Most of us live in a fairly heightened state of stress.
Whether it’s work, personal or just the general state of things in the world, I find many people – including myself – battling toxic levels of stress.
And so, when vacation time comes for many of us, it’s about relaxation. Maybe it’s a spa day, maybe a quiet afternoon by a mountain stream, or even a day of shopping and fun with the family.
There is another stress relieving vacation alternative in the Pigeon Forge area, however.
You can pay a man to hold a molten-hot hunk of metal while you use various heavy hammers to pound it into a souvenir murder weapon.
Ultimately, it’s six of one, half dozen of the other, really.
The truth is there are many things in this world I could never have predicted would succeed: the Transformer movies, for example, or the Snuggie or the Selfie Toaster.
Add to that list: destination do-it-yourself knife making.
Knife making in the Smoky Mountains
I like knives – chef knives, survival knives and pocket knives.
I enjoy the feel of the metal on the side of the blade, the way a good knife just fits well in your hand. The satisfaction of popping open a pocket knife or pulling a large blade from its sheath.
We’re stopping here before this begins to sound less like a tourism blog and more like a serial killer’s journal.
Knives, in short, are cool.
But I would have never fathomed a successful tourism business based on a build-your-own knife model.
And yet here we are. Some genius somewhere was wandering through a mall and saw Build-A-Bear.
If you can build a bear, you can build a knife.
Plan ahead, you’ll likely need reservations
Knife making in the Great Smoky Mountains is not just a one-off, out of nowhere success.
Wherever you decide to go, if possible, make your reservations far in advance. Knife making is very popular in the Smokies and many venues are booked up weeks in advance.
Without further ado, here are our top picks for making your own knife:
4. Dollywood (Pigeon Forge, TN)
The popular theme park is new to the game this year, but has jumped in with both feet at the Blacksmith & Foundry in Craftsman’s Valley.
Dollywood offers three tiers, all of which take less than 40 minutes to complete.
- Railroad spike knife, $99.99 (35 minutes)
- Horseshoe knife, $59.99 (25 minutes)
- Bolt knife, $29.99 (20 minutes)
Knife-making reservations at Dollywood are not available online or in advance.
If you want to build a knife at Dollywood, it’s recommended you go first thing in the morning to reserve your spot, and then return at least 10 minutes prior to the selected time.
Also, if you’re planning on taking a break from your vacation to work as a blacksmith, make sure you’re not wearing open-toed shoes.
When the time arrives, you’ll come to the blacksmith shop, select your type of knife and the metal will be heated until it’s glowing red and white hot.
A professional will be in charge for the entirety of your journey.
Please listen to every instruction and do not go rogue. It’s not good time to use your famous improvisation techniques while swinging metal hammers at molten metal.
The blacksmith will instruct you where and how hard to hit the metal to form your knife. Each stroke will be different, so make sure you’re attentive and not just swinging away.
If you listen well, not only will you have the opportunity to work out some aggression, you can build yourself a unique souvenir as well.
3. Iron Mountain Metal Craft (Pigeon Forge, TN)
Dollywood isn’t the only foundry game in town. Iron Mountain Metal Craft, located at 172 Old Mill Ave., is dedicated to keeping the old ways alive.
The facility is located near the original forge from which the town draws its name.
Founded by a disciple of blacksmithing, Robby Bowman, Iron Mountain offers a variety of skill and knowledge building workshops.
A variety of knife building lessons are available including:
- Railroad spike knife, $85
- Nail knife, $15 (available to those 12 and under)
- Horseshoe knife, $50
- Pony shoe knife, $30
In January and February, the facility also offers what it calls its Dream Knife Class that allows you to design and build your own knife, a process that includes 8 to 16 hours of instruction from Bowman himself.
To learn more, visit them online.
2. Circle Bar T Forge (Pigeon Forge TN)
Located on the Corner of Old Mill Avenue and Teaster Lane, the Circle Bar T also offers a variety of knife-making and blacksmithing experiences.
Circle Bar T bills itself as great for birthdays, parties or team building experiences.
Knife making experiences include:
- Nail knife, $20 (available for ages 5-11)
- Pony shoe knife, $30
- Horseshoe knife, $50
- Railroad spike, $85 (available for those ages 13 and up)
The Dream Knife experience, listed as $500 and up, allows you to take charge of the entire knife making process.
“You take over the Forge to bring to life a blade of your design: forging, grinding, and profiling, heat treating, and handle fabricating. We will guide you through this experience to bring your dream knife into reality,” reads the website.
The Dream Knife experience is only available by special appointment.
To learn more about Circle Bar T Forge, visit them online.
1. Uncle Hank’s Knives (Pigeon Forge, TN)
Located next to Smoky Mountain Knife Works, Uncle Hank’s Knives offers a chance for those able to swing a 2lb hammer and follow instructions (dang it, I’m out) to build their own knives.
Hank’s offers two skill levels – regular and advanced. Advanced means you join Hank on the grinder and learn more tricks of the trade.
Open Wednesday to Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm for forging, Hank’s is an in-demand forge.
We recommend getting an appointment several weeks in advance.
Hank’s offers the following knife-making choices.
- Railroad spike knife, regular $100/advanced $150
- 3/4 grade 8 bolt fully threaded, regular $100/advanced $150
- 5/8 grade 8 bolt fully threaded, regular $75/advanced $125
- Horseshoe knife, regular $55/advanced $105
- Pony horseshoe knife, $40
- Mini spike nail knife, $25
All prices include a private class, knife and leather sheath.
Have you made your own knife in the Smoky Mountains? Let us know in the comments.