Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What it is

I've come to grips with the fact that nothing of substance will appear here 'til our household move is done.

Regular readers of KintlaLake Blog will understand, I'm sure.

I have much to write about, including my impressions of a handful of knives and the completion of my OtterBox PSK. I'd like to post a lay-of-the-land survey of our new home, and Sarah Palin's political self-immolation (along with the inexplicable admiration it inspires) begs for my comment.

None of that's gonna happen right now. Other matters draw my attention.

That said, over the last few days I've found time to set up a Kintla Lake page on Facebook -- nothing you can't read here, just another presence on the Web. It is what it is.

And what it is right now is busy. We pick up the rental truck Thursday. The move continues.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Festival ceding

This time last year I posted regularly about the local fairs we were attending. Since we're busy with the move right now, taking in local color is more difficult -- but not impossible.

My family and I spent two hours Friday night at our town's annual festival, staying long enough to catch some live music and a spectacular fireworks show. When heavy rain put a damper on yesterday's scheduled events, we took the opportunity to haul four carloads over to our new home.

In the middle of our second trip, we parked our loaded-to-the-gunwales vehicles on the festival grounds so that we could enjoy a fair-food lunch of spicy sausage, red beans and rice, washed down with a bucket of sweet tea.

We have our priorities just right, it seems to me.

Today there will be no diversions, only packing and moving. Next weekend, though, our village will host live jazz and blues, accented by BBQ fare. About that time we'll be driving a rented truck.

I think we might just have to interrupt our Saturday for an hour or two and treat ourselves to some ribs.

Friday, July 24, 2009


One of the oddest things about life right now is the disruption of daily rituals I've adopted over the last three years. Living as a family guest has me accommodating their habits and preferences, subordinating my own.

That's as it should be, of course, but it's not without effect.

My wife and I rise at 5am, as usual, but we sip coffee and watch local news in the kitchen, not in our bedroom, keeping the TV's sound at a barely audible level. Once she's off to work, I retreat to my office in the basement of the house, where I must be relatively silent for several hours lest I wake the occupants of the bedroom directly above me.

And it's chilly down here -- not damp, but meat-locker cold. It's July, for cryin' out loud, and I'm wearing a fleece jacket and thick socks around the house. Our gracious hosts like it this way.

We do get to eat a home-cooked meal every night, which is something we haven't done regularly in a couple of months. I'm looking forward to making culinary contributions soon, and at that point I'll be bringing some much-needed flavors and spices to the table.

More chile peppers, naturally. More garlic (and I don't mean powder). Fresh-ground black pepper, real cheeses and whole-grain bread baked daily at the shop down the street.

None of this is meant to damn the hospitality we're enjoying -- we're grateful, and these are small prices to pay for having a place to live while we regain our footing. I'm simply saying it the way it is.

As my family and I get situated, I'm mindful that we also need to revise our preparedness plans. Even though we're making only a five-mile move, our approach must change.

The layout of this house is different, so our escape routes will be different. Likewise our "safe places" and where we store what we need to prepare, defend and survive. We're getting there, inasmuch as living out of boxes allows.

Outside these walls is new topography, both natural and man-made, along with a new set of threats and resources. Criminal activity is closer and more recent. The commercial and residential landscapes are very different, and in some ways better.

So we'll assess and adapt -- it's what we do anyway, really. It makes for an interesting (and ongoing) challenge.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Charlie Foxtrot

Getting an Internet connection working here at our new digs -- er, home, I mean -- has strained our patience.

Notice, however, that I said "here" -- finally, we're online. Hard-wired for me, wireless for the missus.

Right now my setup is a temporary one, but it works.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Just visiting

It's been difficult being away from this blog for the last few days, but our household move leaves me little spare time. I've been back on my computer (which is still at the dry house) since early this morning, all of that time spent on a consulting assignment -- a very good thing, and great fun besides.

The move itself is going well enough. We're almost to the point where we need a truck, maybe two -- one with strong-backed movers for a few heavy items, another for big chunks we can schlep out ourselves. That'll happen over the next two or three weekends.

In the midst of semi-organized chaos, yesterday was a four-knife day.

First, my bargain-basement Spyderco Endura II came back from its factory visit with a fresh edge. I also now have a pair of brand-new Barkies to review -- a Gunny handled in California Buckeye burl and a Custom Micro Drop Point in black canvas Micarta with red liners. And I got word that my long-awaited Father's Day present -- a Benchmade 551 Griptilian in orange -- probably will be here by the end of this week or the beginning of next.

So all is well, to say the least, but resuming my near-daily posting is about a week away.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Second night

Our new digs have a new name -- now we call it home.

