Compleat Idler, Economy, Preparedness, Tool user

Tool review – Leatherman Rebar

 

© 2014 Earl L. Haehl: Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

I first wrote this a couple months back, like within a couple weeks of purchase—I am a skilled tool user and I did a quick overview. This was probably a bad idea. It is a mistake that a lot of the internet folks make when they are dazzled by a new toy. The other mistake they make is devising a test without thinking about what they are likely to do. Daily use for a couple months is the best field test I have seen.

Realize that I do not have a “testing regimen” for my tools. I use them the way I tend to use them and evaluate the results—I am a writer, not Consumer Reports®. If paid, I would develop a regimen and test gear, but I am not.

It is almost 30 years since I got the first Leatherman. It was 14 months since my Super Tool 300 had gone missing, the result of carrying it in an unsecured vest pocket rather than a pouch fastened to my belt. I do not know which is the longer term because being without the tool that has been an extension of one’s being amplifies the need for it. I was carrying, for the last six months my old Victorinox Hunter—it is not the same. The Swiss knife says you are the kind of person who drives a BMW and listens to NPR. People view you as civilized and your opinions are expected to be erudite and progressive.

I generally listen to AM radio and drive a pickup that was built in the last century—I am civilized and can speak with some erudition but I have more use in my daily comings and goings for needle-nosed pliers and Phillips head screwdrivers than a corkscrew and my Leatherman CS tool has better scissors and lifts beer caps. Even with the complete tool box on the truck bed the multi-tool is so much more convenient. I was at odd ends and awake about midnight when I ordered a black stainless Leatherman Rebar. It arrived by either UPS or Fedex early in the afternoon a couple days later. (Note: Staples has good delivery.) NOTE: While midnight to 0230 may be good for writing, it may not be good for the Visa bill.

Now to the tool in question. It is slightly lighter than the old Super Tool 300 which was new thing when I bought it a couple years back. I do not see this as a disadvantage because I can still use it to tap in tacks. It reminds me of the original Leatherman Tool that Tom built after a trip to Europe and marketed through Cabelas. In 84 or 85 I got one as a present and have had one on my hip since.

There are two features that are improvements on the Rebar over the original. The blades lock. And the wire cutters can be replaced. I feel my reputation for breaking wire cutters may have gotten back to the manufacturers as this feature is found on the newer Leatherman and Gerber multi-tools—my son said he could tell which were his by looking at the unbroken wire cutter.

It might be helpful if it would carry the trash, but that is not part of its job description. It does its job and has a good price point and is built rugged—like my old truck. After a couple months I feel I have worked out the stiffness and bugs—the tool is what it is, not some ideal of perfection that everyone is looking for. When I was daily using the knife blades to cut boxes and wood I appreciated the Wave which let me access the blades without opening the pliers. Now, I have more time so that option is not as important.

It did take awhile for the tool to loosen up to the point where I could easily work the functions. I do not recall the break in time as being that long on previous tools, but I am older and slower now and still only six months or so out from a fusion. It seems to be working better. If you are looking for bells and whistles, get the Wave or the Surge.

 

 

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Compleat Idler, Education, Homeschooling, Technology, Tool user

Complete idler — reading suggestion

(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

10.12! That is the October 2012 Popular Mechanics. The question as I wander by the magazine rack is “Should I buy this or hope someone else does?” And I looked at the cover, and it featured stealth aircraft which will turn off most of my friends. The technology of stealth fascinates me because it represents a game of camouflage—sort of like the scout patrol that wore woodland camo pants and called themselves the Camo Gators: “We’re the Gators! You can’t see us.”

But I look at the contents. Jay Leno’s Garage. Okay, it is coming home. I will never afford the car collection he has—the Powerball never gets that big. But I have been fascinated by cars ever since we did the work on my grandparents’ LaSalle. That an engine works that way was a mystery to a five year old that bordered on magic. And since I realized I could read about third grade, what was in the magazines around the house was fair game.

And when I had mumps or other long illness, I would get a stack which included Field and Stream, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, and sometimes Popular Photography. I was corrupted from a young age. I also snuck a look at my uncle’s True.

