Enter the Grizz: Grizzly Forge’s Lucas O’Hara on Business and Life

ohara grizzly forge cover

Lucas O’Hara of Grizzly Forge. Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.

After seven and a half years in the US Army, including a tour as a sniper with the 3rd Infantry Division and a post in the color guard at Arlington National Cemetery, Lucas O’Hara, now of Grizzly Forge, transitioned out of the military into what he calls “the same old sob story.” In other words, the transition did not go well.

He bounced at clubs around Atlanta, his hometown; pulled private security for — as he’d later find out — “a Wall Street scammer”; worked as an overseas contractor in Kuwait; and went boom-and-bust financially, mentally, and emotionally several times over.

Then, at a particularly low point, he walked into Goat n Hammer in Atlanta to take a $120 knife-making class. The rest is history.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

lucas ohara grizzly forge

When O’Hara started making knives, he’d make two a week; now he’s making as many as 10. Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.

COD: What drew you to knife making?

LO: At that time, I felt like I had failed as a father, a husband, at everything. I took the blacksmithing class, and it made everything in my life — the noise in my head — go away. I could focus on this one moment, making a knife, like a moment of Zen. Driving does that for me too. And now archery. I wanted more of it, so I chased knife making.

COD: When did you realize it could be a career?

LO: I knew the Black Rifle Coffee Company guys, and CEO Evan Hafer called with an idea for a bag opener. I came up with five designs, forged them out, and had them to him in an hour. He liked one of them and wanted 50. There was money in my account two hours later. One of our friends literally loaned us money to get the water back on at our house — $100. We didn’t even have that, and this money showed up from Black Rifle. It took me four or five weeks to make the first bag openers, and when Evan got them, he called and said, “Hey, I want 250 more. Can you do it in two weeks?” I said yes, and once I commit, I’m committed. It forced me to create a process, and once I had my process, that’s when it took off.

lucas ohara grizzly forge

The Arctic Camper knife from Grizzly Forge. Photo courtesy of @grizzly_forge/Instagram.

The Arctic Camper knife from Grizzly Forge. Photo courtesy of @grizzly_forge/Instagram.

COD: It seems as if, over time, your style has changed — become more refined, more unique.

LO: For a long time, I was doing custom orders that I didn’t connect with. I was doing anything and everything for a check. After the bag openers, I was like, “I’m only going to make what I love.” Once I started that, people started buying them up, and I learned to speed up my process without losing quality. Now, on average, I do about eight to 10 knives a week — up from two. That’s full handles, a sheath, everything. That’s working 12-hour days. I get to Black Rifle at about 0630, and I leave about 1900.

COD: You moved from Georgia to a forge at Black Rifle in Salt Lake City, right?

LO: Yes, and that’s been a huge blessing. There’s not one part of me that wants to turn this into a million-dollar business or have 70 employees or anything like that. I’m not driven financially at all. I’m driven by happiness, by being a good father, by taking care of my family, by helping other veterans. With this space, Evan and I are putting together a veterans project where we’ll bring in guys, and they’ll spend a week with me and make a badass knife. Hopefully, I can teach him enough skills to be successful with it, to find that happiness. ν


This article first appeared in the Summer 2021 edition of Coffee or Die’s print magazine.

Read Next: 7 of the Most Popular Knives in US Military History

Shea is the Executive Editor at Free Range American, a former editor-at-large for Field & Stream, plus an itinerant freelancer for USA Today, Men’s Journal, Gun Digest, and many more. He holds an MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University and once tanned a deer hide in an apartment bathroom. His wife was not pleased.
More from Coffee or Die Magazine
The aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford will spend at least one more day in Virginia.
Ford’s technological glitches included propulsion problems, hinky elevators, and gremlins in the catapults.
Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 Vietnam War epic “Apocalypse Now” is one of the most recognizable war movies ever made, yet few fans are familiar with the insane story behind its production.
Get a peek inside the Army’s competition in which the soft skills of interrogation and human intelligence collection meet the hard reality of field tactics.
An Army doctor and her wife, a Johns Hopkins doctor, colluded to try to give high-ranking US officials’ health information to Russia.
The Norwegian military recovered a US Air Force CV-22 Osprey, which had been stranded on a remote island nature reserve since early August, on Tuesday, Sept. 27, with a crane boat.
An Air Force sergeant will face a general court-martial to determine whether he orchestrated an “insider attack” on a US outpost in Syria in April that injured four service members.
Putin’s speech denied the battlefield reality in Ukraine and pushed conspiracy theories about a Western cabal conspired to “destroy” Russia.
Prosecutors failed to prove Seaman Recruit Ryan Mays torched the Bonhomme Richard in 2020.
Hurricane Ian brought torrential rains, high winds, and massive flooding.