New way To “Screw Up”

… or down, or sideways

Every now and again a tool guy just HAS TO buy a kewl new tool. This was my latest.

From Swedish maker BAHCO comes this sweet Model 808050S Magnetic Ratcheting Stubby Screwdriver with a bulb handle.

[The unit comes without any extras… the other stuff came right outta my tool box].

The driver itself is right at 4″ with a bit installed. Perfect for tight spaces, and I have always been a fan of a bulb handle for a better grip and the ability to add some palm force to better drive the screws.

This little guy really delivers on both. 

For those you who may not understand exactly what it ratcheting screwdriver is, it’s simple. Inside the metal collar between the body and the shaft of the screwdriver is a gearwheel and a locking cam. If the gray arrow points to the center, the shaft is locked, and operates just like a regular screwdriver. However, if you turn the collar to the right or left, the cam will slip backwards or forwards on the gear teeth allowing you to twist only your wrist instead of changing your grip on the handle of the screwdriver. On the BAHCO, the gearwheel has a very high number of teeth. It allows for very smooth movement and greatly reduces the chance of stripping out the screw head.

As far as I am concerned, the BAHCO folks absolutely nailed it with this product. Their ratchet driver has a good, solid weight in your palm without being heavy, and the ergonomics of grip and operation are equally great. You can change the rotation or lock functions just using a thumb and forefinger and without changing your handhold at all.

The bit tip is interchangeable for any of the standard bits you buy or that come with battery powered drill drivers. Flat, phillips, hex, star, square drive, Torx… whatever. You can even use shafted nut drivers or wrench sockets in mm or inch sizes. The Bahco’s shaft itself is magnetized to hold the bits securely without any chance of drop-out, but is not so strong that it is a bother getting them off to change.










I paired mine up with a slip-collar extension shaft [also magnetized] from an old drill-driver kit so that the whole unit really acts as a full length screwdriver as well. [The slip-collar slides up around a screw held in the bit and stabilizes it for one-handed driving… as the screw goes in the collar slips back down the length of the shaft]. Together with the little bit holder strip, it makes a nice pocketable kit.

I am fairly certain that this is going to be the one that is pulled out when I reach for a screwdriver from now on.

Truth Be Told Disclaimer: Nope. Didn’t get this one to fit the 90%/50% Rule


Putting a Fine Edge on Things… pt.2 ~ Stones and Sharpeners

Several months ago, I showed you my new Lansky System multi-stone blade sharpening kit. [Post linkI wanted to follow up on that one with some more info on getting a fine edge on your knives and other tools. These miscellaneous stones are what I have used for 50 years, but I have to admit that they pale in comparison to using the Lansky and some strops with different grades of compounds. The Lansky gives you the edge and the strops make it a piece of cake to maintain it. If you really give a blade a workout in the field you can go back to the Lansky quickly to set the edge again.

Over the years I have picked up many various stones and steels. And over the years I have afforded both better and worse alternatives. Additionally,  the technology has also advanced. My father and grandfather never had the option of diamond impregnated steel hones.

The “112” double-sided combo was my first, all the way back in the 1970s. The package has $1.19 as the price. It is a back-to-back, oil-impregnated grinding stone of man-made corundum compounds in relatively coarse and medium fine…. these are about 180-240 grit in the corresponding sandpaper grades. It’s a decent pair, but the resulting edge is still a bit rough. They also remove quite a bit of material, causing wear-down on the blades. The old 112 is my primary stone for finish edges on axes and machetes, and even my sickles and mower blades. I start those with a file, and I have an old piece of a terrazzo floor grinding stone that I picked up on a commercial jobsite back in the 1970s that I use for the medium-coarse honing on those heavier blades.

I had the small “Washita” stone and the black Arkansas one from my Grandfather, and these would let me further refine the edge… these two probably fall around 800 and 1200+ grit. For a long time my efforts were unknowingly frustrated by that gap in grits. The fine stones could not refine the still-too-rough edge by themselves.

At some point in the 1980s I got the three top stones. These were glued to a triangular block of cedar in a support frame. You just went from one grain to the next by turning the whole set. Very convenient, but over the years the stones started to detach from the block, and I finally cut the glue and cleaned them up to use individually. Like the 112, these need lubrication with oil to “float” the debris that is removed by sharpening. The “Tri-Hone” kit was from Smith’s and is still offered, but no longer comes on the nice cedar block with its accompanying cedar box. The gray Smith’s stones are Arkansas Novaculite* [the darker one is a man-made corundum].

*Novaculite is a dense, hard, fine-grained siliceous rock only found in the Ouachita [Washita] Mountains of central Arkansas and southeastern Oklahoma… hence the name. It is a Devonian to Mississippian-age rock unit that ranges from about 60 feet thick in the northern Ouachitas to about 900 feet thick in the southern Ouachitas. Outcrops of the Arkansas Novaculite Formation are prominent landscape features, and the stone was used and traded by the First Peoples along with the fine fire flints found from there west into Panhandle Country. Novaculite is chemically resistant, so lubricating oil and grit are easily cleaned off. WD-40 works wonderfully for this… grit just wipes right off to the original surface. These stones do wear down in the lower grades, although I have never had the problem in my use. However, they can be re-flattened by the user with wet-dry sandpaper in a similar grit mounted on a piece of glass.

