Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Review: sKey

It's no secret that I am a big fan of keychain tools. I've covered dozens over the years, and there are a number secreted away within my EDC, much to the chagrin of airport security and delight of random "I broke my widget" people of the workplace and dinner party alike.
I keep an eye on the Kickstarter "tools" posts and cool-tool sites alike. The SKey is neat little tool that is jam packed with features. This is the new and improved version, in titanium. Yay Titanium. From top to bottom: a Key ring hole.
A very fine hole, just wide enough to feed a split-ring through. Wrench holes. I got the Metric system version which was 4mm, 8mm and 10mm sized holes, the Imperial system version has 14/4" and 5/16" openings. Bottle Opener. what pocket tool would be complete with out the generally supplanted bottle-cap opener. I usually drink screw-caped drinks, but its always good to be the hero and pop a budddies beer-bottle when they've a need. Saw-blade. A set of 13 straight-cut teeth with no fleam this make for a limited rip-saw action, but it'll do in a pinch where you need to saw rather than cut or chop.

Two-head screw bit: secured in the center of the tool in a gap cut into through the center is 1/4" tool bit, with a flat head driver at one end and a chunky Phillips head at the other. The supplied bit is 32mm long, so swapping it out with your own bits of comparable length should be possible. New silicone band: From heir last campaign's version feedback, they learned that it was very hard to keep the bit in place by manufacturing precision alone. The bit is either too tight or too loose. So they developed the new silicone band to keep the bit secure, the band doesn't get in the way while opening bottle or other functions.

Its easy to slip off to make full use of the saw as needed and the bit pops right out. Screw driver hole: Paired with our two-head screw bit, Skey can be used as screw driver with this 1/4" socket. The bit has a ball-bearing detente to keep it in positive fitting and the sKey body adds quite a bit of torque. Box opener: They "pointy end" of the sKey can be used as box opener and works like a charm. The broad chisel end not only acts as a scraper, and a flathead screw-driver, as well as turning the entire tool into a functional, if small, pry-bar. Wire peeler: in the middle of the Skey box-opener end is a notch designed to work as a wire stripper is quite handy for simple electrical device repairing. The deep, sharp sided notch is perfect for stripping quite fine wires.

It's a handy tool and is cutting edge free, keeping it out of the grabby hands of most Eagle-eyed airport security guards.


Monday, February 19, 2018

Review: L10 flashlight

I love flashlights and always like having extras on hand, following the "two is one and one is none" philosophy. pocket and palm sized lights are even better, as they can fit into small packages, and be used in variety of settings. I especially like small lights that I can throw, drop behind a bookshelf or wedge into a crack to illuminate a workspace. I have a collection of these as part of my EDC, including the previously covered bullet-02-smallest-edc Lumintop Tool AAA Jenyx UV and an as-yet unreviewed Four Sevens Bolt action penlight

This particular addition is the L10 Twisty from L3-Illumination Lumintop. It is a lightweight(at just 20g (0.7oz) without battery flashlight, featuring a Cree XP-G2 9R5) LED with lifespan of 50,000 hours and it takes a single 1.5V AA battery (ni-mh, alkaline). It's reported that rechargable high-performance 14500 batteries are not recommended because they heat up quickly.

Constructed from durable aircraft-grade aluminum with a Type III hard-anodized anti-abrasive finish to house the toughened double ultra-clear glass lens it is waterproofed to IPX-8 Standard. It measures just 79mm(length)x17.1mm(dia) for a very convenient pocket addition. I have mine attached via the end-cap lanyard hole to a short cord and thus attached to a house-key. Ease of entry for those dark night returns.

The L10 is activated by a twist switch set into the body of the light around the 2/5 mark of the body. Twisting the head of the L10 engages the first of four modes of action. The four modes activated by turn and re-return the head of output are as follows: Firefly (0.09lumens brightness with 147 hours duration); Low (3 lumens, 30hrs ); Medium (30 lumens); High (120 lumens, 1.5hrs duration) (when tested with Ni-mh battery with actual capacity 2500mAh).

It features a stable current regulated circuit, providing stable brightness throughout use. Unlike many flashlights of this type, it has no mode memory, always starts on lowest mode. Just tighten and loosen the head to switch between modes. Its flat base, and lanyard cutaways allows the light to be placed on its end to move into its practical candle mode.