Not that all of our stuff is here or anything, although we've brought over seven carloads since yesterday morning. It's home because this is where we sleep at night -- and, thanks to running water, where we shower every morning.

Simple pleasures.

My computer is still at the dry house and will be there for several more days. That's throwing a bit of a curve at some consulting work I'm doing, but I'll manage.

Time now to get back to unpacking and preparing for two more days of moving whatever we can stuff into our vehicles.

Interesting time, sore muscles, new home.

(posted originally via mobile phone)

Friday, July 17, 2009

'Oh, give me a home...'

If the title concerns you, relax -- I'm not going to launch into a lengthy lament of our present situation. Fact is, this week we have two homes: a dry one here and another, the one where we'll be living soon, offering honest-to-goodness running water.

It's an exercise in differentiating inconvenience from hardship. We know that we're dealing with the former, not the latter.

No, this post was inspired by something I saw last evening. Less than a mile from home, while shuttling the older spawn to Lancaster, my wife pointed out a stand of corn that's already in tassel.

I glanced first at the cornfield, then at the pasture on the other side of the road.


You read that right -- here in central Ohio, of all places, two of the massive creatures were grazing a fenced-in field. Ok, so they're farm animals, and a pair of buffalo isn't exactly a herd. Still, it's not something that we Buckeyes expect to see.

Checking the KintlaLake Blog scorecard, I notice that I recorded a deer sighting earlier this week.

Seems we're an antelope shy of a home on the range.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Apologies to Jeff Foxworthy

If you cheer Rush Limbaugh's observation that Barack Obama "throws like a girl," you might be a mindless dittohead.

If you're glad to see Marion Barry doing interviews again and agree with his assertion that he's "never been in trouble," you might just have your own persecution complex to deal with.

If you believe that there wouldn't have been a Tiger Woods, an Arsenio Hall or an Oprah Winfrey without a Michael Jackson, you might be Al Sharpton.

If you believe that keeping guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens will reduce violent crime, you might want to ask Santa Claus for a clue this Christmas.

If you view Sarah Palin's resignation as a show of courage, you might need a refresher course in commitment.

If you watch Sonia Sotomayor take pitch after pitch (instead of swinging at them) and consider her a coward, you might not be very good at job interviews yourself.

If you listen to Lindsey Graham's incisive questioning of Sotomayor and condemn his open-mindedness as an affront to conservatism, you might not need a Kool-Aid refill.

If you think that law is cut, dried, clear and devoid of politics -- or that it should be -- you might have failed high-school civics.

If you believe that Sotomayor is a judicial activist, you might be a right-wing ideologue.

If you believe that John Roberts is a judicial activist, you might be a left-wing ideologue.

And finally, if you're of the opinion that experiences and background should play no role in a jurist's deliberations, you might not know the difference between knowledge and wisdom.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sharps: Ideal impressions

Last week I stumbled onto a chance to trade for a knife I've been curious about. Three Queen pocketknives and a few days later, I had a barely used Marble's Ideal Hunting Knife handled in maple burl.

The classic Webster Marble design dates back to 1899. This later-day example features a 4-1/2" clip blade of carbon steel, convex-ground to a shaving-sharp edge with a large, distinctive fuller. The brass guard and aluminum pommel, along with stacks of spacers, bookend the reddish wood. It's a well-finished piece.

The Ideal is, in a word, pretty. It's also pretty comfortable in my hand, though the balance point is a bit behind the first finger. Regular readers know that I generally favor a fixed-blade in this size range, and while I don't fancy this Marble's to be a stand-in for my RAT RC-4 or Bark River Bravo-1, it feels like a knife I can work with.

And that's always the point -- attractive it may be, but the Ideal will reveal its true worth only after I work it some.

One thing I know already, however -- the sheath supplied with the knife has got to go. Oh, it looks okay and the leather is of fair quality, but it's designed poorly and executed shoddily.

The integral keeper strap refuses to stay out of the way. All three rivet tails are unfinished, leaving sharp edges guaranteed to gouge both blade and handle. The flimsy plastic "liner" isn't attached, either, offering zero protection. (I ended up covering the rivets with electrical tape.)

The way I see it, a knife's sheath is like a motorcycle's seat -- if it's not right, it's easily replaced. Either it does what it should or it gets tossed in favor of an aftermarket alternative like, let's say, a Sharpshooter Bushcraft or a JRE custom.

The Ideal's sheath falls squarely into the latter category. If I enjoy using this knife -- which at the moment feels like a beefier version of my beloved old Western -- I'll certainly give it a much better home.

Addendum: Have another

In 2005, Western Carolina University and its Mountain Heritage Center produced Horace Kephart: Revealing an Enigma.

