The design challenge

combar

We’ve talked about our design philosophy but when it came to designing the tools and how they combined into the Combar, we needed another set of guiding principles to make more detailed decisions. These guiding principles are more usability focused and came down to 3 key factors:
1. The Combar needed to be able to be comfortably used in one hand
2. We wanted full size tools
3. We wanted tools that people would really use

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The ‘racetrack’

Head

On either side of the Combar head is an oval shape that is part of the titanium spade. This is a design feature we call the racetrack.
Like all good design it is a combination of form and function serving to strengthen and increase rigidity of the spade ‘ears’ where they connect to the head.
Inside the racetrack is the connector which locks the spade to the head and provides for the necessary movement of the spade from locked down to ready for use position

Our focus on weight drove material choice

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Portability is a key feature of the Combar. The balance between utility and weight naturally drove our material choices. Aircraft Grade Aluminum works for the head mechanism but not for any hard impact areas.

Titanium 6AL-4V was an obvious choice for the spade because it is such a big piece. We also worked in Titanium to the axe cheek to provide strength with weight reduction.

All this adds to the overall production cost but we didn’t want to compromise on the vision of bringing the best tool possible to the market.

The Folding axe – why no one has succeeded

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There hasn’t been a serious folding axe released because there are many engineering issues that have to be overcome. Think about it. You need a robust locking mechanism that can handle the impact forces. The mechanism needs to stay clean during use and be easy to clean after use. The mechanism needs to have tight tolerances given the quality of the overall tool; and most importantly, it needs to give you the same performance as a fixed head axe.

Safety first – The locking mechanism

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When you are using the Combar with the axe locked out in place, you don’t need to be thinking about it suddenly folding in. Similarly, with the spade locked into place in either position, you need the confidence it is going to stay where it is when attacking a field task.

The Safety mechanism is a work of genius. There is one, easy to use, mechanism for both tools and provides rock solid lock down. We spent a lot of time ensuring that simplicity and safety where inherent in the mechanism so you can focus on the task in hand.

Working with titanium is difficult and complicated

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Given our high standards, every part of the Combar created interesting production challenges. A great example is the use of titanium  6AL-4V for the spade and axe cheek. Titanium has to be cast in a vacuum – a difficult process that radically reduces the number of suppliers worldwide. When you add in the tight tolerances we required, the number of suppliers got even smaller.
An exhaustive search led us to a California based company who worked with their Taiwanese sister company to deliver us exactly what we needed.

The core of the solution – Aircraft grade aluminum

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Our choice for the head of the Combar is 6061-T6 aluminum. This is a commercial grade aluminum with great structural strength; toughness and non-corrosive characteristics. It is easy to work and responds well to anodizing.

For those tech heads who understand the different types of aluminum, we looked hard at 7075 which is used in military grade M4 rifles, but the hard anodizing changed the properties of 7075 and made it more brittle and less suitable for striking – so we stayed with the 6061.