Thursday, December 31, 2015

Review: ZU Bladeworx - Mekanik

I got in touch with the fine and fierce minds at ZU Bladeworx, who are based in Rouse Hill, NSW, after seeing some of their handywork on one of the groups I frequent on FaceBook, and was delighted after making introductions and inquiries after one of their fine blades to be sent this particular piece, right before Giftmas.

These pretty-much local bladesmiths have a very straightforward approach when it comes to making stabby steel: make it simple, make it elegant and this they have done in this piece, the Mekanik.

Being 100% made in Australia, and  machined from a solid billet of 15mm thick A2 steel (very similar to another tool-steel, cryodur 2363 is the steel from Germany). The handle is 9mm thick (0.35")  and the blade is 6.5mm thick (0.25") and weighs a meaty 110g (3.9oz) for its mere 174mm (6 7/8") length. 

Given its A2 construction, its no surprise that it has a skeletonised handle, and an additional pair of holes drilled to keep the weight down, as well as fullers ground into the sides of the blade as well as along the spine.
 Double tempered then cryonically treatment to a Rc58-59 hardness, it has been black oxide finished and shipped "sterile" (no blade markings)  to keep a spartan presentation. 

The Kydex sheath is done in house  and fits like a glove. plenty of attachment grommets and with the addition of the paracord lanyard, it can be easily drawn even though the scabbard comes up along deeply up the handle.

Jimping along the back and front and butt of the handle gives a really solid grip, in even some mango and/or fish slime covered tasks. The front finger groove allows you to take a very firm and stable grip. The edges are all smoothly finished, keeping you from giving yourself a grazing when making sudden, vigorous use of the knife.

One of the things I really liked about the design was the gradient between blade and handle, working down from a nicely wide grip, to a serious, no-nonsense 65mm long blade. 

Sharpened by "Dirty Harry", the blade is a compound grind with deep fullers. The main edge of the blade is machine hollowground with flat grind tip. the A2 steel holds a good edge and will be one of my first attempts at old-fashioned stropping for a razor finish.

When gripped neatly in the hand, the butt fits just outside the heel of my palm, and I have had not a worry with my hand sliding forwards whilst cutting, slicing or stabbing with it. 

ZU reports that the Mekanik is in use with several deployed Aussie soldiers (infantry and SF) via private purchase, so if you're deployed out somewhere unpleasant, keep an eye out for it on a steely-eyed digger with or without a beard. I'm really impressed with it and fancy it a keeper, either for plate-carrier or battle-belt wear. The broad flat scabbard makes it a bit too awkward for boot-wear, but don't let that stop you.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Review: Propper - Range Bag

First seen on Breach Bang & Clear ....
Here's a follow up from my sneak-peek review of the Propper Range Bag. I took the Range Bag with me on an international trip to the jungle-covered mountains of Bali, Indonesia in mid October for a family event, rather than for a Tropic Thunder or Rambo4 themed get-away ... I wanted to maximise my gear-totage, as well as my carry-on capacity. The Range Bag was my upgrade to the very similar Propper Multipurpose Bag, which I had been using as my every-day bag and as carry-on for some time previously.

The Range Bag is in many respects an up-sized version of the Multipurpose Bag, with many of the same design aspects, such as the long-side opening panels, the double zippered opening top lid as well as it's carry handles and the like.

I decked out my bag with a variety of airport-safe goodies, and needfuls, and set out for international customs and far away vistas. I checked out the 48cm x34cm x 23cm size restrictions on Virgin Australia's international carry-on regulations, and had already confirmed it was good-to go.

Almost twice the width of their Multipurpose Bags, the Range Bag measures 25cm x 38cm x 23cm (10" x 15" x 9") and as I mentioned is a beefed up and expanded version of the MPB. Padded on all sides for increased protection and rigidity, it holds it shape even when empty. There are two stiffened internal dividers, fitted with flaps with hook-field ends to affix the dividers to the fine-finished loop-field covered internal walls of the bag.

