Monthly Archives: April 2020

Victorinox 74mm Executive

Knife chat: The Victorinox Executive

Victorinox has offered a huge range of knives and multi-tools over the decades. Traditionally these are roughly classified by their folded length. These are: 58mm, 74mm, 84mm, 91mm, 93mm, 100mm, 108mm and 111mm. While the 58mm range is large, offering a wide range of options, few 74mm models have been released. One oddity amongst these offers a unique set of tools that deserves serious consideration- the 74mm Victorinox Executive.

Three Points of the Compass has a penchant for the smallest of the Victorinox Swiss Army Knives. Most of the 58mm knives are based around the most useful trinity of tools, especially for backpacking and the like- these are: blade, scissors and nail file, ideally the latter having a screwdriver tip. However some find these tools a little small for their liking, if so, the small 74mm range provides just a little step up in size of tools, functionality and are just a tad more robust. The 34g 74mm Ambassador is akin to a Victorinox Classic on steroids, however the 45g Executive offers a few more tool options for just a little extra weight penalty.

Large blade on the Victorinox 74mm Executive

Large blade on the Victorinox 74mm Executive

The Victorinox is a two layer tool that builds very slightly on the more basic single layer Ambassador. Including scale tools and keyring the standard cellidor scaled Executive has seven tools but still manages to somehow offer redundancy even with these. Despite only being one millimetre thicker than the Ambassador, that extra thickness is surprisingly noticeable and it feels substantially bulkier than its slimmer 74mm cousin.

Two useful knives from the small 74mm Victorinox range. Ambassador on left with white scales and Executive on right with red cellidor scales

Two useful knives from the small 74mm Victorinox range. Ambassador on left with white scales and model 0.6603 Executive on right with red cellidor scales

Main blades on Victorinox Classic and Executive compared

Main blades on Victorinox 58mm Classic and 74mm Executive compared

The primary tool of most knives is the blade, however for many people, the scissors gets most use. Both large blade and scissors on the Executive are to the usual quietly efficient and effective standard. The non-locking, drop point blade offers a 46mm cutting edge, sharp out of the box. The blade will hold an edge pretty well but is never going to rival a good carbon steel blade, not will it rust like one either. The main blade on the Executive is just a little beefier than those found on the backpackers knife of choice- the Classic. At it’s thickest point on the spine, the stainless steel on the Executive’s main blade is 1.63mm thick while the Classic’s blade utilises steel 1.18mm thick.

Despite being quite a small knife, the Executive comes equipped with no less than three blades. In addition to the larger blade there is a small one. This has a cutting edge of just 30mm. Having two blades gives some redundancy. There is back up if the larger blade becomes damaged or blunt, or each can be kept dedicated for specific tasks, perhaps food preparation. The third knife blade is a real oddity. This is the unique ‘orange peeler’ blade that Victorinox included only on variations of the 74mm Executive.

Unique orange peeler blade found on Victorinox Executive

Unique orange peeler blade found on Victorinox Executive

The orange peeler blade on the Executive is so unusual that Victorino inlcudes a diagram on how to use it on the instruction leaflet that accompanies the tool when purchased

The orange peeler blade is so unusual that Victorinox includes a diagram on how to use it when the tool is purchased

There are slight variations to be found with the orange peeler blade- with or without serrations, shallow or deep serrations, but the currently available and standard blade is as seen here- with deep and wide serrations. This blade also has a 3.5mm flat screwdriver tip but it will not handle a great deal of torque without twisting. I find this far too large for the small screws on my glasses.

As an orange peeler tool, it is great, however do we really need such an implement with us on a daily basis? Probably not. It does however also work great for opening taped packages or clam-shell goods which is something I do far more frequently than peeling oranges.

Be warned, the little blade on this orange peeler is damned sharp and there is some risk of cuts while using it as a screwdriver. Some owners hone down the edge on this little blade to make a short little serrated knife blade. All three of the blades- large, small and orange peeler, are situated on the same side of the knife. The large and small blades have an off centre tapered profile that enables them to nest side by side in one layer, the orange peeler blade making up the second layer of the tool.

74mm Ambasador and Executive knives compared. All tools on one side open. Executive has three blades: large, small and unique orange peeler blade

74mm Ambassador and Executive knives compared. All tools on one side open. Executive has three blades: large, small and unique orange peeler blade

On the other side of the knife are the remainder of the main tools- the scissors on the 74mm range are around fifty per cent larger than those on the 58mm range and are more robust and will cut with greater ease than those found on the Classic. They are still small though, but of the largest size that will fit within the scales. The scissors will cut finger nails, paper, thread, 550 para cord (eventually) but struggles with cordura and anything such as leather will defeat the small scissor blades.

Scissors on 74mm Victorinox Ambassador and Executive knives compared. The thicker Executive has an additional tool nested with the scissors

Scissors on 74mm Victorinox Ambassador and Executive knives are identical. The thicker Executive has an additional tool in the second layer nested alongside the scissors

Cross, and single cut replacement, nail files on Executive compared

Cross, and single cut replacement, nail files on Executive compared

The Victorinox 74mm Ambassador has a small nail file, even smaller than that found on the 58mm Classic. The nail file on the 74mm Executive however is the real deal with the actual filing surface measuring some 39mm in length. The actual design of file surface has changed over the years moving from cross-cut to a textured surface to a single-cut surface. While the cross-cut surface, found on the earliest models is effective, Three Points of the Compass preferred the textured surface which is robust and works well with nails.

Victorinox have more recently swapped this out for a 39mm long single-cut file surface that is presumably cheaper to manufacture. It does work, and can also act as a light file on other materials. The tip can be used as both a nail cleaner and with small Phillips head screws. In all of its file surface guises, this is possibly the best nail file found on any of the Victorinox knives.

