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Shawn Knowles: Maker of Visual & Visceral Knives

October 18, 2011

By Les Robertson

(top) A Shawn Knowles Camp knife, 416 single stainless steel guard, CPM-3V blade, with a curly koa handle. (bottom) A Knowles Fighter, 416 double stainless steel guard, CPM-3V blade, black micarta handle. Price for each is $450.00 (PointSeven photo)

Knives are both visual and visceral.  First we are attracted by how the knife looks…then how it feels in our hand.  You would be amazed at how many times I have witnessed an imaginary knife fight in front of my table, testing the balance and feel of the knife in their hand.   Personally, I like to see that as it almost always guaranteed a sale.

I am guilty of something similar.  When I pick up a big knife especially one in a tactical configuration, I find myself asking the question; “is this something I would have carried as a Rifle Platoon Leader in the 101st Airborne?”  When it comes to the fighter built by Shawn Knowles the answer is a resounding “yes.”

Shawn’s knives have what we refer to as the “look”.  The look entails what I refer to as the 4 “F’s”: form, fit, flow and function.  Form has to do with the overall look of the knife.  You find this knife appeals to you at first sight.  What attracted to me first about Shawn’s knife was the blade style.  A little out of the box, looks cool and will still perform as intended.  Fit refers to correct grind lines and other “technical” aspects of the knife.  Shawn’s knives exhibit excellent fit and finish.

Flow can go either way but usually looking at the knife from the tip to the end of the handle.  Shawn’s knives excel at this.  With an excellent blade to handle ratio, balance (just slightly blade heavy), contoured stainless steel guard and a handle with great ergonomics.  Shawn can provide a kydex or leather sheath.  Occasionally he uses Kenny Rowe to make his leather sheaths.  Shawn’s knives beg to be taken out and put through their paces!

One of my favorite aspects of his tactical and camp knives is his choice of steel–CPM3V.   CPM3V is designed to provide maximum resistance to breakage and chipping.  The extra Vanadium (V) offers excellent wear resistance.  Yes, you will have to wipe down the knife when you are done with it…and don’t store it in the sheath.  What you have is a very well made big field knife with steel chosen to match the knife’s main function(s).

Shawn builds other knives, hunters and additional styles of Bowies.  He works with a wide variety of blade steels.  While his knives are primarily made using the stock removal method he does enjoy forging his own Damascus.  He prefers using 1084 and 15n20 for his Damascus and enjoys working W-2 seeing what kind of Hamon (temper line) he can produce.  His favorite natural handle materials are curly koa, African blackwood and redwood burl.  If a client is looking the best hard use handle material he recommends either micarta or G-10.

Shawn builds a clean straight forward knife.  He offers what I consider a value price on all of his knives.  His price range is between $200 and $450.  He is a part-time maker but still maintains a reasonable 3-4 month delivery time.  He is happy to work with a client and build the custom knife they want.

The best way to contact Shawn is by phone (973) 670-3307 or by email

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