Posts filed under VHD

Staying Sharp

 A very trusted comrade

A very trusted comrade

A skill I have always wanted to hone (pun intended) is sharpening knives. Recently, I decided to take the leap, buy myself a good stone and get to it. Little did I realize what a complicated job selecting the right stone would be. Literature on the subject was vast and varied and my go-to authors left me even more confused; W.K Merrill said a "good grade carborundum whetstone is a must to keep both axe and sheath and pocketknife sharp" while Clyde Ormond suggested an Arkansas stone. Bill Riviere suggests to considering a pair of Washita stones and Calvin Rutsrtum sings the praises for a combination of fine India Stone and soft Arkansas. 

Initial research resulted in some serious head scratching but after further more comprehensive reading and a much deeper dive into the wonderful world of abrasives, I think I finally have a handle on the subject. To start with all the most common stones and systems fit into one of three categories: whetstones/oil stones, water stones and diamond stones. These categories are then sub-divided into material type and coarseness.

Let's get some naming confusion out of the way first; as far as I have been able to work out 'oil-stones' and 'whetstones' are the same thing - oil stones are a finer grade whetstone which are often lubricated with oil. Whet is an old word meaning "to sharpen" and is not a reference to water (although water can be used to lubricate these stones). From here on I'll refer to this category as whetstones. 

Whetstones/Oil Stones

Whetstones are the most well-known, traditional sharpening stones – the one your dad or grandpa probably has in his shed. Depending on the specific type and coarseness, a whetstone is often used with oil or water to lubricate the sharpening action and to help remove the excess metal filings or swarf. They can be manufactured or naturally quarried; the man-made versions are most commonly made from aluminum oxide or silicon carbide. An 'India Stone' is Norton Abrasives' trademark name for their aluminum oxide stones, and a carbundum stone is an older name for a silicon carbide stone (mystery solved). 

The quarried whetstones are comprised of a microcrystalline quartz called novaculite. One of the more famous regions for quarrying novaculite is the Ouachita Mountains in Arkansas, stones from here are known as Arkansas, Ouachita or Washita stones. There are different colors and densities to quarried whetstones and they have awesome common names like "hard black""surgical black" or "pink translucent"

Japanese Water Stones

These stones are apparently the new kid on the block in the Western world, but have been used for centuries in Japan. They too can be either manufactured or mined. The manufactured versions are mostly made from aluminum oxide (like a whetstone) but use a different binder to hold the particles together.

The naturally mined or quarried stones are composed of silicate particles in a clay matrix making them softer than a whetstone. Because of the softer bond between the abrasive particles, the blade being sharpened is constantly scraping and removing the top layer of stone and revealing new, sharper particles on the sharpening surface. This makes the sharpening process much faster, but it also means the stone wears quicker and is much messier than a whetstone. Water is only ever used on these stones as oil is said to ruin them. There is a staggering number of companies that make water stones; each one seems to have it's own recipe balancing durability and softness.

Diamond Stones

A diamond stone is actually a steel plate with a coating of diamond grit. The two most common diamond types used are mono-crystalline and poly-crystalline, the former being the longer lasting, most desirable and of course most expensive version. Like other stones diamond plates come in various coarseness, but they do not need lubricant. While these stones are considerably more expensive than the other options they are much longer lasting – in fact they are so hard wearing they can be used for leveling other sharpening stones that have had grooves worn into them.

Which Stone?

So where to start? I think the most important thing to consider is what the stone will be used for. I really want an all-round stone that can be used to sharpen everything from a fine pocket knife to a larger kitchen knife. I'm not really cool enough to be an axe guy so I don't need anything overly coarse. As with anything I'd like it to last me as long as possible – a lifetime would be ideal so I don't mind spending that little bit more for quality. 

I find something very appealing about the ancient Eastern tradition of water stones; I'm not sure if it is just me, but they have that air of Japanese perfection and a little bit of mysticism surrounding them. I like that they can be used with only water but the mess factor, shorter life span and cost does bother me. I know it may seem irrational but there is something sterile and manufactured about using a diamond sharpener that puts me off. So with that in mind I have decided that a quarried Soft Arkansas/Black Arkansas combination whetstone is the winner. They are tried and tested, long lasting, durable, made in the USA and will only just break the bank. I have my order in and will let you know how this new escapade pans out.

VHD 2.0

 We Are Back

We Are Back

And ... we're back, it took a little longer than I had expected but the VHD is back to full strength with a new design, a new web host and a new blogging engine. I have gone through most of the back catalogue, edited lots of the pictures and a lot of the copy. I have bought a new tripod so I can take some better shots of books and items. There is a little more fine tuning and testing but I couldn't wait to share.

With the move I fear that some of the pinned or shared images will no longer work so apologies there, but feel free to re-pin the newer version of the lost images they should be larger and better looking anyway. This new structure should be easier for me and hopefully you to use.