45mm long toothpick and tweezers are found in the Executive scales

45mm long toothpick and tweezers are found in the Executive scales

The cellidor scales holds the usual Victorinox implements, a toothpick and small pair of tweezers. Regular readers will be aware that Three Points of the Compass is not a fan of the toothpick- who knows what bacteria is being harboured in the scale slot. It would be more useful having one of Victorinox’s pens or small LED lights situated in the scale instead. Tweezers are small but OK for picking out slivers, thorns and the like. Finally, this knife comes with a split ring keyring. There was an earlier version of this knife that did not have this fitted, called the Companion. That knife is extremely uncommon and difficult to find these days whilst at the time of writing the Victorinox Executive remains on sale.

Victorinox Executive specifications (cellidor scales):

  • Tang stamp on Alox Executive

    Tang stamp on Alox Executive

    Length: 74mm, width: 21.5mm, thickness: 10.5mm

  • Weight: 45g
  • Large blade
  • Small blade
  • Orange peeler blade, with flat screwdriver tip
  • Scissors
  • Nail File, with nail cleaner/small Philips screwdriver tip
  • Tweezers
  • Toothpick
  • Keyring

There is a variety of the Executive that omits the scale tools. This is the Alox (Aluminium Oxide) Executive. This smooth scaled option made by Victorinox was frequently used by companies for advertising purposes and as a result of these freebie give-aways, the Alox Executive does occasionally turn up on the second hand market, often in very good condition. The smooth scales provided two advantages to the knife- long lasting advertising is made possible on the anodised scales and the lack of raised ribs or checker-board sides, as found on later and current Alox models, gives an extraordinarily slim profile. As a result, this version is even thinner and lighter than the cellidor scaled Executives, just 7.1mm thick and weighing 35.8g.

Small and large blades opened on the thinner Alox version of the Victorinox Executive

Small and large blades opened on the thinner Alox version of the Victorinox Executive. No key ring is fitted to this model promoting a Swiss manufacturer of gears. The text is actually the base metal of the scale.

In conclusion:

For some, the 74mm Victorinox Executive may prove to have the best combination of tools at just the right length and weight. I am not convinced that the set of tools on this knife is right for backpacking though the extra blade and slightly larger scissors could be handy. When backpacking Three Points of the Compass does often appreciate the capability of the combination tool included on some 58mm Vics. At the very least, a cap lifter/bottle opener or can opener would be useful on the Executive, sadly, it is not to be. Nor is there any other option in the small 74mm range that offers this. However as an urban EDC and for the commuter bound for office work, the Executive would probably be a great key ring or pocket carry. If it is simply a slightly larger blade and/or scissors that is required, the more basic and slightly less bulky 74mm Ambassador is the better choice for backpacking I feel.

Victorinox Executive with main tools opened

Victorinox Executive with main tools opened

Three Points of the Compass has looked at quite a few knives and multi-tools that may, or may not, be suitable for backpacking, day treks or Every Day Carry. Links to these can be found here.

Practical Motorist map measurer

Map measurer of the month- the Practical Motorist map measurer

The 1959 Practical Motorist Map Measurer

The 1959 Practical Motorist Map Measurer

The Practical Motorist map measurer was cheaply made, produced in the tens of thousands and was perfectly functional for motorists in the sixties and seventies. Beside sitting in the glovebox of many a car, they undoubtedly saw considerable use by hikers and cyclists too. For such a cheaply made map measure, they have lasted well and many continue to give service to this day.

Practical Motorist magazine. June 1959

Practical Motorist magazine. June 1959

1959 advertisement for the Practical Motorist Map Measurer

1959 advertisement for the Practical Motorist Map Measurer

Practical Motorist magazine was part of a stable of consumer magazines published by George Newnes Ltd. A publishing company founded by Sir George Newnes, Ist Baronet (1851-1910). After his death the company continued as a major leading magazine publisher. A sister magazine to Practical Motorist was Practical Mechanics.

Many magazines have offered, and continue to offer, free gifts or specially priced items to their readership. The Practical Motorist Map Measurer was one such product. It was a cheaper alternative to the more expensive metal bodied measurers made by mostly French, Swiss or German companies.

Three Points of the Compass has been unable to ascertain whether the map measurer offered by Practical Motorist was available to the public prior to their offer however it was in the June 1959 edition of Practical Motorist that an advertisement first appeared offering the ‘latest dial reading map measurer with magnifying glass‘ for the princely sum of two shillings and threepence, which included postage. The measurer was proclaimed- ‘a fraction of its real value‘. It was delivered in a small cardboard box with accompanying printed instructions on how to use.

“handsomely finished in a smooth durable material”

The measure is quite cheaply made though it is unclear who the actual manufacturer was. It has a plastic body, with plastic wheel and dial. Even the internal workings, few that they are, and the incorporated magnifying glass, are made of plastic. The measure works best with the old ‘one inch to the mile’ maps, also showing quarter mile gradations, and reading up to 20 miles or 20 inches. The other side of the scale is metric- measuring one kilometre to the centimetre up to 50 km, or 50 cm. Practical Motorist informs us that this scale is included so that- ‘the measurer can be taken with you to the Continent and used without modification‘.

Printed instructions were included with each order

Printed instructions were included with each order

Front of 1959 Practical Motorist Map Measure- scale 1

Front of 1959 Practical Motorist Map Measure- scale 1″ to 1 mile

Rear of 1959 Practical Motorist Map Measure- scale 1cm to 1km

Rear of 1959 Practical Motorist Map Measure- scale 1cm to 1km

The 1959 map measurers offered by the magazine had the words PRACTICAL MOTORIST MAP MEASURER moulded onto the body however others, including later ones, did not, stating instead ‘Made in England’ and Registered design number- 893037. A conversion table is included on the rear of the measure, showing kilometre to mile to kilometre.

