily sit in a bug-out-bag or in the camping-box of a vehicle for ages without any trouble. They aren't vacuum sealed, but have limited volume and it's no big deal.

Other types of dry food might only last a year or so, but because of their exceptionally low moisture content they handle higher storage temperatures better than most wet-pack meals & higher moisture content dehydrated product. They may need a couple of cups of water to fully rehydrate, but they are delicious.

The zip seal pouch makes rubbish disposal a breeze; you just toss in any other rubbish, roll it up, zip it closed and pop it in your pack.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Review: Gearlex Ear Clip


I wanted to upgrade my accessory carrying capacity without adding my weight, or adding to my magnetic signature. (I rarely go through metal detectors, but whenever I do, it's a bigger and bigger pain each time). I use ITW Grimloc's on a bunch of my bags and harnesses, which are good, but have a "pop-open" thresh-hold that I have had come open at inopportune times.  

I saw that Hornest SG was stocking a bioplastic carabiner that looked to be suiting my needs. These are the Gearlex Ear Carabiners.  These weather and chemical resistant clips are made from 62% renewable materials and ends up being 15% lighter than nylon materials and are reported to retain that toughness down to  -60oC, in case you are intending to go yomping in Vladivostok or Mawson Station.

At the broad top of the "ear" shapes, the clips feature a 1" webbing loop, with a split notch for feeding it into the location of your choice. 

Unlike the webing notch of the of the Grimloc, the Gearlex webbing loop is on the outside of the carabiner, not the inside. This frees up the internal area of the carabiner to give more space for attached objects, and adds freedom of movement. 

However, it makes me worry about how much of a load the clip can take. The large Ear clips are rated to a max of 78kg and the small to 60kg, which is vastly more than the Grimloc's 36kg break-point. I rather empirically tested it manually by pulling it looped through my webbing , and it held in place to the point of hurting my hand and with the stitching straining.

The gate of the carabiner is fitted with a dovetail locking mechanism which adds to the strength of the gate and is one of several locks now standard throughout the climbing world.  The inside, weight bearing rim of the carabiner is thicker, to distribute the load, but the back edges have a broad rib for stability and strength, without adding too much mass. 

The carabiners are clearly not climbing rated, and come with warnings not to be "load-bearing" but that said, for the strapping of accessories, like water bottles, dummy cords or even strapping on smaller packs to bigger packs, such as the Hill People Gear Runner's Bag, or the Zulu Nylon Gear CAOS admin pack or even perhaps a daypack, for those of us who pack like we're about to jump out of a perfectly good airplane.  

Gearlex produce these in Black, Coyote and Ranger Green, and I got one of the clips in black, one in ranger green and a small one in Ranger Green as well, to give me some options when I am setting them up and using them, to match or contrast the gear they are attached to.


Not as hardy and load-bearing as an aluminium or steel climbing carabiner, bigger and more stable than a Grimloc, the Gearlex Ear Clips fill the niche between a light accessory clip and a heavy-duty carabiner.

Both have their places and uses, but for something in-between, you might find that the Gearlex clips, in big and small suits your needs.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Wish Lust: Anachrobellum war-outta-time shirts

I wanted to take a moment to give a shout out to the folks at www.anachrobellum.com who, in conjunction with the Knife-hand the World folks, have put some pretty stellar t-shirt designs together, incorporating some of my favourite things. Vikings, Samurai and Revolutionary War warfighters, fitted and kitted with modern wargear.

Here are the three shirts that are available now:

This is the Til Valhall shirt. It portrays what a modern Viking pipe-hitter might look like while servicing his enemies with cold steel and hot lead.

As you can see, this berserker is a little better equipped to wreak slaughter and carnage upon his foe than were his distant ancestors — though true to form he has transitioned from blaster to a bearded skull splitter to make a point. We’re pretty sure Gunnar Hamundarson and Egil Skallagrimsson would approve.
Sure, maybe they didn’t have frags and mags in the Fóstbræðra sagabut that’s the way Anachrobellum rolls…and for that matter, it’s the way most of you roll as you conquer your way to Valhöll.






