We live in the Golden Age of knifemaking. Not only are production knives of better quality and variety than ever before, but there are so many custom knifemakers producing work of exceptional quality that it can make your head spin.
One downside to having a market saturated with so many solid products and makers is that they can start to blur together. It’s difficult to find designs and knifesmiths that stand out from the crowd.
Enter William Collins of WC Knives in the Republic of Texas. Mr. Collins has worn many hats in his lifetime, from that of a military veteran, to author to commercial construction foreman. Since 2012, William has worn the hat of a custom knifesmith.
One look at a sample of his work will tell you that not only does William Collins have ideas as big as the state from which he hails, but he has the skills and abilities to implement those ideas. In a knife market saturated with sameness, William’s work stands out from the crowd.
William’s designs are not just different for the sake of being different; they are decidedly different. William’s business motto is “Knives Made to Work.” His knives are designed with purposeful intent and their form follows that purpose.Enter the WCSK
When I first saw the WCSK, I was skeptical. It looked complicated and appeared to have been designed as a prop for a post-apocalyptic movie. Having used some of William’s knives in the past and being familiar with his high-quality work, I set my skepticism aside and agreed to let him send me one for evaluation.
William Collins conceived the out-of-the-box design of the WCSK. However, he recognized that the WCSK was not a “normal” knife and that he needed help to refine and prove the design and transform it from concept to reality. To do this, William enlisted the help of several trusted friends and customers. This group comprised hunters, trappers, survival experts, craftsmen, cooks and outdoorsmen.
Over the course of many months and countless prototypes, William used the feedback he received from his cadre to forge the WCSK from a pie-in-the sky concept to hardcore ultra-functional reality.
On the surface, the acronym WCSK stands for William Collins Survival Knife. However, its meaning runs deeper and describes precisely what William expects from the design.
Woodlands: The knife must be able to perform the duties of a hunting knife as well as make shelters, craft tools and prepare fires.
Combat: The knife must be compact enough not to be burdensome and be rugged enough to not only withstand the daily demands of a combat environment but to be useful as a last-ditch weapon if called upon to do so.
Survival: A survival knife needs to be tough. It needs to not only cut, but to dig, pry and smash. A survival knife needs to be a jack-of-all-trades and should be made of materials that can be restored to serviceable condition by the user after those extreme demands have been met.
Kitchen: Despite all of the previous hard-use requirements, the knife still needs to be able to slice meat and vegetables and be adept at preparing a meal.
While the WCSK might look like a belt knife for the next Mad Max sequel, it is not a fantasy movie prop! When I first picked it up, I was struck by the comfort of the handle. It felt good in every grip position I tried.
The palm swell not only fills the hand but makes for a very secure grip when thrusting and stabbing. No added guards or bolsters are needed to provide security.WC Knives WCSK
• Overall length: 10.75 inches
• Blade length: 5.625 inches
• Grind: Scandi to saber
• Steel: 0.188-inch O1 tool steel or AEB-L stainless
• Handle: 5.1 inches, canvas Micarta with integral bow drill divot
• Sheath not included
My next impression was that the knife felt well-weighted and very solid. The knife imparts the feeling that it will be up to most any task you put it to. Despite its size, the weight distribution allows the user to work with it for long periods of time without undue fatigue.
One thing I dislike about many knives in the survival knife genre is that between the ¼-inch steel used to make them and the thick grinds used to bolster durability, they become sharpened pry bars with limited utility.
The WCSK is made from 3/16-inch stock and can be had in either high-carbon O1 tool steel or AEB-L stainless steel. On paper, this steel thickness might make it seem like “less” of a knife than those pry bars I mentioned but nothing could be further from the truth. If you can break a WCSK, even in extreme use conditions, you have superhuman abilities.
“WILLIAM’S BUSINESS MOTTO IS “KNIVES MADE TO WORK”. HIS KNIVES ARE DESIGNED WITH PURPOSEFUL INTENT AND THEIR FORM FOLLOWS THAT PURPOSE.”
The WCSK also has something that very few true survival knives possess: a grind angle designed for efficient cutting! The actual cutting edge of the WCSK is a continuous 11 degrees from tip to ricasso. This makes the knife very easy to sharpen, while allowing it to excel at fine cutting tasks.
I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss the various angles built into the WCSK design. The Scandi grind portion of the blade closest to the handle excels at fine woodworking tasks. Despite the size and strength of the knife, it handles small carving chores like a much smaller blade.
The first point, just forward of the Scandi section, is a force multiplier when chopping and batoning wood. It chops better than most of the hatchets I have in my collection. The straight portion of the edge, just ahead of the point, does a great job at planing flat surfaces and removing large, thin sections of material. It is also outstanding for slicing and chopping vegetables.
