Friday, May 31, 2013

Budget Gear Review: Inova X1 1xAA EDC Flashlight

edc flashlights 1xAA
Akoray K-106 and 2 Inova X1s
When it comes to flashlights today for everyday carry use, the options are virtually limitless as are the requirements of the individuals carrying them. There are many great resources online including the beloved candlepowerforums, but even so, getting started on your quest for a light can be overwhelming to say the least. You may not even realize what your own personal requirements are and you may not realize how widely they vary from person to person, but first and foremost this is a budget review so let's start there. Of course the X1 is appropriate for any budget in my opinion so let's figure out where it stands and you can determine if it's for you. It is an EDC light in the spirit of the EDC concept. What I mean is, it's not tactical and has no features driven by the lumen addicted flashlight market, but it is geared for people who carry such an item with them daily for utilitarian purposes. The X1 leans more toward elegant and simplistic than anything else, while at the same time being durable. I can't say that it is the perfect EDC light, because even for me, as much as I like it, it is not. In a previous post I discussed the X1's biggest drawback for me, the lack of a pocket clip.
Luckily I was able to find one that works, however I have to admit that it would just be simpler to buy the light to which the clip belongs, because functionally speaking, it is just as good as the X1. That light is the L3 Illumination L10. It's smaller and comes in fun colors for about the same money ($20.00). However, I have a lot more experience with the Inova X1 and I know how tough it is. For me that is its greatest attraction, something I can't speak to in regard to the L10. The L10 is pretty well liked from my research and everything you need to know to get yourself one, with the pocket clip, is included in that post.

budget flashlight review
Sporting the L10's pocket clip.
I have discovered that my personal requirements for a light are relatively loose. In my mind $35.00 is about max before you get above what I consider "budget" lighting options. Second, it needs to be tough. Third, I only require a useful amount of light and I've never seen a beam "tint" I found to be annoying. Some are a little cool but for the most part every light I own and every light you have seen on this blog are pretty neutral to my eyes. Forth, I don't want a complex user interface, I have no use for a light that blinks and I don't want to program it. These might be fun features that some users look for, so keep in mind that there are lights like that and aren't something I'll cover. I completely understand why CR123 batteries are popular and I own one light that uses them, but generally speaking, they don't interest me. This gets in to "useful amounts of light" I talked about, which AA batteries are more than capable of producing with run times meeting my expectations - read; I am not constantly charging batteries for my lights. Fifth, I want a pocket clip. I hate things banging around at the bottom of my pocket and I can't see the point in a key chain flashlight. Sixth, I like to have a couple modes. A low-low is actually pretty useful today with most decent LED lights being relatively powerful regardless of size - sometimes impressive beams of light are just too much light. There are a few other things like size but single AA lights are pretty much the size I'm looking for and you can get an idea about size in another one of my previous posts.

A few dings and scratches.
If that sounds about like where you're at then you might consider the Inova X1. My brother is a 4-wheeler mechanic and a great gear tester for that very reason. That's his Inova to the left with all the nicks and scratches - you can see it's taken a few spills judging by the bezel. He uses his light all day, every day and as you can probably guess, it gets passed around and roughly handled. There is a 3rd unit in my family that I didn't get pictures of but I can say with confidence that they are reliable lights that will serve their owner well. We started with an Akoray K-106 (seen in the images up top) and he quickly broke 2 of them. I carried one for about a year before it failed (it was never especially reliable - flickering and not coming on immediately) and I gave one as a gift that probably didn't last either. It's a shame because they are pretty neat lights. They have basically everything. The pocket clip doesn't look like much but we didn't experience any clip-related issues. The UI is simple. It's the right size, nothing goofy on it, it can tail stand, has cool glow-in-the-dark o-rings and switch, the switch feels firm and solid, it's pretty good looking, and it's cheap. But apparently, they are poorly made. That sent me on a quest to find something that could withstand life in a mechanic's pocket. I found the Inova X1. It didn't have everything but wasn't expensive and sounded tough. It's served us both well.

