Incoming On The Snailmail


The free-range Postal snails should be carrying these down the scenic, yet perilous trails leading into the Wannaseeamoose Valley in the next few days.

A mildly used Bark River Northstar that comes with a custom prototype sheath, as well as this amazing one, custom-made and hand-tooled in dragonscale from Diomedes Industries. I also get the original BR sheath.


Salvador Sanchez Knife Sheaths

I was browsing around on the FB posts tonight and ended up having a nice dialog with a guy called Salvador Sanchez who makes some really beautiful custom, hand-stitched knife sheaths.

I wanted to give him a shout out here because I was so impressed by his work…

This what I believe is referred to as a “cross-carry” sheath… semi-diagonal on the opposite side from your dominant hand for quick, easy access. I love the richness of the leather and the overall styling of this sheath. It was what caught my eye, and precipitated my exchange tonight.

As much as I would like one for my Fox River II, Mr. Sanchez’s sheaths are not cheap… the hand-stitched nature of his work obviously takes a lot of time and the leather on this one that I admired sure is really nice and can’t come cheap just for material cost. He told me he tries to work closely with his customers to make sure they get what they are hoping. I’m betting that the customer getting this one will be more than satisfied. On my part however, I have kind of stumbled onto the several “good”, larger knives I have acquired this last year.  The reality is I just plain don’t carry a full sized knife often enough to justify the cost of something this nice. However ….”your results may vary”.

If you want to get a custom jobbed sheath, I think you could do a lot worse than checking out your options with Sanchez.

>> <<

I Got Lucky… A Quick Bark River Bravo Vortex Knife Review

Last Sunday morning I entered a “waffle” on a FB group I follow that concerns high-end knives [apparently a “waffle” is what you have to call a raffle over there so as to avoid getting in trouble]. This particular one was for your choice of one of three knives from Bark River that run around $250++ a piece retail.

The waffles that I have seen are actually pretty well-run. Nobody seems to be out to make a big buck, they just want to turn around some knives they’ve got to have money to buy knives that they want. Everyone seems to play pretty fair, everyone seems standup, and everyone seems pretty satisfied. The results are determined by a drawing using, and done as a live video, so you actually get to see that the game isn’t rigged.

It was really early in the day, like 7:00am… folks on the Coast weren’t even waking up yet… the odds were OK at 1:10, the slots were filling up quickly, some people had just PayPal-ed me for eBay sales, so I took a flyer and PayPal-ed off my money and asked for #5… no particular reason… it just seemed like the one.

It was!…. My pick out of the three just came in the post this morning…


“First Production Run”
Blade Thickness‎: ‎217″
Blade Height‎: ‎1.275″
Blade Length‎: ‎5.5″
Blade Steel‎: ‎A-2 Tool Steel @ 58-60RC
Handle in Kirinite “Bengal Tiger” composite
[see below]
Overall Length: 10.5″
Sheath from GLLW



The Kirinite scales used on the handle sure do give it an unmistakable, “Excuse me, but that’s MY knife” claim-ability. [The description when I went in on the raffle said the handle was “Lava” color. Now, looking over the Kirinite page, I rather think is actually in the “Bengal Tiger”… but I’m not arguing it and it is Kirinite, nonetheless]

I have been curious about the Kirinite material used for the handle scales ever since I first came across a net reference to the product. Check out the link for more info. I was mostly interested in getting some of their “Starlight” and “Glow” stuff to use as tags for my camping gear, but backed off because of the relatively high cost and the fact that it “glows-out” just about as fast as any other product. However, I was very impressed by some of the unique material patterns they have available. Reviews I have seen also make it clear that it is fairly easy to work with using something like a Dremel tool. I really like the one called “Toxic Green”… I could see making some fobs and pull tabs using that layered over a brass core.

Here it is my new prize shown with my other “Barkies”

Adventurer Nekker in Linen Micarta

Fox River II in Desert Ironwood


I thought the Fox was going to end up being my “big knife”… the Vortex makes it look small.

