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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Review: Kershaw Frefall [EDC Pocket Knife]

Kershaw has come out with a slew of new knives. Some like the new Camber feature made-in-USA quality with better steels. But they didn't forget the budget segment, and we have a bunch of new models like the Swerve (which I recently reviewed) and this Freefall, which I bought from Amazon and I've been carrying the last couple weeks.

Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - Product Link
Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - Product Link


Product Description


The Freefall is a budget flipper, featuring their SpeedSafe assisted opening technology. It's produced in China using 8Cr13MoV steel and FRN (fiberglass reinforced nylon) scales with a steel liner. Obviously that makes it a liner lock just like their other models in the budget flipper class. Deep carry clip, aggressive texturing on the handle, ergonomic design--Kershaw keeps upping the ante for what people expect from a $20 pocket knife.

From Top: Spyderco Native, Kershaw Freefall, Swerve, Brawler, Skyline, SanRenMu LB-763
From Top: Spyderco Native, Kershaw Freefall, Swerve, Brawler, Skyline, SanRenMu LB-763


Official Specs (From Amazon)


  • Speed Safe assisted opening; Liner lock; Flipper and thumb stud; Reversible pocket clip; deep-carry
  • Steel: 8Cr13MoV, stonewashed finish
  • Handle: Glass-filled nylon, K-Texture grip
  • Blade length: 3 1/4 Inch (8.3 cm); Closed length: 4 1/4 Inch (10.8 cm); Overall length: 7 1/2 Inch (19 cm)
  • Weight: 4.1 ounces

Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - Product View 1

Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - Product View 2

Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - Product View 4

Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - Product View 4

Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - Product View 5

Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - Product View 6

Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - Product View 7

Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - Product View 8

Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - Product View 9

Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - With Kershaw Swerve 1Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - With Kershaw Swerve 2


Initial Impressions


Since its cousin the Swerve made a pretty good impression on me, I was looking forward to unboxing this Freefall. First off, it's a little sleeker than the Swerve. It has a narrower tanto style blade, but for the most part looks very similar to the Swerve.

I noticed a few differences in the design right away. The Freefall does not have thumb studs, which I like. If you want to take the torsion bar out and make it non-assisted, you probably want the thumb studs. I've also wondered if it helps you if you get hassled by the man for carrying it. But I doubt the authorities are that stupid not to notice that it's an assisted flipper so I don't really see any reason for having the thumb studs on a flipper.

The next thing I noticed: it deploys smooth-as-silk. It's probably the smoothest deploying knife in my collection. The flipper lever is more prominent than others like the Brawler and even its cousin the Swerve.

Build Quality


The build quality of the Freefall (and similar budget Kershaws) is outstanding given that this is a sub-$25 budget knife. My idea of value is that it's the ratio between quality and price, and so I find this model to be a good value. There are lots of good values in this price range, and the Freefall is one of them.

Fit and Finish


Someday I'll buy a Kershaw with a centered blade. I haven't taken one apart yet, but they seem to suffer from the washers (teflon in this case) not being a uniform thickness. This makes the blade sag to one side, making it off center. And since I bought this knife with my own money and it came off some random shelf in whatever mega-warehouse Amazon keeps them in, it's a safe bet that lots of other folks are getting off-center blades like me.

Other than that, my review sample is above average for fit and finish. The roughness I'd expect to see on the steel liners and other areas people normally don't scrutinize aren't there, though the side of the clip is rough as I would expect. In fact, it looks like the liners were buffed until shiny.

The blade finish, FRN liners, jimping, even the screws, all perfect. I could not find one single nick, scratch or tool mark which I would expect to see on a knife in this price range. I guess the Kershaw logo in the clip being stamped non-uniformly could be considered a gripe, but I almost don't count the clips since nobody shows them any love anyway.


Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - Blade Off Center
Grrrrr

Blade


The Freefall has a sleek, tanto shaped hollow ground blade made from Chinese 8Cr13MoV steel, which I like for EDC type knives. Mine came with a surprisingly good edge on it with very few flaws.

Someone on my Facebook page mentioned the fact that the fine tip of the tanto blade would not stand up to rigorous use and sharpening, and that's probably correct. Which doesn't mean that this blade isn't suited for EDC, because I think it is. It's just maybe not quite the beater that the Swerve is.

The spine of the blade features about a thumb-full of fairly smooth jimping. It's not as aggressive on this model, or weird like the squiggly jimping on the Swerve. It's functional without scratching your thumb.

Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - Blade View 1

Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - Blade View 2
Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - Blade View 3Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - Blade View 4




Self Defense?


I've been pretty vocal that I don't think that knives make the best self defense weapons. But many people do, and if I were to carry a knife for self defense, I think this one would be towards the top of my list. The tanto blade shape was created by the Japanese specifically for this purpose and when you pair that with a smooth assisted deployment in a sturdy package, it's hard to miss how ideal this model would be for that task.

