Putting a Fine Edge on Things…

When I was at the Great Pumpkin hammock hang last month, my friend R3l@X gave me a knife sharpening mini-seminar. I am fairly proficient, and have a variety of stones that have accumulated over the years, but I wanted to see if I could up my game. His system is based on the Lansky System of graduated hone stones and various polishing compounds on leather strops. I was way beyond impressed with the results, and ordered my own set when I got home.

From the Lansky site:

“The Lansky Deluxe Controlled-Angle Sharpening System [5 Stone] features:

  • Extra Coarse Black Hone: (70 grit) for re-profiling the bevel grind
  • Coarse Red Hone:  (120 grit) for edge reconditioning
  • Medium Green Hone:  (280 grit) for sharpening and less frequent touch-ups
  • Fine Blue Hone:  (600 grit) for most frequent touch-ups to keep your blade paper-slicing sharp
  • Ultra-Fine Ceramic Yellow Hone:  (1000 grit) for polishing the edge for a razor sharp edge
  • Honing Oil:  Specially Formulated for sharpening
  • Easy to use, multi-angle clamp:  to hold the blade securely
  • Guide Rods:  One for every hone
  • Extra long knife clamp screws for thicker blades
  • Storage/carrying case to hold all system components
  • Complete easy-to-follow multi-lingual instructions”

I ordered two additional diamond hones in Coarse (120) and Medium (280) grits because I knew that I had some, old, worthwhile blades that would require aggressive reshaping.

As you can see in the product materials, you clamp the blade in the jaws of the clamp, select an angle [17°/20°/25°/30°] that closely matches the existing edge, and using the rod mounted on the hone stone to maintain that angle with the slots, you gently slide the hone upward against and into the blade while sliding it sideways as well. The technique takes only a couple of passes to master, and yields superb results.

One of R3l@x’s tricks is to blacken the cutting edge of the blade with a “Sharpie” marker. Then you make 1 or 2 passes with the ultra fine, 1000 grit hone. That stone is so fine that it only polishes off the marker, and reveals how much the blade needs actual “grinding” down with the more aggressive stones to place/extend that polish right to the cutting edge. Any black between the polished of area and the cutting edge needs to be worked down. There are some other tricks and techniques that make using the Lansky System easier and more efficient… I will go into those when I do a planned tutorial on Basic Knife Sharpening sometime soon.

You just move up through the gradations of grit, moving from actually changing or improving the edge profile, thru simply refining out the grind marks, and on until you are merely polishing the final, “hair popping”, razor-sharp edge.

The results are astounding! I took the sad little neck knives that I bought for next to nothing out of Sham Shui Po, last seen in the post “You Get What You Pay For…”,  and achieved an unimagined sharpness that upgraded them from classic POSes, to really “OK”. I had them relegated them to survival kits just for batoning fire stock. Now they can shave tinder as well. They were the proof for the Lansky System in general, and the two diamond add-ons as well.

 

Using the Lansky is simple and effective. Combined with further finish honing on stropping compound sticks, you can easily get great results. The action is one that you can do semi-mindlessly while you listen to music or chat around a campfire. At an Amazon price of only $40 , and given the life it can quickly bring back to nearly any knife, in nearly ANY condition, that needs sharpening, it is close to a no-brainer to pick up.

Later, as needed, you can add the diamond stones, arkansas stone hones, a 2000 grit Super Sapphire Polishing Stone, as well as shaped stones that let you work on serrated and curved blades like “karambits”. They also offer two stands and a C-clamp to support the blade clamp.

Look for my upcoming [check the sidebar] Sharpening Tutorial to see some results.

 

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Buying a Hammock

You want to try out hammocking, but don’t know where to start? There are a lot of “convenient” solutions out here… you can get one at Wally’s or on the net ASAP!

This post is gonna tell you that not all of them are gonna make you happy with the expense and the experience…. So>>

 

Thanks to Bill Puckett over on FB for starting a thread that was badly needed:

“I see a somewhat regular requests by new members along the lines of ” I don’t want to spend much money to try this hammock thing so what should I buy that’s cheap?”. Here is my 2 cents worth of wisdom. If you buy the better products and find that you don’t like hanging for some reason, you can ALWAYS sell your gently used gear for a slight discount to the original price. The good stuff when new rarely goes on sale so a bargain for nearly new gear with good reputation is almost always a workable proposition. The net cost (eyeball estimate) of a round trip (buy, try, sell) is probably less than the cost of cheap/poorly made/poorly designed that you buy then trash.

My advice? Buy the good stuff and learn to use it well. Do your homework before buying (watch Shug’s videos on YouTube and read “The Ultimate Hang”). I think you’ll have better outcomes and will ultimately save yourself both hassle and money.”

The second piece from the same thread is from Devon T. Cloud:

“I think a lot f you are missing the point of Bill’s post. Yes, you’re going to spend a lot of money on your UQ, TP, and accessories regardless. You are however still going to buy that stuff if you are REALLY going to give hammock camping a try. If you don’t purchase that stuff (or at least borrow it from a friend to actually try it) you are not really trying hammock camping. Using a pad and a sleeping bag renders hammock camping on par with tent camping and if you don’t purchase gear that holds your pad in place, maybe even less comfortable.

What Bill is more saying is don’t buy that Ebay or amazon special or other short, cheap hammock – purchase from a reputable brand. Yes you can spend 300 bucks if you want (I did and it was worth every penny), but you don’t have to. Dream Hammock makes a cheap hammock that has an integrated big net for around $125.00. Netless version is around 50 bucks. I believe Dutch has similar options at similar prices, and these are hammocks made out of the correct material instead of that stretchy parachute material that you will most likely never get a flat lay out of. 

In other words, if you are going to try hammock camping, commit to it enough to actually give it a chance instead of shooting your experience in the foot by purchasing an inferior product to save 40 bucks. That extra 40 bucks will make a difference in comfort that is so great it could be the difference between becoming a hammock camper and not becoming one. The extra 40 bucks is well spent one way or the other… after spending it you will truly know whether hammock camping is really for you or not.”

In response to Devon’s words, Thomas Ressler added:

“Very well put. Buy your second hammock first and if you don’t like it, it is easy to sell. Also many cottage vendors will give you a free look at it and you can return it for a full refund. That is our policy at Dutchware. Lastly not only is the value of our cottage vendors there but we have experience and aren’t a hammock made by someone who doesn’t eat work and sleep in a hammock.”

Mr. Ressler is also known to the community as “Dutch”…  suffice it to say he is one of the “gurus” of modern hammocking. His suggestion that you “Buy your second hammock first” is the single best expression of the whole thread.

 

I know that hammocking is gaining in popularity almost daily. I understand that the kids just call it “ENOing” after the ubiquitous Eagles Nest Outfitters hammocks that are out there everywhere from Amazon to REI. ENO clones are all over the net at prices going up from $15… the problems with these are that they are not going to give you that great experience you are hoping for. Some are as little as 8′ long. Most have mighty thin fabric. Most have really clumsy suspensions that are a PITA to get up safely… and ate heavy as well. Yes, many are offered as “double hammocks”. Friends… NEITHER OF YOU CAN GET A GOOD NIGHT SLEEP IN A DOUBLE HAMMOCK [and I don’t even want to get into the horizontal-bop-in-a-hammock thing here… you can try it, betting you won’t like it.] Plus, you won’t believe how much all that “double” fabric droops and flaps in yer face!

Best advice beyond that of the Dutchman, is get yourself over to the HammockForums.net site, go to the forums, read a whole lot of the posts there asking for advice and then scroll down to the vendor links and take a look at the choices. Or find the section on group hangs around the country and go to one… people will usually be glad to explain their choices and let you try out their gear.

Your money will be much better spent, and, most importantly, your experience will be exponentially better, too!

Support the USNPS

Don’t let Smokey stand alone.

Since 1872, and the establishment of Yellowstone, generations of our forebears have encouraged the politicians of their time to support the establishment and maintenance of our national parks for the generations yet to come. Please do what you can to keep the politicians of our time from selling out our children’s fragile natural heritage.

Check out these “apocalyptic” NPS posters for a glimpse of what could come if we don’t stand up and speak out…. >>CLICK<<

Some Things Just Don’t Get Old

Point of post~~  a twenty year old “flashlight”.

I got this EverReady “neon tube” light when my late wife and I got our Toyota RV camper in 1996.

