DIY Coiled Retention Lanyards

I was browsing EDC Forums a few days back and read a thread about making your own coiled lanyards.

Figuring I didn't have anything to lose I snagged some trimmer line and went to work.

Below I've recreated the tutorial with my tweaks and observations...

Materials and Tools
  • 550 Paracord;
  • Weed trimmer line (I've used .095" and under);
  • A dowel or other rod that is heat-safe;
  • Zip ties;
  • Heat-shrink tubing (I'm using 1/4 tubing with a 2:1 shrink ratio);
  • A heat source (I'm using a small butane torch);
  • A stove;
  • A large, deep pot;
  • Water.
Step-by-Step (Relatively)

First, cut a piece of paracord that's suitable.  Keeping in mind that the stretched length of the final product is going to be slightly shorter the length of the cord that you're using.  Make sure that you leave at least 6 extra inches of cord than you think you need (for the terminus loops).

While you're at it, cut a piece of trimmer line that's a bit longer than the paracord.

"Gut" the paracord, meaning removing the seven inner strands, and feed in the trimmer line.  I've found that melting the end of the trimmer line for a second or two will blunt the corners enough to mitigate snagging on the paracord.

Next, secure one end of the line to some sort of cylinder using a zip tie or two - wooden dowels work well but here I've used a screwdriver.  Whatever you're using should be strongly heat-resistant.  Be sure to pick a cylinder that's ever so slightly smaller than the desired diameter of the coil.  There is some "expansion" of the wind between the dowel and the final product.

Make sure to leave space for a loop at the end of the soon-to-be coiled portion.

As coiled around a screw driver
Now comes the tricky part: coiling the line around the cylinder.

Begin to tightly coil the line around while maintaining as much tension as possible.  It's imperative that the coil be tight and consistently wound.  The most difficult part, I've found, is maintaining the tight coil on the line while winding the coil onto the dowel.

When the desired length is achieved, secure the end with another zip tie or two.

As coiled around a wooden dowel

Once the coil is wound, bring a pot of water (deep enough to accommodate the whole coil) to a rapid boil.  At the same time, prepare a pot or pitcher of cold water (ice could be helpful, too).  Then, submerge the coil in the boiling water for approximately 10 minutes.  After the time has elapsed remove the coil from the boiling water and plunge it into the cold water.  Leave it there for a couple minutes until it's completely cool.

After it has cooled down pull it out and clip the zip-ties to release the coil from the dowel.

Next we need to form the loops on the ends of the coil.  This is accomplished by folding the line over itself and sliding on a piece of heat-shrink tubing.

Clip the end of the line so it's slightly shorter than than the tubing.  The preshrunk tubing should look something like this:

Heat the tubing to shrink it around the line.  I've been using a small butane torch but a lighter and some patience should also work.  Be sure not to melt the paracord while shrinking the tubing.

The tubing should seal well around the single line and tighten considerably around the folded line.

When the coil is complete and the ends are looped the coil must be twisted upon itself to create a tighter, more resilient coil.  It's easier done than described, I think.

Finally, some sort of fastening hardware should be affixed to the loops.  I've used both split rings and some parts salvaged from fishing tackle.  Gate clips or the like would also be quite useful.

  1. Cut both a piece of paracord and a piece of weed trimmer line to a desired length;
  2. Gut the paracord;
  3. Feed the trimmer line into the paracord;
  4. Secure one end of the line to a dowel;
  5. Wrap the line around the dowel;
  6. Secure the other end to the dowel;
  7. Submerge the whole coil into boiling water for approximately 10 minutes;
  8. Remove the coil and plunge it into cold water;
  9. Remove the coil from the dowel;
  10. Add loops to the ends by folding them over on themselves and securing with heat-shrink tubing;
  11. Twist the coil over upon itself; and
  12. Add attachment hardware.


I would have to say that my foray into coiled lanyards has been a success.

The few that I've made are pretty resilient and were incredibly cheap to produce.  Ultimately, the biggest investment is (generally) time.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have no idea how these compare to commercially produced lanyards.  I believe I can safely assume that they don't compare to pistol leashes or other such "tactical" products.  However, I do believe, from my limited in-store experience, that they're better than traditional "coiled keychains" and the like.

I've used one (the international orange one I made) to secure a two-cell flashlight to my Lightspeed (it's attached about 4 inches below the top of the bag).  When the flashlight is dropped it doesn't hang much further than an inch or two below my waist.  I imagine with the same size coil and a slightly thicker trimmer line it would be much stiffer.  I'm going to give it a try when I get the chance.

In the grand scheme of things these lanyards are a great way to spend an hour or two.


Law School Graduation Pocket Dump

I received my J.D. this past Saturday and, naturally, had a couple things on my person.

