Thursday, December 23, 2010

Alox Rambler Pictures

I just got these in the mail!  I will try to do a review after Christmas, but here are some photos for now.

Click on the photo, if you want higher resolution.

Hope you enjoy, have a merry xmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tritium Keyfob Review

For those of you unsure of what tritium is, have a look at the wikipedia link for tritium.

"Tritium illumination is the use of gaseous tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, to create visible light. Tritium emits electrons through beta decay, and when they interact with a phosphor material, fluorescent light is created, a process called radioluminescence."

Tritium markers provide a futuristic glow, which I find helpful to locate my keychain or flashlights in low lighting conditions. They can come in a variety of colours, I find they can be decorative, looking quite pretty and 'cool'. Do note, certain colours will be less bright than other other colours. The following chart indicates the relative brightness levels of various colours.

Tritium markers are self illuminating, it does not need a power source, nor do they need to be 'charged up' with light (as with normal glow-in-the-dark items). They will continually provide their illumination for many years. The half life of tritium is 10-12 years, which means after 10-12 years it will be half as bright.

Do be aware, tritium does emit a small amount of beta radiation, however the amount of radiation produced is considered very minor and is unlikely to affect your health. Have another look at the wikipedia entry for more information on this, here is an excerpt:

"Tritium presents no external radiation threat when encapsulated in non-hydrogen-permeable containers due to its low penetration depth, which is insufficient to penetrate intact human skin. The primary danger from tritium arises if it is inhaled, ingested, injected or otherwise absorbed into the body. This results in the emitted radiation being absorbed in a relatively small region of the body, again due to the low penetration depth. The biological half-life of tritium—the time it takes for half of an ingested dose to be expelled from the body—is low, at only 12 days. Tritium excretion can be accelerated further by increasing water intake to 3-4 liters/day.

Direct, short-term exposure to small amounts of tritium is relatively harmless. If a tritium tube should break, one should leave the area and allow the gas to diffuse into the air. Tritium exists naturally in the environment, but in very small quantities."

Despite the reassurances that it is safe, if you are truly paranoid about the minor radiation released, you could consider keyfobs filled with glow powder instead. However, these glow-powder keyfobs/markers, need exposure to light in order to be 'charged up'. They can initially be brighter than tritium, but with time the luminescence will fade. I find after an hour (or even less), the tritium will be brighter than the glow-powder keyfobs.

You can buy these tritium markers/keyfobs from a variety of places. Ebay, online websites, and through sellers on Most tritium markers come packaged and ready to use. You can also buy the tritium vials on their own (available in various sizes), and it is possible to install these vials, yourself, into clear empty keyfobs (sold separately). Some flashlights have milled tritium slots, to allow you to install a tritium vial into the flashlight body. A popular 'glue' to install these vials is norland 61. It sets very clear and does not change colour or fog with time. A UV source is required to accelerate the set of norland 61.

Here is a current photo of my of tritium markers.

They are listed as follows from left to right:
-small betalight kit marker (green)
-merkava II tritium glow-ring (green)
-self installed 23x3 tritium in clear case (white)
-self installed 23x3 tritium in clear case (green)
-rainbow keychain marker
-clear case nite glow-ring (blue)
-green case nite glow-ring (green)
-blue case nite glow-ring (blue)

'standard' nite glow-rings
These comes in green, blue or pink casing. They can be bought from cpfmarketplace, ebay, other online sources

'Special' clear-casing nite glow-rings
These come in a clear case instead of the coloured cases. I believe these are a special edition that can only be found through 'merkava' at cpfmarketplace. As these cases are clear, they are meant to allow more light through than the coloured cases. In my opinion this difference is minimal, and I actually prefer the more colourful cases myself. I believe they come in 5-6 different tritium colours.

Small betalight kit marker
I bought these from ebay. I believe they come in a variety of other sizes and colours. As the tritium contained with this marker is fairly small (5mmx1mm), it is not as bright as the others. It is significantly smaller than the nitek markers.

