A classic old Marble’s poster, featuring some of their most well-known, classic offerings:
I wanted a new traditional folding/pocket knife.
My criteria –
- I wanted a two-blade, “Trapper” style folder. In addition to a standard clip point blade, I wanted the knife to have a Wharncliffe-style blade as well, for specific tasks.
- I wanted good quality, but didn’t feel the need to drop a lot of money on a custom.
- I wanted it to be made in the USA.
After some searching, I ended up with a Case Mini-Trapper (model #6207W SS).
The Mini-Trapper hits the mark for my idea of the perfect little pocket knife. It’s 3-1/2″ long, with nickel silver hardware, brass pins and genuine bone scales. The blades are Case’s “Tru Sharp” (6207) stainless steel. Easy to sharpen and they hold a sweet edge. This particular model is called a “sawcut” because the bone scales are rough cut, which gives the knife a nice, “grippy” texture in the hand. The bone on this knife looks and feels great in a way that is hard to convey in a photo.
I would describe the Case Sawcut Mini-Trapper as representative of the “middle of the line” when it comes to Case knives. It is not one of their high-end, limited editions, nor is it one of their base models, which typically run about half the price of this one (and are still a good, less expensive option). Finer details I’ve been impressed with on this knife include excellent alignment of the blades inside the liners when closed, perfect joining of the liners with the scales (no gaps), and a smooth, but crisp, action upon opening/closing.
Founded in 1889, W.R. Case and Sons continues to operate in Bradford, Pennsylvania, making some of the sweetest little knives for the money, in my opinion. Still handcrafted in the USA with pride. Everyone should own a Case pocketknife.
I can’t say I hadn’t been warned. In fact, I was warned by every one I knew who owned a Bark River knife.
“Careful. You won’t be able to own just one,” they said.
“They are extremely addictive,” they advised.
Dammit. They were right. The addiction continues with the addition of a Bark River “Little Caper.”
At an overall length of 5.7″ the Little Caper is a “three finger” knife, meaning that for most people, your normal grip on the knife will be with your thumb and first three fingers. Or alternately, thumb on top of the spine, and first three fingers on the grip. A knife that you can’t get your entire hand around might seem a little dubious at first, but for many finer tasks, I really prefer smaller knives with this type of grip, and have never found it to be less than secure. The Little Caper, with a slight trailing point, is a really fantastic slicer that enables precision control of the 2.7″ A-2 steel blade. But with a blade thickness of .170″ this isn’t a thin, flimsy blade by any means, or a knife narrowly-limited only to fine slicing tasks. I have found it to be a handy EDC, and/or a perfect piggy-back knife to a larger hunting knife of choice. Combined with my extremely versatile and capable BKRT “Canadian Special” pictured below, there isn’t much I can’t do.
In my last post, I mentioned that it was the middle of winter, and that I hadn’t been able to really get out and use these knives extensively yet. Well now I have. I’m not going to bore you with 18 consecutive pictures documenting every stage of making shavings with these knives, or batoning (a rather over-hyped test of a knife in my opinion). No, I’m not here to prove anything. Suffice to say I’ve sliced, chopped, shaved and yes, even batoned (with the larger models) of these knives and have been nothing less than totally impressed through all of it. Yes, these are beautiful knives. And more importantly – these are knives that are made to be used hard. You can trust me on this, or find out for yourself by picking up a Bark River knife. I know few people who haven’t been seriously impressed.
Another item I would like to bring to your attention in this follow-up is the KSF Pocket Sheath that I recently picked up. At first I was a little dubious of how frequently I would actually use a pocket sheath, but I find that I’m liking it more and more. This particular model is called the ‘Allegheny,’ and KSF makes several other models/sizes. The Allegheny fits my Bark River Woodland Special (overall length 6.8″) perfectly, with an extra pocket for a firesteel, mini-flashlight, etc. It comfortably fits in either a front, back or cargo pants pocket, or the pocket of a coat, and it’s great for those short jaunts in the woods where you just like the security of knowing you have a few essentials with you (and really, when don’t you want that?). It’s also great for longer treks, where the waistbelt of a pack might interfere with a belt knife. The sheaths will obviously fit many other makes of knives as well. All KSF pockets sheaths are made of stout leather and are built to last. Available at Knives Ship Free.
As mentioned previously, all Bark River knives are handmade in the USA, as are KSF sheaths. And yes, I’m already lusting after a couple more Bark River knives. In fact, there aren’t many other knives that interest me anymore. This is bad…
For many years the Marble’s company was distinguished for making solid, domestically-produced outdoor knives. Well-known knifemaker Mike Stewart (former CEO of Blackjack Knives) was the VP in charge of Marble’s knife production from 1997 to 2001. He designed a number of their most successful recent models during his time there.
When Marble’s made the dubious decision to shift their production overseas, Mr. Stewart decided it was time to move on and start his own company; to produce knives the way that he felt it should be done, and to do so domestically. Thus, the Bark River Knife and Tool company was born.
