Here’s what’s going on. As I explained last week, Trestle Pine Knives will be a new tang stamp that will be a line of knives that I’ve found to be practical patterns that are made to use, not sit in a display box. Some will be existing patterns that will be slightly tweaked (with useful ‘tweaks’).
Having lived the majority of my adult life in Minnesota, the northern forests and lakes country have become a part of and shaped who I am. One of the lakes in the Arrowhead of Minnesota that has filled my life with some incredible memories of fishing and the outdoors is a lake called Trestle Pine.
I first started visiting this lake about 40 years ago when the primary access was a crude single lane trail following an old railroad grade. The grade ended at a narrow channel in the lake where the remnants of an old train trestle still stands in the water. It’s a gorgeous lake surrounded by miles and miles of forest. We’ve shared this lake with family and friends creating countless memories for all of us. I can’t begin to guess how many miles I’ve paddled on that lake or how many trout were caught over the years.
The trestle and railroad grade is one of many that were built to haul logs out of the old growth forests that were being harvested in the late 1800’s. Nearly all of these short spur lines were abandoned by the early 1900’s when the forests had finally been harvested. Some of the abandoned grades became hiking trails, fire roads and provided access to remote lakes.
The logs were hauled to local sawmills for processing by rail, pulled by horses in the winter or floated on the rivers or lakes in warm weather. In some cases, the logs were held in huge ponds until ready for sawing and occasionally, a few might break loose and over time sink to the bottom of the lake or river. Some of these sunken logs became encased in mud and the low oxygen content of the icy cold northern waters was the perfect preservative environment.
When I got to thinking about this venture, somehow incorporating the beauty of the Northland into the knives was appealing but a little difficult to convey. An advertisement in a magazine for furniture made from old growth timber set my imagination in motion. The wood had a warmth and beauty to it that really captured exactly what I wanted to say.
Unlike logs recovered from southern, more temperate waters, logs recovered from deep, cold northern lakes and rivers pose unique problems. The season for ‘harvesting’ is short, the waters are sometimes deep and always cold, translating to mean…. ‘difficult and expensive’. I quickly found out that the suppliers of this old growth wood recovered from the northern lakes were few and far between. The first supplier I located went bankrupt very shortly after I found him. Another source only handled finished products and so on….. A couple of months ago, I finally made contact with a Canadian firm that’s one of the very few companies specializing in recovering and processing these old growth logs. Thanks to that contact, Trestle Pine Knives was back on line.
So what’s the big deal and why is it worth it? These are “Old Growth” logs have been underwater for 100 to 150 years. Many of these logs were saplings as far back as the 1300’s. You read that right, the 1300’s. Old growth trees matured slowly in heavily forested conditions wherein the dense canopy cut down on the amount of sunlight penetrating the forest. This slowed growth resulted in tight growth rings and a heavier, denser wood then we see harvested from managed, new growth forests.
Here’s a great example of a pair of pine 2×4’s, one old growth and a ‘new’ treated 2×4 I just bought a few weeks ago. The old growth board (top) came from the farm home I grew up in that was built in the 1800’s. While the old 2×4 is tightly grained, you can see the pulpy appearing wood between the growth rings on the newer treated board. Not only is the old growth wood stronger, the tight grain results in a much more attractive finished product.
I ordered some samples of the old growth wood and had a piece stabilized and a prototype knife built. This knife is finished with Yellow Birch. The slab is what we started with and the handle is obviously a piece that’s been stabilized, sanded and polished. I’ve been really pleased that the handful of people that have had an opportunity to actually see and handle the knife have been impressed. There’s a feel to the wood that can only be experienced and conveys the warmth and beauty of our Northern forests and lakes. With the practical blade size and profile, the knife has that ‘can do‘ Minnesota feel to it.
The first release will be the Trestle Pine Knives “Buddy”. A 6″ OAL full tang caper style with a 2 3/4″ 1095, convex ground blade. I’ve used this pattern for several years and find it to be just about the perfect size for a convenient EDC belt knife in the field or around town. Sheath will be a brown leather belt sheath and I’m leaning toward including a FireSteel loop to it as well. This is a prototype and there could be a minor change or two made on the final product.
Hope I’m not too far ahead of myself, but right now it appears the first knives will be available in Yellow Birch, Ash, Oak and Maple. I’m at the mercy of my supplier and what’s available is totally dependent on what they can get or have on hand at the time. It’s not a simple matter of calling them and saying “I need”, it’s more a situation of “what can I get and when can I get it”.
I’m waiting right now for the first shipment of wood to arrive and then it’s off to the stabilizer. My understanding is the blades are being cut and readied. The goal is to have the finished knives in stock for sale by early June.
Next up will be a single blade folder with a 154CM blade hopefully, by July or early August. There are a couple more projects that should follow going into Fall, but right now….. I’ll be happy to get the first one ready to go!
So that’s the genesis of Trestle Pine Knives. I’m excited about it and encouraged by the feedback I’ve gotten so far. Now we wait!!!