Seiko SKX007 Dive Watch & Seiko 5 SNK809 Automatic

Seiko SKX007 Automatic Diving Watch (Rubber Dive Band). Malaysia. $175. Purchase.
Seiko 5 SNK809 Automatic Stainless Steel Watch. Malaysia. $60. Purchase.

The Seiko Diver SKX007 and Seiko 5 SNK809 are two incredibly popular watches—and for good reason. They’re stylish, affordable, and built to tight tolerances by a brand with a tremendous history of competence. When compared to other watches in their categories they’re frequently hundreds of dollars less expensive than the competition, while keeping time to the same degree of accuracy. As a product with these attributes it’s no wonder they have become the go-to watch for an individual gaining an interest (or addiction) in mechanical watches. Add to this the popular modding community and not only are they affordable entry level watches, but ones that can be heavily customized with affordable options that include: hands, dials, chapter rings, bezel inserts, full bezels, crystals, cases, and even movements.

I started with the smaller SNK809 and recently added the SKX007 to my collection. This was primarily due to the increased water resistance, superior lume, a rotating timer bezel, and a collapsed lung that gave me far too much down time. Many folks think that the SNK809 is too small, however I have large wrists (6’6″) and still find the watch to be elegant and similarly sized to most vintage watches. If you like the SKX007, but find it to be too large, take a look at the SKX013, which is an identical design with a 5mm smaller case.

At their core the SKX007 and SNK809 are the same: they both house a 7S26.1, 2 The movement has three hands, a day & date window in the three o’clock position, and the crown in the 4 o’clock position (good for left hand wearers). The movement is non-hacking, which means the second hand doesn’t stop when the crown is pulled, but that level of precision is unnecessary in an era of cell phones and quartz watches. If you’re buying one of these automatic time pieces, it’s likely partly for the romance of strapping on a totally mechanical watch that winds itself—no batteries involved—and will last for the rest of your life. It’s almost a novelty, products lasting for the foreseeable future.

Photos & Descriptions »

Canon APS-C Lens Kit | EF-S 10-22mm, EF 24-105mm, EF 100-400mm II

Buying camera lenses can be difficult without properly test-driving and the fact that new lenses don’t always have good example images available to show the range of zooms (especially for APS-C sensor cameras paired with EF lenses). In this post I’ve gone through my archive and selected images that were taken from the same vantage point at both the widest and narrowest zoom settings. This will hopefully help those considering purchasing any of these lenses (or lenses of comparable zooms) for an APS-C equipped camera.

This is the kit I bring with me for Adventure times and while they aren’t the fastest lenses, they allow me to cover a range of 10-400mm or the 35mm-equivalent of 16-648mm. This is a pretty awesome range to have with only three lenses.

All the images below have been processed with Lightroom 3 and exported at 1440px widest side and are, unless noted, uncropped and unrotated. I’ve also noted the zoom (unconverted), f-stop, and shutter speed in the file name and in the lightbox if interested. My camera is a small, light, and humble, 7-year-old Canon 450D with an APS-C size sensor that results in a 1.62x crop factor. As such, this post is primarily for those with the same size sensor (latest models are Canon EOS 7D Mark II, 70D, & 760D).
Also, off topic but relevant to this post, note that Safari is having issues with my CSS columns and insisting on unevenly distributing the text in the columns to the left, so there are always two more rows of text on the left than the right, even if there are only two rows of text total. As I look for a fix please consider viewing in Chrome.

Review & Photos »

Hario Slim Coffee Grinder

Hario Slim Hand Grinder Coffee Mill (MSS-1B). China. $25. Purchase.
Cilio Ceramic Dripper #4. Germany. $19. Purchase.

After using a generic Skerton-style hand grinder every morning for years, I experienced this Hario slim coffee mill at a friends home and was immediately converted. It solved numerous issues I had with my original mill in a simple, elegant, and affordable design. The only problem was my reluctance to create waste that causes me to be effectively incapable of throwing away products that technically still function (aka slight hoarding tendencies). As such, this grinder was on my wish list for quite some time, but finally an excuse arrived and I pulled the trigger. So, now that I’ve had the pleasure of using it daily for the past 4 months, here is the review.

