Some things are just made to go together and probably one of the best combos is peanut butter and jelly. Well, there’s another PB&J combo out there and this one is the team up of twin knife makers Phil and Barry Jones and their apprentice Jake Kirks. Yeah I know, when I hear the term apprentice I can’t help but think of a Sith Lord and his pupil but trust me Jake is one of the good guys.
Phil, Barry and Jake got together a number of years back when Jake wanted to see what kind of knives the Jones brothers were making and they told him to drop by the shop and see. One thing led to another and Jake was soon behind the grinding wheel making knives of his own and eventually became an official apprentice knife maker. PB&J Knives came about when Jake decided he wanted to do something with an old circular saw blade that he had from his grandfather’s saw mill. Jake asked if it would be possible to make a knife out of it and one knife led to 50 knives and soon Phil, Barry and Jake were out grabbing up as many saw blades as they could. The idea to start selling knives from the old mill blades took off and the three sat down and drew up a series of designs. Any new partnership needs a name and after kicking things around it became PB&J based on the first initials of their first names. The guys didn’t even realize the peanut butter and jelly connotation at first but once they did they embraced the idea and named their knife models accordingly. It’s a catchy name and one folks are likely to remember!
All of the PB&J knives share some common attributes, particularly when it comes to materials. As noted, the blades are made from old saw mill blades which are L6 tool steel. L6 has high nickel content and is known for its impact resistance. It’s a good choice for a hard use blade. It may not be a trendy boutique super steel but it’s one of the steels that helped build America in those old mill blades and I love the idea of giving it a second life in working knife. Handles are Micarta in green, brown or black with brass pins and a brass lined lanyard hole. The combination of tough tool steel and practically indestructible Micarta makes for a tool designed for hard use. And that’s a lot of the point with the PB&J knives. They’re users, pure and simple. There’s a certain beauty in their simple, clean lines but they are first and foremost made to be used.
The PB&J’s all come with a hand ground Scandi edges. I’m a big fan of the Scandi grind for woods tools. I really appreciate the keen, woodworking edge and ease of maintenance inherent in the Scandi grind. The last common feature on the knives is their sheaths. Jake does the sheath work and he does a great job at it too. The smallest knife of the bunch has a simple riveted necker pouch but the others have a very sturdy, well finished sheath of heavy leather. All sheaths are stitched with a full welt and have a riveted belt loop large enough for a heavy work belt.
Before I talk about the individual models in the PB&J line let me stop and address the fit and finish on the knives. Simply put, it’s outstanding. The attention to detail that Phil, Barry and Jake put into these knives is impressive. Grind lines are even and clean and the knives come with excellent factory edges. Handle scale to tang fit is seamless and anywhere that your hand interfaces with the handle is smooth and lacking any rough areas that would cause hot spots or discomfort. The finish on the blades is left with the natural patina from the saw mill blade which adds a rustic look as well as a degree of protection to the knives.
The standard line up for PB&J consists of four knives, the Big Bite, the Main Course, the Bread & Butter, and the Morsel. Starting at the top, the Big Bite is the behemoth of the bunch sporting a 1/8 inch thick, 10.75 inch blade. The blade is drop point configuration and has a good bit of belly to it which provides a weight forward balance perfect for chopping. Add a 5 inch Micarta handle in and you have a cutting powerhouse that’s just about 16 inches long. The Big Bite weighs in at 15.8 ounces on my scale which is enough to give it some good cutting weight but isn’t overly heavy either. It’s a good balance mixing packability with cutting power.
The Main Course is a jack of all trades blade coming in at 8.25 inches overall with a 3.75 inch blade that’s also 1/8 inch thick like the Big Bite. Handles are 4.5 inches long and feature an index finger cutout at the very front of the handle. Weight is only 5.5 ounces, sans sheath. I have to admit that this size pretty much nails it for me. They carry easily on the belt and have plenty of blade for most chores without being unwieldy. If you catch me in the woods chances are it’ll be with something like the Main Course on my belt. I was informed during my testing that the Jones brothers and Jake are doing a redesign of this model. Expect something similar but with some refinements in the new version.
The Bread & Butter is actually a knife that we covered on Woods Monkey previously and it’s a great Every Day Carry knife. With a 2 5/8 inch drop point blade and an overall length of 5 5/8 inches the Bread & Butter is handy to use and easy to tote. This knife uses a slightly thinner blade at around 3/32 inches and weighs in at only 1.9 ounces.
Last up is the miniscule Morsel. The Morsel deviates from the rest of the PB&J line in that it’s a simple scaleless knife of 3/32 inch L6. It uses a 1.5 inch drop point blade and is a mere 3 5/8 inches overall. A lanyard hole in the rounded steel butt finishes the knife off. The Morsel is just the ticket for discreet carry and by far the lightest of the bunch at only .8 ounces. It’s a great choice for zipping open boxes and would be right at home with a lightweight backpacker too for cutting open meal pouches, string and other light function tasks. It also makes for a nice companion piece to one of the bigger PB&J’s.
While I messed with all four of the knives during my testing I mainly focused on the Main Course and the Big Bite. I didn’t have a good camping trip scheduled while I had the knives but I did have a lot of yard work that needed done. My wife needed garden stakes for some of her plants so I put the PB&J’s and my whittling skills to work making her some. A trip down to the wood pile soon provided me some branches which I cross grain batoned to size and then whittled points on. Once I finished making her stakes I went back to whittling and made a set of tent stakes to practice my notching skills and see how the Main Course did on finer tasks. I found that the Scandi L6 blade bit nicely into the dried wood and I was able to make clean, controlled cuts. You could just as easily notch out trap components as stake notches and the Main Course was comfortable and well suited to the job. I also used it to make some finely curled fuzz sticks for fire starting and then used the spine of the blade with a ferro rod to get things started. The spine is sharp enough top throw an impressive shower of sparks and I had no issues getting a fire going with my shavings and scraps from the stakes.
I used the Big Bite to cut up some larger branches that I had stacked up from trimming back some of the trees in my back yard and found that the big 10 inch blade made quick work of branches in the 1 to 2 inch range, which is just about the perfect size for use in building shelters, emergency travois and the like. To see what it would do on something heavier I started hacking up an old fence post that I keep around for just such occasions. The Big Bite did just as its name implied and soon had the wood chips flying and hogged out a big hunk of the fence post. The 5 inch handle proved comfortable for even this heavy chopping. I’m very confident that I can do just about anything I’d need from a heavy field blade with the Big Bite, bet it building an emergency shelter or processing wood for the camp fire.
The PB&J line of knives exemplifies the American values of comradery, hard work, and quality design and construction. Every knife that leaves the shop has been touched by Phil, Barry and Jake and the combined skills of the three ensures that you’ll receive a tool that you’ll be proud to own. The PB&J line is available online through Triple R Enterprises and prices are extremely reasonable. As of this writing a Morsel will only set you back $30, whereas a Bread & Butter and Main Course come in at $100 and $125 respectively. The Big Bite still will only take $200 out of your wallet and when you figure that that’s for a big camp chopper with a high quality sheath made by a set of skilled craftsman, I have to say that that’s quite a good deal.
Triple R Enterprises, LLC
As seen in Issue #16 of Self Reliance Illustrated!