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.

 

Bark River Knives~ Adventurer

Despite my previously avowed distrust/dislike of neck knives, when I was at our annual Lobsters and Lighthouses hammock hang last month, I saw a “necker” belonging to a friend, and absolutely fell in love with it. It was the original Adventurer from Bark River Knives, out of Escanaba, Michigan, in the UP. BRK produce a wide range of knives, but always in limited runs. When the distributors run out, it’s “Sorry, Cholly”. … and I really liked that knife!

When I got home, I mulled it over for a couple of weeks while drooling at the on-site photos and weighing the options of one kind of handle material over another… BRK also makes their knives with any number of handle materials as well as choices in the rivets that hold the handle scales to the full-length tang, but they only sell through distributors.  Knives Ship Free, where I was looking to buy, shows each knife individually, and that is the knife you will get. So, you can actually choose from variations in burl, woodgrain, etc. and get that very knife. Mine was fairly plain to keep the price down… especially since I was already spree-deep in the realm of both a birthday and Xmas gift to myself.

I ended up getting the simple Green Canvas Micarta scales in Bohler Elmax steel… I like the look, the grip is excellent, and Elmax takes a fine edge and is easy to maintain. It came with the neck sheath included.

While the shadow in this photo makes it look otherwise, the blade flows smoothly into the handle there at the choil… there is no guard

Overall Length:   6.775″
  Blade Length:   3.250″
  Cutting Edge:   2.675″

 

The Adventurer, like the majority [possibly all] of BR knives, has a full convex grind. This means that the blade curves gently from the spine all the way into the edge. There is no perceptible edge grind at all… just that smooth curve. It means that it is simple to maintain a razor edge by “whetting” the blade on a strop rather than “grinding” it on a stone. [There will be a post on knife sharpening techniques coming right up]  The spine has side edges that will throw a great spark off a ferro-rod for fire starting, and the whole knife is beyond sturdy without crossing over into bulky. There is a nice, comfortable finger choil between the blade and grip, and good jimping on the spine for your thumb to get purchase in heavier work. Even though the handle portion is only about 3 1/2″ long, [this is not a BIG knife], the finger choil section at the rear of the blade makes the knife superbly holdable. It effectively lengthens the handle by a 1/2″. The balance point is right at the forward rivet, so, it dangles nearly weightlessly on your middle finger.

There is a great, more fully detailed review of the Adventurer done by Anthony Sculimbrene at “Everyday Commentary” that features his “point system”… he gives it his full 20 out of 20.

I have never been able to see the appeal in buying an expensive knife, wearing it around my neck and taking the risk of it dropping out unbeknownst in the middle of an outting. I like the perceived convenience of a neck carry, but I have always carried my blades in my hip pocket with a tether-toggle looped over my belt. I can’t really “whip it out” to take on a grizzly bear, but I haven’t lost a knife in the wild in 40 years… neither have I been assaulted by ANY kind of wildlife.

However, it seems that Bark River has come up with a simple and secure method of truly minimizing that chance of loss, and it won me over…

They placed a strong, rare earth magnet between layers of the sheath. The knife remains easy to slide out of the sheath, but the snug grip of the leather combined with the grab of the magnet make accidental “drop-out” next to impossible. [It does take two hands to replace the blade… sharp as the Adventurer is you would otherwise risk self-inflicted open heart surgery.] As you can see in the photo below, the magnetic assist really does work well.

I love the included sheath. Premium leather, stacked at the sides, well shaped and formed to the knife, strongly sewn, and with two secure brass rivets to pass a neck cord through, the sheath can also be easily carried upright in your pocket. Mine has taken on a really nice patina in only the several weeks I have had the knife… I wear it everyday, down my shirt, outside a tee if I am wearing one. The only treatment I have given it is regular smears of “body-butter”… I literally wipe the grease from alongside my nose into the surface with a thumb or fingertip. It has darkened and richened the leather slightly, and the sheath has become more supple without loosening the grip on the handle at all. You can see something of the difference between the two photos. The topmost was right after I got the knife, and the “dangle” was taken today. I don’t like using waterproofing boot waxes like SnoSeal and Mink Oil on sheaths. I’d rather my sheaths take on their character from their interaction with me, just like a fine leather saddle takes it’s own from the rider and his horse.

 

In conclusion:

Not ever owning a comparably costly knife before, I have nothing to compare my Bark River Adventurer to. I does prove to me that there is practical, useable quality to be had in the high-end knife offerings. I had written them off as expensive toys, too expensive for actual use, for the collectors to hoard. My Adventurer does not even approach the cost of some other collectable knives. Heck, with it’s less-than-fancy handle, it doesn’t even go far up on BRK’s own price scale.

Of course, this means that it also well out of the range of my 90%/50% “rule”. However, for me it is as close to a perfect knife as I will probably ever get, want, or need. It is a truly a “lifetime buy”.

I love this knife as much each time that I pull it out of its sheath as I did when my friend first handed me his. It is so well executed that you have no real perception that it is not a full-size knife. It is a joy to hold, and to use………

I don’t think you can go wrong with the Bark River Adventurer.

 

Adventures with the Thread Injector

In the world of camping DIY, a sewing machine is referred to as a thread injector… the process is called fabric welding. This sounds a little less wimpy than telling people you have been sewing.

To encourage myself to buckle down and actually git’er’done on the pile of fabric and parts that had been sitting on the end of the dining room table for the better part of three weeks, the other day I started a thread on Hammock Forums called “Thread Injector Log~~ Stardate:____”.

I did the ritual 15 minutes to thread the needle/accidentally pull it out the thread/rethread the needle…, but after the first hour I had gotten some stuff done.

  • L&L patch on bag
  • Patched tear in sq. bag
  • Fixed jellyfish bag
  • Made mesh pouches bag

One rat-nest on jellyfish bag

Another hour:

 

  • Really coffee-d up!
  • Reworked two BlingBags
  • Patched and adapted old yard chair bag to hold ALite chair

 

 

 

By lunch:

$5 kids 6′ hammock from FiveBelow°, repurposed to gear-mock.

 

 

 

  • “knotty-mod on both sides
  • 2 and 3 mesh pocket organizers… one sewn-on/ one prussic-ed on ridge
  • 58″ Zing-It ridge~ tied into channels w/ 8″ to 4′ whoopies on each end
  • 2- $$Tree 4′ dog leashes for straps w/ toggles

 

By dinner time: made a gear-mock tarp~ 64″x 56″ /rock pockets on all four corners/ it will get kam-snaps about 6″ down the sides below the suspension, and tieout tapes on all four corners [in case of really blowy weather]

Don’t stand too close and it don’t look too bad.

Next day:

“Bedding day’:

  • 60″x 70″ Costco Down Throw converted to UQ. Trimmed 3 sq of width, which gave massive, doubled draft collars at each end/1 1/2″ grosgrain tape and ripstop for channels/ standard UGQ~HG suspension…
  • Gathered end “hot-nights” sheet from Chinese terminal sleeping bag *. …Single layer, pongee cotton-poly/ trimmed off hood/ stripped zips and re-hemmed all around/ gathered, drawstring footbox
  • Couple of small repairs and adaptations on  other junk

 

I want to try the UQ out a couple of times before I commit to ripping thread between squares to make continuous down channels. May be fine like it is.

*[these are what the folks take incase of delays/layovers on the long, crowded trips back home over the Chinese winter holiday. They are basically just a 1/2 zip sleeping bag made of heavy sheeting material with a hood to stuff a coat into as a pillow. Really cheap [$7US], easy to wash or even toss, but are quite soft and comfortable… perfect for this use.]

Pillow Talk

Stuff: new 9.7oz down jacket [faux GhostWhisperer… seen/reviewed in post below…scroll down] and an old [very soft/ single side-seam/ round bottom] OT250* compression sack … use scissors… 40 seconds.
Yield: 12″x 5″dia/ 10.3oz downy-soft pillow… basically free.
[I]I left one strap long pending inspiration/determination of attachment for hammock.[/I]
It will stuff down further into the jacket’s own stuff sack…. just bigger than a soda can, and I’d carry the jacket anyway.

 

* Ozark Trail 250 [fill weight] down sleeping bag. Retailed at $89 at WallyWorld a few years ago. Mine was on “red-tag” since someone had pulled the cardboard info sleeve off… $59, I think. An incredible value. Anyone who was able to pick one up at that point, got an amazing deal. Wally hit it outta the park on this one! Super soft, down-proof fabric/ 700+ duck down/ very light/ stuffed down small/ claimed temp range was 32°… more like 40°. Perfect 3-season bag, and very easy to turn into a TQ for hammock camping. You can find my original review under “sleeping bags” in the nav sidebar…

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.