Here is the second in their line, The Tactical Samurai.

Why the Samurai? Of all the warrior archetypes in the world, none is perhaps more recognizable than that of the Samurai. The word Samurai is derived at least in part from the word saburau, which means “to serve.” That’s fitting enough, particularly in the modern context and even more so with regard to how we regard the warrior ethos. There’s nothing wrong with a little ego in a fighting man, quite the contrary — but if that ego is not subordinated to some sense of the greater good (serving your country, serving your community, sticking up for those weaker than you), well, then…

This particular Samurai is carrying some things MInamoto Tametomo and Miyamoto Musashi wouldn’t recognize — Mk17, PEQ15, OSS Suppressor, S&S Precision Manta strobe and the like — but they’d understand the philosophy behind it.





















Lastly, Roger's Rangers are back in the Roger's Rangers Returned shirt from . The frontiersmen and scouts trained by Robert Rogers were asymmetrical warfare experts before there even was a Continental Army (and long before anyone coined the term Asymmetrical Warfare). Once the Continental Army was established, its original 10 Rifle Companies were veterans of Roger's Rangers.
Capt. Robert Rogers first recruited his men in 1775 to support the British Army during the French and Indian War, conducting recce operations, raiding and essentially becoming an iconic example of (truly) light infantry operations.

This is a storied unit of American military history. Indeed, Rogers Rules of Ranging are studied and quoted even today -- just take a look at the United States Army Ranger Handbook, numerous scholarly works about warfare and counterinsurgency manuals. As such, Anachrobellum believes this warrior archetype to be imminently suitable for many of today's armed citizens and uniformed professionals.

The original Roger's Rangers were obviously limited in their equipment and weaponry. Those of today have far more impressive tools -- this is why our Roger's Ranger Returned is rocking SKD PIG gloves, a MK17 with Elcan Spector and PEQ15 -- as well as assorted other gear and the mandatory tomahawk of course!


Pick one up at www.anachrobellum.com or find them on Instagram, @anachrobellum.

#warouttatime

On Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/Anachrobellum/

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Review: SAR GlobalTools - kiridashi



The traditional kiridashi knife is small and very portable blade from Japan, with a chisel grind and a sharp point, used as a general-purpose utility knife. These knives are carving/utility knives have their roots in woodworking. The name, kiridashi literally translates to “carve out” which would seem to support this origin. Regardless, they are found in many facets of traditional and contemporary Japanese culture being used in a variety of activities from everyday tasks like sharpening pencils to gardening.


They are often made with a handle wrap and sometimes scales and a scabbard, but are just as likely to be a single piece of steel.

This take on the classic is from my mate Spencer Alan Reiter of SAR Global Tools who works his metalworking magic from a shed in Louisiana and has brought forth such wonderful items as the Moonglow necklace signaling tool I wear 24/7, the SESS signalling dogtag I keep lashed to all my packs, and my favourite neck-knife, the OddJob.

The SAR kiridashi's are all one-offs, that Spencer builds from reclaimed stock left over from his other projects. Waste not, want not, and perfect philosophy for the creation of a kiridashi. The riddle of steel  rings in his ears.

Crafted from an offcut of CPM3V and is heat treated to a hardness of "dead nuts" 60HRC according to Spencer.
It's also sharpened to a razor blade edge along both its main cutting edge and to a very sturdy and substantial point. The geometry of the SAR kiridashi is is very similar to a scalpel and being one piece CPM3V its 165mm length it weighs only 30g, very dense and very good in the hand. With two holes drilled in the head of the blade for a mass reducing effect and three grip-enhancing drilled notched behind the head, and another in the tail end as a lanyard hole.


Worked over in the SAR workshop, you can easily use it knowing that you are using a high quality product.  You'd never know it was a one off recovered from workshop scrap. In keeping with the kiridashi's main purpose originally to be used as a craft knife, I wanted to show off it's practical application and the single, flat ground chisel edge which just works a treat as a wood whittling tool.

