James R. Cook

James R. Cook

2007 Award Recipient | BLADESMITH, Nashville

James R. Cook of Nashville was named the 2007 Arkansas Living Treasure for his work as a bladesmith.

Cook grew up on a cattle ranch in Oklahoma. While working on the ranch, he was always in search of a better knife than what he had. One day, he found an old military knife and made a new handle for it. He discovered that this knife worked better than any others that he had uses. This is when his interest in the craft was born.

Several years later, he learned about the American Bladesmith Society and met others who made knives. This is when he met Jerry Fisk, a fellow Arkansas knife maker who has been internationally recognized for his creations.

Thanks to a grant from the Arkansas Arts Council, Cook was able to study the craft under Fisk. More than 20 years later, they are both still forging knives.

Cook joined the American Bladesmith Society in 1988 and earned his journeyman and master status shortly after that. He regularly exhibits knives all across the United States and has won many awards, including "Best of Show" at the 2007 Arkansas Knifemakers Show in Little Rock and the Chairman Award for Outstanding Service from the American Bladesmith Society in 2003.

He is a regular contributor to trade publications and teaches bladesmith classes at Historic Washington State Park and various trade conventions. He also instructs apprentices in his shop and frequently gives demonstrations and lectures on making knives. Cook’s knives are all made one at a time and completely hand finished. The designs include steel, silver, gold, ivory, pearl, bone, stag and wood and more. 

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