Frequently Asked Questions
Submitted by: Tonya Hinch
Sep 9th, 2012
What Years did Colonel Coon make their knives?

Colonel Coon knives were made from 1978 until 1988. In 1988, there were some 1989 Colonel Coon Collectors Club knives made (about 25) for Mr. Murphy for the purpose of having Mule Day knives made. These knives were only produced for two years to (1990) and marked made in Germany.

They never used the logo again. Under the US patent and trademark laws, you must renew your trademark every 15 or 20 years. They never did. In 2006 Smoky Mountain Knife Works applied to register and they obtained the Colonel Coon logo. The Colonel Coon knives are now made by Queen Cutlery in Titusville, PA, USA.

Are there counterfeit Colonel Coons and how do you tell?

Yes sadly enough there are counterfeit Colonel Coons on the market. Remember the date of manufacturing is as follows

  • Mule Day knives only through 1990 marked made in Germany.
  • Colonel Coon knives through 1988. There could be a few Colonel Coon knives made after Tennessee Knife Works went out of business because Ben Wells had some parts left and he made a few "special knives " in his garage with the ok from Adrian Harris. These would be called Colonel Coon knives because they were made from Colonel Coon parts by a person who was making the Colonel Coon knives. Ben passed away in the early 90's.)
  • 1989 Colonel Coon Collectors Club knives (about 25) for Mr. Murphy in Dyersburg
Technical specs of an original Colonel Coon to help you better tell if you have an original Colonel Coon.

Etching the blades with the Coon on the left side, Colonel Coon Knives in an arch, and "Made in Tennessee by Tennesseans" under it. In 1980, adding the "Coon" shield in the handle.

Shields made by a findings company in Rhode Island. They were 7/16" and had a special drill cut by a local machine shop that was .002 or .003 smaller than the sheild. They were then pressed into the bone scale by a hand press. Although some of the knives did not have shields (i.e., the small 4 blade), they did have the etch.

This is a true way to see if it is an original Colonel Coon because it will 1) have the special etching 2) has the coon shield. Not to mention the tang stamp because a lot counterfeiters have tang stamps made and then cold stamp the tang. Some knives were cold stamped but it was not that many.

Colonel Coon Barlow Knife Facts

The Barlow patter was the first knife made. The reason being, it was the easiest to make because the blades were at one end and you did not have to cutler the blades.

In the beginning, the name Barlow was stamped on the brass plug (as it was being stamped out of the brass bar) indicating it was a "Barlow" pattern. It was not realized at the time that a lot of people thought "Barlow" was a knife company (which it was years ago). So, it was changed and the bolster stamped out blank. Then, people wanted the name "Barlow" on the knife. This patter was made up to the end of production. It was an easy to build knife and was quite strong.

The first knives made, (which were Barlows), were stamped Adrian Harris on the inside middle liner. This was done on about the first couple of hundred made. There may have been a few when etching the blades started.

Adrian Harris said he did this because he figured that years from then, if he would tell someone it was made by him that they would not believe him then he could show them by having his name hidden on the center liner.

Colonel Coon started using nickel/silver(these are solid N/S) bolsters because a lot of people asked for it. It was made along with the brass, with and without "Barlow" stamped up until Colonel Coon went out of business.

Even though no one seemed crazy about this pattern, they sold a lot of them. It is believed to be the strongest made Barlow on the market at that or any other time

Adrian Harris said the stockman pattern was always his favorite knife pattern. Adrian also had a fondness for the Barlow.

Did Tennessee Knife Works do anything beside make knives? Yes they were pioneers in the business in a lot of ways.

Background - Please note, from about 1984 on, the bulk of the business was not making Colonel Coon Knives but making custom etched - packaged knives out of every brand you could think of. Adrian Harris developed an electrolitic and chemical milling process for etching the blades, a packaging program which included a Q-Vac vacuum forming machine and a table top die cutter, a process to make molds for vacuum forming, and a box business.

The set up boxes that they used were made in a small box plant over in Shelbyville (close to Lewisburg). One day, Adrian went over to visit the owner/manager who really loved the juice of the corn. They had been discussing how to make a paper box with a hinge. He had a jug on his table that he used for a desk and said, "It is almost time for my people to go to lunch. When they do, and I have a little more of this thought medicine, I'm sure we can solve the problem." At the end of the lunch hour, they had come up with a way to make a hinged paper box.

All they did was change one side of the "wrap" or covering that goes around the box and made it longer (top part only). That side of the plunger was taken of the press and only three sides were folded. When the girl picked this up off the conveyer, all she did was place it onto the bottom half and fold the remaining side under the bottom half. Hence , a hinged paper box. What is weird, the same type of box is still being used today.

Very few people know that Adrian is the one who came up with this. Then he could produce a paper box (at a cost of about 25 cents), and having the equipment to produce the plastic flocked insert, they were covered up with business making all kinds of commemorative knives for various knife dealers and clubs. Adrian recalls the month following the death of Paul Bear Bryant, the famous football coach at Alabama, we etched over 30,000 knives with Paul "Bear" Bryant on them. Knives were being delivered by tractor trailer trucks.

Adrian also set up a silk-screen process to print boxes. He had two girls working full time doing nothing but printing boxes. Two others were operating the Q-Vac and then cutting out the insert forms in the die cutter (they made 89 forms or inserts per cycle). Adrian had a complete art department set up with a print shop camera, dark room, type setter, plate burner, drawing room, and an artist. He also had a small machine shop with lathe, milling machine, band saws, and a surface grinder. All of this went to support the making of knives and then molds for vacuum forming. They were going through about 25-30k of boxes per 2-4 weeks. Along with this, he installed a shrink wrap machine. After the knives were packed in the boxes, they were shrink wrapped. Ben Wells was spending more and more time with Adrian making molds and setting up other jigs and tooling for the amount of etching and packing they did.

People don't know Tennessee Knife Works was that big and doing all of the contract work for knife dealers, clubs, and even the big knife companies.

At one point Tennessee Knife Works had 28 people work there at one time. Along with these other "special" things they did, Adrian also set up a process to gold plate. They did a lot of Case Trapper commemorative that were gold plated. Carbon steel was easy to gold plate, but with stainless, you have to first plate it with nickel and then plate it with gold.

Tennessee Knife Works plate but only a very few Colonel Coons. A few knives that Ben made, were plated for him. Also, Adrian had a hot bluing process (same as guns) that they blued carbon steel blades (i.e. Case Trappers). Speaking of guns, they also did commemorative guns for some dealers. For that reason, they had to get a Federal Firearms License in order to ship the guns back and forth. They etched the receivers, re-blued them, and filled the etch with a gold fill. If you should run across an Alvin C. York commemorative Colt .45, Tennessee Knife Works did that. Total - 1,000. They had 1,000 Army Colt .45 s torn down, with parts scattered all over Tennessee Knife Works. They even did the handles using a sublimation machine they had just bought for printing precoated metal (brass colored, I think anodized aluminum), and it worked great on some plastics, even using multi-colors.