Among the Center's artifacts is one of Kephart's own well-worn sheath knives, of the pattern replicated by Colclesser Brothers and carried on by others to this day. The collection also includes a "fishing knife," which it's said that Kephart sometimes used instead of his pocketknife for finer work. The spine of the smaller knife features filework ridges for scaling fish.

WCU's online exhibit is a rich trove for anyone interested in learning more about the man, as well as for students of Appalachian heritage, the American naturalist movement and much more. And speaking as a lifelong learner who's enjoying his exploration of Kephart and other icons of woodcraft, I can recommend it.

Earlier posts
Addendum: Kephart kerfuffle
Sharps: Ready set

Revealing an Enigma
Bark River's "Full-Tang Kephart"
Bark River's "Kephart Companion"

Monday, July 13, 2009


It's not a faulty air tank that's causing a lack of water in our house -- it's the well. More specifically, it's the pump. It might be something as simple as a check valve, or it might be the pump itself.

Adding insult to injury, the repairman found that our well head was vandalized at some point. A half-dozen or more rocks had been tossed down the access shaft, making it impossible to simply pull up the pump and fix it -- the head would have to be excavated before any other work could be done.

That's the most demoralizing news I've heard in a long time. We can't justify the expense.

My wife and I discussed the situation this evening, deciding to leave it be -- for now, anyway -- even though the choice chafes us. During the conversation, we also discovered that each of us is in denial, albeit about different things.

She believes that we're a lot closer to being out of here than we actually are. I'm simply resisting a change-of-address.

In any case, ours is a dry house tonight. The inevitable is upon us.

The sooner we're out, the sooner we can begin getting acquainted with our "new normal" across town.

Summer morning

I've spent the last half-hour gazing out through an upstairs window at the large apple tree in our back yard.

A pair of whitetail deer -- a good-sized doe and a young four-point buck -- grazed quietly on the fallen yellow fruit, occasionally reaching up to sample something better from a low branch. They acted neither nonchalant nor skittish, which seemed like the right attitude considering where they were.

Their presence didn't really surprise me, and not just because I've seen deer many times in the fields across the road. Since I spotted scat around the apple tree a few weeks ago, early each morning I've made a point of watching for them.

Today was my reward. They've moved on now.

The weekend brought rain, which we needed. Fields of corn, tall but not yet in tassel, envelop the barns on the other side of the road. The days have been warm and less humid than we're accustomed to this time of year.

As a mourning dove coos outside my office window, I need to begin shaking my reverie and focus on a pressing concern. After weeks of tolerating lower and lower pressure from our taps, yesterday morning it dropped to zero -- we have no water in the house.

My wife left for work this morning an hour earlier than usual, giving her time to stop by her parents' house to shower. I have a call in to the guy who installed a new pneumatic pressure tank in our system not long after we moved in.

I'm hoping that the air tank is the problem here, because it's been in service for three years and still should be covered by a five-year warranty. If something else is the source of our water trouble, it'd make for a big bill and an unpleasant day.

Thanks to two visitors to our back yard and the rich landscape that surrounds our home, at least the morning started pleasantly enough.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Update: Picking our pockets

Thirty-five million law-abiding Americans are one step closer to being able to keep their pocketknives.

As I
said last month, U.S. Customs & Border Protection had proposed changing the definition of a "switchblade" to include all knives that open with one hand.

Thousands of outraged Americans wrote to USCBP and Congress, and it paid off -- late Thursday, the U.S. Senate, by unanimous consent, passed an amendment to the Federal Switchblade Act, blocking Customs' patently idiotic move.

The amendment, which is part of an appropriations measure funding the Department of Homeland Security, still must get through a House-Senate Conference Committee, so we're not out of the woods just yet. We need to keep well-reasoned pressure on our elected representatives to make sure that happens.

Keep an eye on Knife Rights and the American Knife & Tool Institute for their professional guidance on the best ways to do that.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Addendum: Kephart kerfuffle

From what I've been able to learn, there appears to be little dispute about the basic design of Nessmuk's sheath knife. It pretty much is what it is, as illustrated in Woodcraft.

Horace Kephart's fixed-blade is another matter.

In Kephart's own journals, it's obvious that he was an admirer of Nessmuk, going so far as to include a sketch of the "Nessmuk trio," complete with dimensions of the axe. I find it interesting, then, that the iconic "Kephart knife" bears little resemblance to the blade identified with his predecessor.

The pattern generally accepted as the definitive Kephart is the one advertised by Colclesser Brothers of Eldorado, Pennsylvania. It sported a spear-point blade in the four-inch range and a three-rivet wood handle. This was, to a virtual certainty, one of Kephart's "knives of my own design."

Here's what Kephart said of his fixed-blade knife in an early edition of Camping and Woodcraft:

"Its blade and handle are each 4-1/4 inches long, the blade being 1 inch wide, 1/8 inch thick on the back, broad pointed, and continued through the handle as a hasp and riveted to it. It is tempered hard enough to cut green hardwood sticks, but soft enough so that when it strikes a knot or bone it will, if anything, turn rather than nick; then a whetstone soon puts it in order."
"The handle of this knife is of oval cross-section, long enough to give a good grip for the whole hand, and with no sharp edges to blister one's hand. It has a 1/4 inch knob behind the cutting edge as a guard, but there is no guard on the back, for it would be useless and in the way. The handle is of light but hard wood, 3/4 inch thick at the butt and tapering to 1/2 inch forward, so as to enter the sheath easily and grip it tightly. If it were heavy it would make the knife drop out when I stooped over."
"This knife weighs only 4 ounces. It was made by a country blacksmith, and is one of the homeliest things I ever saw; but it has outlived in my affections the score of other knives that I have used in competition with it, and has done more work than all of them put together."
That sounds like the knife pictured in the Colclesser ad.

Knifemakers continue to draw on the Colclesser-Kephart, for good reason -- it's widely regarded as an excellent bushcraft pattern. Still it's striking, if not wholly surprising, that it's so unlike Nessmuk's.

In the 1917 edition of Camping and Woodcraft, more than a decade after its debut, Kephart seemed to reveal that his head had been turned by a mass-produced fixed-blade. He described and illustrated the knife but didn't name the maker or the model. Others have been less coy, noting that it appears to be a Marble's Woodcraft.

Marble's, for whatever reason, reportedly didn't (and doesn't now) hang its marketing hat on Kephart's choice. It's much clearer that regardless of what this 1917 knife may have been, its profile veers back toward Nessmuk, from belly to handle to hump, albeit with a high point rather than one that drops.

Some say that Kephart highlighted the Marble's under pressure from his publisher, MacMillan, and since I'm not a cutlery historian I'm in no position to argue. Maybe he got paid under the table. I don't know.

Traditionalists remain adamant that Kephart always preferred the knife that he designed himself. I don't know about that, either, nor does it much matter.

I do find the visuals fascinating, however.

In the end, if the story of Horace Kephart's sheath knife begins and ends with the definitive pattern, it's okay with me. If the woodsman's compass led him from admiration to innovation, back to tradition and on to (perish the thought) personal gain, that's fine, too.

It's not about one man, his choices or his motives. It's about the rest of us, our tools and, most important, what we do with them.

We can learn much from Kephart, Nessmuk and their like. Our own woodcraft journeys will keep us busy enough, I think, to avoid any copycat traps.

Earlier posts
Sharps: Ready set
Sharps: A philosophy

Woodcraft, by Nessmuk (aka George Washington Sears)
Camping and Woodcraft, by Horace Kephart (1906 edition)
Camping and Woodcraft, by Horace Kephart (1917 edition)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sharps: Ready set

When today's outdoorsmen talk of the tools and the mindset that they take with them into the woods, more often than not they'll invoke the names of Nessmuk and Kephart.

In the 1880s, "Nessmuk" was the by-line of stories penned by George Washington Sears for Forest and Stream magazine. The Massachusetts native wrote of camping and paddling in the Adirondacks of upstate New York, and his 1884 landmark book, Woodcraft, has never gone out of print.

Horace Kephart followed Nessmuk chronologically and, in many ways, philosophically. Also a contributor to Forest and Stream, his articles were gathered into Camping and Woodcraft, first published in 1906.
Kephart was born a Pennsylvanian, but he's best known for writing of his life in and love of the Smokies of western North Carolina. He was an early and avid proponent of establishing Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Nessmuk and Kephart are read and revered to this day, arguably the old and new testaments of life in the woods. Both men espoused respect for the land and pioneered what we now refer to as "ultralight" camping.

In homage of a sort, each man has a knife pattern that bears his name. Beyond those iconic blades, what bears remembering are the "systems" of edged tools that accompanied them on their wilderness forays a century ago.

These days many of us are preoccupied with chasing the do-it-all knife, and that's fine as far as it goes. There's nothing wrong with nurturing the skills required to survive if limited to a single blade.

Nessmuk, by contrast, was a woodsman, not a survivalist. He was bent on thriving in wild places, writing of a sensible trio of tools: a hatchet, a simple jackknife and a fixed-blade of his own design. Here's how he described each part of his woodcraft system:

"The hatchet and knives shown...will be found to fill the bill satisfactorily so far as cutlery may be required. Each is good and useful of its kind, the hatchet especially, being the best model I have ever found for a 'double-barreled' pocket-axe."

