Unwanted pieces of steel, cowhide, deerskin and antlers may not seem like an appealing group of materials. But that’s all Verlin Cossel needs to make finely crafted works of art.
Cossel, 64, has lived in Bowling Green since 2002 and has been forging unique knives in the shop behind his home over the past three years.
At first, Cossel got into knife-making as a hobby just to stay busy. But as he approaches retirement, the artisan is considering turning his interest into a daily routine.
“I’ve always liked doing stuff with my hands,” Cossel said. “It’s just something about creating. There is nothing like actually creating something out of nothing.”
According to Cossel, he employs the “old way” to make his knives.
This technique is highlighted by a massive coal forge used to heat high-carbon steel that is commonly used in hay rake tines and railroad spikes.
Dozens upon dozens of aged hammers line the walls around his forge while a multitude of antlers hang from the rafters above.
“It’s like stepping back in time out here,” Cossel says.
After he puts steel in the forge, Cossel begins to increase the temperature of the fire by using a hand-crank blower.
Once the steel becomes bright orange, he takes it out of the forge and begins to mold it into the shape of a knife by hammering the steel on antique anvils.
Cossel continues this process until he finally has the steel crafted to his liking. Then he sews the handle of the knife together by using cowhide, deerskin or the antlers he finds and buys at flea markets.
These materials help to give each knife its own unique rustic, frontier look as Cossel strives to blend a new idea into each knife he creates. He also stamps his work to put the perfect finishing touch on each project.
Overall, a single knife takes around three days to make.
He first got into this enterprise after visiting other knifesmiths throughout southcentral Kentucky who also use a coal forge in their work.
After he took a seminar on how to craft knives, Cossel was hooked on his new hobby.
Almost four years later, the Bowling Green resident has refined his skills so much that his work has been nationally recognized by multiple publications.
Cossel’s knives have been featured on the covers of both Muzzleloader and Muzzle Blast magazine, and he is recognized as an artisan by the Contemporary Rifle Association. The association characterizes his work as “exquisite hand-forged frontier knives.”
“I like it just cause someone else recognizes my work,” Cossel said of the acknowledgements. “But I don’t really do it for that. Every time I do something – I learn something. That’s what I love to do.”
Cossel works at Toyota of Bowling Green in the service area through the week. On the weekends and in his spare time away from his day job is when he focuses his attention on knifemaking.
With retirement on the horizon, Cossel is focused on continuing his work while also teaching others his own techniques. He says there is a budding knife forging community in Bowling Green.
“I’m looking forward to walking out my back door each day and coming out here to do what I love,” Cossel said.
His work has already caught the interest of many throughout town. Cossel regularly will create and donate knives to different entities that sell his work at auctions.
For example, one of his knives will be a part of an auction at Hope House’s Cooking For Hope event May 27.
Cossel also added that his knives are for sale for any interested parties. He also occasionally makes smaller crafts out of steel such as small crosses.
Cossel can be reached at 270-392-8534 or by email at email@example.com.