Bear & Son 3-1/4 inch Heritage Walnut Medium Stockman Mini Review
By Gary Zinn
Bear & Son medium stockman. Image courtesy of knifecenter.com
I wanted to get some hands-on experience with a current production Bear & Son knife for my article Bear & Son Cutlery. I was drawn to the 4th Generation series because, like Ken Griffey, I remember the pocket knives that my grandfather and father used over a half century ago. The one I chose is the model C218.
This knife checked several boxes for me. The stockman is my favorite slip joint folder pattern, but I did not have a smaller sized version, nor did I have one with traditional carbon steel blades. Also, I like the look and feel of natural wood handle scales. Considering the brass liners, nickel silver bolsters and an agreeable price point, this choice was a no-brainer for me.
I found nothing important to criticize about the fit and finish of the knife. The match of handle scales, bolsters and liners is spot on. The working ends of the back springs sit very slightly below level with the bolsters when the blades are closed, but this is of no consequence.
The blades and bolsters are well finished, showing only very faint polishing marks. The blades have a finish that falls between mirror and satin, which is very good for carbon steel. Incidentally, the combination of clip, sheepsfoot and pen blades is very common on smaller stockman knives.
I mentioned that I like wooden knife handles. However, I do not like the wood to be high gloss finished, which makes it look plasticized. Bear & Son came through for me on the handle scales of this knife. The walnut handle scales have a very smooth finish that falls between satin and gloss, so it both looks and feels right.
In a mini review, I confine function evaluation to cycling the blades and checking the blade grind and factory sharpness. Out of the box, my knife is temperamental about blade cycling. Specifically, the blades do not click crisply into battery when they are opened; rather, they feel a bit mushy. However, the blades snap closed crisply, so I am not concerned about the syrupy opening action. It just means that the blade tang to liner fit is tight.
I have seen this before on new knives and with time, use and a bit of lubrication the knife will wear in, smoothing out the opening function. (If a new knife will neither open nor close crisply, it means either the back spring is weak or the blade tang is poorly contoured or badly finished. Whatever, the bottom line in a case like this is the knife sucks.)
The blades are hollow ground. I almost made a mistake about this, because when I looked at the blades they appeared to be flat ground. I remembered reading that Bear & Son mostly does hollow grinds, so I double checked. The grind starts at the blade spine and is very shallow, so it appears to be a flat grind, until one looks very closely.
A larger angle edge grind is used to raise the cutting edge. The factory edge was good, but not great. I treated the blades to a few strokes on fine grit crock sticks, followed by some passes across a butchers steel, and the edges achieved PDS (pretty darn sharp) condition.
I actually paid $32.95 for this knife. Given the quality of materials and workmanship, it is an honest value.
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