The head end comes right off by unscrewing to replace the battery which is something you need to bear in mind when switching modes and also using the light in wet situations. It has a rubber- o-ring to seal it but once over-unscrewed the head can just fall right off, exposing your internals, dropping your battery and shutting of the light all in one annoying "ker-plunk".

All in all the L10 makes a very useful little light, great for those "i dropped my "X"-in the foot-well of the car", "where's the damn key-hole" and "what's under the couch?" moments in which a larger more powerful light would be overkill. Solidly made, functional and convenient, the L10 is welcome addition to my janitor-grade bundle of keys.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Review: ZU Grunt

ZU Bladeworx Australia

I'm a sucker for a well made blade, and it's always hard to turn down an opportunity to add to my collection. I've been a fan of the ZU Blaadeworx knives or a long time and was already a proud owner of their Mekanix which lives in my IPad bag and goes most places with me as part of my EDC loadout. A friend loaned me his FFSK to review and it was sweet piece too. I've been lucky enough to follow along in the ZU Nation facebook group which is where other ZU owners congregate. This is where newreleases are announced and the pre-orders are advertised.

As the ZU Bladeworx business case revolves around small batches of blades being made and selling-out almost before production beginning, the best way to lay hands on a new one is to monitor the upcoming releases. So, when I saw the Grunt coming up, I thought I'd splurge a little and put my deposit down for a pre-release. A few weeks later and some production shots later, the "round 2" payment came due, and I started getting excited.

Once I had it in my hot little hands I was immediately impressed with its heft. At 220g (7 3/4 oz) it fits nicely into the niche the MSM-KA-BAR MSM-001 makes, size wise, whilst being a little less aggressively built. Sometimes you can have too much knife. The Grunt's skeletonised handle reduces the overall weight but maintains a lively balance and also allows for a variety of cord-wrapping options. The finger grips were not unlike those in the Mekanik, which were nicely finished so as not to tear up the naked hand.
The lines of the knife are very simple, almost plain, but that lives up to the Grunt name of the blade. Another similarity to the Mekanik is the grove running down the flat face of the blade on either side. This reduces the weight and would ad stiffness, on a longer blade, something the Grunt is in no danger of needing. its 6.5mm blade thickness is not playing around. This isn't a scalpel, its a pig-sticker. Like all ZU Bladeworx blades, it ships with wicked keen edge. Milled from high grade tool steel Cryodur 2379
 [D2] and then black nitride treated, after hardening to a Rockwell of 58-59HRC. these are hard-wearing blades.
I'm not one to abuse my knives, and save from an occasional battoning I see a a knife like this as a cutting, slicing and chopping tool. If you need a pry-bar, or a hammer, get one! That said, once I mounted the Grunt to my hiking and adventure "battle-belt" with its supplied updated Blade Tech Tek Lok spring-loaded locking belt fitting. I've used the older Tek Lok and this was a marked improvement, nicely paired with the knife and its kydex sheath.  It was so comfortable I went out shopping a couple of times with it on my belt not even realising. I managed not to land in any legal trouble, but thankfully no one at the hardware store cared I was sporting a hefty fixed-blade on my hip. That is actually a good point. for all its mass, he Grunt is not a large knife. It's a sensible size for sensible jobs. I take it camping and frequently do some camp-craft with it. not only food-prep but whittling and kindling making, I've also used it for crafting pot hooks and fire-tending sticks.

The blade features jimping on the spine and a notch forwards of the guard to allow the user to choke up the grip for fine work.

Here's a little bit about ZU Bladeworx, because  I think they're a really  interesting company with some important and relative contacts: They are an Australian owned an based manufacturer of Close Quarters Combat equipment and are a trusted manufacturer to the Australian Army. They have an ADF issued Roman Vendor Number.
They work closely with Australian CQC experts including Paul Cale and Ray Floro, both who are internationally renowned hand to hand combat experts. Paul and Ray are both CQC subject matter experts to our own Aussie Army and foreign allied armies.
Their products are either made in Western Sydney, NSW or North Brisbane, Queensland. All our products are legal under NSW and Queensland state weapons laws for civilian ownership. "Legitimate reason for carriage" is an important phrase. 
Most of their knives are limited edition and include the following;

There is an active collector community with a brisk buy/sell/trade philosophy in case you particularly want to get in on the action.