"Before I was a dozen years old I came to realize that a light hatchet was a sine qua non in woodcraft, and I also found it a most difficult thing to get. ... I had hunted twelve years before I caught up with the pocket-axe I was looking for."

"A word as to knife, or knives. These are of prime necessity, and should be of the best, both as to shape and temper. The 'bowies' and 'hunting knives' usually kept on sale, are thick, clumsy affairs, with a sort of ridge along the middle of the blade, murderous looking, but of little use; rather fitted to adorn a dime novel or the belt of 'Billy the Kid,' than the outfit of the hunter. The one shown...is thin in the blade, and handy for skinning, cutting meat, or eating with. The strong double-bladed pocket knife is the best model I have yet found, and, in connection with the sheath knife, is all sufficient for camp use."

I'll admit to getting a kick out of that third passage -- it seems that "tacticool" knives were as prevalent in the 19th Century as they are today. Thirty-three years later, Kephart echoed his predecessor:

"A woodsman should carry a hatchet, and he should be as critical in selecting it as in buying a gun. The notion that a heavy hunting knife can do the work of a hatchet is a delusion. When it comes to cleaving carcasses, chopping kindling, blazing thick-barked trees, driving tent pegs or trap stakes, and keeping up a bivouac fire, the knife never was made that will compare with a good tomahawk."

"The conventional hunting knife is, or was until recently, of the familiar dime-novel pattern invented by Colonel Bowie. It is too thick and clumsy to whittle with, much too thick for a good skinning knife, and too sharply pointed to cook and eat with. It is always tempered too hard. When put to the rough service for which it is supposed to be intended, as in cutting through the ossified false ribs of an old buck, it is an even bet that out will come a nick as big as a saw-tooth -- and Sheridan forty miles from a grindstone!"

"The jackknife has one stout blade equal to whittling seasoned hickory, and two small blades, of which one is ground thin for such surgery as you may have to perform (keep it clean). Beware of combination knives; they may be passable corkscrews and can openers, but that is about all."

That's great stuff, isn't it? It's nothing short of essential, elemental woodcraft -- but if we use Nessmuk's and Kephart's philosophies only as our springboard for nostalgia or mimicry, we miss the point.

Sure, we can plunge headlong into the wilds equipped with modern copies of Kephart- and Nessmuk-pattern fixed-blades, along with duplicates of their axes and jackknives. Truth is, that wouldn't be a bad place to start -- but it's only a start.

Reading more carefully the writings of Nessmuk and Kephart, we find that each man arrived at his well-known system through trial and error -- "I had hunted twelve years before I caught up with the pocket-axe I was looking for" -- so why shouldn't we?

They found tools that worked by working the tools they had. I'm willing to bet that had George and Horace lived longer, their practical experience would've shaped their choices even further.

And so, it seems to me, we can draw two fundamental lessons about edged tools from these woodcraft legends: have a system and work the system. With that mindset, we can get past mere imitation.

Mike Stewart of Bark River Knife & Tool, for example, has this latter-day take on a "bushcraft set":

"I like to have...a four-inch blade and a smaller knife (fixed or folder) for fine work, and either a mini-axe or Golok. With that set, there isn't much that can't be accomplished -- from basic camp chores to shelter building.

"While I agree with the concept of the three-tool set (like Sears), I don't agree with his selection of cutting tools. In practice, I actually expand the three-tool set into four by carrying a small fixed-blade and a folder in my pocket. I can't imagine not having a folder in my pocket at all times."

See, it's not heresy to differ with Nessmuk or to stray from Kephart's model. In fact, I contend that challenging these standards -- based on personal experience -- is the whole idea.

The KintlaLake set, reflecting my own experience, is heavy on the light end and light on the heavy end: a four-inch fixed-blade knife, supplemented by a smaller fixed-blade and a pocketknife, folder or multi-tool. No axe, no Golok and no machete.

I plan to fix that -- not only by adding a more substantial tool or two, but also in terms of gaining experience, mastering skills and doing actual woodswork. I may not have cause to carry a hatchet or a Clax on a day hike with the family, but I owe it to myself to find out what works best for me at the bigger end of a compact bushcraft system.

Stay tuned.

Earlier posts
Sharps: A philosophy

Woodcraft, by Nessmuk (aka George Washington Sears)
Camping and Woodcraft, by Horace Kephart (1917 edition)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sharps: Spyderco Endura II

When the four of us wandered out of that quirky knife store last Saturday afternoon, each member of the family toted a purchase.

My wife had the
aforementioned Marble's Caper, at least temporarily. With an eye on ever-tightening regulations, the older boy chose an assisted-opening Kershaw Tactical Blur which showed only light use. I'm not really a tantō kind of guy, but he seems to like it.