  • Works off four AA’s.
  • Two light levels.
  • No idea if the tubes are really neon or not, but it’s a darn nice light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

       

I don’t think I have had to change batteries more than two or three times. Zero battery drain over time. This is a light you can count on. It sits in the bathroom in case the power fails.

Drip-breaks for Hammocks

Sometimes when it rains, it pours. We have all been out in our hammocks when the rain’s come down right wickud. When it rains that hard, it’s very easy for the water to migrate down your hammock suspension and eventually start soaking the ends of your rig.

Our man Shug, Master of mirth and merriment, juggler extraordinaire, and the go-to-guy for tips and videos on everything regarding hammocking, just suggests tying an old sock around your suspension. That works… not very elegant, and your socks stay wet, but it works.

I wanted something a little bit better, and something that would remain on my suspension full-time. I have been reasonably satisfied with a simple loop of mason’s twine dangling down from my continuous loops. So I took off from there.

I had some old water skiing and tubing towline. I gutted out two, 8″ sections of some half-inch line, singed the ends on the gas burner, stuck a chopstick through one end to make a hole, and pushed my continuous loop right through.

        

You can see the partz-is-partz on the right…

What I really like about this solution is that the drip line is back under the end of my tarp, beyond the rain. Now, I haven’t tested these out and in a real toad floater yet… I just put them on this morning. But my other solutions where I’ve had my drip lines actually on the continuous loops have always served me in good stead. I’m not sure I see the point in having drip lines attached any where further out on the suspension. The edge of my tarp is where the rain is going to stop landing.

 

BONUS: Hint #2~~ The yellow stuff is a slightly larger diameter ski rope that I also gutted. The two yellow sections on the left of the photo have a section of the green line inserted inside end to end. All four segments are also flame sealed at the ends. This allows me to pass some thin Dyneema/ Zing-it type line through the entire length of the doubled sections.

Why? For the same reason we all use tree straps… To Be Responsible. If I am hanging off of trees with a thin bark like Birch or Beech, These cuffs give added protection from harm by the extremely thin line that might otherwise damage the cambium layer of the bark. If too many people use the same two trees and are careless about the way they hang, the trees can suffer.

 

It Ain’t the Ghost Whisperer!

However, at $17.28 including shipping from ShamSuiPo, I, for one, am not going to be arguing. The GW goes for $319.

When I was at a hang this Spring with my friend Iuri, I admired the jacket he had on assuming it to be a Ghost Whisperer… he’s a hip, young, upwardly mobile kind of guy who has the money for that type of thing. He said, “no, China”. So, when we were getting blown around by the lake winds up at the kayak hang recently, and I really wished I had some kind of a lightweight, but warm coat, I thought enviously of Iuri’s. When I got back, I looked ’em up on ALiBaba and ordered one. I don’t think I could’ve been happier even if I had the opportunity to actually try it on. For my needs, and at my kind of the price, it’s perfect… light, comfortable, warm, sufficiently wind-proof. I love the color, too. [much more a darker, blue-black than the photo shows] It’s the perfect thing to toss on just after dawn and before the day warms up, or once the evening shadows creep in and the temps drop.

Now… in fairness to the GW it reputedly has more down, and of a kind that is specially treated for loft and water repellency. But it also is only “stitch-thru” construction. $319 is a whole lot of money for a coat that isn’t even baffle-channeled. True, it is designed for layering, with an “active fit” for “climbing in the alpine, long-haul backpacking trips, and peak-bagging bids, where packing light and moving fast is key to reaching your objective”…. I have tried one on and found the fit restrictive on my less-than-fit, sixty-seven year-old body.

Specs~~ GW vs. “Joobox” branded:

  • 7D x 10D ripstop nylon / Polyester
  • claimed garment weight 7 oz / weighed @9.7 oz w/sack
  • down~ Q.Shield 800 fill-down / 90% white duck [no fill rating… seems like 650/700]
  • fill weight~2.6 oz / 2.5 oz
  • no hood on compared models
  • GW is designed to self-stuff into a pocket / Joobox came with a stuff sack
  • Joobox has two zippered slash hand pockets at the side-seams and two large interior, flat, “bag” pockets / GW~unspecified, but does have an adjustable, drawstring hem that the Joobox lacks

These don’t seem like a lot of differences to account for the $300 price differential. However, I don’t own a Ghost Whisperer jacket so I can’t pretend to do any real, considered, comparison here. There might very well be other differences that I am not aware of. That said, the Joobox jacket is my 90%/50% kind of deal [actually for only 5% in this case].