However, the blades are almost the same length.

The Vortex has a slightly more dropping curve to the top of the blade than the rest of the standard Bravos, and I do like the look it gives. Quite different from the full handle-into-blade curve on the Fox River II… But maybe more suited to heavier use.

This particular Vortex is made in the “rampless” style, and I prefer it that way. [You can see the little thump-ramp featured in some of the Bravos offered in the link above. I think the ramp just looks like something that will always catch on something as you unsheathe the knife] My winner here came with a black, non-standard, sheath made by GLLW. This is also fine with me since I am not a particular fan of the clunky sheath Bark River designed and offers for the Bravo line. The GLLW has a well thought-out combination of heavy leather on the back and belt-loop, together with a far more supple top surface topped with the decorative over-stitched panel for strength.

The .217″ blade thickness on the Vortex certainly outweighs the .157″ on my Fox River II, which I had thought was plenty sturdy. It gives the Vortex a massive feel in your hand. Heavy, sturdy, strong… this is not a knife you are going to have bend or break on you in bush-crafting situations like building a shelter, or harvesting fatwood. I’ve seen machetes that weren’t that thick, and I can see why the Bravo lineup is Bark Rivers #1-seller as a bushcraft knife.

The blade thickness tapers back from the point smoothly, leaving a plenty tough tip for pointy-work, and Bark River has eased the top edges of the blade on both sides in a slight relief. Like nearly all the BRK lines, the Vortex has a full tang under the handle scales that segues at the rear into a heavy lanyard detent that is never going to bend if you need/want to bash something with butt. With the jimping for your thumb at the handle transition, this is a very sweet looking knife.



  • The Bravo Vortex has much more of the feel of a tool than my smaller BRKs.
  • With those flaming scales, I’m not gonna have a hard time finding it if it gets dropped.
  • The large handle gives a very good grip.
  • The black GLLW sheath looks quite impressive with the Kirinite scales.


  • The tiger striped/lava flow handle coloring is a bit more flashy that I am in general… one step out toward the “Zombie Blade” thing.
  • The very weight of the whole knife is both pro and con.

Final Thoughts: It was great to win a knife of this quality, and it is surely a nice addition to my choices, but I don’t see it cutting the Fox River out of first place in my heart and hand. The FR just has more of a feeling of finesse when I use it. However, the Vortex will go on the lake kayaking and hang trip though… I’ll give it a good workout up there in actual camp-life.

Heck, maybe I’ll just take all of them together with the project Bowie and have my own, personal “Knife-Off”… one knife each day!

[And lastly…. My thanks to David Schmitt for hosting the “waffle”]




“The Project Knife” Wrap-Up


This was the photo on EBAY when I bid and won the no-name, “Project Knife” back in early February.

The stacked leather handle was a bit loose, ragged and uneven. The sheath was a sub-in, and too short for the 6″+ blade. The blade itself was dull, with some surface pitting etc.

Only the tiniest bit of cleanup and polishing on the blade by the time this photo [above] was taken had let me see that the knife was indeed worth the time and effort to bring it back up to grade. [this was after only 15 minutes work with some strop compounds and a bit of rag, right in my lap].


There was very little really wrong with the knife. Just neglect and abuse that needed fixing up. You can find the previous posts showing some of the progress by scrolling down a ways here on the timeline.

The handle took a bit of reshaping, but you can see how it was starting to come back.





All told, I don’t believe I have much more than three hours of my time invested in the whole restoration process, and virtually NO money beyond the $10 cost of a replacement sheath. A good bit of the job was waiting for glues and etc to set between sessions, and I certainly didn’t “buckle-down” to the job. I grabbed a few minutes here and there.

I am completely satisfied with the end result. I have been finishing up the job with some work to clean up the brass blade guard, some time to further polish the blade itself, and some more sharpening and stropping. This morning I worked a bit of my friend CurleyMaple’s fantastic beeswax and oil mixture into the handle leathers to penetrate and seal the leather. The matte result gives a good, firm grip. Anyway… Imma callin’ it “done”.

