Friday, December 31, 2010

Review - Buck Vantage Select

A nicer everyday carry (EDC) knife, that perhaps you may not have heard about, the Vantage Select by Buck is a great EDC choice if you want a blade that is a little larger, but still very comfortable.

The Vantage Select, by Buck, is a great EDC folding knife.
The Vantage Select is part of the Vantage series of folding knives. The knives is this series vary in their blade steel and handle material. At the less expensive end is the Vantage Select, which has a 420 HC Stainless Steel blade and glass reinforced nylon scales. Then, you have the Vantage Avid, which uses 13C26 Sandvik Stainless Steel and Charcoal Dymondwood handles. To top it off in price and in the quality of the materials is the Vantage Pro, which has a S30V Stainless Steel blade and glass reinforced nylon scales.

All of the Vantage series of knives have the same appearance and dimensions and they only differ by their constructed materials. While I do not have experience with the Vantage Avid and the Vantage Pro, my experience with the Vantage Select should reflect on the rest of the knives in the Vantage series, since they all share the same design and dimensions.

The Vantage knives have stainless steel liners.
Speaking of dimensions, the Vantage Select is a large folding knife, like I mentioned earlier. It's drop point blade is 3.3" long, with a 4.4" handle. The blade grind starts very near to the spine, which make the knife great for slicing through materials. I particularly like the blade shape on all of the Vantage knives.

Moving on to weight, the Vantage Select weighs 3.9 oz, which is not very heavy to for a knife of this size. Some of the weight is due to the stainless steel liners that reinforce the scales on the knife. These steel liners add rigidity and strength to the knife handle.

The blade locks open solidly with a liner lock. Opening the blade is also very simple. There is a flipper on the blade of the blade, reminiscent of the flippers that Kershaw and CRKT has on many of their knives. For those who prefer using their thumbs to open their knives, there is also a thumb hole in the blade, very similar to what Spyderco has. In this way, the Buck borrowed great ideas from many knife companies when designing the Vantage.

The Vantage knives are usually carried using the removable/reversible pocket clip. This pocket clip enables tip up carry and can be switched for both right and left handed users. The pocket clip holds the knife very securely in the pocket. The clip also attaches at the very back of the handle, allowing the knife to disappear when carried in a pocket. When someone is carrying a Buck Vantage, it literally looks no different than carrying a pen, which can be a good thing depending on your situation. I must say that I really like the pocket clip on the Vantage.

The pocket clip allows the Vantage to ride low in the pocket.
The handle design feels very good when gripping the knife. The ergonomic contours in the handle make the blade easy to hold and to use. The scales on the Vantage Select, however, could have offered more traction. Overall, the scales are fairly smooth, with little other than the contours in the handle to help you have a firm grip. This shouldn't be a major issue, however, to most users. This is a folding knife after all, and it wasn't meant to handle the type of heavy use that would require high traction in the hand.

I must also say that due to the sleekness of the scales, this knife is very elegant and professional-looking. It would be a great choice for someone who wants to dress well and have a nice knife to match.

In case the Vantage Select gets dirty, the screws that hold the knife together use standard Torx bits, making the knife easily taken apart. This is very important, since a dirty folding knife will be difficult to open and close, due to added friction between in the pivot area of the blade/lock mechanism.

So, overall, the Vantage Select by Buck is a great folding knife. It's elegant curves and sleek appearance make it a great looking knife, while the size and design make it very functional. It's a blade definitely worth checking out.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Review - 4Sevens MiNi CR2

A great everyday carry (EDC) flashlight, the Quark MiNi CR2 by 4Sevens is surprising in many ways. It is surprising in both it's brightness and it's size. Who thought a flashlight that weighs only 1.6 oz (w/ battery) could output 180 lumens of light? I sure didn't. Want to find out more about this light? Just continue reading.

The Quark MiNi series of lights by 4Sevens.
The MiNi CR2 is on the left.
At 2.0" long and 0.75" in diameter, the MiNi CR2 is the smallest, yet one of the brightest in the 4Sevens MiNi line of flashlights. It has ample knurling on all sides, giving a an adequate grip despite the small size. The body is made out of aircraft-grade aluminum and is Type III hard anodized in black for a very durable, yet elegant finish.

At the heart of the flashlight, is a CREE XP-G R5 LED emitter. This bright LED is capable of producting 180 lumens of light, as I mentioned earlier. Powering this LED is a single CR2 battery. This battery is what allows the flashlight to shine so brightly. It is a lithium cell which outputs 3.0V but because of the 900 mAh rating, only gives 40 minutes of light on high mode. I guess that's just the price that you pay for having a tiny flashlight. Conveniently, however, the MiNi CR2 comes with 2 CR2 batteries included, which can be difficult to find if you don't know where to look.

The LED is protected by an optical-grade glass lens with an anti-reflective coating on both sides. There is also a textured reflector behind the LED, which gives a soft beam pattern that is free from visible artifacts.

Did I mention that this flashlight is waterproof to 10 meters? There is an o-ring seal around the head, which keeps water out, allowing you to use this light underwater.

The MiNi CR2 has a textured reflector which gives a nice beam.
How to operate:
I already explained how to operate a Quark MiNi on the MiNi AA² review that I made last month. To save time, I will just copy that section, since operating the MiNi CR2 is identical to the MiNi AA².

The MiNi CR2 is turned on by twisting the head of the light. Turning it on will put you in Low mode. To get the other modes turn the light off and on quickly. This will put you in Medium mode. Doing that again will put you in High mode.

To get to Strobe, Beacon (High), Beacon (Low) and S.O.S. modes, which are consider "Special" modes, you have to cycle through the Low, Medium and High twice within 3 seconds.

This is the sequence of modes to get you a better picture of how it all works:
Low » Medium » High » Low » Medium » High » Strobe » S.O.S. » Beacon (High) » Beacon (Low)

With the MiNi CR2, you get 2 CR2 Batteries,
a spare o-ring, a split keyring and a lanyard.
Now that you know about the output modes, you probably would like to know their brightnesses and runtimes. I will list these below:
Low (3 lumens, 1.2 days)
Medium (40 lumens, 4.4 hours)
High (180 lumens, 40 min.)
Strobe (1.4 hours)
Beacon (High) (7.2 hours)
Beacon (Low) (36 hours)
S.O.S. (4.3 hours)

What's Included:
When you get the MiNi CR2, you don't just get a flashlight. You get two spare batteries, a spare o-ring and a lanyard that can be used to carry the flashlight. The lanyard has a split keyring that can be attached to a small hole in the MiNi CR2, allowing it to even be used as a keychain light.

So, what's there to say other than you should check one out. It's hard to believe that a light this small is so bright. No doubt as technology advances, lights will keep on getting smaller and smaller while getting brighter and brighter. As of today, I do not know of a brighter flashlight of this size. That should say a lot about the 4Sevens Quark MiNi CR2.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Review - Boker Plus KeyCom

Today, I wanted to look at a tiny little everyday carry (EDC) option for a backup knife, or even a primary knife if you are unable to carry anything else. I wanted to look at the KeyCom, by Boker Plus.

The Boker Plus KeyCom fulfills a role as a keychain knife.
Boker Plus is a line of knives by Boker, which is a German knife manufacturer. The Boker Plus line isn't German made, however, which adds a significant savings in the price of the knives. The Boker Plus knives are made in Asia (China, Taiwan, etc.) but are still high quality and durable.

With that said, the KeyCom is one Boker Plus' smallest knives. Designed by Chad Los Banos, the one who is famous for designing the Subcom series of knives, this knife definitely shares a style with the Subcom's. This knife is small enough to be carried on a keychain, but comes with a removable pocket clip, which also gives you the option of clipping it onto a pocket or pouch to carry it very much like a standard pocket knife. The pocket clip only allow for tip down, right handed carry only, unfortunately, but what would you expect out of a knife this small?