This new move is working out a little more expensive than before so if you enjoy the blog and would like to help out, you can pickup a poster, t-shirt or a patch at the VHD stores. All proceeds go back into this blog. 

Posted on August 2, 2014 and filed under VHD.

VHD Store

  The Vintage Hiking Depot Store is open

The Vintage Hiking Depot Store is open

The doors to the VHD store are open! (so to speak).

You can get your hands on the VHD t-shirt, posters and our patch and sticker bundle, and check out securely with PayPal.

Find us here

All the proceeds go towards keeping the VHD up and running.

Posted on January 12, 2014 and filed under VHD.

VHD Year in Review

  Last Hike - A couple of days on the Cleveland Way

Last Hike - A couple of days on the Cleveland Way

So that was 2013. Certainly a huge year for me personally and another big year for the Vintage Hiking Depot. I became an uncle, I got married, I learned to fly fish and tie flies, started Geocaching in a big way and I stayed in a yurt. I reached my 100th post, the VHD poster collection finally came to life (I even displayed them as part of a local art walk) and through the VHD I've been introduced to many great people and learnt so much.

While I feel I've fit a lot in this year there is definitely much more to come. As far as resolutions go it's pretty much identical to every other year; get out more, read more, write more, try more new things and most of all have fun. A very happy New Year to everyone, thank you all for reading and contributing to this blog, here's to 2014.

Posted on January 1, 2014 and filed under VHD.

Fish On

  The stunning Phillips River

The stunning Phillips River

It finally happened, I caught my first real fish on a fly. All it took was a trip to British Columbia, a day on the magnificent Phillips river, an awesome guide, a honeymoon, and a very patient Mrs. VHD.

  Pink Salmon

Pink Salmon

Not the striper I'd been hunting but a beautiful wild pink salmon. Known here in the States as the humpback salmon in Canada they are called pinks, allegedly for their attraction to pink lures. This beauty fell prey to a pink woolly bugger. I also pulled in a couple more pinks and a decent sized cut-throat trout, all on the fly. Amazing.

  Bean School of Fly Fishing Button

Bean School of Fly Fishing Button

As tradition dictates I'm finally able to rotate my LL.Bean outdoor school pin the right way up and wear it with pride. Big thanks to our guide Kyle who put us on the fish.

Posted on September 9, 2013 and filed under VHD.

VHD Travel Yahtzee

  VHD Travel Yahtzee

VHD Travel Yahtzee

One of my favorite portable games would have to be Yahtzee, often when camping or traveling I strip down the big box and stuff the dice, a small pencil and some score cards into a zip-lock bag, it is very light but I always thought I could do better. May I introduce to you, the  7g VHD Travel Yahtzee.

  VHD Travel Yahtzee Scorecard

VHD Travel Yahtzee Scorecard

All the goodies are housed in a watertight metal pill container, measuring 45mm x 15mm. I tracked down a set 5mm dice and made a pencil from the thick lead of an architects pencil wrapped in electrical tape. I then set about re-designing and stripping back the score sheet to its absolute bare minimum. I'm very happy with the results and can't wait to give it a field test.

  VHD Travel Yahtzee Closed

VHD Travel Yahtzee Closed

I'd love to hear of anyone else's travel games, what do you take with you and how have you stripped it back?

Posted on August 12, 2013 and filed under VHD.

First fish of the season

  First fish of the season

First fish of the season

Here we have it, I pulled in my first fish of the season, an 18" striped bass caught from Casco Bay. 2013 is going to be my "Year of the Fly" - I took a two day fly fishing course at L.L Bean a month ago and I'm now hooked (excuse the pun.) However, on this particular day fly conditions were tricky and this fish was eventually pulled in on my spinning rod with my favourite lure.

  L.L Bean button, still upside down

L.L Bean button, still upside down

Saltwater fishing is geographically a lot more accessible for me but fly fishing in the sea certainly posses its own unique set of challenges. Rest assured when I pull in my first fish on a fly you will be the first to know and, as tradition dictates I will finally be allowed flip my "L.L.Bean Outdoor Discovery School" button the right way up.

London

  London

London

Yes London. Although I'm a country boy at heart, at times I find myself in the big smoke and to me, there is no other city I would rather be in. A long time ago, when I was fresh faced and bright eyed about the world I spent a few years working hard in London, and it still has a very special place in my heart. I thought I'd try and highlight a few of my absolute favorite destinations in London and prove that there is a ton of VHD fodder to be found in the city.

