Pilgrimage of Steel

  As much as I love knife companies, I admit they would not be my pilgrimage of the faithful.  I instead would bow down and face Smokey Mountain Knife Works.



You might consider it as well.  Right now SMKW estimates that 1.5 million pilgrims will make the journey this year.  There were two school buses in the parking lot when we arrived.


Walk in and you notice knives and more knives.  The doors are numbered and you’re reminded to note your entry.  That was a clue how big the place is.  You’ll find people buying $3 POS knives, but you’ll also find top shelf Benchmade, Case, SOG and all the rest.  Wander around and look at all the mounted animals, everywhere.  They were collected by one man who hunted every continent in the 50s and 60s.  The walls are lined with cases and displays of old knives and knife collectables.  These wasn’t a plan, it grew (as much as I hate the expression) organically.  The staff squeezed in a display here and there and then someone decided this display would look good near some other display.  And it just kept going.
Indoor at SMKW
We walked in door number 2 and found ….

Smokey Mountain Knife Works, Victorinox

One of many….

Smokey Mountain Knife Works
Esee fixed blades

Mr. Pipes started as a seller of arrowheads and civil war memorabilia and a friend suggested why don’t you try selling a few knives?  It didn’t take too long before the knives out sold the relics.  The original store wasn’t big enough, so they moved, then they added on and it’s still crowded.   But everything is laid out nicely and well labeled.

More collection

Prison Shanks, SMKW
Shanks.  Who collects shanks?


But when you get there, make sure you see everything and then go down into the Relic Room.  Here you find fossils from China and the warm seas that covered Chicago.  You’ll find bullets from the revolutionary war as well as the civil war.  Oh, there is some crystal non-sense about spirit guide stone animals and how a stone with a certain shape will focus your attention and balance your chi.  But you’ll also find Russian coat buttons from the Cold War, binoculars from our western expansion, fired pistol cases from WWI among books listing the local men who enlisted in the Civil War.  How about a commemorative belt buckle from the first reunion of Teddy’s Rough Riders?  I don’t know if anyone knows all the treasures in that room.  I found an issue of Popular Science from March of my birth year.  Guess what the cover story was about?  How to convert your basement to a shelter for the anticipated atomic wars.

Chase Pipes, Smokey Mountain Knife works
One of dozen or more selections of historic relics

The owner of the Relic Room, Chase, is a Pipes family member and is a prodigy for history, both natural and human.  He spoke to us of records and university archeology digs that confirm the existence of a Spanish rendezvous from the 1500s a couple 100 yards from where we stood.  I had no idea the Spanish were ever in this part of the country, but I heard him teach several children (and myself) that the Spanish court required a notary under the control of the Church to travel with their explorers.  Everyday the explorers would diary about the day and the entry would be notarized.  These extensive records are now matched to current digs which confirm the veracity of the findings.


Old, beyond my comprehension
 bought a chunk of the oldest original rock available on planet earth.  It’s Acasta Gneiss from the Hadean Age.  There’s still some of this rock showing on the Acasta River in Canada.  It doesn’t look like much.  It is 4.2 billon years old.  And I can touch it with my fingertips.


That’s beyond cool.