Saturday, November 30, 2013

Axe Restoration Project

I guess really it isn't restoration - just rehanging an old axe. I heat my home with wood and use an axe as a daily tool so I don't see a point in spending more time shining that hunk of iron than it will take for it to get that brown patina back. Although ... I do kinda feel like doing that for the sake of doing it. Anyway, good axes are fewer and further between anymore and they aren't cheap either. My research tells me that this Wards Master Quality head is possibly 70 years old. I had to have this particular handle shipped and I paid a little extra for them to pick me a nice one, but these House Handle sticks are available locally for a whopping $8.00. They seem like pretty good handles for the coin and my hardware store didn't have the length I wanted so all in all I've got $35.00 in an axe that I suspect would cost significantly more today. The head came from a local antique mall and I admit that the temptation to go back and get another one is getting to me. They had a Tru-Temper with a bit in like-new geometry but someone had beat the pole to death. They had beaten it to the point where you could see that steel had actually chipped off in chunks in several places, as well as massive deformation. It was a sad sight and I felt it was probably unsafe to use. So here are some pics of the process and the final product. I am in the process of making a sheath just for the fun of it, not because it'll ever actually wear it, and we'll call it done.

axe restoration project
Started cleaning up the head before I took any pictures, but I figure if it is as old as I've heard then it was in pretty good shape really. It's got a few pits along the edge that are kinda bad, but I'm not a lumber jack, I just split wood.
Wards Master Quality. Supposed to be pretty good, but either way I think it'll do nicely.
The old handle and the new. The new handle came from House Handle just next door in MO.
The Cryo got to help with a bit of hanging.
Good looking grain. I have heard criticism for the metal wedge from people who know what they are talking about but at the same time I don't think that they would be so widely used if they were the spawn of Satan. I expect there is greater chance of creating a split as you drive it but now I've got one with, and one without. 

A quick shot of the grain. House Handle will take a couple extra dollars and pick you out the handle you want. Whether it is spectacular or not may be a matter of opinion but they aren't expensive in my mind so why not? I may have mentioned that they are available in one of my local hardware stores so I got to inspect a raft of their products. Some were better than others so I feel like it was an extra couple dollars well spent.

The finished product. I think I'm going to let work produce the finial finish.
firewood processing tools
A final finish more like my old axe seen at the far right. Kind of a smooth brown patina.
The whole wood splitting family. Aranyik K-1 e-nep, Snow and Nealley and the Wards.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Very Budget Gear Review: Maxpedition Proteus Knock Off

So every now and then I'd be on Amazon or ebay and come across these no name, no brand "tactical waistpacks" and the wide assortment of related products from the great far east. Mostly I'd just get annoyed that my searches were full of this trash and added extra particles for my mental spam filter to sort through. Recently though I wanted some kind of waist pack to replace one I've used for years while hunting that was given to me as a gift. I find it very handy to have calls and ammunition and snacks and all assortment of other items right in front of me for easy access. So at a wallet friendly $15.00 I figured it was worth getting even if I had to write a post about how godawful it turned out to be. Maxpedition's gear, the way I understand it, is made it Taiwan and if you know anything about Taiwan, let's just say they aren't China. So I suspect this product is not made in the same place and I know there is another brand or two that does sell the same products out of the same factory under different names. I hang out over at the EDC forums and there are countless negative experiences with Maxpedition and it's not that I'm jumping on board or anything, it's just another reason for me not to care if someone rips off their designs. This one happens to be a rip of the Proteus and as far as I can tell, it's pretty much exact. Presumably there are short cuts taken. It's hard to determine the quality of the thread for instance, or really the quality of the webbing, buckles, etc. Often you can "feel" cheap plastic but the buckles appear to be somewhere between good and bad. Point is, there are some less than obvious places that corners can be cut that ultimately lead to a product that falls apart. Oh well. It was $15.00 and let's always keep in mind the end use. Buckles can be replaced, I am capable of using a needle and thread, and even the belt can be replaced. Let's get into it.
chines maxpedition knock off
If there is one thing they seen to struggle with, it's making MOLLE attachments. I don't know if the rings will work or not, haven't tried them, just not sure why they don't use webbing.  Overall though, the material seems pretty tough, being essentially the same as the backpacks we abused as kids for school. There are about 15 different ways to carry this thing .... well ok, maybe 3. The belt can be turned into a shoulder strap (Why? I dunno) and it has this goofy carry handle. The carry handle also doubles as a compression strap. I get the purpose, I just think it's mostly pointless. At first I was just going to cut it off, but it can be pulled around the back out of sight, so in case I do decide it's useful it's still there. You see it wrapped around the front in the picture at the top. It has a couple side release buckles which are necessary if you actually want to get INTO the pack. Me, I just like to take some shock cord and fashion my own easy to use compression system.

The webbing is thin but has that canvas look and feel so I'm not sure it's all that bad - it is better than the super cheap webbing we've all seen that is more like seam tape than anything else. You can see here there is a plastic stiffener and a snap for secure attachment. The snaps are ok, they won't last forever.

Some organization. Not sure what it's good for. For hunting I could see keeping tags and your license and sundry paperwork in here. A handful of turkey calls, crow call, and a squirrel call are probably going to live here. The side pockets are wide open with no organizational stuff inside, and a good spot for my butt-paper stash that one must always have in the woods.  

This just shows it for size. I think this is almost like a butt pack set-up only smaller. The light fighter concept comes in here with very essential comfort and hygiene kit right there always on you, nothing extra. You can also barely see how I wrap the carry handle around the back and buckle it so it's out of the way. 

A look at the material, stitching and zipper up close. The zippers are smooth feeling and chunky. The stitching is actually pretty clean. My overall impression is that it's surprisingly good for the coin spent and will serve just fine for my purposes. Deer season quickly approaches and we'll see just how it goes.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Airgun Testing Continues

Professional shooters probably rebuild or replace guns pretty regularly like race car drivers rebuild engines, whereas typical gun owners may pass a gun down generation to generation and few typical car owners replace many engines even if they keep a car for a lifetime. So when it comes to airguns there is a cost savings that allows pretty much any owner to cycle the machine far more than that same owner might a firearm - closer to the way a professional shooter would. For me it was no problem to crank through a thousand BBs or more in the short time I've owned the Blackwater 1911 yet, even shooting some IDPA, it took me a couple years to shoot 2,500 rounds of 9mm. This point makes me wonder how fair it is to criticize the longevity of these products and also consider what a reasonable life span might actually be for them. At the end of the day we know that the quality and attention to detail is more than likely sub-par, or at least, I tend to lean toward this conclusion. What's more, the materials aren't high quality and to be honest, don't necessarily have to be either. For me, it really comes down to design. An airgun generates very little energy and the moving parts don't undergo particularly violent stresses, so cheaper materials really are sufficient. That doesn't mean that poorly designed parts won't fail.

The first air pistol I purchased was the very poorly designed G&G airsoft 1911. The materials it is constructed from should make an excellent air gun. However, certain internal components are so poorly held together that I believe every one of them will fail. I returned mine when it fell apart and have hardly shot the replacement. I returned to the airgun market recently to try the KWC 1911 in 4.5mm to see if anything had changed or improved. It would appear that things have improved and if you'd like to read more please visit my other posts on the subject.
New Airgun Addition SIG X-Five
KWC Blackwater Part 2
KWC Blackwater Part 1

I've had the guns apart and inspected them, looking for the flaws. The flaws with the G&G were well hidden but at one point I had the gun completely (beyond field stripped) taken apart and they certainly became apparent then. These KWC guns are simpler. The only parts that can't be readily inspected are the trigger group and the associated small parts housed in the frame. The bottom line is that these air guns do not need to cost any more money to be better made, they simply need to be designed correctly. So the questions are; are the designers bad, or do they create weak points to sell more product? Either is possible of course. A little more digging around the net and I began to find people less pleased with the variants of the KWC 1911. They mostly complained about jams, but I wonder if those aren't caused by another problem the users overlooked. My 1911 hasn't jammed as far as the feed-way is concerned. BBs load perfectly every time and there is good reason for it. With a firearm, if the slide should not do what it does - go the rear and close forward - then most likely there was a cartridge that didn't get into the barrel completely and smoothly. Unlike firearm cartridges, BBs are tiny and round - it's easy to make them go where they are supposed to go. My Blackwater 1911 has just kept on working. If you use your finger to push a BB from the magazine you will see why they feed so well. They practically fire out of the mag and while in the gun, there is nowhere for them to go besides the barrel. It's a good system that works.

The other group of complaints seem to center around the seals in the magazine where the CO2 is handled. Many users have stated specifically that you should never over tighten a CO2 cartridge. This makes sense and I have to say, my magazines have been a little picky. With both the Blackwater 1911 and the X-Five, I've had less than perfect magazines. One for the 1911 had to be returned because it simply couldn't pierce a CO2 cartridge. One on the X-Five is close to not piercing, but it works, it just gets a few more shots from the CO2. Overall, I believe the mags are a weak point and they are also $30.00 so this is an expense that over time, could become a problem. However, mine are still going and I've learned their little nuances with experience.

So why are we writing this post then? Well the X-Five had to be returned. When the replacement arrives I will get better pictures but for now we'll compare the 1911. They are made essentially the same. The mechanism at the rear of the slide which handles the CO2 and creates blowback is very simple, but separate from the slide itself, meaning that it has to be held in the slide somehow. It's a small area to work with and the unit takes up all of the room it can. In the image you are seeing this unit on the 1911. There is a metal housing and a plastic tube. The little rectangular hole is where gas flows into this plastic tube. A very simple valve directs some gas to the rear to shove the slide rearward and the rest to the front to propel the BB. As you can see, this mechanism fills the rear of the slide completely, leaving very little space for anything to fasten it in place.
Here you see the screw that retains the entire unit. I would say that a single screw is at least 1 too few to do the job but at least on this gun that screw is fairly substantial. However, I believe they are steel screws given that they are attracted to a magnet. Steel screws vs a soft cast metal alloy - which do you think will win? I don't think it would be possible to put these screws in, especially in a fast paced factory environment, without stripping every single one. Best case scenario you apply thread locker and simply snug them. I believe that because this screw is more robust and that it faces the direction of the forces which are applied to it, that it may continue to hold up. But it's a poor design. Let me elaborate.

The X-Five stopped working one day. This entire mechanism had gotten loose enough that it moved out of place and jammed up the works. On the SIG, rather than a single screw from the rear like this, there are 2 very small screws (like you might find holding a laptop together) which are inserted from below. So the slide recoils and vibrates and so forth, transferring at least some of this energy to these tiny screws and gravity does the rest. When the gun went down and I discovered the problem I removed the screws to find that they were stripped, badly. I would have suspected the holes to have been stripped rather than the screws but it wasn't the case. My opinion, this is a flaw that will always fail. These units should be pinned in, or redesigned but either way this goes back to something I said from the start; real gun on the outside, airgun on the inside. I can live with minor cosmetic differences from the firearm counterpart, especially when it is necessary to have a good functioning airgun. I believe these design choices were made so that the gun looked more realistic.

Have I decided that airguns are still no good? Not really. They aren't made like they should be and I believe that these two guns will fail because of this one poor design - a small detail that can ruin the entire machine. However, there is no reason to remove this part and I think it could be soldered in place which would allow it to be removed if repairs became necessary, but would also keep it in place so that the screws could be ignored. If the factory would no more than snug the screws and apply thread locker the issue might be mitigated, but soft metals and screws are a bad combination that never works when those screws are relied on to keep a vital mechanism in place under the stresses generated by the machine itself. Additionally, on both guns the hammer falls for no reason. It has no function, but it beats against this unit every trigger pull - additional forces at work.

When the X-Five went down I inspected the 1911 and sure enough, that same mechanism was loose. The screw was loose but would not back out fully without what I considered too much force. This loose, then tight, issue with screws, as many of you know, is probably an indication of stripped threads. I will try soldering these parts, though it's probably safe to say that solder isn't designed to take stress of any sort. All the same, I believe I can keep these guns working and I am somewhat relieved to find that this is the only significant issue that's come up.

1955 Thunderbird

Portrait work of a Thunderbird.
digital rendering ford t-bird art automotive design

Monday, November 11, 2013

Solarforce Z2 1xAA EDC Light

1xaa budget flashlight review
My shiny new Solarforce Z2 EDC light.

overview of the solarforce z2 AA powered flashlight
All the specs right there for ya, the packaging and the goodies included. I wasn't expecting glow in the dark rings but it's a nice touch.

EDC gear everyday carry lights
The Z2 makes a nice partner for the Kershaw Cryo in gray.

compact edc pocket light
Lots of nice markings on the Z2 and it looks to me like they are laser engraved in the finish rather than printed.

affordable everyday carry lights pocket clip
The finish is nice and smooth and pocket clip is correctly designed, though perhaps a touch light on tension.

smallest flashlight with pocket clip
Overall a nice looking piece. Very compact being just a bit larger than the L3 Illumination L10 which is a very small 1xAA light and similar in looks, but without the clicky switch.

Reverse polarity protection. This is such a simple feature to include and is just another way these lights are such great values. This light is $17.00 and only took 8 days to get to my house from Hong Kong or wherever they come from. I replied to the shipping e-mail just to say that I was excited about the Z2 and had experienced great service from Solarforce in the past. I got a nice response the next day thanking me for my order and appreciation. They strike me as honest regular folks who take pride in their product.

low mode AA edc light
Nice orange peel that produces a smooth, floody beam.

Standard switch boot covering a switch that is light and feels smooth.

Squared threads and another GITD ring.