Titaniumophilia~~ A Wake-Up Call For Gram-Weenies

(1) Titanium is… The Fairy Queen in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream? Nope. That was Titania. Dang.

(2) Titanium is… Proof that you’ve spent more money on your cook set (or stove, or boot lace tips) than anyone else in your hiking group (extended family, city, state, province, country, continent).

(3) Titanium is… Proof that you’re trendy, and possibly an idiot, though still a trendy one. Let’s hope you can dress the part.

(4) Titanium is… A metal incorrectly described by absolutely everyone stupid as “amazingly lightweight and strong, and perhaps the way to go if you’re obsessive about ounces.”

(5) No, it isn’t. But what would you expect to read in Backpacker magazine?

 

Titanium is a metal. And titanium is light, compared to uranium, but not compared to steel.

Stoveless and cook-pot-less and fuel-less is the way to go if you’re obsessive about ounces, and can gag down cold suppers night after night.

Aluminum, however, is the way to go if you’re obsessive about ounces and grams and price, and if you like to compare the weight of your tools to the weight of their shadows.

Titanium is only 12% lighter than steel, though it has almost all of steel’s strength, while aluminum is 54% lighter than steel and still has 75% of steel’s strength (Spot the trend here?), which is enough for a cook pot.

Titanium doesn’t ding or dent very easily (because it’s tough, which is nice), and titanium is highly resistant to corrosion (which means that it stays pretty). Since it is tough, it can be rolled thin. The thinner the material, the less there is of it, and so the less the finished product weighs, even if it’s made from heavy materials, which is the real advantage of titanium.

But if you want a cooking pot and you don’t care a lot about exactly how pretty it is, but you do care about how heavy it is, then aluminum is the way to go. You sort of care about how tough a pot is and you probably care a whole lot about how much it costs. You may also kind of care how beat up it’s going to end up being, eventually, or not. Your call, eh?

Titanium as a material is significantly heavier and vastly more expensive than aluminum, but tougher, and those who own titanium items feel smarter because titanium looks new longer. A lot of people who feel that way don’t go backpacking because if they go backpacking they will get their clothes dirty and they will get tired, and what they really above all want is to keep that just-off-the-shelf, crisply-pressed, newly-unwrapped look, while continuing to smell of aftershave. Titanium will help with that.

Titanium is for them. Titanium is for people who don’t ever want to sweat or walk uphill or know that bugs might actually be attracted to them.

 

Thanks [and apologies for the mild reformatz] to // so says eff

For me, the bottom line is that aluminum is simply better for cooking… better and more even heating/conductivity, less scorching and burning, perfectly acceptable weight tradeoff… and way less moolah. It’s a 90%/50% thing.

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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.

 

The “HangTime Hook”

For the last couple of months I have been following a project that is been under development over on the Facebook pages. It is initially intended for, and is currently only of real interest to, those who hammock hang. This is the “HangTime Hook”.

I was asked by Eric, the developer, and if I would like to try one out for review. He provided this black unit with the red grips. I have now had the opportunity to take it out several times when I’ve had my hammock up, and I’m very pleased with it.

It is a unit that slides on the ridge line of a hammock and allows you to clamp your cell phone in a viewing position out in front of you. Down the road, it may have other iterations that will allow it to be of use to other folks like tent campers. It is now available for sale, although in a prototype version. Each unit is individually made on a 3-D printer.

To my layman’s understanding, this means that they are possibly not as sturdy as they may be when they are actually cast or molded for full production. I did not find them “flimsy” at all. I actually found it quite sturdy. Not evident in the photo, you can see from the structure up close that there are indeed places where the 3-D layering as it is built up could conceivably cause it to fracture.

      

It comes in two separate pieces… the slider unit for the ridge line, and the screw-on clamp itself. Installation is a piece of cake. You simply unscrew the collar on the clamp, slip the ball into the socket, and screw the collar back down.  The red liners in the jaws give a soft, but firm grip to the phone. No worries about it slipping out and falling free. To mount it, you allow the ridge line to slot into the diagonal groove in the center of the top bar. A quick twist right and left allows the line to then slip up slots into the tube. Once on the line, it can slide easily back-and-forth, but the weight of a phone in the clamp causes it to tilt enough to create a friction belay. [You can also use of rubber band or a ponytail tie as a prussic to keep it from sliding. I heard somebody suggest just using a toothpick stuck into the hole along the line, but that seems like a good way to find a sharp, poke-ey stick lost down under you amid your expensive fabric].

