Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sharps: A tale of two box-cutters

My new shipping-and-receiving job is going fine, thank you very much. On September 2nd I mentioned using the opportunity to justify buying a knife especially for the purpose. I ended up buying two.

The Tim Wegner-designed Blade-Tech Ratel Lite (retail $24, street $20, made in Taiwan) features a saber-ground, 1-15/16-inch leaf-shape blade of AUS 8 stainless steel. It's a lock-back, with textured scales of fiberglass-reinforced nylon and a reversible pocket clip.

The second-gen Spyderco Chicago (retail $65, street $41, made in Taiwan) has G-10 scales, replacing a now-discontinued carbon-fiber version. Its flat-ground, 440C leaf-shape blade is two inches long, held open with a liner lock. The wire-style pocket clip is reversible to accommodate either left- or right-hand carry.

Fit and finish are good on both knives. Perhaps the Blade-Tech is a touch stiffer, the Spyderco slightly smoother, feeding my perception that the latter is more refined (for lack of a better descriptor). After two weeks of hard use in the warehouse, both blades have held up well -- the AUS 8 and 440C are, I found, durable and easy to maintain.

I should mention here that the pocket clip on my particular Ratel Lite started out extremely tight -- secure is one thing, but this was something else entirely and, from what I gather, pretty common.

A short loop of paracord, threaded through the lanyard hole, was required to facilitate an easy draw from my pocket. Eventually I modified the bend of the clip by stuffing a thick stack of cardboard under it and leaving it that way overnight. That fixed the problem.

Despite having been conceived as EDC or "suit" knives that sneak under annoyingly silly "two-inch-max" laws, both the Ratel Lite and the Chicago have performed admirably for me as box-cutters. I have no complaints, practically speaking, about either.

That's not to say that I don't have a preference. Sure, it's possible to buy two Ratel Lites for the street price of one Chicago, which certainly makes the Blade-Tech the better value. But the Spyderco is the better knife, in my opinion, for several reasons.

First, I find the liner-lock quicker and more natural to use. I also like the grip -- not just the feel of G-10 slabs, but the way that my fingers index to the handle and the choil formed when the knife is open. And finally, the flat grind and thinner blade make it a better and more versatile cutter -- 1/8 inch (Ratel Lite) versus 3/32 inch (Chicago) may seem like a nit, but the 25% difference shows up big in performance.

I'll keep and will continue to use both of these knives. I lean toward the Spyderco, but your mileage (as they say) may vary.

Back to the Backwoods
One steamy Saturday three years ago, my wife and I fled a raucous gameday scene for the relative calm of the Thornville Backwoods Fest.

We reprised that trip yesterday afternoon, minus the hot weather and tailgating. (This year the Buckeyes played late, away and badly, getting spanked 24-6 by Miami.)
Our experience at the 2011 festival was virtually identical to what I described in 2008 -- wonderful.
We returned home refreshed, toting a pound of wildflower honey from a nearby village, a quart of syrup drawn from maple trees next door to the festival grounds, and a big ol' bag of fresh cracklings (a.k.a. pork rinds) cooked in a iron kettle over an open fire.

Local is best. Life is good.