Merkava II tritium glow-ring
These are assembled by merkava at cpfmarketplace. They are relatively diminutive in size, and the 23x3mm tritium contained within is fairly bright. If you look at the photo, you can tell it has not help up very well on my keychain. It has become heavily scratched and a crack has developed, this is only after 7-9months of usage.

'Rainbow' keychain marker, cast within acrylic
These feature tritium vials, manually cast in acrylic. They are hand made by iknitsteel at cpfmarketplace. However he is no longer making them until further notice. Check out his thread for some of custom jobs he has done, they are quite amazing. Another maker (mattrg), has taken up the void iknitsteel has left... I can not comment on the quality of mattrg's work as I have not personally bought from him yet.

As you can see there is limited illumination from the side profile

As these are made to order, they are customisable; you can have various colours and multiple tubes of tritium. The one I have consists of 5x1mm tritium vials of seven various colours. I find this version aesthetic and colourful, however it does not provide the best illumination when viewed on the profile shot. In my opinion a 23x3mm tritium source provides better illumination.

23x3mm tritium vial self installed in clear acrylic case
I bought the tritium vial from merkava, the clear acrylic case from LESLIEx317537, the norland 61 from RocketTomato; all from cpfmarketplace. At the moment this is my tritium keyfob of choice. It is slightly wider than the merkava II marker, however I find it more robust and does not scratch as easily. It does take some effort to order the items separately, and glueing the tritium into the clear case, does take some practice and forethought. If you want something ready and pre-made, this is not for you.

This list is far from complete, you may find other various versions of tritium markers from other online sources (often hong kong based websites that also sell flashlights). Tritium vials are sometimes used in fishing, and you may find them available at some fishing websites (e.g. tritium-max betalight). There are some makers who offer tritium encased within a titanium shell (e.g. bart, farid, g1k).


CPFmarketplace forum with sales threads of previously mentioned sellers:

TiGlow from bart

Steve Ku's sales thread on cpfmarketplace dealers corner:

 Additional Photos 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Swisstech Utili-key 6 in 1 Pocket Tool (Review)


The swisstech tech utilikey (6 in 1) is a key-shaped tool which unfolds to offer you 6 functions, listed as follows:

 - Flat Screwdriver
 - Phillips Screwdriver
 - Micro-Sized Screwdriver
 - Straight Blade Knife
 - Serrated Blade Knife
 - Bottle Opener

Made from polished stainless steel, it is roughly the size of a large key. Measuring: 2-3/4” x 3/4” x 1/8" (folded) and weighing only 0.5 oz.

Thoughts and critique:

On paper the swisstech utilikey sounds amazingly usefully with the all the features it offers.  However in practice, there are certain things about the design of this multi-tool that make these functions less practical.

To start off with, the features in the utilikey are not easily accessible.  To use the various functions, you need to first put down your keychain, use two hands to unclip the tool, remove it from your keychain, use the desired feature and then clip the tool back on.  Compare this to say the spyderco bug, which can stay clipped to the keychain and unfolds with ease.

This is one of the reasons why I keep a spyderco bug on my keychain despite having a 'blade' feature on the utilikey.  In comparison to the bug, I find the blade on the utilikey to be thick and not very sharp. I have tried to sharpen the blade further, however the edge is still pretty average.

Straight and serrated knife blade

When using the multi-tool, care needs to be taken with how you hold it, if you are not careful it is quite easy to cut yourself.  This is especially the case when using the bottle opener.  The bottle opener feature is fairly small and does not give much leverage.  I find to open a bottle, it is easier if you pry it open in 2 or 3 locations.  I hope the following video helps to demonstrate, how I use this feature on the utilikey.

Phillips screwdriver and bottle opener
The utilikey has 3 screwdrivers; a phillips, a flat and a micro screwdriver.  Of these 3 screwdrivers, the phillips is probably the most easy to use.  The flat screwdriver does not have much length, and it may be hard to use in awkward and difficult to reach places.  The micro screwdriver also suffers from a similar problem; it has difficulty reaching some of the more deeper and recessed screws in my glasses.  The tip on the micro screwdriver is fairly thick, it requires some 'thinning-out' to allow it to fit into the screws in my glasses.

