FIVE SUMMER GIFTS #5 – Achilles Chef’s Knife

A Kickstarter campaign wants to deliver Michelin quality to the domestic cook with a design-led kitchen knife that cuts to the chase.

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The Achilles knife is the most beautiful thing I have in my kitchen at the moment and while I’m not even a half-decent cook, men like me always enjoy having the equipment.

Twenty-five years ago when I was on the dole, I bought a bread knife for £20 and it still sits proudly in my drawer, so far living up to its life-time guarantee. So, I like kitchen knives and what they represent.

The Achillles Chef’s Knife will cost considerably more than £20 when its Kickstarter campaign comes to an end, $249 (£174) to be precise. For early birds though who wish to pre-order can now get one for $100 (£68).

The campaign is already wildly over-subscribed so there is already a market for such a high-end product. However, does it cut through the hype?

The answer is a resounding yes and that’s because it is design-led. It comes in a box-for-life that begs to be displayed on the kitchen island and is ergonomically spruce.

The hole in the knife may seem like a gimmick, but it adds to the aesthetics and fits the high-end emotions experienced when using it. It also does what every other knife does; it cuts things.

The knife has also been recognised by those who bestow awards. Earlier this year, the Achilles Knife won the German Design Award for 2018 for “Excellent Product Design – Kitchen“. It’s well-deserved.

It remains moot whether a lot of people will pay nearly $250 for a knife, but like anything that is expensive, cost-per-use is vital. It may seem like a lot of money, but if it’s used every day and retains its looks over the years, then it’s a bargain.

I don’t know how much £20 was worth when I bought my bread knife in the early 1990s, but I do know it was one of best purchases of my life.

I have the feeling the Achilles Chef’s Knife possesses the same qualities. Over to you.

FIVE SUMMER GIFTS #4 – FretX guitar LED learning

Now you have no excuses, the FretX makes learning the guitar a walk along the fretboard with lights to show the way.

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The FretX device is an ingenious piece of musical kit that was originally launched on  Indiegogo and was successfully crowdfunded to 198% of its target.

It is now, indeed, a most viable product… in fact, there are two viable products, one is the Rockstar that retails at $89 (£62) and the other is FretX pack at $59 (£42)… and it is fantastic for anybody who has struggled to learn the guitar.

I am one of those such people. I tried to learn when I was travelling, looking good with it wrapped around my neck, but not so much when I played. I was always a long way from perfect pitch, tuning was difficult to my ear and my fingers were like thumbs when I used the fretboard.

However, that guitar has always been my friend and I’ve always wanted to improve my relationship with it. The first action was to get hold of a Roadie 2 so I could actually tune my guitar; the second was to use the FretX.

At first, I was unimpressed, it looked like a stencil kit for amateur artists, but once I realised that I could stretch its four ‘fingers’ around the top four frets of my guitar, then it all made sense.

The next step was to download the app (available at leading stores) and then link the device, when then effectively becomes an LED learning device, with lights coming on and off when the wannabe musician needs to make a chord shape.

After registering as a user and inputting the skill of the guitarist and type of guitar, the new musician then has to follow YouTube tutorials and other media to learn the guitar.

This device does not come with a manual and that makes the learning experience obviously digital, but also a more effective and modern one.

I have a long way to go before I can even consider myself a minor musician, but the FretX has set me on a better way.

It’s certainly struck a chord with me, maybe it will do the same for you. A most excellent smart learning device.

FIVE SUMMER GIFTS #3 – The nanotech Lotushirt

Sick of shirts that take ages to iron, stain easily when travelling to business conferences? Look no further than the ‘nanotech’ Lotushirt that is a shirt for all occasions.

LotushirtFor the business travellers in this audience, be they male or female, there is nothing worse than packing the wrong clothes for that conference.

Even for those such as myself who travel light for those three-day trips, getting the wardrobe right is never easy. One pair of shoes, two pairs of trousers (one for travelling, the other for the conference) and three/four shirts is generally the right mix.

The shirts, however, are always an irritant. Those freshly dry-cleaned articles are now crumpled and look dirty as soon as arrival at the hotel… and the iron and ironing board never seem to sync.

So step forward the so-called Lotushirt, a shirt for all seasons that launches tomorrow on Kickstarter and something its creators MircoNovelty believe will change the way we wear.