I have admired Bark River knives from afar for quite some time before finally deciding that I needed to find out firsthand why so many people rave about them. It didn’t take long before one Bark River knife purchase turned into two. Given that it’s the middle of winter in the northern Rockies right now, I haven’t had a great deal of opportunity to use these knives outdoors extensively yet (but that will change soon…). However, after receiving the two models pictured above, and using them indoors quite a bit and some outdoors as well, I have no misgivings whatsoever about how they will perform under hard use. Both are flawlessly executed, and are clearly made to stand up to whatever serious work you intend to throw at them, with well thought-out ergonomics and stout, A-2 steel blades. They are the perfect combination of simple beauty, exceptional workmanship and rugged practicality. You most certainly get what you pay for (if not more so) with a Bark River knife, if not more so.
Bark River offers a number of different models for just about every outdoor application you can think of, from EDCs, to small caping/slicing knives, hunting knives for all sizes of game, and a variety of bushcraft and survival knives. But don’t mistake them for a big company, cranking out tons of product. These are “semi-custom” knives, and many are only available in certain configurations, in limited numbers, for a finite amount of time. Full custom orders are an option as well.
All Bark River knives are made in Escanaba, Michigan and carry an honest, “no questions asked” lifetime guarantee. For more information, go to Bark River Knife and Tool.
Note – Bark River knives are factory sharpened with a convex edge. For those unfamiliar with sharpening a convex, it’s a little different, but really not hard at all. In fact, with a little practice, you might even find it easier than maintaining more common types of grinds. An excellent explanation can be found in this series of videos.
I have a deep affection for classic Buck knives. The best examples are still made in the USA, and are some of the best all-around, serviceable field knives you can find for the money, in my opinion. I recently discovered the model #113, introduced last year, and it perfectly embodies everything that made so many of us fall in love with the venerable #110 Folding Hunter years ago.
While this is a newer Buck model, it has that classic Buck “look” that would lead you to believe they’ve been producing this knife for the last 50 years. You could lay it right next to your old #110 (or #112) and they would instantly be recognized as having come from the same mother. For anyone who has wished for a fixed blade version of their classic Buck folding knife, this is it.
The #113 comes with a 3-1/8″ hollow-ground, heat-tempered 420HC blade and a full tang. 420HC can vary in terms of quality and edge retention – much of the final result comes down to the method of heat treating. But Buck has been at it for a long time and knows how to do it right – their proprietary heat treating process produces a 420HC that is great at holding an edge, easy to sharpen, and offers good corrosion resistance.
While the thick leather belt sheath doesn’t have a retaining strap, the knife fits into it deeply and securely, with no movement. I wouldn’t worry about it falling out of the sheath at all. Brass bolster and pins, and a lanyard hole in the comfortable Macassar ebony handle. Backed by Buck’s “Forever” warranty. If you want an all-around, practical hunting knife that is built to last, with classic looks, that won’t break the bank, it’s hard to imagine something that fits the bill better than the Buck #113.
A young Kansas blacksmith’s apprentice named Hoyt Buck was looking for a better way to temper steel so it would hold an edge longer. His unique approach produced the first Buck Knife in 1902.
Hoyt made each knife by hand, using worn-out file blades as raw material. His handy work was greatly appreciated during World War II. After the war, Hoyt and his son Al moved to San Diego and set up shop as H.H. Buck & Son in 1947.
Buck revolutionized the knife industry in 1964 with the Model #110 Folding Hunter, the knife most people likely picture when they think of a classic, lockback folding knife today.
Brass bolsters, liners and rivets. Wooden handle. Leather sheath. 3-3/4″ 420HC steel blade, tempered with Buck’s proprietary heat-treating process. The #110 is still made with pride in the USA. Buck knives are a lot of quality for the money. Link.
I’m going to kick this off by highlighting three pieces of classic gear that continue to serve me well in the field. In addition to being solid, robust and time-tested equipment, all of these pieces (like most, if not all, of the gear we will feature here) possess a certain quality – a “quality of quality.” What am I getting at here? I guess it’s a feeling of substance, of being well-made and of being the type of gear that you will likely need to spend time wearing-in, not wondering how soon it will wear out.
I want to make it clear that, despite the somewhat campy title, this blog wasn’t started to be nostalgic, to pine for the “good old days” etc. – but instead to highlight gear still being made the way people used to make outdoor gear when it was equipment you truly had to depend on; maybe even would be gear that, with care, could be handed down to your children when the time came. An approach, and a pride in craftsmanship, that is all too rare these days, being sidelined in favor of planned obsolescence and convincing your customers that they need to buy your next new “thing” every other season..
Ok, enough about that. Here are three classic outdoor items to kick this off:
Designed by D. H. Russel and manufactured by hand by the Grohmann Knife Company of Nova Scotia for something like the last 50 years, this knife is based on the original Canadian belt knife design. High carbon stainless blade with a full tang, rosewood handle that comes with a cord lanyard and leather sheath. There are several different models of D. H. Russel knives produced by Grohmann, but I really like the #2, “Trout and Bird” for it’s size and usefulness for cleaning fish and small game. In fact, after cleaning who knows how many birds with the #2, I can say that I’ve never found a better one for this purpose. A knife that will grow old with you. Link.
I’ve worn this jacket rowing on the Snake River in a hailstorm, freezing in a duck blind in November in Idaho and hunkering in the rain in Patagonia. Consider it not just a rain jacket, but rain armor. Waxed cotton, just the right amount of pockets without being too many, inner cuffs with a cinch tab, and arguably my favorite feature – wool-lined hand warmer pockets. Worth every penny. Link.
The standard by which all thermoses are judged. ‘Nuff said. Link.
Stay tuned for more, folks….