The Hario slim mill easily covers all the basic requirements of a hand grinder:

  • ceramic conical burr grinders naturally operate at cool temperatures (as opposed to electric blade grinders which can burn your beans while slicing through them) and last for a very long time with no maintenance
  • easy adjustment of ground size from fine for espresso to coarse for pour over & french press
  • ergonomically comfortable grinding
  • priced affordably

And then there are a few features that make this coffee mill really shine:

  • a clear lid
  • portion indication markings
  • removable handle
  • compact size

Most manual grinders have lids, but my previous one didn’t and it drove me crazy that near the end of a grind session bean fragments would explode out of the burrs onto the floor. With the press-fit lid on this Hario that never happens and it’s easy to keep an eye on the supply. On the other end, the portion indication markers on the side of the base work perfectly for pour overs as well as an Alessi 9090 espresso maker, which requires a far more precise ground volume for a perfect brew. The removable handle and small diameter are great for minimizing shelf footprint, allow for an easy pour into an Aeropress, and make it easy to pack for weekend adventures. The handle also cleverly hangs off the mill when in the cupboard.

The only things I’d change would be to swap the plastic base for glass and for it to be manufactured in the USA for improved quality control, but besides those two small qualms (which could be negatives in that they’d add weight and cost), this is a damn fine hand grinder. If you’re also in the market for a kettle read my review of the Hario V60.

Bottom Line
The slim Hario coffee grinder should a great product, but is hampered by manufacturing quality issues. Read the update below to learn more.

UPDATE [Jan 20, 2015] My friend has bought the same grinder and has had trouble removing the handle after grinding. This occurs because the handle has cut into the hexagonal drive shaft and created notches that prevent the handle from sliding back off the top. This is due to a small contact area in the handle combined with an unacceptably soft metal used for the center axis shaft. A simple work-around is to fully attach the handle and then lift it 1/8″ (3mm) before grinding, allowing the handle to bite the shaft above the notch, providing for an easy release. Being forced to modify behavior to successfully use a product isn’t ideal, and the problem could easily be solved through a design modification or stronger shaft metal, but this fix works and I anticipate the handle to become uniformly worn in a couple months such that the problem is no longer present. Below you can see a side by size image of a smooth issue-free hex shaft on the left and the notched shaft on the right.

UPDATE [Apr 17, 2016] I thought the drive shaft issue would go away as the shaft wore down uniformly, unfortunately that was not the case, and rather the problem has become far worse. The hex drive has now completely stripped. If my friend goes to crank the handle it just freely spins without grinding the beans at all. He’s submitted a manufacturing defect claim with Hario, so we will see how their customer service handles the situation.

Additional Photos »

Shun Classic 8 Inch Chef Knife

Shun Classic 8 Inch Chef Knife DM0706 Handmade in Japan. $210. Purchase.

This knife is absolutely beautiful. If there is one knife to have in your kitchen, this is it. The Damascus stainless steel blade is razor sharp, made with 68 layers of steel honed to a 32° angle, and the ideal one-knife-quiver size of 8 inches. The knife edge has a slight rocker for easy chopping of anything from carrots and onions to fine herbs, while simultaneously having the heft required to hack through large chunks of meat. The D-shaped handle is ergonomic for

right handed folks, smooth but not slippery, and easy to clean. Shun didn’t create this knife by accident–they might only be a ten year old company, but they’re located in a Japanese town with seven centuries of knife manufacturing experience. TIP: as with any polished stainless steel tool, never use green scrubber backed scotch-brite sponges, only blue “scratch free” scrubbers or you’ll sand all your polished stainless down to a dull satin finish.

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Parker Jotter Pen

Parker Jotter Ballpoint Pen in Stainless with Black Medium Point Ink. $10. Purchase.

This pen writes silky smooth, is light weight so it doesn’t weigh down your suit pocket, and has a professional brushed stainless finish. The mechanical click is also extremely satisfying. With the perfect combination of form and function the Parker Jotter is probably the last pen you’ll ever need.

Additional photos »

Hario Buono V60 Kettle

Hario Buono V60 Pour Over Kettle in 800ml (27oz). Japan. $50. Purchase.
Cilio Ceramic Dripper #4. Germany. $19. Purchase.
Hario Slim Hand Grinder Coffee Mill (MSS-1B). China. $25. Purchase.

This Japanese designed kettle has become the go-to kettle for coffee shops offering pour overs today. This is due to the wonderful precision obtained through it’s goose neck spout that makes it easy to fully saturate the grounds for the initial “bloom” with only a small amount of water, allowing hardly a drop to sneak through before it’s time. When pouring in the remaining boil it is easy to corral the errant, wall-perched grounds back into the center for maximum flavor. The 1950’s cloud-like aesthetic adds to the old fashioned pour over

appeal, however I wish the designers had found a way to include a whistle for early morning multitasking–although this could be a peaceful benefit for those with early rising partners. If this is the case and the environment is quite it is possible to hear when the water is boiling, as the lid will begin to dance in it’s loose fitting, creating a faint but noticeable jingle. All in all, the Hario Buono is a beautiful kettle for those seeking total control over their brewing pour & process.

Additional photo »