Alan Folts TiStix Review

Introduction

Titanium is all the craze nowadays. With food utensils, they provide a distinct advantage over steel, with properties such as anti-corrosion and weight being among the most notable. However, Titanium tools are often much more expensive as they are harder to work with. When it comes to something as simple as chopsticks, does the added cost still make them worth it to buy?

This product was provided by EatingTools for review.

Specs

Manufacturer: Alan Folts
Place of Manufacture: USA
Length: 9.375″
Weight: 1.7oz
Price: $75 (link to purchase: here)

Packaging

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The TiStix come in a nice black sleeve packaging. There is a small loop that slips over the flap to keep it closed. Over the left side has the logo printed on faintly.

When it comes to packaging, the TiStix really hit the ball out of the park. I can see myself reusing this packaging for months if I continue to be careful about drying them off before putting them back.

Design

The TiStix are cut and milled at a small machine shop in South Carolina. After that, the TiStix are finished by hand by Alan Folts. This includes the anodizing, polishing, and bead blasting.

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Starting at the tip, the front inch are bead blasted. This gives them some more grip and contrasts with the rest of the polished body.

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Moving to the middle, there is some milling that add to the aesthetic. The largest milled ring are bead blasted for higher contrast. The other milled rings are not finished differently from the body.

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The end is bead blasted and is steeply tapered into a dulled tip. There is more milling here and, like before, only the largest ring is bead blasted.

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Other models come with different color anodizations that add some customizability.

Fit and Finish

The fit and finish on the TiStix are impeccable. It is impossible to tell the individual sticks apart from their size. This is expected, as they were professionally machined. The milled rings are distanced the same on both and the depths are the same.

When it comes to finish, even though the TiStix are finished by hand, they look perfect. The polished surfaces look smooth. They look a bit tumbled, which would explain their ability to resist wear marks. They frankly look like pieces of art rather than eating utensils.

Functionality

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I was a bit dubious at first about any differences the TiStix would have over other chopsticks. I was, however, pleasantly surprised by the weight increase. It might seem like a hindrance, but the added weight shifts the center of balance closer to the hand. As such, they are much easier to control. Further, the titanium has a slightly “grippier” feel in comparison to stainless steel. While not as textured as something like bamboo or wood, the TiStix makes up it by being much heftier.

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The sandblasted tips make it easy to pick up the most slippery of items. This contrasts greatly with other types of chopsticks that either do not have any type of feature to help with gripping, or those that simply have a few grooves cut into the tip.

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When it comes to cleaning, the titanium holds up very well to scrubbing and does not stain. Using a sponge and some dish soap, it took no time at all to remove hardened food gunk off of them. The milled titanium rings are not deep enough to make cleaning them difficult. The bead blasted contrast remains after cleaning.

Value and Competition

At $75, the TiStix do not come cheap. However, the price can be justified. In comparison to other titanium chopsticks, the TiStix’s design, with its milling and bead blasting, showcase a higher level of workmanship. The ergonomics are also better, with the strong tapering putting the center of mass higher up than with other chopsticks.

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When considering value, one should look at both the item itself and how it compares. While the TiStix may look simple, they handily beat out the competition through it’s design and attention to detail. These additional design aspects require more workmanship, which further rationalize its price. For those reasons, I feel like the TiStix are reasonably priced and present tangible advantages to its competitors.

Conclusion

I was a bit surprised by the TiStix. As someone who has used chopsticks for many, many years, the TiStix may be the best pair of chopsticks that I have ever used. This is not an exaggeration. The higher center of mass and bead blasted tips make grabbing food a breeze. With their hardy solid, one piece construction, I have no fear of bringing them out and using them in lieu of disposable utensils. Given the opportunity, I would definitely purchase many more pairs for household use.

Cergol Tool & Forgeworks Hatchet Review

Introduction

As one of my first endeavors into bowl and spoon making, I decided to purchase a nice hatchet. A hatchet would both suffice as a carving tool, but also as an outdoorsman’s tool. Further, it well made hatchet should last me for the rest of my life with good maintenance and careful use.

I learned about Aaron Cergol while researching hammers, but soon found his axe-work to be quite impressive. Communication with Mr. Cergol was easy and 16 weeks later, I had a hatchet in my hand. Let’s take a look at it.

Specs

Maker: Aaron Cergol
Materials: 5160 Steel and American Hickory
Weight: 2 Pounds
Length: 14 Inches
Place of Manufacture: Milwaukee, WI
Price: Varies

Packaging

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The hatchet was shipped USPS priority, insured of course. The box was branded with a small “Cergol Tool & Forgeworks” stamp above my address.

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Inside the box was an excess of packing material. This is a good thing. When I first saw the package and shook it around (as always), I heard no rattling.

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The hatchet itself was well wrapped in the red paper and did not suffer any damage during transit.

Ordering and Design

Cergol Tool & Forgeworks usually has a few items in stock on their website (here). They will have occasional sales that are posted on Instagram (here).

However, when I wanted to order a hatchet, I did not find a model on Aaron’s website that I wanted. Instead, there were a few examples on his Instagram that I liked. So, I sent him an email. Aaron was very helpful in the ordering process. He explained all the choices that I had, giving both pros and cons for each choice. He was never pushy and always responded quickly to emails.

My particular hatchet is made from 5160 steel. Aaron explained that 4140 would be tougher and would be better for a general purpose hatchet, but since I wanted something that could be used for carving, the finer edge that 5160 could take would be better. As for the handle, he makes them out of American Hickory. I was given the choice of an oval or octagonal handle. I chose an octagonal handle as it is a bit smaller and is supposed to be easier to hold.