Lockup


The Freefall uses a typical liner lock that you'll find on most of Kershaw's flippers, and most flippers in general. The blade deploys smoothly and locks up solid. Notice in the photo below that the liner is about half the width of the blade itself, which is great. Also notice the difference in the gaps on each side of the blade, which I believe is caused from the washers being different thicknesses. This is what makes the blade off center.
Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - Blade Lockup: Top
Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - Blade Lockup: Bottom
Nice and Solid








Handle


The handle on this model is sleeker, more curved and a little longer than the Swerve, which didn't fit my hand very well. The Freefall fits my hand much, much better. The longer flipper lever even makes a better blade guard.

And of course who could miss the aggressive texturing made of lots of little Ks. The feel of the FRN material is very grippy. It also puts my hand in a perfect position for putting my thumb on the jimping on the spine of the blade.

Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - Handle View 1
Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - Handle View 2


Clip


The clip on this model is of the deep carry variety, which can be moved from right to left but can only be carried tip up. But that's fine by me, because 9 out of 10 enthusiasts will want tip up carry. It wasn't so long ago that all Kershaws were coming tip down out of the box. I think Kershaw one day realized who its customers are.

Kershaw keeps experimenting with different clip designs. The Swerve has a unique clip where the clip is secured with a set screw through the handle. The Freefall is slightly different: It has the end of the clip secured by a screw on the butt of the knife.

I'll be honest that I like the Swerve's clip design a little better, though this clip carries a little deeper in the pocket. Most of my beef is that the clip pokes my hand a certain way when I hold the knife. It's not a deal breaker, but it's not ideal either.

And it wouldn't be a Kershaw unless the clip out of the box is tight enough to rip your pants or pull them off when you take the knife out of your pocket.

Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - Closeup Of Clip
Clip is on the tight side like pretty much every other Kershaw ever made


Lanyard Attachment


This model has a solid steel insert with fairly aggressive jimping on the back. I'm not sure I understand its design, but it looks cool, and the jimping seems to help the grip a little bit.

Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - Closeup Of Lanyard Attachment


Usability


This is a very usable model. We'll see how well it stands up over time and how well the tip stands up to repeated sharpening, but day to day this is a wonderful knife. Of course, it's almost twice as heavy as my Spyderco Delica, but it's also probably more robust with the steel liners and that steel reinforcement block with the lanyard.

I find myself carrying this knife more than I thought I would, just because it's sleek and deploys so smoothly. It carries well and feels great in my hand. Of course the clip is way too tight, but it will loosen over time. Better too tight than too loose ... I guess.

Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - In Hand 1
I really like the grip

Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - In Hand 2

Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - In Hand 3

Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - In Hand 4


Conclusions


I really liked the Swerve and figured I would like the Freefall, but I REALLY like the Freefall and have been carrying it fairly regularly. Where the Swerve will probably be consigned to heavy duty work in the garage once in a while, I think the Freefall might continue to see pocket time.

The off center blades are really annoying, though.

Gallery



Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - Unboxing 1

Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - Unboxing 2

Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - Unboxing 3

Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - On Scale

Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - Caliper Measurement: Blade Thickness

Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - Caliper Measurement: Blade Length

Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - Caliper Measurement: Pocket Dump

Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - EDC Friends

Kershaw Frefall EDC Pocket Knife - Next To Ruler






Thursday, October 16, 2014

Tablets For Survival

Introduction


Putting tablets into the larger survival kits has been something I've been thinking about for while. Sure, we all have phones, and in an emergency our phones will always be with us. At the very least you'd want to have the right apps installed, and you'd want some extra micro SD cards with offline maps, survival books, etc.

So I think the way you'd configure your phone and the way you'd configure a survival tablet would be different enough to where I think it's a wise idea to have a dedicated survival tablet and extra micro SD cards with everything you would need for an emergency.

Tablets for Survival: A random assortment of our family's tablets
A random assortment of our family's tablets

Communication


An emergency may be bad enough to put you and your loved ones on foot, and still leave you lucky enough to get 3G/4G or Wi-Fi service on your emergency tablet. And that of course gives you great powers of communication, from weather and news to text messaging.

Some smart phones and tablets even have built in FM radio receivers. Even if all cell communication is knocked out, you still have the ability to receive FM transmissions. Many folks put small radios in their emergency kits, and this is one less thing to carry.

Navigation


Unless all the American and Russian navigation satellites get knocked out of the air at the same time, any emergency you face is going to be with a GPS by your side if you want one. There are no shortage of navigation apps which let you store maps offline, sometimes even on your micro SD card.

Even without maps, there are hiking GPS / compass apps that will let you navigate trails and find your way between stored way points.

Tablets for Survival: GPS Hiking And Compass App

Survival Books


A micro SD card can hold every survival book you would ever need. Books are easy to store offline and there are many free reader apps for Android that can read multiple formats straight off the card.

Medical Books


Books take up very little space compared to multimedia like music or video. Theoretically you could probably fit all the medical knowledge of mankind onto a handful of these cards. Either way, there's no reason not to have a few high quality first aid books saved onto the same card as the survival books. And that still leaves plenty of room on the card for Beavis and Butthead Season 8.

Backup Power


A tablet can relinquish its own charge to charge other devices and even run a USB light. Below I am charging a couple Sanyo AA Eneloop batteries from my $30 cheapo tablet. Most of the time you will be putting charge into the tablet to use it, but in a dire situation it's another power source to draw from. I believe this tablet has a minuscule 2000 mAh battery in it, that still translates to a fully charged Eneloop AA which could give you a hundred or so hours with an efficient flashlight running on low. Or enough of a charge for your walkie talkies to call for help. Power is power.


Tablets for Survival: Micro USB to Female USB Adapter and USB AA/AAA Charger

Tablets for Survival: Tablet Charging 2 Eneloop AA Batteries

Emergency Light


Not only do most tablets and phones come with an LED for the camera flash that can be co-opted into being a flashlight with a simple app, but the USB port on a tablet can power most USB devices, including a USB "nightlight chip" as shown below.

Tablets for Survival: With LED Nightlight Chip


Entertainment


Any dire emergency with young kids is going to be much more difficult to deal with. Young kids being distracted can allow adults to be more focused, and focus is exactly what you want in that situation. Also, I don't know about you guys, but I'm a prima donna, so even in a dire emergency, I'm going to have something to distract myself, like offline TV shows and music.

Because a micro SD card weighs less than a gram, there's no reason not to have an extra one loaded with movies, TV, books and music. In fact, there's no reason not to have a separate memory card for each if you can afford it. Most players and readers don't have a problem with offline content. If you are resourceful, then you can load up on any kind of media you want for basically no extra weight.

It's A Computer


The primary things you need in an emergency are shelter, food, water, warmth. Having a computing device in dire situations is a luxury in a way, but in a way it's not. From interactive first aid apps to a simple calculator, having a computer in your emergency bag gives you a world of possibilities. 

It's impossible to precisely predict the exact circumstances we will face in an emergency, so I like having options, and a computing device in my bag gives me options I won't even realize I have until the need arises.

Unlimited Use


Since my disaster bag has the ability to charge USB devices with solar panels, I could theoretically run my emergency tablet forever, though in practice it would probably compete with other devices for charge, such as flashlight / walkie talkie batteries.

At the end of the world, I'll be sitting by the camp fire watching re-runs of the Walking Dead on my tablet. Oh, and I'll also know what plants are safe to eat, how to build a makeshift shelter, how to tie knots and make snares and so on...

They say knowledge is power, so I think that carrying a small tablet can multiply the power of my ability to handle an emergency, which makes it worth its weight in the bag.

Tablets for Survival: Solar Panel Charging Phone


Conclusions


I found and purchased what I think is pretty close to the perfect tablet I have been describing in this article, but the problem is that I like it way too much to put in the bag, so I'll eventually have to buy another one. Though I'm pretty sure in an emergency it'll be one of the first things I grab.

It's light, powerful and has a pretty good sized battery. I got one of those cool cases that puts the tablet to sleep when you close it and wakes the tablet when you open it. But the case adds some pretty good weight, so for the survival bag I would probably just tuck it into the bag somewhere where it won't be damaged or get wet. In fact, I would probably put it inside a zip-lock bag. I have a nice cheap tablet that would be great for the bag, but it doesn't have GPS. It's pretty rare to see a tablet anywhere near the $100 range that has both Bluetooth and GPS, so I think Asus nailed it. 



Thursday, October 9, 2014

10 Best EDC Pocket Knives of 2014

Since I wrote my article last year, not a lot has changed as far as EDC knives go. Sure, lots of new models have come out, but none are really game-changers. While some of these new offerings were just plain gimmicky, there's also been quite a bit of innovation. Manufacturers keep devising more exotic locking mechanisms and using more exotic metals such as Titanium.

But for most people, every day carry is not going to be an expensive, high-end, exotic experience. While I'm absolutely in favor of looking good, functionality has to come first, and so does value. I own lots of cool knives that I don't regret buying, but wouldn't think of using every day. My philosophy for EDC knives is that they be easily replaceable if lost, stolen or damaged.

EDC Pocket Knives From Spyderco, Kershaw, Victorinox and SanRenMu


Having said all that, this list isn't much different than last year. There's so many great knives out there, but some are just hype, and some are too new to know how they will perform over time. For me personally, I buy a new knife, I admire it, photograph and review it, and ultimately the infatuation wears off and I give it away or put it into the knife roll or give it away, before putting the Delica back in my pocket.

So mostly the difference in the list expresses gaining knowledge as a collector and handling more and more samples. For example, I now pretty much always have some model Victorinox in my pocket or at least close by. While I usually carry them to augment a dedicated knife, they are awesome in their own rights. There are times when it's not convenient or wise to carry a larger knife, so I carry just an Executive or Rambler.

NOTE: Prices are approximate and will fluctuate over time. Also note that I am a Spyderco fan boy, so I had to resist the urge to give all 10 slots to Spyderco. I've tried to factor my own personal experience in with the consensus of some of the Internet communities along with lots of research.


#MakeModelPriceProsCons
1SpydercoDelica$65- High Quality
- Good Steel
- Lightweight
- Proven Performer
- Less rigid with no liner
- Some say it's too light
- A little expensive

2SpydercoDragonfly$55- High Quality
- Good Steel
- Extremely Lightweight
- Less rigid with no liner
- Some say it's too light
- A little awkward for large hands
3BenchmadeMini Griptilian$90- High Quality
- Great Steel
- Made in USA
- Well Built
- A bit expensive
- A little bulky
4KershawSkyline$45- Good Steel
- Made in USA
- Great Value
- Unassisted
- Inconsistent quality control
- Check local laws regarding flippers
5SanRenMuGB-763$10-$?- Superb Value
- Well Designed
- Solid Performer
- Sometimes impossible to find
- Sometimes sellers gouge you when you do find one
- Cheaper steel
6OntarioRat Folder$30- Great Value
- Well Built
- Solid Performer
- Cheaper steel
- A little heavy
- Grip could be better
7VictorinoxExecutive$30- Swiss Made
- Well Built
- Lots of Mojo For Size
- Orange Peeler Useless For Most People
- Tools Not Laid Out Very Well
- Non-locking
8KershawFreefall$26- Good Value
- Assisted Opening
- Well Built
- Smooth Deployment
- Inconsistent quality control
- Check local laws regarding flippers
9VictorinoxCadet$30- Swiss Made
- Good Quality
- Scratches easily (depending on color)
- Non-locking
10Cold SteelTough Lite$30- Well Designed
- Rugged
- Good Value
- Quality control issues?
- Awkward opening

From Top: Spyderco Delica 4, Spyderdo Native FRN, Spyderco Dragonfly 2
From Top: Spyderco Delica 4, Spyderdo Native FRN, Spyderco Dragonfly 2
Kershaw Freefall
The Kershaw Freefall, a very capable budget knife


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tip: Using Flashlight To Charge Watch Dial

All of my better watches in the $100+ range use the more expensive glow-in-the-dark material on their luminous dials. The problem is that some of my cheaper watches get more wrist time than the more expensive ones, and the cheap ones, big surprise, tend to cheap out on the GITD material.

For example, I'm really fond of my Casio MDV106-1A but the large hands that make it so easy to see with my old eyes in the daytime don't glow very well during normal use. So what I sometimes do is charge my watch dial with a flashlight before I go to bed. This makes even the cheaper watches glow all night!

It's as simple as it looks in the animation below: just put a really powerful flashlight right on the crystal and let it sit there for a minute or so. The material can only hold so much of a charge, so it doesn't need to charge very long if your flashlight has good output.

Casio MDV106-1A Animated Charging of Dial

Below you can see the end result:

Casio MDV106-1A Charged Dial



Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Watermark Tool 2.1 Just Released

Early on in blogging, I realized just how many photos I was taking. Over time, I would see my photos crop up on other sites, and I would see other bloggers complaining of the same thing. It's an honor when someone likes my work. I want it to be distributed freely. The problem is that I don't want other people taking credit for my work or earning money from it. So I watermark all of my photos.

When I started looking at tools that could watermark my photos, I couldn't find the one I wanted where I could press a button and generate a huge amount of watermarked images without disturbing the originals.

So I wrote this tool, which I have been using for quite some time now. But it only let me use text watermarks, and it was very rough around the edges. It got hundreds of downloads but nobody pressed the donate button.

...so I totally revamped it from top to bottom, and tested it thoroughly with a high degree of discipline. I added the features I thought it was missing, and putting in a nag screen for the free version, which is still completely free. There is now a pro version which enables some of the more advanced features like using images for watermarks, but its basic functionality that was free before is free now, except much more fine tuned than the original version.

As always, I'm happy to have any feedback on my Watermark Tool.

You can download it here:

 Bulk Watermark Tool



Here's a couple samples I made from playing around with the watermark tool and my own logos: