Decades ago, there was no such thing as powdered metal technology, and knives came in a very basic form of some type of carbon steel. As with anything else in the world, technology and knowledge changes, be it for good or worse, and new trends are born. A little over 10 years ago, a company by the name of Crucible Materials developed a new steel they called CPM 3V. This steel was designed to be extremely tough with high abrasion resistance and having shock resistance nearly as good as the top impact steels on the market. Compound this with being fine grained to allow for exceptional edge refinement in cutting edges, and incorporate it into a new knife in the already vast line up of Bark River’s, a new winner was born in a compact and very stout package…the Bark River Lil Canadian 3V.
The Lil Canadian is a knife designed as a mid size EDC, and like the rest of the Canadian Series line up from Bark River, it has sculpted finger grooves that make for a very good in-hand fit. Size specifications are as follows…
Blade Length: 3.25"
Blade Thickness: .150
Now, sometimes defining a size is all good and well, but to really understand how it stacks up to other common known knives on the market, and for those of you who are reading this and are not familiar with Bark River, I have included a photo of the Lil Canadian with other knives. Pictured with the Lil Canadian are a Buck 110, a Queen Stockman and a standard Deluxe Tinker Swiss Army Knife. As you see, the Lil Canadian is indeed a smaller knife, but as this review continues, I will show that this is not at all an impedance.
For those of you who are very familiar with the Bark River scene, I also have pictured a similarly sized group photo of other Bark River’s, and ones that are already popular in the EDC department. From top to bottom we have the TUSK, Escort, Mini Northstar, Lil Canadian, Kephart Companion, Blackwater Boot Knife and Little Creek.
An in hand shot will show how well this small knife fills the hand and a carry photo will show how compact and unobtrusive this knife fits on your belt in the supplied Bushcraft “C” sheath.
One of the premium selling points to this knife, as outlined in the opening paragraph, is Bark River's first time use of Crucible’s CPM 3V steel. Quite honestly, there are a lot of steel snobs (and I mean that in a good way) out there that are proficient at sharpening and maintaining a good working edge, and are not intimidated by “super steels” and the inherent labels of being difficult to sharpen. For the average person, it means more to be able to get a good edge with relative ease, than be able to run the 26 mile marathon with edge retention. Fortunately, folks do not have to worry about sharpening issues with the Lil Canadian. The heat treat lends a very user friendly way of keeping that edge in good working order.
Speaking of good working edges, how well does the Lil Canadian hold an edge? Well, I just happened to put it through an endurance run through a 3” reinforced leather machine belt. This machine belt is thick, with 2 strips of leather and a tough polymer band sandwiched between them. It is difficult to cut and makes short work of a lot of knife edges when cutting it. After around 40 cuts, my wrist was sore from all of the exertion of downward pressure, my grip was tired and the Lil Canadian laughed at me as it still shaved arm hair with ease. As much as I hate to admit it, this little knife outlasted me. I am certain the edge would have held admirably through the rest of the roll. Showing a picture of slicing up some summer sausage and opening a package from the mail for purposes of reviewing seems pretty pointless after a test like this.
I carried the Lil Canadian for 2 months straight, never relinquishing it to another knife, before I had the opportunity to take this little powerhouse out into the woods. I was already very familiar with using it on a daily basis, it served very well and very comfortably for those 2 months as an EDC and it was really growing on me. I went gun hunting in the North woods of Wisconsin over Thanksgiving, and not hearing or seeing any sign of anything remotely resembling a deer, much less a buck, I came across a small cluster of Ironwood that was starting to become diseased. I decided that since I was not going to have an opportunity to field dress a deer with the Lil Canadian, I may as well gather another piece of wood to make another walking stick. After finding the best small tree in the cluster, I proceeded to whittle and notch away at the wood and fall the small tree and remove a section of it to make a walking stick out of at a later date after it has properly dried. There were no issues with controlling this little knife and it worked its way through that wood with ease.
Having come home from the morning hunt, and after getting a hearty breakfast, I had the urge to go make a fire down by the river. I think a lot of us would associate woods and camp chores with a larger blade, and that is not a wrong way to think. I prefer a little larger blade myself. That does not mean that the Lil Canadian didn’t deserve a shot at some camp work, however. Having found some split aged white and red oak, and after gathering some kindling to start a fire, I proceeded to make a baton and split up some of this wood with it. As you can see from the pictures, there was little more than about ¾” of blade sticking past the other side of some of the wood that was being split, and the hits of the baton on this small area at the tip caused no issue to the knife at all.
Remember what I said about impact strength and toughness earlier? These qualities played very well into the realm of this knife for real world use. The Lil Canadian was easily controlled in hand which honestly surprised me given the small size. I never felt uneasy about any hit with the baton, there were no hot spots in extended use and the finger grooves were just big enough to allow my hand to settle into them for a very secure and comfortable grip. I guess that given the track record Bark River has at making user friendly knives, ax’s and cutting tools, it really shouldn’t have surprised me, but I realized that this knife is so much more than a simple EDC.
After I had my wood split and my tinder bundle prepped, it was time to get this fire started and enjoy some relaxation on the cool fall day. Once I had the fire going, I was looking the Lil Canadian over once more and found how well the edge remained in perfect working order and was still shaving sharp. All in all, this knife saw a tremendous amount of use over the past couple months and it was a purchase I was happy to have made. Even though this knife is considered to be stain resistant, you can even see a hint of patina and darkening of the steel…the trademark of a well used knife and very versatile knife.
You can swing on over to Derrick’s website at www.knivesshipfree.com and peruse his full selection of Lil Canadian’s and find a handle material that suits you best.