A significantly slimmed version of my usual but with a few outliers...
  • Wallet;
  • Victorinox Summit XLT Chronograph;
  • Droid X (hopefully upgrading to something new soon);
  • Spyderco Para-Military2;
  • Tassel; and
  • J.D.


Spyderco Para-Military2 - Unboxing and Initial Impressions

A box arrived in the mail today.  I absolutely love boxes.

Earlier last week I was browsing the internet, as usual, and discovered that Amazon.com had a wonderful offer on the Spyderco Para-Military2.  I casually mentioned this fact to my girlfriend, Megan, and minutes later I received an email confirming an order.  Unintended, unexpected, and incredibly appreciated.


Over-packaging 101

As a quick aside, Amazon seems to have an obsession with over-boxing things.  They use far larger boxes than one might assume was necessary.  Perhaps my comprehension of shipping methodology is lacking...

In any event, the Para-Military2 is packaged in a little cardboard box with Spyderco logo embellishments.  Typical knife packaging for a not-so-typical knife.

Included in the box is a short pamphlet delineating the changes made between the classic version and the updated second version of the knife.  Also included in the box is, of course, the Spyderco Para-Military2.

Initial Impressions

This is my first Spyderco knife.  I've heard exceptional things about their knives but haven't had the pleasure of owning one, until now.

The first thing I noticed was the weight of the knife.  I expected it to be a bit heavier.  I must say that the lighter weight is a pleasant surprise.  After tossing it in my pocket and running some errands it was clear that the knife is going to all but disappear when clipped to my pocket.

I really like the aggressive texture on the G-10 handles.  They're very non-slip but not to the point of discomfort.  The jimping on the spine of the knife and the finger choil is a nice touch.

Golden, Colorado U.S.A. Earth; nice touch...

As I said, this is my first Spyderco.  As such, I don't have any prior experience with Sypyderco's trademark hole (although, from a legal perspective I wonder if it could be challenged alleging that it's a functional feature that hasn't acquired a strong enough secondary meaning to be eligible for trademark protection; that's beside the point, though).  From my brief experience with it I am exceptionally impressed.  It facilitates a very quick opening.

The Para-Military2 employs a compression lock.  It's a bit new for me, though, as it unlocks on the back of the knife, as opposed to the front, where one finds most liner and frame locks (encompassing most of my collection, currently).  This allows the user to close the knife without putting fingers in front of the blade.  Great design, in my opinion.

Also worth mentioning is the fact that simply disengaging the liner lock while the knife is in a slightly vertical position causes the blade to gracefully swing closed.  I love it.

The liner locking mechanism on the Para-Military2
The blade shape is pretty.  It's a nice departure from the "traditional" shape to which I have become accustomed.  It has a great point and sufficient belly for great slicing, as far as I can tell.

The Para-Military2's blade is ground from CPM-S30V steel.  S30V screams high-end.  It's a fantastic blade steel and the Para-Military2 is the first knife I'll own that's constructed from it.

The pocket clip is capable of being mounted for tip up or tip down, left or right side carry.  Straight out of the box I unscrewed it and mounted the clip for tip up right side carry.  I always carry a knife in my right front pocket and prefer tip up carry for reasons I won't get into here (I keep saying that I won't get into something here, I should start getting into it somewhere else, I think).

The Para-Military2 features a sizable lanyard hole.  I don't think I'll be using it anytime soon, but it's there if I ever want to attach something.

I really look forward to carrying this knife.  It's going straight into my pocket and isn't likely to be replaced in the near or distant future.  It's in the review pipeline behind a bunch of other things - keep on the lookout.


Flashlight Review System

In evaluating flashlights I'll be using a ten category, twenty point system.  Each category will be evaluated and scored between zero and two; zero being absolute failure, one being adequate / average, and two being exceptional.  As always, I'll try to explain, as carefully as possible, my rationale for assessing a particular score to a category.

The categories are as follows:

Design Concept

Pretty things, pretty things, pretty things.  If the flashlight looks good, sports clean lines and is unadorned with useless crap it will score well here.


Most flashlights I own are constructed of machined aluminum.  Aluminum is great.  However, there are other materials, possibly better or possibly worse, from which flashlights are constructed.  With flashlights, the material from which the lens is constructed is exceptionally important.  Durability and weight are the primary considerations here.

Fit of Parts

How well do the parts fit together?  Are there wiggles, rattles, or other undesirables?


Just how bright is the flashlight (measured in lumen).  Higher outputs aren't necessarily better.  Rather, achieving the correct balance of output to other variables (e.g., intended use, flashlight size, battery type, etc.).

Also, having a single well-balanced output isn't determinative either.  Having various output levels available, and having those output levels harmonize with one another (i.e., having two output levels, one of 200 lumen and another of 250 would be far from ideal), makes a light far more well-rounded.


