Christmas Swag… for the Elf

My lady, elfLiza, is a native Carolinian with little experience with the cold of the Nawthern Wintahs. The Xmas gnomes brought her a USB handwarmer.  It’s a bit of a mouthful as “Human Creations EnergyFlux Enduro Rechargeable Hand Warmer 7800mAh / USB Portable Charger Power Bank/ Flashlight”, so we’ll just call it the Enduro.

The Enduro is indeed all of those things and does each of them passably well.

The warmer function is accessed with a long press on the power button… a longer press yields the higher warmth level. I don’t find much difference in the hand, and would suggest the lower level to increase the length of heating cycle although the difference is represented as 6.5 hrs vs 7 hrs.
The red light blinks faster to indicate the higher heat.
The blue crescent of lights are the battery indicators.
It’s downside is that the battery takes 6-8 hours to charge up from zip, but you can basically use any USB source that’s handy.





The LED flashlight is accessed by a double-click, and turns off the same way. It is a decent enough directional light with sufficient power to get you around a dark campsite or room.

We haven’t had any need to use the Enduro as a USB powerbank, but I trust from the rest of the experience that it will also be perfectly satisfactory.


Our use shows that the hand warmer function heats up quite quickly… after 30 seconds you can feel the warmth and it is at “full” heat within only a couple of minutes. As I said, I’m quite satisfied with lower heating level. The elf likes it hotter.

I have used a Zippo branded, lighter fluid hand warmer since I was a kid. The Enduro surpasses the Zippo in heating temp by a fair bit. However, since one of my own most common uses is to tuck the warmer into my scarf, either under my chin, or against the back my neck, I actually prefer a slightly lower heat so that I don’t get scorched. You can very definitely feel the heat of the Enduro building up in a pocket.

[The other thing I like about my trusty old Zippo fuel heater is that I can hold the tip of my cigarette against the catalytic converter and light it.]

It is always nice to find a product that can fulfill several needs in one unit. The Enduro fits the bill.

A last “however” is that the Endoro is certainly another one that fails to meet my 90%-50% criteria even though the pre-Christmas sale price was considerably reduced from the current offering. But anything that keeps the elf up here in New England seems like a pretty good deal to me and the gnomes.

EDIT~ 45 days in use: this has turned out to be very good choice. I was quite content with the old-school fluid lighters until I found out how convenient it is to have a hand warmer that comes up to heat so fast, and turns off just as quick... the poor elf gets only about half the use of it. If she want to use it she has to keep asking me which pocket of which of my coats it’s in today…


Back in Stock… YUHAN LED Multi-Color Rope Lights

I know THESE rope lights get a lot of hits here on the blog, so, if you’re interested, they are finally back on Amazon at $15.99 these days [Aug 16th, 2018]

5′ long, sturdy, and you get 20 color changing options…. the image is the link>>

I still love mine. I’ll have them up again this weekend out on the lake for hammocking with some friends… they go just about every trip!

Hang Time Hook has been produced!

I am really excited to announce that my friend Eric Johnson’s Hang Time Hook has come out of development, through production and is now in distribution to vendors.

Eric was 3-D printing the prototypes of this in his basement, and everyone I know who saw them got one.

They are a niche product for those who use a hammock. However, if you hang in a gathered end hammock this is the balls.

The HTH allows you to hang your phone [or anything else you want] from the large clip, which then can be swiveled to whatever angle you need. [I mostly just use mine to keep my phone up and out from under me, and so I can conveniently touch it to check the time n the dark. It also works great with my GoalZero USB fan for hot nights!] Earbuds and glasses can hang off the tabs, and the large hole at the top will accept anything with a button sewn on. The whole clip can be slid along the ridgeline of the hammock and then “fixed” in place with a cordlock, but can still easily be moved as need dictates.

I suspect everyone who is going to the group hammock hang this coming weekend will be looking to pick up a finished product… I’m just hoping he brings enough in black.


A Tale Of Three Tool Kits~ Part One

I have often mentioned my 90%/50% Rule [If you can get 90% of the utility for 50% of the cost you’ve made a good deal]. However, I was also raised to believe in the idea that you should buy things for the long-term. This means purchasing with the idea of getting the best quality, and then not having to replace the item [at least for a long time]… especially for things that you know you will be using regularly. Ever since I started spending my own money, I have been a fan of L.L.Bean’ clothing, Sears-Roebuck’s “Craftsman” brand, Toyota, my Bark River and Grohman knives etc… established brands you know you can count on for not only the finest quality, but also for standing behind their products with good service and warranties. For me, most particularly, this policy has always taken the form of spending full price for excellent, professional grade tools.


