The post office unloaded a few things on me yesterday that I have been waiting for. As you have probably figured out by now, in order to find good deals, I buy a lot of stuff off the Internet. Some of it comes from overseas and the shipping delays can always be pretty unpredictable. The worst of these is a company out of Hong Kong’s ShamShuiPo tech district. I won’t name names until they piss me off even more, but it seems that their nearly constant refrain is “some items are on back-order” even when they show available for immediate shipment on the site. AND they frequently don’t post that fact for a week or more, and then it appears, but with the date of the post matching the date of the order. Bad business practices. But stuff you can’t get anywhere else at the price, and some stuff at any price. And they do free “shipping” no matter how slow it is. So, I keep going back for the abuse again and again.
Yesterday, I finally got a solar powered, LED lantern that I had ordered a month ago when we first started planning the river-rafting trip.
SingFire is usually a fairly predictably quality product. I have a couple of their AA and AAA flashlights that are my favorites. This lantern, however, was DOA.
It seemed to have suffered a torturous death. While there were no batteries included, one of the battery terminals was caked with blue-green corrosion. There was moisture inside the battery cover, and even more moisture visible when I opened the carcass. The rechargeable battery also had water in its mounting shell. One wire inside was not even connected to anything, and the adjustable light switch/dial was disconnected and freewheeling. A little screw was in there, but had either come undone or never been attached in the first place. Since, once it had actually shipped, it only took five days to get here, I don’t believe that the corrosion could’ve happened in transit. The shipping package itself showed no trace of moisture. That I have to believe happened previously, while warehoused, and anyway there was absolutely no excuse for the manufacturing defects. So I had to send off a request for my money back… Despite their other failings, they are usually pretty good about claims, and I’ll let you know how it turns out.
However, when I checked it for salvageability, the rechargeable battery slammed the needle off the scale on my battery checker, so I decided to see what I could do. After a three-hour search for my soldering iron, and then the solder, and then the flux, I was able to jury rig some new wires onto the rechargeable battery and then heat shrink them to the miniscule wires provided. A few more minutes spent trying to figure out how the switch went together and I got the screw back in place. I wiped out the case to get all the moisture, and scraped down the terminals. Once I got it back together, I turned the switch and it lit up, so it wasn’t a total loss. I need to let the rechargeable run down completely before I can determine whether it actually charges by solar power, or if the circuitry was damaged by the moisture… Just because it turns on once doesn’t mean that it works the way it’s supposed to. Most consumers would’ve just dropped it in the trash. And end-users should not have to go through complex home repair processes to have a functioning item. But we’ll see what they have to say. I certainly feel like I’m entitled to a partial refund for the trouble I had to go through.
All the hassle aside, it’s a nice light. Despite being LED, which generally only dim up/down in increments, the knob will take it from very dim to somewhere around 100 lm. with a nice firm “click” when it snaps off. Perfectly fine for a campsite or in a tent. At eight or 10 inches tall, it’s too large for backpacking, and with four AA batteries in place to provide back up power, it’s not the lightest thing I’ve ever seen, but it hangs or stands, and if it charges, it will provide some nice light when we take off on the river-rafting trip next week… IF it keeps working!
Next out of the POBox was a very nice Buck Knife Model #692 that I bought from eBay out of Israel. I was a little hesitant because the 692 is a knife that comes heavily pirated out of China, A lot of unscrupulous people buy them and then attempt to resell them as originals. Those just do not have nearly the high-quality steel that Buck Knives uses. One of the major differences to look for is that the Chinese counterfeits all have stainless steel butts and tangs. The real Bucks feature brass. The photos and description on this knife claimed that it was brass mounted, but the knife sheath, with its Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation logo appeared to be pretty much what you would expect with the Chinese knockoffs. The RMEF logo seems to be a big favorite with the Chinese pirates. They use it on a whole bunch of different sheaths. I guess they think that if you think it’s a specialty, “custom” product you will be more likely to buy their “BUCK” knives… GUYS!… The problem is that you cannot buy a real Buck Knife starting at $.99 !!
Years ago I bought a DH Russell Model #1SF belt knife from Grohmann up in Pictou NS in Canada. We went to the factory on a whim and my wife was nice enough to buy it for me as a gift. But the Grohmann is a REALLY NICE KNIFE! It was pretty expensive back then, and, as much as I love it, I would hate for anything to happen to it. As a result, I have been looking around for a good, fixed blade knife as a knock-about to finish out my camping gear.Because the 692 “model” features a fairly thick, heavy blade with the same saber grind as the Kershaw 10 Camp Knife, it looked like it would be perfect for splitting out really small kindling.
I had originally even figured on just buying one of the Chinese knockoffs, [which are not a bad deal on their own given that they go for eight or $9. At that price it’s a pretty good beater… even with cheaper steel… It would certainly fulfill my 90% of the utility for 50% of the price qualification], however, when the auction for what actually seemed to be an original model 692 was going down at only a few dollars more than the Chinese knives, I went ahead and snipe-ed it. For this deal, the shipping out of Israel only took a total of five days. And, my optimism seems to have paid off. I don’t know what happened to the original sheath, but the knife itself certainly seems to be an original Buck. It is hallmarked “BUCK \”, and the hallmark is where it’s supposed to be. On the Chinese knives the word “BUCK” is stamped horizontally along the top of the blade on the left side just in front of the tang, and they also use a typeface that is more drawnout and wider than the one that Buck themselves use. The additional “\” indicates that the knife was made in 1994 just as the gentleman from Israel purported.
When it got here, the knife needed a little little cleaning up. The brasses [for they were indeed made of brass] were badly tarnished and the handle was covered in grime and dirt to the point that it was more gray/brown than black [that fact had also given me some pause before I made my eBay bid], but the blade itself was in exceptionally good condition with no sign of nicks or mistreatment. It arrived just shy of “hair-popping” sharp.
I was really pleased. With just a little bit of work and cleaning, it came back to the condition it left the Buck factory in back in 1994. After cleaning it, I gave it a touch up on my Arkansas stone and looked over the blade edge with a loupe. It had polished up like glass. I really don’t think that the Chinese steel was going to be capable of taking an edge that clean, so, I am fairly certain I do indeed have an original knife. Regardless, at the price, it was an incredible deal, knock off or not… 90% for 50%.
I then took it out to the stump and was able to split out matchstick sized pieces from a short chunk of oak. With a few quick taps on the back of the blade with a spall I was able to chunk up a 6 inch piece of maple. Taken together with the Kershaw 10 for the heavier work, I think I have found the perfect combination for easily and efficiently working up fuel for the small, “Leave-No-Trace” wood stoves that I have started using as my go to cook setup.
Other received deliveries that I will get around featuring here include an elastic cargo net to secure loose stuff to the outside of the OneCoolBackpack, a big bag of those wrist-coil mosquito repellent bands that I will be testing out up on the campout, a bunch of nice, new paracord in various sizes and colors. I’m still waiting on some new mini LED lights, some nicer compasses, and some decent aluminum whistles for the emergency kits… Those are languishing in the clutches off THAT HK shipper.
And the final good news is that I understand from Mikhail at MerkWorks that the KickStarter FireAnt titanium stove is in production and will ship out in the next couple of days. It would be wonderful if it made it in time for the river-rafting trip.
Onward through the fog…