You know I like tactical folders and especially choppers and big blades, but I have to admit that these are not "pocketknives". My nephew was complaining about his Buck 3-blade Stockman being made in China and having stainless steel blades. Since the demise of the Schrade factory in New York back in '04, I think, there aren't that many traditional pocketknives being made in America. Case is one company. For Christmas last year, I bought my nephew a Case Trapper with dark red bone scales. He likes it but won't carry it.
I can't say that I blame him. I have a confession to make. I do not own a single knife made by Case. Never have. Frankly I just never cared for their steel. It's too shiny. I'm sure it is good stuff, and they are good knives. I just don't like them. It's weird.
I happened to run across Bear & Sons Cutlery which makes knives down in Alabama. Outside of Oklahoma, there is hardly a place in the world more American. You can check out their line of "4th Generation" traditional folders right here. I did not pay fifty bucks for my knife because I bought it from Smoky Mountain. At the same time, I ordered a 4th Generation 3-blade Stockman for my nephew. Both knives have carbon steel blades with good hardness and edge retention. They are easier to sharpen than most stainless and seem to take and hold a better edge. That's my experience anyway. So far, my nephew agrees that they look like pretty good knives, and he will be carrying his Stockman as soon as he is happy with the edge.
The Trapper is 4 and 1/8 inches long when closed, while the Stockman measures 3 and 7/8 -- both knives are relatively slender width-wise and carry quite comfortably. Both blades on my Trapper run about 3 and 7/8 inches. The clip blade on the Stockman is 3" and the sheepsfoot and spey are both 2". The picture was taken on my phone and is a little blurry. The shield says "Carbon 4th Generation". The base of the clip blade is stamped with "Bear & Sons J'ville AL USA".
So far my nephew's only complaint is my choice of yellow Delrin scales -- rather tongue-in-cheek, I think. The scales are smooth and nicely fitted, as are the blades and bolsters. I did notice one slight, smoothed-out grind flaw on the back of the bottom bolster. It's too minor to feel but I can see the warp in the otherwise mirror finish. This could be the reason that SMKW is selling the knives at a reduced price, though I did not notice any flaws on the Stockman. Fine by me either way. This is a knife that will "wear in" through pocket-carry, develop a patina and a personality like a knife is supposed to.
The important part is the blade, and these were ground to suit me. Mine arrived with a useable edge which I dressed and polished a bit to my own satisfaction. The clip point is noticeably hollow-ground while the spey has a less pronounced, flatter profile. There is no bevel to fight on either, which accounts for the ease with which I got them up to hair-popping, "scary" sharpness. I did use my diamond stone initially, but I finished up with a regular old Arkansas fine oilstone. I think that will probably suffice to maintain the edge going forward.
I am impressed with the quality and workmanship of these Bear & Sons knives. If the blades hold up as well as they promise right now, I would highly recommend them as traditional knives, to be carried and used hard by the hard working. It is good to see an American company producing such high-quality tools at a reasonable price.