These walls can be adjusted or discarded, as fits your use or mission, and the whole of the internal cavity is lined in hi-contrast orange, to help you find your OD tool in its OD sheath in your bottom of your OD bag. I fitted the "back" compartment of my carry-on with a 1L Nalgene bottle, a folded up First Strike Snatch-Bag ii for any extra incidental bagging I might be needing. In the center compartment I made, I had my novels and iPad for in-flight and hurry-up-and-wait times, I also included my Propper mesh-sided boo-boo kit, loaded up with all kinds of travel first-aid needs and spares. In the "front" compartment, I had the Propper 5x7 case, which held all our passports and travel documents, and my Snowgum iPhone case as a batter-backup for my phone.

The main compartment has a lockable zipper, good enough to keep little prying hands away from dangerous things.

On the "right-hand" side panel is fitted with a mesh pocket, and a fold-out mat to do your weapon maintenance or lay out a picnic. The Range Bag also comes with a removable hook-field backed accessory panel. I used that mesh panel to stow PPE gear like my Barz goggle sunglasses, earplugs, and other assorted goodies like Paracetamol and Ibuprofen. In the folds of the maintenance mat, I included wet-wipes, and a couple of nappies as well, for on-the-go emergencies, as well as acting as very effective blood-sponges. You know, in case of misadventures trying to get a taxi ...

The large end pocket, I filled with a super absorbent travel towel, two hospital grade sick-bags and my Multicam Headsox . My last international trip involved getting not one, but two lots of little-kid barf on me. Not this time matey! The internal material is also the high-visibility orange, but is off-set by the OD surface material, to make rummaging for items easy, without exposing yourself to unwanted attention by flashes of Blaze. The end pocket had a hook-and-loop patch for securing it, but stuffed full as it was, was not useable. However, the design of the bag kept it all snug and sound. I suspect you could keep a small to medium sized pistol in that pocket, without too much trouble.

The outward facing side panel is covered in a mixture of loop-filed at the top, and two rows of seven channel MOLLE, and inside has another mesh-lined pocket, along with six pistol magazine sized pouches. I stowed personal electronics cables and the like, as well as parkers, crayons (good for both occupying little people as well as waterproof communication and as both kindling and illumination purposes (they make pretty functional candles), as well as an asthma pump.  Again, the lockable double zippers allowed me to have a sense of security around both theft and also being reverse-pickpocketed with contraband materials. Indonesia has a death penalty for drug smuggling.

The front side panel is also fitted out with more MOLLE channels, but I didn't make any use of these. I can see any number of small pouches and carrier working well there though.

One thing I found was that it was very convenient to have the internal compartments, which allowed me to set very specific places for my load. Not misplacing travel documents, (or perhaps a backup pistol, if that's the way you pack)  is always a good thing. That said, the extra width of the Range Bag over the Multipurpose Bag meant that it wasn't as easy to rip back the top flap one handed, to get at the insides. the zippers were too fine, and pinched when I tried a few times. Slow and steady wins the race in this case.

It was also pretty comfortable to heft around, the internal padding not only kept my gear safe and secure, but also kept them from jabbing me in the hip and kidneys as I carried it all around.

I also liked that I could pull open the side panels to access the gear I had in there, on the fly, and that it acted as a mobile platform to work from.

Even with a pack on my back, the Range Bag on my hip was able to be swung around and rummaged through with no real problem, and its broad top even acted as an additional platform for carrying more things (or even little people as a bench-seat). The shoulder straps were both just wide enough to spread the load and not too big as to get in the way. The sliding shoulder padding I found was placed in an awkward place, due to the broad tri-glide adjuster, but I managed to feed it into the padding strap eventually. I didn't like the clip-attachment the shoulder strap had though. The broad Fastex buckle from the Multipurpose Bag would have been much better, and enable a one-handed quick-release, in the event I needed to drop and go. With the heavier load of the Range Bag, this would have been even more useful.

I made use of the fold-out mat a couple of times, mostly doing paperwork and the occasional fix-it session, the finish was good and gripping, and not tacky, which is a plus to my mind. I didn't loose and widgets, or little screws so I'll call it a useful addition.

The Range Bag ticked all the boxes for a carry-on bag, as well as a travel accessory. I don't like taking anything I can't carry or sling onto me. I like having my hands free for whatever might come my way, so the Range Bag was a logical step up for when I needed to carry a bit more, or if I needed to carry bulkier, heavier items than I might have otherwise done. Need to carry a bunch of lead to and from your favourite pew-pew place? I have no doubt that your personal needs would be met with this bag. Need to run up and down a hill? Get a ruck.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Review: Dual double mag pouch

Here's another item from my bulk load of pouches and packs like the S10 Haversack that I have been slowly rolling out. I had a windfall of a truckload of army surplus gear ages ago, which have been sitting in the bunker, being musty, but there are some real gems in there. These may not be the cutting edge of high-speed, low-drag gear, but have been mil-spec at some stage, so they're damn tough, if nothing else.

This particular pouch came from a box full of here, and I just reached in and grabbed one at random. You can see it's already had a rough life, but has held together.

This double, dual-magazine carrying set of pouches is made of a high Denier (800-1000 I'd guess, by the feel) and are built into a single backing. From the frayed stitching marks, I'd guess that they originally came with some sort of Fastex style clips to act as the primary closure points for the box-like pouches, but was probably removed to speed things up in the field.

A broad loop-field panel on the front of the outside of the pouch acts as the primary closure as a result, with a corresponding hook-field inside the box-top lid. A tongue of webbing with a hook-field can be pulled out from inside the pouch to mate with the loop-field on the front to neutralize the hook-and-loop closure entirely, which was probably useful when the original Fastex loops were still in place.

Internally, the pouches have been given a polyurethane coating for additional waterproofing, and are double stitched throughout. Drainage grommets with a wire mesh grit filter are found in the bottom of each, this would act to keep the grit and sand out of your magazines, and was a nice little feature.

The inside of the box-lid has a little pocked sewn in, big enough for a MRE packet of waterproof matches, a P-38 can opener or maybe a button compass, I found a couple of match-packets and even a couple of water purification tablets when I went through the pouches.

The back panel of the pouches have several different ways to mount, and also shows the vintage of the pouches. ALICE style brass-wire belt hooks, and no PALS-MOLLE to be seen. A pair of steel rings allows extra strapping to be attached to sling the pouches, though the angle of the two ring mountings being different suggests there is a "right way" to do this. A question for the veterans out there. What gives?

The pouches have been stamped with a NSN, but they are all so aged that I couldn't make out the cage numbers. I'd say these pouches would work well doing double duty in much the same way as any of the Platatac FUP or bigger pouches I've grown to love, but with a far older look.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Review: MrGhost EMR detector

Adding to my list of sensors and scanners, if you recall the APOC Radiation Detector I reviewed some time ago, here's another one that I've had for a while and then came across it again recently.

I had backed this on Kickstarter, specifically because I wanted to add to my list of spectrums I could detect, surpassing the Gamma and x- rays, and the occasional Alpha particle. It was for a detector that would connect to an iPhone or similar product and an app to drive the detection process. The app and Device go by the funny name Mr.Ghost, and takes a page from the PKE Meter from Ghostbusters although it's fundamentals are based on the material world rather than the preternatural. The creator goes to lengths to state the app is intended for entertainment purposes only and does not provide true ghost detecting functionality.

EM radiation stands for "electromagnetic radiation" is a wave-like form of energy like microwaves, visible light, and x-rays. EMF stands for "electromagnetic field" and is the near field part of EM radiation. Any time you have electrons moving through wire (like in the power supply of your appliances), it generates an electromagnetic field. Mr.Ghost acts to detect this field and is specifically tuned to detect AC electricity.

MrGhost is the companion app for the Mr.Ghost EMF detector that plugs into the headphone jack of your device. I've used it for both my iPad and iPhones, and never had any trouble. For those without the peripheral, the app will still work as an advanced sound level detector with your regular microphone so it is fun to use either way.

The readouts of the app show both the strength of the signal at the top, listed in RMS,
typical readings are 12-60 for fluorescent lights, 20-30 for wall-adaptors, 100-200 for dimmer switches, 200-400 for flatscreen TV's and 2000-4000 for old CRT tv's.

The second window shows either a spectral analysis of the emissions  or its waveform, giving you an impression of the nature of the emissions. The spectral analysis starts at approximately 10hz on the left and moves up to 22,000hz on the right.

The third window gives a sliding record of signal strength over time, based on the RMS reading from the main window.

The control sliders at the bottom control sensitivity, and the one below that allows you to set an offset, to baseline the device you are scanning with the Mr.Ghost from. There are also "record" and "send memory" options to capture your particular observations be email.

