This Classic Styled Barlow Further Cements RoseCraft Blades As a Major Player in The Budget Slip Joint Market.
The barlow has a storied history. The knife’s origins are unclear, but may well date back to 1670 in Sheffield, England, when a bladesmith named Obadiah Barlow was making folders. The RoseCraft Beaver Creek Barlow has its origins closer to home, and builds on the classic American barlow design that dominated the 19th and much of the early 20th centuries.
|Traditional style that’s easy to maintain
|The price keeps it from being precious and pretentious
|D2 steel has better wear resistance than most carbon steels
|Not produced stateside
|D2 has better wear resistance, but not as much character as it ages
|The covers have distinct corners
RoseCraft Blades is a new company. They’re approaching two years old. In that time, they’ve drawn attention to the brand with a mix of styles. They’re based in the Appalachian region of Tennessee, though they’re currently producing knives overseas.
The eastern Tennessee foothills are familiar territory for knife aficionados. As a kid, I’d make annual pilgrimages to a brick-and-mortar store on the main drag in Gatlinburg. It was the best knife store I had ever seen, and had an excellent mix of budget blades and nicer knives. I learned more about math in that one store, checking price tags and counting my wadded-up cash, than I ever did in school.
RoseCraft is building a factory in Maryville, one that will allow them to take their designs in-house. There are benefits to both approaches, but I’m not complaining about their efforts to bring production back to Tennessee.
The Beaver Creek Barlow
The catalog at RoseCraft is mixed. While some start-ups lean in on one aesthetic, RoceCraft is mixing up the traditional designs with some more modern, utilitarian builds. The result of this, at least now—in the company’s infancy—is a brand image that can’t easily be pinned down. I’ve yet to see a knife, from any distance, and think “now that’s a RoseCraft.”
And that’s hard with traditional knives. I’m a huge fan of the old-school designs, especially those of Great Eastern Cutlery. I’ll duke it out on knife drops to get some of those, and GEC’s take on the North Woods knives have yielded some of the most artistically exquisite tools around.
The RoseCraft barlow draws on barlows of old–more of the American style with large bolsters. This is a single sheepsfoot blade with a flat grind. The belly of the blade is almost flat but has a slight convex curve that is only noticeable when you put the blade on a straight edge.
The point of the blade has a small swedge that provides a break, visually, to the long flat-ground blade. The plunge line is angled forward slightly and the choil, at the end of that line, is deep enough to allow the blade to be easily sharpened.
The RoseCraft branding is on the mark side, but it’s subtle. RoseCraft founder and designer Andy Armstrong’s mark is stamped on the pile side, even smaller.
The covers on the barlow are bone—dyed a lovely shade of (dare I say it) Longhorn orange. RoseCraft skirts the animosity of the Volunteer faithful by calling these “Bourbon Bone,” but I’ve licked it and find no trace of Bourbon.
How’s the Beaver Creek Walk-and-talk?
The Beaver Creek Barlow gets a lot of things 100% right. The half-stop is clean and crisp and even has a bit of a click as it falls into place. This makes opening easy, as the blade isn’t going to snap back closed if it slips, but it is even better on the return. A good half-stop allows a slip-joint to be closed one handed, safely and easily.
There’s no blade rap. When open, the spring falls in perfectly behind the blade. There are no gaps in the liners, and the blade rides damn-near straight on in the haft when closed. All are marks of distinction.
And to be clear, this isn’t one that RoseCraft hand-picked for us to review. We bought this one, sight unseen, to better replicate what you’ll see in retail.
All-told, from the etch on the bolster to the joint where the bone aligns, to the attention to detail on the build, I’m willing to give this barlow top marks for its quality. As traditional knives in this price range go, I’ve not seen one that ticks all of the boxes like this one.
What would I change about the RoseCraft Beaver Creek Barlow?
Not much. As is, this is a rock-solid entry into the traditional knife market. I like the use of D2 steel and the lack of mirror polishing that so-often defines the Case brand aesthetic. The price on these is superb and, because they’re imported and new, the knives are easy enough to find. You won’t have to beg, trade on the secondary market, or fight eBay flippers to get one.
That all may change when they bring production stateside. American-made traditional knives are often a touch softer on the edges, especially on the haft. The edges of the bone here have defined corners with very little radius, which feels exceptional but may not wear well, as the sharp corner of bone will take a beating going into and out of a pocket.
This is a barlow, so the easy-open-notch is not a must, but I’m a sucker for the way they look. I’ve thought about adding one to this knife, just to see—and that speaks volumes about RoseCraft. 1—I like this blade so much that I want to take it to the next level. 2—I’m an amateur, so if I screw it up I can just get a new one.
What’s the Beaver Creek Barlow for?
As someone who often carries an aggressive pocketknife for self-defense, I am not opposed to carrying two knives. A slip joint pocket knife is ideal for all of those everyday tasks. If you want an everyday carry knife to open boxes, slice apples, trim a hangnail…. Just remember that there’s no actual lock on this and, if misused, it will fold up on you—at least to the half-stop.
And it is classy, too. I’ve moaned about it before, but some of the knives I carry tend to scare the sheep. This one won’t. The old-school barlow is the bow-tie of pocketknives: refined, relaxed, and formal without being conformist.
MSRP on the Beaver Creek Barlow is $54.99, which makes this just about perfect. As RoseCraft picks up distributors, the sale price will come in under that, and likely under $50.
As I’m writing this, RoseCraft is still not available from my go-to online retailers. This is a solid sales tactic, though, as direct sales through the RoseCraft site give this team the best return and allows them to keep pricing low. While I’m not 100% confident that this is the strategy in play (they may be new enough that they’ve yet to pick up distributors), I like the approach. This is one amazing knife at $54.99, and I’d like to see RoseCraft keep as much margin as they can on each one as that means we’ll keep getting additional designs.