Bark River Knife and Tool (BRKT) is a well known US knife manufacturing company, based in Escanaba, Michigan.
The main man behind the company is Mike Stewart. He is a widely known person and a “relic” in the knife industry. He has worked with other old and well known companies, such as Pacific, Marbles and Blackjack.
This company has a wide range of excellent hunting/outdoor/bushcraft/survival knives in their line up. These knives are very successful combination of traditional and modern designs and materials. BRKT offers a Lifetime Warranty to their customers (including re-sharpening and refurbishing). The Springbok was designed by Mike Stewart's son, Jim Stewart and this is the first model of his designs that made its way into the production line.
This is an expensive, high-tech “super steel” manufactured by the Crucible Particle Metallurgy process (CPM). This CPM process produces very homogeneous, high quality steel characterized by superior dimensional stability, grindability, and toughness compared to steels produced by conventional processes. The 3V is designed to provide maximum resistance to breakage and chipping in a high wear-resistance steel and it is one of the best choices for a knife blade. It is also a tool steel, not stainless. But since it has some chromium content, it stands up just a little better to corrosion and stains than straight carbon steel. It is still a good idea to clean and keep it dry after each use. A light coat of mineral oil will go a long way in knife maintenance, as well.
Components of the CPM-3V tool-steel:
The Springbok model is very pleasing to the eye with beautiful flowing lines and flawless fit and finish. Everything is tight and even, no grind marks or gaps of any kind. It does have a custom feel, which characterizes most BRKT models. This compact, almost medium size knife feels good and lively in hand and the balance point is just behind the first pin. The blade was sharp right out of the box and had no trouble at all shaving arm hair with the factory edge. It is a solidly built knife with a full broad tang construction and it has some definite heft without being overly heavy. The satin finished drop point blade has a high saber/convex grind.
There is a fuller on each side of the blade. I think the purpose of the fuller in this case is to be a design feature and perhaps some weight savings as well. The false edge goes back about halfway along the blade and improves penetration and detail work with the very precise point.
The good quality, layered style leather sheath is made by Sharpshooter Sheaths. They make most of the sheaths for BRKT.
This natural coloured sheath has a loop for a ferro-cerium rod and four eyelets for mounting something and/or lashing. The fit was very tight, but this is normal and will improve with use and time. The design of the sheath provides two ways of belt mount. One is the normal vertical carry and the other is on a slight angle (approx. 15-20º) to the belt.
The handle of this particular knife consists of matte black canvas micarta scales, fastened by two stainless steel pins (corby bolts) and a large hollow sleeve that serves as a lanyard hole as well. There is a slight finger groove, a small integral guard and a palm swell in the middle.
All of these together provide a secure, comfortable grip and nothing gets in the way. This handle is an excellent fit for small to medium hands, but I think perhaps it would be too small or short for people with large paws. Here are some pictures of a few different grips with and without gloves.
I have this knife for well over a month now and although I did not undertake any multiday trip with this blade, it still got plenty of use in (what I consider) the major fields. I have collected my observations and experiences in practical use here, by field of application rather than in a chronological order.
This arena in my test regime gives a very good indication of the cutting and slicing capabilities of a given knife, using as many different kinds of available materials as I can get my hands on for cutting subjects.
Fibrous materials, like ropes and webbing... First off kernmantle type...
...then 6mm thick nylon...
...and 16mm perlon rope.
Still the same group, but slicing some webbing this time. Such as 55mm wide polypropylene construction safety anchor...
...and two different kind of nylon straps.
Leather is somewhat fibrous as well. Here are two shots of some scrap leather slicing.
The next group is rubbery stuff, such as bicycle inner tube...
… and reinforced, double walled pneumatic air hose.
Then there are a wide variety of plastic materials I have used, like this 8mm diameter soft PVC hose...
...another thicker and harder kind of PVC tube...
...some plastic plumbing pipes...
...and a different, thick walled, harder version.
Then more PVC in the form of linoleum welding cord.
And finally a piece of plastic electrical conduit.
For paper I have used some old newsprint as my slicing subject. A blade has to be sharp to slice copy paper well and even sharper to do the same with regular newsprint (not magazines) and for this reason I usually use newsprint in my paper tests.