Dieter Schmid Fine Tools has a great info page about all facets of natural and man-made sharpening stones, although it focuses on Japanese stones rather than Arkansas >> LINK


In this photo you can see some of the variation on my own set of Arkansas stones, although the photo-flash has changed their colors.

The top left is the Smith’s corundum, the yellow is their “ultra-fine”, and the mottled is mid-range. The older “black Arkansas” is at the bottom, but reveals far more color. It would be just below the yellow in grade. These probably range from 200-800.

My Grandfather’s small Washita stone is about 800-1000 grit. [It too still has a blue label with the original price of 29¢ penciled on it on the reverse side]


My next sharpening set was a mixed one from the 90s with a large medium diamond block from DMT, and two small diamond paddles from EZE-Lap. The paddles fill in “coarse” and fine grades.

Used together with a chef’s steel from the restaurant supply, these are what I have used to keep my kitchen knives sharp for the last couple decades [as well as whatever EDC knife and pocket tool I might be carrying at the time]. The diamond hones are excellent because they can be lubricated with water, resulting in easier, quicker cleanup when you are in the middle kitchen chores.

These are made by pressure bonding fine grades of industrial diamond grit right into a steel backing plate. Over time the grit can wear down with excessive use. For most casual users this will never be a problem. Harbor Freight currently offers both a three-grit set for only $9.99 and also a block mounted one with four surfaces. HF grades theirs from 180-360 on the 3 piece set, and 200-600 in the four. Either would be a super starter set for anyone. [DMT sets go over $100 on Amazon]

Along the way I had gotten the little pocket sharpener to take along in my pack. This one is a clone of a similar one offered on Amazon from Smith’s. They have a pair of carbide blades set in a V and a second set of rods in ceramic. I am not a big fan, because the angle is fixed and can do more damage than good. Fine for a beater maybe, but not on anything good.

The diamond rod sharpeners are from EZE-Lap. This is their M-model in solid brass. They also make an aluminum version that is marginally lighter for take-along. The rod and collar store securely in the brass sleeve, and reverse/screw-in for use. The open one dates from the 80s, and the grit is wearing off. Given that this has always been a “go-to” sharpener in my gear bag, that’s a decent lifetime. However, EZE-Lap offers a lifetime guarantee, and they recently sent me a brand new replacement. [I had to send back the sleeve as proof-of-purchase, but they were happy to return it with my new one. Took about ten days… I do love good customer service] The EZE-Lap M is a great piece of kit. You can give a blade a few quick lappings, either forehand or back, either into the blade or away, and get a nicely refreshed edge with nearly zero wear-down on the blade.


The Project Knife Update #1-2

There has actually been some slow but steady progress being made. I started out a couple of weeks ago, and then got hung up on the rest of my life commitments…

The first steps involved “stabilizing” the leather handle. No disks were actually missing, but there were small gaps between some, behind the brass guard, and right at the front catalin disks. I worked some Gorilla Glue into some of the gaps to start with. I also used some braided casting line with the GG to wrap-and-fill behind the guard. Then I switched to furniture glue as it could be thinned and put in on a razor blade.

This first photo shows where I have glued and then tightened up and worked the spaces between disks to give a single, dime-thick void. I filled this with black “Sugru”.




I finally had some time this morning, so I taped off the catalin decorative disks, the pommel and the guard with painters tape to protect them while I broke out a rasp, a file and the disk sander to get serious with reshaping the now tight and secure leathers. [You can see the Sugru infill there in the center]


For safety while grasping, I also put a pair of duct tape strips up the edge of the blade and covered them with a third layer folded over.

Here we are after some heavy rasp work, some filing, and a go with 220 grit on my Porter-Cable orbital.

After making most of those dark rings there between the disks go away, I moved on up to 400 grit.







Just cleaned up with a rag to get off the sanding dust, I am pretty pleased with the progress so far. You can see the shine already coming up on the leather. The grip in the hand feels fine, with no real change from the very slight material removal. Sure, the Sugru infill is always going to show as a souvenir of the renovation, but that just adds character.

There are some more spaces that showed up in the catalin disks by the pommel, and the down slopes across the catalin on both sides at the guard need to be brought up to the 400g level by hand.

In the center photo you can see how nicely the decorative disks come back. So, my next play is to work a last bit of glue into the gaps, lightly file off the residues, and work down those front slopes to match the rest.

The Project Knife Arrived

The semi-Bowie blade shape is just what I was looking for to add to my arsenal. Whatever it’s unknown age might be, the shape is the one popularized by the WWII “M3” combat blades issued to the US armed forces, and made by a number of quality knife companies including Camillus, Case, Ka-Bar, and Cattaraugus Cutlery. This one lacks the concave “blood groove” along the upper blade that marks the fighting knives. It is also shorter at 6″ as opposed to the M3 mil-spec standard of 6 3/4″.  As such, mine was probably [hopefully] made in the 50s-60s as a hunting or Boy Scouting knife. I had one very similar back in my own scouting days.



My EBay seller did not make it clear that the sheath was “non-original”, and had been modified to allow easier slashing of your pants leg.



In the upper photo I laid my fully sharpened Buck 692 over the new blade. It is obvious that there is not much on the way of an edge left on the new guy. You can see arm hairs from shave-testing the edge on the Buck… NO chance of that on the n00b. Although it is not really as obvious from the long angle of the shot, the new knife has very little if any damage to the point. It hasn’t been over-abused, just neglected and poorly sharpened/ maintained.

The classic aluminum pommel has a the Ka-Bar shape that I find really appealing… less rounded off than some scouting type knifes. It too shows no sign of abusive handling. Thank god it didn’t have the dreadful, disgruntled eagle pommel that got put on too many Boy Scout knives back in the day.


FullSizeRender 24The stacked leather on the handle is still tightly compressed with no missing disks, no gapping between the disks, and not dried out. I particularly like the finger grooves. They are a feature that I had not seen in the seller’s photos. The three color, plastic stacks at each end are right purdy as well.


I will want to do some overall smoothing with a file and high-grit sandpaper to even out the grip, and then finish it with a soaking coat of urethane.

This is what a brand new “stacked disk” handle looks like.

Here’s hopes that the project knife might make a come back to something similarly good looking.



In conclusion, the “project” knife is just about what I hoped to get for the money [$22 shipped]. The biggest question is of course that of the steel grade used, and with no quick way to evaluate that beyond re-edging it and then seeing how the blade holds up to use. The good news is that the overall construction seems to be of a quality that would at least imply a decent grade of steel was used in the build. It could be German Solingen. I know they made plenty of blades in this style, but “unbranded” for use by a variety of US companies.

Other than that, there are no glaring problems to be seen. I know what my knowledge, skills and tool kit are capable of… I don’t think there are any real obstacles to ending up with a highly usable, and nicely restored knife at far less cost than buying one new. Plus I get the satisfaction of the process. I’ll keep updating as I work on it.

Of course, I am gonna have to buy a new sheath! [$9 on Amazon].

[Quik Note~~ I was wrong about how bad the blade was. A fast whetting on my kitchen steel and I sliced up onions, carrots, and beef for stew just fine. It’s a bit thick in the blade for real kitchen use, but already good enough for my camp cooking chores]


Let Us Now Praise “Forums”


If you want to find out the most information, in the least time,  yourself a favor and add the word “forums” to your search… as in “blah-de-blah forums”.

A couple of years ago, I sold a yard tractor that I had owned for 15 years. A quick search using the phrase “Wheelhouse/Toro forum” provided me with lots of eager advice from other people and lead to a sale right there off the forum for far more than I had hop ed.

Last weekend, I purchased a Bowie knife off of eBay. Prior to making my purchase I did a lot of research in knife and blade forums. A little bit of research allowed me to not make mistakes in my purchase, and find myself one that I believe is a real value.

I am going to be moving. This presents me with the tedious chore of disposing of several generations of XXX These internet forums are my source of information to aid me in determining reasonable prices and values.

I am currently selling some old 19th Century muzzle-loader guns, a samurai sword and a collection of Civil War letters-home. In each case, a quick check for the appropriate forums gave me some sound guidance to make the most of my offerings. I learned that the gun was an 18th century “Pennsylvania” style cap-and-ball farm gun that had been converted from a flintlock. It sold to a collector on there who was thrilled to get, it at a price I could live with to just “make it go away!” The letters went to a reseller in Boston after I learned they were certainly of interest to collectors of Civil War ephemera… again at a better and more fair price than I would have taken if offered

Try it for yourself. Even if you just want a new set of headphones, “headphone/stereo forums” will give better advice than just searching for something like “headphone reviews”.

Restoration Project Knife Inbound

I have been looking for a good project knife to restore as an exercise in what “can’ be done to bring a blade back to life.

I picked up this Boy Scout type semi-bowie for just over $20 on EBay. Nothing glamorous, but it truly needs work. Just a quick look shows that the blade will want a complete new edging, and the handle needs to be reprofiled.

It is also a great chance to really work out the Lansky System sharpener I got last Fall and my other stones, etc, to see just how good my licks are.

Overall, it appears to be good bet for a project… the handle looks to be tight and not too dried out, the steel is not pitted, and even the sheath is in OK condition, although I may pick the stitching and resew it. So… “nothing ventured, nothing gained”.

I’m looking forward to this, as I have wanted a large/long blade for a while now and this one harkens back to knives I had as a kid [and have no idea what became of].

I’ll get some photos when it comes this weekend and let you know how it goes.