Jan 11

A Different Kind of Blade – Knife Sharpeners

Every now and then we like to switch up our topics and take a look at something totally unrelated to software.  We are after gadget guys at heart.  So in this post we’re going to take a look at a product that everyone should have in their home, especially if they enjoy cooking.

It’s not uncommon for amateur chefs to spend many hundreds of dollars on knives for their kitchen.  And now days there is a knife for every purpose as well as a large variety of materials out of which their blades are made.  But even more important than having a whole block full of expensive knives is making sure that you keep the knives you have sharp.

While the idea behind knife sharpening is not new, most amateur cooks know very little about it.  But a sharp knife will not only increase your speed and enjoyment of cooking, it can also increase your safety.

As a blade dulls it requires more and more pressure to cut through foods.  The harder you’re having to press, the more likely you are to make a mistake and cut yourself.  Additionally, when a dull blade encounters something dense, it has a tendency to change directions.  This can lead to VERY bad results for your fingers.

Knife sharpening is a bit of an art.  Most professionals will tell you that the only way to sharpen a blade without causing damage is with a good set of sharpening stones.  The only problem with this is that it takes a good bit of time and practice to be able to sharpen knives on a stone.  It requires holding the blade at a consistent angle and providing just the right amount of pressure.

For most consumers an electric knife sharpener is the fastest, easiest, and safest way to sharpen their knives.  While you will certainly pay a bit more for an electric sharpener the time savings alone make it worth it.  For our money, the Smith’s Edge Pro is the best knife sharpening system for the money.  It has an knob that allows you to adjust the sharpening angle to match the factory angle of your blades.  This means that even if you have a wide assortment of knives, it will still be up to the task.

There are other models on the market that are more reasonably priced.  And if you want to spend a great deal less, you can go with a manual guided knife sharpener.  These lock the blade into place while you pull it through the sharpener, keeping the blade angle consistent.  Most models, however, do not allow you to select the angle at which it sharpens.

A great resource for finding the right knife sharpener for your kitchen can be found at www.thebestknifesharpener.org.  Here you’ll find a guide that helps you select what you need based on the knives you currently own.  It’s worth the read.

Dec 19

Gourmet Paleo Cookies Make a Great Gift

While many still enjoy the experience of going out to the malls and brick and mortar stores, the digital age has changed shopping forever for millions of people.  For those that don’t care for the long lines, the crazy crowds, and roaming parking lots for a half hour just to find a spot a mile from the stores, the idea of completing all of their Christmas shopping online is pure bliss.

Gourmet Paleo Cookies

Of course often you can find many of these same producers on their own websites.  Due to the mechanics of search engine rankings, it’s often difficult for these smaller sites to rank with the Amazon’s and Etsy’s of the world.  But if you look, you can find them.  And if you enjoy directly supporting smaller businesses, you can buy directly from them.  This way they avoid the commissions normally paid to the bigger sites.

The cookies from earlier in the article are a perfect example.  Gourmet-Paleo.com sells their products through Amazon, but they also have their own small website where they sell their their products.  Either way you pay the same price, but ordering direct means more money for the small business.  They make some of the best Paleo chocolate chip cookies out there.

And sometimes, just sometimes, you can’t find what you’re looking for on any of the big shopping sites.  Or maybe there is some sort of difficulty with shipping.  In these rare cases, you might actually be forced to venture out into the jungle of the mall during the Holiday Season.  If this happens to you, you have our condolences.  For us, it’s online, or nothing at all.

The Biggest Retailer

While the biggest retailers in the world used to be Sears, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and even Walmart, for those looking to shop from the comfort and tranquility of their living rooms, Amazon.com is the king of them all.  With more items than Walmart, Amazon carries just about everything you could ever need.  From books and movies to food items such as paleo cookies, they literally have everything you could possibly want.

Amazon also features thousands of small privately owned shops hosted on their enormous e-commerce platform.  Say for instance that you’re looking for blue elephant pillows as a gift for your daughters dorm room.  You’ll find those on Amazon sold by a third party.  The ordering process is seamless. As far as you know, you’re ordering from Amazon themselves, but you’re actually supporting a small business somewhere.

Speaking of home decor, another great site that has made a niche for itself in the handmade craft market is Etsy.com.  Here you can find anything from handmade decor to jewelry and even some food items.  The aforementioned handmade elephant pillows are something you can find on Etsy too.  And while sellers must pay a commission to whichever site they use, it’s often worth the time to compare as commission rates vary as well as the prices themselves.

 

Dec 02

Using Software to Find Deals on Everything from Makeup to Shoes

Now more than ever people are using their phones to save money.  Given the monthly expense of a smartphone, you might wonder what we mean by that.  But if you know what apps to look for, you can find the best deals on clothes, food, electronics, and even gasoline.  All you need to know is what app to get.

Smartphone Apps

Smartphone apps have been around for a while now.  Everyone is familiar with the ubiquitous weather app, the stock quote app, and the calculator.  But things have changed substantially since these applications first graced the faces of our iPhones.

Now you can find apps that are able to perform extremely sophisticated procedures, including telling you in real-time how to find the best deals on the things you buy most often.