There are in fact three "modes" to the MrGhost app: primary scanning, gyro-mode and glow-mode. These are accessed by swiping left or right from the main window.

In gyro mode, the main window gives a block of the same scaled-by-colour signal strength as with th primary mode, blue being lowest, through grey to yellow, orange and red to white. It also gauges strength by proximity. The app ties into the iPhone gyroscope to giv you a real time, directional signal.  Adjust the sensitivity all the way left, and swing your phone back and forth in gyro mode and see the direction of high powered emitters. Very good if you're trying to pinpoint a obfuscated power source, like faulty wiring, a secreted transmitter or perhaps whatever spook keeps moving the remote control. .

Glow mode fills he entire screen with the signal detection colour of the gyro-mode, but without an extra data, just full screen colour. It glows brighter/hotter based on emission level, it also allows recording of your detected signals if you can film or time-lapse your detection to paint a light-picture of signal strength.

One thing that Mr.Ghost will not detect is the mobile phone you use to drive it and capture the signals. It was designed such that the EMF coming from the iPhone is generally above the 22.05khz cutoff that the detector senses. This means you can use it without having to turn on airplane mode, and without contaminating your data capture. Mobile devices do cause a tiny amount of baseline signal which the offset feature can handle easily. It does not affect functioning. 

This does mean however that you can't use it to find your lost phone ...
Overall, his is a fun peripheral and well or together app. It is a bit tricky to get the settings right so you can capture meaningful data, and it's not a professional industrial espionage signal detector, but for what it is, it's totally worth getting and waving around to gauge what all the trappings of modern life are radiating at you. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Wish Lust: off-road vehicles

I was heading home from work, and I went past this vehicle, parked in the parking lot entrance of an apartment block, and I was so impressed that I wanted to snap a few pictures and tell you what I thought about it. There has been so much done to the set-up that I couldn't even tell what the original rig under it was, but it has a fully enclosed tool and storage locker suite, with four lockable cupboards, two of which were vented, possibly to house pig-dogs or some such. Big off-road tires, with two spares on the back, as well as dual front and back dynema cable-winches, and a heavy-duty jack .
An awning canopy which looks like it might be a full tent version  was fitted to the roof, as well as a roof-rack full of camping and bedding gear like bed-rolls. Packs set to the back of the spare tires give even more storage, though probably not for anything too valuable. Might even be solar shower reservoirs. Extra LED lights, running-boards, a snorkel, a big cow-pusher and a heavy duty suspension upgrade finish off what looks to be a very impressive off-road and off-grid setup. It made me envious!
My own little Toyota Rav4 AWD is rather soccer-mom in comparison. Given that I don't do much off-roading, other than getting to and from some pretty family-friendly camping sites and the occasional trip to the snow, I don't really have much regular excuse for a more workhorse set up, other than in the interests of preparedness. Family utility won out when I got this vehicle. That said, I do keep a variety of useful and important kit stowed away in its Millennium Falcon like storage bays: 
First Aid kits, my in-the-car Bug-Out-Bag, a pretty comprehensive tool-bag, rain-gear, Hi-Vis gear, oil, fishing rods, jumper-leads, a hatchet, some really neat collapsible fishing poles and a tackle box, as well as my trusty Stetson all live stowed away ready for any emergency that comes up. I also have a Hercules Off-road Recovery kit,  which isn't pictured. I also have two removable roof-racks, which strap on to the top, through the door-frames, and give me instant top-side storage when I have even more to load. 
These originally came to let me haul my AquaYak tandem kayak, but have been invaluable camping and both salvage and shopping. Given the size of our family, I often ponder that I would have been better served with a people mover, but the Rav4 has served me well. The boot by itself is spacious and lets us haul a whole lot more than you might expect. It would be awesome to one day have a decent rough-riding, off-road, Mad Max worthy vehicle, and I know one of my friends recently got an ex-Army Land Rover Defender  which will make an excellent bush-basher, so I know its possible.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Wish-Lust: Kickstarter- SPARtool

I caught the scent of a new hardcore multi-tool being crowd-sourced on Kickstarter. Contacting the designer, Stewart Yeoh , I got some pictures to share with you, and the text behind the ideas.