Such was the popularity of the map measurer that Practical Motorist repeated the offer in 1964. This time as part of a wider offer. The May 1964 issue of the magazine included a free Road Map of Great Britain plus the offer to purchase a ‘special’ map case. The August issue included a free Holiday and Touring Map of Great Britain. Both maps were specially prepared by George Philip & Son Ltd.

Practical Motorist map case, road and tourist maps, pencil and map measurer, 1964

Practical Motorist map case, road and tourist maps, pencil and map measurer, 1964

1964 Practical Motorist Map Measurer

1964 Practical Motorist Map Measurer with Philip’s 1964 Road Map of Great Britain

The 1964 offer excluded the magazine title from the measure's plastic body

The 1964 offer excluded the magazine title from the measure’s plastic body

1964 case and contents

1964 case and contents

The vinyl map case when delivered contained two clear slip cases for the two maps, plus three pockets holding a notebook, a pencil and a Practical Motorist Map Measurer. The 1964 measure was coloured a rather horrid khaki, or pale olive green, that matched the internal colour of the map case. This measure does not include the ‘Practical Motorist Map Measurer’ wording on its case.

This is very likely because the measure was now more widely available to the public. While the khaki colour was likely bespoke for the Practical Motorist map case, the measure could also be purchased as a stand-alone item from other retail outlets. Three Points of the Compass has seen the measure available in various colours- White (cream), black, bright blue, red, pale olive green and purple. It is also often found in a bespoke leather slip case with a variety of embossed words on the front

Map measurer was available in a variety of colours

Map measurer was available in a variety of colours

Other than colour, there are three varieties of wording on the plastic bodies. The first includes the words ‘PRACTICAL MOTORIST MAP MEASURER’ and ‘SCALE 1″=1 MILE’ on one side with ‘SCALE 1cm=1km’ on the other. Another generation is the same but excludes the magazine title but includes ‘Made in England’ and registration design number. The final version has the scale wording altered to ”SCALE READS IN KILOMETRES’ on one side with the other reading ‘SCALE READS IN INCHES’ along with country of manufacture and registration design number.

The altered text across three generations of map measurer

The altered text across three generations of map measurer

My red bodied measure was a souvenir sold on the Motor Vessel Royal Daffodil. The instruction leaflet refers to its as the 'Pathfinder' model- a common name used for a number of different measurers

My red bodied ‘Route Measure’ was a souvenir originally sold on the Motor Vessel Royal Daffodil. This ferry had been renamed from its original designation- MV Overchurch, in 1999. The instruction leaflet that came with the instrument refers to its as the ‘Pathfinder’ model- a common name used for a number of different measurers

The Practical Motorist Map Measure was a cheaply made measure that provided basic function. It is unsurprising that it later became a stand alone purchase more widely available.

For a map measure that is now up to fifty to sixty years old, it is perhaps a little surprising on how well the plastic construction is holding up on many of these. My red bodied example was purchased some time after 1999 so they remained on sale for at least 40 years. They are fairly easy to find on the second hand market and are invariably still working almost as well as when they were first purchased.

Map measurer became available for purchase from various motoring or tourist outlets

Map measurer became available for purchase from various motoring or tourist outlets

Various maps produced by Transport for London that aid in walking across London

Trail talk: FREE maps for walking in London- Transport for London

Three Points of the Compass recently looked at the FREE paper maps that have been available for those wishing to explore London by foot. Most commonly encountered amongst these were the large number produced by the various organisations responsible for transport in London.

TfL also support and promote various long distance walks around and through London. Three Points of the Compass walked the London LOOP in 2016, utilising various TfL transport links to do so

TfL also support and promote various long distance walks around and through London. Three Points of the Compass walked the London LOOP in 2016, utilising various TfL transport links to do so

With the devolution of government for London, Transport for London (TfL) was formed and from 3 July 2000 became responsible for most bus and many rail transport routes across London. The London Underground, more commonly known as the Tube, passed to TfL control in 2003. TfL also controls London trams, taxis, cycle provision, travel by river and other services. These included the UK’s first urban cable car which opened in June 2012, connecting the Greenwich Peninsula with the Royal Docks. Historically, many of the free paper maps produced by TfL since 2000 have also proved useful for walking or were specifically aimed at those preferring to explore London under their own steam.

Note that this is a retrospective glance at what has been produced by TfL over the years and many of those shown below are now unobtainable.

Click on any image to enlarge it.

London buses

Free Transport for London bus guide for South West London, November 2007

Free Transport for London bus guide for South West London, November 2007

Of all the free maps that have been available over the decades, amongst the most suited for walking in London have been those produced by the bus companies. The London bus guides produced by TfL have continued this trend. Unlike many parts of the UK, almost all of London continues to enjoy an excellent bus service.

TfL divided London into four quarters and produced a large guide- 990mm x 625mm. While some minor street detail is excluded these have been one of the best free map resources ever produced for exploring London by foot. Each of them also shows central London.

While these in no way equal the better maps produced covering London such as those by Ordnance Survey, these paper maps encompass outskirts barely covered by other printed free resources. With these four maps it would be perfectly possible to explore almost all of London.

Free Transport for London bus guide to services in South West London. There are thirteen maps spread across the two sides of this map- eleven small, local area maps, a small scale map of south-west London and a large scale map of central London. Printed October 2007

Free Transport for London bus guide to services in South West London. There are thirteen maps spread across the two sides of this map- eleven small, local area maps, a small scale map of south-west London and a large scale map of central London, a small part of which is shown here. Map drawn October 2007. Printed November 2007

Folded TfL Central London bus and walking map. To large to be pocket sized, it appears that the designers failed to complete a good idea. 2017

Folded TfL Central London bus and walking map. Too large to be pocket sized, it appears that the designers failed to properly complete a good idea. 2017

TfL have also produced a bus map specifically aimed at those walking in London. Their Central London bus and walking map included a map of key bus routes in central London on one side and a simple street map on the other.

While limited in range and excluding considerable street detail, that the TfL map makers obviously felt irrelevant, the free map does show the most direct and easiest routes to walk between locations. A basic guide on how long it will take to walk between points on the map is included.

One of the two maps included on TfL's Central London bus and waling map. October 2017

One of the two maps included on TfL’s Central London bus and walking map. October 2017

London Underground

Special TfL Tube map produced for an event in London. July 2005

Special TfL Tube map produced for an event in London. July 2005

While the constantly updated map, or diagram, for the London Underground is an icon in itself, it purposely distorts geography in order to perform better in use whilst travelling by Tube. As such, TfL Tube maps are little use for walking though some attempt has been made in recent years to improve that to a degree. I will return to these changes at the end.

Every now and then London can be swamped by visitors and the public transport system can struggle to cope. Special instructions on getting around with accompanying maps were produced by TfL for New Year celebrations, especially on the Millennium when even greater numbers packed central London to watch the fireworks along the River Thames.

Some Tube maps have been produced by TfL for special events where a large influx of visitors unfamiliar with specific parts of London have been expected. This is both a responsible act by TfL and advisable, funnelling people by the best, or most appropriate route, and reducing strain on the transport network.

TfL excel at this, having control over the various transport options in London, there is no commercial competition swaying the advice provided. Such maps would be welcome but are only of use for walking in the immediate vicinity of event locations.

Live 8 was a free ticketed music event held in Hyde Park on 2 July 2005. TfL produced a free transport guide and map for attendees. 2005

Live 8 was a free ticketed music event held in Hyde Park on 2 July 2005. TfL produced a free transport guide and map for attendees. 2005

Soon after their creation, Transport for London began to produce paper maps showing the immediate area around each of their underground stations. It was usually possible to pick these maps up in the station itself and were of immense help to those arriving at an unfamiliar station who needed to quickly orientate themselves and walk to a local destination. However the area shown is not large. The Debden map shown here only escorts the walker some 3/4 km in any direction.

Two TfL produced maps sowing the streets close to the Debden station, on the Central Underground line. Folded on left and open on right. 2004

Two identical TfL produced maps showing the streets close to the Debden station, on the Central Underground line. Folded on left and open on right. 2004

'Continuing your Journey'- Free paper map showing the streets around the Farringdon station

‘Continuing your Journey’- Front cover of free paper map showing the streets and transport links around the Farringdon station. 2016

At some point TfL switched from map detail obtained from Bartholomew to that produced by the Ordnance Survey. The production of local maps by TfL improved greatly since those first offered free of charge to the travelling public. Frequently, not only are local transport links shown, but also places of interest. An indication of time to walk a distance are also often now included. ‘North’ is also shown.

Legible London map. Cheapside, near St. Paul's Cathedral, London

Legible London map. opposite St. Paul’s Cathedral, London

The maps are also shown on large posters on station concourses. The paper maps themselves can be freely picked up by anyone entering the station and there is no need to cross the ticket barrier.

The maps are very similar to those introduced in 2007 and found at street level across London as part of the Legible London scheme.

The paper maps are quite expensive to produce and Three Points of the Compass does wonder how long TfL will persist in providing them.

'Continuing your Journey'- opened map freely available for travellers on the London Underground. 2015-6

‘Continuing your Journey’- centre pages of map freely available for travellers on the London Underground. Based on Ordnance Survey mapping. April 2016.

Santander cycle hire docking station. Cheapside, London. Photographed 2020

Santander Cycles hire docking station. Cheapside, London. Photographed 2020

Cycle hire

From July 2010 6000 bicycles were available for short term rentals from 400 docking stations in central London. This was a joint initiative- promoted by TfL and funded by Barclays Bank. The number available via the Barclays Cycle Hire was quickly increased to 8000 cycles from 570 docking stations.

Barclays probably lamented their failure in having the new provision known colloquially as ‘Barclays Bikes’, instead the public quickly began referring to them as ‘Boris Bikes’ after Boris Johnson, the London Mayor at the time of their introduction.

The scheme, cycles and docking stations are provided and managed by PBSC Urban Solutions. Further major expansions in the scheme followed and it is now the largest cycle hire scheme in Europe with over 11000 bikes and 800 docking stations. Each docking station also has a map showing the immediate locality.

2015 Santander Cycle Hire leaflet

2015 Santander Cycle Hire leaflet

2010 Barclays Cycle Hire leaflet

2010 Barclays Cycle Hire leaflet

Sponsorship of the scheme transferred from Barclays to Santander in 2015. Free paper leaflets were produced that explained the scheme and how to hire cycles. A good street map also showed the location of cycle docking stations.

Reflecting the large extension in the scheme in the intervening years, the paper map of the Santander Cycles provision is huge. While the TfL map for Barclays Cycle Hire measures 590mm x 420mm, the open Santander sheet measures 890mm x 625mm. This is one of the largest paper maps available, free of charge, for London. Today, most users can access an online map that provides the same detail.