So check out the October issue. Especially with homeschoolers check out the squishy circuits and LED projects. On Lew Rockwell, Karen de Coster is fighting for incandescent bulbs as opposed to CFLs. The bad news is that incandescents are going by government decree (and the Administration also killed the Crown Vic). The good news is that in five to ten years CFLs, which have mercury as well as a tendency to break in my hand, will be history. LEDs are cleaner and require much less power.

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Compleat Idler, Preparedness, Tool user

Idler’s tools – parachute cord

(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

My Swiss Army Knife Zermatt pouch arrived Saturday, September 8—it was scheduled fotr Monday, September 10. So far, so good. I had been thinking of getting a Huntsman with pouch after seeing one in the store for less than forty bucks. My Leatherman tool is too heavy for waist carry and I could use something more than a blade. Plus, the corkscrew says I am sophisticated.

When I went back the one with the pouch was gone so I went home and searched through a drawer because I remembered seeing a basketweave Zermatt pouch for the old Explorer that I cracked the spine on. My memory still tricks me and, as I said in a post on cutlery, when I go through my old stuff, surprises await. I did not find the pouch—it probably went in a lapse in the Scout Leader accumulation instinct. No, there was my Victorinox Huntsman, waiting to be picked up and used. The scales were darker than the new ones, probably due to handling and the oils from my hands—lanolin, neetsfoot, gun oil, machine oil etc.

So I went on line to find a pouch. The general run of stuff appears to be either cordura or a black clip-on case. An outfit called Swiss Knives Express had real Zermatt pouches. I ordered one with a sharpening steel for twenty bucks. And it arrived. The knife slid in tightly. It pulls out with effort. A thong on the lanyard ring would help.

My first choice would be leather, but what I had was parachute cord which is the subject of this post. At this house we buy 550 cord occasionally, but when we do we buy spools. A 1000′ spool will provide 10 100′ hanks which is the smallest amount I carry. And if there is 25′ still intact at the end of the weekend I roll it and stick it in a drawer or the bottom of a pack. So there is always some around when I need it. About six inches was all it took to give me a small loop that leverages the knife out of the pouch.

Shelter: Using the 550 is much more convenient than carrying 3/8 inch Manila—and about as strong. Combined with a tarp or sheet of Visqueen, this provides sturdy support between poles or trees. While all nylon has more of a tendency to stretch than hemp, the parachute cord is not as loose as the polypropylene rope used for marine purposes. And it has the advantage of tying almost like natural fiber. In erecting shelter use of the taut-line hitch is critical as this allows you to loosen or tighten the lines. (The aluminum or plastic line adjusters that come with commercial grade tents get lost.

Lashings: I began scouting in January of 1955. I spent that month learning knots, hitches and lashings because that is what the troop leadership was into and I had already learned woods tools from my grandfather, having taken out a three-inch sapling with a ¾ axe at age 10. This is not the way we do things now because there are fewer necessary knots: sheet-bend, bowline, taut-line hitch, clove hitch, timber hitch, square lashing, diagonal lashing, shear lashing and tripod lashing. There are other lashings, knots and hitches but these are the essentials and are learned over a year period. In the Pioneering merit badge program the standard is ¼ or 3/8 inch hemp or sisal rope because that is the way it was done back when. (Note: were the Mountain Men still around they would use the 90 mph tape.) In training we used sisal twine that comes in 100′ bales. But I like the 1/8 inch diameter parachute cord because it lays down nicely and I generally have some.

Securing gear: Because you can tie secure knots and use the taut-line hitch, 550 is preferable to bungee cord which gives and uses hooks that break at the least opportune time. (Is there any gear failure that does not occur at the least opportune time?) My grandmother had me use cotton clothes line for this project which wears quickly and she could cut into the right length with kitchen shears. It is nearly impossible to untie when wet and starts to smell.

Bootlaces: Cut to the right length, these are the laces that say, “I can improvise.” They started as a quick fix on a weeklong outing and ended up on the boots in the closet—when you have them in, it does not pay to buy commercial laces.

Limitations: This is not rescue rope. And, unless you get the military stuff with threads inside you are just getting an outer shell—it might fasten gear but it has little utility in the field. As with all polymers it will melt quickly.

However: I consider parachute cord to be an essential part of any preparedness supply.

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Compleat Idler, Surplus Stores, Tool user

Surplus stores — suspicious behavior

(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

So one of the signs of suspicious behavior in a surplus store is discussion of means to convert items to uses for which they were not intended. Now this may go back to when I spotted the jet-fighter canopy and had the brilliant idea that, combined with a cot, it could provide the perfect bed for sleeping under the stars. It certainly was not Pete’s idea to use a three dollar pilot’s helmet for a football helmet.