How long the flashlight can maintain useful light output.  Most LED flashlights have a digitally regulated discharge meaning that the flashlight circuitry maintains the selected brightness as long as it possibly can.  This means that the flashlight's brightness won't slowly diminish with use.  However, it also means that when the batteries die the flashlight is dead; there isn't any possibility of squeezing a few seconds of useful light out of a practically dead battery as you could try with an old Maglite.  Some flashlights have a "warning" system which is indicates when the power is almost depleted.

When it comes to runtime, obviously the longer the better (at a given output).  The ability to use juice efficiently is incredibly necessary in a good flashlight.

Beam Pattern and Quality

Beam patterns are typically described in two ways: flood and throw.  Flood is dispersing light evenly across a wide area while throw is the ability to focus useful light at a distance.  Finding a good metric for flood is rather difficult.  Throw, however, is typically measured in meters.

Often, lights have to trade off between flood or throw.  Some types of lights are designed to achieve a certain result while others seek to maintain a useful balance between the two.  Alternatively, a light can be designed to adjust between various patterns (using aspheric lenses and user-adjustable focus).

The best way for me to evaluate beam pattern is to look at the purpose of the light.  If it's designed for everyday carry and general use then a decent balance is wonderful.

Beam quality measures the uniformity of the beam pattern.  Any beam has two components: a hotspot (the bright center of the beam) and the spill (the dimmer corona).  High quality beams will typically diffuse softly from hotspot to spill.  Any inconsistencies in the beam will be noted here.

User Interface

User interface can make or break a light.  If it's difficult to use it's typically not worth using.  Most LED lights have multiple discharge levels and they each feature some method of switching between the various options.  A great user interface is easy to use and facilitates arriving at the desired output level quickly and efficiently.


How comfortable is the light to hold and use in the hand?  I use my flashlights in one of two ways, typically: a hammer grip or a cigar grip.  The ability to comfortably use these two grip methods and successfully operate the light is imperative.

Here, I'll also discuss a bit of hands-free use.  Sometimes it's necessary to use a flashlight and both your hands.  These sorts of tasks require a flashlight which is designed to stay put in a certain position.  Often, flashlights have features which prevent rolling and facilitate tail-standing.  While lights don't necessarily have to sport these features to be useful, having the option available is always great.

This category will be predominantly scored on grip with hands-free use a secondary discussion not bearing too heavily on the category score.

Carry Method

How is the light designed to be carried?  Many lights feature a pocket clip.  Some lights are small enough to hang around the neck or sit comfortably in the bottom of a pocket.  Depending on how the light retails (e.g., with or without a pocket clip, lanyard, etc.) I'll evaluate and discuss how the carry method suits the light and whether it's functional and effective.

In the event that there's a light that's clearly not intended for carry on one's person I'll evaluate it based on how I would typically carry the light (e.g., in a backpack).

Carry Comfort

I'm principally looking at carrying a light everyday in a pocket and how comfortable the light is in that role.  I'll be sure to explore and explain any other carry methods that might prove useful.  If the light can't be comfortably and conveniently carried on my person in a way that I would feel comfortable stepping out the door the flashlight will receive a zero.


Rotring 600 Fountain Pen Review Updated

I'm slowly updating the first few reviews I posted so they will comport with the updated review outlines based on a 10 category, 20 point method.

In any event, I updated the first writing instrument review I posted - the review for the rOtring 600 fountain pen - such that it will comply with the updated method.  The score hasn't changed and much of the content is the same but it will be far easier to compare reviews.

It is available here, if anyone feels compelled to look at the new format as applied.

Anyway, here's a fancy picture of the 600 juxtaposed with a cup of tea and a pile of work.

Zebra F-701 Review

I've seen the Zebra F-701 in plenty of pocket dumps in various corners of the internet.  It seemed to be a relatively well-liked pen so, being me, I decided to pick one up on a recent trip to Staples.

The F-701 is relatively inexpensive as far as I'm concerned.  I paid about $7.00 for it from Staples and imagine that's about the going rate in brick and mortar stores.  Online it's typically less expensive; it is, for example, available on JetPens.com for $5.30.

Of course, I'm using the review system for writing instruments found here to evaluate this pen.

Materials:  2

The exterior of the F-701 is predominantly stainless steel.  I say "exterior" because the core of the barrel is plastic.  A few places have touted the F-701 as a poor man's tactical pen only to be berated by comments disparaging the plastic core and two-part barrel section.  I don't hold much (or any) stock in "tactical pens" so this revelation isn't too disappointing.

In any event, the F-701 is constructed from durable materials.  I haven't encountered any problems in terms of durability and don't expect to, either.

Fit:  1

There aren't any fit problems with the pen; everything is fits together well and doesn't shift when writing or otherwise.

