What’s the best design for an everyday belt knife? Don’t make any investments in that cutlery category until you check out the Bark River Canadian.
by Leon Pantenburg
I really like the traditional Canadian knife designs. I’ve been using variations for years. I love my C.T. Fischer custom Nessmuk, which is a cousin of the Canadian, and my go-to-skinning knife is a Forschner five-inch sheep skinner pattern. A Cold Steel Canadian had performed well for me.
When you pick up a Canadian, the humpback blade looks and feels unusual until you start to use it. Then you’ll find the drop point is just right for field dressing big game, cleaning fish or whittling sticks.
All Canadian design knives are influenced by the concept of the Canadian “Crooked knife.” The original design was probably a standard butcher knife, modified to have a hump on the spine and a drop point. Variations of this design were probably around many years before the first commercial knives were put on the market some 50 years ago.
Here are the specs for Bark River’s Canadian:
Overall Length: 8.75 Inches
Blade Length: 4 Inches
Blade Thickness: .170 Inch
Blade Steel: CPM3V
Weight: 5.75 Ounces
I ordered the black micarta handle. Unboxing the Canadian was what I’ve come to expect from Bark River products: The finish and construction were excellent. The knife went to work immediately in the kitchen, then went on a couple outings. It did everything I needed it to.
After a few weeks of regular carry and use, here’s what I found out about the Canadian:
The good stuff:
- The point is located near the center of the blade. This makes it a good design for bushcraft activities, such a drilling holes in wood. It worked fine for drilling a hole in the poplar hearth of a firebow primitive firemaking setup I’m making.
- The curve or belly of the blade is just right for skinning big game animals. I checked out the curve against several of my proven and well-used skinners, and the Canadian had a virtually identical design in that area.
- The hump on the spine looks weird to the uninformed, but it really does have a place on a do-it-all knife. I haven’t tried it, but I’ve heard the Canadian can be used spine hump down to flesh a hide. I know that the hump reduces the chances of the point piercing entrails when using the knife upside down, edge up, to gut a big game animal.
- The spine has 90-degree angles which means it will work to scrape a ferrocerium rod to create sparks and start a fire. I have tested this on several other Bark Rivers, and saw no need to potentially damage the blade re-proving it.
- The steel is CPM 3V. This material is “designed to provide maximum resistance to breakage and chipping in a highly wear-resistance material,” according to CPM 3V Tool Steel Material Information. “CPM 3V material offers impact toughness greater than A-2, D-2, Cru-Wear or CPM M4 material, approaching the levels of S-7 and other shock resistance material, while providing excellent wear resistance, high hardness and thermal stability for coatings.”
CPM 3V is intended to be used at HRC 58/60, according to the website, and CPM 3V can replace high alloy tool steels in wear applications where chronic tool breakage and chipping problems are encountered. I like the steel, find it holds an edge very well, and is not difficult to sharpen.
Not so hot on:
The handle comes with finger grooves that fit my glove-sized large hands pretty well. I don’t particularly like the handle design because of that. The grooves were also commented on a couple of weeks ago when I showed the knife to several members of the Marion County (Oregon) Search and Rescue team. A couple of the pros mentioned that the handle grooves might limit who might be able to use the knife comfortably.
So I contacted Mike Stewart, president of Bark River Knives, and asked if the handle could be modified at the factory. His response was that the handles could be changed to a certain extent. If the handle grooves are a turn-off, talk to Mike and he can probably fix you up.
The sheath is made by KnivesShipFree.com and is an excellent design, with superior
leather. But I don’t like it for this application. I don’t like wearing a sheath on my belt that doesn’t dangle, swing freely and move with me. I want to be able to get in my car with the knife on my belt and be able to fasten the seat belt. I also want to be able to clip or tie the knife onto the outside of my daypack. I added a d-ring, but then the sheath was too long.
The KSF design works very well in many instances and pleases a lot of people, so this ticky little nit-pick is strictly personal preference.
Blade thickness is .17 inches thick. In this case, I think that is overkill. A knife of this size, designed to be used for everything, should also be good for slicing meat and cleaning fish. It works fine for that as it is, but the blade would work better if it were thinner. There would be no danger of breaking the CPM 3V steel if the blade was a little thinner. I’d like to see it between about .09 inch to .12 inch.
Overall, this knife is a winner. Is the Canadian the best overall belt knife? Could be. It all depends on where you will be using it, and the anticipated tasks.
While it might not be the best choice for certain jobs, you can depend that it won’t let you down.
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