While it is simply specified to be a generic polyester material, I really like the “hand” to the fabric used on the Joobox. Nice and soft to the touch, easy to slide on the sleeves, soft around the neck and under the chin. Maybe it will prove to wear quickly or something. Due to the very large variations between Chinese and Western size charts, I ordered an XXL… while I have never bought anything in XXL before in my life, this was a perfect fit. [It is what I would expect in a men’s “Large” from someplace like Cabelas or L.L. Bean]. It is also roomy enough not to bind, and to allow for layering.

The Joobox’s one odd feature is that it came with the front zipper reversed… I expect to hold the pull in my right hand, and feed the little tang into it with my left. I am not certain, but I believe that women’s fashions may have the zipper reversed like this. This one was listed under “Men’s Wear”, was most definitely shown on a bearded male model, and is definitely not cut for a woman’s figure… Again, at this price I am not complaining. Oh, and in the stuff sack, it goes down to the size of a 12oz soda. I’ll give the bag a silicon/hydrophobic treatment with Atsko spray and be good to go. I also plan on spraying the entire jacket [exterior] with the Permethrin semi-permanent insect repellent to help keep the lil’ buggers at bay.

>> Good Deal / Highly Recommended <<

I Am Bald !

….Really, really bald. I claim it is just a solar panel for a sex-machine.

Most days I wear a cap. When I sleep out in the wild, my head tends to get chilly, so I mostly wear a toque.I have a couple, including a sweet down version from UGQ that pulls way down over your face and eyes for the really cold nights. Last weekend I didn’t take one, and I ended up with a tee pulled over my head and tucked into the neck of my shirt when it got windy and wet. I looked even more dorky than usual.

 

When I got home, I found a deal on “buffs” from Amazon. Rather pretentiously, they call them “Outdoor Multifunctional Sports Magic Scarfs”…. Great color selection though [35 different sets of nine patterned buffs each], and way cheap… $7.99 up the bunch. I got the “Totem2” set. Buy a set, get a free buff, so I ended up with 10 total. [As a note: The center left one in the photo wasn’t in  the set… I got some light green one that I don’t like as much] Anyway I’ll be taking a few extras to the next hang and up my karma by giving them away to the others.

If you don’t know what a buff is… look it up on the net. In short, it is a sleeve of stretch fabric that you can “wear” a whole bunch of different ways. Neck gaiter, dust mask, balaclava, headband, beanie, Foreign Legion neck cover… etc. Since it is a super lightweight poly-microfiber, you can also wet it down and use it for evaporative cooling when it gets hot. As well, one of them weighs next-to-nothing. Perfect in the pack.

I turned mine inside out, twisted the center part and pulled both halves back over my head to make a beanie. Perfect for summer night when there is a bit of a breeze, and I can pull it down over my eyes for a daytime snooze.

I really like these, especially at the price. Soft, light, colorful… just loud enough to make a statement [“This guy has NO taste!”].

They come nicely flatpacked, so it is easy to toss one or two into a pocket or in your clothes bag just to have on hand.

 

 

 

At the same time, and from the same maker [Kingree], I picked up one of the Shemaghs that the troops have adopted over in the Middle East to keep themselves both warm and cool. [Again… look it up for more detail].

My buddy Iuri (@brazilianguy) and his lady, Fey (@chinesegirl), both love theirs and bring ,and wear, them at every campout. Last weekend I thought longingly about what a difference having one would have been making to my comfort.

 

I have to work out the stylistic details of tying/wearing one without looking like an even more complete dork, but a lot of the others also have them and vaunt their usefulness. Again, multi-use, in that they can be used in a number of ways.  A bit heavy, since they are all cotton, however, that means you can also wet these down and get the cooling effects, or use them as a camp towel.

[$14… be sure to get one that is “heavy weight”. The light ones are like tissue, and fall apart quickly. Some also reportedly smell like chemical solvents and aren’t colorfast… read them-thar’ reviews first, folks]