These are a solid, no frills, hardy blade, good for hard use as well as delicate and fine tasks. Deliberately engineered and superbly finished, these striking blades are both a collectors delight and a prepper's mainstay.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Review: Jimmy and Chappie

Sometimes, you really just need the right tool for the job, especially if that job involves bashing things or breaking things. Sometimes it's a pesky padlock you lost the combination for and can't manage to shim open. Sometimes it s a pallet of wood you're recycling and need to cut the rusted nails out of. There are lots of different reasons having a set of bolt-cutters or a small crow-bar for. I'll leave the glorious details up to your imagination. Importantly, sometimes these jobs are called for away from your workshop or bunker. Which is when smaller, portable versions are called for. that's when tools like my "Jimmy" and "Chappy" come into play. I have a full-sized set of bolt-cutters (seen sheathed in my SORD 870 Back Scabbard here) and a collection of pry bars big and small all the way up to a whopping huge 1650mm Cyclone fencing post Eagle bar.

So the addition of a short, 18" Plumb wrecking bar which I've nicknamed "Jimmy" after one of the traditional names for a crow-bar, to go along with the seriously beat up and battle-worn "Chappie" bolt cutter. Both tools I rescued from a nana-garage sale a while back. Why "Chappie" you may ask? Because "Chappie can no do crimes".

 Jimmy is a 18" Wrecking Bar made by Plum, and features a goose-neck at one end and an angled chisel end at the other end. This allows you to pull, pry and straighten, with the angled chisel end good for prying and lifting, the goose-neck end is slotted for pulling nails. The length of the bar is hexagonal in cross-section, making it possible to attach a shifter or a wrench to it to for extra torque, should you really need to pop something open. Constructed from forged high carbon steel, Jimmy and bars like Jimmy can and have taken a beating. Hammered between planks of a pallet ,and stomped on to pop a plank up, even used as an impromptu hammer utilizing the flat face of one of those hexed-sides to drive home tacks or loose nails. I've found the 18" Jimmy offers more than adequate leverage for the tasks I've put it to.

Jimmy has a very hefty weight to it, thanks to its forged carbon-steel construction, which is a boon, but not too much of a burden to carry around in a pack or in the back of a vehicle. I've experimented with carriage options on both my battle-belt and LBE vests too, but am not yet satisfied with both secure, quiet and accessible options. Ideally I'd like to be able to reach back and whip it out to pry a door or pop a zombie in the head, one handed, but if it's in bag or on my back, I'd have to get a buddy to help me out. Not getting hung up on things is also important, especially in a search and rescue or salvage situation and I will end up with a "Medium speed, acceptable drag" option in the end.

Chappie has had a much harder life and bears the scars of years of neglect and abuse. His cutting hammers are dinged and chipped from ill-use, there is rust and crud worked into his recesses and workings. The rubber of his handles is cracked and broken of in many spots, bare metal showing through, and there is a post-fulcrum adjustable nut and post that act to limit over-bite on the cutting hammers. The nut needed a little WD40 and a wrench to loosen but once loose, It was possible to adjust the limiter to allow a better cutting action from Chappie with his compound hinges. The damaged hammers are hardened so are really difficult to repair, resistant to filing as they are. I have been able to do few minor cuts with Chappie, clipping exposed nails in salvaged timber and cutting chain links for home maintenance jobs, but the damage is inconvenient.

Bolt Cutters typically have long handles and short blades, with compound hinges to maximize leverage and cutting force. They can yield upwards of 20 kilonewtons (4,500 lbf) of cutting force for a 250 newtons (56 lbf) force on the handles. Given this, I feel I'm missing out on prime cutting power with the chips and dings in Chappie's teeth. An upgrade to a first-hand cutter may be in order. That said, by adjusting the post-fulcrum nut and having a go at the worst of the deformations to make it workable, but I suspect it would require power tools and re-tempering to get it back to prime condition.

As with Jimmy, Chappie's small size makes it very portable and easily stowed in a pack, back pocket or in a suitable pouch. Being able to quickly and quietly cut chain, cut chain link fences or locks could be very useful in a disaster situation, where search and rescue or salvage might be hampered by bigger, heavier tools.

Again, don't be doing Crimes!

But. Have the right tools available to you you to do what needs to be done. Practice and get to know the limitations and abilities of your tools, and practice caring them to get a good setup in place.
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