Knives Illustrated - - News - BY EJ SNY­DER

Meet the Beast. We took the Jon­burneaxe by Bark River Knives into the field, where it took care of bushcraft­ing tasks from the mun­dane to the mon­u­men­tal.

Knives play an im­por­tant role in any sur­vival sit­u­a­tion. The type of knife to put by your side de­pends on what your sur­vival style is, what you be­lieve you will need to meet that in­tent and what you are most com­fort­able us­ing. As you know, there are many op­tions out there, and the pri­mary uses vary.

As a re­tired Army com­bat vet of 25 years and a sur­vival­ist, I have grasped many dif­fer­ent types of knives, blades, axes and tom­a­hawks over the years, and I pos­sess a huge col­lec­tion of them. I also hap­pen to be a mul­ti­ple-tool-for-the-job kind of guy, and I al­ways want backup op­tions. Usu­ally.

My think­ing on this changed dras­ti­cally af­ter be­ing thrust into an ex­treme 21-day sur­vival chal­lenge in which I could only se­lect one tool. Dur­ing those three weeks, the only tool I had, a knife, came up way short on sev­eral tasks. To top things off, it broke on day 10. I now be­lieve a blade must have mul­ti­ple uses at hand for me to feel it passes the keis­ters-on-the-line test. So, what hap­pened? Well, along comes Bark River’s JBA (Jonburnaxe), de­signed by Ran­dall Burns with Jonathan Zook, right into my grasp.

First Im­pres­sions

Once I pulled this knife out of the box—in its deluxe leather carry sheath that’s proudly made in Es­can­aba, MI—I was im­me­di­ately taken aback. The sheath is high qual­ity naked leather, well-made and stitched, and it is clearly go­ing to be very durable. The knife also comes with two outer straps for hold­ing other needed items or at­tach­ments.

I drew the JBA out for the first time and ad­mired its gleam. First im­pres­sions mean a lot to me, and the JBA did not dis­ap­point. I be­lieve that all blades pos­sess the spirit of the de­signer and/ or crafts­man, and I can feel that when I hold it in my hand. It ap­pealed to me right away and cre­ated the wow fac­tor with its over­all unique look, its wide and stout burly blade, the well-placed fore­fin­ger choil with thumb jimp­ing, the amaz­ing steel and a beau­ti­ful look­ing Mi­carta han­dle, which is a mar­velous piece of crafts­man­ship.

It also had some un­ex­pected heft in its weight, which sur­prised me for its size. It re­ally has a good bit of weight and com­pact power. The han­dle seemed about right and even fit into my big mitts well, but I was not a fan of its seem­ingly over­all slick­ness.

JBA Specs

Re­gard­ing the specs, the JBA mea­sures in with an over­all length of 11.25 inches, and its blade length is 6.125 inches. It has a 5.50-inch cut­ting edge, which is a full 0.250 inches thick. The full tang con­struc­tion features A2 tool steel for max­i­mum tough­ness and dura­bil­ity.

The han­dle slightly curves at the back end and is roughly 5.25 inches long, and it has a nice er­gonomic feel and thick­ness to it. It comes in vary­ing de­grees of Mi­carta op­tions.

The knife weighs in at around 20 ounces, which gives it some added punch for tasks that re­quire a lit­tle some­thing ex­tra. The ra­zor-sharp con­vex edge ge­om­e­try means that even though this knife is stout, it is sharp, and this will add to its bite for chop­ping tasks.

The JBA is based on the Tracker con­cept, so it is de­signed as a bushcraft knife. This means it can han­dle cut­ting, skin­ning, slic­ing and chop­ping with its unique shape and trade­mark de­sign. JBA’S de­signer did ex­ten­sive test­ing

and retest­ing in his sur­vival school, as well as in his ev­ery­day life as an avid out­doors­man, be­fore Bark River Knives went into full pro­duc­tion on it.

Keis­ters-on­the-line Test

Over the course of sev­eral weeks, I used the JBA out in the field. This al­lowed me to get used to han­dling it, and I was rather happy with it and its per­for­mance.

The next step was to do some de­lib­er­ate test­ing with it, so I con­ducted a se­ries of tests with the blade, all of which would be done in most every sur­vival or out­door sce­nario. I wanted to make sure that if any­one found him­self in a sit­u­a­tion with just one tool, he (or she) would be able to fully un­der­stand where they stood with the JBA in their hands.

It comes with a very sharp edge right out of the box, and it didn’t dis­ap­point. I checked its over­all sharp­ness and edge dura­bil­ity first by cut­ting sev­eral pieces of card­board, slic­ing along the edge and then toward the mid­dle of each piece. I also cut through some pieces of leather and rub­ber tire strips, with no is­sues or bind­ing. The sheer weight of the JBA aided in its ease of cut­ting.

