When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to get my Smoky Mountain Knife Works catalogue in the mail. Its pages positively gleamed with all manner of bladed-goodness, from novelty kitsch to premium brands. I never imagined that one day in the future, I could almost take dropping by their brick and mortar – the “World’s Largest Knife Showplace” for granted. I now live 25 minutes away in Knoxville. However, it made stopping by ESEE Day at SMKW an easy thing to work into my Saturday schedule.
Smoky Mountain Knife Works and ESEE have historically had a close relationship. While ESEE Knives are made in Idaho at the Rowen Manufacturing facility, it is in the Southeast where the company’s Randall Adventure Training is based, that their following is most strong. So geographic proximity plays a part, as does the fact that according to Jeff Randall, SMKW is one of the larger retailers of ESEE knives.
SMKW hosts special events with different knife companies and personalities on a fairly regular basis throughout the year. ESEE does several of these each year, and I swung by to say hello to the folks that I know at the company.
There were skills demonstrations by Patrick Rollins, Randall’s Lead Instructor and knifemaker James Gibson, who is the designer of the soon to be released Gibson Carving Axe, and newly-available JG5 which is a SMKW exclusive. ESEE has done “exclusive” design runs of existing knives for SMKW before, but the JG5 marks the first fully exclusive knife design. Amazingly, this knife went from idea/inception at this year’s SHOT Show, and is now available in mid-July. A 6-month design-to-distribution is practically unheard of in the industry. It is a testament to the quality of James Gibson’s initial design, the flexibility of the folks at Rowen (this was a secret project that actually pushed back the release of the Gibson Axe), and the closeness of the relationship between SMKW and ESEE that this project was even attempted, let alone completed successfully.
The knife itself is a Nessmuk-inspired 1095 blade with the same sculpted scales as have met with mixed reviews on the PR4. While I believe that my adding a set of plastic cutting-mat spacers improved the overall feel of the PR4’s handle, I have never been as critical of this style scales as some folks have been. They are the same on the Gibson Axe as well, a photo of James’ personal prototype is pictured below:
Seemingly even more amazing than the condensed time-frame of the knife’s production, the aftermarket has already kicked into gear with Armatus Carry Solutions already producing a horizontal Kydex sheath.
The Gibson blades were not the only cool thing from ESEE I got to see. Shane showed me a Limited Edition ESSE-6, which is exclusively available through the ESEE online forum. It is the amalgamation of the “wish-list” of the company’s most passionate online followers.
It features a Black-Oxide finish, 90 degree spine, G10 scales, and a one-off return of the Randall skull logo which has not been used on knives in quite some time. I already like the ESEE-6, and this limited run of 250 knives improves on the standard HM Series knife.
I want to thank Shane Adams, my ESEE contact person, for taking the time to tell me about the background of the JG5 project and showing me the knives. A trip to the “Knife Works” is always worthwhile, but it was a productive visit as well.