The pocket clip can rotate a slight bit, most likely due to its design.  It's not something that is noticeable unless you're deliberately fiddling with it, but is annoying nonetheless.

Mechanism:  1

The F-701 uses a click-type mechanism.  Zebra calls it a "soft-clicking mechanism."  As far as I've read it's intended to be quieter than other click-type mechanisms.  It is a bit quieter than other pens that I have in my drawer but it's not incredibly quiet.  If you desperately need a quiet pen you should probably consider something other than a click-type mechanism.

Truth be told, I find the "soft-clicking mechanism" a bit muddy; it doesn't have as crisp of a click as I might prefer.  The mechanism has gotten better with use but straight out of the package I wasn't the biggest fan.

The plunger does return to the upright position when the point is extended.  As I've said in the past, I love this feature in click-type pens.

Line:  1

The F-701 retails with a 0.7mm cartridge.  It performs as expected.  It doesn't drag or skip.  I always find myself wanting more from a ballpoint, though.  I can't seem to find one that exceeds my expectations.

Writing Comfort:  2

Compared to the Parker Jotter this pen is far better.  The F-701's grip section doesn't taper, resulting in a consistent hold regardless of where my fingers land.  Also, the F-701's grip has relatively aggressive knurling, a feature I have come to appreciate.  The knurling facilitates a great non-slip grip and I find the texture to be rather pleasant.

Design Concept:  1

While it's a nice looking pen I do believe it's a bit little clunky.  I don't understand why Zebra chose to use a brushed stainless barrel and a glossy pocket clip; I think it would have been a much better choice to maintain the brushed look throughout.  Also, the point of the pen has a series of interesting bevel choices.  While one or two tapered sections would typically suffice, Zebra chose to reduce the diameter in six distinct steps.

Markings and Insignia:  2

The barrel of the pen is absent any markings.  The pocket clip features a small font reading "ZEBRA" and a larger, slightly italicized font with the pen's model designation, "F-701."  The terminus of the pen just below the plunger reads "INDONESIA," the manufacturing origin.

I appreciate the minimalist style Zebra has adopted with respect to branding the F-701.  It's nice to see a cheaper pen without a ton of intrusive markings.

Carry Method:  2

The F-701 uses a traditional pocket clip that's fastened to the very top of the barrel.  Due to its placement only the plunger and a very small portion of the pen body sticks out above the top of a pocket (just over half an inch, by my measure).

The deep carry facilitated by the placement of the pocket clip is a great asset to the F-701.  Deep carry means greater comfort and less snagging.  Also important to note is the fact that the F-701 isn't difficult to retrieve from the pocket; the plunger and pocket clip are more than enough to get a good purchase on the pen.

Carry Durability:  2

The stainless steel construction surely contributes to the F-701's durability in a pocket.  The barrel isn't likely to suffer any significant damage during normal carry.  The clip itself is also robust; it hasn't lost tension in the time I have been carrying the pen.

Carry Comfort:  2

The F-701 isn't uncomfortable to carry.  It sits well in a pocket and doesn't shift its place.  Short of that, there isn't much to say about this particular pen...

Total:  16/20

In the grand scheme of things, this pen is a great value.  For under $10.00 you're getting quite a bit of pen.  The F-701 is probably a better value than the Parker Jotter (despite the 1 point discrepancy, the Jotter having received a 17/20 due to a slightly better mechanism; although, it seems as if the soft-click isn't too terrible compared to the Jotter's mechanism).

There are also a bunch of end-user modifications that can enhance the usefulness of the pen.  There is, for example, a method of installing a Fisher pressurized ink cartridge into the F-701.  Roughly the same system is described at Gear Journal where they also discuss installing the all-metal click-type mechanism from an F-402 into the F-701.

If you're looking for a pen that's better than the cheap ones you've been dragging around but don't want to break the bank, the F-701 would be a great start.


< 101 - It's "Everyday Carry," not "Everyday Use"

The phrase “everyday carry” is simple, referring to the the carrying of various objects on one’s person everyday.

However, some critics seem to think that things shouldn’t be carried unless they’re actually used everyday.  They suggest that if it’s not always useful it shouldn’t take up pocket space.

It’s an interesting idea but, ultimately, lacking merit.

Everyone carries a bunch of things that they won’t necessarily use on any given day.  They carry things that they might need.

Go ahead, empty your pockets.  I’ll wait.  I guarantee at least half of what you carried around today you didn’t actually use...


Svord Peasant Knife Review

I picked up the Svord Peasant Knife on a whim a few weeks back.  It seemed like something that would be worth having and I find friction folders intriguing

I unboxed it here and posted some initial photos of its original configuration.

I added a pocket clip made from scrap steel and a lanyard from paracord.  I'm evaluating the knife as if it didn't have a pocket clip as that is how it originally arrived in my hands.

Of course, I'm using the review template found here.

Blade Material:  1

Apparently the blade is fabricated from Sandvik L6 steel.  L6 is a high-carbon tool steel.  From what I've read it's pretty robust in terms of edge retention and the like.  However, it's not "stainless."  It will rust easily if not cared for.  And, of course, you are consistently touching the blade with your fingers - the oils that you're depositing on the blade don't do it well.

In my limited experience with it (trying to clean up the edge and sharpening it after use a few times) it hasn't been too difficult to work with.  It's quite possible to get an incredibly sharp edge out of the L6 and the steel holds onto it for quite a while.

Fit of Parts:  1

The PK uses a very simple design which requires a bit of play between the handle sections to function properly.  I adjusted my PK a bit, loosening the rear screw (so the blade isn't held as tight when it's closed) and kept the other two screws a bit tighter (so the blade "locks" up with a bit more force).  In doing this the bottom of the handle is a bit more "loose" than it otherwise could be but, if I were to tighten that screw down it would inhibit deployment of the blade far too much.

That said, the hardware doesn't fit as tightly as it could.  The pivot screw, for example, has a bit of play that doesn't contribute to the functionality of the joint.

Blade Shape:  2

The PK sports something in between a straight-back and a drop-point blade.  In terms of an EDC blade, I think this sort of blade shape is among the best available.  It has sufficient belly and a nice taper to the point.

The spine of the knife has a consistent thickness down the whole of the blade.

The plain edge is something that I'm growing increasingly fond of in an EDC blade; I do not intend to purchase any more partially serrated blades for reasons too lengthy to discuss here.

Blade Grind:  0

Using what could be be described as a flat grind, the blade of the PK maintains a relatively consistent width down the spine and tapers down to the edge.  This makes the majority of the blade robust and should contribute to durability.  It's evident that the grind isn't perfectly consistent when comparing one side to another.  This isn't necessarily detrimental to the performance of the knife and does seem to add to the peasant-like character that Svord is aiming to achieve.

Moreover, the edge that was on the blade from the factory was a bit off-centered.  This isn't too annoying but is going to take a bit of time to clean up.

While I do believe the "humble" intent of the designers influenced the blade and edge grind I can't help but assess a zero in this category.  The same look could have been accomplished without sacrificing a precise grind.

Mechanism: 1

The PK is a friction-folder meaning there is no locking mechanism, per se; the blade stays open and closed as a result of friction between the handle sections and the blade.  Friction-folders are gaining popularity in many places as a result of legislatures attempting to regulate criminal behavior by banning locking knives.  Efficacy of such bans aside, the friction-folder is and should be a timeless design.

It's profoundly simple yet yields a remarkably sturdy "lock up," for lack of a better term.  It's not infallible but it's certainly strong and safe enough for most everyday uses.  Gripping the knife by the handle only enhances the safety of the blade as your hand is placing pressure on the tang, preventing the blade from closing.

The "middle screw," as it were, operates to prevent the knife from opening "too far," causing the tang to be buried between the handle sections, and also prevents the blade from closing "too far," which would cause the very tip of the knife to engage with the bottom screw.  In that regard, this is a very well thought design.

With that in mind, the design can be a bit troublesome.  If, as I have, the handle sections are loosened enough to facilitate relatively easy opening the knife is prone to opening slightly during carry.  Of course, if I tighten down the system to prevent it from opening slightly in the pocket it becomes far more difficult to open and close.  In that regard, it could be slightly better.

Design Concept:  1

It's a noble design using the nothing more than the most fundamental aspects of a folding knife.

It's a great little design for everyday utility use.  It's also relatively benign-looking; it's not a knife which is going to engender tons of odd looks because it's "overly tactical" or has a blade profile which looks incredibly aggressive.  In that respect, it's a good design for everyday carry because it won't raise too many eyebrows.

Grip:  1

The design of the handle strongly reminds me of a jalapeno.

I try to choke up as much on the blade as I can which places the wider portion of the handle behind my index and middle fingers.  This gives me a decent bit of control over the blade.

The grip isn't particularly comfortable; the slim aluminum handles are probably the least comfortable of the various styles available (the other two being molded polypropylene and wood).  That said, it's not more uncomfortable than other folders I've handled.

Deployment Method:  1

I've seen a bunch of different methods to open this knife one-handed.  All of them are somewhat clunky.  That said, you don't have to open it with one hand.  Sure, the ability to open a knife with one hand is a great feature but it's not a make-or-break element.

My preferred method of deployment for the PK has been resting the bottom of the handle in the palm of my left hand, wrapping my thumb over the bottom of the handle, and applying torque to the tang with my right hand.  I close the knife in much the same manner, but with torque applied to the spine of the blade.