I like the knife… and I think it looks great!

  • nice weight in the hand without being too heavy/ good balance
  • the colored bands at the guard and pommel cleaned up well/ the leather handle was returned to a rich dark shade/ that helps hide the fill-in that was necessary to tighten up the leather disks.
  • the blade came up very sharp with less effort that I has anticipated/ It remains to be seen how well it holds an edge over time, but I am betting it does as well as any.
  • the sheath is now a good fit/ I love the basketweave pattern/ the color deepened and the grain came out nicely with some Lexol/ I kept the old snap-strap from the sheath that came with it because it was broken in and had a better fit… and to give some continuity 


Yeah, I could have taken the Project Knife further, but I am looking for a tool, not a showpiece. I really do like the classic Bowie knife styling. Nothing fancy… just a clean, traditional shape that truly says, “hunting knife”. A lot of people have carried this style of knife through a lot of years… and it takes me back to a similar one I had in my Boy Scouting days. I am glad I went through the process to restore this one. I learned a lot, and will have no fears about taking on another knife project when one comes along.

Four-sided Gordon Diamond Hone Block Review

I ended up with an unwanted credit at the Harbor Freight store the other day… unwanted because they couldn’t/ wouldn’t give me back cash for a return where I had already paid off the credit card charge. Anyway I now had $50 on a card that I was planning on cancelling, so….

I picked up a 4-sided Gordon Diamond Hone Block for $12 of the credit. I figured I could toss this puppy into the knife drawer in the kitchen and reclaim my nicer DMT and Eze-Lap diamonds for my good knives.

The block’s four bonded diamond surfaces are claimed to be 200/300/400 & 600 grit. Since there is no real standard for “grit” claims, and it’s “600 Fine” does seem much rougher than my DMT “medium”… who knows. Any diamond grit surface will wear down with any use at all as the less well “bonded” stuff scrapes off leaving the rest. I’ll find out more as time and usage break it in. Who cares?…. it does what it says, and it is what it is… it’ll be fine for my not so expensive kitchen blades.

[BTW: this “wear in” does not mean that the diamond surface itself is becoming worn out. It only means that the material that stuck up higher and was less well “bonded” into the steel abrades off first leaving the the remaining surface fully usable at the grit grade indicated. I have that info direct from my contact at Eze-Lap… I have no real concern that these steel/diamond bondings will wear down any faster than the more expensive ones]










You can certainly see the difference between the 200 and the 600, as well as that the eyelets that catch the honed off debris are quite adequate. They are actually deeper than on a DMT block. The manufacturer seems to have left just enough space beneath to let the crud wash right out under running water for cleanup. Being a diamond hone, it of course just uses water for lubrication. Both factors make for quick and easy use in a kitchen situation.

To try it out, I gave two carbon steel Old Hickory steak knives a quick tune up on the two higher grit sides… they really didn’t need anything more intensive than that.  Added in a couple of stropping passes on my commercial, restaurant supply house chef’s steel, and I’m perfectly happy with the results. I don’t need to shave with them, just to cut a nice, thin slice of rib-eye.

My next test was to go thru all four sides on a much larger 12″ Sabatier INOX Chef’s knife. I have had that one for years, and have had thoughts about not even including it in the stuff for the move South because the edge never seems to stay up to par… I have to whet it nearly every time I take it out, so, I don’t take it out. Now, I think I’ll leave it in the to go pile. The edge came back to waaayyy sharp very quickly.

My final test will be to take this new block Upptacamp and see what it can do the pitiful losers in the knife drawer there… it’s a knife homeless shelter. Talk about orphans… those wretches could stage “Oliver”. [Anyway, I’ll try to remember to post an update after the next trip up.]


The four-sided hone block fits down nice and deep in the included rest, but the thumb cutouts mean it slips out easily to swap surfaces.