The 14-year-old, still lusting after an ain't-gonna-happen balisong, overpaid (I think) for a hopper and a tank for his paintball gun. It's the sort of thing he does when he's bored and cranky.

I nearly left empty-handed, judging that everything I saw either was of no value to me or the price was too dear. That was before I spotted a second-generation Spyderco Endura, mildly used but still in its factory box, selling for little more than pocket change.

There's already an Endura4 in the house and it's one of my favorite folders. The 1998-vintage Endura II, by comparison, shows its age in several ways -- AUS-8 stainless steel, unlined Zytel scales, integral molded pocket clip and riveted construction. Still, it's a very solid knife with great ergonomics, well-made and by no means crude.

This particular Endura II, like my Endura4, has a ComboEdge blade -- half serrated SpyderEdge, half plain -- which over 12 years has lost its original bite. I'm more than capable of restoring it to my personal satisfaction, but this time I've decided to take advantage of Spyderco's offer of free sharpening for the life of the knife.

Giving the older folder a factory edge is costing me $4.80 to ship it to Colorado and another five bucks to ship it back. Even adding that amount to the purchase price, the knife is still a ridiculous bargain.

So the Endura II left for rehab yesterday morning via USPS Priority Mail. I'll post an update when it's back in my hands again.

Earlier posts
Our Fourth
Roadwork & sharp bargains
Sharps, Part II: On the belt

Spyderco Inc.

Spyderco (BladeForums)

Monday, July 6, 2009

'Serpentine, Shel, serpentine!'

Today was quiet, nearly silent. The only sound of any consequence was the hum of our tractor outside as our older spawn mowed the lawn. He'd started the chore yesterday, but his labor ended abruptly when the serpentine belt that drives the mower deck snapped.

Actually, the belt got so hot that it melted, stuck to itself and then came apart. It seems to me that the cause of the failure -- plowing through high, wet grass without giving thought to the limits of the equipment -- might've been avoided if the operator had been listening to the machinery rather than his iPod.

But hey, that's just me.

This may sound cruel, but it's true -- the kid has a talent for breaking things that don't belong to him in catastrophic, can't-be-fixed ways. I mean, I'm as tired of tripping to the store with twisted Craftsman tools as the Sears people are of seeing me.

When the belt broke yesterday my wife graciously volunteered to go out to pick up a new one. I gave her the tractor's model number and the width of the cutting deck, and within a half-hour she was back with the part. Well, I said to myself, this is gonna be easy.

I pulled the deck and removed the shrouds and captive pulleys. Guided by a diagram in the owner's manual, I threaded the belt where it was supposed to go -- and came up about a foot short of the PTO shaft.

Wrong part, dammit.

Even though the fussup wasn't Mrs. KintlaLake's fault, this time I went back to the store, short belt in hand. Two head-scratching salespersons took their sweet time coming to the conclusion that they didn't have the right belt in stock, finally handing me a refund of my wife's money and sending me off to chase wild geese elsewhere.

On my way home I stopped at three auto-parts stores, figuring that if I knew the belt's length and width (and I did), maybe one of them could help me out. No luck -- I went 0-for-3.

Back at the house two hours later, I called a farm-supply store ten miles south of here, on the off-chance that they might have my belt -- and to my pleasant surprise, they did. We picked it up on our way into Lancaster last night and I wove it onto the deck this morning.

Piece of cake.

The tractor runs, the mower blades are spinning again and the swearing has stopped -- until the next time...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Our Fourth

The KintlaLake family's Independence Day was split between home and away. It began with a perfunctory trip to Newark and ended with a celebration of freedom in our own community.

I'll start with the latter.

We returned from our road trip mid-afternoon and fired up the grill. After a satisfying meal of flatiron steak, skillet potatoes, sweet corn and strawberry shortcake, we made the three-minute drive to the village, arriving just in time for the 4th of July parade.

There's nothing so quintessentially American a small-town parade. Ours led off with the colors, of course, followed by an impressive display of public-safety force -- gleaming police and fire vehicles, both local and from as far away as Columbus.

This rural-suburban town has two high schools, so we were treated to a pair of marching bands. There were Cub Scout packs and Boy Scout troops, public officials and candidates for office, dance studios and animal-welfare organizations. Many of the paraders tossed candy to young spectators lining the curbs.

Near the end, our county's sheriff and his wife waved to the crowd. They strolled along between an early-1960s Ford police cruiser and the department's brand-new APC equipped for S.W.A.T. duty.

From a speaker under the grille of the vintage black-and-white blared the theme from Mayberry RFD. You just gotta love that.

A light rain fell on the procession, dampening citizens but not spirits. We did wonder, however, if wet weather would threaten the fireworks planned for later on that evening.