Now that the Château is up for sale, I have been dealing with the collection of “Everythings” that has accumulated from four generations of my forbears, and however many families that actually includes. This also means that I have been selling off all the contractor’s grade tools that I’ve accumulated over the last four decades. And it means that since these tools were worthwhile when first purchased, they had a reasonable resale value, and I’ve been able to make a considerable amount back… I can’t call this “profit”, but I can call it a depreciated return on investment.

This is only a portion of the tools I had up for sale. By the time this photo was taken, many items had already sold.

Realizing that I would still want to do many things with power tools that I have done before, but not at the contracting type level, I have been looking into the new generation of 20V battery powered toolkits that provide a wide selection of tools. All of which are powered from the manufacturer’s proprietary battery system… you have to choose a product line or suck up the cost of multiple battery systems and chargers. One of the biggest advantages though is that there are no more grimy power cords to deploy and have snaking all over underfoot. [In the clean out I’ve found I had accumulated 14 of them, ranging in length from 10′ to 100′]

While I was in North Carolina with the Rev. elfLiza a Bosch drill-driver and impact driver set went on sale at an irresistible price point of $99 including a charger, two batteries and a “fitted” case. They were only 12V, but had the advantage of being much smaller in the hand that most of the 20v offerings. Since she lives in an urban setting where Amazons”Prime” means overnight delivery, I picked it up.

My buddy, TOG already had a similar drill driver from Makita that I really liked using, so I pretty much knew what I was getting… Decent power and the big advantage of being small enough to drop right in the pouch of my tool belt or stick in a hip pocket. While I had purchased the set with the full intention of leaving it behind in North Carolina for use down there, I discovered I liked it so well, and it was so small that I could tuck it under a seat, and it went in the car and came back to Maine with me.

I wasn’t wild about the little, squared off fabric case that came with the Bosch Combo, and I ended up I substituting a small Gladstone tool bag that I had up in a closet. It was a perfect fit for the entire kit… drill & driver, both batteries, charger, plus two sets of specialty drill bits and a DeWalt driver-bit set in a hard-shell case that I already had. Pretty much anything I am likely to want to do with a drill/drive can be done with what’s right in the bag. Despite their small size, the batteries charge up fully in just over a half an hour, so I can’t really imagine any work slowdown ever occurring at my expected level of use.

Additionally, I had an older set of Ridgid brand battery tools that I bought while I was building the Château.

IMG_4847This had the hammer drill, a smaller drill-driver, a 6 1/2″ circular saw and a work light, as well as the charger, three large batteries and two small. They were state of the art back then. I offered them up for sale both on Craigslist and at barn sales with the other power tools, but no one was buying, even at the decent price I offered. They all still run well and were great tools when they were purchased, but the batteries are now about two generations behind, and don’t hold a charge as well as they used to. I had tried several times to sell them all for $35, and have ended up hanging on to them more or less by default.

In retrospect, I’m grateful that no one took me up on the deal. My lady friend is coming up for several weeks from North Carolina, and I will simply send this set back down with her to replace the Bosch set that I absconded with. That way, that I will have perfectly OK tools available there until I make the actual move.


All this post is by way of preamble. Even with these two perfectly usable sets in hand, I knew that in the long run I was going to want something better and featuring a wider variety of tools to replace my pro setup. I had sufficient money from all of the sales of my other tools, so…

…and THAT will take us to Part Two of the series which I will post separately.

The Dewalt DCK694P2 20V Max XR 6-Tool Combo Kit Quick Review ~~ “A Tale Of Three Tool Kits”~ Part Two

This will be a broad look at the DeWalt Combo Cordless Kits. Reviews of the individual component tools will come as I get a change to work with them in the coming weeks.

After reading a lot of reviews, and looking at a lot of the various “Combo” sets in some of the big box home improvement stores, I ended up choosing to go with Dewalt’s 20 V Max “XR” system. Even then, it was a real problem choosing from all the varieties of kits offered. Not only do the tool selections very from kit to kit, but DeWalt also offers them in 18V as well as 20V, and brushless versus brushed motors.

See what I mean…?

I went through a lot of Internet research, and I’ll share some sources that I’ve found the most worthwhile right here in case anyone else is considering a similar purchase.

I finally limited my choice to two six-tool kits: the DeWALT DCK684D2 and the DEWALT DCK694P2.  They offer DeWalt’s heavier duty, brushless motors [the lower cost sets have brushed motors], and having the power I am used to from my contractor grade tools was one of my primary criteria. DeWalt claims that the brushless motors run far cooler, and have “run-time” between battery charges that can be more than 100% greater.

Trust me. There is a good bit of difference between these two very similar looking sets…

Since I was already well equipped in terms of drill drivers from the previously mentioned Bosch and Rigid sets [see Part One], the three tools that made the most difference to me as I tried to hone down my choices, were the reciprocating saw, the 7 1/4″ circular saw, and the new multi-use “oscillating tool”. The same three models were offered in each of these kits, so the real choice was down to the other amenities offered by the drill drivers and the battery sets.

[Interestingly enough, all most all of the tools seem to have LED lights built in, so the “work light” DeWalt puts into all the combo kits to boost the “tool-count’ is especially redundant]

There is a basic cost difference between these two sets of approximately $100 due to the bump from a 2Ah battery set in the x84 series of kits to a 5Ah battery pair offered in the x94s. The 694 kit also upgrades you to a hammer drill. A real “buyer’s remorse” concern with many of these DeWalt Combo sets arises from the fact that the prices on these can change up or down overnight and by as much as $50-$100 over the course of a month. If the price on a set “lurched” it could make it more or less desirable in an instant. After much obsessing, and way too much compulsive researching, last weekend it seemed that the price on the 694 set had dropped by nearly $100 overnight, bringing it to within $20 of the cost of the 2Ah one. I made my choice, pulled the trigger and placed my order.

…. And promptly screwed myself.

In my rush to buy I ordered the wrong set. I acted too quickly, and without reading in detail, without looking closely enough [ I probably had my glasses up on my forehead], and I ended up getting one of the x94 series hammer drill kits alright… but it was the four tool one that did not include the oscillating tool… that’s why all of a sudden the price was so inviting. My mistake was compounded by the fact that the particular Amazon vendor my order went through had only a 30 minute window during which you could cancel your order… of course I didn’t see the error until the next morning. And, of course, it was also Memorial Day weekend so their customer service was closed. You can probably guess… the tools shipped on Sunday night, and I couldn’t talk with CS until Tuesday morning. Despite the difficulties, and after some finagling, I actually found myself quite satisfied once the tools came and my final cost evaluation was done.

Eventually, I had bullied my way up through several levels of CS management with the seller and was able to get a 5% reduction in the charge on the cost of the 594 kit. Then I went ahead and ordered the oscillating tool as a “standalone kit” that also came with its own single 2Ah battery, a [2nd] charger, and a tote, as well as a plastic tote box of DeWalt brand O-tool blades, accessories, and some of their own proprietary shaped sandpapers. To finish replacing the corded tools I had sold, I also went ahead and ordered a nice, easily portable DeWalt 2 gallon wet/dry vac that operates both corded and cordless… since this was not included in any of the kits it made no difference in my final price.

This is my shot of the new gear fresh out of the boxes… no blades or accessories attached.

What I ended up with:

  • 996 hammer drill/ driver
  • 887 impact driver
  • 367 reciprocating saw
  • 570  7 1/4 inch circular saw
  • the new 355oscillating multi-tool with the bonus of everything that was included from buying a standalone kit
  • the 581 wet/dry corded/cordless vac
  • two charger bases [one not shown]
  • two 5Ah Max batteries and a single 2Ah one
  • [the only tool that has not been replaced so far is a jigsaw. The Bosch version that I sold was their top-of-the-line unit and I got a very good price for it on eBAY… so good in fact that my replacement cost is a “wash” when the DeWalt cordless unit drops back to levels I have already seen. Even more so if I choose to get a re-furb]

My total cost for all of these top-end DeWalt tools was only $65 more than if I had purchased the lower cost set [the one I had originally intended to get] together with the shop vac. I am satisfied because the cost is really deferred by the fact that I got the more powerful hammer drill, a total of three batteries and two bases including the higher powered batteries, and the nice accessories kit that came with the oscillating tool. All of the tools are about as good as I could get, and all of the expense was covered by the sale of the corded “contractors” tools, and the other accumulated tools I let go. [In fact, I will come out quite a bit ahead once all of the other extra contracting and shop stuff has sold or gone to auction]

Wrap Up:

Why I got the DeWalt lineup:

  1. All the sites I read reviewing the cordless tool “combo sets” from competing brands always placed DeWalt high at the top of their favorites
  2. I really wanted to stay with the larger 7 1/4″ Circular saw that I was used to, and I also have have a metric shit-ton of 7 1/4 inch blades for various materials that are still in excellent shape. In the circular saw comparisons that I read, the Dewalt unit was consistently the highest rated unit, and additionally, I had just never warmed up to the 6 1/4″ Ridgid saw despite its smaller, more handy size.  Other than the size, the argument is that the left-mount blade is easier to see and keep on track for most right-handed folks. I prefer the wider base on the board that the right-mounted blade on the 7 1/4″ saw gives. I have 40 years of practice looking down the back of my right knuckles. I can hold my speed square in place with my left hand, the saw is rock-steady on the board surface with no tilt-off,  and the cut off board end falls away to the right… that’s just “how I work”.
  3. The DWS570 circular saw unit also has a heavy aluminum base plate with flat edges rather than one that has been stamped out of lighter material where the edge curves up. This may seem like a small thing, but it makes it much easier to guide the plate with a speed square for more true and exact cuts.
  4. Lastly, I am really excited to try out all the stuff I can do more easily with the new Oscillating tool… small/tight sanding/ flush cuts/ scraping, etc. I want to do some furniture restoration and refinishing when  get to Carolina, and I think this tool will be perfect for those needs.

What I like about the tools comes right down to their convenience:

  • NO cords/Light weight…. I don’t know how many times I have put off doing a small job around the house simply because the set up, with the extension cords, power cords, the out-of-reach outlets and the heavy tools themselves made it seem so daunting. The trouble I had to go to seemed out of proportion to the accomplishment.
  • Anywhere/ Anytime…. I can carry a power tool up to the barn for a quick, one-board job with no hassle. I am done and back before I would have gotten set up with my contractor’s gear.
  • Quick Charge/ Long Use… My mistaken order actually got me the larger, 20V Max XR 5Ah batteries that I might have had to buy down the road. They are advertised to charge in only 90 minutes and the brushless motors on the x94P2 series tools are supposed to deliver incredible battery life and up to 100% longer run-time. Right now I cannot see any circumstance in which I could possibly run down all the batteries and end up “powerless” unless I intentionally left the charger or extra batteries behind.
  • I am already truly loving how easy the 2 gallon shop vac is to carry around and use. It makes staying ahead of my cleanup much simpler… and that makes the job go quicker.

The Cons:

  • the DCD996 Hammer Drill is likely over-kill for my probable use. Any need likely will be so limited that the old Ridgid hammer drill would have done just fine
  • I also suspect that time will tell me that I have no real need for any drill/driver chore that is bigger than I could have dealt with using the Bosch pair… those have surprising power for something that small and being only 12V
  • the 5Ah “Max” batteries weigh a hefty 1.3 lbs each which is a trade off of a considerable load in the hand for the long use between charges. They make the tiny Bosch pair look mighty inviting for any chore involving the drill or driver. [The whole Bosch drill with its battery only weighs 2.3 lbs.]

Right now, these tools a completely new to me. I have not had any time to put them through their paces and get a feel for them. For that reason I am not going to go any further with “reviews” of the individual tools.

Once they get some use, I will post my experiences and review each one individually.

Bonus Review To Come:

There is actually a fourth tool kit for me to talk about and review. In the things that were left in my barn several years ago [by a man who promised, “only for a little while” and, “I’ll pay you $25 a month”…. and then never did, and ended up unable to return at all] there was a LNIB Dremel 3000 Rotary Tool in a case, and with two full, and different, sets of accessories. I haven’t even had time to power it up, and it is still in the plastic bags inside the case. …Gotta get to that, too.

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.


Fidget Cube : Fidgetively Speaking … The Disappointing Finale

I am still in the running for the #lastdecemberstanding. We have gone through several updates with no solution to the shipping problems… and even the updates have been delayed beyond what could be considered acceptable.  I have become bored with the process. I am bored with the comment section. Following the KS comment page has turned into a pointless exercise that’s at least as frustrating as following politics. Nothing I say, do, or think is going to change anything. I had planned on doing a review on here of the clones versus the “real deal”.  I’m not going to bother anymore. Other people have pretty well saturated that niche. Who cares anymore? Each one of us likes what we like.

I am perfectly content with a couple of the clones that I purchased, and given all of the delays and frustration surrounding AntsyLabs failures to communicate and problems with shipping, I have absolutely no regrets at having gotten something to satisfy my needs in a more timely manner.

Now, my personal opinion is that the remaining December orders are lost in some kind limbo. I suspect they will simply be consigned to the March tier, and you will “get them when you get them”. I don’t expect AL to solve their problems for the remaining cube shipments.

I do continue to be puzzled with the fact that they somehow managed to send out 75% of their December tier orders in the last three weeks of January, and then could fail to ship the rest of them within the next five weeks.  Given that they have tens of thousands of units still to ship to March backers, this seems ridiculous, and doesn’t bode well for those still waiting. Sad Trombone…

On the upside… I was really pleased to see that so many of the large orders were intended for kids with autism and behavioral disorders. If AntsyLabs had kept better control of the details of their project, so that they had not been undercut by the clones, that alone would be a wonderful secondary market for substantial cube purchases. I took one of my clones with me to the dentist for my tooth cleaning yesterday. The hygienist asked to see it, fiddled with it, and said she’d have to see about getting a couple just to be able to hand them to people who were nervous in the dental chair. I doubt this was a type of market that ever entered AL’s mind until it came up in the comment section… pity they don’t seem to read the comment section.



Anyway, my bottom line is that I am no longer interested in following this project. I am outta here. This will be my last “Fidget Cube” post, and I’m going to close with two brief features.

The CUBE of the Future~ dreaming what it could be:

  • If the Breathe side would slide to extrude a USB memory plug from a cube edge, I’m sure it would make me the envy of the whole department.

    A “combination lock” spinning dial fidget on the Spin side. With a weight like the school locker spin dial locks. Would stick out more though... [these two from @RickyHaiku]

  • The luggage lock spinners should definitely unlock some added feature.
  • Bluetooth connectivity: all your fidgeting is recorded and statistically rendered on an odometer-style app for your phone. Every click, spin, wiggle down for posterity. Daily, weekly, monthly, lifetime statistics at your fingertips. You could try for 1 million button clicks in a month… The possibilities are endless.
  • Gyroscopic resistance/spin: there are already “exercise” balls available that do this.
  • “Fidget With A Friend”: your actions are BT mirrored on a friend’s cube.
  • A slot that would extrude single strips of bubblewrap to pop.
  • “Magnetic Levitation” over a base station for when you are not using it would be cool.

My Own “Dream” Cube~ [real (?) possibilities]:

  • The ability to engage/dis-engage the tactile feedback on the spinner wheel… Something in the form of click down/click up. I know a lot of people are enjoying the tactile feedback, however, one of the features I like on one of my clones is the complete “freewheeling” nature of the spinner. I can actually place it spinner side down, and twirl the entire cube.
  • Perhaps having three nubs on the face of the spinner wheel instead of a single one would let you twirl it more easily.
  • I would love it if the five buttons clicked up and down like a ballpoint pen.
  • Or if when initially pressed they would lock down, and you would press a different button to have the first pop back up.
  • The buttons definitely need to be rubberized; not made of hard plastic.
  • Having the joystick click up-and-down in addition to swiveling is an absolute “must-have”. Only one of the clones that I acquired does this… and when it is clicked down, the stick goes all floppy and loose. [Bad!]
  • I think the four corners of the meditation side could have individual textures like ridges or bumps and indentations. This would be a great addition for silent features.
  • One corner of the cube should have an indentation and a piercing to allow you to hook a key chain or cord.
  • The ball bearing should definitely be loose enough to spin in any direction, and absolutely must have the click feature. Again, there seems to be variation, even among the clones. Since this is my own dream cube, I would want to I have one position release the ball bearing enough that it would be able to free-wheel at a high speed.
  • The ball bearing could also be clicked to engage/disengage tactile feedback on the luggage-lock spinners. [this also would add to the silent features]
  • Barring that, perhaps only having the outer two luggage lock spinners have the feedback with the center one having some [but minimal] resistance. [and I want them to fit tightly enough that they don’t rattle]
  • On that point… The entire cube should not rattle if shaken!
  • The cube body should be made of one of the ABS materials like Delrin [not hard plastic], and the seams should all be tightly fitted.
  • More colors… Some of the clones already come in camo… The possibilities are endless.
  • And the popularity of the Limited edition G4mer cube shows that the use of more than one color for the features on any individual color cube would be really nice. The button side and the luggage locks spinners certainly just scream out for variation between the individual components.
  • A brass ball bearing and joystick would certainly look pissah on an ebony cube.
  • ABSOLUTE 100% QUALITY CONTROL SO THAT FEATURES ARE 100% STANDARDIZED ACROSS ALL UNITS !!! You shouldn’t make a purchase and discovered that the features on your unit are not the same as those others.


Just to close… Even with the prevalence of all the low-priced clones, I do not begrudge my $19 support pledge to AntsyLabs. THEY HAD A GREAT IDEA! My pledge was in within five minutes of seeing the post. They should, and have been, well rewarded.

Now, as the dolphins said just before the planet earth was destroyed by the Vogan constructor fleet, “So long… and thanks for all the fish”.

And as I say, “Onward Thru The Fog…”