Laguiole “Picnic” Knife

Last fall I got a wild hair and finally bought a Laguiole style knife. I say “style” because these are one of the most heavily cloned knives out there. “Laguiole is like “Kleenex”… It has passed into common usage for any similar sized, folding pocket knife with a similar sweeping blade. I was under no illusions when I ordered this that it was an actual, handcrafted knife from the village of Laguiole, France, or even the adjoining town of Thiers. For one thing, the Shepherds Cross detail on the handle is upside down, and the rivets are not perfectly aligned. While it actually did ship from France, it is certainly a generic version. And, quite frankly, there is nothing wrong with that.

Here’s a quick link to the Wikipedia entry, and it contains other links at the bottom if you want even more information>>  The Laguiole knife

I have quite a number of what I consider to be decent knives suitable for a variety of purposes, but I lack the money to do any serious collecting of fine blades. This is where my 90%/50% criteria is often used.

The classic Laguiole pocketknife was what you took along to cut up your  fruit and cheese, your baguette and sausage on a picnic in the French countryside. If you had one of the units with the corkscrew, you could open your bottle of cheap vin ordinaire.

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One of the hallmarks of Lagouile knives is the semi three-dimensional bee on the spine of the knife over the ferrule. A second is the engraving along the spine. [the photo at the left is clipped off the Internet, but shows both of these features] Even on the non-handcrafted knifes, the the finer the detailing of these, the better chance of the entire knife being higher-quality. These were two items that I looked for when I started shopping around and comparing the offerings. I was lucky, and the knife I purchased was even more finely detailed than the one shown.

 For my purposes, that is quite enough. This one comes branded “Laguiole L’ Eclair”. It is reportedly made in China of an unknown quality of stainless steel, but takes a very fine, sharp edge with minimum effort. Certainly fine enough for preparing food, and use as a “picnic” knife. The blade opens with a satisfying “snick”, but this is not a locking style knife. However, it does take a firm push up against the back of the blade to disengage the back spring.

The slim blade makes it ideal for slicing. This is why I chose to add one to my camping cutlery. I have big, heavy knives; I have pocket knives and pocket tools. I can dress out a deer carcass, hack up some kindling, and take care of most ordinary camp chores. But none of them have the long, thin blade to finely slice an onion, or to make it a real pleasure to deal with that plate-sized, porterhouse steak that just came off the flaming hardwood coals of your open fire and render it into thin, juicy morsels. The Laguiole does.

It it is also the perfect size to go with my titanium dining set, and carries around perfectly in their mesh bag. Together with the SnowPeak spork, I’m covered. I can prepare and consume in perfect grace, dignity, and high style… while out “roughing it”.

I like using “nice” stuff. That’s how I roll.

Return of the Prodigal Spork

18 months ago I lost my sweet SnowPeak titanium Spork.

I broke camp in the middle of the night because of the appalling nature of the coked-up junkies in the next site. They had returned at 1 AM, started a screaming match, and were being abusive to a three-year-old child. I left to go to the police department and turn in a CHINS report.

When it came time to sort my gear out down cellar after I got home, I discovered I must’ve left my spork behind. I knew it had been sitting out on the picnic table, and I pretty much assumed that I had just overlooked it in my hurry to be gone. I wrote it off as “Oh,well…” and eventually got around to ordering another one off of Amazon when they went on sale.

I was really fond of that little sucker. So fond that I actually used it around the house on a daily basis. [I am on my own since my wife passed away, and using the spork for a lot of things made it easier to just stay caught up on my dishes]. That’s why I sprung for a second one.

For under $10, I highly recommend these. They are available from Snow Peak and several other folks in basically identical form factors. You can even get them heat-anodized into various colors. The prongs are just long enough and sharp enough actually hold food, and the”spoon” is decently sized for scooping up liquids. If your broth is really thin, you are probably better slurping it up over the edge of your cup bowl and using the spork to clean up the chunks. And it’s just long enough cannot leave your fingers completely grotty if you were dipping down into a freeze-dry bag. It’s a great choice if you want to hold your carry down to a single eating utensil. With a good knife to cut things up, It’s really all you need.

Anyway, for all those reasons, I was really delighted when I put on my hunting vest recently and found it tucked in a pocket. I hadn’t “lost” it after all.

More Bang For Your Buck

At one point last summer I was passing through the EMS store down Babylon. I courteously allowed them to relieve me of some of my money [about $10 bucks] and picked up the orange Sea To Summit Delta plate. Together with the green “squishy” bowl, this made for a fairly nice dining kit to go with my titanium utensils.

Then, a bit later in the season. TOG and I were in Walmart on our way to go out on the lake upstate. We grabbed complete the red and gray set there… total cost?… about SEVEN BUCKS! StS sells a single set that includes a matching bowl for $30 over on Amazon.

