THE CUT­TING CREW

TWO GREAT SLICERS FROM BARK RIVER KNIVES

American Survival Guide - - CONTENTS - By Jim Cobb

Two Great Slicers From Bark River Knives

Bark River Knives has de­vel­oped a tremen­dous rep­u­ta­tion in the knife com­mu­nity as well as with bushcrafte­rs and sur­vival­ists the world over. The rea­son is sim­ple: They pro­duce high-qual­ity knives and stand be­hind them 100 per­cent. Mike Ste­wart, the owner of Bark River Knives, has been deeply en­trenched in this in­dus­try for decades. He and his team of about 50 em­ploy­ees churn out, on av­er­age, 200 knives a day. While they are pro­duc­tion knives, each is hand-fin­ished, with ex­ten­sive qual­ity con­trol over­sight at ev­ery step of the process.

I re­cently picked up a cou­ple of new knives from Bark River and here’s what I found.

FOX RIVER EXT-1

The EXT-1 is a con­glom­er­a­tion of a cou­ple of long­time best­selling Bark River mod­els. DLT Trad­ing is one of the largest dis­trib­u­tors of Bark River blades. Ja­son Thoune, the owner of DLT, pays close at­ten­tion to the feed­back he re­ceives from his cus­tomers. Many of them com­mented that they loved the Fox River blade de­sign and pro­file but they weren’t as keen on the han­dle. Ja­son mulled this over for a bit and came up with the idea of mar­ry­ing the Fox River de­sign to the han­dle for the Bark River Gunny.

It was a hit from the word go. Users could not say enough good things about it, so I was ex­cited to get my hands on one.

OUT OF THE BOX

Bark River of­fers a dizzy­ing ar­ray of han­dle ma­te­ri­als and col­ors for their knives. For the EXT-1, I chose the ba­sic black can­vas Micarta han­dle. This is typ­i­cally what we might call the base model for their knives.

The knife was shav­ing sharp right out of the box. As part of the man­u­fac­tur­ing process, ev­ery knife that comes out of the Bark River shop is tested for sharp­ness mul­ti­ple times by mul­ti­ple peo­ple, so this wasn’t a sur­prise. I have fairly large hands and the EXT-1 fits my paw per­fectly.

Ow­ing to a re­ally stupid mis­ad­ven­ture I ex­pe­ri­enced as a child, one of the first things I look for on a knife is the han­dle shape, specif­i­cally whether it of­fers pro­tec­tion to the fingers. The EXT-1 has an in­te­gral guard that pre­vents fingers from slid­ing up onto the blade dur­ing use. The han­dle also has a lan­yard hole for those who like to add such adorn­ments to their cut­lery.

The EXT-1 has great bal­ance. The spine is a per­fect 90 de­grees, which makes it great for scrap­ing fer­ro­cerium rods, should the need arise. The drop point blade pro­file is one of the most use­ful de­signs out there. Bark River uses a con­vex grind on most of their blades, which al­lows for a very sharp edge.

As with all Bark River knives, the EXT-1 comes with a high-qual­ity leather sheath. Some­thing worth not­ing, though, is that most of their sheaths that have snaps and straps are in­tended to have their fi­nal fit per­formed by the end user. Right out of the box, the strap may not seem

“BARK RIVER OF­FERS A DIZZY­ING AR­RAY OF HAN­DLE MA­TE­RI­ALS AND COL­ORS FOR THEIR KNIVES. FOR THE EXT-1, I CHOSE THE BA­SIC BLACK CAN­VAS MICARTA HAN­DLE.”

like it will fit across the knife and snap into place. Run the strap un­der a lit­tle warm wa­ter, then stretch the strap and snap it closed over the knife. Let it sit this way overnight and you’re good to go.

Over­all, the fit, fin­ish, and com­fort of the knife in hand were all be­yond re­proach. But hold­ing a knife and ac­tu­ally us­ing it are two dif­fer­ent things.

THROUGH THE PACES

I car­ried the EXT-1 as my pri­mary fixed blade knife for sev­eral ex­cur­sions into the field. My wife and I be­gan tak­ing weekly hikes in late 2016 and we’ve not stopped yet. I brought the EXT-1 along on some of our most re­cent jaunts and used it for some ba­sic tasks like mak­ing feather sticks and carv­ing. The bal­ance and over­all com­fort of the EXT-1 are just ab­so­lutely stel­lar. Af­ter some use in the field to get used to the knife, it was time for for­mal test­ing.

