Unwanted pieces of steel, cowhide, deerskin and antlers don’t seem to be an appealing group of materials. But that’s all Verlin Cossel needs to create finely crafted works of art.
64-year-old Cossel has lived in Bowling Green since 2002 and has forged unique knives in the shop behind his house for the past three years.
At first Cossel started making knives as a hobby just to keep busy. But as he nears retirement, the craftsman considers turning his interest into a daily routine.
“I’ve always liked doing things with my hands,” said Cossel. “It’s all about creating. There is nothing better than creating something out of nothing. “
According to Cossel, he uses the “old way” to make his knives.
This technique is highlighted by a massive coal forge used to heat high carbon steel commonly used in hay rake tines and railroad spikes.
Dozens of aged hammers line the walls around his forge, while a multitude of antlers hang from the rafters above.
“It’s like traveling back in time,” says Cossel.
After putting steel in the forge, Cossel begins raising the temperature of the fire with a hand-cranked fan.
As soon as the steel turns bright orange, he takes it from the forge and begins shaping it into the shape of a knife by hammering the steel on antique anvils.
Cossel continues this process until he has finally made the steel according to his wishes. Then he sews the handle of the knife together with cowhide, deerskin or the antlers that he finds and buys at flea markets.
These materials give every knife a unique, rustic frontier look as Cossel tries to give a new idea to every knife he creates. He also stamps his work to add the perfect finishing touch to any project.
In total, it takes about three days to make a single knife.
He first came to the company after visiting other cutlers across south-central Kentucky who also use a coal forge for their work.
After attending a seminar on making knives, Cossel was enthusiastic about his new hobby.
Almost four years later, the Bowling Green resident honed his skills to the point that his work was recognized in several publications nationwide.
Cossel’s knives have featured on the covers of Muzzleloader and Muzzle Blast magazines and have been recognized as artisans by the Contemporary Rifle Association. The association characterizes its work as “exquisite hand-forged border knives”.
“I only like it because someone else recognizes my work,” Cossel said of the recognitions. “But I don’t really do it for that. Every time I do something, I learn something. That’s what I like to do. “
Cossel works all week at Toyota from Bowling Green in the service department. On the weekends and in his free time outside of his daily work, he concentrates on making knives.
With his imminent retirement, Cossel is focused on continuing his work while teaching others his own techniques. He says there is a thriving cutlery community in Bowling Green.
“I look forward to walking out my back door every day and coming here to do what I love,” Cossel said.
His work has already attracted the interest of many across the city. Cossel will regularly make knives and donate them to various companies that sell his work at auctions.
For example, one of his knives will be part of an auction at Hope House’s Cooking For Hope event on May 27th.
Cossel added that his knives are for sale to anyone interested. Occasionally he also makes small handicrafts from steel, such as small crosses.
– Follow reporter John Reecer on Twitter @JReecerBGDN or visit bgdailynews.com.