There are even a pair of rubber grippy strips underneath to prevent it from moving around. The endcaps also have EZ-reference markings indicating the grit strengths that you can see over the base edge.

Best of all for me was that the block in it’s base was the perfect height to just fit down in my knife drawer without catching!

So far, and all and all, this seems a good deal at the price if you want something handy to keep you cutting in the kitchen.


Interestingly enough, the Harbor Freight price is several dollars cheaper than the same block [under different names] over on Amazon. So, obviously this is a Chinese made jobbie that gets rebranded over here. However, it seems to make the 90%/50% grade, given that a set of three graded diamond mini-paddle hones from DMT will run you $23+, I think it was money well spent.


I working my way through the accumulated hoardings of generations of ancestors here at the château and trying to move toward my goal of relocating to North Carolina. I’ve been selling a bunch of tools online, on Craigslist, etc. My hammocking friend Chris, who is a professional woodworker and furniture builder, wanted a couple of things, so I took them over to his shop on my way out last weekend. >> Wild Cherry Woodworks <<

He was nice enough to run my 150-year-old, solid chestnut cutting board through his planer while I hung around. He only took about a 16th of an inch of greasy, salmonella soaked wood off the surface, but the result was marvelous.

Back when I first pulled this old board out of my parents basement back in the early 1970s, it hadn’t been used in decades. It was filthy black, and had mold and other unknown “gradue” covering the surface. The custodians at my university’s woodworking shop ran it through their huge shop planer at that point and got a clean surface on each side and the long edges. They were the ones that informed me that what I had was solid chestnut. Another friend ran it through a planer back in the 1990s, and again gave me two new work surfaces.

This time I just asked Chris to do one side for me. I brought it home and spent a couple minutes with my old Porter Cable “bottle” sander to give it a final smoothing. Chris gave me a jar of an incredible beeswax and mineral oil finish that he makes up himself. I brought the oven up to heat and put the board in long enough to warm, and then smoothed in a bunch of the goo. This is the result. ……I kind of suspect that, like so many other things, by the time this needs attention again it will be somebody else’s problem.

For my part, I’m going to go slice up the last of a pot roast to try it out, and make a sandwich for lunch.

Putting a Fine Edge on Things… pt.2 ~ Stones and Sharpeners

Several months ago, I showed you my new Lansky System multi-stone blade sharpening kit. [Post linkI wanted to follow up on that one with some more info on getting a fine edge on your knives and other tools. These miscellaneous stones are what I have used for 50 years, but I have to admit that they pale in comparison to using the Lansky and some strops with different grades of compounds. The Lansky gives you the edge and the strops make it a piece of cake to maintain it. If you really give a blade a workout in the field you can go back to the Lansky quickly to set the edge again.

Over the years I have picked up many various stones and steels. And over the years I have afforded both better and worse alternatives. Additionally,  the technology has also advanced. My father and grandfather never had the option of diamond impregnated steel hones.

The “112” double-sided combo was my first, all the way back in the 1970s. The package has $1.19 as the price. It is a back-to-back, oil-impregnated grinding stone of man-made corundum compounds in relatively coarse and medium fine…. these are about 180-240 grit in the corresponding sandpaper grades. It’s a decent pair, but the resulting edge is still a bit rough. They also remove quite a bit of material, causing wear-down on the blades. The old 112 is my primary stone for finish edges on axes and machetes, and even my sickles and mower blades. I start those with a file, and I have an old piece of a terrazzo floor grinding stone that I picked up on a commercial jobsite back in the 1970s that I use for the medium-coarse honing on those heavier blades.

I had the small “Washita” stone and the black Arkansas one from my Grandfather, and these would let me further refine the edge… these two probably fall around 800 and 1200+ grit. For a long time my efforts were unknowingly frustrated by that gap in grits. The fine stones could not refine the still-too-rough edge by themselves.