Free TfL map of London streets showing Barclays Cycle Hire docking stations. 2010

Free TfL map of London streets showing Barclays Cycle Hire docking stations. 2010

Free TfL leaflet on the Santander Cycle Hire scheme. This includes a street map that is over twice as large as the Barclays Cycle map. Some street names are now omitted on this version however paths across parks are included. 2015

Centre section from free TfL leaflet on the Santander Cycle Hire scheme. This leaflet includes a street map that is over twice as large as the Barclays Cycle map. Some street names are now omitted on this version however paths across parks are included. 2015

River Services

Thames Clipper boarding pass, 2015

Thames Clipper boarding pass, 2015

TfL have not provided any maps detailing River Services, such as the Thames Clipper, that are of much use to anyone seeking to walk around London.

'Getting around in Central London'. June 2019

‘Getting around in Central London’. June 2019

The closest TfL have come was with a variant of a standard Tube map. Expanding on the handy folding, pocket sized ‘Tube Map’, another version of the standard leaflet advises on ‘Getting around Central London’ and as well as a map of the underground lines, includes both a basic map of River Services and a simple walking map with detail on the Santander Cycles, tourist route and feeder routes in central London.

While it would be difficult to fully explore central London with just this little leaflet, it actually does quite a good job of combining basic information on a handful of transport alternatives.

Map detail from free TfL 'Getting around in Central London' leaflet. June 2019

Map detail from free TfL ‘Getting around in Central London’ leaflet. June 2019

North Bank

TfL guide to walking in the North Bank area of London, 2017

TfL guide to walking in the North Bank area of London, 2017

TfL have also targeted pedestrians with the production of simple discreet guides to walking the streets in some London districts. The city originally formed on the north bank of the River Thames and today, centuries later, many important buildings are found there.

TfL’s 2017 guide to exploring by foot the North Bank area, taking in Charing Cross, Leicester Square and Covent Garden includes additional information on mainline rail and Tube links alongside cycle docking stations.

The map is a mixture of styles and the simple pictorial suggestions of major buildings, such as the National Gallery, Covent Garden Market and the Royal Opera House are a great aid to a tourist in identifying specific locations while surrounded by many other impressive structures dating from the 18th and 19th centuries.

TfL's guide to the North Bank truly integrates the pedestrian into a the various alternative forms of transport. The map is based on 2017 Ordnance Survey mapping with added pictorial representation of important buildings. Copyright Transport for London 2017

TfL’s guide to London’s North Bank truly integrates the pedestrian with the various alternative forms of transport. The guide is based on 2017 Ordnance Survey mapping with added pictorial representation of important buildings. Copyright Transport for London 2017

Emirates Air Line

'Boarding Pass' for the Emirates Air-Line. 2015

‘Boarding Pass’ for the Emirates Air-Line. 2015

The Emirates Air Line opened 28 June 2012. The kilometre long cable car service crosses the River Thames and connects the Greenwich Peninsula, home of the 02 indoor shopping, dining and entertainment centre with the Royal Victoria Docks, site of the ExCel convention centre. The cable car route was immediately added to the Tube map however, as previously mentioned, Tube maps are of little use to those walking in London. Paper maps showing the area local to each cable car station were produced but are minimal in useful navigation detail. Though an enjoyable ride, the cable car ride has never seen much use, linking two parts of London that are perhaps better served by other means. The number of people travelling can be less than a thousand a day on occasion.

Transport for London leaflet, with map, for the Emirates Air Line. June 2012

Transport for London leaflet, with map, for the Emirates Air Line. June 2012

Walking between Tube stations

Anyone that has travelled by Tube in London is very familiar with the handy little paper pocket guide to the network. Large print versions are also available and large scale posters showing the map are widely displayed- on trains, platforms and station concourses. The diagrammatic map is constantly updated online and frequent updating of map content is made each year that reflects extensions to the various lines and permanent additions and temporary closures.

Colour large print Tube map with standard pocket size version. Both December 2019

Colour large print Tube map with standard pocket size version. Each includes ‘under a 10 minute walk’ detail. Both December 2019

Detail from December 2019 Tube map showing the addition to the key to lines and symbols on the maps

Detail from December 2019 Tube map showing the addition to the key to lines and symbols on the maps

December 2018 'The Bower of Bliss' Tube Map introduced the ten minute walk dotted lines to the network diagram

‘The Bower of Bliss’ Tube Map introduced the ten minute walk dotted lines to the network diagram. December 2018

Beginning with the December 2018 ‘The Bower of Bliss‘ tube map, a subtle addition was made that is especially helpful for those frustrated by a previous failing of the maps- a dotted line has been added where there is only a short walk at surface level between some stations on different lines, negating the need to make quite complex or needless journeys between them on the Tube network.

When the ‘under a 10 minute walk’ addition was made, the central area (Zone 1) of London was largely ignored due to the cramped aspect of the map in this area, the large number of stations and the sheer impracticality of showing all possible ground level walking connections. There are also some glaring omissions outside the central area but no doubt future map refinement will add these where practical and possible on an already cramped map. In addition to the standard Tube map, there is also an online version of the map that provides an indication of how long it takes to walk between stations.

TfL London Tube map. This includes detail on some stations where there is less than ten minutes walk between them. May 2019

Transport for London Tube map. This includes detail on some stations where there is less than ten minutes walk between them. May 2019

London- Summer 2012 Map

Large free map produced by TfL for Summer 2012

Large free map produced by TfL for Summer 2012

Possibly the best free paper map ever produced by TfL was the large (990mm x 620mm) double sided map released as part of the 2012 celebrations when London hosted the Olympic Games.

Tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people unfamiliar with London descended upon the city. Not only for the Olympic Games but also for the many other cultural events that were offered throughout the year. There was a very real possibility of public transport being swamped and recognising this, TfL produced a wide range of free maps assisting people with walking the streets between locations.

