Welcome, welcome one and all to the latest edition of KNIFE Magazine’s 5 from the Grinder. 5ftG is our quick-hit interview series, profiling knifemakers from around the country and around the world. Today’s featured maker comes to us from Kansas City – Alex Harrison of Night Watch Knives. I do not know Alex personally, but he we “met” through our mutual friend Jim Cobb. (see: Book Review: Prepper’s Long-term Survival Guide (2nd Ed.)) Jim holds Alex in high regard, and I hold Jim in high regard, but even without this transitive property of respect, Alex’s knives stand on their own merits, as you will see in today’s feature.
Please introduce yourself and let us know what led you to making/designing knives
When I was 21 I started with the Platte County, Missouri Sheriff’s Office as a Deputy Sheriff. Early on, I recognized a niche for a small, utilitarian, gross-motor-skills friendly fixed blade knife. While my natural evolution as a craftsman drew me away from the tactical market, in a lot of ways I’m still chasing that concept. To date, every knife I make has to be lighter than it looks, comfortable in every alternative grip that makes sense, and it has to perform like a larger knife than it is. If it doesn’t meet those three criteria, it’s not a Night Watch.
What knifemaker(s) or designer(s) have had the biggest influence on you? Do you have any mentors?
I owe a lot of what I know to Matt Martin of Vehement Knives. The time I’ve spent in his workshop has been informative and enriching beyond anything I could have ever learned online or figured out for myself. Jim (and by extension Mike) Stewart of Bark River knives are two more truly talented makers I’m privileged to count as friends, and I draw a lot of design and construction queues from their operation. In addition to being a dear friend, Jim Skelton is the creative muse equivalent of the monster underneath my bed. He’s always got an answer for any technical question I may have, and never gives me anything short of the long, hard, sure way to do something. Tom Krein is another elephant in the room for me, too. The man is a technical genius and such a kind soul. Anybody making small fixed blades can learn a lot just from looking at Tom’s patterns. Honorable mention to Bob Loveless, if it really even needs to be said.
What is your favorite knife pattern or style from history?
I lean towards drop point blades in general, with a special fondness for the Bob Loveless style drop point hunter. I also have a really intense fascination with Puukkos. There’s something simplistic and pure about a utilitarian every-man’s knife like a puukko that just does it for me.
What is the next big thing in knifemaking? / What direction do you see the industry going?
I am well pleased by the growing popularity of fixed blades in general, and for obvious reasons I hope that trend continues. I am cautiously optimistic about the decline of the American tanto point, which I hate very much. Sue me.
Is there a knife from your lineup that you feel best exhibits who you are as a knifemaker/designer in terms of design elements, aesthetic or techniques used?
I think the Ajax is probably my flagship knife, but the Belter is the best pure example of who I am as a craftsman and what makes a Night Watch Knife. If the Ajax is my Stairway to Heaven, the Belter is my Kashmir. It’s deceptively light, has classic lines, is comfortable every which way you could hold it, and it performs like a knife twice its size when pressed. The Ajax makes a fine “one knife,” but the Belter is kind of the apex of what an edc/hunter should be in my opinion. I carry my own very often.
What is your EDC and why?
I have a short rotation I go through, but the knife I most often find myself carrying these days is my Ozias. Its an ultra-light EDC drop point I prototyped using some leftover scraps of “fancy” handle material. It’s got a high hollow grind and my War Wash pattern etch with a high polish. It’s everything I want in a daily carry knife and nothing I don’t.