Bark River Knives Expanding to Make Folders and Delivers 3 New Fixed Blades

Big changes are brewing at Bark River Knives (BRK). The company, already one of the most successful high-end fixed blade brands in the country, will soon be offering folding knives. While the specifics are still under wraps, founder and owner Mike Stewart revealed that dealers have already placed standing orders for the new knives. The Bark River folders will be produced in a brand new 5200+ square foot expansion of their Escanaba, Michigan facility. It’s a historic time for Bark River Knives, and it’s fitting that one of the three fixed blades they delivered this week is tied to the history of the company itself.

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Mike Stewart at Marbles
The Canoe takes its name and overall design from a knife originally made by Marbles Knives. Before he founded Bark River Knives, Mike Stewart ran Marbles’ knives division. In 1997, he was recruited to help get the company back into the knife business, which they had abandoned in 1978. But when Marbles management decided to move away from US manufacturing, he didn’t last long. “In August of 2001, they began to slowly switch the production to China. I told them I couldn’t work there anymore, so they fired me,” he says. It was a blessing in disguise. Marbles went bankrupt just a few years later, while Stewart wasted no time in starting his own company. “They fired me on a Saturday, and I had Bark River Knives registered and officially in business by 4:30 on Monday,” says Stewart.

Bark River Knives Canoe
Marbles Canoe knives were only produced for a few years, so authentic ones are valuable and tend to end up in the hands of collectors. Bark River’s version is co-branded with the American Knife Company (AKC), whose founder James Nowka worked with Stewart to improve the design while remaining faithful to the spirit of the original. “We took a traditional design that was built with a hidden tang and converted it to full tang,” says Stewart. Modernizing the old design was a manufacturing challenge for the Bark River team. “I’ve never seen one done this way before. It requires an awful lot of fitting,” says Stewart. “[The Canoe] has the best of both worlds: that traditional look and feel, but built in a modern way.”

The original Canoe was Marbles smaller version of their first knife, the Ideal. In 1898, an outdoorsman, inventor, and entrepreneur named Webster L. Marble needed a knife that worked better for demanding field tasks than the knives available at the time. What he came up with had a clip point blade, a fuller, a guard, a rounded handle, and a pommel. “The Ideal was the first modern hunting knife ever made,” says Stewart. “There was no such thing prior to 1898. Hunters would use butcher knives, Scandinavian people used Puukkos, but there really was no such thing as a dedicated hunting knife.”

If it doesn’t look revolutionary to us today, it’s only because Marbles original knife went on to become one of the most familiar knife designs of all time. Echoes of Marbles Ideal are easily detected today in Buck knives, USMC Fighting knives, and hunting knives from countless other makers. For Mike Stewart, the Bark River Canoe has been a long time coming. “The Canoe was one knife that Marbles never let me make when I was there, which is why I really enjoyed making this one,” says Stewart. “It needed to be made again.”

Two More Fixed Blades Delivered
Bark River Knives also delivered the Matterhorn, part of Bark River’s “Snowy River” series, made with a hidden tang that makes them particularly well-suited for cold environments. The hand is insulated from the freezing metal tang of the knife because the ‘scales’ wrap entirely around the handle. Dealers also received the new Classic Clip Point Hunter, a variation of BRK’s iconic hunting blade with a longer, sleeker blade than the Classic Drop Point.

Knife featured in image: Bark River Knives Canoe