 

The clamp jaws open up enough to accommodate even a full-size cell phone like my iPhone 6+.

Hung inside the cover on my Chameleon

The first night I tried it out by watching 30 minutes of a movie. The “Hook” did everything it was supposed to, and was very viewable. Because the clamp swivels completely, it is just as easy to point the speaker end of your phone right back at yourself to enjoy music as well. It is also easy to adjust the angle both up-and-down as well as side-to-side to match up with your lay and the size of your phone. The only criticism I can really level at it is that weight of the phone means that it does tend to sway back and forth if you move about at all. Once you’re comfortable and lying still, it’s no problem. [It is also no big deal to reach up with one hand and stop the motion].

One nice side benefit I found is that I no longer have to put my phone in a “ridgeline organiser” when I’m ready to go to sleep. It can just stay right in the clamp where it is available for a quick time-check in the middle of the night.

I also found that by turning the HangTime Hook’s clamp 90°, to a vertical orientation, it would accommodate the power bank for my fan just as easily. I had just been using a couple of Velcro straps right on the ridge line itself, however this lets the fan hang much lower, and further away from the hammock sides or netting. Very nice to keep the air moving on a hot summer night.

 

I have to admit that this is a niche product. Not everyone is going to feel the need for one, however, I think that there will be enough people interested to create a market. Personally, I’m not somebody who is likely to spend a lot of time watching movies in my hammock. Music, that’s another story. I can also see it being nice to be able to put on a slideshow of the photos you’ve taken that day for review. Using it for things like the fan, or as a clock, that were not originally intended is also a nice side discovery. It does what it’s supposed to do pretty darn well, and all in all, I can’t find any real things to complain about other than the side sway… That’s pretty minimal criticism.

Prior to Eric’s offer of a unit of my own, I had already seen the HangTime Hook in use at other hangs. The people who had bought one seemed to be fairly well impressed with their units as well. They are starting to be seen and talked about other than on FB. It will be interesting to see how many I notice at the next hang in a couple of weeks down outside Boston.

 

DISCLAIMER: the unit shown and reviewed was received by the author for that specific purpose. When the review unit offer was made I was already at the point of purchasing one, on my own, for my own use, for full price. Eric knew that I had a blog and occasionally reviewed items, and his only request was that I would commit to reviewing the unit. No opinions expressed in this review would have been any different if I had purchased the item instead of receiving it.

 

More info at:

 

YuHan USB LED RGB Rope Light~ 5ft. Review

A couple of years ago I followed the LumiNoodle Kickstarter, which was successful, and which went on to become available as a retail product. Like almost all appealing gadgets these days, it has now been cloned. I picked this “YuHan” branded clone up on Amazon for $15. The identical unit is also available from other distributors. While it does not have the remote control the multicolor LumiNoodle unit has, it comes in at less than 50% of the price.

The RGB, of course, stands for red/green/blue… This is a multi-color unit, and it does have 20 different colored light “models”. Any color can be displayed as either static or dynamic, and including the multicolored cycling, there are 20 different modes of flashing and glowing.

     

Completely waterproof and flexible, the rope light comes packaged in a nice white drawstring bag, and includes three noodle-bead ties to strap it to lines or objects. The three blue slides are also magnetically enabled if you want to slap it on the side of a car. The modes, colors, and cycling are all controlled from the three-button widget on the line itself.

 

There are five levels of illumination for each color in the static modes, and five speeds in each dynamic. At the brightest level, it produces a very large amount of light from the 60 LEDs. Personally, I find the lowest level of the most rewarding.

Nicely, the bag also acts as a diffuser if you want to use it more as a lantern.

 

 

 

 

I paired mine with a five dollar “lipstick” powerbank from FiveBelow° that is rated at 2200 mA. It ran for over three hours last night without dimming.

