Bark River Highland Special
A good fixed blade knife is one of the classic tools. Archaeologists have found the remains of not so lucky individuals from thousands of years ago who, even though they didn’t have much by today’s standards, would have a sharp flint knife. The knife has remained a popular tool over the years because of its irreplaceable versatility. Although folding knives have become more common over the years, fixed blades still represent the most simple and robust form of this personal cutting tool.
The biggest advantage of a fixed blade over a folder is its lack of moving parts. There are no hinges, pins or springs to work loose, break or wear out. A good knife of this type can last a lifetime, with proper care. Fixed blades are available in every price range, from the Moras, which costs less than take out Chinese food for two, all the way up to multi-thousand dollar collector blades. The good news is that there are a lot of quality knives that occupy the reasonable range between the two extremes.
The Bark River Knife and Tool company produces handmade knives here in the United States. These are not “sole authorship” decorative pieces, but attractive tools that are made to be carried and used. The one that we’ve had our hands on here is the Highland Special, which is the most popular model from their Professional line.
Basic Stats for the Highland Special, per Bark River:
Overall Length: 7.75 Inches
Blade Length: 4 Inches
Weight: 4.5 oz
Blade Thickness: 0.145 Inch
The Highland Special is a good example of a midsize fixed blade knife. There are smaller neck knife type models and much larger Rambo style jungle survival blades. However, the midsized blades are often thought of as doing the best job balancing out factors like usability and ease of carry. The Highland Special comes with a right handed Sharpshooter Bushcraft Sheath. It is a well made leather sheath with a firesteel loop on the side, giving you a nice way to keep an emergency fire starter handy. Fortunately for some of us, left handed sheaths are available separately.
There are quite a few different handle options available, depending on what is in production at any given time. Our example has a green canvas micarta handle, which is quite durable and feels good in the hand. The blade is made of A-2 steel, which shows up from the factory shaving sharp and can go quite a while between sharpenings. As with any non-stainless steel blade, a minimum of effort is required to protect against rust and staining. A good many people will go over their blades with olive or mineral oil from time to time, but I’ve had good luck with products like Renaissance Wax so far. Either type of treatment will need to be reapplied at the end of the day, after you use your knife or before storage, but the wax is a little less messy. Either way, with a little love, a good knife like the Highland Special will end up as a family heirloom that you can pass on to your kids one day. They’ll remember the times that you went into the woods together to go camping, hunting or hiking and how you were always prepared for emergencies with a knife and firestarter on your hip.