Boker “Tree Brand” Beer Barrel Whittler Knife
By Gary Zinn
I bought my first Boker Tree Brand knife, a stockman pattern with carbon steel blades, when I was about ten years old. I have owned several other Boker pocket knives over the years, but have not had one for some time.
I wanted to get reacquainted with Boker slip joint knives, so I recently got one with several traditional features, including a whittler factory pattern, carbon steel blades, and handle covers made from genuine German beer barrel wood. The traditional pattern and materials are true to the Tree Brand designation that exemplified the best Boker pocket knives many years ago. Accordingly, this knife has the Tree Brand shield on the handle, and “Tree Brand Original” etched on the primary blade.
pattern knives are unique in having what is called a split back
spring, meaning that there is no spacer (center cut) between the
springs. Both springs support the primary blade, while the secondary
blades ride on separate springs. The main blade is mounted at one
end of the frame, and parks between the smaller secondary blades,
mounted at the opposite end of the frame. That the primary blade
works against both springs has implications for how it cycles, which
I will explain below.
is vague about the blade steel, simply calling it high carbon steel.
After some research, I concluded that it is C75, a steel that
contains 0.7 - 0.8 percent carbon, 0.6 - 0.7 percent manganese, and
0.15 - 0.35 percent silicon. Think of it as 1075 carbon steel, with
a boost in performance from the manganese and silicon. Based on test
cutting and touch-up sharpening I have done, it behaves much like
1095, a steel with which I have long experience.
Fit and finish
I found nothing to fault about the fit and finish of my knife. All parts on the knife matched up smoothly, with no gaps or misalignments anywhere. The finish work was quite good. The blades and bolsters are evenly polished to a high satin luster. The brass nails that secure the handle scales to the liners are countersunk into the scales. This is a subtle detail that indicates extra effort in the fitting and finishing.
The handle scales have a nice rustic look, with grooved surfaces. The scales are almost surely European white oak (sessile oak), with a stained hue that comes from them being cut from old beer barrel staves. It feels like they may be sealed with a light coat of wax; certainly they are not varnished or shellacked, which I appreciate.
graphic on the main blade is different from that shown in the image
above. On my knife, it includes a matte etched background, that
frames the words “Tree Brand Classic.” I am not
generally a fan
of billboard art on knife blades, but this particular treatment does
not bother me, for it is not gaudy, and it does highlight the vintage
nature of the knife design. (My first Boker knife had similar
etching on the blade, if memory serves.)
Because it works against both back springs, the primary blade has a firmer pull than the secondary blades. I rate the pull of the main blade a 6 on a scale of 1 - 10, and the pull of the small blades a 4. There is a noticeable difference, but the pulls are in the 4 to 6 range, which I consider to be a normal pull.
The “walk and talk” of the blades bears noting. All three blades have good talk, with distinct and firm snaps when they seat open or closed. The walk (movement of the blade against the back spring when the blade is cycled) of the secondary blades is very good, but the primary blade on my knife has what amounts to a mushy half stop. A blade with a good half stop should want to pause at an exact point midway through the cycle, but the half stop on the main blade is not that distinct and consistent. This indicates that the milling of the tang was sloppy, a mild disappointment regarding the functioning of the knife. Actually, I do not believe that the main blade was intended to have a half stop; rather, a blip in milling of the tang resulted in it having the vague suggestion of a half stop.
The knife frame is 3/16” thick and the overall handle thickness 3/8” at the main blade end, 1/2” thick at the double blade end. The 3-1/2” closed length, coupled with the trim 1.9 ounce weight of the knife, makes for a pocket knife that is handy and comfortable to carry. The mild serpentine shape of the handle enhances the comfort of the knife in the hand.
The edges on the flat ground blades are quite sharp. I have a qualitative ranking system for describing the sharpness of knives. My ranks are NS (not sharp), SE (sharp enough), VS (very sharp), and ES (extremely sharp). Out of the box, I expect the factory edges on knives from reputable makers to be at least SE, with an edge keen enough to do routine cutting tasks.
The factory edges on my knife (formed by a very narrow micro bevel) were Very Sharp (VS).
did enough test cutting with the main blade to dull it some, and then
used my ceramic rod sharpener and butchers steel to sharpen and hone
it. This quickly brought the edge back up to VS condition, bordering
on Extremely Sharp, and I could have improved that to definite ES
with a bit more work. No question that the carbon steel blades will
take a keen edge.
This knife is true to the style, workmanship, and performance of Boker Tree Brand knives, as I recall them from many years ago. It is good to get reacquainted with an old friend.
Boker Tree Brand Classic knives are made in a handful of patterns with beer barrel wood handle scales, and also with a few other handle treatments. Availability is spotty, but there are current versions of these classic knives out there, for anyone who is interested in owning a knife that harkens back to the heyday of Boker slip joint pocket knives.
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