My wife and I decided to head back home, leaving our teenage spawns to socialize with friends. Although the rain continued, around 9pm we saw a flash over the tree line and heard the first BOOM! -- the show went on after all.

Oblivious to the drizzle, Mrs. KintlaLake and I watched from our front lawn, fetching the young'uns shortly after the finale.

That was the second half of our Fourth. Rewind now to 11am, when our family of four piled into the truck for a drive to Newark.

The purpose of our trip, as it turned out, didn't materialize. We made the best of it, though, taking the opportunity to stop at nearby Slone's, the funky knife store mentioned in a previous post.

Each of us found a sharp bargain we couldn't resist. My wife, who's been looking for a small fixed-blade for everyday carry, was particularly enamored with a new-in-box Marble's Caper with DymondWood scales, and she left the store with this sweet little knife tucked under her arm.

Our last stop was a big outdoor-sports retailer in Hebron, where Mrs. KintlaLake wanted to explore concealed-carry options. Unable to find what she was looking for, she tugged me toward the knives counter -- I love this woman -- to ask me about something she'd seen when passing the display earlier.

She bent down and pointed through the glass at a small fixed-blade knife with handles of birdseye maple. It was a Hess, handmade in Michigan and the second caper she'd fallen in love with that day.

A helpful member of the store's staff brought it out of the showcase and set it on the counter. I watched my wife's expression as she turned it over in her hands, trying various grips and feeling the smooth wood warm to her touch. I chuckled to myself, knowing full well that she was hopelessly hooked.

I've been there, many times.

To make a long story short, that beautiful Hess Caper is hers. And the upshot of her caper caper is that the sweet little Marble's now belongs to her husband.

An hour later we were home again, preparing to feast and celebrate the independence we cherish. It was, from beginning to soggy-but-spectacular end, a perfectly wonderful Fourth.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Lives, Fortunes, & Sacred Honor

The unanimous Declaration of
the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Passing all understanding

I offered a humble tribute to a dying friend a couple of months ago. Strong and brave, he battled and battled, even returning briefly to chemotherapy last week, and yet he never denied the undeniable.

At last, at long and peaceful last he released life just after 9pm Friday evening, surrounded by his family and held in the arms of love.

In this moment of sadness I'm reminded of words I've quoted on this blog before, the conclusion of a eulogy delivered in 1879 by Robert Green Ingersoll at his brother's graveside:

"Life is a narrow vale between the cold and barren peaks of two eternities. We strive in vain to look beyond the heights. We cry aloud, and the only answer is the echo of our wailing cry. From the voiceless lips of the unreplying dead there comes no word; but in the night of death hope sees a star, and listening love can hear the rustle of a wing.

"He who sleeps here, when dying, mistaking the approach of death for the return of health, whispered with his latest breath, 'I am better now.' Let us believe, in spite of doubts and dogmas, of fears and tears, that these dear words are true of all the countless dead.

"The record of a generous life runs like a vine around the memory of our dead, and every sweet, unselfish act is now a perfumed flower.

"And now, to you, who have been chosen from among the many men he loved, to do the last sad office for the dead, we give his sacred dust.

"Speech cannot contain our love. There was, there is, no gentler, stronger, manlier man."

Godspeed, old friend.

Friday, July 3, 2009


Sharps: A bigger Solo

As I said on Sunday, the Victorinox Solo Alox won out over the Bantam Alox for inclusion in my personal survival kit. The hard-to-find 108mm Safari (Solo) Adventurer also was a candidate, but I rejected it because of its size.

One of the bigger Solos found its way into my hands several days ago. Even though this model isn't widely available in the U.S., it's worth more than just a passing mention here.

Beyond the obvious -- it's 15mm larger and its scales are textured red plastic -- this is one super-stout pocketknife. The impressive snap created by the stiff, full-length backspring inspires confidence I've felt in very few slipjoints. In fact, it's fun to hand this Solo to someone and watch them jump when they open it -- the thing kicks like a little mule.

The up-sized Solo comes with a vinyl pocket sheath and, as I'd expected, it's sharp from the get-go. Unlike knives in the 111mm range, there's no liner lock. Quality is typical Victorinox.

While not part of the Swiss Army Brands catalog, these knives do appear on eBay from time to time. (Caveat emptor.) Until recently they'd been available from
FelineVet for $30 a copy -- pricey for a simple one-blader, perhaps, but in my opinion worth every penny.

Consider that a recommendation. The Safari (Solo) Adventurer may not find a home in my compact PSK, but I'm sure I can make a place for this keeper somewhere else.