The knife performed well in this part of my test regime. I had no problems or difficulties with cutting and slicing any of these materials.
This is another very important domain for an outdoor knife. So, let us start with some feather-sticks in some different kind of wood. In my opinion, producing good feather-sticks is an important skill for fire making and also a very good exercise for honing our knife-skills.
The Springbok is very much able to baton and split wood if it is called for. The high saber/convex grind excels in this task, although the short length of the blade is a bit of a limiting factor here. Mind you, usually there is no real need to split huge logs with a knife and we can always make wedges for this purpose (with our knife), if the need still arises.
The spine of the blade is sharp and square enough to be used with a ferro-cerium rod and for scraping. Here is a shot of some fine wood scrapings.
I did plenty of whittling and carving with the Springbok and took some pictures of these activities. Here are a few fine and different style points on some sticks...
...and a few notches.
A photo of a little bark peeling.
I was able to do this in one powerful slice and the surface of the cut is very smooth and even.
Also, I did some sectioning by small power-cuts all around the circumference of a few sticks.
The point on this blade is seemingly very delicate, but in reality it is not. Very fine and precise, yes. But not weak or fragile at all. I think this is due not only to the geometry of the tip, but the blade steel and the heat treatment have an important role in this as well. Here I stabbed and pried some scrap piece of 2X6 construction wood...
...then drilled into another piece of the same material using the point of the blade...
...and made a hole through yet another, different kind of wood with no ill effects whatsoever to the tip.
The Springbok was nimble and easy to use in this field. The convex edge does an admirable whittling job and the handle did not cause any hot spots or discomfort during extended use.
I left this area for last, but not least. Of course there is a lot of knife use in the kitchen/food preparation field and it is a very important field, indeed. So, let's see some photos from this arena starting with the harder vegetables, like carrots. I was able to make thin slices if I wanted to, no problem.
Cubing a few potatoes...
...peeling and cubing some apples.
Slicing and dicing some orange peppers and onions.
Then a nice mound of sliced cabbage...
...and more onions, sliced this time. Note the very thin slice on the blade.
A photo of dividing a watermelon into sections...
...and finally some sliced sausages.
I did not find the fairly thick blade to be a hindrance in the kitchen. At times the only limiting factor really was the length of the blade. Other than that, this knife is very much at home in the food preparation business as well.
My experience with the Springbok was very positive. During all this time and after close inspection I could not find any kind of damage or deformation anywhere. Even visible stains and scratches were absent for the most part. The knife performed well in each field and proved to be a highly functional outdoor cutting tool and a useful companion. I am happy with the edge retention as well, since I touched up the edge only once on a charged leather strop just before I wrote this review. Actually, there was no real need to hone the blade because it was still plenty sharp. I did this mostly out of routine maintenance and to see how difficult it is to touch up this kind of steel. I can say the blade took a wicked, hair splitting edge fairly quickly again. In my opinion the key to easy sharpening is (it's true with any knife) not to let the edge go dull. Instead, touch it up frequently or as it is needed to keep it in top shape. Some blade will need less attention and some will need more, depending on use, kind of steel, hardness, grind, geometry, etc...
This knife is made with excellent craftsmanship and materials. It is not only beautiful to look at (IMHO), but also it is built solidly and it can do a lot of work for you. Especially for its smaller, compact size. The blade steel is outstanding and the handle ergonomics are very good. The knife is easy to direct and control. I particularly like the convex grind, which is my favorite and not very commonly found on factory knives. (Another brand with this kind of edge that comes to mind is the Swedish Fällkniven company.) There is absolutely no need to invest into an aftermarket sheath. The factory supplied sheath is strong and well built. It tops off the knife into a complete package and it will last for a long time.
The Springbok could serve anybody well as a general hiking/bushcraft/outdoor belt knife and a good companion to a larger blade or axe and even as an EDC (where it is legal). Also, I can easily see it as an excellent, dedicated hunting knife. If you are in the market for such a knife in a compact size, do not forget to check this model out. It is well worth the consideration and I can highly recommend it.
Thanks for reading!