I gave the Lotushirt a thorough road test when I recently flew from London to the STEP conference in Dubai and I can report that it wears it well. I wore the shirt in high temperatures when I was emceeing, no small challenge when running around.

It was excellent. As previously mentioned, I didn’t need to iron the Lotushirt and it still looked as if I had. It was comfortable, looked good and felt natural. The reasons for doing so are tabulated here:

• Designed to repel water and stains
• Inspired by the self-cleaning lotus leaf
• Doesn’t wrinkle, no iron needed
• Flying Fish breathable underarm netting
• Suitable for any occasion

The future retail price for the Lotushirt will be US $99 (£70). But early backers on Kickstarter will receive special discounts to our kind backers. The early bird perk of the Lotuhsirt is us $49 (£35).

Get in now; it will change your life… it has mine. No more ironing boards, no more irons and no more hassle.

FIVE SUMMER GIFTS #2: Sennheiser PXC 480 noise-cancelling headphones

In an increasingly noisy world, the Sennheiser PXC 480 cuts out the cacophony and is also very easy on the eye.

sennheiser

The PXC 480 is the ideal travelling companion.

There was once a time when I travelled and I was all ears. Wide-eyed, enthusiastic, ready for any conversation with any person, but then ageing and Sennheiser changed my life.

While the end of youth tends to silence the noise that preceded it, modern-day travelling needs to be treated with auditory caution. Noise-cancelling headphones are the technology that helps the regular traveller to cope with the background noise.

When flying, it tells your adjacent passenger that you have absolutely no wish to talk to them, as well as cutting out the thud of engines. With the PXC 480, the drowned-out sound experience is better than ever before.

I’ve used the company’s noise-cancelling products for the past decade after a friend in the HiFi business steered me away from Bose, convinced that Sennheiser was the better option. I’ve never had cause to doubt that particular recommendation.

The PXC 480 is my best experience to date. In an age where ear buds are the flavour of the day, especially attractive when trying to sleep on a flight, headphones face a challenge, but the design is now more compact and comfortable.

Deep ear pads and a lot of padding around the headband as well as being extremely light mean that the PXC 480 rests comfortably on the neck before use and even more so when put to use around the head.

Battery life is also impressive. At 50 hours, that’s a lot of flights. Moreover, that sinking feeling when you realise that the battery is flat and you have no spare batteries, is less likely to happen.

At $299 in the US and £259 in the UK, the price point is fair and the PXC 480 will last for years. What are you waiting for?

FIVE SUMMER GIFTS #1: STM Judge Laptop Brief 15″

STM’s durable and good-looking laptop bag is perfect for commuting, travelling and even a wet festival.

STMIs the STM Judge laptop any good? It’s never easy to find a laptop bag that fits perfectly. Whether it’s too many pockets, wrong shape/colour or non-personal-brand-representing, it’s a struggle.

While I’ve often looked at the high-end, burnished leather from an extortionately expensive Italian designer type of product whenever I have that long-desired ‘result, to date I’ve put up with cheap, black cases that make me look like a lower-manager with an ugly wife and difficult children.

However, please be introduced to the Judge Laptop Brief 15” that I have been roadtesting these past two weeks (and in the colour of the associated image above). And when I mean roadtested, I mean a wet festival in Cornwall when I had no other bag to hand.

First thing is that it doesn’t have too many pockets, that is a very good thing. A strap and a handle, an outside pocket and a couple inside, that is also very good. It can hold a MacBook, charger, newspaper, notebook, phone charger and a paperback without any bulge.

It’s also light. Leather laptop bags when full can be a pain, as if a hot plate has been placed on top of the sciatica and for somebody who has back troubles, a travelling nightmare. Fortunately, the STM Judge passes with ye olde flying colours in this respect.

It has also has ‘SlingTech™’ protection not only pads out the Judge it also suspends it away from the edges of the pack keeping it isolated from the impact zone. I’ll take the retailer’s word for it on this.

Finally, and most pertinently in these increasingly turbulent economic times, the price point at $99 in the US or £64.95 in the UK is reasonable. As would be expected, it can be purchased from the richest man in the world’s site here.

A decent product that should last a decent amount of time. I liked it.