Bark River Knives Grind-In

Two or three times per year Bark River Knives opens their doors to anyone who has the desire to make a knife for an event called a Grind-In. Male and female makers all of ages descend upon Escanaba, MI for this three day event. Any level of experience is welcome at these events; there are knife makers who have been at it for years standing next to a first time youth maker on the grinding line.

The festivities start on Friday where the Bark River crew hosts an afternoon meet and greet. This is a great way to start off the weekend with a good dinner, and time to chat with other like minded individuals. It’s also a  great time to get tips and tricks from those who have been at it for many years.

The main event starts Saturday morning when the parking lot begins to swell with eager knife makers, as everyone waits until 9:00 am for the safety briefing and instructions. At the conclusion of the safety meeting everyone is given a safety kit that includes eye wear, ear plugs, and a facemask. Then it’s time to pick out a knife blank or a steel bar; and handle materials. The majority of attendees choose a stock knife blank for their inaugural build. The blank can either be made as is, or modified to your specifications. Some choose to start with a piece of heat treated bar stock to create unique, custom one-off designs that are drawn directly onto the piece of stock steel.

Anyone familiar with Bark River Knives knows they have one of the largest selections of handle materials on the market. Grind-In attendees have free rein in the handle assortment room to make the knife of their dreams. There is always a huge selection of micarta, G-10, woods, burls, and even unique materials like corn cob, pine cone, and C-Tek.

Once the materials are selected the real work begins. Metal modifications are done with a series of saws and grinders. After the metal is given it’s main shape the blade is prepped and the font of the handle material is finished. When that is done the handles are glued and pinned in place. Once dry, the handles are shaped around the metal while also shaping the fit to your hand. With each of these steps you slowly see your new creation come to life.

The grinders and buffers are at maximum capacity as everyone progresses down the line with each new step. After the handle is shaped, you progress through a series of buffers to give the knife it’s final perimeter and handle finish. The last few steps are to put a grind on the blade and to sharpen the edge.

Around noon, everyone breaks for the provided lunch. It’s a good time to see how everyone else is progressing, and to take a peek at knives that have already been completed. By this time there are a lot of dust covered hands and faces, but nobody complains. Everyone shares some good food and laughs before it’s time to hit the grinders again. Once lunch is completed it’s time to get back to work as the 4:30pm deadline nears.

As the day comes to an end, it’s all hands on deck to get every knife completed before the evening banquet and awards presentation. Everyone, especially the Bark River staff, is focussed on the task at hand to make sure all knives are finished, boxed, and ready for transport.
After the days work is done, the knives are transported to the banquet hall. At 6:30 everyone gets a chance to grab a drink, and look over all of the knives that were made that day. During this time all of the makers get a chance to vote on who made the best knife, for an award later in the evening. Everyone tells their story of the day; what they would do different on their design; how much fun they had; or how much they are looking forward to coming back to do it again. After the amazing dinner awards are handed out, which consist of Builders’s Choice, Most Innovative, Youth, and Top Kitchen Knife.  It truly is an incredible evening filled with camaraderie and the love of fine knives.  I can’t think of a better way to finish the Bark River Knives Grind In!

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