I have no problem opening and closing this knife.  If you adjust the tension of the screws you can make to easier or more difficult to open.

If you desperately need a knife that you can easily operate one-handed, this isn't the blade for you.

Carry Method:  1

As it comes, the PK doesn't have a pocket clip.  It'll settle to the bottom of whatever pocket you put it in, for better or worse.  In the jeans I consistently wear the tang of the PK still protrudes slightly from the top of my pocket when it has settled to the bottom.  This is convenient, assuming your pockets are the same depth as mine.

There is a lanyard hole on the end of the tang.  This would allow you to loop a piece of paracord or leather through it, make a fancy looking knot  knot befitting a peasant, and retrieve the knife from deeper pockets using the lanyard.  This method is certainly effective and makes the PK rather easy to keep accessible.

Carry Comfort:  2

This knife is slim.  With the aluminum handles, the thickest part of the knife is the blade itself.  It practically disappears in a pocket.  Also important to note, it's lightweight.  When I've carried it it's practically unnoticeable.  Due to its slim width it doesn't print too much either; were it not for the lanyard it would be nearly imperceptible to the casual passerby.

One concern with the PK is, as mentioned, the possibility that it will open slightly in the pocket.  This can be prevented by tightening the hardware.  I don't feel that I can really dock points because of the tension I was running the hardware at, so I'm just avoiding the problem with respect to carry comfort.

Total:  11/20

The Svord Peasant Knife is neat.  It has been exceptionally fun and incredibly easy to play around with.  If you're willing to give this guy the attention it's a great blade for the price.  I do plan to purchase another with a polypropylene handle and perhaps the wood version, too; hey, for under 20 bucks it's absolutely worth it.

In any event, I'm not planning to keep it in my pocket; I'll stick to my smaller locking folders for the most part.  On the off chance that I'm compelled into a jurisdiction that frowns on locking folders I'll toss it in my pocket but short of that I'll just keep it around for the occasional task.


Olight M20S-X Flashlight - Unboxing and Initial Impressions

On Friday a man dressed in brown delivered a brown box.  It was filled with packing peanuts, lots of packing peanuts, and the Olight M20S-X that I won through the Battery Junction Cover Photo Contest on Facebook.

The Olight M20S-X comes in a plastic clam shell case with a foam insert to keep everything in its place.

In the case is the flashlight itself, two cr123a batteries, battery magazine, lanyard, nylon holster, white light diffuser, spare o-rings and a spare rubber switch-cap.

Initial Impressions


Straight from the box the light appears to be pretty well constructed.  The two cr123a batteries fit into the magazine and slide into the body of the light.  The light is designed to accommodate either an 18650 battery or two cr123a batteries and the magazine prevents the smaller cr123a cells from rattling against the sides of the body.

The flashlight fits well in the hand.  It doesn't have "traditional" knurling but instead uses an embossed square pattern on the body.  It's not as aggressive in texture as knurling and, in the short time I've handled it, it seems to an effective system.

One of the most immediately noticeable features is the crenelated strike bezel on the front of the light.  It is removable and simply screws on and off.  The tailcap, according to the short manual, also sports crenelations but the switch protrudes beyond them.

The light is bright; it has a maximum output of 500 lumen.  The emitter is a CREE XM-L LED.  It sports three brightness levels and a quick-access strobe feature.  I haven't yet had an opportunity to utilize the light outdoors.

Accessories, etc.

The flashlight came, as mentioned, with a holster, lanyard, diffuser, and various replacement parts.

The holster is nylon with rigid walls.  It's not something I plan to use.  The lanyard is the essentially the same story; I won't be using it for the flashlight.

The diffuser is a nice little accessory and might come in handy on occasion.

Like most flashlights, the Olight M20S-X comes with replacement o-rings and a replacement switch-cap.

I don't plan to carry this light in a pocket everyday; I prefer single-cell lights for EDC.  I do plan to keep it in my backpack and, on occasion, on my person.  Of course, it's in the review pipeline...


< 101 - Shifty Blade Shapes?

There are certain perceptions about knives that we can’t avoid; some people simply assume the worst when they see someone using anything but a butter knife.  It’s a simple fact: knives turn heads, even when their use is entirely appropriate.

What’s interesting, though, is how blade shape can affect perception.  There are blades that simply look more “mean” than others.

Tanto blades, for example, seem to attract more unwanted attention than spear or drop points.  Somehow those blade shapes are more benign.  More “aggressive” blade shapes seem to beget looks of concern faster than “softer” shapes.

Something to think about...


Battery Junction Facebook Cover Photo Contest

Earlier last week Battery Junction announced a contest to produce a new cover photo for their Facebook page.  Entries were to include products that Battery Junction sells and have some creative flair.  Contestants were given quite a bit of freedom to choose their subject and composition.  The winning entry would receive a free Olight M20S-X flashlight.