But a few years later (and about 11 inches taller) I no longer had that fantasy and Pete was elsewhere. Who knows? He may have figured out how to build a communications system into a football helmet so the coach and the QB can talk to each other. But you have to realize that the tools of war may have other uses.

“ And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” [Isaiah 2:4] I read that when I was eight years old and still grappling with the insipid stuff in school—I now understand that early modern English is a different language and that the 1611 Authorized Version is EME. But this has always intrigued me.

The things I remember from surplus stores is looking at the bayonets and comparing the length of the blade to the cattail roots by the pond. I have been told that cattail roots are edible—the problem was how long they needed to cook. But we obtained machetes which can be used to top sugar beets and old first aid supplies. The WW2 canteens were better than Official BSA and you could hang two of them on a pistol belt for balance. The guys who built the slat pack frames used ammo packs for their main bag—a fishing trip was not the intended use for the bag, but it worked.

I would tend to worry more about people talking about using the bayonets to stick people—you say things like that in bars. I stay out of bars—it is intentional as I do not like fights.

Meanwhile, that bicycle generator intrigues me.

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Compleat Idler, Preparedness, Technology, Tool user

Idler’s tools – going cordless

(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

The time for a battery operated tool system arose in my son’s life when he decided to built a dwelling on the farm from storage containers. His decision was based on the need for power about 250 feet away from a source. The old bench electrician looked at him and explained that if he were going to live in the place he should probably drop 220 from the main box to an onsite box which would eventually be attached to said dwelling. His response was that this would not need the same level of security and implied that while I could wire a breaker box for him, I probably did not have a current reg book.

Then he showed me the sale catalog he acquired. Okay, once I see a tool catalog I get distracted. And he was down to two outfits—Ryobi and DeWalt. I have experience with both because I ended up with a DeWalt reciprocating saw when they were closing the PayLess which had finally decided that it could not compete with the Lowe’s in Topeka which was 27 miles away. And I am not sure the rumblings about Home Depot wanting to locate in the area did not help the situation. I liked PayLess when I was selling hardware because I could send them customers who wanted a tool, but were questioning my price—they were back in a half hour to 45 minutes. I also picked up a rebuilt half inch Ryobi drill at a Cummins special sale. When Dave asked about the 8” chainsaw that came with the Ryobi, I pointed out that with a 10” pruning blade, the DeWalt could probably do as much if not more than the 18 volt chain saw.

He got the tools and one fine spring morning about two years later I tripped on the cord I was dragging behind me to do the clean up. I wrapped up the cord and put the saw back in the box and headed my Blazer to Home Depot. And the set I got was just a drill and reciprocating saw. But it works. I figured we could share batteries and are once again compatible.

Once I get a solar charger we can take it for trips of more than a couple days.  I have decided to do something other than whine about a solar charger,  A 12-volt array and an inverter can probably do the trick with my current charger.

The advantage to the battery operated tools is that they are really portable and less cranky than gas operated power tools.  I can take out a batch of volunteer saplings in a few minutes with the pruning blade.  Fitted with a Robertson (square head) bit I can drive deck screws all afternoon on a couple batteries.  And it is faster than with hand tools and less likely to aggravate my carpal tunnel.

The disadvantage is the cost of batteries and tool weight.  My 18v drill ways more than the half inch  corded drill in the box.  Motors wear out–but they do that even with corded tools.

There are several brands on the market.  I went with DeWalt because I like the corded DeWalt tools I had and my son went with them.

 

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Compleat Idler, Preparedness, Surplus Stores, Technology

Preparedness tip — duct tape

(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

“Duct tape” is not to be used on ductwork as it is not designed for handling temperature extremes. The term was developed because the term “duck tape” which came from a strong adhesive back on cotton duck was trademarked by one company. Note that this company uses its trademark on several different backed tapes.

What you need for the ductwork is called HVAC tape.

There is also gaffers’ tape, available from dealers in photo and video equipment that holds lights and accessories in place and does not generally take the wallpaper or paint with it when removed.

What I use for general repairs I get at either the US Cavalry Store or Cheaper Than Dirt depending on who has the better price point that month. It is described as 60 mph or something like that and I call it military stuff. It does pull wallpaper, paint, finish or veneer off the wall. It holds—that is the general idea.

A note: In scout leader training we ran a lashing contest and prohibited tape. In a survival situation, use the tape.

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Compleat Idler, Preparedness

Idler’s tools — cutlery

(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

I have more knives than I really need. But it is better to have it than to need it. I could get by with a paring or utility knife, an eight inch chef’s knife and a boning knife. Also in the block are a couple of bread knives, spare eight inch chef and utility, an Ontario scalper, a six inch chef’s knife, a ten inch butcher, a small oriental cleaver, my grandfather’s butchering cleaver and some steak knives. I have a fine steel. The pairing knife gets quit a bit of use for odd jobs. When I am doing serious cutting I use the chef’s knife and when I do cuts on chicken the boner works. For a good discussion get The Supper of the Lamb(http://www.amazon.com/The-Supper-Lamb-Reflection-Paperbacks/dp/0375760563). I disagree with Fr Capon in Swiss Army knives but I had been looking at a Huntsman for belt carry.

This afternoon I was downstairs and need a knife—if there is anything in surplus downstairs besides multi-bit screwdrivers it is knives. I can wear a fifty year scout pin—I have knives, axes, saws. I trained leaders in woods tools. So I was in the one room where nothing is accessible and will not be until we relocate the shelving temporarily stored there. I reached into a box in the cupboard and snagged the handle of a Russell Green River skinning knife. Have I used it in the past year? No. Am I going to remainder it? No. Am I planning a hunting trip? No.

A knife is a tool and it may also hold memories. When my mother died I got all the cutlery that was left from my grandparents and my aunt. There is a ten inch butcher knife whose blade would not survive a coat of naval jelly and the handle has been cut down to fit my grandmother’s hands—not exactly a professional job. But with the rest it will go on to my son when I s0ould hold out one or two big roasts and have a feast of the three households on the property. And that knife would be out and doing most of the work. I vaguely remember my grandfather butchering a sheep or goat in the kitchen, but I was under five. We did butcher chickens up until 1954 when the City annexed the property and we had to give them up.

In 1954 my grandfather gave me a Plumb hand-axe. I was 10 and my kit now included a two-blade pen knife, a three blade Case stockman, a KampKing scout type knife and a Plumb hand-axe. The other term commonly used is hatchet which has bad connotations from the 19th Century tong wars in New York and San Francisco which are, according to Carl Glick in Shake Hands with the Dragon, based on occidental stereotypes rather than fact. The Norse referred to it as a hawk and that word entered and apparently left the English language with persons making handsaw into heron-shaw. The traders of Hudson’s Bay Company and similar trading companies used metal axes as trade goods. There were fancy ones which featured a smoking pipe opposite the cutting blade. It is known that the Tomahawk was carried by trappers and soldiers as well as native peoples. Somewhere downstairs I have what is called a Hudson Bay Axe with a head shaped more like a tomahawk blade than a Michigan blade which is standard for camp axes. As I have gotten older I have gotten away from the idea of a hand axe as that essential item in my woods tool box. I discovered the ¾ size axe seems to fit my arms and give me greater control over the tasks I am dealing with. I also tend to use a saw when dealing with limbs. And a ¾ size steel Estwing rides in my truck box.

The date 1954 in the above paragraph is important. I had turned 10 in 1953. I was trusted by my grandfather to use all the woods tools that now require certification in the scouting movement to even carry. One of the more insidious tendencies in our society is the infantilization of youth. Think about it.

As to safety, another matter comes up. The Scout Movement, at least in my own council, came up with a rule that prohibits the carry of fixed blade knives—for reasons of safety. A non-lockback folding knife will, unless properly used, close the sharp side of the blade on the hand of the user. So we recommend the lockback configuration. I have had lockbacks fail. I have had non-lockback folders fail in the spine. I’ll be specific on this latter point. One was a USGI Camillus. One was a Victorinox red scale. There were others, but they were cheap. The only fixed blade knife I had break on me was a “survival” knife with a hollow handle that had everything Rambo needed but his crossbow and blowdrier. The only problem was no tang.

So whether you are in the kitchen or the field, you may need cutlery. Treat tools as tools.

I would have loved a bayonet when I was digging cattail roots.

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