Bushcraft Folder

bushcraft folder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bernie Garland needs no introduction to the world of bushcraft knife production, he has emerged in recent years to occupy a place as one of the most prominent makers of bushcraft and hunting knives active in the UK today. That is not to say he doesn't have his detractors; known for his outspoken views and frank, no nonsense conversational style, Bernie has often courted controversy on some of the many hobbyist online forums , but this is not a review of Bernie Garland the man, and love him or loathe him, his Bushcraft Folder is something worthy of a certain degree of admiration.


Before we proceed, I need to make it clear that this is not a normal review. I did not pay for this knife. Bernie gave it to me as a prize in a competition here on BCL, which to my mind is a pretty lavish reward for what was just a bit of fun; so to offer some sort of recompense to the generous Mr Garland, I agreed to give it some rigorous testing and post my conclusions here. Bernie made it clear not to hold back, and I guarantee that this is an honest, balanced appraisal; this knife is not perfect, though I challenge anyone who can attribute such a label to ANY knife. Every knife has its flaws, and this is no exception.


As far as I am aware, Bernie Garland was the first UK maker to produce and market a folding-style knife designed specifically for bushcraft use, though I'm happy to stand corrected if I'm wrong. I believe some others have since followed suit, but not many, and considering the amount of incredibly intricate and fiddly work that must go in to creating one, I'm not surprised!


So, to begin. First, for the knife geeks, some technical specs:

Overall length – 205mm

Handle length - 115mm

Blade – 95mm x 27mm x 3mm


The blade is a deep Scandinavian grind (approximately 8mm grinds) in O1 tool steel and the handle is BG's signature stabilised box elder burl scales with brass pins, black liners and a flared butt with lanyard tube.


Aesthetically the knife is very pleasing, Bernie is well known for his attention to detail and the fit and finish here is very impressive indeed. The stabilised elder scales are stunning and I much prefer these more subtle, earthy tones to some of the brighter, plasticised scales on some BG knives. The only downside of course is it's bloody difficult to spot if you lose it on the forest floor! The ricasso of the blade is virtually completely hidden within the scales which makes sharpening a very straightforward and unimpeded affair.


I've used this knife a fair bit now, and it was my primary cutting tool for five days in the woods back at the end of September. During this time I cut, sliced, shaved, carved and yes, even drew blood, with the BG Folder and at all times it performed handsomely, particularly at the latter! Yes, this is one very sharp knife and if you aren't paying close attention to the working end it would be very easy to do yourself an injury, even the most seasoned knife user will nick themselves every now and then so when you've got yourself a blade as hair-poppingly razorsharp as this in your mitts, it pays to be attentive! As mentioned, I did manage to give myself a bit of a nasty cut on my left forefinger, just above the knuckle, but more on that later.


bushcraft folder in box elder burr


 

So how has the knife performed?


Feather Sticks

The BG Folder is absolutely fantastic at carving feathersticks. The curved belly and deep grind of the blade make it ideal and you can accumulate many fine curls with ease. I carved feather sticks from both regular seasoned wood and the resinous maya wood and it performed equally as good on both.

BG folder and feathersticks  bushcraft folder and feathersticks

 

 

Battoning

Not a typical task you would expect from a folding knife but the BG folder is capable of splitting down small diameters of kindling; such as for making feathersticks for example. It's not something I tested too thoroughly as the hollow handle and inherent weakness at the pivot of a folding blade means it's not really suitable for splitting anything too large, still, at least I now know that if I didn't have anything else to hand I could call upon the BG folder for splitting kindling.


Food Preparation

I have used the BG folder for prepping, butchering and deboning pheasant and rabbit and it has stood up really well. It is adequate at slicing vegetables and brilliant for fine chopping of veggies or herbs to add to the pot. The blade is 3mm thick yet still has good slicing ability; certainly sufficient for anything you need doing in the woods. The two pics below show the knife being used to clean up cattail rhisomes and to debone meat for a pheasant curry.

BG folder with food prep  BG folder with food prep


 

Carving Wood

Now whilst a folding knife wouldn't typically be my first choice for carving, the BGF has proved itself to be a quality all-rounder, and it's no different when it comes to putting it to wood. I decided to make up a new bowdrill hearth out of some ivy I had been drying so after splitting it down with an axe, I shaped the board and carved in the notch with the BG Folder. The high grinds of the blade made chipping out the wood with deep, firm cuts an effortless task.

Bushcraft folder wood carving


 

I was also interested in seeing how the folder would cope with carving something a bit more substantial. On a recent weekend foray into the woods I split down some sweet chestnut and used the BGF to carve a new spatula blank. After roughing out a general shape with an axe I set to work shaping it. As the pictures demonstrate, the BGF is more than capable of carving a reasonable looking article and you can achieve some pretty fine work with it. Now I am no great carver, my meagre efforts will never be appreciated for their aesthetic value, and I think in the right hands the tool itself is irrelevant and an experienced craftsman can produce great results regardless of the knife they use, but it does go some way to disproving some of the myths purported about folding knives, namely that they're useless at carving and shaping wood. However...


The one issue I did have at this stage was one of comfort. Obviously being a folding knife the handle has a hollow core, and when you've been gripping it for some time the metal of the tang begins to cause general discomfort as it digs into your palm – this isn't so much a reflection on the knife itself, but more a general critique of the nature of folding knives and their suitability for extended usage. I freely admit I much prefer carving with a fixed blade with a 'proper' handle but I don't think anyone would expect a folder to replace a fixed blade for bushcraft tasks.

Bushcraft folder woodcarving  Bushcraft folder with wooden spoon


 

Sharpening

The BG Folder is the sharpest knife I have ever owned. It arrived sharp and it has required minimal maintenance since. I have been using it for several months now and have only taken it to waterstones a couple of times, often a quick strop is sufficient enough to return it to a hair-popping razor edge. As mentioned previously, the wide bevel makes it really easy to sharpen and maintain an angle on the stones, I tend to put a small secondary bevel on the blade with the last few strokes.


Sheath

The BG Folder came with a quality full-grain leather sheath. I'm not sure whether these come as standard, as I believe this particular sheath was made by leatherworker Geoff Wood from here on BCL (it bears his maker's mark at any rate), but I thought I would mention it here anyway.

The belt loop is fastened with a push stud so you don't have to take off your belt to attach it to your waist and it's secure enough so you don't have to worry about it falling off. The leather is thick, closely stitched and dyed a nice earthy green. It's a superb handmade belt pouch that does the job and looks the part; Geoff Wood is a talented man!

Geoff Wood sheath  BG folder with leather sheath