One of my fa­vorite tests is to slice grapes. This shows me not just how sharp the knife is but how well the blade ge­om­e­try works. Many knives will end up crush­ing rather than cut­ting the fruit. The EXT-1 per­formed flaw­lessly from the first cut to the last. In fact, it was able to make slices thin enough to read the blade’s Bark River logo through them.

I then grabbed a hank of sisal rope and pro­ceeded to use push cuts. Rather than slic­ing or rock­ing the blade to get through the rope, this is just, well, push­ing the knife edge through the ma­te­rial be­ing cut. From the first cut to the last, the EXT-1 had no trou­ble at all. Sisal rope is a very abra­sive type of cordage and can dull an edge quickly. Not so with the CPM 3V steel com­bined with the stel­lar heat treat Bark River uses on their blades. I worked my way up and down

the blade so as to use as much of the edge as pos­si­ble with this test and never had a lick of trou­ble.

I’m not nor­mally a tor­ture test sort of re­viewer. I don’t care if the knife will hold up un­der some ridicu­lously com­pli­cated or rig­or­ous trial. I just want to know if I can rely on the knife to han­dle rou­tine chores with­out is­sues. That said, I was cu­ri­ous to see how the EXT-1 would han­dle just a brief ex­cur­sion into, “what not to do with your knife” ter­ri­tory. So, I pulled an old cedar board from my scrap wood bin and firmly pushed the tip of the EXT-1 into the board. I pried the tip to

the side, splin­ter­ing the wood, then re­peated this sev­eral more times. Even af­ter four or five times do­ing this, the tip of the blade re­mained in per­fect con­di­tion.

As it turned out, just af­ter com­plet­ing that test, it was time to get din­ner go­ing. So, I washed off the dirt and wood splin­ters, then put the EXT-1 to work slic­ing left­over chicken breasts from the day be­fore. It was like a laser beam, each cut pre­cise and per­fect. If I were to give nu­meric rat­ings for the tests, each one would have scored an easy 10/10. The EXT-1 per­forms per­fectly for ev­ery sort of task a field knife would ex­pect to see.

PRO SCALPEL II

I’ve been on the hunt for a while now for a small fixed-blade knife that would be great for EDC (ev­ery­day carry) when I’m not out on the trail. Don’t get me wrong, fold­ing knives cer­tainly have their place and I own far more of them than any per­son would ever truly need. But, a fixed-blade is gen­er­ally a stronger con­struc­tion as well as of­ten more com­fort­able to use for long pe­ri­ods of time.

I chose the Pro Scalpel II, as it ap­peared to have just enough blade to be use­ful and a long enough han­dle to be com­fort­able, but with a short over­all length so it could be pocket-car­ried if de­sired.

“I CHOSE THE PRO SCALPEL II, AS IT AP­PEARED TO HAVE JUST ENOUGH BLADE TO BE USE­FUL AND A LONG ENOUGH HAN­DLE TO BE COM­FORT­ABLE, BUT WITH A SHORT OVER­ALL LENGTH SO IT COULD BE POCKET-CAR­RIED IF DE­SIRED.”

OUT OF THE BOX

If I were to de­scribe the Pro Scalpel II with one word, it would be “nim­ble.” With a blade well un­der 3 inches, it is a great size for pocket carry just about any­where. Weigh­ing un­der 3 ounces, it is lighter than sev­eral fold­ing knives I own, too. Most of the weight is in the han­dle, which makes sense when look­ing at the knife. But this also gives the knife a great sense of so­lid­ity, of ro­bust­ness, giv­ing the user con­fi­dence that this small knife can do the job.

With my large hands, the han­dle of the Pro Scalpel II turned out to be about a three-and-a-half fin­ger grip. The fin­ger choil lends com­fort as well as con­trol when wield­ing the knife. The han­dle ta­pers out­ward to­ward the butt of the han­dle, which helps to pre­vent a small knife like this feel­ing lost in the grip.

The Pro Scalpel II has a true 90-de­gree spine and comes with a leather pouch-style sheath that has a loop ready-made for a fer­ro­cerium rod.

HOW DID IT HAN­DLE?

I car­ried the Pro Scalpel II in my pocket for a few weeks, us­ing it in place of a fold­ing knife as I went about my daily life. It was com­fort­able in my pocket, though it did take me a few days to get used to it as, with the sheath, it is a bit larger than a stan­dard fold­ing knife. It han­dled all of the nor­mal chores just fine, from open­ing and break­ing down boxes to cut­ting food for lunch and such.

A knife this size isn’t truly in­tended for ma­jor field­work. While it would do in a pinch, it is truly de­signed for rou­tine, ev­ery­day sorts of chores. You’re not go­ing to ba­ton fire­wood but you could cer­tainly carve a fig­ure-four dead­fall trig­ger.