I've covered a couple of tools like this in the past; the famous Crovel, the ubiquitous e-tool , and the Bosse Tools shovel. Then there are the Dead-On Superhammer and the Stanley FUBAR.

Stewart put a very thorough description of the SPARtool up on the Kickstarter, so this is going to mostly be a repeat of his words. So, here they are:
  • Dig in both soft and hard ground.
  • Chop through branches and split logs.
  • Saw through wood, plastic, bone, or sheet metal.
  • Hammer tent stakes, nails, or rocks.
  • Open a cold bottle of something refreshing after all that work!
A common gripe with multi-tools is that many of their mechanisms are awkward and difficult to use, and inferior to a dedicated tool for the job.  We strive to create a design that shifts smoothly and safely between functions, and is comfortable for all its uses.
The SPARtool features a 6"x 8" shovel head with integrated chopping edge, saw blade, and bottle opener.  The 1075 carbon steel and Zytel handle is topped with a flat pry bar, hammer, and 4" pick that functions as a handle for digging and sawing.  the total tool length is 22", and the weight is 2 lbs 15 oz. 
Shovels derive much of their strength through smoothly transitioning concave and convex geometry, which distributes stresses evenly and allows them to be thin and light. 
The SPARtool shovel reflects these principles in its shovel head design.  Sturdy tempered carbon steel provides the cutting edge, which is both hard enough to hold an edge, and tough enough to absorb impact. The face is gently curved to increase the angle of repose of loose soil, and gather more in each scoop.  Our shovel provides the foundation for other tools while remaining an efficient digging machine.
One side of the hardened and tempered steel shovel head is ground scary sharp, giving a generous 9-inch cutting surface.  When used against small branches the thin edge acts like a machete, passing through with minimal resistance. When employed to split logs, the curvature of the shovel head acts more like an ax, forcing the wood apart cleanly. The edge of the shovel is carefully aligned parallel along the center of the handle, creating the most direct transmission of force, and reducing the chance for dangerous glancing blows.  

Sometimes a chopper is not the right tool for a job. When you need to make a clean cut, separate bones in game, or neatly trim pipe or tubing a saw is the answer. Saws are often one of the weakest links in multi-tools due to disregard for their mechanical and design principles. Our saw teeth are an aggressive 4/inch, 60° tooth layout, cut at a 15° rake.  Our saw is laid out as a crosscut saw, with a 15° fleam and a wide alternating offset tooth pattern to clear a wide kerf. Once again the saw edge is parallel to the handle to allow pure single axis motion.  

Hammer and Pick
Our 1.5" hammer head provides a large and forgiving striking surface; while its thick plate steel construction makes damaging it a near impossibility. 
The 4 inch pick spike can break hard earth and rocks, forcefully open padlocks, and might save your life if the zombies ever do decide to rise.  The curved pick also serves as a convenient and comfortable handle when digging or sawing. The top end of the SPARtool is inspired by the Halligan bar, a tool used by firefighters and first responders for forcible entry and rescue. We have maintained the layout so that Halligan techniques can be used with the SPARtool.
The SPARtool handle ends in a flat pry bar with a rounded, shepherds-crook curve. Useful not just for prying open doors or crates but also pulling nails, splitting wood, chiseling, and other demolition tasks. The improved bottle opener now fits a variety of sizes, and the 0.25" plate steel construction will never wear out.

On every pocket and key chain multi-tool I have ever owned the second most used item is always the bottle opener. Maybe I just like beer, but this tool was a necessity to me.
SPARtool's handle is designed for strength and comfort. The backbone of the tool is a .20" thick carbon steel bar, forged half round (think of a tape measure vs. a floppy metal ribbon of the same thickness) to fit in your hand. Inside the half round's curvature is an impact grade Zytel© polymer insert; which provides stiffness in the secondary direction, and is textured to give a secure grip.
The SPARtool sheath is built from 1050 denier ballistic nylon with MOLLE-compatible strapping and belt loop. The cutting surfaces on the shovel head are protected by a nylon and Kydex sheath which is fully detachable from the backbone of the sheath. The cutting surfaces of the prybar and pick are similarly protected with a Kydex guard, and are freely detachable with secure snaps. When in use, the cover guard for the opposite end is left in place and protects the user from accidental injury.  

So, it's a great looking tool, and certainly covers a whole bunch of options; a shovel, an axe, a saw, a pry-bar, a pick-axe and a hammer. It looks like a really serious and well put together tool. I can see a whole bunch of applications for both survival, breaching and entry, and even disaster survival. You'd do well to look at it and perhaps add one to your collection too.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Review: FireCone

This is an awesome little fire-starter that I have backed on Kickstarter, and was lucky enough to receive a prototype to share my thoughts on.

The FireCone is a tunable alcohol burner that is operable for starting fires, igniting barbeques, emergency heating, or just holding a candle in style. It will burn a bunch of different liquid fuels; alcohol gel, 70% isopropyl alcohol, BioEthanol, Methanol, and denatured alcohol (methylated spirits).

The principle of the thing is that there are two pieces, the base and the cone. Liquid fuel is added to the base, and when lit, convection and conductive heat act to continually vaporise and drive the fire. The scalloped notches in both the base and the cone allow the operator to adjust the amount of air that feed inside the cone, allowing the FireCone to be tuned, just as you would a Bunsen Burner.

The internal cavity is the primary fuel reservoir but the external ring also works well, it holds around 30mL of fuel in total. The cone and the base are both textured, which both aids the wicking properties but also gives better surface area for gripping and moving it around when adjusting the flame. The cone part can even be inverted to offer even more burning surface area, but this eliminates the very specifically engineered convection currents you get when it is in its "volcano" configuration.

Here's some wood pyrochemistry for you: Wood ignites at between 190oC (374oF) and 260oC (500oF) by producing volatile gases. Around 590oC (1,100F), the volatile gases ignite when mixed with oxygen. The more oxygen a fire gets, the cleaner and hotter it burns, which is where the venting of the FireCone come in to effect.

As wood reduces to charcoal the temperature potential increases and some of the best wood stoves achieve temperatures up to 1095oC (2,000oF). As a woodstove starter the Firecone has been designed to survive those temperatures.

There are four metal options of the FireCone, bronze and titanium, investment cast in Oregon, and a high-carbon cast steel and a stainless steel model, cast in Korea. the fine investment cast detail (like a map of Oregon, the lettering on the bottom and just the quality of the finish and its unprecedented durability make it something worth admiring as art, as well as being super functional.

The biggest difference between stainless and carbon models is the rusting. Carbon models will develop a surface rust in an oxidized reddish brown pattern, whereas stainless doesn’t rust. There is always the fear with stainless steel that it could get brittle after many fire cycles, but the testers and manufacturers haven't been able to break one, nor could I.

They have been left in woodfires fire at least 50 times, run over by a truck, and then hit with a 35 ton wood splitter. Apparently with a little wire brush work or rub it in the sand the patina finish is incredible, I look forwards to seeing that myself…. but the carbon model will form surface rust. I'm going to season mine as I would any of my cast iron cookware. It may smoke a bit when I start them, but it will be cleaner to store.

Designed as a virtually indestructible alcohol burner that is tunable to start fires or make heat without smoke, soot or ash, he FireCone certainly lives up to all expectations. The fact that the adjustable inlet ports that provide tuning of the flame to various fuels and burning conditions is a real delight, and gives you considerably more control over your fire, without sacrificing the superb robustness of a two part cast metal tool. I'd barely even count it as "moving parts" as far as maintenance goes. Even with the base alone you get great utility but don't get a tunable flame. I can see it working as a base to cook off, and when inverted, the cone part might just be stable enough to use as a trivet.

As if you need to ask, why a titanium option? Being relatively light when compared to steel, it will heat up faster, and doesn't rust. Titanium withstands more heat and is more thermally stable than steel, which means if you expect to us it in arctic conditions it won't break, whereas carbon or stainless steel can become brittle and runs the risk of shattering.

Bronze is an age old, thermally stable, dense and hard material, making it perfect for rugged camp gear, but it's heavy. The four options break down into the following weights: bronze 780g (1.72lbs), the carbon and stainless (420ASTM) steels 710g (1.58lbs) and titanium a mere 400g (0.89lbs).

