Don Cowles hand-makes knives of his own design from the initial concept to the finished product. His love of fine craftsmanship is apparent in his work. Although he makes some knives to similar patterns, each is a unique creation; a true one-of-a-kind offering. He is always experimenting with new designs, materials, and techniques, so his knives are constantly evolving.Click here to view my available knives

Artistic Philosophy ...
Don insists on using his own hands for each operation involved, without the use of fixtures or jigs or apprentices, although he made an exception when he helped his grandson craft a blade. The workmanship of Don's knives is guaranteed for life. He has a well-equipped shop, but virtually all of the effort expended in the making of a knife is hand work. In this way, he develops a measure of intimacy with the materials and processes involved that allows him to deeply understand the way things are coming together, and to compensate for things like variations in natural materials.

The Method ...
Click here to view my Sold ArchivesStarting with bar stock of the best available knife steels, he grinds, polishes, and heat treats his own blades. Bolsters and handle materials are then attached and shaped by hand, of substances both ordinary and exotic. He takes great pleasure in watching the metamorphosis occur from raw materials to finished tools that are both useful and attractive.

He does some limited scrimshaw (and makes his own scrimshaw tools) and engraving, and hand-stitches top quality sheaths that are custom-fitted to each knife. Customer input is welcome on material selection and design, within the framework of what he does best.

The Style ...

Here's Don's take on what he makes:

"My gentlemen's straight knives are designed as elegant alternatives to folding knives. I use ATS34, BG42, 440C, CPM S30V, CPM 154, and RWL 34, as well as stainless and carbon Damascus in a variety of patterns from Bertie Rietveld, Jerry Rados, Daryl Meier, Robert Eggerling, George Werth, Mike Norris, and Devin Thomas. Finishes for non-Damascus pieces are usually hand rubbed.

Bolsters are 416 stainless steel, or mokume gane from a number of different makers. Pins are 14K gold. The signature ruby in the ricasso is set in 18K gold.

Handles are usually crafted from fine natural materials such as mother of pearl and the fossil ivories, as well as rare woods, although some pieces intended for rigorous use have been fitted with carbon fiber or Micarta™.

Blade and handle shapes were conceived with consideration for size, comfort, function, and appearance. All are full-tang design, and even those knives with Damascus blades are ground from a single piece of bar stock; no welds are made to lower-grade steels to reduce material costs. Tangs are tapered to reduce weight, as well as to improve appearance.

A few words on the sheaths that accompany my straight pocket knives: the concept is to provide a secure method of holding the knife that keeps it readily available, as well an attractive look that is in keeping with the appearance of the knife itself.

Although the particular combination of features on my sheaths is unique to me, each of the "ideas" came from somewhere else. For example, I use a rare earth magnet to help retain the blade in the sheath; an idea I borrowed from Bud Nealy (and for which I thanked him a couple of years ago), who uses them in his Kydex sheaths.

The clips come from Matt Conable of William Henry Knives, who uses them on slip-cases for his folders. I was told that Matt got the idea for the clip from a sheath intended for pocket-carry of a pen. There is nothing new under the sun after all, but there is much to be said for availing one's self of the wisdom and experience of those who have gone before.

To keep the inside of the clip and the magnet from scratching the knife, I line the sheath with soft goatskin. The hand-stitched exterior is made of exotic leather or cowhide. Exotics include ostrich, crocodile, lizard, frogskin, and sharkskin.

The clip allows the knife to be attached to the inside of a trouser pocket in much the same way that many folders are carried. I have developed a preference for clipping it to the inside of my shirt pocket where it is just as accessible as a pen or pencil.

The whole package is designed to fit nicely in a pocket, yet still provide enough useful blade and handle to slice a bagel or open a carton - they are, after all, tools- and, at the same time, present an elegant and non-threatening appearance. There is no reason why tools can't have some class."



Midwest Fly Fishing Expo, Warren, MI March 11-12, 2017

Wolverine Knife Collectors Club Show, Novi, MI April 29-30, 2017



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