Cleveland is teeming with entrepreneurs who have converted their hobbies into businesses. There are the mainstream outlets, such as baking, painting, and jewelry making. Then there are the more singular pursuits, like custom chicken coop building and upcycled plastic bottle floral design.
Dee Coker’s craft falls into the latter. Coker has carved out his own niche forging chefs’ knives, pizza cutters, cherry cheese boards, oak cutting boards, wineglass carriers, and knife hangers from his home in University Heights.
“I started making my own hunting and fishing knives out of pieces of metal and leaf sprigs when I was 15 or 16,” says the owner of Cleveland Cuts. “Making knives has always been a hobby of mine.”
Coker specializes in 6-inch to 10-inch utility and paring knives, though custom orders can be fulfilled. The process takes about four weeks from start to finish. Custom knives come with handstitched leather sheaths, a wooden saya knife holder or knife rolls.
Metal originates from Admiral Steel in Chicago. Coker prefers a 1095 top-grade carbon steel, which offers greater retention and a sharper edge. Coker also uses a high-carbon stainless steel. Most of the work is done in-house, literally. A metal cutoff saw chisels the knife’s shape. A serrated version requires hand filing.
Universal Heat Treating, as its name suggests, heats and treats the metal at about 1,500° from its plant in Cleveland’s Union- Miles Park neighborhood. Once that process is complete, Coker cleans the metal and affixes a handle made of natural hardwood, hardened plastic or canvas Micarta.
“A lot of knife handles are glued in,” he says. “I clamp them using brass pins. I hit those with a hammer, and the brass spreads. This is the traditional way of making knives.”
Coker became serious about transitioning his interest into a full-time venture about two years ago. He formally launched his business earlier this year, and is looking for a larger light industrial space within which to expand.
You can find Coker’s knives online at ClevelandCuts.org, K & K Portage Products, or at the Wine Spot. “Wine Spot uses my cutting boards and knives for their cheeseboards, which is great exposure for us,” Coker says.