Have you ever meandered by a blacksmith in one of those old-world village recreations? Did you find yourself lingering a bit too long, your family up ahead begging you to hurry up to get to the funnel cake? Yeah, me too! There’s something fantastically primal about heating steel until it glows in that deep orange ember, picking up a hammer, and bending and shaping it to your will. It’s fascinating, and if you’re like me you’ve yearned to wield that hammer yourself.
With Uncle Hank’s Knives in Sevierville, Tennessee you can do just that. And your junior knifesmiths can as well. Read on to discover how you and your family can forge you own knives with Uncle Hank, creating memories and a hardened piece of steel that will last a lifetime.
Uncle Hanks Knives is located in a small, centuries-old brick building in the parking lot of Smoky Mountain Knife Works in Sevierville. So as an added bonus you can visit SMKW’s enormous store and browse their huge selection of knives, guns and other outdoor equipment. You may not want to browse too long – you’ll be itching to make your own blade!
Uncle Hanks is owned by the kindest and most inspiring couple on the planet, Hank and Lou Ann Howard. Lou Ann handled the up front business and got us all checked-in and ready to go, leaving Hank to do what he does best – forging steel!
The shop includes various knives for sale, and they sell wholesale to a few other shops in the area, to include Dollywood. Their handcrafted knives are beautiful and sought after. Be sure to ask them about their amazing story, and the rich history of the building itself.
There are several options to choose from at varying price points, and they all start with familiar looking objects. Learning to transform these common pieces of metal into a polished, hardened and super sharp blade is part of the fun. The smallest and least expensive starts as a spike nail.
Options increase in size from there from a pony shoe, to a regular horseshoe, to a different sized bolts, and finally a railroad spike. The varying material options result in really cool handle designs that set your knife apart, and add to the home forged look. Check out the twisted-handled railroad spike, for instance.
They recommend that younger kids start with the nail or pony shoe option just because it takes a lot less swinging of the hammer to stretch and shape the blade.
There are options for basic and advanced knifesmithing classes. The advanced classes will allow you to do more of the shaping, grinding, polishing and sharpening. The basic class was perfect for us, where we were able to take part in a ton of cool steps in the process, with Hank doing some of the more complex tasks. Either way, he’ll walk you through everything you need to do to have an incredible time and take an incredible blade home with you.
We started by selecting the metal. Our kids both started with a pony shoe, and we adults went with the horseshoe. You select your own piece from a bin, and then and there the pride of ownership begins. Next it’s into the furnace where the heating takes place, and the glorious red hot results. We took turns pounding and stretching our steel, with Hank guiding the process the whole way to make sure the resulting shape was just right. It quickly becomes evident that you’re really molding and shaping this metal into an actual knife. Grins were everywhere.
Speaking of pride of ownership, at the end of the process you’ll wind up with a one-of-a-kind, completely customized knife. Things like the shape of the blade, length of the handle, cutouts for your thumb and forefinger to better fit your hand – all chosen by you.
After shaping it was back to the furnace and on to my favorite part – the hardening. This is where you heat the metal up to just the right temperature and quickly quench it in oil. Why oil? Hank will tell you all about it. It’s all a fairly precise process, and if not done correctly you won’t get that hardened steel. But under Hank’s guidance you’ll wind up with a blade that is magnitudes stronger that it was before.
Needless to say, there was a whole lot of learning going on throughout this incredibly fun family event. We were no strangers to hands on, life learning and homeschooling long before recent events, and making your own knife is about as ideal as this gets. Afterwards we were able to watch this video together to learn even more about the science behind the process.
For our family, this activity has it all. The working together, the physical activity, the learning, the awe, and the big smiles everywhere. The next time you’re in the smokies, take a trip to Sevierville and Uncle Hank’s Knives, open Tuesday through Saturday throughout the year. While your at it, check out these twelve other Sevierville family fun activities as well.
Disclosure: Thanks to Sevierville Convention & Visitors Bureau and Hank and Lou Ann at Uncle Hank’s Knives for hosting us on this amazing afternoon adventure that we’ll never forget. Opinions here are all our own, as always.
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