Once More… WTF ?

As my late friend “Uncle”Jimmy used to say:

“Sure… you could do that.

I wouldn’t, but you could.”

Neither U-Jim nor I would buy this knife… but some guy on the camping/hammocking forums over at FB sure did. Right proud of it, too!

This almost deserves a new tag all of it’s own… “more money than sense”.

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.

You Get What You Pay For…

Another purchase from the strange Hong Kong jobbers 11-11 sale was these three small “neck knives”.

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They are badly executed copies of the fairly classic C.R.K.T/Doug Ritter Mk5. They sacrifice the Ritter’s Kydex sheath for one of a reasonably decent leather, and claim to be 420-C steel, but they really don’t measure up. On one of the units they had failed to even bother feeding the lanyard cord through the eye on the handle. It may not even be fair to call these Mil-Tec knives copies. They make no representation, other than visually, to be a Mk5. And there are certainly omissions. Notably in the lack of the jimping [those little slits for grip] on the spine and finger choil, and the missing blade holes for lashing to a pole.

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Side-by-side with my several year-old original/genuine knife, you can see some of the differences right off. The biggest being that the Mil-Tec ones are severely ground in a “sabre”cut [the blade thickness is reduced toward the edge by grinding the flat down before adding an even steeper angle to be finished for sharpness]. The Ritter is fully flat, tapering smoothly from the spine down to the edge-grind. The Chinese units are abysmally dull. The sabre-cut is not even taken down far enough to overcome the overall thickness of the knife blank. The edge cut ends up being far too steep to give a decent cutting edge without refinishing. You can see the difference in the blank thickness in the first photo below. The Ritter starts out with a thinner blank at the spine, and the finished knife is also longer and much more evenly tapered than the Mil-Tec version. Then, in the second shot, you a can see that the sabre-cut portion of the Chinese blades even retains the rotational curves of the grinding machine. Where on the Ritter you can barely make out the edge-grind at all, on the Chinese version it is quite obvious.

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HOWEVER… [you were expecting a however, weren’t you?]   It is exactly that extra blade thickness that will give these knives their redeeming point.

I have never seen the point to wearing a “neck-knife” that dangles with the handle pointing down… they seem to invite loss in a messy situation. My intention instead is to include these clones in Altoid can sized emergency kits. If you have read the posts previously on here about survival/emergency kits you will understand that I always include a mini-multitool of the Leatherman Micra/Gerber Dime variety in the ones I make up for myself or for friends. These minis already have a good blade for cutting, along with the other tools. I want the “Mk5’s” for their usefulness in batoning [splitting] small-wood for fires. Their edges can easily be sharpened up to that point, and that extreme blade thickness makes them sturdy enough to stand up to the pounding. I was looking for a tool… not any refinement.

I think that getting a fire together can be the single most important part of an emergency situation. Getting some wood larger than twigs is vital to an efficient fire. The wood inside is almost always drier that that outside… hence quicker to get burning. Those little multitools are great. You can easily run up a feather-stick to catch fire, but I like the idea of something small but sturdy to get some bulk on there as well.

The final “however” here is that the sale price of all three Chinese knives was less than a SuperMochaFrappucinnoHalfCafHalfDecaf at your local coffee house… $5.64US. At that price they are just fine. You get what you pay for.

Yard Fire…

IMG_0749 I am really happy with the whole kit I have put together over the last year for fire-making, so, tonight I put aside the ax and hatchet that usually get used out at the firepit in the yard and pulled out the pack stuff to have a go at a “backwoods” sized campfire.

You have seen the Kershaw “Camp Knife” [10″] and the Buck #692 in posts last year >>hit up the tags-list on the right for “Knives”>>>.

I recently picked up a Bahco “Laplander” saw [buy on Amazon] for chunking out lengths for splitting… works a charm. A 2-3″ limb cuts in less than 20 seconds with little effort.

The orange pieces are Chi-clones of an “ExoTac” nanoSTRIKER and their match-safe… and I love the burnt orange anodization for finding them in dim light. At under $10 the pair, instead of the ExoTac site prices of $27 and $24, I think I scored OK on the 90/50 criterion I try to go by [90% utility for 50% >or less< of the price is a GREAT deal]

Emerson/Kershaw CQC-6K mid-size folding knife

I have been looking for a knife that would fit someplace between my little CRKT EDC blade and the big Buck 692 Vanguard that I use for working up smallwood for my stove. It’s a mil-spec classic Goldilocks problem… the 2 1/4″CRKT is too small, and the Buck is too large to want to tote along some of the  time.