Flat screwdriver and micro-sized screwdriver

Despite these short comings from the tool, I still keep a utilikey on my keychain as it takes little room and space.  The phillips screwdriver is acceptable, and the bottle opener is okay as a last resort.  You never know, it may come in handy when you're stuck in a pinch with no other options.

RRP:  $11-15 depending on packaging

Manufacturer's website:

Similar tools to consider:

Utili-Key® FX 6-in-1 - has a nail file instead of bottle opener
Utili-Key XT 8-in-1 - has a nail file, nail cleaner wire cutter, wire stripper instead of the two blades.

Additional Photos:

Friday, December 3, 2010

Trit Pics!

I plan to do a write up on these later on, but here's a few pictures to get you started

15 December 2010 - Write up here

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The 'Drake' (by modamag)

I'd like to share with you guys some photos and info of my current keychain light... the 'Drake'


The drake is a custom light made my modamag (at candlepowerforums), it runs on special '10180' sized rechargeable lithium ion batteries.  Unfortunately he is no longer making this light, but you may be able to find one second hand on the marketplace forums.

10180 li-ion cell on the right
According the maker, the drake measures 33mm x 13mm, with the aluminium version weighing only 6 grams. (EDIT: when I measure my drake (fully closed) it actually measures 36-37mm in length)  It is available in either aluminium or titanium, with the titanium coming in a variety of finishes (bare Ti, TiCN, AlTiN, TiN or 'Diamond' coating).  I have the cheaper, aluminium chrome coated version of the drake.  The LED in the drake is protected by a scratch resistant sapphire lens.  In the tail of the drake, there is a slot for an optional tritium marker.

Green tritium in the tail of the light

There also exists a slightly larger version of the drake, called the draco.  The draco runs on slightly longer '10280' sized li-ion cells.  The benefits of using the larger battery is a longer run-time and a brighter high mode.  The drake and draco share the same head, only the battery tube is different in size.

The drake offers a low, high and user defined mode.  The user defined setting is chosen from 10 different levels of brightness.  The light remembers the last mode you have used, if you leave the light on at that level for over 1 second.  To switch between the various modes, you need to turn the light on/off in less than 1 second.  Click on the picture for more details on the user interface.

 I find the lumen and run-time information of the drake is quite hard to quantify, as the information on this is quite old and the emitter has changed with time.  From estimations, the latest version with a Cree XRE-R2, would have a maximum of 100+ lumens (probably an underestimate) with a runtime of 10-15 minutes.  The low on the drake should last around 4 hours, and I would estimate it to be ~5 lumens.  I usually have the user defined mode, set at level 3 or 4, as I find this is a good balance between brightness and run-time.  Previous run-time tests with the draco, suggest level 3 should give ~160 minutes and level 4 ~80 minutes

Keychain usage:

I have had the drake on my keychain for over a year now, the chrome finish on the aluminium version has held up relatively well.  There are a few minor scratches on it, which are only noticeable upon close inspection.  I would expect the AlTiN, TiN or Diamond coatings to hold up even better, as they have a higher hardness than the chrome coating.

I find the beam from the drake is good for keychain purposes, it is relatively wide and floody.  The diminuitive size and weight makes the drake less noticeable when carrying it on a keychain. The amount of light that comes from a flashlight of this size is quite amazing.  There are very few other multi-mode flashlights that offer this amount of brightness, in a package so small.

Constructive criticism:

I do have to say, the brightness of the the drake on high is not well regulated and brightness does tend to decline as the battery drains.  This is not really the fault of the drake, but merely the limits on what is possible with such a small battery.  Personally, I would not recommend running the drake on high for prolonged periods, as the light gets quite hot and the heat may damage the LED or driver.  In my mind the high mode is predominantly there for 'showing-off' purposes.

I find it can be difficult at times, to turn on the light one-handed.  One of the reasons for this is the placement of the knurling (those grooves and indents which give you grip when holding the light).  Greater knurling on the head of of the light would make turning it on, easier.

My pet peeve of the drake is with the driver (electronics which control the LED).  The driver uses quite noticeable PWM to regulate the light.  PWM is where the light flashes very quickly to regulate the brightness.  When shining the light on rapidly moving objects, rather than one continuous picture, the movement can be seen as quick 'stop motion' pictures.

The user interface for switching modes can be tricky to get used to. If you turn the light on/off too quickly, it will switch to the next mode, the next time you turn your light on.  This would be less of a problem if the time delay for memorisation is reduced from 1 second to 0.5 seconds.

Alternatives to consider:

Since the drake is no longer being made, some other lights that run on the 10180 battery format:

Lummi Wee (only one mode but you can choose from either 25/50/100 lumens)
Steve Ku's 38DD (VBC direct drive - gets brighter as you twist it tighter)
peak eiger 10180 (only one mode, but can select from a range of options)

If you have any questions about this light or other keychain lights, feel free to leave a comment.  I will do my best to answer your question.

Related links:

More Photos:

Chrome finish after more than one year of usage

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Spyderco Bug Review

I find it handy having a small knife on my keychain.  It's useful for opening letters and parcels.  Cutting off those annoying loose threads on clothes.  Breaking into those packets of lollies that don't want to tear easily. 

At the moment I am carrying the spyderco bug.  What I like most about this knife is the size and weight.  It is one of the smallest knives I have seen; weighing only 12g, measuring 73mm in length (when open) and 41mm (when closed).  It has a small hole in the blade which makes it really easy to open and close.  It looks elegant and feels well made.  There is room on the handle for a small amount of engraving, and I have in fact given out an engraved 'bug' as a present.

The blade steel in the spyderco bug is 3Cr13, which seems to be a Chinese made steel.  I found the knife comes out of the box with a relatively sharp blade.  However, to maintain this edge, you'll need to sharpen it up every now and again.  The blade length is only 33mm, and I have heard some people complain the cutting edge is too small for their purposes.  I find for my usage, it is fine, however YMMV.  I have listed some alternative knife options, if you do prefer something bigger.

 Price-wise, the spyderco bug is relatively inexpensive and can be found from ~$6-8 (not including shipping).

Some alternative knives I have come across in this size category are:
-SOG micron - unfortunately I have now lost this knife.  I found this knife to be less sharp out of the box.  In my opinion it looks less elegant and has more of a 'tactical' look.
-Spyderco Honeybee - this is basically the same as the spyderco bug, but slightly larger (measuring 92mm/52mm - open/closed)

If you prefer something larger and thicker than the bug, you may consider:
-A small Victoronix SAK (swiss army knife), such as the 'classic'
-Spyderco grasshopper (Measuring 128mm/70mm - open/closed, it's a much larger version of the bug)
-Spyderco ladybug (measuring 111mm/62mm - open/closed, it has lock back mechanism and is made from VG-10 steel [a more expensive and better steel])
-Plus many more...

Leatherman P4, Spyderco Bug, Spyderco Lady Bug

Manufacturers Website:

Friday, November 26, 2010

My current keychain

Here are some photos of what I currently have on my keychain.  (click on photo for larger view) 

This includes:

Main Keyring:

Spyderco Bug
Swisstech Utilitkey
Drake Flashlight (custom light from modamag @ candlepowerforums)
Home assembled Tritium marker
Key tag engraved with: 'If found pls call: name and number'

Car keys

Detachable Supplementary Keyring:

3 house keys
TEC Accessories P-7 Suspension Clip

I will provide more information on these keychain items in future posts


Welcome all!

Over the years I have bought and tried various keychain gadgets and small pocket tools. With this blog, I hope to bring to you, my thoughts and reviews of these items.

My interest in this area initially started when I was looking for a small flashlight on my keychain.  From this initial search, I came across a forum on flashlights (  From there I have also discovered forums and websites on keychain tools, knives and edc (every day carry) items.  I have to say these forums can get addictive, and from there I have developed a penchant for flashlights, small pocket tools and keychain gadgets.

This is my first attempt at doing a blog, constructive comments are welcome