By Phil Spano
Alec Wachtman (that’s Wak-tman), fell in love with blades around the age of 6 years old while he was a boy scout watching a blacksmith making nails at a local maple syrup festival the scouts hosted every year. Mesmerized by watching this smith, this was always one of his favorite events to go to.
After watching the first Hobbit movie Alec was intrigued by the dwarves making their swords and axes and he knew he had to try it out for himself. He then set off to make his own using aluminum and he forged his first knife which resembled a butter knife with a gut hook, using his grandfather’s fireplace.
After countless hours of watching other smiths on YouTube, a 13-year-old Alec, who could barely pick up the hammer, got his first forge. He kept trying and forged his first knife out of steel that he then wrapped in paracord and then lost it somewhere in his garage.
He continued to pursue blacksmithing. The YouTube tutorials said if you wanted to be successful you had to make at least 100 s-hooks before moving on and creating something else, but who has time for that when there are axes, swords, and knives to be made?!
Alec was eventually connected with a very valuable resource, a smith named John King, who was a smith at a local living history museum, who he then apprenticed for quite some time where he learned quite a bit about blacksmithing.
After finally getting his bearings straight and learning the right techniques to forge something out of nothing, Alec found a small brick shack outside Smoky Mountain Knife Works, where he met Tom and Rick Mohr. A knife shop that would do full custom builds as well as teach classes on knife making, Alec was interested and drew up lots of different knife designs and had conversations about the intended purpose of knife design, and after much deliberation he decided to take one of the classes, using most of the money he had, and it was the best decision of his life.
Now, knives are life. Whenever Alec sees a knife he can’t help but dissect the details of it to figure out what went into its making and design process of it. He spends countless hours in the shop making and perfecting his tools for hard use literally putting blood, sweat, and tears into everything he makes.
AWT makes a wide variety of different knives. He has the Raptor which is more of a tactical style knife with a finger ring on the end for when you are getting into some bad situation and you need to quickly deploy a tool to keep you protected. Then there is the Grandmaster, which is a huge camping knife that will help you process wood or cut down small trees and then help make camp afterward.
He does do custom knives along with his production models, so the options are basically endless, and you know that you’ll get a top-quality tool that has the knowledge behind it to last you a lifetime or even longer.
We’re going to talk about two models here. Personally, I own a KLIFF and an Eddy2. Both are great designs and both are completely different in their own way.
The KLIFF, named after its Wharncliffe blade shape, will handle a lot of your everyday cutting tasks. It’ll rip through cardboard like a champ with its 80CrV2 2.71” black oxide coated blade. The KLIFF has an overall length of 6.64” so its micarta handle is the perfect size to fit 4 digits while you’re cutting through Amazon packages or making fire sticks. Made in the USA with materials sourced in the United States, the KLIFF is a great companion for everyday use and it can also help you if you’re stuck outdoors and need a way to make fire. The top of the spine can and will throw sparks with a ferro rod that will get you cooking in no time.
The Eddy2, while similar to the KLIFF but also very different, has a drop point style black oxide coated 2.78” 80CrV blade. The overall length with the textured Micarta handles is 6.95” making the Eddy2 another great EDC option. The Eddy2 will handle your normal everyday cutting tasks but can take on a lot more. If you need a work companion that you can count on the Eddy2 is your knife. While I haven’t tested it to see if I can make fire with it, it has handled itself while at work by helping me cut holes in sheet metal and sheetrock or cutting and stripping wires, and the heat treatment that Alex puts on these helps them both hold up beautifully with keeping that edge sharp.
I’d highly recommend both tools to have in your collection, no matter what you do with knives. Both of these are hard-use tools but they also look beautiful while doing it and would fit in perfectly with the rest of you safe queens, not that I recommend that, but if that’s what you’re into then that’s cool too.
Check out Alec Wachtman on Instagram and follow along his journey as he continues to make beautiful tools that you just want to beat the crap out of because they look so good doing it.