One of the most abused parts of a knife is the point or tip of the knife. Users jab it into seams and use the blade as a makeshift wedge or pry-bar in order to crack open or split whatever they are working on at the time. The problem is that the tip of the knife is the weakest part.
The prying puts large tangential stress into a small focused area on what is traditionally the thinner parts of a knife. Now, several knives try and offset this by making a blunt tip which increases the area used for prying that distributes the fores better. Others increase the blade thickness to have a stronger tip that can suffer greater levels of stress before breaking. Columbia River Knife and Tool had a slightly different take which makes a bit more sense to the author. Enter the Barge.
Kershaw’s Barge is a very simple and rugged designed knife that has basically two purposes. Cutting stuff and being used as a wedge/prying tool. The knife is not really that small, amassing just over 150g (5.4oz) and measuring 119mm (4.75″) in length when closed. The first thing you notice looking at the knife however, is the huge metal cap on the knife’s butt end. That is the key of the Barge, the wedge shaped butt cap, and it is massive and mounted very securely between the liners. The wedge acts as the spacer between the two liner halves of the knife. It is secured by five (5) screws along the back and rear edges of the handles, these are not small screws either, they are massive compared to those typically used on folding knives. Of interesting note of this design is the fact that the majority of the screws/nuts use a T8 torx driver for assembly/disassembly, with two exceptions. The reversible pocket clip allows for both left and right handed, tip-up carry, and is secured by a pair of T6 torx pan head screws. The second exception is the most obvious and greatest departure from the other fasteners used, as the large pair of slotted screws provide the main strength that binds the handle to the wedge. The wedge also has a lanyard opening for those who desire to use them.
From the Kershaw Website:
- Multifunction – Has multiple blades or tools, enabling it to perform multiple functions.
- Manual – There is no mechanical assist, such as SpeedSafe, used to open the folding knife. It opens the classic, old-school way.
- Frame Lock – A portion of the handle (the knife frame) moves behind the blade to lock it into position during use. This is a safety feature of the knife.
- Reversible – Pre-drilled holes in the handle enable the user to change either the tip position or the side on which the knife carries.
As is typical in many frame lock knives that are manual in opening, there is a small bearing that is press fit into the locking arm and a corresponding dimple/hole in the blade that enable securing the blade into a closed position. This does equate to a very slight increase of required pressure when opening these knives, but it is almost negligible when using the thumbstuds to open the 6.6cm (2.6″) edge. Now speaking about edges, the Barge’s plain blade has a slight hollow gound edge whose profile is a combination of a warncliffe edge with the spine of a typical drop point and incorporates a slight upward curve close to the tip. Manufactured from 8Cr13MoV, the blade is easily sharpened, and the blade itself, the frame halves, and the wedge have been given a stonewash finish which gives a soft, metallic appearance.
The overall length of the wedge insert is 66mm (2.6″) and is scalloped to allow for the knife’s blade to easily fold up while creating a very robust assembly. The steel right frame panel is 2.4mm (0.095″) thick and incorporates the frame lock mechanism, whereas the the left panel is slightly thinner at 2.0mm (0.08″). However a black textured nylon panel completes the left side for added grip. The blade is 3.1mm (1/8″) thick and uses nylon washers for stiffness and rigidity at the pivot point. The Barge measures 12.1cm (4.74″) long when closed and 18.4cm (7.24″) when locked open which belies the 146.8grams (5.18oz) that this hefty tool masses. The wedge of course is a large contributing factor in those numbers, and with a 1.7mm (0.67″) thick flat edge that is 10.0mm (0.40″) long, the “screwdriver” tip of the Barge is ready for some of the worse pry jobs most people can imagine.
The Kershaw Barge, model 1945, is a very utility oriented knife that could be a good addition to an individual’s every day carry inventory. With a noticeable mass and good control surfaces, this offering may seem cheap at the MSRP of $48.99 CDN, and can be found in stores such as House of Knives. As always however, the question is what category the Barge falls into for you, the reader? Tactial? Practical? Or Fantastical?
Sometimes a product comes around that defies TPF’s standard conceptual understanding of what that product’s generic style should entail or encompass. It is a very rare event however. Yet Kershaw knives has done exactly that with their off beat multi-tool, the Select Fire.
Kershaw Knives are not unknown to many readers, but there are a few who have never heard of this company. Kershaw Knives was founded in 1974 in Portland, Oregon when knife salesman Pete Kershaw started a cutlery company that would make knives from his designs. Those designs were manufactured by Japanese based KAI Cutlery. In 1978, KAI Cutlery purchased Kershaw Knives and the overall company was renamed KAI USA Ltd. KAI USA continues today with three product lines; including the original Kershaw Knives and Shun Cutlery which primarily markets kitchen cutlery. Fast forward to 1998, and after nearly 25 years of knife design and manufacturing, Mister Pete Kershaw, then company president, retired with a corporate legacy of good quality products for value and a superb customer service program, which continue to this day.