Boker was able to make the KeyCom
a frame locking knife.
The KeyCom only weighs 1.1 oz, making it extremely light. The open length is 3.8" and the closed length is 2.3". The clip point blade is 1.6" long and is made of high quality AUS-8 stainless steel. The blade comes razor sharp and has a very fine tip, great for precise cutting tasks.

The construction of the KeyCom is very much like the SubCom. Half of the handle is made of polymer while the other half is made of steel. The steel half of the handle contains the framelock mechanism, which locks the blade open solidly. At the end of the handle, there is a small hole for a split keyring. The keyring can also be substituted for a lanyard.

One of the drawbacks of the KeyCom is that there is only a single thumbstud on the left side of the blade. This allows for right-handed opening only. The thumbstud is very small, making it a little difficult to open single handedly without some practice.

There is a deep finger choil near the base of the blade, which allows for adequate grip of the knife. Despite only being able to hold the knife with 2 fingers and your thumb, it is pretty comfortable to hold. The heavy jimping at the top of the handle definitely aids in gripping the knife.

The KeyCom in black looks very attractive.
The KeyCom comes in two color variation. There is the standard version with a silver blade with the handle composed of a black polymer half and a silver steel half. Then, there is the all black version. Personally, I prefer the all black one, but the standard silver version reminds me of the classic Subcom coloration, which a lot of you guys may like.

So, that's my take on the Boker Plus Keycom. It fulfills a role as a keychain knife and definitely does a good job at it. At an affordable price point, it looks very attractive and to top it off, is very functional. It is definitely nicer than even some of the more expensive small knife options on the market.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Review - Keychain Oil Lighter

While not required daily for most people, a fire source can be a good thing to have with you for daily carry. The size of many lighters can be cumbersome, though, especially if you carry a wallet, cell phone, knife, keychain, etc. The infrequent use of a lighter discourages many people from carrying one every day, unless of course, you use it daily.

There is a solution to this problem, however. Today, I will be writing about a very small and functional lighter, one small enough to put on your keys. In the rare instance that you might need to start a fire.
The Keychain Oil Lighter is amazingly portable and functional.

While this Keychain Oil Lighter doesn't have a specific brand name, it is high quality. With the main body made of aluminum, this lighter should give you many years of good use.

The keychain oil lighter is only 2" long, with a diameter barely larger than 0.5". When closed, its silver pill-like shape doesn't even look like a lighter, which can be a good thing. It has a screw-on cap with a split keyring on top for attaching to a keychain. The lighter also comes with a small bead chain that is attached to the keyring.

This is an oil lighter, meaning that you will have to fill it with lighter fluid for it to work. If you are familiar with these types of lighters, you will know that the fluid in these lighters evaporates after some time. What's neat about the keychain oil lighter is that it has an o-ring that keeps a seal when the cap is closed, keeping the fluid from evaporating. This o-ring also makes this lighter waterproof.

To refill the lighter, you have to take out the lighter element out of the body. It comes out easily by pulling up on the flint wheel. Then, you carefully pour fluid onto the cotton on the bottom of the lighter element until you see that the cotton is saturated. Then, put the lighter element back into the body of the lighter. After waiting about 30 seconds for the wick to soak up the fluid, spark the wheel and the lighter should light.

When closed the lighter has a pill-like shape.
I should also say that this lighter will accept standard replacement flints and wicks, although a standard size wick will have to be cut down and made shorter in order to fit into this lighter.

From my experimentation with this fun little lighter, you get about 10 minutes of burn-time from a full refuel, which is more than adequate for daily use. What makes this lighter more valuable than perhaps a fire steel, is that with this lighter you have a source of flame, rather than a tool that just gives you sparks. This waterproof lighter would even work great for emergencies. Due to its small size, you can fit it practically anywhere.

The only downside that I can find with this lighter is that it does not have a wind protector, making it simple to put out. This is more of a constraint due to size, since a wind protector would take up too much room, so it's understandable why it isn't included.

Other than that, I love this lighter. With such small lighters on the market today, there's no reason to be caught without a source of fire.