Naturally, I tossed my hat into the ring.  I take pictures of my gear all the time (obviously) and figured this would be a great opportunity.  The first two pictures I submitted weren't too great and I was expecting quite a bit of competition.  I buckled down and wondered, "what would make a good cover photo?"

I came up with this:

The winner was chosen earlier this morning and my picture was selected as their new cover photo!

I have to thank (again) those who took the time to "like" my photos; without everyone's support I couldn't have won this contest.  It's hard to describe the giddy yet humble feeling I have...

In any event, I gave them a call and my prize should be in the mail soon.

This contest really reaffirmed my support for Battery Junction; not just because I won, but because they have consistently great customer service and a great attitude towards their trade.  If you're looking for batteries, flashlights, or other gadgetry (including multitools, Maxpedition gear, tactical eyewear and gloves, etc.) I strongly recommend them.  You can't go wrong.

Moreover, if you "like" their page on Facebook (linked above) they routinely post discount codes which knock a few bucks off their already exceptional prices.

They're running the same contest for next month.  If you happen to be a photographer - professional, hobby, or otherwise - and happen to own some of the products they offer it would definitely be worth your time to snap a few shots!  The more entries they have, the better.

I'll be sure to run the Olight M20S-X through its paces when it arrives; be expecting a formal unboxing / initial impressions post and a thorough review in the future.

It's still a little weird to see my work adorning the top of their page; it's a bit hard to believe.  I guess obsessively taking pictures of gear is worth the time after all!

Columbia River Knife and Tool M16-14SFG Knife Review

I received my Columbia River Knife and Tool M16-14SFG a few years ago as a gift from my girlfriend.  I’ve carried it extensively, used it a good amount, and thought it would be a good candidate for my first knife review.

I'm using the template I outlined here for this and all other knife reviews.

New edge, fresh oil, and a cup of tea; a delightful morning.

Blade Material: 1

The blade is manufactured from 8Cr14MoV steel.  From what I’ve read it’s a little harder than the widely-used AUS-8 steel.  While it doesn’t compare to the edge-retention of VG-10 or S30V it’s a bit easier to put and keep an edge on.

In my personal experience it's easy to sharpen and keeps its edge relatively well.

I did damage the blade early in my ownership.  I was making a feather stick and neglected to realize someone had driven a nail into the middle.  Needless to say, I caught it with the blade and it produced a sizable nick.  I took a coarse diamond stone to it and repaired it with relative ease. There's no doubt the ease of repair was facilitated by the slightly softer steel (whereas a harder steel, like S30V, would have been far more difficult to clean up).

Ultimately, it’s not a high-end steel, but it seems to be a good all-around performer.

Fit of Parts:  2

Everything fits together nicely on this knife.  I've owned and used this knife for quite a while and it hasn't loosened.  The action is as smooth as it was fresh out of the box (maybe even better now that it has been broken in a bit).

I initially had some concerns about the AutoLAWKS device, thinking that it might become damaged, loosen up, or otherwise lose functionality over time.  This has not been the case.

Blade Shape: 1

The M16-14SFG uses a tanto-style blade. It’s also partially serrated with CRKT's proprietary “veff” serrations.

In terms of an EDC knife, the tanto blade shape isn’t optimum.  It’s lacking in the slicing department and because of the serrations it’s not a great performer when it comes to detail work either.

That said, it’s still a pretty good blade.

The veff serrations are a nice design but leave a little bit to be desired.  They're super sharp and do seem to get through fibrous materials with ease.  The trouble is, they're VERY delicate.  The points are prone to bending even when cutting through relatively easy material (cardboard, for example, caused a couple tips to curve a bit).  Maybe a harder steel would be a better choice when executing this design.

I strongly believe that a plain edge would be a better overall performer.  Getting rid of the serrations entirely would almost indubitably yield a better knife.

Blade Grind: 2

The knife has what I believe to be a sabre grind.  The spine of the knife is large and extends straight down toward the cutting edge approximately ⅖ of the blade.  The blade then tapers to the edge.  CKRT states on the product page that the knife sports a hollow grind from the factory but I’m not convinced.  If there is a hollow grind it’s very conservative and practically imperceptible.  Even so, a hollow grind isn’t the best choice for an everyday carry knife; I’m more interested in something that’s going to hold up to the rigors of daily use.  The CRKT M16-14SFG’s grind does just that.

Mechanism: 2

The M16-14SFG utilizes a liner-lock made of 2CR12 steel.  I haven’t found much material regarding the properties of this steel but I haven’t encountered any problems with it.  The lock-bar itself is skeletonized.  It sets up nicely when the blade is opened and doesn't engage too far (which would mechanically limit its locking abilities).  When pressure is applied to the spine of the blade the lock bar does, of course, flex slightly but I haven't gotten it to shift along the bottom of the blade.