But nothing the X1 can't handle.
Could it be better? Yeah I think so, and with very little effort. It needs to come with a pocket clip made specifically for it. I'd like to see some kind of track machined into it to prevent the clip from moving (or have it screwed on) and possibly to prevent the light from rolling when laid down. For a long time we've used a lanyard, as you see in the pictures, to hold the light at the top of the pocket and prevent it from rolling but that's not ideal. It has a high and low mode which meets my needs just fine but I wouldn't mind a lower low, or perhaps a 3 mode. Finally, I'd like to see a more one hand operation. A clicky switch, nothing crazy, would be nice.
The X1 is basically a twist on, twist off light but if the tail cap is close enough to the on position, you can press it for momentary on. This feature is a little finicky because you might not have it screwed down quite close enough so keeping it on requires a hard press, or you have it too close and it comes on with virtually no effort. This feature really might as well not exist. I know that twist UIs are considered fool proof and obviously don't have any parts to fail, but I think clicky switches are plenty reliable and offer one handed use. You can kind of use the X1 one handed but ... not really.

best 1xaa flashlight
Some of my favorites.
Sure there are things I don't like and there may be other options but you grow attached to something when it never lets you down. For the money I am not sure anything else can be recommended. Judging purely by specs, the perfect light is out there, but you are probably going to drop $50.00+ on it. And maybe some day I will. But if you want something simple and clean, don't want to spend a fortune and want it to last, this is your light. If the L3 Illumination L10 turns out to be as reliable, and I think it just might, it is another excellent option for the same money in a smaller package.It's the orange one in the picture.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Everyday Carry Picture Fun

Just enjoying taking pictures and playing in Photoshop. I'm just applying some simple enhancements and have access to some more quality lighting where I work. Unfortunately I don't really have access to an amazing camera, but it gets the job done for an amateur. I've also got a bunch posted to my Tumblr page that aren't here.
EDC flashlight photography
The L3 Illumination L10 on the left in orange and Jetbeam BA10 on the right with my Kershaw Cryo in the background. These are both 1xAA lights but until I can mod the BA10 to accept the pocket clip the other way around I'm not carrying it much. I tried Bezel up but can't stand it.

The L10 is a nice little light. Comes in fun colors and is dead simple to use with a nice low mode.

Everyday carry flashlights

The Nitecore MT1A on the far right.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

O'Dell Studios Tumblr Account

So I got with the times and started a Tumblr account; not with any real plan in mind for it, but started just the same. While I was at it I posted a few images that I had stored but hadn't posted anywhere yet. It is still too early to give a durability review of the Crelant V11A but I am really starting to like it more and more and since I had the pics, I might as well get a post going here too. And if I'm going to do that I might as well give you some of my thoughts after a few weeks of use.
Crelant packaging
Pretty nice packaging .... if you care. :) One of those things that's growing on me is the placement of the pocket clip. I have acquired a couple other lights that just don't hit this point right and I can't see how hard it is to get the pocket clip right if you're going to design a light specifically to have one. Just the right amount of the tail cap protrudes from the pocket and the clip doesn't interfere with anything (unlike some lights *cough* NITECORE MT1A *cough*).

The V11A comes with some extra goodies, including a pretty nice lanyard that I probably won't use. I am going to try to find a reason to though. I mean just look at all those knobs and beads and cord locks and clips attached to it. It must have taken 10 minutes just to assemble it. How could I not use it?

orange peal bezel edc flashlights
I don't get into lumens and watts and current draw and whatever else too heavily. Does it produce a useful amount of light and not annihilate batteries in the process? Yes! OK, it's good to go then. It's a little bit floody and that is appropriate for a "tactical" light. But, it throws just about as far as I ever use a light for so that goes in the win column.

large inexpensive EDC tactical options
It's a relatively large light for a 1xAA but because of the correctly placed pocket clip it goes unnoticed. Big light, big knife. I guess you could call this the larger end of the EDC spectrum for pocket carry.

tactical edc options.
But they're a good looking pair all the same. The end of that stick on the left side of the image bugs the crap outta me. Just sayin.

OS is Excited to Announce a Feature in Truckin' Magazine

I believe the bit will appear in the next month or two on news stands in the #9 issue for the year. I'm very excited to see where this road will lead us and a big thanks goes out to the folks at Truckin' Magazine for contacting me and giving me this opportunity.
Custom pickup
Dodge D100. The mods for this one are very subtle but also numerous.

digital renderings for custom hotrod muscle car design
What can I say, I had a wild hair when this beast came together.

custom vehicle rendering
Doing the burnout effect is simple, fun and adds a good dose of life to the vehicle.