While many minor streets go nameless, the detail included on this free map is fantastic. It also covers parts of London largely ignored elsewhere, especially in East London. Some detail is included on the map of six specially developed ‘Stroll’ routes, Three Points of the Compass will cover these in a future blog in this series when looking at maps produced for sporting occasions.

Detail from TfL produced Summer 2012 map. Based on Ordnance Survey mapping. This map included detail on East London, an area that is seldom represented in free map resources. April 2012

Detail from TfL produced Summer 2012 map. Based on Ordnance Survey mapping. This map included detail on East London, an area that is seldom represented in free map resources. April 2012

Detail from large free Summer 2012 map produced by TfL. While many places go un-named, for example those in Hyde Park, paths across green spaces are included. Based on Ordnance Survey mapping. April 2012

Detail from large free Summer 2012 map produced by TfL. While many places go un-named, for example those in Hyde Park, paths across green spaces are included. Based on Ordnance Survey mapping. April 2012

Most people choosing to walk across London today will be accessing some form of online mapping resource and there are also some excellent official portals. However, a paper map continues to provide an idea of the bigger picture, where the current location is and how it relates to the larger city. Paper maps can be stuffed into a pocket with no worries as to batteries fading, they can be scribbled on, they remain a memento of a visit to the great metropolis. In the next of this short series on free maps for walking in London, Three Points of the Compass shall be looking at some of the paper maps that have been available for people visiting London when attending some of the Royal celebrations over the years.

Zippo lighters

Gear talk: Liquid fuel lighters- do they have a place on trail?

Three Points of the Compass has covered his quest for a decent lighter before. I mentioned then that I prefer a mini Bic or Torjet lighter for use with my stove set-up, be that meths or gas. However these lighters can struggle in colder and/or windier conditions. Usually this can be circumvented by keeping the gas lighter in a pocket until required if cold or sheltering if windy but there are occasions where one of the well-built, tried and tested liquid fuel lighters would be appreciated. If you have one at home anyway and are heading out for a day hike at altitude, or on a cold winters day, why not throw a liquid- fuelled lighter in to your pack? Two makes of lighter have proven especially useful in harsher conditions over the years.

IMCO lighters

The lightweight IMCO lighters make a good alternative to the more familiar Zippo lighters even if they lack that satisfying sound while being opened. The company began making buttons in Austria in 1907 but diversified following World War I. The 1918 design of their first lighters was based on used cartridge cases and that can be seen in their design. The most popular of IMCO designs was their Triplex Super, first developed in 1936, improved in the fifties and still made until the business closed in June 2012 (I won’t mention the copies produced subsequently). Many hikers would argue that the original IMCO lighters are a better option than rival Zippo for winter hiking; preserving their fuel more efficiently than Zippos though they are not quite as wind-resistant. Around seventy different designs were produced. It is a shame that original production has ceased but second hand examples can easily be found as they have a long life.

Nickel plated steel IMCO Triplex Junior 6600

Nickel plated steel IMCO Triplex Junior 6600

The IMCO 4700 Triplex lighter was first developed in 1937 and underwent a revamp of its internal workings in the 1960s, following which it was renamed the 6700 Triplex Super. One of the great features about many of the IMCO models is the ability to remove the fuel reservoir and use it as a candle. A handy little wheeze I picked up somewhere was to stuff a bit of cotton wool into the base of the fuel reservoir, this can then be extracted and used as a fire starter if required, lighting it with the sparker even if run out of fuel by putting it where the wick is exposed and opening and closing the lighter a few times. Operation of an IMCO lighter differs from the Zippo, It has a one move operation- opening the lid also strikes the wick. Flints can wear quite quickly but there is a built in well for a spare in the side of the lighter.

IMCO Triplex Junior 6600 in 'candle' mode

IMCO Triplex Junior 6600 in ‘candle’ mode

IMCO lighters have a lighter construction than Zippos, the latter are frequently solid brass whereas an IMCO can dent and ding with ease. There are more moving parts to an IMCO too, so a greater chance of something breaking or wearing. Certainly they will rust more easily if not cared for. As said, all of the originals are pretty old now but can still be picked up pretty easily as there is a ready collector market for them.

Base of Austrian made IMCO Triplex Junior 6600

Base of Austrian made IMCO Triplex Junior 6600

Probably the three best lighters made by IMCO for use backpacking and camping are the Junior 6600, 6700 and 6800 lighters. I have the Triplex Junior 6600 which is a tad smaller and lighter than the other two, but the 6700 does have some flame control. Beware of fakes!

 

 

Clink, clunk- Zippo lighters

Serving in the British Army, Three Points of the Compass purchased this Zippo in 1981. The squadron crest now worn, it is, nevertheless, a much loved memento of those years

Serving in the British Army, Three Points of the Compass purchased this Zippo in 1981. The squadron crest is now worn, it is, nevertheless, a treasured memento of those years

Inspired by the Austrian cigarette lighter made by IMCO, the Zippo manufacturing company was founded in 1932 by American George G Blaisdell and the first Zippo lighter produced the following year. Since those modest beginnings, over 500 million Zippos have been sold. Especially popular with servicemen, it is an icon of design, characterised by the clink sound it makes when opened, lit and closed- clunk. While the company has gone on to make butane lighters and inserts, the original metal cased lighter, where lighter fluid is fed by wick to a metal chimney and lit by sparking an enclosed flint, is a handy thing to have when struggling to light a fire in blustery conditions as the flame is highly resistant to being extinguished. While I have experimented a little with the pipe lighter variety of Zippo, I am not a great fan of these for backpacking as the flame drifts around too much. Also, if alight for any extended period, the metal case of a Zippo can get pretty hot.

