Living in the Washington, D.C. area, there isn’t really such a thing as a local knife store. Sometimes you can find some interesting stuff at gun shops, but inventory is decidedly small and selective. If you want to know how a knife feels, you better order it and be willing to spend the money on return shipping if you don’t like it.
So, while going on a camping trip in eastern Tennessee this past weekend, I decided to take the opportunity to visit Smoky Mountain Knife Works. Let me just say, if you are ever in the area, do yourself a favor and spend an hour or two inside. It was a proverbial kid in a candy store experience!
The building itself is comprised of three levels. I walked in the bottom level, and was a little confused at first. I was greeted by a sight that seemed like a Bass Pro Shops crossed with a Cracker Barrel Country Store, complete with waterfall and a singing raccoon and bear band! Obviously, this area is somewhere for any non-knife people tagging along to hang out while the rest of us nerd out on the knives, which are primarily on the second level.
The second floor was knife nirvana! Everything on their website was there, laid out by manufacturer in glass booths with attendants standing by to pull out any knife you wanted to see. I was able to hold and get a feel for a great number of knives which I had my eye on, but no idea how they felt in the hand, such a critical part of how much you will like a knife. The booth attendants were very patient with me as I had them pulling multiple items at a time—Ontarios, Beckers, ESEEs, Kershaws, Benchmades, Spydercos, Tops, Condors, Bokers, Helles. I couldn’t be stopped! They even let me handle a couple of Chris Reeve Knives, a Large Sebenza and a Mnandi. Good thing I didn’t drop them!
The attendants were all quite knowledgeable about the products they were selling. One of my companions was searching for a possible replacement for his camp knife, and they were ready with suggestions for him as he told them what sort of blade he was looking for. The lady behind the Ontario counter especially was helpful in responding to his reactions as he tried out a few knives.
I spent the better part of two hours in the place, and I didn’t even make it to the third floor, where their knife museum is located. Given a whole day with the place, I think you could still miss some things. In the end I walked out with an Izula-II and a big grin on my face. Now if only the shop was closer to home!Note: Due to a camera snafu, the images accompanying this article appear courtesy of http://smkw.com