Earlier posts
Sharps: A Solo & a Viking
Sharps: Hunting & gathering


Swiss Army (USA)

About FelineVet

The Feline Veterinary Emergency Assistance Program is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable corporation. It's managed by a Board of Directors committed to the welfare of all animals but especially cats and kittens. Each board member has experience with rescue and "Trap, Neuter & Return" programs. FVEAP's Chief Executive Officer, a volunteer who manages the program's routine affairs, has directed a no-kill animal shelter.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Impressions: KSF Fire Kit

Most days, I prefer to "roll my own" kits -- first aid, survival, bug-out and so on -- but there's no denying the convenience of turn-key solutions, especially if they're done right.

The KnivesShipFree Fire Kit is done right.

Firemaking is an essential skill, potentially a life-saving one, and in a survival situation conditions may not cooperate. Rain, snow, or wind can interfere, turning a bad situation dire. That's when having the right gear (and knowing how to use it) makes all the difference.

With that in mind, KSF included these items in its Fire Kit:

  • A firesteel
  • A hacksaw blade (to strike the firesteel)
  • Two wax-impregnated cotton "Tinder Disks"
  • Two wax-impregnated "Fire Cards" (printed with instructions)
  • Two "Fuel Bars"
  • Two wax-impregnated sisal "Kindle Sticks"
  • A sheet of aluminum foil
Here's the drill:
  1. Gather wood for fuel and arrange it into a flame-ready teepee (or lean-to, or whatever).
  2. Fashion the foil into a tray, placing it on the ground where you want to start your fire.
  3. Fold a Fire Card and set it on the foil tray.
  4. Tear a Tinder Disk (to expose the inner fibers) and set it on the Fire Card.
  5. Strike the firesteel, directing sparks onto the Tinder Disk's fibers 'til it lights.
  6. Lean a Fuel Bar over the flame.
  7. Un-braid a Kindle Stick into three strands and position them over the burning fuel bar.
  8. Slide the fire-bearing foil tray under the waiting teepee.
  9. Get warm, dry out, boil water, signal for help, etc.
Now that's turn-key -- easy, wot?

KSF ships its Fire Kit in a watertight
OtterBox -- which is handy, but everything in the kit works when wet anyway. The standard kit I've described costs $29.95; a Deluxe Fire Kit, with twice the fuel and a length of waxed jute cord, is available for $39.95.

Personally, I'm a believer in having three ways to start a fire, so I'll probably supplement my KSF Fire Kit with a disposable butane lighter and a half-dozen waterproof NATO matches (and a strip of striking paper, of course). There's plenty of room in the kit's OtterBox 1000 to accommodate my additions.

Like I said, I like to roll my own. As smart as the KSF Fire Kit is, I just can't leave anything alone.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Day 365

I'm entering the last day of my fifty-second year.

That's not why I didn't get a wink of sleep last night, however -- I'm blaming the chicken wings.

In any case, my fifty-third year begins mid-afternoon tomorrow.
"Another day older and deeper in debt."
The former is inevitable. I'm glad to say that the latter is not.

Truth is, I'm enjoying an embarrassment of riches these days. The KintlaLake family is keeping pace with its challenges, I'm occupied with satisfying consulting work, and this blog is humming right along.

Yesterday I did some quick math on my PSK experiment. I'm not yet ready to write about it, but I've got the cost of the contents under $30. The kit accounts for most of the essentials: knife, fire, water, navigation, signaling, light, cordage and minor first aid.

Snare wire and a fishing kit may or may not get added before I'm through, but I think I'm pretty much done. Now it's simply a matter of putting it all together.

I have a
KSF Fire Kit to write about, plus two more knives -- a hen's-teeth Victorinox Safari (Solo) Adventurer and a Bark River Knife & Tool Bravo-2. My first impression of the 108mm Solo is that it's a superb one-bladed pocketknife, plenty stout but too long for my PSK. The Big Barkie, on the other hand, is a whole different animal.

When I pulled the Bravo-2 from its shipping box, I was struck by its weight (just shy of one pound) and its size (over a foot long overall). But the moment that I wrapped my hand around the contoured Micarta slabs and presented the seven-inch blade, it immediately felt like a smaller knife -- much smaller.

As a fellow sharps guy observed to me yesterday, "Once you have the Bravo-2 in your hand, it just disappears."

Mike Stewart and his BRK&T crew pulled off quite a feat with this brute. Big as it is, it's very fast and "light in the hand." It'll never be mistaken for a chopper (and that's not a bad thing).

The Bravo-2's sheath is typical
Sharpshooter fare -- which is to say that it's absolutely gorgeous. And I've already discovered that its eyelets mate perfectly to my BHK Small Work Horse's JRE sheath, should I ever want to carry the smaller knife piggyback.

Enough teasing. July's gonna be a good month.

Earlier posts
Sharps: Heartland blades
Sharps: Heartland leather

BRK&T @ KnifeForums