This knife also uses CRKT’s “AutoLAWKS” system.  Essentially, it’s a small lever system which springs into place when the blade is opened.   It functions to prevent the liner-lock from being disengaged inadvertently. CRKT considers this to mimic the functionality of a fixed-blade.  While it does make it more difficult for the lock to fail I’m not convinced that it’s as bomb-proof as a true fixed-blade.

The lock bar functions as it should and the AutoLAWKS system makes it more secure than “plain” liner-locks without making it more difficult to operate.  For those reason, I’m assessing a 2 for this category.

The red switch of CRKT's AutoLAWKS system.

Design Concept: 1

I’m relatively impressed by the design of many CRKT knives, the M16-14SFG isn’t an exception. Its form is dictated predominantly by function, a design philosophy I quite like. I can’t say that it’s the most attractive knife I’ve ever seen, though.

The large holes in the handle are there to reduce weight.  The smaller holes, those that aren't there for screwing down the pocket clip, are there for aesthetics, as far as I can tell.

Grip:  1

The grip on the M16-14SFG is well-designed.  It's a relatively large knife, so there's no problem with the grip being too small.  This is one of the few folders out there that features a hilt.  It's a convenient feature for some tasks but can also be a bother.  The hilt created by the flippers makes it difficult to choke up on the blade for detail work and forces distance between the grip and the blade.

I don't find myself in situations where I'm concerned that my hand will slip over the blade while I'm using the knife.

Deployment Method: 2

The knife does employ a thumb-stud but it’s practically useless. My preferred deployment method is the flipper. With a quick snap of the index finger the blade deploys.  Keep the joint well-oiled and the blade can deploy as fast or faster than any assisted opening knife I've ever used.

I had contemplated giving the deployment method a 1 simply because the thumb-stud isn’t useful for opening but the flipper is just so wonderful.  You can’t go wrong with it.

An added bonus (legally questionable here in MA) is the ability to use the flipper to deploy the knife as you're pulling it out of your pocket.  It is possible, if you're thinking about it, to catch the flipper on the back edge of your front pocket while removing the knife and cause the blade to open.  I'm not convinced it was designed to do this but it's possible.

Carry Method: 2

Front pocket carry.
Back pocket carry.
There is a four position pocket clip on the M16-14SFG. It can be carried tip-up or -down, left or right. I prefer to carry tip-up for reasons I won’t articulate here. If, however, I were to orient the clip to carry tip-down the flippers would sit at the top of the pocket and would, as far as I’m concerned, get in the way.

The clip itself is sturdy and affixed to the body of the knife by three screws.  It's at a height where it doesn't seem like too much of the handle is exposed.  It's not necessarily "discrete," but it's certainly slim enough to sit in a pocket without attracting too much attention.  I don't concern myself too much with the concealment of knives; not many people pay attention to what's in other people's pockets and, fortunately, the jurisdiction in which I live isn't as nutty about knives as others.

For tip-up carry, as I choose to carry it, this knife has to be a 2.  The clip is well-executed and the ability to universally orient it is convenient.  It carries with just enough handle outside the pocket; enough to get a decent purchase on it but not so much that it's too exposed or feels poorly secured.

Carry Comfort:  1

The knife is pretty slim which contributes greatly to its comfort.  It is a rather large knife, but it doesn't seem it when in my pocket.

The flippers are the biggest complaint I have when it comes to carry comfort.  Naturally, the flippers stick out well beyond the handle of the knife; they take up ample real estate in whatever pocket the knife is carried.  Also, they can damage other things in the pocket.  For example, I often carry the knife in my right front pocket along with my wallet.  The flipper rubs up against the side of the wallet and erodes the material.  While it hasn't caused catastrophic damage it's working its way in that direction.  Sure, I could move the knife, and I have (I carry it in my right back pocket now) but anything placed in the pocket with it will be affected.  The flippers really monopolize the whole pocket.

If the knife was carried tip-down with the flippers at the top the damage problem probably wouldn't exist but they would inhibit access to the pocket (the width of the hilt created by the flippers is approximately 2.25 inches; that's a lot of space).

TOTAL:  15/20

This is a great knife.  It's affordable and well-made.  Some might find it a bit too big for everyday carry, but that hasn't been a problem for me.  If I could change one thing it would be eliminating the serrations; I'm gradually discovering (as many have) that partially serrated blades are more irritating than useful and this knife is no exception.  If I sharpen the hell out of it they'll eventually disappear and, with the quality of the build on this knife, I imagine it will last long enough for my dreams to come to fruition.

The M16-14SFG is available online for just under $50.00.  At that price it's a steal.  It's a great addition to any pocket or bag.