SaleSorter

SaleSorter helps you figure out which stores are having the best sales before you even leave your house.  This app contains a map of your local area that includes all of the current sales.  It also contains information for each stores address and hours of operation.  I recently used this to find some CrossFit shoes that were on sale at this website.

ShopKick

This app gives you a kickback for every store that you visit.  Walk into Macy’s get a 200 point kickback.  You can then redeem these points for valuable coupons and discounts.  There are quite a few stores participating in the program, so it is a worthwhile app for most shoppers.  100 points entitles you to free concealers.

eBay Now

The eBay Now app is a unique offering.  They will offer delivery from local stores for items that you buy on their website.  Just like shopping online, there’s no waiting in line, but unlike waiting for UPS or FedEx, you simply wait for the store to show up with your purchase.  Only works with eBay, not any other website.

Now you can finally justify the expense of your $150 per month smartphone by actually saving money.  And these are just a few of the apps that are out there.

Keep in mind that all of these apps exist to provide information to their customers on your shopping habits.  While you may gloss over the license agreement, understand that their selling your information to the stores that are a part of their system.  Nothing is free.

But hell, everything you do now is tracked by the NSA anyway, so you might as well get paid for giving up your information instead of just giving it up for free.

Oct 11

New EPA Regulations Will Raise Energy Costs

New regulations by from the Environmental Protection Agency will soon be cause a significant rise in energy prices for many areas of the United States.  Strict controls on fossil fuel for energy production purposes are to blame.  This is supposed to encourage development of more environmentally friendly sources of power.  But regulations are a poor way of achieving this end.

Nonetheless, we all have to live with these increased prices.  So what are some things that you can do to save on your energy consumption?

Upgrading Insulation

Houses built in the last 10 years have a significant advantage over those built previous to this time.  Improvements in insulation materials and methods of installation have enabled energy savings that are quite significant.

In many homes, this insulation can pay for itself in a matter of years through reduced use of heating and cooling during the winter and summer months.

Spray insulations can achieve extremely high R values.  And spray insulation comes in a variety of forms.  Some are more expensive than others, but again the energy savings can often pay for their installation in a matter of years.

Drapes and Blinds

While it may seem unlikely that drapes and blinds have a significant impact on energy savings, it is an area that shouldn’t be overlooked.  Especially in older homes, windows can be very poor insulation against the outside temperatures.

Heavy drapes, blinds and shades can act as an insulating barrier against cold in the winter and heat in the summer.  If you’ve ever stood next to a drafty window in the winter time you understand what we mean.  Draperies help to trap this cold or warm air, isolating it from the rest of the room.  Of course the drapes or blinds have to be closed to be effective.

Hot Water Heater

While hot water heaters have become much more efficient in recent years, it’s still a good idea to wrap your heater in an insulating blanket.  This is especially effective when your heater is located in a room that gets cold during winter months such as a basement or garage.  The less heat it loses, the more energy it saves.

A blanket can often reduce energy use from a heater by 25% or more.  It’s an EXTREMELY cheap way to save money.

For more energy saving tips visit websites such as we-energies.com or pge.com.

 

Oct 08

Understanding the Basics of Knife Sharpening

Whether you are an accomplished chef or an amateur hack, a rugged outdoors-man, or just a weekend warrior, having the proper equipment is essential to success.  From slicing vegetables to skinning a deer, your knife is one of the most important tools you have.  And making sure it stays sharp, is essential for speed and safety.

In this article we’ll discuss the basics of sharpening a knife.  We’ll also look at the best knife sharpeners for use in both the kitchen and the field and what types of sharpeners to use with certain knives.

For the Kitchen

Obviously a knife sharpener for the kitchen can be something larger than what you would carry with you into the woods.  Most home chef’s prefer to use an electric knife sharpener as they are fast, and very efficient.

Regardless of whether you use an electric or manual sharpener, the basics of sharpening are the same.

The first step in sharpening a blade is to remove imperfections.  This is done with the highest grit stone.  The best electric knife sharpeners will typically have three stages, and this high grit stone will be stage 1.

For those of you using a sharpening stone, this will be the roughest or coarsest stone.

To begin sharpening the knife, you want to use the coarse stone until all imperfections have been removed from the blade.

The second step is to raise the burr.  This is done with the 2nd stage of an electric sharpener and the next smoothest stone in a set of sharpening stones.

You’ll want to work both sides of the blade evenly.  So with each pass through the sharpener, switch the side of the knife that is sharpened.

Finally you will hone the knife.  Honing smooths out the burr and leaves a strong and durable edge on the knife.  Once a knife has been properly honed, it should easily slice through a piece of paper without tearing, just a clean cut.

Hunting Knives

The process for sharpening a hunting knife is exactly the same as that of a kitchen knife.  Obviously in the field you are not going to be using anything that requires electricity.  It’s also very likely that you won’t be carrying a set of sharpening stones with you.

For that reason, it’s a good idea to carry a small knife sharpener designed for field use.  Spyderco is one company that specializes in small sharpeners that can be used anywhere.

Obviously it’s easier to perform sharpening at home, but sometimes that isn’t an option.  And you never know what’s going to happen in the field, so having a small, reliable tool with you ensures that you can sharpen and hone your knives whenever you need.