Frontier Knives,
Hawks and Leather

Drool-worthy artistry
; .

A 2" Damascus neck knife with a mammoth ivory handle. Photo: Scott A. Roush

Every writer I’ve visited seems to have plenty of “stuff” within arm’s reach of their writing quarters to be admired, picked-up, held and fondled. Perhaps this common thread of ceremonial “examinations” stimulates the mind, bursting the dam of backed-up words?

Me? My writing quarters consists of my laptop computer on the kitchen table. Next to me are stacks of notes, magazines, used targets, product printouts, along with an old Jeep console insert. Inside the compartments are numerous cartridges, cast bullets, sixgun stocks, pens, screwdrivers and calipers. My nomadic “office” is functional, easily allowing me to move it at my wife’s whims, such as clearing room for dinner.

When needing a break, I reach over and fondle something from the console, consoling me until the “damned-up” words start trickling again. Sometimes social media jump-starts flatlined brain activity. Just yesterday, while scrolling, one photo causes me to pause with its “wow” factor …


A 5" Damascus steel blade with Sambar stag handle and wrought iron butt cap.

Frontier Knives, Hawks and Leather

What I see is a Damascus steel bowie with fossilized walrus handle and the most unique forged handguard I’d ever seen. Partnered with the jumbo blade is a sheath looking like its darn near 150 years old, something an old mountain man would carry with its feather, fringe and bead adornments — and who hasn’t fantasized about being a mountain man? I’ve wanted to be a mountain man since I was six.

The more I stare, the more I drool, wishing I could grab this beauty from the screen. Talk about virtual brain stimulation! I’m excited, not even holding this rustic pig-sticker. I click on the maker’s name, drawing me further into a world of recreated tomahawks, smaller skinner blades, camp blades and utility blades, all with a distinctively unique finish and flair.

These tools are worthy of a shaman’s most secret of spiritual rituals, or a sourdough’s daily duties. With this modern thing we call the Internet, I contact the maker, chuckling at the irony of using a computer for vintage looking goods.


Bear jawbone Damascus Folder with elk antler bolster and 5" blade.

John Cohea

John Cohea has been making knives for 22 years. Seeing a Fisk Damascus steel blade set him on the path of making a knife looking like it was old. Through trial and error, John succeeded. He gets his Damascus blade blanks from Chad Nichols, who forges them from 1095 and 15N20 Swedish tool steel, for the most beautiful Damascus patterns you ever saw.

Using a propane gas forge, John heats and hammers the blanks into form, grinds for final shape and heat treats them for an extremely durable and sharp edge holding blade. He uses natural handle materials of bear jawbone, fossilized walrus tusk, sambar stag, elk antler or ornamental hardwoods. These blades are working pieces of art. They are made strong to be used hard!

The bolsters, and guards are made of forged wrought iron, many times using age-correct period steel, such as chain links or wagon-wheel hoops, adding to authenticity of the blade or hawk.


Warhawk! Weathered barn-oak handle with 5160 steel. Weathered oak on neck knife.

Visual Stimulation

Words are useless describing these treasures. Rather than ramble on, I’d rather have pictures do the talking of John’s work as they tell the tale better than anyone ever could.

John can be reached through Facebook and Instagram under John M Cohea Frontier Style Knives, Hawks and Leather, or simply call him at (662) 322-5916. Let him fulfill your mountain man fantasies with authentic looking/working knives, hawks and leather. His lead time is anywhere from 1–6 months. One of his knives, hawks and leather may be what I need to keep the words flowing. It couldn’t hurt.

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