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 $200 apiece 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 randomnumber.org, 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
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 probably should have grabbed a shot of the other scale as well; it is equally striking.
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”]