One to Watch: Bark River Parang
Tony Sculimbrene 07.01.14
The history and geography of knives is fascinating. Humans, as they spread across the globe, independently developed a wide variety of cutting tools–knives, axes, swords, and the like. Over time, the best designs became associated with a specific region and specific use.
In jungle environments, the need for very large blades gave rise to a host of different designs like the bolo, the machete, and the parang. In South America, with its thick green jungles, people began using long, thin bladed knives to hack through the dense vegetation; this knife is the machete. On the other side of the world, in the Malaysian jungles with their woodier plants, thicker and heavier knives were developed. One of those knives is the parang.
The parang has a distinctive shape, with a negative handle angle giving it a chopping disposition even when it is not in use. The blade stock is thick and usually has a significant belly to it, sometimes incorporating a recurve design. The tip of the knife has a sheepsfoot or “reverse tanto” tip to it in many parang designs. Noted survival experts like Ray Mears and John “Lofty” Wiseman both recommended and used parangs, but until recently, well made, higher quality parangs were hard to come by. There were lots and lots of $30-$60 parangs that were undoubtedly useful, but there were very few designs with higher end steels and better fit and finish.
Then earlier this year Bark River Knife and Tool announced that they would be updating their parang design. Not only do you get the benefit of Mike Stewart’s encyclopedic knowledge of knives, but you also get near custom level fit and finish. This is the Platonic Idea of parang made by masters. If that doesn’t have you a bit excited, I am not sure you’re: 1) alive and 2) a knife nut.
The Bark River Parang has a variety of handle scale material (as is customary for Bark River stuff). It also runs 5160 steel, a proven hard use non-stainless steel. The fit and finish looks superb, and given BRKT’s history I have no doubt in the quality of the final production pieces. The blade is a massive slab–just over .2 inches thick and over 10 inches long. The entire knife weighs more than 24 ounces. This isn’t an EDC fixed blade by any means, unless you are a modern day adventurer. This is a big chopper of the first order. Finally, like all Bark River stuff, the Parang Prototype has a wonderful, three dimensional handle.
The Bark River Parang is just listed as a prototype on the website, but hopefully it will go into full production. There are very few knives in the world that can legitimately claim over a 1,000 years of in-field product development, but the parang is one of them. In a knife market crazy for big choppers, the parang stands out as one that has been proven by history. That track record, combined with Bark River’s track record, makes this prototype a sure winner, if it goes into production…