This is my review of the Bark River Custom Semi-Skinner which was graciously offered for a passaround by JSchmitt. This is my first knife review, and it was a pleasure to have this opportuniy. Thanks Judy!
The knife features a beautiful blue Elder Burl handle. Not only is the handle beautiful, but it feels great in the hand. I was able to let a few friends and family handle the knife as well, and all commented on how nice the handle felt in the hand. My father, who is a big fan of guards on hunting knives, even commented on how much he liked the handle. I would consider my hands to be "average sized," however, the knife was handled by men ranging from 5'5" to 6'6" tall. Obviously they all do not have the same size hands. No one had anything other than praise for the handle. The knife balanced right at my middle finger, and the slight hump of the blade made for a comfortable place to apply pressure with the thumb when working. The full four-finger grip allowed plenty of control over the blade.
I first took the knife out to a deer carcass (roadkill) in my garage that I was planning to use for coyote bait. Unfortunately, it has been bitter cold here as of late and the carcass was frozen solid. I warmed the garage up, but could not really skin the deer with and knife I owned. I did use the knife to trim some hide and flesh off in places, and the knife cut the frozen tissue with ease. Just to see how it would penetrate, I drove the blade about halfway into the frozen hind quarter. With the slight swedge grind, it did not require very much force to penetrate that deeply. I know that penetrating ability is not a key concern with this type of knife, but I do not own any Bark River knives with a swedge grind, so I figured I would give it a try.
While messing with the deer, I compared the Semi-Skinner to several other Bark River knives. The Semi-Skinner is roughly the same length as my Fingerling. However, the blade of the Fingerling is considerably thinner. With it's thicker blade, I would consider the Semi-Skinner a much better all-purpose or EDC knife, while the Fingerling is a bit more specialized.
When compared to my Upland Special, the Semi-Skinner is slghtly shorter and the blade slightly thinner. I found the handle of the Semi-Skinner to be more comfortable. I sometimes wish the Upland Special had just a quarter inch more handle. Even though the Semi-Skinner has roughly the same length handle, the shape is different and feels just right.
I also compared the Semi-Skinner to my Gunny, which is my favorite all-purpose knife. The Semi-Skinner and Gunny have identical blade lengths, and almost identical blade thickness. However, I have to say that I favor the large handle of the Gunny. The palm swell and design fit my hand perfectly. That said, the shorter overall length of the Semi-Skinner and the more than adequate handle might make this a better choice for EDC. Since I have to wear business attire at work, I can't really EDC either
. For the purposes of skinning smaller game, I would choose the Semi-Skinner. For an all-purpose knife in the woods, I like the Gunny.
Next I took the Semi-Skinner out for a squirrel hunt with friends. We managed to bag a few and I allowed each person a chance to use the knife to field-dress their squirrels. Everyone was impressed with how sharp the knife was and how easily it cut. Again, the handle was complimented. People also could not believe that the handle was actual wood. Most thought it was some sort of plastic. It was comical watching them tap on it while listening, trying to determine what it was really made of. I discussed burls with them and pointed out a few nearby. My friends property is covered in trees with burls, some I saw were smaller and others were at least two feet accross. We also discussed stabilized woods, after which it all started to make sense. Needless to say, the knife performed admirably and all were impressed. However, since my friend forgot to bring the shears to cut of the feet and heads, I suggested that we baton them off with the Semi-Skinner. No one there had ever thought to baton with a knife. We picked the end of a downed pine for a backstop and used the knife to remove all feet and heads. When we were finished, I noticed that we had rolled the edge over slightly ina few places. I was not too suprised, as this knife wasn's particularly designed to baton through bone. But it was the thickest blade we had on hand and it did the job without a hitch. Everyone was pleased at how quickly and efficiently it took the limbs off. They will likely be upset when they try this trick with a lesser knife and damage the blade. Oh well, guess they can spring for a Bark River then. I think that the rolled areas are nothing that the strop won't take care of.
Overall, I was pleased with the design and function of this knife. I see where I could find many uses for a blade this size and style. I think it be right at home skinning out coyote, fox, beaver, and raccoon sized game. It also would work well for EDC, and it more than up to the task for field dressing deer sized game.
If you are looking for a blade in this size range but want to keep the overall package as compact as possible without sacrificing handle comfort, the Semi-Skinner might be the knife for you. Now, if you made it through all that, including my poor typing, you deserve some pics:
From Top: Blackmore, Mountain Man, Manitou Carver, Gunny, Upland Special, Custom Semi-Skinner, Fingerling, Pro Scalpel
With Upland Special: