Friday, January 29, 2016

TUTORIAL - Knife Maintenance

Arguably, your knife is the single most important, useful piece of equipment in your bag. As such, it needs to be maintained well in order to keep it functioning at peak performance.

Now this topic could be expanded into a BOOK-LENGTH article, and indeed it has. This article, specifically, will not go into the actual methods of knife care, as that info can be found anywhere you turn. You can't open YouTube without finding eight hundred thousand videos on the topic.

What you don't see much of are knife care kits. There are plenty of store-bought options out there, many of which are excellent, such as the Spyderco SharpMaker:

These kits are great for edge retention, but don't look after the knife completely. There is more to it than just maintaining a razor-edge. What about getting rid of a chip or burr? Keeping any hinges clean and free? How about keeping an AXE sharp or performing gradiated reconditioning of a too-far-gone blade? That takes a bit more equipment, and putting together a kit for it is relatively simple and inexpensive.

There are many versions of what that kit might look like, but here's one I made just to get your brain juices pumping a little, and, like most of my kits, it fits snugly into a little pouch:

If you know me at all by now, you'll know that organisation is key when it comes to my packs, so within this pouch, everything is laid out nicely and ready to use:

So here's the contents, numbered in the order you'd be putting your hands on them during a standard sharpening routine:

1. Microfibre cloth/oilcloth. Some sort of cloth suitable for working with oil for cleaning and oiling the blade and stones.

2. Bottle/canister of a superfine knife oil. A well-made knife oil is not just good for lubricating a blade's movement if it has any, but can also help to clean a dirty blade and ward off rust. Can't afford fancy knife oil? Standard 3-in-1 oil works just fine in most cases.
3. A knife steel. Quickly bust out any burrs and keep your edge aligned to stop future burrs before they happen. A lot of people forget this step.

4. A gradiated stone. These stones have a SUPER LOW grit side, and a slightly less low side. When you're starting from scratch, or dealing with something like a machete or axe, one of these babies will get your edge ready to BE sharpened if it isn't currently. They're so good they'll even work on a lawnmower blade. The curved surface also helps to sharpen those trickier blades, like kukris.

5. An edge refinement file. A lot of places mistakenly call these a diamond sharpener. These things are great for helping get your edge ready to be sharpened, but they remove a LOT of material from your edge and will ruin any current razor-sharp sections you currently have, so use it when you're reconditioning a dull blade only.

6. An ACTUAL diamond sharpener. These can cost serious money to get a good one, but you can get an alright one for about thirty or fourty bucks. This is the first stage of your ACTUAL sharpening process, once your blade steel is properly prepared. Remember never to use oil on your blade if you're using one of these. You'll ruin it within two uses.

7. A refinement tool. The one I uses is made by a company called Lansky and is called the Blade Medic. I love it. It has a diamond sharpener, carbide edger and two ceramic refiners all with replaceable parts if they wear out. Once you've done your diamond sharpen, this will get your blade quite usable on its own and will KEEP it that way for a long, long time. One of the most bang-for-buck tools you'll ever buy. Just remember that a carbide sharpener should be used very, very moderately as they remove a HEAP of material from your blade compared to other sharpeners.

8. A whetstone. And I mean a PROPER whetstone. In my humble opinion there are only two countries which produce proper whetstones - Japan and the good ol' US of A. My personal preference is Arkansas Blue stone as it has never, ever let me down. The company "Dan's" make them nicely, too. They're also the perfect mix of quality and affordable. Also, do yourself a favour and look up proper whetstone technique. One tip that I learned from a professional chef was to substitute knife oil for dishwashing liquid when you get to the whetstone stage. You can have that one for free ;)

So do yourself a favour and look after your baby. That way, it can keep looking after you when you're in a bind.

- CumQuaT

Monday, January 25, 2016

TUTORIAL - Building a back-to-basics bushman survival kit

So we all have our various bug-out bags, and possibly a survival kit also, and these can come in many forms. There are survival kits for urban settings, semi-urban, bushland, desert, arctic, car-kits and more. So I'm not going to go into all of the different types, but instead show you all the Aussie bush survival kit which I take with me on my own journeys. This thing has gone through a lot of redesigns over the years, but this current version has lasted a good while, and it's so small and convenient that it always has a home at the bottom of my bush bag, bug out bag and even 72 hour bag, just because of its convenience!

Here it is, in all of its majesty:

Isn't it cute? It's not too heavy, either, weighing in at only 450g you barely notice it's there, especially given what's inside of it.

When you open the pouch and dump out the contents, here's what you get:

So here you can see the pouch, the matches, the fishing reel, the hot chocolate (yummy), the wax stick, the mess tin, the stove and the mylar blanket. A couple of these items speak for themselves, so I won't really go into them. The hot chocolate is a morale item (you'll see a lot of morale gear in my load-outs, and I can do a separate post about that if you'd like), the mylar blanket is for warmth and signalling, the wax stick is for fuel and makeshift repairs and the fishing reel is one of those automatic reels you can pick up. If you've never seen one, they're great. You bait it, hang it on a branch over a creek or pond, then come back later to collect whatever fell into the trap. Not good for large fish, but definitely good for little creek-dwellers and crustaceans!

More notable items you might see here include the matches. This little baby is the Exotac MatchCap, milled from a solid piece of aircraft-grade aluminium, guaranteed to keep your matches perfectly dry, even when completely submerged.

It also contains various striking methods in-built allowing you to carry multiple match types in there.

This thing is also fairly bulletproof. Some of the stress tests I've seen it survive are brutal. Are there other ways to carry some matches? Yes. Are they as awesome and stylish? No. And sometimes style counts ;)

Ok, matchbox rant over. Next up you'll notice the stove. Now, you're reading my blog so I assume you're already some kind of prepper or survivalist like me and you've seen hexi-stoves before. Probably even own a couple. But did you know that the German infantry carry MINIATURE ones? They're tricky to track down, but when you're relying on compactness then these babies are golden.

