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: http://www.spyderco.com/catalog/details.php?product=374

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 (www.candlepowerforums.com).  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