When Alec Meier of Stono Knife Works says he’s “always loved old stuff,” he means really old. Ancient old. Like the 30,000-year-old cave drawings in the Chauvet Cave in southern France he’s talking about from within the confines of his studio workshop. He then points to the large-scale black-and-white lithograph hanging above him that reminds of what those cave drawings must look like.

The 23-year-old bladesmith hopes to see them for himself one day, but his travel plans will need to wait: he’s got his hands full at the moment—most likely holding a blow torch, hammer, or drill press. Ever since he and three friends founded Stono, a custom-made camp and kitchen knife company, in 2016, Meier’s life has been wrought with striking, grinding, sanding, and otherwise lovingly (if not painstakingly—burns! cuts!) crafting what is one of the earliest tools used by mankind: knives. They’ve been around for at least 2.5 million years. No wonder Meier, who studied historic preservation at the College of Charleston, loves what he does. He’s not the only one. Garden & Gun magazine crowned Stono Knife Works as their top winner in the Outdoors Category for their 10th annual Made in the South Awards, and since the issue dropped last November, the orders have been pouring in.

An artifact of Meier’s own childhood inspired his knife’s work. When Meier was in the 6th grade, his parents bought a mountain house in Franklin, North Carolina, “and my dad,” says Meier, “bought me a map of the area. It was one of those topographic-raised relief maps. He got it at Ace Hardware.” Years later, while visiting his parents at this now-beloved family retreat, Meier dreamed up the topographic map, but in the handle of one of his knives. Soon after, the very first Blue Ridge Camp Knife with its Damascus blade came into being.

“A knife is just several layers of steel welded together, using heat and a press,” says Meier. “The raw materials are reclaimed. I buy [the steel] from a company that takes it from old metal that was thrown out.” To make the handles, Meier cuts the slivers of map out, encases them in resin, and then grinds them down and sands them into shape. Meier’s knives are special, but intended for use: to filet, to dress an animal in the wild, to make kindling, or just dinner.

Meier is a romantic of sorts. An old soul who knows that beautiful things made to last a lifetime are the currency of the heart. The knives’ handles depict cherished places from Lake Jocassee, to Amarillo, Texas, to global areas—the Mariana Trench (the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean), and even farther out. “There was an astronomer who was obsessed with this one crater on the moon and how it might have been related to the day the dinosaurs died,” says Meier, “so I put that one crater into the knife.” A recent order was of the United States Marine Corps logo, USMC, in its handle. A man requested it for his uncle who had served in the marines in Korea and is now in his 90s. This veteran was more of a father than the man’s own father had been, and he wanted to honor him with a special token. Meier more than delivered. For someone so possessed of a love of history, it’s only fitting that Meier’s knives are already creating some of their very own.

Stono Knife Works, 250 Mill St, Taylors. (864) 908-5672, stonoknifeworks.com