Thursday, 29 October 2015

How To Buy Crappy Gear

What's a great way to make sure your equipment is rubbish?

Order from TV, that's how.

Yeah, I know I know. I really wasn't expecting too much from this thing. It certainly wasn't destined for my BOB or anything, but I expected at least a minimum amount of functionality. Boy was I wrong.

Here is the bucket of ass in question:

First up...

Why I Thought This Was a Good Idea

This was intended for quick and dirty sharpening of kitchen knives. Normally I use a pull-through sharpener for that, which works just fine.

You wouldn't use a pull-through sharpener to hone your tools or survival knives/machettes/axes ect -- they rip along the grain making a mess of it at the microscopic level, but for a kitchen knife this tends to be a benefit. The harsh ripping that occurs creates micro-serrations that work great for carving up meat, slicing tomatoes, chopping garlic etc. A knife with such an edge will often feel sharper than one with a perfectly polished edge.

The only problem with these tiny serrations is that they are weak and tear off or fold over in fairly short time, dulling the edge and requiring re-sharpening.

Now I could create a finely honed edge but there's scarcely any point due to how kitchen knives are treated in our household (and most others I suspect). My knives aren't $400 master chef Italian designed works of art. I bought them from Woolworths for something like $12 each. They are not precious. Nor are they treated as such. They get thrown in with all the other dishes clanging about with all the other steelware. They are used to chop things on often less than ideal surfaces (such as glass) and sometimes to open cat food tins. A beautiful edge would last half as long as it would take to create.

Quick-and-dirty sharpeners like a pull-through type restore a dulled edge to the nasty but effective edge they created in the first place. This is quick and only needs to be done about once a week but since both of our pull through sharpeners took a walk and our knives started getting dull, I spotted an ad on TV and thought yeah that looks reasonable, which brings me to my ....

Review of the "Swifty Sharp" Barely Motorized Destroyer of Knives

When this anal polyp of a product arrived I was pretty excited. Not because I expected it to be awesome or anything, I just like getting packages.

The first thing I tried to do after un-boxing was put in batteries. Notice that I said "tried".

Those are the batteries just hanging there. Chilling if you will. The battery compartment was actually too tight to hold the AA's it called for and I had to push them in there pretty tight to get the lid on. The batteries were jammed in so tight that the springs could not push them against the connectors, effectively leaving an open circuit.

In short, it would not even power up unless you pressed the On button, and pressed tightly on the battery cap on the bottom. Clearly not ideal.

Now, I had trouble trying to figure out how such an elementary error would occur so I spent 3 seconds on google to find out that the diameter of a AA battery is between 13.5 to 14.5 mm diameter. Then I measured my AA batteries which were indeed 14.5mm, then measured across the battery compartment which was precisely 29mm (ie 14.5 times 2).

It seems that our esteemed designer spent the same 3 seconds on google that I did, and plugged 29mm into their CAD program thinking they'd covered all contingencies, and called it a day.

Making It Work (Somewhat)

Clearly batteries weren't an option.

I disconnected the battery connector wires and powered it up directly with a 6V power supply (as 4 AA batteries would have provided). This wasn't enough. The motor was running too slow and stalled easily when I put the knife in the "precision" guide.

I ramped up the power supply to 9V. This worked a little better and I actually managed to run the knife through without stalling too much. This time I could feel steel being removed from the blade, along with the incessant shuddering. My wife yelled something at me about it being really loud but I couldn't hear her over the volume of this thing, so I persisted.

For the knife setting, there are 2 guides. One for each side of the blade. You can see the precise alignment of the stone here:

I guess that the idea here is that you run the blade through one of the guides, taking care not to jam it because the precise alignment is a little too precise and it tends to jam, and then you run the blade through the other guide, taking care not to expect it to touch the stone at all because it's too precisely aligned to the other side.

Here's what happened:

After a lot more screwing around than I've detailed here, it actually created somewhat of a decent edge. By decent I mean I managed to chop an onion with it. Sort of. If you look closely you can see where the stone bounced off the blade (that's the shuddering I mentioned before).

The stone is held on with a simple screw, which was loose out of the box. I tightened it before I produced the awesome edge that you can see above but it came loose again after, as you can see:


The website says this:

The guide holds the blade at the perfect angle while the professional grade high speed sapphire stone rotates to sharpen and hone the blade, restoring its razor sharp edge.

Now there are a lot of things wrong with that sentence (every second word) but I won't pick it apart becuase that's just mean. Instead I will show you what an actual sapphire stone looks like compared to whatever that is:

Good thing it came with 3 of them.

In Conclusion

I got burned with this thing. It is an absolute bucket of ass. I had low expectations to begin with, but I was absolutely appauled. This is the first, and only time ever that I will order something from TV. No matter how good it looks.

Most of the problems with this tool could have been solved by the engineers paying a little attention to detail, but the biggest problem is that the people that are pimping it cared less for the actual product and more for the production of selling it.

In Short

We have between now and the apocalypse to gather our gear, and the gear we gather will have to last a lifetime.

Choose wisely my friend,

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