A couple of notes. Fire is hot, fire burns. Liquid fuels can slosh, spill and run. Running fire is bad. Always us caution with a liquid fuel and don't explode. Once it's been going the FireCone really heats up and retains that heat, so be advised when you've had it going and want to re-fuel it. The same vaporisation effect that makes it burn so cleanly, also works again t you when refuelling. Depending on your liquid-fuel, the conditions are in and the fuel wood you are trying to light, you may need to do a top up to get a really good burn going, so be aware, and be safe.

I've had a lot of fun trying mine out, burning methylated spirits mostly, but I also tried it out with a slosh of my Overproof (52%) Captain Morgan's dark spiced rum, which burnt with a delightful smell and cheerful light, but with the expected "why is the rum gone?" regrets. I started a little fire with it with no problems, and it certainly lives up to expectations.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Review: Mininch - Mini tool Pen and Tool Pen

Seen first on Breach Bang & Clear, here:

I am all for small, modular and resilient tools, and there comes a time when you just need to have a handy stealthy tool ready to go.

This is the Mininch - Mini tool Pen and Tool Pen set which I picked up via Kickstarter.

I opted for the full bells and whistles set, which included all the extra hex bits and both the new mini-tool pen, and the original tool pen.

They are for sale, live, here:
The mini-tool pen is milled from 6061 aluminum, sand-blasted finish. The tool itself measures 133.5 mm  / and is 12.8 mm in diameter  and weighs 46 g (with 5 bits inside).

  •  The bits are S2 tool steel and measure  35.6mm  long and 7.1mm in diameter. They weigh a mere 4.5 g apiece. The tool Pen mini comes with 18 bits: 
  • Slotted Bits (Flat): SL1.5, SL2, SL2.5, SL3
  • Phillips Bits: PH00, PH0, PH1
  • Hexagon Bits (Hex): H0.9, H1.3, H1.5, H2 
  • Torx Bits (Star): T5, T6, T7
  • Torx Security Bits: TR8, TR9, TR10
  • Square Bits: S1
  • SIM Eject Tool: 0.8
  • Pentalobe Bits: P2, P5, P6

The classic Tool Pen is made of the same 6061 aluminum, sand-blasted finish as the Tool Pen mini. It does however weigh 93g (with 6 bits inside) and measure up a hefty 150mm in length and 17.5mm in diameter.
Both tools are offered in Snow Silver, Gunmetal and Champagne Gold anodization finishes. I chose gunmetal because of reasons, ha!

The bits for the classic tool pen are 36mm long and 9mm in diameter   and weigh 7g each. The bits are not cross compatible between the tools, but given the ranges of the two, thats not really a problem.
 The classic tool comes with:
  • Slotted Bits (Flat): SL3, SL4, SL4.5
  • Phillips Bits: PH1, PH2
  • Hexagon Bits (Hex): H2, H2.5, H3, H4 
  • Star Bits: T10, T15, T20, T25
  • Imperial Hex Bits: H5/64, H3/32, H1/8, H5/32
  • Robertson / Square Bits: S1, S2, S3
  • Pozidrive Bits (Pozi): PZ1, PZ2
    Both the Tool Pen classic and the Tool Pen Mini feature magnetically closing caps, and a really interesting tool seating and shifting system.

    Inspired by “Pop-A-Point” rainbow pen & mechanical pencil,  the bits all sit within the tool, in hex-shaped lanes, each nesting into the base of the one above it, and held in place, top and bottom, but a steel ring, much like a press-stud is. You shift the bits by feeding another bit up from the back end, and along they go.  Each bit has the sheer support of the hex-shaped tool to support it internally, so they are really effective. You do need a full pen's worth of bits to make them effective, however.

    Cut-out windows in one face of the tool allow you to see the contents and order of the bits stored within, using a very clear icon engraved on the side of the bit. The magnets in the caps don't interfere with the bits, although they don't really effectively allow you to store the caps when using the tools.

    Between the range of bits offered, and the ease in which they all store, either internally for your most-often used sets, or in the solid, flip-top bit cassettes you can get a pretty wide range of tools in a very dense package with either of these tools, doubly so with both.

    This is super useful when traveling, especially overseas, when you might find yourself needing to get into something, fix, repair or open some technology that you can't reliably ask someone else to do so, and having a fully decked out specialty screw-driver set is simply brilliant.
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