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Friday, February 11, 2011

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EDC Part I: Multi-tool and Knife

Photo by Jonas Bergsten
Your "everyday carry" or EDC is whatever you always have on hand--everything from your multi-tool to your cellphone to your credit cards. And, as it turns out, entire websites detail the fetishistic search for the Platonic ideal EDC. I especially like the EDC porn on everyday-carry.com.

In part I of our EDC review I'm going to describe my multi-tool which I've worn on my belt everywhere I go for almost 20 years. Subsequent posts will detail the other things I tote and the complex contents of Mrs. Homegrown's purse.

For years the centerpiece of my EDC was the original Leatherman "Pocket Survival Tool" like the one in the picture above, a gift from Mrs. Homegrown back when I worked in video in the early 90s. Last year I broke the file off of it and finally lost the tool while re-doing our greywater system. I replaced it with the cheapest Leatherman I could find, the Leatherman Kick:

Leatherman 830018 Kick Pocket Multi-Tool with Leather Sheath

I have to say that I like my old Leatherman better and, thankfully, it turned up again. The Kick works fine but I prefer my old Leatherman's all metal construction, its superior leather belt case and that fact that it's ever so slightly smaller. That old Leatherman also has a tiny flathead screwdriver I find handy. With both, I use the pliers more than any of the other tools.

Now the Leatherman is to the Swiss Army knife what, say, Robert Johnson is to prog rock. One is direct and the other has, well, too many notes. The designers of the original Leatherman tool apparently felt that it's fine to pop open a beer bottle after a hard days work but far too Eurotrashy to uncork a bottle of wine, at least that's what I assume from the lack of a corkscrew. Though I just met someone who carries a tool I didn't know existed, the Leatherman Flair:

The Flair,  Leatherman's obvious attempt to imitate the Swiss Army knife, has a corkscrew, scissors and a fork like thingy. It's been discontinued, though Leatherman still makes similar tools (though without the odd fork--how to skewer that olive?). And, of course, there's Leatherman's gardening, hunting, bicycling and even military and law enforcement multi-tools.

Leatherman is the Budweiser of multi-tools. There's a whole array of other companies that make higher quality products but, alas, we don't sell enough books for me to peruse the finer offerings at our local Ross Cutlery shop. Again, my basic Leatherman seems to have enough tools for most situations.

Of course a multi-tool is just part of one's EDC. On days that I'm removing a beehive from a wall I've taken to carrying a Bushman knife to cut out the comb.

Cold Steel Bushman Black SK-5 Steel Cordura Survival Sheath

 It's all metal, durable and easy to clean. And the hollow hilt can accept a stick to turn the knife into a spear should you need to "harvest" a feral pig for lunch, let's say. But the Bushman is too bulky and sinister for my EDC, at least in urban areas. I wore it around the house one day, but Mrs. Homegrown said she thought I was acting like a preschooler and, frankly, what do I need a big knife like this for blogging, answering emails and trips to the post office? Plus this sucker is a one way ticket to junk touching and a Mr. Toad's wild ride through the porno scanner should you get within a square mile of an airport or other secure facility. Bushman aside, the right to carry a small multi-tool is, incidentally, one of the reasons I prefer rail to the indignities of flying these days.

Stay tuned for what else is in my EDC, as well as Mrs. Homegrown's EDC musings. Perhaps I'll get around to a full-on EDC centerfold photo like the ones on everyday-carry.com. In the meantime, what's in your EDC? Leave some comments . . .

A special thanks to Phil Noyes (author of an amazing book Trailer Travel: A Visual History of Mobile America) for introducing me to the concept of EDC.
Support Homegrown Evolution by visiting our bookstore.

Hardening Your Home

The prospect of civil unrest on the scale we are currently watching unfold in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries should give one pause.

The violence was initially directed against government installations and businesses such as banks which were closely allied with the government of Hosni Mubarak. It appears the police have disappeared from the streets and some individuals have taken advantage of the chaos and begun to loot. Some incidents apparently have taken the form of what we here in the United States would call "home invasions". Neighborhood watches have been hastily set up by groups of residents to protect themselves.

Some of the looters were apparently government agents provocateur according to reports.