Zippo released a slim version of its lighter in 1956. Originally aimed at the female market it proved just as popular with men and is still made today. Lighting a Zippo is a two-part operation, flip the lid and thumb the knurled wheel against the flint. Simple- but an operation that has led to probably thousands of tricks. Though if you want to avoid damaging the hinge it is probably best to stay clear of these.

Just about any good quality lighter fluid can be used in liquid fuel lighters

Just about any good quality lighter fluid can be used in liquid fuel lighters

Lighter fluid  (naphtha) is used as fuel, other fuels can be used but invariably either struggle to light or will emit foul smell or smoke. Even naphtha itself is a broad term for a range of petroleum distillates and it is best to simply use dedicated lighter fuel. There is no need to keep to the Zippo brand. The main problem with these lighters is that over time the fuel evaporates. So unlike a Bic which will retain its fuel for years, within a couple of weeks an originally full Zippo will not light, even if hasn’t been opened and used in that time. They need to be refilled about once a week.

Genuine Zippo spares are easily available

Zippos enjoy a great repair warranty and all the genuine spares you would want are easily available- flints and wicks are cheap enough to keep a couple in a drawer around the house

There are different hacks to slow evaporation, such as sliding a section of cycle inner tube over the body of the lighter. This will also stop water ingress to a degree. A rubber gasket such as this also has the benefit of doubling up as an emergency fire starter. Or you could just encapsulate the entire lighter. Flints do wear, but it is a simple task to tuck a spare or two under the felt flap in the base. Be aware that the flint from an expired Bic is perfectly suitable for use in a Zippo.

Solid brass slim Zippo and the full size well tarnished version that Three Points of the Compass inherited from his father

Solid brass slim Zippo and the full size well tarnished version that Three Points of the Compass inherited from his father

Both Zippo and IMCO are old school lighters from an age when lighters sat in most pockets, were used daily in all weathers and had to work, every time. Because of this reliability they remain a viable option for outdoors folks to consider. These are by no means lightweight options. Bone dry, my old Zippo from army days weighs 59g, both my brass and stainless slim Zippo’s 41g each and the lighter construction IMCO 6600 32g. Charging them with fuel adds considerably. So not lightweight by any means, and the faff of having to ensure they are fuelled up can be a pain to those used to hassle free Bics.

Three Points of the Compass used to be a smoker. I gave that up following the birth of my daughter over twenty years ago. However a number of Zippos still sit around my house, if infrequently pulled out to do duty these days. Next time I am out hiking in below zero conditions on a short day or weekend hike and am expecting to have to battle wind while lighting a stove, I may very well be slipping one of my old liquid fuel lighters into my pack.

most zippos can be dated by deciphering the code stamped on the case

most zippos can be dated by deciphering the code stamped on the case

Dating your Zippo

The year, and often the month, of manufacture of a Zippo lighter can frequently be determined from a code stamped on the base. I have included a guide to these below.

Zippo lighter identification codes- found on the bottom of lighter

Dot and slash method replaced in 1986 with year and month code (A=January to– L=December)

Year

Left Right Year Left

Right

1933

Patent Pending

1990 A to L

VI

1937-c1950

Patent 2032695

1991 A to L

VII

1942-1946

Black Crackle, Patent 203695

1992 A to L

VIII

c1950-c1957

Patent 2517191 with patent pending

1993 A to L

IX

c1950-c1957

Patent 2517191

1994 A to L

X

1958

Patent Pending

1995 A to L XI

….

….

1996 A to L

XII

1959

…. 1997 A to L XIII

1960

1998 A to L

XIV

1961

.. 1999 A to L

XV

1962

.. .. 2000 A to L

XVI

1963

.. . 2001 A to L

01

1964

. . 2002 A to L

02

1965

.   2003 A to L

03

1966

IIII IIII 2004 A to L

04

1967

IIII III 2005 A to L

05

1968

III III 2006 A to L

06

1969

III II 2007 A to L

07

1970

II II 2008 A to L

08

1971

II I 2009 A to L

09

1972

I I 2010 A to L

10

1973

I   2011 A to L

11

1974

//// //// 2012 A to L

12

1975

//// /// 2013 A to L

13

1976

/// /// 2014 A to L

14

1977

/// // 2015 A to L

15

1978

// // 2016 A to L

16

1979

/ // 2017 A to L

17

1979

// / 2018 A to L

18

1980

/ / 2019 A to L

19

1981

/   2020 A to L

20

1982

\\\\

\\\\

Slim lighters

1983

\\\\ \\\ 1957 …. ….

1984

\\\ \\\ 1958 ….

….

1985

\\\ \\ ….

1986

\\ \\ 1959

1986

G to L II 1960

..

1987

A to L III 1961 ..

..

1988

A to L IV 1962 .. .
1989 A to L V 1963 .

.

  1964 .

 

1965  

 

Stove making

Gear talk: making a stove on trail

Like everyone else, Three Points of the Compass is currently social distancing while staying at home on Government advice during the current Coronavirus pandemic. My plans on completing two longer trails this summer lie in tatters. My consolation is that with good fortune I can enjoy them both next year, they will still be there.

I am very pleased that I managed my coastal walk on the North Kent Marshes to Faversham a few days ago as that form of extended exercise is very much frowned upon by the authorities today. Who knows when I, and all of us, will be able to get back out on the trails again. Amongst other things, not least attempting to share the house PC with Mrs Three Points of the Compass while the two of us struggle to fit in enough hours working from home, there is a degree of sorting out of backpacking gear taking place. For a change from that I thought I would practice my stove-making skills.