The 64 is derived from the year of course.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Aranyik K-1 E-Nep

5160 Spring Steel E-Nep
Nah, not a review. Not a budget review either, even though this blade is very affordable for the indestructible hunk of differentially heat treated 5160 spring steel you get for your money. This is the Aranyik K-1 E-Nep; that's K-negative-1, the biggest one they make. I heat my home with wood and I'd rather not guess how much kindling I split, or how much time I spend splitting it. Admittedly, for me there is some therapy to splitting wood. It feels like I am responsible for my own well being by the work of my own two hands, a feeling that I'm afraid kicking on the furnace simply doesn't induce. It eventually becomes part of the daily routine and no doubt swinging an axe is good exercise. There are always those who will tell you that you need the right tool for the job and through my own share of learning it the hard way, I can't disagree. However my axe, the head found lost or abandoned after unknown years of apparent abuse by previous owners and perhaps too large to be the right tool for the job, has served me well. Often times you make due with what you have and while a full size axe may not be ideal, I have learned to get as much precision out of it as it can offer. That said, I have taken to making the finest kindling in the house, out of the cold, and my home doesn't lend itself to maneuvering a full size axe (particularly around the wood furnace room) even though I wouldn't be swinging it. A large knife has proven to be very useful in the same way my father keeps a smaller axe inside for splitting his kindling in the shop. Enter the E-Nep.

They come from Thailand and are, in many ways, like my axe. I use it for all sorts of jobs and if I lived as closely to the land as the farmers and native people of Thailand I would no doubt use it significantly more. So much more, that it would be a constant companion and I suspect I would quickly discover that it is a heavy companion indeed. The E-Nep has nearly as many heavy duty capabilities as a smaller axe, yet has many more lighter duty capabilities at the same time. I don't think it's possible to review the E-Nep because once you understand it, there is nothing else to be said. It will not break, it is a tool in the purest sense of the word and it is made for people who rely on their tools for their very survival. I'll let the pictures say the rest.

Aranyik K-1 Blade
The Aranyik stamp.

K-1 e-nep
For size comparison, the evil 30 round AR-15 magazine.

That's just a fine piece of work right there.

K-1 Aranyik
It is full on weight forward. It's an axe that looks like a machete.

Not exactly refined but the work of a skilled craftsman all the same.

These handles are beautiful if you ask me and smooth as silk.
An unlikely duo. The Ontario RAT 1 with my E-Nep.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Inova X1 1xAA Flashlight Pocket Clip Solution

Inova X1 pocket clip paracord lanyard flashlight
Or at least, one solution. Today the mailman brought me a handful of pocket clips from SBFlashlights which are intended for the L3 Illumination L10 1xAA flashlight. I only recently discovered this website but it turns out the state they operate out of is pretty close to the state I operate out of which makes the shipping quick for me. Additionally, while there are lots of perfectly good light options that they don't carry, they seem to only carry products that are pretty well worth purchasing and none of the junk. I'm generalizing but I like to support anyone who runs a nice business and one which I have positive experiences with each time I use them.

EDC flashlight pocket clip
Let's get back to the point here. In my last post I talked about the only shortcoming of the Inova X1 - the lack of a pocket clip. In a fair amount of digging I only found a couple solutions to this problem and I didn't really like any of them. I am sure that many owners of this light have experimented and found solutions, given the number of AA sized lights out there that do come with pocket clips, but I'm not sure how many of them can be purchased a la carte. What's more, even clips like these probably aren't worth the cost to buy a single clip with shipping charges tacked on. My logic here is simple; buy the light they go with! And, there are 3 Inova X1s in my crew right now, so I wanted more than just one anyway. Problem solved! The clips come in at a whopping $2.50 a pop and to be perfectly honest, aren't really worth a whole lot more. They are however, sufficient I believe. The website conveniently lists the L10's diameter at 17.1mm and that puts it about 1mm smaller than the X1 - sign me up.