The second point, closer to the tip, acts as a fulcrum for chopping and dicing in the kitchen and provides a lot of control when slicing and shearing leather.
The short section of blade that ends in the tip acts almost as its own small knife. Because of the built-in angles of the other edges, when engaging this small edge, all of the other edges are out of the way.
This allows the use of this portion of the blade in small, confined areas. This section of the blade also incorporates the modified tanto tip, which is built for drilling, digging, stabbing and prying. Despite its brutal strength, the tip is capable of some fine cutting and carving.WC Knives WCNK:
• Overall length: 8.125 inches
• Blade length: 3.5 inches
• Grind: Scandi to saber
• Steel: 0.125-inch AEB-L stainless
• Handle: 4.375 inches, canvas Micarta
• Sheath not included
As I write this, I have owned and used my original WCSK for over a year. In that time I’ve used it to prepare meat and vegetables for dinner, chop down and limb small trees, split wood, create feather sticks, start fires, pry open stuck doors, build primitive traps and practice my knife skills by making trysticks and spoons. It has cut leather straps, sliced and chopped cordage and small-gauge wire, pierced sheet metal and even processed small game.
“NO SINGLE KNIFE DESIGN CAN EXCEL AT EVERYTHING, AND THE WCSK IS NO EXCEPTION. HOWEVER, IT IS CLOSER TO BEING A VIABLE ONE-TOOL OPTION THAN ANY KNIFE I HAVE EVER OWNED OR USED.”
It is, hands down, the most versatile knife I have ever owned. Despite all of this, the knife has been easy to maintain and sharpen and has taken no significant damage. No single knife design can excel at everything, and the WCSK is no exception. However, it is closer to being a viable one-tool option than any knife I have ever owned or used. Some knives force their user to consider their limitations. The WCSK inspires its owner to recognize its potential.WC Knives WCNK
While the WCSK is adept at cutting chores best suited to smaller, thinner knives, William Collins recognized that it was not always the best tool for the job.
When developing the WCNK (William Collins Neck Knife), William wanted to convert the utility and design language of its bigger brother into a compact, easy-to-use knife for all those times when a hard-use survival knife was overkill.
The NK uses a similar blade profile to the SK but adapts the grinds to be more efficient when cutting and carving.
The WCNK uses a full-size handle that is an absolute joy to use. Like the handle on the SK, the NK handle is comfortable in every grip position I tried.
The blade is made from ⅛0.125-inch AEB-L stainless steel with William’s proprietary heat treatment. As on its bigger brother, the cutting edge maintains a consistent angle for the full length of the blade. Changes in the primary grind of the knife transition between a Scandinavian grind closest to the handle, for fine woodworking, to a high saber grind for efficient, controlled slicing. The center point, at the transition between the Scandi and saber grinds, has been reinforced to allow the knife to be used for small wood-splitting tasks. The tip of the NK is strong enough for drilling and light prying while still being fine enough for work in tight spaces.
I have found the WCNK to be the perfect companion to any of the larger knives in my collection, and it is an outstanding standalone choice for hiking, hunting, camping and cooking.Perfect Match
William Collins will be the first to admit that he is a knifemaker, not a sheathmaker. While he is capable of providing a serviceable sheath for his knives, he wants to ensure that his customers have access to a sheath that is as unique and bombproof as the knives that they are designed to carry.
For this, William has collaborated with Randy Smith from Stitched Gear Outfitters.
Randy has been making leather goods of extreme quality for many years and it shows in his designs and attention to detail.
The sheath system that Randy designed for the WCSK is as tough and durable as the knife it holds. The body of each sheath is made from 10-ounce skirting leather. The leather has been waterproofed using a proprietary beeswax impregnation process. This process makes the leather nearly as weatherproof as Kydex while still retaining all the best attributes of leather. Tension at the mouth of the sheath is user-adjustable, and the entire area is reinforced with heavy Kydex.
The sheath utilizes a unique X-shaped panel that is affixed using heavy copper rivets. This panel allows the sheath to be carried vertically, horizontally or, using an optional adaptor, baldric style over the shoulder. When equipped with two of these panels, the sheath can be outfitted with an accessory pouch that holds an Altoids tin, a diamond sharpener and a ferro rod. The sheath can also be equipped with a Kydex loop that holds a Streamlight MicroStream flashlight. Customized attachment accessories are an option as well.
Each sheath is stamped with a serial number that matches the serial number on the WCSK.
The sheath system can be as comprehensive or as minimalistic as the customer would like. No matter what options you choose, you can be assured that you will have a sheath that is as durable and long lasting as the knife for which it was designed.
MSRP: STARTING AT $150
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the December, 2019 print issue of American Survival Guide.