As I went through a few for­mal tests with the knife, I was just as con­cerned about the com­fort of us­ing the knife as I was with how it would han­dle cut­ting and slic­ing. This is the small­est fixed-blade knife I’ve ac­tu­ally used for any­thing, and I was very cu­ri­ous as to how it would han­dle.

I started in the kitchen, for the sim­ple rea­son that I was al­ready there af­ter fin­ish­ing up tests

with the EXT-1. Car­rots, cel­ery and radishes all posed no chal­lenge at all to the Pro Scalpel II. Be­cause of its very short blade, I found it eas­i­est to keep the tip of my in­dex fin­ger on the spine and use pull cuts through the veg­eta­bles. Chop­ping mo­tions were a lit­tle awk­ward.

One of the most com­mon things we use knives for is cut­ting open boxes and then break­ing them down for re­cy­cling. I grabbed the box from a re­cent pack­age I’d re­ceived and went to town on it. Both short push cuts and long drag­ging cuts worked great with the knife, in­clud­ing stand­ing the box up and pulling the blade down­ward through the card­board. The knife was also com­fort­able in the grip while us­ing it for this pur­pose. I held it in a stan­dard for­ward grip and ex­pe­ri­enced no is­sues at all with com­fort or con­trol.

As rou­tine as that chore is, card­board is ac­tu­ally a very abra­sive ma­te­rial and can dull a knife very quickly. So, when I moved to the third test, I ex­pected a lit­tle re­sis­tance from the knife. I set out some para­cord and pro­ceeded to use push cuts to cut off small bits of cord. The knife was still ra­zor sharp and cut through the cord with­out any trou­ble at all.

My con­cerns about the com­fort of the knife dur­ing real-world use turned out to be all for naught. While I still gen­er­ally pre­fer a full four-fin­ger grip, the Pro Scalpel II’S han­dle is large enough to be easy to use with­out ex­pe­ri­enc­ing hand fa­tigue in a short pe­riod of time. The blade edge held up very well to us­age, con­sid­er­ing I never stopped to sharpen or even strop it be­tween chores or tests.

FI­NAL VER­DICT

The Fox River EXT-1 has earned a place as my pri­mary field knife, and I ex­pect I’ll con­tinue us­ing it in that role for quite some time. It is com­fort­able to use and is a great size for just about any rou­tine camp or field need.

The Pro Scalpel II is an ex­cel­lent EDC knife. It is small enough to keep in a pocket or on a belt all day long, yet easy to use for a wide range of typ­i­cal daily tasks.

On the whole, in my ex­pe­ri­ence you re­ally can’t go wrong with any­thing pro­duced by Bark River Knives.

BOTH SHORT PUSH CUTS AND LONG DRAG­GING CUTS WORKED GREAT WITH THE KNIFE, IN­CLUD­ING STAND­ING THE BOX UP AND PULLING THE BLADE DOWN­WARD THROUGH THE CARD­BOARD.

Near right: Pry­ing wood is of­ten a deal breaker with a knife tip, but I had no such trou­ble with Bark River’s Fox River EXT-1. Left: Sisal rope posed ab­so­lutely no trou­ble at all for Bark River’s Fox River EXT-1.

Above: The lan­yard hole on the EXT-1 is a great fea­ture for those who like to add a bit of para­cord to their knife.

Above: The EXT-1 comes with a high-qual­ity leather belt sheath, just like ev­ery other blade that comes from the Bark River shop. Be­low: Grapes were cleanly sliced with the Fox River EXT-1.

Right: The can­vas Micarta han­dle ma­te­rial is one of the most durable avail­able on the mar­ket to­day.

Left: With my hand size, the Bark River Pro Scalpel II isn’t quite a four-fin­ger grip.

Far left: No card­board is safe from the Pro Scalpel II. It slices cleanly through cor­ru­gated card­board with ease. Left: Push cuts through para­cord were easy with the Bark River Pro Scalpel II. Be­low: Slic­ing up a va­ri­ety of veg­eta­bles was no prob­lem at all for the Pro Scalpel II, mak­ing it a great choice for those look­ing for a small blade suit­able for lunch duty.

Be­low: Pry­ing wood splin­ters isn’t a rec­om­mended use for a knife, but the Bark River Fox River EXT-1 han­dled it with ease.

Right: Bark River’s Fox River EXT-1 made short work out of a cou­ple of cold chicken breasts.

Bark River of­fers a dizzy­ing ar­ray of han­dle ma­te­ri­als and col­ors for their knives. For this re­view, the au­thor chose ba­sic black can­vas Micarta han­dles for both knives.

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