A look at some WWI Compasses

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Through my recent eBay adventures, my vintage compass collection has increased dramatically. Some of my favourite new acquisitions are a pair of 1918-vintage US Corps of Engineers military marching compasses both made by Cruchon & Emons in Switzerland. These are the types of compasses that Horace Kephart might have used.

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ALICE Compass Pouch Hack – Accommodating the Baseplate Compass

ALICE is a friendly-sounding designation for an obsolete American military load-carrying system. It stands for “All-purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment”. Sure, it should be APLWICE (pronounced “Appleweece”) but I won’t tell if you don’t.

ALICE gear was made of a nylon packcloth, which was around 250D to 300D for the gear junkies out there. It was relatively light weight and it dried quickly after being wet. It was perfect for jungle use. Indeed I still have a couple of ALICE rucksacks as well as a few ALICE compass pouches and maybe a canteen cover or two stashed away. It’s all pretty common and has been superseded so ALICE gear can probably be found on ebay or in surplus stores for cheap.

The venerable ALICE compass/field dressing pouch is a bit of a crap design. Sure, it holds an obsolete American field dressing OK, but it fits compasses very poorly – even the Cammenga M1950 lensatic compass for which it was supposedly designed. The compass bounces around inside the case and the metal alloy belt clip on the back of the compass is ferrous. Everyone knows that ferrous metals and compasses don’t mix and a compass certainly should not be stored next to a clip which can affect the magnetic field of a compass. That leads to a compounding inaccuracy of the compass over time.

The compass pouch was not designed with baseplate compass pouches in mind. But since I wanted to securely carry a baseplate compass in one of these pouches, I’d have to find a way.

Standard ALICE compass pouch. My trusty old Swedish Silva expedition compass for scale.

Standard ALICE compass pouch. My trusty old Swedish Silva expedition compass for scale. The press snap is bronze and is non-magnetic.

Rear view of the ALICE compass pouch showing the metal "keeper" which just happens to be made of a ferrousmetal alloy and attract a compass needle. Bad juju.

Rear view of the ALICE compass pouch showing the metal “keeper” which just happens to be made of a ferrous metal alloy and attracts a compass needle. Bad juju.

Being a committed tinkerer who wanted to affix an ALICE compass pouch to the lefthand shoulder strap of my UL backpack, something had to be done to correct the many shortcomings of the ALICE compass pouch, and quickly.

Although a little longer than the Silva Expedition 5 model pictured above, my military Silva 4/54 baseplate compass still fits the ALICE compass pouch comfortably. It feels terribly unprotected so the pouch would need to be padded. Then there was the matter of the metal clip. I’d have to make one out of brass or aluminium or maybe even use plastic.

Components for the hack - ALICE compass pouch, piece of foam sleeping mat and a plastic clip (not shown)

Components for the hack – ALICE compass pouch, piece of foam sleeping mat and a plastic clip (not shown)

Dipping into the spares crate I found a piece of foam from an old fold-up German sleeping mat which I cut to the correct size and folded appropriately. After folding the foam around the compass it was inserted into the pouch. The compass was now beautifully protected from shock and from being scratched by the the press snap. Just had the belt clip to go.

 

Compass in the open pouch. Foam is held securely by the shape of the pouch and the compass can be extracted and inserted without risk of the foam working its way out.

Compass in the open pouch. Foam is held securely by the shape of the pouch and the compass can be extracted and inserted without risk of the foam working its way out. Note the drainage grommet has been removed from this pouch. It was sticking up and was in the way so I went after it man to man with a pair of pliers.

Case closed. The compass is very secure and well protected in this pouch after the hack.

Case closed. The compass is very secure and well protected in this pouch after the hack.

I was all ready to use a large zip tie or a plastic MALICE clip to replace the metal belt clip, but then I stumbled across a nylon Aussie ICLCEclip which is compatible with the ALICE gear out of the box and has no magnetic effect on compasses.

Problem solved - nylon clip on hacked compass pouch at left. Metal clip fitted to unhacked compass pouch on right.

Problem solved – nylon clip on hacked compass pouch at left. Metal clip fitted to unhacked compass pouch on right.

 

Notebook Hacks – Accommodating the Bullet Pencil

The bullet pencil is the perfect size for a trouser pocket, but sometimes one feels compelled to attach it to one’s notebook to have it close to hand when needed.

I like notebooks and I particularly like the waxed cotton-covered Australian Defence Force field message notebooks with their gridded pages and old school carbon paper insert.  One day I glanced at a field message notebook and then I glanced at my bullet pencil, then just like the guy who invented the concept of dipping crispy bacon in maple syrup, I had an epiphany.

To carry out my evil plan I needed some supplies…

  • An ADF field message notebook
  • A bullet pencil
  • An old leather belt
  •  2 x pop rivets
  • 2 x small washers
  • Pop rivet gun
  • Leather punch
  • A 32 oz ball pein hammer
Some of the supplies needed to perform this delicate and complex notebook hacking procedure.

Some of the supplies needed to perform this delicate and complex notebook hacking procedure.

The Procedure

Step 1 – Measure a strip of leather belt to the right size. It should comfortably wrap around the bullet pencil and leave a 1/4 to 1/2 inch overlap. Using a pencil or pen mark where your rivets will go on the folded/wrapped piece of leather.

Step 2 – Punch the holes using, you guessed it, a hole punch. If you don’t have a hole punch, then use a sharp and pointy instrument such as a knife point.

Step 3 – Using the holes in the leather as a guide, mark the holes on the cover of your notebook. Place these wherever you think a pen or pencil would sit easily and unobtrusively. Punch, gouge or cut the holes in the cover.

Step 4 – Place the folded leather into position on the cover and place a pop rivet head through it. Now place a washer over the rivet head as it protrudes from the other side of the cover.

Step 5 – Rivet into place using the pop rivet gun. You’ll notice that the washer now becomes a flange to stop the rivet pulling out of the cover.

Step 6 – repeat steps 4 and 5 with the other rivet.

Step 7 – insert bullet pencil and we’re done.

Inside the cover. I've found this configuration to give the neatest result.

Inside the cover. I’ve found this configuration to give the neatest result.

Outside the cover - notice how the washers now lock the rivet into position.

Outside the cover – notice how the washers now lock the rivet into position. After this has been done you can flatten out the rivets by pounding them with a big hammer if you wish. I did and found it to be a liberating experience.

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Works on any type of hard cover notebook. This one is fitted to an A5-sized sketch book.

Works on any type of hard cover notebook. This one is fitted to an A5-sized sketch book.