Cree XP-G Cool White
So, the clip specifics. It's thin metal and doesn't have much tension. That's just the truth of the matter. But you have to consider that the L10 is one tiny light. The X1 is pretty slim and not especially long, but the L10 is about as small as a AA light is gonna get. It doesn't take a lot of clip to keep this thing under control and the X1 isn't a whole lot bigger. The bodies of both lights are more or less straight up and down so the issue of the clip sliding was also known to me before purchase - I'd read about it somewhere during my surfing. In regard to the L10, it would appear that the light is so small and weightless that there is no call for ramming it into your pocket, pushing the light through the clip in the process, so I don't really see a problem. The X1 is smoother still but the solution was obvious. I'd already been using a lanyard to keep the light at the top of my pocket, so I just made a smaller lanyard which the clip binds against when pushed into the pocket. I will be doing a full on review of some of the lights my crew has been carrying for some time now, after we've run the new clip for awhile to get a feel for it. You will find that the X1 is an impressive enough light in its own right to warrant overcoming these minor faults and with any luck, the clip will be as well. The light retention (tension - obviously adjustable) is not necessarily a bad thing either. I've been packing it around all day around town and luckily didn't find that one stupid thing that happens the first day you own something. It keeps the light where I want it and doesn't fall out, yet drops into the pocket effortlessly. Some pocket clips, I think it's fair to say, have way too much tension and only time will tell if this is too little.
1xAA budget EDC flashlights
What's more, I'm not really a lanyard person. Everything has a lanyard hole. Every light, every knife, every handle, yet I rarely find a use for them. HOWEVER, this little lanyard is brilliant. By pure luck it is the perfect length and the perfect size. When I reach for the light, somehow that little knot hooks right into my pinky and ring fingers and the light comes out. It's so natural that it is somehow already present in my muscle memory, I just didn't know it. Anyway, the clip fits tightly on the X1 simply because it is slightly bigger than the light it was designed for. Still, the flashlight body is so smooth that with some effort it can be pushed through the clip. The little lanyard completely solves this issue and is actually useful in the process.
LED pocket flashlights pocket clip

Monday, May 13, 2013

EDC Update and Quick Budget Flashlight Review

I submitted my EDC to a while back and had totally forgotten about it until I noticed traffic coming from them. It turns out they accepted my picture. I felt a little concerned that I may have lowered the bar over there and decided to get some new pictures put together. This is really a combo post including images from a recent hiking trip where the photo opportunities are always more unique than my back yard, budget flashlights that have been working well, and my growing rotation of EDC tools. Let's change up the format a little and you can just sit back and enjoy the pictures with less reading.
bdget edc lights
This is the Crelant V11A 1xAA producing a claimed 450 Lumens. It's large for a single AA light with 3 modes, recessed forward clicky, and it remembers the last mode you used. Time will tell how it stands up to abuse but if you want a little more hand filling light with a more tactical interface then I really think this is an almost perfect light. If it is durable then it is also a great value @ $35.00 from (great place).

Melvern lake wild flowers
The scenery is provided by the state of Kansas and Melvern lake which offers lots of water and plenty of easy going trails.

The stripe in the grain of this fallen tree was too good to pass up.
budget EDC lights and folding knives
I feel confident recommending both the Inova X1 (far right) and the Streamlight Microstream (center) and this gives you a feel of their respective size. The Microstream is 1xAAA and very small. The button is excellent in that it is stiff. It is very simple to use it in a momentary on mode without fear of accidentally clicking into constant on because it takes a concerted effort to get there. Simple, no modes, everyday tasks amount of light, virtually zero footprint.   

everyday carry pictures
Details of the V11A from Crelant.

edc tools
Another size comparison. The V11A is about as big as I would want to carry every day, though it doesn't weigh much.

A little EDC pocket dump with the Aluminum CRKT Ripple.

melvern lake kansas
The Kershaw Cryo out to the lake. For anyone concerned, this plant was in this condition when I got there. The Cryo is an all steel knife the way I understand and it has some heft to it as medium sized folders go, but I like it, a lot.

I really like the black on grey details of the Cryo. It's also compact and thin.

EDC mates, though knives ride on the right side, lights on the left, so they don't get this close very often.

They do make a good looking pair though. Check the very cool clip on the Microstream. It goes right onto a hat brim. For about $20, if you like the idea of having lots of capabilities in a tiny package, this is the one for you. It's like carrying nothing.

The Microstream in the center is a touch yellow in tint, but nothing that annoys me. I don't know what mode the Crelant V11A was in but it's clearly producing more light than the other two. The Inova X1 has 2 modes and I personally feel it makes exactly the kind of light an EDC torch should make. If it had a pocket clip (and a track machined for one) it would be very close to the perfect light. It's thin, not very long, simple and very well made.

These 3 lights represent a sort of budget light spectrum, mainly because of their size. The Inova X1 has a single flaw that prevents it from being an EDC powerhouse and that is the lack of pocket clip. When I look for lights now, the lack of a pocket clip is a deal breaker, but doubly so on the X1. The reason is that it is a twist light, but has a sort of momentary on feature where you can press the tail cap so long as you have it screwed on far enough. I think this is considered a bomb-proof interface and it's proven to be. However, if you stick it in your pocket, you have to back the tail cap out (lock out), so you don't discover the light has been on and now has no juice. A pocket clip would solve this problem by preventing the light from rattling around in your pocket and ending up held on. So essentially the momentary on feature is defeated by the fact that if you kept it in such a position to use it, you run the risk of keeping the inside of your pocket well lit throughout the day. That means the light basically works like a Maglite - twist on, twist off. If that doesn't bother you (and it really isn't a big issue) then this is a tough, simple light that just plain works and has no nonsense. The two modes are useful and you can get around the pocket clip with a lanyard as I've done with mine. The lanyard hangs out of the pocket, holding the light at the ready. 

The Microstream is the ultralight option if you never want to notice the light is there. It also gives its user a lot of features and nothing you don't need. The battery lasts for approximately ever and it's the least expensive of the bunch. 

I got the Crelant V11A because I liked the idea of having a little more light in my hand. I think it's right at max for pocket carry for me personally, but exactly what I was looking for. It gives you more power without getting into something exotic, but has a nice low mode to conserve fuel while making plenty of light for everyday tasks. It's got the pocket clip, no pointless modes, a dead simple interface and seems to have the quality. I only recently got it, so durability is still unknown. If it proves to be tough, then even though it is the most expensive of the bunch, it is also the most light for the money and still comes in at a price that falls into the budget category.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Budget Gear Review: Schrade SCHF 12

Schrade fixed blade review
Sheath disassembled.
First off, I have a certain bias about this knife and I might as well come clean about it. Tanto blades don't do anything for me. But the curve they put in it kinda made me rethink that opinion and just get one for the fun of it. A few days ago I went over the Schrade SCHF 10 and I really think that knife rocks, but along the way I briefly hit on the SCHF 12 you see here. It's interesting that they are both from new lines yet this one had such major issues by comparison. Now, they are totally different knives and there are two sides to this story. This knife is still purpose driven more or less. It's a fighting knife and probably not really anything else. The blade style and thickness are designed for what I suppose you could call "combat tasks". It's thick but not so thick that it's too heavy and the blade style is probably good for prying and breaking stuff with less of a fine tip to worry about snapping off. It looks cool - cool enough for me to buy it even though I don't care
for the Tanto thing. It comes with a thermomold sheath - a huge step in the right direction. It comes with (edit) G10 scales which is great. The finish is .... maybe cool to some. But none of it is quite right and beyond design problems, there were also functional problems.

Let's start with the little stuff. Thinner steel, still 8CR13MOV, and just less of it for the same money as the SCHF 10. Not a big deal. No jimping. Ok, no big deal, might not be necessary for this style knife.

G10 scales, but they aren't cut in such a way as to facilitate the grip they are capable of. The finish, well for some reason I can see it being cool on certain knives, just not this one. The Tanto blade and clean, sort of boxy cut aren't suited to a purposefully rough finish. Still, none of these things are major but you begin to get the sense that you got less knife for the same money.