There are hundreds of YouTube exponents detailing how to make various forms of pop-can/alcohol/meths/penny stoves. I don’t tend to use any of these on trail as I find the well made commercial stoves robust, light and invariably efficient. Admittedly the traditional and bomb proof Trangia, which was my route in to meths stoves decades ago, isn’t the lightest of options however my Evernew Alcohol stove is a truly cracking piece of kit and only weighs some 36g. Three Points of the Compass did spend some time producing a home-made version of screw-top burner with insulating felt inner (Part 1, Part 2) and this has worked well on a couple of trails. But with a couple of hours to spare at the weekend and a break from work, I thought I would indulge myself with a bit of experimentation and see what home-made stove I could produce, with the tools I typically carry with me on trail. It is easy for anyone to knock something out with sharpie pens, robust scissors, dremel, steel rulers, felt wadding, grit paper and work gloves etc. however I wanted to see if I could make a workable option, that I could knock up in the event of unexpected loss or breakage of my stove while actually on trail.

Look in any hedgerow or bin and you will invariably find an empty can of coke, energy drink or similar. My choice for constructing my DIY stove was a single 250ml drinks tin. I have written before on my favourite knife for taking on trail. While I do occasionally switch things around just for variety, nine out of ten times I am carrying the excellent Leatherman Squirt S4. This provides five things for my task- Scissors, knife blade, ruler, a ‘punch’ (in this case, the thin eyeglass screwdriver) and a straight edge.

Everything required to make my 'basic, on trail, pop-can meths stove

Everything required to make my basic on-trail, drinks-can meths stove, with two completed examples

I only required the ruler to identify another item from my regular kit that I required for the job- ‘something’ that was 1.5 inches long. Five years ago I wrote about the small nail brush I carry in my ditty bag. I still include the 7g brush in my kit list. It has often been useful for a bit of clothes washing on grottier trails, even for its intended use of cleaning my nails of trail grit and grime. It has been changed over the years, but I bought a handful of the cheap brushes at the time so have enough spares in a drawer somewhere for another few years yet. It could have been something else from my various bits of kit carried, but this measures 1.5 inches, so made the ideal second tool for my task. And that was it- a 1.5 inch measuring block, my Leatherman and the donor drinks tin.

Resting my knife blade on my one and half inch block, the drinks can is rotated against the edge to produce a scored line

Resting my knife blade on my one and half inch block, the drinks can is rotated against the edge to produce a scored line

Inverting the can and placing my plastic block on it's long edge, another line is scored

Inverting the can and placing my plastic block on it’s long edge, another line is scored

Ends are cut off with the Leatherman scissors, final neat trimming will follow

Ends are cut off with the Leatherman scissors, final neat trimming will follow

Slowly, with care, the two straight edges are tidied up and cut

Slowly, with care, the two straight edges are tidied up and cut

The cut tube, one neat edge, one rough edge, is inverted so that the tidied neat edge is flat against the worktop, then again rotated, holding the tube against the 1.5

The cut tube, with one neat edge and one rough edge, is inverted so that the tidied neat edge is flat against the worktop, then again rotated, holding the tube against the 1.5″ measuring block and knife edge, producing a final scored line

With care the final rough cut edge is tidied up with the Leatherman scissors

With care the final rough cut edge is tidied up with the Leatherman scissors

The metal tube is then rotated in the hands, and folded against my straight edge, producing a ring of creased folds around its circumference

The metal tube is then rotated in the hands, and folded against my straight edge, producing a series of creased folds around its circumference

Two small holes are punched just below the top rim of the tube, these reduce pressure in the stove when burning

Two small holes are punched just below the top rim of the tube, these reduce pressure in the stove when burning

Time for burn tests. 25-30g of fuel. I tried the stove both au naturel and with a 7g titanium trivet that raised the pot

The crimped tube is inserted inside the bottom section of the can and pushed firmly down. That is it, the finished stove. Having made a few more to see if I could do a neater job, it was time for burn tests. 25g-30g of fuel. I tried the stove both au naturel and with a 7g titanium trivet that raised the pot

Pots were a 1lt MSR Titan, and a 900ml Evernew pan, each holding 600ml of water. Stoves were stable and rigid with no evidence of buckling. The trivet raising the Titan pot enabled the meths to boil and burn faster from the centre as well as the jets. The Evernew resting directly on the stove dramatically reduced the burn, producing a far slower and controlled burn

Pots were a 1lt MSR Titan, and a 900ml Evernew pan, each holding 600ml of water. Stoves were stable and rigid with no evidence of buckling. The trivet raising the Titan pot enabled the meths to boil and burn faster from the centre as well as the jets. The Evernew resting directly on the stove dramatically reduced the burn, producing a far slower and controlled burn

With pan resting directly on the home made stove the burn is steady, controlled and slow. The water boiled eventually but takes three times longer than when raised

With pan resting directly on the home made stove the burn is steady, controlled and slow. The water boiled eventually but takes three times longer than when the pan is raised

Cheap and cheerful pop-can stove works. Not a refined tool at all, but it works

Cheap and cheerful pop-can stove. Not a particularly refined stove at all, but it works

So, lessons learnt…

This would be a very easy stove to construct on trail provided I can find a donor can. I am almost always carrying the only two other items required to make it. So, if I ever do lose my meths/alcohol stove and have to make one, this will do the job.

While I do occasionally pack along the little 7g titanium trivet, this isn’t always the case. Using the trivet speeds up a boil time considerably however. But the water will boil given time and I am never one to look for the fastest possible burn. This actually gives the opportunity to simmer as well. I never bothered with recording times as that is largely irrelevant. This project was indoors, with no wind and a stable warm temperature. No doubt a windscreen would aid use greatly if outdoors. But it shows the principle is sound. One final point of note- over sixty minutes I knocked up six of these stoves, their weights were between 5.1g and 5.5g, so truly a lightweight option. A couple of hours well spent while on lock-down.