The blade can put it to many different uses. Here are some practical examples: general cutting, gardening, cutting zip ties, deburring and drilling holes, self defense, survival tool, the uses are almost innumerable. Anything you could want from a heavily over-engineered craft-knife. 

The SAR kiridashi's are set with a cord-wrap on the handle for enhanced grip on the thin metal spine, and come with a kydex scabbard along with a bead-chain necklace for neck-knife wear. 

Bear in mind that these are all hand-crafted, heat treated and sharpened in what is essentially a one-man shop, along with Spencer's philanthropic work in conjunction with the Run Rangers Run charity, in creating his Inglorious Bastards knives, re-purposed from antique files, so his time is hard to come by and the runs are small. Keep an eye out and be on the lookout for new knives such as the Kingfisher's that are coming out...

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Review: Mystery Ranch - Removable Stick-it

I got in touch with my mate Tay Choon Mong at Hornest Singapore, my favourite stockist of the hardy and heavy-duty Mystery Ranch packs and products, after I saw that they had some accessories I had been hanging out for come in. You may recall I have one of the rare Mystery ranch "Asia Pacific only" 1 Day Assault Pack bags, which is a cross between the more mature 3 Day Assault Pack and the more recently released ASAP Pack.

I also have one of the Cinch straps, for comfortable wear and quick release of a pack whilst wearing a loaded plate carrier.

Great kit. The particular accessory that had come to my attention was the Removable Stick-It flap, seen here in Coyote, mounted to my black 1DAP. The Stick-It is a detachable beaver-tail that mounts to the bottom of a compatible pack to offer external storage when you've either gotten too much stuff, or just something too big for your pack to carry.

Built with 500D Cordura for long-haul durability, which I've come to expect from pack-makers, and fitted with mil-spec 1" webbing straps, Mystery Ranch have gone all out on the both the construction and the hardware. The buckles have a clip-in end, for fixing to MOLLE loops or other webbing on your pack, as well as a spring loaded friction lock for the working end of the buckle.

This kind of attention to detail as well as using better-than-standard fittings is something I love about Mystery Ranch. You pay for it, but it's worth it. The Stick-It attaches to its host pack with four press-stud closing loops of webbing, which feed back into the accessory by extra loops of MOLLE style webbing sewn into the Stick-It's interior. Those press-stud loops allow you to attach it to the bottom of any pack with MOLLE on its base.

I've put it on my Platatac Light Field Pack in place of its "Office" Admin Pack, or in fact as well as it. It also fits the Propper UC Pack, and the old standby the classic Platatac Bullock Echo, though the Echo already has a beaver-tail attachment built in.

The Stick-It has a couple of other interesting features. It is constructed to have expanding baffles in its Center line, in case of very bulky loads, with plastic inserts to stiffen the sides and carry the weight more evenly. You can really fit quite a lot into this, and is is the smaller of the two sizes offered. It also had a set of drainage grommets in its base, for those times you've taken a dip or been caught in a monsoon.

Another very forward thinking feature is the sheer length of the webbing for the attachment straps. This both lets you place the buckles anywhere from right at the back of the pack, to all the way at the front for quick release options of your over-load without shucking the pack propper. They also come with hook-and-loop keeper loops, to bundle the excess webbing up tight and out of the way for snag free utility.

The small Stick-It is perfect for stowing bulky times, like an Ops-Core bump helmet, a bundled jacket like the  Platatac Harry 1.2 Softshell or the like. It can easily cope with even larger items, as long as you're comfortable with the, sitting out over the top of its top lip. The construction is hefty, and I suspect the weakest point would be the clip on the buckle. I've never had any trouble carrying my every-day items, let me know if any of you try lugging a ammo-can with yours.

The Stick-It isn't usually available as a stand alone item, but can be found in the Mystery Ranch Gunfighter pack, or through Hornest.


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