Friday, 30 September 2011

Unboxing: The Lansky Sharpening System

Dumpster Dived Kitchen Knife Of Unknown Stainless Steel

Sometimes there are benefits to this Blogging thing, if you post enough about a subject sooner or later you get offered stuff to review. Although contrary to popular belief I'm not sponsored by Patrick Smith of Kifaru, in fact when I look into the empty void in my pockets, it feels more like I sponsor him!

Every once in a while someone writes in and asks me to review a piece of kit. Sadly most of them are vendors of crap I wouldn't have in the house, let alone take afield or recommend to you. Every once in a while it's something I've been meaning to buy so when Scott from Lansky popped me an email I was thrilled. I've known lots of fans of the Lansky Sharpening System so I was very happy to have one of my own to play with.

Straight out of the box it's a pretty well thought out piece of kit with enough grades of abrasive to take a knife from used-and-abused to damn-that's-sharp. I know lots of you have struggled with freehand sharpening, and to be honest its taken me a lot of time and effort to get even reasonably remotely good reasonable at it. I'm still no where near as good at it as I want to be and it takes a lot of time to get a credible edge.

Most sharpening systems that actually make a durable edge are bloody expensive.  It's very easy to make a knife sharp for a few cuts, most of those little 'pull-through' sharpeners will give you an edge of sorts, but it won't stay sharp. What they create is a very very thing 'wire edge' which soon flattens or breaks off leaving a dull edge behind. What helps is a fixed sharpening angle. So as a first step to sharp and durable the Lansky seems like the logical choice.

So how does it work?
The Lansky is a blade clamp with a series of slots which guide the hones as they contact the cutting edge, every stroke is the same as the last one, meaning that you're avoiding the classic beginners mistakes of mis-estimating the angle and you're always taking material off the blade without the odd acidental 'off angle' strokes undoing of the work you've already done. Works well.

Stay tuned for the next part where I'll show you some tips I've compiled for getting the most out of the system as I take a truly used-and-abused Mora Clipper back to hair-popping sharp.

Your Pal

Monday, 26 September 2011

Unboxing: West Winds Ventile Antarctic Smock

Here's one I've wanted for a while, but always sucked a lemon at the price, at the Midland Game Fair I saw one on the remainder rail of an army surplace stall, it was reduced, but not enough, so I tried it on then repositioned it on the rack so I'd be able to tell if anyone else had taken it down.

The Midland finishes at 4pm on the sunday, so as the paying punters were trooping out. I thought I'd do the other kind of 'Trying It On' and made a bee line for the stall. I was defiantly the last person to so as now they had no prospects or customers they were packing up. I asked the owner bluntly "are you interested in selling this before you go home?" as he took a breath to answer I gave him the other barrel "What would you really take for it?". After some face pulling and sharp intakes of breath we began the good natured haggling - he claims to be able to sell it for more online - I point out that it's less hassle to reduce the cost of sale and sell it to me. We reach a figure where honor is served on both sides. I now have a Ventile smock.

So what's so special about this Ventile stuff? Like so much of the UK's history, our tale starts during the dark days of WWII.  As a way of guarding the arctic convoys that brought food to the UK aircraft were launched from the decks of merchant ships using catapults. Sadly once their work was done there was no space for them to land on the decks. When the pilots ran out of fuel they simply 'ditched' their Hurricanes into the freezing waters of the North Atlantic and swam for it. Understandably the mortality rate was pretty high.

Scientists from the Shirley Institute in Manchester (a northern town with pretentions) developed the cloth known as Ventile as a way of keeping the pilots alive for a few precious moments more, life expectancy in the sea soared from 'no chance mate' to around 20 minutes and many rescues were affected.  80% of the anti-submarine pilots who made a splash landing lived to fly again.

Ventile works by using the finest cotton possible (the top 2% of the worlds crop), woven as tight as possible (30% more cotton per sq yard). Woven so tight in fact that as the first threads make contact with water they swell making the weave tighter still. Ventile isnt technically waterproof, but is near as damn it. It allows vapour to pass through but unlike Goretex and its ilk, its breathability isn't affected by dirt or pressure (ever noticed how the first place water comes through is where your rucksacks straps press against your jacket?). Its also so naturally flame and spark retardent that it's used to make the suits firefighters wear. The reputation Ventile has from its use in arctic exploration comes from its tight weave being almost totally windproof. Quiet too.

Gotta be able to post a better picture than this

West Winds make a whole range of jackets and other clothes from it, but I've always wanted the simple smock - it's a real bushcraft classic. Very little is perfect out of the box, and while the smock is pretty good, I'm thinking of it as a work in progress. The logo(s) have got to go, for some reason there's a strap that goes between your legs with is just plain annoying. The pockets are big enough, but the noisy velcro closures have to go. I'd like it to have a big chest pocket for a pair of binos, but in fairness I'd like my other pockets to have enough cash in them to buy the binos I want, so I guess that's a mod that can wait.

More soon

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Still Alive

Rumours of my demise are greatly exaggerated, but I have been very busy so apologies for the dearth of posts in the last couple of weeks. On the up-side lots of new kit has been arriving and testing will commence as soon as the weather worsens and time permits.

In the meantime this Lansky Sharpening System has arrived and was scheduled for testing this weekend, until I remembered Skippy's wedding. Opps!

More soon

Monday, 5 September 2011

Field Sports In Scotland Pt.8

Bewitched, entranced, fascinated. By the side of the river he trotted as one trots, when very small, by the side of a man who holds one spell-bound by exciting stories; and when tired at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea. 

Ahh the sights and sounds of the river bank; the flutter-by of butterflies, the magic of the rods flex as it loads with the energy it's going to use to flick the line out, the babble of the river, the misanthropic mutterings of the Andy, and the delightful scent of DEET on the breeze. Ahhhhh.

The last of my adventures afield in the Kingdom of Fife (for the time being) took us in search of that magical fish the Sea Trout. Andy and I drove to a river he's fished for years, where water tumbles down from the hills breaking through the soil and out into the Firth of Forth.  Our quarry is making the journey in the other direction, having once spawned in the same waters we patrolled, the Sea Trout are returning to complete the cycle, some of them having attained truely impressive sizes.  On arrival we caught up with Gordon the Water Bailiff - armed with a spinning rig and soft lures in the style of  Sand Eels. His reports were encouraging; He had already landed his 'toon-fash' of the season, and witnessed a twenty-pounder caught by another chap. We held high hopes of a trip to the smoking service with our bounty. Yeah right.

Wether it was my; poor technique, general englishness, or 'sheer-suburban-uselessness' Andy wasn't sure, so he alternated between them and threw in a few other forms of blame for good measure. 

Alas I was once again unable to close the deal with the wild foods of Fife.

As usual our kit pendulumed between the home-made and the high tech, Andy pairing an £800 super rod with one of the skanky-ist spinning reels its been my displeasure to see/use in a long long time. Ever keen to reenforce national stereotypes Andy indignantly leapt to its defence "what do you mean? I paid Ten Pounds for that!" 

Other Bushcrafters had been there before us
 Almost 16C [aka 60.6F] measured with the plumbers non-contact thermometer.
How's that for kit-tart fishing tackle!

It was the kind of idyllic afternoon that fly fishing is made for, the cares of the world were far far away, occasionally a Brown Trout would jump from the water, and despite Andy's prediction I actually came back with one fly more than I set out with!

"Beyond the Wild Wood comes the Wide World," said the Rat. "And that's something that doesn't matter, either to you or me. I've never been there, and I'm never going, nor you either, if you've got any sense at all."

More soon