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I need to say that I have never owned a midsized folding knife [like the Buck 110 and its descendents and imitators]. Prior to the advent of the side/pocket clip I had always carried multi bladed knives like a Stockman, an old-style Boy Scout knife, or a Swiss Army style. They are great for whittling, small chores and general messing about, but they are not much for bushcraft. Then I moved on to single blade, clip-on knives for my EDC needs and belt-hung multi-tools for utility. Neither of these are great for bushcraft/woods-craft either.

When I saw the reviews by Tony Sculimbrene over on Everyday Commentary and the Xaviers on More Than Just Surviving for the Emerson/Kershaw CQC-6K,  I was fairly certain that I had found my perfect solution. They recommended it as a truly great deal without breaking the bank. While their tastes and budgets can frequently run to products far above my pay grade, I have found their reviews to be fair and impartial, and right on the money with my own opinions when I have had a chance to see products they have reviewed firsthand.

I took their suggestions that this knife was an excellent value for the price and picked one up over on Amazon for about $30. I may have more to say, in more detail, about it later, but for right now I just want to give my early impressions of the knife and I would certainly suggest you to read the fully detailed reviews on the two sites I linked above.

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I can start by simply saying that this is a wickedly good-looking knife. The blade has a great shape. The incredibly sharp point swoops gracefully into a dead flat cutting section for the rear two thirds of the blade. This means that the front two thirds of the knife will slice easily into material, while the rear two thirds allow for vigorous force to be applied. I love the  decision that Emerson/Kershaw made in using the G-10 material only on one side of the knife. The scale gives a nice grip where a right-handed person’s fingers wrap around the handle and the soft glow of the stonewashed steel on the clip side is a pleasure to behold. It’s also nice to be able to see the clean lines of the locking mechanism. The locking mechanism itself secures the blade open with not even the slightest sense of wiggle, but it allows the blade to be freed and then closed with no effort at all. When you look down on the closed blade it is perfectly centered within the frame.

The knife fits in your hand quite naturally. The gimping cuts run across both the top of the handle and the back of the blade and align perfectly. They are rugged enough to allow firm thumb pressure, but have been rounded down sufficiently to not feel too rough or harsh enough to cause hotspots on the ball of your thumb. The finger choil is set back into the curvature of the handle and not right behind the blade. It’s almost impossible to imagine your finger slipping forward under the blade even under force.

The CQC features Emerson’s “Wave” deployment assist “hook” on the back of the blade, and utilizes a small disk screwed to the top of the blade in place of the thumb boss that gets used on most knives. I am a bit ambivalent on both of these features. I have used old school pocketknives for so long that I am completely in the habit, and am completely comfortable, with using two hands to open the blades. I am not a “tactical” kind of guy. At 65 I still have never found myself in a position of needing to flip out a knife, blade already open, and to commence to some kind of crazy Shaolin/ninja/kung fu BS. As a result, I find myself a little concerned that the vaunted “Wave assisted deployment” feature will just result in me pulling the knife out of my pocket only to have it flick open on its own accord, either slitting my jeans, cutting my leg open or slashing my belt and causing me to inadvertently drop trou. This may take some getting used to, and might be something that gets addressed when I get around to second opinions.

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Here you can see my three knives lined up showing the relative sizes, and the weight and thickness of the blades. It also lets you see the thumb deployment disk on top of the CQC blade. Since I cannot see myself using the thumb disc on a very frequent basis I will probably remove the screw and set it aside. [E/K sent an extra set of slightly longer screws that will allow you to move the pocket clip to the scale side of the knife. I have seen in some of the comments that some folks either misplaced these or failed to notice them in the packaging, and then were complaining that the existing screws were too short to move the clip. I got mine! … Anyway, I’ll just toss the disc into that little baggy in case I change my mind]. My major reason for removing the disk is that it prevents nearly 5/8 of an inch of the blade from sliding through a stick of wood. This is nearly 25% of the length of the 3 1/4 inch blade. Since batoning sticks to work up firewood is one of the major chores that I envision using the knife for, that’s a substantial reduction in its utility.

That’s pretty much all I have to say. I like this knife and I think that it will fit into my kit well. If I am planning on being out for extended periods of time, I will of course take along the Buck 692. It’s much heavier duty, but I think that the CQC-6K it’s going to suit me quite well for those in between times. Absolutely everything in its fit and finish, including the fact that it was razor-sharp out of the package, belies the fact that the knife only cost $30. Elegant appearance, ergonomic form, efficient utility, high quality materials, and great execution… the CQC-6K seems to have it all.

Now in conclusion:  Some of you clever readers might have noticed that in the top photo there is a second knife shown already open.  The first unit that I received, the one shown open, did not close with any sense of detent. There was no snap, or click. No “chunk”, or thump. The knife blade simply revolved smoothly back into the handle… and drifted open just as smoothly. NOT SAFE!  I asked both Tony and the Xaviers if they had experienced this and if it was just a standard feature on the CQC. They were both kind enough to get back to me almost immediately, and assured me that the knife was supposed to snap closed with a certain sense of actual closure. I contacted KIA and they got back to me almost immediately as well, confirming that this must be a defect or a poor adjustment. KIA said that they would be happy to replace the knife, but I elected to return it through Amazon since the wait time was considerably less. The new knife does indeed close with a smooth snap, so we can add in solid support from the manufacturer and vendor to the CQC’s attributes.

 

“Not fair! not fair!” he hissed. “It isn’t fair, my precious, is it, to ask us what it’s got in its nassty little pocketses?”

Gollum’s opinion aside, the “EDC Dump” of the contents of someone’s pocket seems to be a fairly ubiquitous feature on most gear blogs. So… here’s mine–

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  • Old Tumi Card Case as wallet, with a Hopi money clip that I bought 20 years ago on Third Mesa.
  • Aluminum vial for Nitroglycerin Rx that I haven’t needed to use in 10 years. [Amusingly, you can get these as “LDS Silver Matte Aluminum Oil Vial for Concerated Olive Oil & Priesthood Holders of All Ages, Elders & Priests, Annointing, Blessing & Healing the Sick” and pay $3.99 each plus $3.99 shipping… OR you can buy them as “SE-Small Pill ID Holder” in a pack of five for $4.32/shipped… Grab a five pack, you’ll find plenty of things to use them for]
  • Solid silver Navajo bracelet- “old pawn” that my wife bought me as a gift in one of the pawn shops in Gallup, New Mexico back in 2002.
  • Burt’s Bees Lip Balm- easily the best of all of the chapstick-like products. The tube always lasts a lot longer than the label does.
  • Gerber Ripstop knife– $10 bucks on Amazon get you a pretty good clip-on beater. This is new to my carry in the last couple of weeks. I wanted to try something with partial serration to replace the similarly sized, Ed Halligan designed, CRKT H.U.G.
  • Leatherman Squirt P-4 – I am pretty sure that this one has been “replaced” with the PS-4, which features a pair of scissors, but at the expense of giving up an awl, and the dedicated phillips screwdriver tip. After what must be nearly 20 years of carrying the P-4, I am just too used to the tool selection to want to change. It probably gets used 6 to 10 times a day.
  • Old, generic Czechoslovakian pipe tool. If you smoke a pipe, you need a pipe tool. [Needless to say, my every-day carry also features a pipe… I won’t bore you with which of the 50 it might be]
  • MX Power ML-108, 150 lumin, AAA LED Flashlight- I gave this a passing review a few months ago. It is a cheap Chinese beater [$10 shipped], but it can’t be beat for dependability, and the quantity of light that it throws.
  • Omega SeaMaster watch with the “ocean-blue” dial. The last gift my mother gave me.

All of these are always in my front two pockets and on my wrists. Depending on the day, what I’m wearing, where I’m going, and what I’m doing, a few other things may come along for the ride… that almost always means carrying a lighter.

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It is most commonly one of the DJEEP disposables. A friend turned me on to them a few years ago, and I like the form factor, since it’s so resembles the Zippos that I had used for years and years. At various times it will get subbed out for an actual Zippo… This brass one is one of the several I have. And last year my tobacco company tossed in a couple of freebie, butane pipe lighters, complete with pipe tools, in an order I placed. They hang out in the pockets of my hoodies, and the coat that I wear out onto the porch to smoke in.

In the “Sometimes” category are the Fisher Space Pen, a little leather bag with a skull [that I carved from Taugua nut], and an antique, 19th-century Chinese jade, “fingering” piece for the fidgets.