Both versions of the plates seem to be made from the “food grade Nylon 66, BPA free” that StS advertises. Both have a nice honeycomb pattern on the bottom; I assume that this adds strength. However, both kinds have developed a slight upward bow in the center after use. The only major difference is that the StS version has the thumb grip on one edge… I do have to admit that that is a feature that I greatly appreciate. You get grimy enough in the woods without sticking your thumb in your stew.

The Walmart kit of two plates, two bowls and two sets of Delrin utensils all came in the nice nylon and mesh drawstring bag which is plenty large enough to also carry a bunch of small food or condiment items. Is a really decent extra and also makes it easy to hang up your cook gear with your bear-bag to keep the critters away. I am not too excited about the collapsible cup/bowls, but they are nice enough I guess… it’s just that they seem like they would be awfully easy to somehow collapse during use, the ridge-rings don’t make them that utilitarian as actual bowls, and I always have something else to drink out of.  Now, the utensils are really nice. I already had one of the knives, and it is easily sturdy enough to cut into a steak. The spoon is also quite exceptional as it has a large, deep bowl, and is also long enough to reach down into most freeze-dry pouches and MRE retorts. WallyWorld used to sell these same utensils at $.89 each piece, so you can see that $7 was an excellent deal for this entire kit. [I believe they currently sell the knife/fork/spoon as is set for about a $1.89… I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend you pick up a set as a spare].

I was certainly not displeased with my existing combination of the orange plate and green bowl, so they will continue to be my “go to”.  They come in at just over 8 ounces, which is perfectly acceptable given my usual car and kayak camping circumstances where a couple of pounds extra weight is not particularly problematic. As for the others, the good news is that the WallyWorld set will just stay Upptacamp, so that it is always there if we get a whim to take the kayaks out on the lake

This is a really classic case of discovering that you can get 90% of utility for 50% or less of the cost.

[BTW- I subsequently purchased a second WallyWorld set for elfLiza and I to go in our picnic tote down in NC. I have a dreadful feeling that the price at that time ended in $o.*1… and I am fairly certain that is their code for clearance items]

Fidget Cube : Fidgetively Speaking [6]… A Truly Antsy Backer™ Escapes Upptacamp

My buddy, TOG [The Other Geezer] and I escaped up into the Northwoods for a couple of nights, and I got to take a break in the incessant refreshments of my emails. TOG teaches at the vo-tech, and we always get up for a couple or three days during the February school break. This was about the 10th year in row.

We are fortunate to be able to get away Upptacamp at least eight or 10 times a year… Mostly during the better weather. This fall we missed out on a two, and the last time we had been up was Columbus Day weekend. Since we’re only 4 miles from one of the nicer, and taller, ski mountains, TOG was actually heading back up again the day after we came down to go skiing with another of our friends. I don’t do the falling off the mountain thing.

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We had to cut steps into the six-foot tall whitewalls to get out of the lane, and then TOG stamped out a path up top with the snowshoes while I excavated a slot just wide enough to walk through out of that lump on the porch. We were actually walking over nearly 3 feet of snowpack. There’s a flight of steps that go up to that deck in the picture below… four by my memory.

[Also, note the 2 1/2 foot long “brow” hanging off the snow shed roof]

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This is the view out back to the trout stream. Yeah, IT’s under about 4 feet of snow because of the drifting.

file_000-3 We also like to eat.

I brought along Frenched rib lamb chops, venison, and fresh burger. TOG raided his meat locker for bacon and sausage from his pigs, and a dozen fresh eggs from the chickens… his pets make him breakfast.

We spent a lot of time reading our Kindles with our eyes closed, and I’m happy to report that I didn’t worry about the cube crisis for a single moment. And, of course, I came home to no shipping email.

[today, back home here in lower Maine at the Château, I had 72° on my porch]

Army-Navy Finds

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My friend Norton from down in Virginia posted some photos online of he and his son tarping it and cooking some MRE chows out in the growing snowpocalypse that was Storm Jonas. I was very taken with the aluminum mug in one of the photos and pulled this clipping from it.

He told me it was a Russian Army issue that is much heavier gauge material than you would expect from the old-timey Boy Scout ones. I really do like the handle styling.

This is the kind of thing that you can sometimes pick up out at a yard sale or an Army Navy store that will turn out to be substantially better than a lot of things for sale in the camping catalogs. “Mil-Spec” items, regardless of nationality, are really made to take a beating. Finds like these are why am always happy to go cruise around a junk shop.

I have [metaphorically] kicked myself in the behind many times over the years for having passed up a knife/fork/spoon set at an Army Navy store down in New Bedford one time. I think it was all of $4 for a set. Made for the Swedish Army, stainless steel, and only two thirds the length of standard US mess flatware, but with the spoon bowl and fork tines full size. Even my new titanium camping set isn’t as sweet as the memory of that passed up opportunity.

Don’t be afraid to grab up stuff. You can always pass it on to others, or it might turn out to be your favorite gear.

“Re”-purposing… Woof Meow!

It’s only January 2, and I have already broken yesterday’s New Year’s resolution about getting anymore new gear…. BUT!

It turns out that you can pick up a “Squishy” silicone dog food bowl for $1.99 that is larger, better shaped, and sturdier than the “camping” versions that go for $10 and up.

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This one holds 24 ounces, as opposed to 16 ounces for the first “camping” one I found when I searched online for comparison. It comes in about 2 1/2″ deep and 5 1/4′ wide, it’s slick inside and can be turned inside out for easy cleaning. [What appears to be a raised ring inside is an light illusion] My scale is not intended for super lightweight measurements, but the bowl seems to be about 10gms, in other words, less that a 1/2oz. Because it’s a soft, flexible silicone, any of the spoons and sporks I tried out can do a great job of helping to get out the last morsel of your meal. That also means that you can flex the edge into a “spout” for consuming really liquid items like thin soups with no need for utensils, or it can double as a large cup for drinking as well. Mixing bowl? …yeah, that too.

Finally, I was pleased to find that would fit right inside the o.9L kettle I reviewed recently, and it also can pull around the bases of either of my camp pots, so it is even easier to carry along.

This is one of those things that certainly falls in the category of being not really needed, but fulfills a legitimate role in your kit at a price that makes it almost irresistible for some uses. [besides… my new titanium entrenching tools made me do it!]

Utensils

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I just got a nice, matching/nesting, titanium eating utensils set.  As with so much of my stuff, it came out of Hong Kong. While it was discounted over buying the same set here from a US vendor, it was no where near my 90%-for-50% criteria… more like 25% off regular pricings.

Apparently, back in September when I unexpectedly broke camp at 3AM and vamoosed, due to a drunken/coked-up screaming match in the next campsite, I must have left behind my SnowPeak spork, and a light-weight, WallyWorld ABS fork and knife that were all clipped together.  I had especially liked that spork, and I would frequently use it right here at home because it was a great tool for breaking up stews and the like. Good size, good “heft”, fun to eat with… just a nice piece of gear. Because of the loss, I was in the market for a new set of eating utensils. When I saw these at a reasonably good price, I decided to treat myself to the expense, and added them to that 11/11 deals cart. They finally came on Friday.

These are KEITH brand,and are available stateside, but nearly identical sets are also available from other well-known vendors. These sets actually do differ slightly in features, design and execution, unlike much of the camping stuff that seems to be just a change in the logos. I liked the KEITH because it was more sturdily made, and included a nice, microfiber pouch for toting the set around. I hate having stuff jangling noisily in my pack.

In the center of the second photo you can see the long-handled spoon. [I use it to replace the military issue [brown] MRE spoon at top-right. MRE pouches are quite deep, and that longer handle makes eating right from the bags much easier] The point here being the spoon is just stamped out of a thin piece of titanium with a ridge down the handle to add strength. Despite the great material, it makes it “seem” flimsy. I was disappointed with its feel in my hand once I put it to use. Several of the other available cutlery sets were made in the same manner, and I did not want to repeat the disappointment.

The KEITHs are of a thicker gauge metal and have a much better “hand”. The fork, and especially the tines, are a bit shorter than I would truly like, but the spoon is nice and deep, and the knife has some rugged serration for cutting. The set looks to be pretty good at the price. I gave $16.45 US shipped.

 

Just a quick run-down of the other pieces in the second photo: across the center is a US military issue field fork that also came Friday as a gift from one of the guys over on the MRE Info Forums [sadly, it is the match to a large field spoon, also USDOD issue, that has gone missing… they would have made a good pair for base-camping] /the set of breakdown SS chopsticks, also originally from China, are handy for cooking chores, and I just have always loved eating with chopsticks/the titanium double-ended spork and the green ABS one live in my range-bag and lunch box respectively and the little Buck neck-knife is my camp-cooking slicer and steak knife.

It should be obvious to anyone who has read this blog with any regularity, that I LOVE to eat. And I love to eat well in the woods. It is a way of enjoying your end-of-day time and taking care of yourself that makes the outdoor experience more rewarding. I don’t go camping to be miserable and eat bad food. Having some really nice utensils along is one of the luxuries I allow myself. With this kit, I have enough choice to pick and choose variously appropriate combos to go out on various trips, but I suspect the new titanium set and the long MRE spoon are going to be my “go-to”s from now on.

Verdict: this KEITH matching utensil set is dite pricy, but probably worth it as an infrequently-to-be-bought luxury item.