I met James Cox at BLADE Show 2018 while I was just walking the floor on Saturday. I could not help but be drawn to the table with the name “Mayfly Forge”. It wasn’t just because of the selection of beautiful knives on the table, but also because as the owner of my own trout-fishing guide service, the mayfly holds a special place of significance to those of us who find our home on mountain streams and rivers.
Anyone who has a passion for knives and flyfishing can’t be too bad in my book, so sit back and enjoy our latest installment of 5 from the Grinder with James Cox of Mayfly Forge.
First, in a few sentences, please introduce yourself and let us know what led you to making/designing knives.
My name is James Cox, I’m a 100% VA disabled US Army veteran living in the Ozarks of Northwest Arkansas. I made my first knife in October 2015, and have relied heavily on knives in life since childhood. I’ve always had an interest in knives that were well made, and reliable, so I figured I would give it a shot after leaving the Army. I have had several TBI’s, and knife making is my therapy. It has helped me tremendously. I taught myself to make, and along the way a small handful of talented and very well known makers have taken an interest and helped me to learn. When I’m not dealing with medical issues, I spend most of my time in the shop, but when I’m not working, I’m out fly fishing, or hunting.
Matt Lamey, Lin Rhea, Don Hanson III, and Tad Lynch have all been instrumental in my development as a maker. Matt, Lin, and Don are my mentors, and Tad has helped me a lot and shown me loads of useful tricks. As far as influence goes, I really try to insulate myself, in the interest of developing a style that is uniquely mine, but represents the influence of my mentors. I am a firm believer that if a master of their art takes the time to mentor you, and invests part of their life in you, it is disrespectful not to reflect that in your work. As such, I forge everything I make (if forged), as closely as possible to finished dimensions, and even go as far as to forge to finished dimensions and sharpen it after hardening. My fittings and handles are influenced very heavily by Lin Rhea’s work, and he regularly helps me with critiques and questions that I have, suggestions, etc. My affinity for W2 and the etched hamon on a working blade comes from Matt Lamey and Don Hanson’s influence in my work, and both have helped me tremendously with their time, experience, and advice. I cannot stress enough that I would not be the maker I am without these men and their guidance.
Hard to pick a favorite. I like knives with a purpose, a dedicated function. I don’t like knives that aren’t designed and built to be used, every knife I make is meant to be used, and used hard for its intended purpose. I’m very partial to bowies, daggers, integrals (be it a gaucho/cuchillo criollo, or a more American version), et al. I just like making knives.
Honestly, I have no idea. I see a lot of interest in slip joints lately, but I’ve always had a thing for them. I hope that more buyers become interested in bowies and axes, because I like making them and find few things as useful in wild places.
If I had to pick one knife I’ve made that embodies what I strive for as a maker, it’d be the bowie I had at BLADE 2018. As far as design elements go, I strive for performance, first and foremost. I test every single knife I’ve ever made, and in many cases I do so abusively. Everything must first perform, then it can be dressed up. Once dressed up, a knife must never injure the user, or be uncomfortable to use. That’s what I strive for, to constantly improve my ergonomics and performance, whilst making them as appealing to the eye as possible, and incorporating techniques from history, such as color case hardening. That knife is the culmination of my experiences to date, and I will continue to work towards better and better knives.
A DDK Knives Knightrider frame lock folder. Daniel is an incredible maker, and apprenticed under Ken Onion for multiple years. I believe it’s important to support your peers and their work, and it’s the best folding knife I’ve ever owned. Fit and finish are extremely important to me, no detail is too small or insignificant. My other EDC is an 11” Matt Lamey bowie in 1095FG and curly maple, and it goes with me any time I leave the house.
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