American Bushman

"If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing." —Benjamin Franklin

Sunday, May 14, 2006


I have been out of town since Thursday night and had the opportunity to spend some time with Mike Stewart and the crew at Bark River Knife and Tool and to learn some things about knifemaking.

I have played around with the idea of making a knife from time to time but never really had a secure grasp on the entire process. After watching Steve, Skittles, Mikey, and the rest of the crew for just one day I both have a better understanding of the process and a greater respect for what these guys (and girls) do day to day.

While I was there, I had help from several members of the crew (Mikey, Jimmy, and Steve) to rehandle one of my existing knives and then had the opportunity to see two of my knives built from the ground up. Seeing the process is nothing short of amazing. There can't be a guy on the floor over 35 but they all handle the machines like they've been doing it their entire lives. I just wish I'd taken pictures of the entire process to better document the creation of these beautiful pieces.

The entire experience provides an interesting contrast. First, the shop was both exactly what I expected and not at all what I expected. I've been down to Vero Beach, Florida to visit Tony Marfione at Microtech and seen his operation. This was nothing like that. Second, Knifemaking is dirty work. Grinding steel and handle materials puts lots of dust into the air (and all over the surface of everything.) Yet the finished product is immaculate. Third, design takes just minutes but it also takes years and years to develop the eye to make it right.

I not only have a much better idea of what, precisely, to do in order to make a knife but I have a deeper and stronger belief that Mike and his crew are providing one of the greatest value, hardest using, great looking knives today.

Thank you to all the employees at Bark River Knife and Tool for making my visit not only memorable but also just a ton of fun. Mike and Lesley, thanks for taking the time to shoot straight, allow me in the shop, the assembly area, and the grinding room, and for inviting me into your home for dinner. Jimmy, thanks for helping me with my projects and providing me a place to throw my sleeping bag for a much needed rest.

Thanks for reading,



At 2:16 PM, Blogger Pablo said...

Wow...what luck to go to a place like that! Always loved Bark River knives. Would love to own the North Star.

At 4:59 PM, Blogger Stephen Renico said...

I'm sure this comment will get lost, as this is an older post, but I'm glad I found your blog. I make knives and I'd be happy to have you stop by my site.

I can do my best to answer any questions you have about knifemaking.


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