The final item you'll see here is the mess tin. But this also doubles as an impact-proof container to hold the vast majority of the kit's contents.

This particular mess kit is a nice one, as it has a nice, snug-fitting lid and rubberized folding handle, making it a dream to use. The lid and handle-lock also keep all the other kit items nice and secure inside:

Inside the kit is where the real show is. Check out how much gear can fit inside!

So let's look more closely at this inventory, shall we?

The cream cord you can see there is just nylon bank line, but a good amount of it. Great for simple lashing and construction jobs as well as improvised snares or lure-lines. The blue cord, however, is kevlar cord, capable of holding around 100kgs of weight. Think of it like mini paracord. It's fairly expensive so I only carry about 14 feet of it, but it's enough for most things which would need that kind of load bearing capacity.

Next to that we have a sterilizing wound-wipe for cleaning. Below that is a water-bag (think of it like a 1L water bottle but soft like a bag with a handy clip system for the top. Tricky to find, but if you can find one, grab it). Next to that is a wrapping of Gorilla Tape for construction and repair purposes, and above that is a snare system for trapping small animals. Not the most humane way to hunt, but if you're doing your best to survive, you gotta do what you gotta do.

Just above this selection we have a compact poncho stored in a zip-loc bag (which has its own uses), another mylar blanket (because I could fit two, so why not). Some all-purpose body wash, because keeping clean is important. No matter what you might think, bad hygiene in a survival situation could mean death. A sheathed blade tool (small, but functional). A miniature can opener. A firesteel striker. Finally here some small blocks of charcoal (various good uses for charcoal in a survival situation).

And here's the final view. In addition to the things we've already seen there is a handy lens for focusing sunlight (or examining things such as wounds), a firesteel to go with the striker mentioned earlier, a peanut lighter filled with lighter fluid (and sealed with a rubber gasket, so it actually STAYS filled with lighter fluid - zippo owners know what I'm talking about here) and a mini lifestraw. The mini lifestraw is a must. Water is your #1 goal in Australian survival, and you can't be too choosy. I once sucked down a puddle of mosquito-egg infested, rotting leaf-filled filth using that lifestraw. Just ask Burt!

And that's the whole kit! Is it perfect? Nah. There's still work to do on it, but a big part of having a survival kit is to never be 100% happy with it. Always refine, always improve.

Anyway, I'll be back soon with more articles! Stay tuned!

- CumQuaT

Sunday, January 17, 2016

OPINION - The Big Picture

There's an old saying, with origins in Catholic scripture if I'm not mistaken...

"It is right to fear evil men, but that which we should fear most is the indifference of good men."

It's something which isn't thought of much in modern society, as humans are creatures of habit and we don't like to step out of our routines much anymore. People aren't as willing to truly stand up for a belief, to the end of all things. This is due to largely to a fairly modern - in the grand scheme of things - culture of "us and them" mentality which seems to have become ingrained into our minds.

I'm here to tell you right now that this "if you're not with me then you're against me" mindset is the one thing keeping the world on the downward spiral that it's in. Why's that? Hear me out.

Sun Tzu had a theory that if you could turn your enemies against each other, then your war was already half-won, and it's very true. What we have is a divided society, almost everywhere in the Western world. There are the "gun nuts" versus the "gun grabbers", the feminists verses the patriarchy, the blacks versus the whites, the atheists versus the religious and so on and so forth, and these groups get so uptight about their own beliefs on whatever their particular issue is that they refuse to allow themselves to see eye to eye with someone of a conflicting belief.

For example, let's say person A is a firearm enthusiast who is strongly homophobic and person B is a gay man who happens to also be a firearm enthusiast. These two people wouldn't meet up to further a mutual agenda regarding firearms because of their conflicting beliefs on homosexuality.

The short fact of the matter is that everyone on the planet will always have certain prejudices - it is human nature - but the fact that we all are constantly squabbling over who is right rather than fighting for a common cause is the reason that the powers that be are so easily able to walk all over us.

It's no secret that the world is divided into two camps - those with power and those without. Those with power, the large corporations, the government bodies, the banks, even celebrities all get to work completely outside of the law with no ramifications for committing unspeakable acts to the planet and its people, where the people without power - i.e. us - can be imprisoned, fined or had our lives ruined for anything from defending our families to crossing a road where we're "not supposed to".

We're all so busy squabbling amongst ourselves that we've failed to notice that the countries we live in have been slowly turning from democratic to fascistic under our very noses. Don't believe me? Which column does your country fit better into?

Power bodies would easily be able to settle most of the arguments which keep us fighting within our own camps, but why would they? It serves their purpose to have us constantly bickering with one another.

The vast majority of each country's population is happy to sit at home, watching the garbage being fed to them via their television set - Kardashians, celebrity gossip, skateboarding dogs and what have you - and the rest of the people, the minority, us, who DO take the time to bypass all of that garbage and see that sea levels are rising, weather patterns are changing, stock markets are collapsing and governmental corruption is running rampant, are all so busy arguing with one another over utterly pointless topics which don't affect anything that we never bother to organise and do something about the issues. We never want to leave the safety of our own special little nests of our beliefs to enact change.

So the next time you feel the red mist entering because someone has mentioned migrants or vaccines or mosques or gun import laws, just calm the hell down and remember that an army divided against itself is no army. Everyone is always going to have conflicting views. It's the measure of a good person to acknowledge another's point of view, even if you don't agree with it. Remember who the real people fucking up the planet are. Take your anger out on them.