But wait, there is that Kydex or knock-off Kydex sheath. Sweet. Only, it really isn't. There is a ton of play and rattle and it's just not right. It's close and it is 10 times better than the sheaths included with the SCHF 9 and 10. I wouldn't complain about it except that in this case it brings up another important point about sheaths on cheap knives. Did I lose something in the knife in order to pay for this sheath? The knife is missing hard enough for me to not like the sheath, even though I would really like this sheath if it came with the other knives. Now that's hard to explain and I must be pretty hard to please, but it just misses the mark again, this time on the other side of the line. It works
on an Instructor's style belt in 1.5 and 1.75 inch widths, so long as you aren't using a Cobra buckle or any other belt with half a buckle on each end. It's a fighting knife for a tactical market but has no MOLLE attachment. If you could mod it for use with webbing it's really only going to get one attachment point which may or may not handle the weight or keep it secure.

The grip isn't great. I'm glad that I don't know what plunging a knife into a person is like but I've skinned my share of deer with blood slicked hands and I know that grip is never bad. More importantly, why waste the opportunity of getting it when the G10 scales are already present? The cuts they do have are kinda neat looking but have no purpose and in no way accommodate the human hand. Plus, no jimping. Do I need it? Hell, I dunno. The lack thereof fits the clean minimalist style of the knife but with all the other dings against it, this feels like another one.

Schrade SCHF 12 review
Look closely at the edge. All other images are post repair.
The big killer. The blade grind was God awful and unusable. I don't think I've fully captured it in the image but if you look at it closely you can see how uneven and off-centered it is. It was dull and a knife with no edge is really not a knife at all. All of the other images are after much hand grinding on sand paper and it isn't sharp yet, still in progress, but it wasn't terribly difficult to fix. This suggests quality control issues that are too typical in products like this but in all honestly, doesn't turn me off from the brand. Schrade is trying a lot of different markets and the knives that really interest me have been huge successes. They have lots of products that don't even interest me but as long as they keep hitting home runs with the ones that do, I'll keep watching and buying. Schrade must always remember though, why the SCHF 9 was such a stellar product and continue to manufacture and design around the lessons learned there. I feel like the SCHF 12 was a departure from the 9's model and I'll go over what changes could have brought it back.

First and foremost the blade edge has to be right. There are no two ways about that and they are perfectly capable of making it happen AND this is just one unit. Thousands with perfectly good blades are probably cutting things as I type. I would just stick to the black finish. I get the patina, or acid washed concept, I just don't think it applies to this knife. A basic outdoors, no frills knife, maybe something more "primitive" or "traditional" would probably look really cool with it so I wouldn't throw it out entirely, but I would for this line. The G10 - it needs to be checkered just like the SCHF 10 or similar. Jimping - sure, leave it out, but for everything I am not getting in this knife (jimping, finish, blade thickness), I want something in return. Most likely I would just lower the price and leave the sheath as it is. Correcting the sheath is a matter of personal preference, but honestly, I'd just go back to the things I talked about in my last post. The sheath really just needs to be a plastic lined rectangular box the blade fits in, covered in some kind of tough nylon, something close to 1000D Cordura. No seam tape, no frills, no velcro, no cordage. Fold and stitch the
schf 12 reviewedges the way it's been done for hundreds of years and use a snap/strap for retention. Since the SCHF 12 is really geared for the tactical crowd, it's going to need a dead simple PALS attachment system, probably webbing and a snap. Double the webbing up, do it right, call it a day. Kydex or thermomold plastic really needs to be done correctly if you're going to do it. My guess is they mold the sheaths around a handful of knives or models of some kind and then the production knives themselves vary slightly from one to the next resulting in some rattle and slop.

To be clear, the Schrade SCHF 12 is still a good value especially if you are in the market for this type of blade. And to be fair, the sheath is still much better than the alternative and I know for sure that I could use some paracord to securely attach it to MOLLE gear no problem. The retention is actually very good in spite of the loose fit and it is going to hold up far and away better than the nylon counterparts. As for the rest, it can only be seen as a lesser value when compared to its siblings, not necessarily the competition from other companies. When compared to the SCHF 10 it is my sense that I am getting less for the same money, especially when the 10 is so impressive in my view. They are completely different blades and fit completely different roles, so the feeling comes from the amount of knife for the money more than how well the knife competes in its market. To that end, it's still a pretty nice product if it's what you're wanting and for the money, you still can't go wrong.

Schrade fixed blade knives schf 10 schf9 schf12
Family photo.
Schrade Extreme Survival review
Difference in blade thickness.