I figure to try powering it up again each evening until the battery gives out. That should give me a good guestimate of my total burn time, but I don’t expect it will give out in a couple of hours of use each evening on a weekend camping trip… I plan to use it as a ridgeline light inside my hammock bug net.

 

Nearly everyone in my hammock and crowd has some kind of party lights rigged on their hammock. Not only are they kinda fun, but when you have 20 or 30 hammocks hung up in the night woods, it’s difficult to figure out which one is yours after full dark. One friend, who is a former airline pilot, had a landing light strobe hung on his last weekend. I found most of the ultralightweight wire type lights flimsy and too likely to break, and I had no interest in the ones that are shaped like plastic hula dancers or jalapeno peppers, so this it a lot more to my liking.

Fits the 90%/50% criteria, seems sturdy,  as long as the battery life is decent, I’m going to give it a shot the next time we have a group hang.

 

[Edit~ I ended up getting right at 9 1/2 hours of total run-time for the YuHan Light Rope utilising both static and dynamic modes… and this was with only the one full charge on the 2200mA. cheapo battery. That should be plenty for two or three nights camping. I highly recommend this one!]

Cooling Breezes

Last August down outside Andover, Massachusetts at a group hammock hang, we had temperatures in the 90°s and extremely high humidity. It made for really uncomfortable sleeping… Heck, just hanging around was HOT!

Our friend, R3l@x had kludged up a half dozen computer fans powered by 12v batteries, and gave them out. They were kinda wonky… you had to wrap a wire around one of the terminals to turn them on, but they were a lifesaver in the August heat. I got this little fan sometime/somewhere last fall, remembering how hideous the heat was in our rigs down at at Harold Parker SF and wanting a nicer, more convenient, solution.

This one runs off of a USB powerbank.

I also picked up a “gooseneck” m-f USB cable, so I could focus the breeze where needed.

I turned it on yesterday at 4pm powered by this small Choix charger. Running non-stop, it just gave out at 8:25pm… GoalZero claims 5 hours on their own charger, so that is not bad. The Choix is older tech and not all that powerful. It’s like a charge one cell phone once unit.
The fan moves a lot of air and, while you can hear it hum, it is very quiet. You can feel the breeze from over three feet away. Hung on a hammock ridgeline or in a tent, you should definitely get some relief from the heat.

One speed. From GoalZero. Looks like it will do the trick.
I’m going to try it out tomorrow on a newer powerbank and see if I get a longer run, but this is pretty satisfactory.

I checked on-line, unfortunately REI is not stocking ’em anymore. I think that was where I got mine. You can still find ’em on Amazon, but they are getting a bunch more than I remember spending. The gooseneck was 4$ on Amz.
If you are looking for a more low-cost [90%/50%] solution, Amz has this alternative, too>> https://www.amazon.com/ARCTIC-USB-Po…498MG732WQG84A

[After a bit more poking around online, it appears that GoalZero actually has them on their own site for considerably less than Amazon…]

Fidget Cube : Fidgetively Speaking [2]… Conspiracy Theories

Because I had a lot of fun writing yesterday’s post, I thought I would continue to diverge from my usual offerings on here and indulge in some of the internet’s favorite claptrap…. Conspiracy theories. Those evil possibilities and perhapsifications about why you could get such cheap knockoffs before even the most optimistic Antsy Labs shipping guesstimates… and why you haven’t gotten your cube yet.

This is, of course, mostly for the benefit of those deeply disturbed people with too much time on their hands [like me] over on the Fidget Cube Kickstarter “comments” page who want to hash over every info-bit and nuance concerning “their Precious”, and obsess over their “backer numbers”. The rest of the world doesn’t give a rats ass.

So, conspiracy fans and Fidget Cube fanatics… what if :

  • Maybe Antsy Labs had already finished their R&D and had prototypes all ready for production in hand before they established the Kickstarter. “Hey, guys! I just realized we could set up a Kickstarter and sell a whole bunch of these for three or four times what we were thinking of wholesale! We are ready to go, so why not make some quick buckaroos off of a bunch of naïve patsies? We get all that money before we even go into production. Hookers and hot cars, here we come!”

I don’t think this one has legs. I truly feel that the boys at Antsy Labs, Mark and Matthew McLachlan, had completely good intentions. If they were actually this greedy, I don’t think their initial goal would’ve been a measly $15,000. “You might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb” as my old social studies teacher once told us. Do the math. At $20 each, they were only looking to produce 750 cubes total. This just ain’t your classic “fuck-you money”. I think that they hoped they would make enough of an nut to get into production, and then move on to ordinary sales at whatever price the market would bear. A number of folks would get their Fidget Cube early on, and hopefully talk it up… Just like every other Kickstarter. Instead, their campaign got picked up by every geek blog on the Internet and ballooned to $6 million almost overnight. I believe the simple truth is that there was no possible way that they could foresee that the project would be so overwhelmingly received and they were quickly overwhelmed by the logistics they faced.

  • $6,000,000 + KS buckaroonies in hand, maybe Mark and Matthew sent their prototypes out for bids to the Chinese manufacturers, or set up small production runs to look at QC and any possible changes that might be needed. The manufacturers, seeing a good thing right under their greedy little fingers, did the fairly commonplace Chinese piracy thing and slid a mess of these out the side-door into the secondary market. Clones on the march… and on the market before Antsy Labs had even determined their final design.

I’m pretty much okay with this one. It covers why there are visible design changes in the clones that people have posted, the Chinese manufacturer’s willingness to indulge in fakes, product piracy, trademark violations, etc. is an established fact, and it fits with what the self-admitted Chinese pirate “Jack” related in his interview.

  • Holding that second theory in hand, and returning to real conspiracy, a corollary possibility is that Antsy was culpable in the release of these “seconds” to the open market. They had made their bundle once their Kickstarter campaign had concluded. Our money was already in their hands. Anything beyond that could be viewed as gravy. “Why not make a little extra dough? It’s not like the supporters won’t get their reward…eventually. Heck, some of them might even buy one of our “fakes” out of curiosity before they get their genuine cube… especially if we slow down our shipping to the poor schmucks. Even a wholesale price is real money at this volume.”

Again, this is a little bit more Machiavellian than I think these guys really are.

  • Finally, there is the perfectly plausible answer that the guys at Antsy Labs got had. They didn’t apparently patent their design before moving toward production [if that was even possible given that the Fidget Cube is merely an assemblage of standard, existing parts, and not something entirely unique]. As already mentioned, Chi-clones of everything from video games to handbags is an established fact. Probably “Jack” and the rest of the guys in Shenzhen just plain, out-and-out, stole their design, rushed it to market [without AntsyLabs desire to refine the features to the n-th detail], and made a bundle.

I suspect that most of us can fairly easily believe that this is the most likely possibility. With the ridiculously low cost of Chinese manufacturing, even meager wholesale profits amount to crazy money over there. That guy “Jack”, scum bag though he may seem to us, is a very wealthy man by local standards.

Any of these may, or may not be, why you can get a cheap clone and you haven’t had your Cube show up in the mailbox yet. Regardless of anything concerning piracy, clones, conspiracy and the like, the job that Antsy Labs faces in delivering something around 300,000 fidget cubes to all the legitimate backers is pretty daunting.

Now… “Why you haven’t gotten your cube yet”:

You are an impatient bugger who has not read the updates, and/or has failed to realize that this whole process is now entirely out of both Antsy Labs and BackerKit’s bloody hands and has been outsourced to a number of localized distribution centers peopled by minimum wage minions who don’t give a rats-ass whether the cubes are stuck to the goddamn sticky pads or whether your precious plastic box is cracked. Your holy “backer number” doesn’t mean shit to them. Count yourself lucky if-and-when your cube comes that it is in the color you ask for. You will get it when you get it… if you’re really lucky you might even get a shipping notice. The clones and the genuine units that have already shipped have at least proved that the Fidget Cube is worth waiting for. The fact that some ripoff artists made something available for cheaper doesn’t change the fact that each and everyone of us bought into paying $19 plus shipping for our cubes when we subscribed. Chill out.

[BTW: I won’t be doing/taking any “comments” here on this Fidget Cube posts… Take those back to the KS page]