If you’d like to order a tool from Cergol Tool & Forgeworks and don’t see what you want on the website, I’d highly recommend contacting Aaron Cergol directly. You can email him at: cergolforge@hotmail.com.

Fit and Finish

The hatchet comes in a nice leather sheath that is secured with rivets. It is not the most secure, and the hatchet can shift around in the sheath, but it cannot be wiggled out in any way.

The hatchet is held in by a snap enclosure affixed on a leather strap that goes over the open top. The snap is firm and secure, though the long strap makes undoing the snap a breeze. There is no belt loop on the sheath.

The inside of the sheath does is raw leather. One can see the trace marks that were drawn in for the sheath. On one side, there is a deep cut into the leather. I am not sure what these are from, although I don’t believe this detracts from its function.

The hatchet has a nice satin finish to it. I preferred this look over a blackened look and had asked for the hatchet to be made this way.

The handle is 12 inches long from the end knob to the shoulder and is fitted securely.

There is a bit of space near the poll of the hatchet, although the handle is much to wide to ever wiggle into that area.

The maker’s mark is a simple “CERGOL” near the poll. It is not obtrusive and, in my opinion, adds to the hatchet rather than takes away from it. It would appear as though the “L” was partially cut off either from the initial strike or from polishing.

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There are file marks along the hatchet head adding to the “working finish”. They are deeper in some areas than others, but, overall, do not stand out.

Functionality

I couldn’t wait to take this guy out and give it a good swing, so I headed into my suburban neighborhood backyard and took it upon myself to destroy a 4×4. The weight of the head is well suited for one handed swinging and I found the hatchet doing much of the work.

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When I  split the 4×4, the hatchet impacted a small pebble in the ground, giving the edge its first battle scar. The cutting edge folded a little. It was an easy fix though, with my Opinel Sharpening Stone (review).

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I choked up on the handle and worked at getting a few controlled cuts along the edge. I was happy to have chosen an octagonal handle as the handle was just right for my hand. Any bigger and it would have been harder to control the cuts.

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I’ll do add onto this review after I get some more time to use the hatchet.

Conclusion

Buying this hatchet has been a very personal experience for me. I was able to give input from the very beginning and, after receiving the hatchet, feel like “this is mine”. I have no doubt that the hatchet will service me very well in the years to come and will definitely be going back to Aaron Cergol for other hand-forged tools.

Zach Wood Pry Bar Review

Introduction

 

I saw a Zach Wood tool on r/EDC and loved it. His website was a bit sparse and his Facebook page was rarely updated. There was a stickied post, though, that directed me to joining a Facebook group that I’ve grown to love. There, I managed to purchase my first Zach Wood tool. I’ve been carrying it ever since and I’m sure I’ll be carrying it for a very long time.

Specs

Maker: Zach Wood Custom Knives and Tools
Place of Manufacture: USA
Length: 6 inches
Material: A2
Price: $185 (retail)

The Maker

Zach Wood is a custom maker based in Montana. Beyond the type of tools mentioned in the review, he also makes knives through forging and stock removal. He’s quite active in the eponymous Facebook group.

Purchasing

I purchased the tool second hand on the Facebook group. This is the easiest way to acquire a tool. They occasionally show up on eBay, forums and from a few online sellers, but they come at a premium and they often don’t have them in stock.

The second easiest way to purchase a tool is to get it through one of the “buy” posts that Zach makes. Since there are so many people who want to purchase a tool, Zach will often sell them to the first “x” commenters or pick a few randomly from the commenters in a lottery form.

It appears as though most secondary sellers in the group are honest and I have read of no issues. For me, my item originated in Thailand, but the seller was excellent and I received my tool well packaged with a bead as a gift.

Fit and Finish

I would describe the tool as well made, but still has the touches of being handmade.

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The “A2” stamped into the front pry is noticeably uneven and the “A” looks as though the punch moved while being hit. It makes no functional difference and, in my opinion, makes pry tool easily recognizable and unique.

The grinds on the chisel end still feature the grind lines. The tip is not sharp and all the edges are rounded.

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The clip is thick and is very stiff. I have rolled around with the pry bar clipped to my jeans and it never shifted. There is a double side to it, though. The pry bar can be a bit hard to get clipped to a pocket and it appears as though it is starting to create a wear pattern on my jeans.

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The design of the clip is very interesting. There is a small hole, that goes all the way through the bar, where the clip sticks in. This keeps the clip from rotating. The clip itself is held in place via a bicycle chain link. These can be easily removed and replaced with a chain link of a different color.

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The side edges of the tool are rounded, but are straight. The tool was purchased second hand, so I am unsure if all of the wear marks are from the maker, but from the pictures from the maker, it would seems as though he purposely wears the tool during finishing.

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The fuller along the front of the knife is straight although the holes are not perfectly aligned. However, the holes that hold a screw bit and the O2 tank opener seem accurately sized.

Functionality

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While many purchase these tools for collecting, I purchased it for using. With a length of 6 inches, the tool might not fit that well in some pants. It does all right in my jeans though.

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As a pry tool, I have used the tool to remove adhesive that the last tenant had left on my door. Furthermore, I have used the bit holder to help disassemble open up a gas tank. The length allows for more torque to be applied in comparison to a normal screw driver.

Conclusion

While many might scoff at the idea of “EDC” and think one piece tools have little use, but I love this Zach Wood tool and have found uses for it most days. Having a pry tool is nice as it saves other tools, such as screwdrivers and knives, from being used improperly and damaged. I’ll be carrying this guy around for a while for sure.