Though I did not do any skin­ning or gut­ting, I be­lieve there would be no is­sue with ei­ther task. Next, I placed a wa­ter bot­tle up­right and swung right through it with a very clean cut. To my sur­prise, this left the bot­tom half of the bot­tle stand­ing and full of wa­ter. It eas­ily carved out feather sticks and made notches for traps with no prob­lem, aided nicely by the for­ward fin­ger choil and thumb jimp­ing on the spine. The point of the blade was very good for bor­ing holes in wood, which would aid in mak­ing fire­boards well. The de­sign felt great in my hand for scrap­ing and plan­ing tasks. Though my hand is rather large, I just had to slightly ad­just my hand po­si­tion to make it work. And the re­sults were great.

I wasn’t ex­actly sure what to ex­pect when it came to chop­ping, as I am a fan of big­ger knives for this task, but

the JBA took well to chop­ping tasks— for the most part—with its meaty blade and pint-sized heft. It packed a punch. I chopped into sev­eral pieces of wood from soft pines to harder woods. The knife bit in well and sent sev­eral chunks fly­ing about, though not as well as some of the big­ger knives I have used. For its size, it can get the job done. While chop­ping, I did dis­cover that the slick han­dle had the JBA try­ing to fly out of my hand.

I did not mod­ify the JBA for the test, but if I had to, I would ei­ther place a piece of para­cord lan­yard through the hole in the han­dle, or I’d ap­ply some good old skate­boarder or hockey stick tape to help with the grip. Sand­pa­per would rough up the han­dle a lit­tle bit, too.


It cut down a hard­wood sapling very fast, and I could carve a sharp point quickly for a much-needed spear. The chop­ping was made much eas­ier when I added a ba­ton club to hit the thick spine.

I did ba­ton and process some wood logs, but I was limited in the size of the logs I pro­cessed due to blade length. How­ever, when I was ba­ton­ing, the JBA bit well into the wood and got the job done. I per­son­ally would have liked an­other inch on the blade length for this task, but one must some­times adapt to what he is used to and im­pro­vise to com­plete the mis­sion. That’s what I did to make a nice pile of wood for the fire.

Weight and Bal­ance

As an avid knife fighter, I did some stan­dard knife-fight­ing drills to check its weight and bal­ance. The JBA, if needed for self-de­fense, could eas­ily make quick work and dis­patch an op­po­nent very fast. It swings with ease, and it isn’t bur­den­some when flow­ing through stan­dard knife fight­ing arcs, swings, stabs and par­ries.

I con­ducted sev­eral stab­bing tests into a door and a thick piece of rub­ber, and it pierced both nicely. The over­all thick­ness of the point han­dles these tasks nicely with no fear of the point break­ing. Need­less to say, the stan­dard wa­ter­melon and co­conut tests stood no chance in stop­ping the JBA, and I got a nice snack out of the test.


Over­all, be­yond the grip, and in some cases, its stout­ness, I was very im­pressed with the JBA and have noth­ing to com­plain about. I liked its ca­pa­bil­i­ties—what it brings to the tasks at hand, as well as its dura­bil­ity and de­pend­abil­ity, all while keep­ing its edge very nicely through­out my use.

I used it for an ex­tended pe­riod of time do­ing task af­ter task, and my hand never got tired or de­vel­oped any hot spots or blis­ters. I am a big fan of blades that can do many things, and the JBA did not dis­ap­point. Not to mention, it’s a very unique and “sick” look­ing blade! I love blades with some char­ac­ter.

I would have to say that if your keis­ter is on the line out in the wild, the JBA would an­swer the call. KI



Top: The Jonburnaxe has a very com­fort­able, er­gonomic han­dle with dark OD green Mi­carta pol­ished han­dle scales for a very clean look.

01: The well-de­signed er­gonomic han­dle was large enough to fit the au­thor’s large hands.

02: The fin­ger choil and jimp­ing on the spine pro­vided great con­trol dur­ing fine tasks.

Top: The blade has a nice deep fin­ger choil along with some fairly ag­gres­sive jimp­ing on the spine for max­i­mum con­trol dur­ing finer use.

Bot­tom: The JBA comes in a beau­ti­fully crafted, high-qual­ity leather sheath with a cou­ple dif­fer­ent carry op­tions.

Top: With the wide profile of the blade, scrap­ing and plan­ing is a sim­ple task.

Bot­tom: The JBA made cut­ting down a hard­wood sapling for a spear very easy.

Top: The high con­vex grind on the blade gives it a hair-pop­ping edge that is rem­i­nis­cent of a Scandi grind.

Left: At the butt of the knife is a small lan­yard hole, just big enough for a para­cord lan­yard.

Left: The edge of the JBA was sharp enough to bite deep into its sub­ject mat­ter for large whit­tling jobs.

Right: The keen edge gave some very fine curls in the au­thor’s feather stick.

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