Most common every day carry multi-tools are based primarily around a set of pliers with accessory tools and blades as secondary components of the tool. In this EDC product there are simply two tool arms with a couple additional features added in. If one was to ask what is comparable to this product, the first idea that popped into the author’s mind was an older, simple swiss-army tool. What makes it similar to that well-known and house-hold description? The first thing that is noticeable about the Kershaw Select Fire is that is first and foremost a folding knife with some additional tools added in for when they are required. This is where the difference in EDC multi-tool design philosophy is apparent. Is it more desirable to have a dedicated tool with a blade being secondary, or is a blade the primarily used part and other items are secondary.
As stated, the Select Fire is designed around a 86.0mm (3-3/8″) spear-point profile blade. Manufactured from 8Cr13MoV steel and having a satin finish, the non-serrated blade incorporates both a slight hollow grind and re-curve edge in its design. Mounted in the 3.1mm (1/8″) wide spine are a pair of opposed thumb studs for ambidextrous opening. The blade itself is nestled between a set of steel liners, one of which has the liner locking mechanism for ensuring a securely extended position. The glass-filled nylon panels are moulded in black with a fish bone shaped pattern on them. Secured to the liners via a series of hex socket rounded head screws on each side, the panels are comfortable even when using the secondary tool arm of the Select Fire.
The secondary tool in this design is an extendable 6.4mm (1/4″) hex bit driver which has three positions retained by a small spring-loaded bar. Available are the closed, 90° (half) and 180° (full) extended positions. Roughly 64.0mm (2-1/2″) in length, the bit driver turns the multi-tool into a true screwdriver with minimal profile changes to the main handle of the Select Fire. The author has not tested the durability of the driver arm, but the main shaft is rectangular in section 3.1mm x 4.8mm (1/8″ x 3/16″) and seems to be very sturdy. Like most bit drivers however, the usefulness is limited without the actual drive bits themselves. This is where the design of the Select Fire takes a turn to modern methods and ideas.
Most multi-tools which have some sort of screwdriver tool arm have very short malformed driver heads and are very hard to manage as a useful screwdrivers. For those multi-tools that incorporate a bit driver attachment, the actual bits are sometimes miniaturized and/or proprietary and once lost are expensive to replace. The other multi-tools which use full-sized bits have an additional pouches, sleeves, or external holders to ensure that your bits are nearby when you want them. The Select Fire solves the storage problem in a simple and ingenious method. It stores full-sized driver bits in the handle, two per side. A cutout in the liners and grip panels serves as the home to a small, spring-loaded, bit holder on each side. Each bit holder holds two bits between three “fingers” which incorporate the hexagonal shape of the bit shanks themselves. The Spring loaded holders snap back into storage position, which does not allow a full size bit to fall out of the holder due to the limits of the aforementioned cutouts in the liner and grip panels. The Select Fire comes pre-loaded with #5 and #7 straight-style bits, and PH1 and PH2 Philip head bits. However, the true benefit of the use of full-sized bits is that the end-user can replace them with anything which is more commonly used such as red #2 Robertson or such.
These are the primary and secondary tool components of the Select Fire multi-tool. A large dedicated blade and a dedicated bit driver. The design does incorporate a couple tertiary design features which, in the author’s opinion, are more akin to small design quirks to add to tool count. These are a small ruler on the bit driver arm, and the bottle opener which is incorporated into the recess for the bit driver and requires the driver be extended before usage in both cases. The Select Fire has a reversible pocket clip which allows it to be worn in the tip-down position. Considering the overall closed size of 108.0mm (4-1/4″) and mass of only 152 grams (4.8oz), the Select Fire is a very easy addition as an EDC for anyone who prefers this style of multi-tool. Blade focus versus plier focus.
Overall it is well made and, as per most Kershaw products, has a good design and quality for the price. The ONLY detraction the author has is the slight chance that the bit holder springs may protrude just enough to snag on finer materials, but the Select Fire isn’t meant for dressy occasions, so that sort of event may never occur.
Kershaw Knive’s Select Fire, model #1920, has an MSRP of $34.95 USD and can be obtained from retailers such as Gorilla Surplus, located at 1458 Broadway E., Vancouver, BC. Like every product reviewed by TPF-Online, it is up to you the reader to decide if the Select Fire is Tactical, Practical, or Fantastical…