At some point in the 1980s I got the three top stones. These were glued to a triangular block of cedar in a support frame. You just went from one grain to the next by turning the whole set. Very convenient, but over the years the stones started to detach from the block, and I finally cut the glue and cleaned them up to use individually. Like the 112, these need lubrication with oil to “float” the debris that is removed by sharpening. The “Tri-Hone” kit was from Smith’s and is still offered, but no longer comes on the nice cedar block with its accompanying cedar box. The gray Smith’s stones are Arkansas Novaculite* [the darker one is a man-made corundum].

*Novaculite is a dense, hard, fine-grained siliceous rock only found in the Ouachita [Washita] Mountains of central Arkansas and southeastern Oklahoma… hence the name. It is a Devonian to Mississippian-age rock unit that ranges from about 60 feet thick in the northern Ouachitas to about 900 feet thick in the southern Ouachitas. Outcrops of the Arkansas Novaculite Formation are prominent landscape features, and the stone was used and traded by the First Peoples along with the fine fire flints found from there west into Panhandle Country. Novaculite is chemically resistant, so lubricating oil and grit are easily cleaned off. WD-40 works wonderfully for this… grit just wipes right off to the original surface. These stones do wear down in the lower grades, although I have never had the problem in my use. However, they can be re-flattened by the user with wet-dry sandpaper in a similar grit mounted on a piece of glass.

Dieter Schmid Fine Tools has a great info page about all facets of natural and man-made sharpening stones, although it focuses on Japanese stones rather than Arkansas >> LINK


In this photo you can see some of the variation on my own set of Arkansas stones, although the photo-flash has changed their colors.

The top left is the Smith’s corundum, the yellow is their “ultra-fine”, and the mottled is mid-range. The older “black Arkansas” is at the bottom, but reveals far more color. It would be just below the yellow in grade. These probably range from 200-800.

My Grandfather’s small Washita stone is about 800-1000 grit. [It too still has a blue label with the original price of 29¢ penciled on it on the reverse side]


My next sharpening set was a mixed one from the 90s with a large medium diamond block from DMT, and two small diamond paddles from EZE-Lap. The paddles fill in “coarse” and fine grades.

Used together with a chef’s steel from the restaurant supply, these are what I have used to keep my kitchen knives sharp for the last couple decades [as well as whatever EDC knife and pocket tool I might be carrying at the time]. The diamond hones are excellent because they can be lubricated with water, resulting in easier, quicker cleanup when you are in the middle kitchen chores.

These are made by pressure bonding fine grades of industrial diamond grit right into a steel backing plate. Over time the grit can wear down with excessive use. For most casual users this will never be a problem. Harbor Freight currently offers both a three-grit set for only $9.99 and also a block mounted one with four surfaces. HF grades theirs from 180-360 on the 3 piece set, and 200-600 in the four. Either would be a super starter set for anyone. [DMT sets go over $100 on Amazon]

Along the way I had gotten the little pocket sharpener to take along in my pack. This one is a clone of a similar one offered on Amazon from Smith’s. They have a pair of carbide blades set in a V and a second set of rods in ceramic. I am not a big fan, because the angle is fixed and can do more damage than good. Fine for a beater maybe, but not on anything good.

The diamond rod sharpeners are from EZE-Lap. This is their M-model in solid brass. They also make an aluminum version that is marginally lighter for take-along. The rod and collar store securely in the brass sleeve, and reverse/screw-in for use. The open one dates from the 80s, and the grit is wearing off. Given that this has always been a “go-to” sharpener in my gear bag, that’s a decent lifetime. However, EZE-Lap offers a lifetime guarantee, and they recently sent me a brand new replacement. [I had to send back the sleeve as proof-of-purchase, but they were happy to return it with my new one. Took about ten days… I do love good customer service] The EZE-Lap M is a great piece of kit. You can give a blade a few quick lappings, either forehand or back, either into the blade or away, and get a nicely refreshed edge with nearly zero wear-down on the blade.