Bark River Knives Grind-In – Fall 2015

Another Bark River Knives Grind-In is in the books. The annual Fall Grind-In is sponsored by Ron LaBella, owner and chief knife aficionado at the Jerzee Devil Forum.  Although not a requirement to be a member, many of the knife makers who descend upon Escanaba, MI are loyal members of Ron’s forum.

There was near record breaking attendance, and upon arrival I had a really hard time finding a parking spot. Not only were the employee and overflow parking lots full but there were numerous cars out on the road. Luckily, I managed to squeeze in a spot for Eric (my twin brother and fellow DLT staffer) and we were able to make our way into the Bark River factory. Things were already moving along quickly and smoothly, despite the amount of people that were making knives. The crowd was very diverse, and there were several makers from outside of the country including Canada and Scotland.

Since Eric and I decided not to make knives this time around and focus on meeting our friends and customers, we were able to skip the safety meeting and arrive a little later than normal. Though we were able to sleep in a little more on a Saturday morning we did end up missing Mike’s talk he gives at the commencement of the Grind In. Mike Stewart (owner of Bark River Knives) is a colorful, affable guy that has a knack for telling stories and really making things fun. Sadly we missed a few of his one-liners and stories but he was kind enough to make sure he saved some donuts for us. For those of you not fortunate enough to attend one of the Bark River Grind-In yet would be amazed at the spread of food that the Stewart Family puts out. From the meet and greet on Friday night to the banquet meal on Saturday night it seems to be a never ending feast of food. DLT’s owner, Jason, says that the food and camaraderie alone are worth the price of admission at these events.

For me, the best part of the Grind In is getting to see old friends and new ones from around the world. One of my favorite parts of my job at DLT Trading is getting to meet like-minded knife enthusiasts from around the globe. It really makes for a fun job when you sell world class products to passionate folks who oftentimes become friends. Having worked on some designs as well as attending these events has also allowed me to create some good friends in the crew at Bark River. These guys on the line are the heart and soul of the knife you buy. The way knives are built at BRKT it is equal parts science and art so without the passion and care of these guys your Bark River Knife wouldn’t be what it is.

For the attendees/knife builders the next step after the safety meeting, is determining the design of your knife and beginning the process of making your knife. Attendees can choose from a wide variety of existing designs/blade blanks or even start with a bar of steel and a clean slate to create a completely unique knife. Not only does this flexibility allow you to make just the knife you want, it also allows you to help determine whether you want to make the knife completely on your own or have assistance along the way. Bark River’s crew never ceases to amaze me with their ability to nurture your design and help you to whatever degree you want them to help. They are never overbearing yet always willing to throw you a lifeline if you need it to ensure you leave with a knife that is certainly worthy of boasting and showing off to your friends.

Step-by-step you progress from blade design, to shaping, to handling the knife, to final buffing and sharpening. At each step you can choose your handle material, pin choice, liner material and the exact shape of your handles. It is truly a remarkable experience for those who love knives or those who love to see how things are built. For me, it really has helped me to be able to understand the complete knife building process and has allowed me to really improve my ability to answer customer questions on custom and semi production knives.

Once your knife is completed the knife goes to be professionally photographed and boxed with a matching leather sheath. After boxing the knife most guys continue to talk knives and help others that may need some assistance getting their knife finished and looking exactly the way they want it. Generally by 3:30-4:00 everyone is done building and ready to shower up and head to the banquet.

The banquet held at the Terrace on the Bay is nothing short of incredible. The builders’ knives are brought to the banquet to be admired and viewed by all the fellow Grind In attendees. Several awards are given out for the knives based on judging by all the builders. After judging, a mouth-watering gourmet meal is served. The staff at the Terrace pulls out all the stops for this meal and over the years we’ve had prime rib, lobster thermidor, cornish game hens, and pork medallions just to name a few things.

On Sunday you have the option of building a second knife for a small additional fee or you can just go hang out at the shop and talk knives and the outdoors with old and new friends from the Grind In. The entire weekend, from Mike Stewart and family preparing filet mignon on Friday night for the meet and greet to the farewell pleasantries on Sunday, is really something every knife lover should do at least once. Because this event has gone from 8-10 builders back when it started to full capacity with a waiting list it is imperative you reserve a spot early if you plan on attending. For details on attending contact us at DLT Trading or you can reach Bark River Knives directly at 906-789-1801.

If you attended this Grind-In, post your experience below.


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