Rule's Restaurant

  Rule's Restaurant Picture By Herry Lawford

Rule's Restaurant Picture By Herry Lawford

If I'm ever asked about places to eat in London my first suggestion is always Rules, London's oldest restaurant. Opened by Thomas Rule in 1798 it has served the finest British cuisine to a captive audience in London's Covent Garden ever since. Imagine, if you will, a wood paneled living room festooned with hunting trophies, oil painting and imperial memorabilia. An ever changing menu of seasonal game, sourced from its own country estate, is prepared by 35 chefs fronted by David Stafford. Dining here you join such prestigious alumni as Charles Dickens, William Makepeace Thackeray, John Galsworthy and H.G Wells. Nowhere else will you get such a distinct display of fine British cuisine. I highly recommend the venison cottage pie.

Parks and Trees

  A great London Plane in Berkeley Square Gardens

A great London Plane in Berkeley Square Gardens

London is truly a city of parks; it has over 25,000 acres of green, all designed to be strolled through and enjoyed. This trip however I came armed, on mission if you will. I had picked up a copy of "Great Trees of London" (yes, there is such a book)  and this great book (published by "The Lonely Planet" in conjunction with "Trees for Cities") took me into new parts of London; to secret squares, nooks and crannies in the hunt for trees of note. There were some amazing specimens but also, unfortunately, one that is no longer there. The St James's Church Catalpa tree on Piccadilly was cut down in 2012 - I just missed it. After it was felled the pieces were carved by artist Clinton Chaloner into the church's nativity. So it still lives on in one form or another, although I would prefer if it still were alive.

Pubs

  The Grapes

The Grapes

There are over 7,000 pubs in London, of varying qualities I must admit, but the good ones are real gems. On this trip I naturally visited quite a few but my favorite was The Grapes in Limehouse. This wonderful pub was my lunch spot while I was walking the Thames Path between Greenwich and London Bridge and was well worth the stop. The Grapes opened its doors in 1583 and has played an important part in the history of Limehouse, an area frequented by the likes of Sir Humphrey Gilbert, Sir Walter Raleigh, Francis Bacon, Edward Wolfe and Charles Dickens. It is believed that Dickens even made mention of the pub in “Our Mutual Friend”

A tavern of dropsical appearance … long settled down into a state of hale infirmity. It had outlasted many a sprucer public house, indeed the whole house impended over the water but seemed to have got into the condition of a faint-hearted diver, who has paused so long on the brink that he will never go in at all.
— Charles Dickens - Our Mutual Friends, 1864–65

The pub has a friendly, local atmosphere, it smells of old wood and history and I'm glad to say it was bustling when I went in. The bangers and mash were delicious as well as the ales that washed them down, the co-lease holder, Sir Ian McKellen was not around but there was a rather cool Gandalph model in the back parlour overlooking the Thames, along with a complete set of Dickens' work. 

Bookshops

I'm pretty much in my element when surrounded by stacks of old, dusty books. One of my favorite London activities is to simply stroll down Charing Cross Road and duck into all of the amazing book shops. Some are real collector, antique type stores, some are bargain basement places but they all have a nostalgic atmosphere. They also pay heavy dividends if you are willing to put in a little work. Checkout "Quinto & Francis Edwards Bookshop", "Henry Pordes Books"," Any Amount of Books" and, of course, "Foyle's". Foyle's has been selling books for a long time. They stock mainly new books but also have a few second hand, either way they must have exceptional buyers as it's always stocked with a great selection. Their travel section is particularly spectacular.

Markets

  A little something picked up from Arcadia

A little something picked up from Arcadia

Whatever you're looking for London most likely has a market for it and this trip my destination this time was Spitalfields on a Thursday. In the main, old hall they have an excellent antiques and knick-knacks market. It might not be the biggest market but the quality and selection is exceptional. Be sure to swing by Andrews of Arcadia for all your fishing needs.

And there we have it, this is very much my own, very concise list and may not be for everyone. I have hardly scratched the surface of London itself, I'd love to talk about museums, galleries, monuments and go deeper into pubs, restaurants and history but this is already a monster post, so that might just have to wait for my next visit.

Posted on May 7, 2013 and filed under VHD.

Safe Travels

  Christmas Day in the Antarctic Circle - B.A.N.Z. Antarctic Research Expedition 1929-31 Frank Hurley

Christmas Day in the Antarctic Circle - B.A.N.Z. Antarctic Research Expedition 1929-31 Frank Hurley

Thanks to everyone for reading this year. We've had a blast over here at the VHD. Hope everyone enjoys the festive season and everyone can get some time on a trail or in the outdoors somewhere. Thanks again for reading, there's much more to come in the New Year.

This magnificent picture is from the Australian National Archives it was taken by the great Frank Hurley during one of the British, Australian, New Zealand Antarctic Research Expeditions led by non other than Douglas Mawson. It looks to be onboard the RSS Discovery. I love the Yalumba wine (or more likely port) on the tables.

Posted on December 23, 2012 and filed under VHD.