Here in this country, we're not strangers to civil unrest. Usually they have occurred in urban areas and have been contained. However, as society continues to decline, and crime continues to escalate, efforts must be made to harden your home against external threats of the bipedal persuasion.

If you have a garage and it is full of junk, and your vehicles are left in the driveway or street, this is your first priority. You need to store your vehicles out of the sight of would be criminals.

There are valuable assets within your car that are tempting targets for thieves. This is sure to become more of an issue as the economy continues its downward trend. Gasoline is projected to head to $5.00 per gallon or higher. Given that many gasoline tanks in vehicles are now plastic, a cordless drill and a bucket are the only tool needed to empty your tank and stick you with an expensive repair bill. The actuators for airbags are another target, as are catalytic converters which are sold to scrap metal dealers for their platinum content. There are anecdotal stories of aluminum wheels becoming the target of metal thieves as well. These are stock aluminum wheels common to vehicles today, not the custom ones.

There's also the issue of what happens during riots. Cars are vandalized and set ablaze. If your vehicle is next to your home and some hoodlum sets it on fire, the car will burn at approximately 1500 degrees F. That is enough to set adjacent items on fire just due to proximity. There's also the issue of the tremendous amounts of toxic gasses emitted by a burning vehicle that could potentially flood your home.

Next are your exterior doors. They should be, at minimum, solid core wood doors with reinforced frames and reinforced door strikes. Head on over to DoItYouself.com for a tutorial and parts list on reinforcing your own doors and door frames.

If you have the ability to upgrade your doors and door frames, the next step up would be steel doors and frames. Steel doors with steel frames are much better at resisting battering or attempts to kick in the door and can be ordered as bullet resistant.

You need to purchase quality locks and hardware for your doors. They need to be able to withstand the abuse dished out by a determined attacker. Buy the best you can afford, keeping in mind that you want a deadbolt lock with at least a one inch bolt throw. Check out The Ultimate Lock. Hinges are another consideration, buy the best you can afford and use at least three inch screws to mate the hardware to the door jamb and to the structural frame.

If you're not sure what we're talking about here, take a look at the image below.

courtesy of Homestead Interior Doors

You're looking down on to the top of the door, door jamb, and structural frame. The frame is labeled here as "wood stud". See the screw that goes through the jamb and into the stud? The larger the diameter of the screw, the longer the screw, and the greater the number of those screws will increase the strength of your doors. This is also why you want a deadbolt with at least a one inch throw. Short bolts often will not reach the stud and thus are much weaker as the jamb material is much thinner.

If you can't afford to do these things, or are in a situation where you are unable to make changes to your doors such as a rental, you can always resort to using cross bars or door bars. You can make these yourself using 2x4 lumber.

If you use three of these, one in the middle, one at the top and one at the bottom, it will be incredibly difficult for someone to batter the door down. These can be kept in a closet or under a bed until the time of need. They are quick to install using lag screws and simple hand tools such as a socket wrench and a hand drill to start your pilot holes for the screws.

Also consider installing steel security doors over the man door at the garage and side entrances to your home.

Sliding glass doors present an entirely different challenge. Forget about people trying to pry open your door in a civil unrest situation. They'll probably just throw a rock through it. The same is true of glass windows.

It can be expensive to retrofit your windows and doors with polycarbonate, but you can go that route if you wish. A more simple option is to simply cover the windows with polycarbonate.

You can use sheets with a privacy feature as seen in the video, which would make it more difficult for an attacker to see you inside, or clear. Polycarbonate plastics can be bought many places such as TAP Plastics and even Amazon.com. Remember kids, the bonus is that polycarbonate plastics can be bullet resistant. Just remember to give yourself a gun port for returning fire.

When you attach polycarbonate panels to the exterior of your glass doors and windows, be sure to use fasteners that are not easily removed.

Do NOT seal yourself in the dwelling! Plan to have multiple paths of exit! If you have a home that is built on a foundation and not a concrete slab, make sure the crawl space is accessible and that you have a way out past the foundation in case all exterior exits are blocked.

I know one individual who has gone as far as installing a network of tunnels between his home and outbuildings to ensure he and his family have multiple paths of escape.

Always have a supply of fire extinguishers, buckets of water, sand or common dirt on hand to deal with fires.

Also be aware that in some places it is illegal to fortify your home. Check your local laws first.