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Marine Veteran Turns to Forging for Both Work and Respite

Tucked away in the Smoky Mountains, one veteran splits his time between working at the Sevierville Black Rifle Coffee Company outpost and forging knives. 

A dual military brat, Mike Coffey grew up with both Army influences from his mom and Navy from his dad, and he ended up joining the Marine Corps himself. 

Image courtesy of Mike Coffey.

“I signed up for the Marine Corps in 2009, and after leaving Camp Lejeune, I deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 with the 3/5 [3rd Battalion, 5th Marines,] from Camp Pendleton,” Coffey said. 

“After I got out in 2012, I noticed how hard it was for infantrymen to get jobs,” Coffey said. “It was so much easier for mechanics and administration to translate their job skills to the civilian world. So I found myself going to interview but not making it past the first round of interviews. It was very frustrating, and I lost a friend of mine to suicide after he failed to get a job post-service and couldn’t keep his family together.”

Photo courtesy of Mike Coffey.

“People don’t seem to realize that [infantrymen] are adaptable and fast learners,” Coffey said. “There’s no reason why we should be counted out just because it’s harder to translate our skillsets directly into civilian jobs.”

Coffey started an electronics company in an attempt to create a job for himself and employ other veterans, but he transitioned to working with an ambulance company and selling knives on the side. 

“I had a connection with a British Royal Marine [Jacob Haines] who I met while overseas,” Coffey said. “He was selling knives on the side but had better luck sending them to me to sell stateside.”



Viking Blade Supply was officially created in 2018 when Coffey and Haines went full-time with knife sales. 

As Coffey became more connected with the forging community, he met a number of the Forged in Fire participants, which led to him visiting their forges and learning how to forge himself. 

Photo courtesy of Mike Coffey.

After standing up his first forge in Greenville, Pennsylvania, Coffey and his other half, Autumn, moved down to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and started a second forge in the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community.

It wasn’t long after Black Rifle Coffee Company came to the area that Coffey ended up on staff at the Sevierville outpost. 

“My girlfriend [Autumn] started working at Black Rifle Coffee Company, and when things slowed down at Viking Blade Supply, I started picking up a day or two a week,” Coffey said. “She wanted me to come and spend my free time at the coffee shop instead of the forge.”

Photo by Lauren Warner/BRCC Blog.

“I knew there were a lot of veterans employed at the outpost, so whenever I’d go in, we’d crack jokes and started an ongoing prank war,” Coffey said. “A number of us bonded and started spending time together outside work as well. We’ll go to the range together or they’ll come over here and hang out at the forge.”

“When the withdrawal from Afghanistan occurred, I knew that I wasn’t the only one struggling with that situation,” Coffey said. “I opened up both forges to veterans that needed a place to decompress and process what was going on. We had a group of guys drive over six hours from South Carolina to spend a few days at the forge, and they ended up teaching knife-making classes with me, which was great therapy for all of us.”

Photo by Lauren Warner/BRCC Blog.

Coffey also set up his forge outside of the Sevierville BRCC store during its grand opening in March and invited all the attendees to try their hands at working on a railroad tie while the snow was coming down. 

Currently, Viking Blade Supply showcases knives from six in-house bladesmiths, six additional American bladesmiths, and seven bladesmiths from England.

“I usually have three cases of American-made knives [at the Gatlinburg store],” Coffey said. “The downtown parkway area sells more foreign-forged knives, so even the tourists are becoming aware of the difference and are making their way to the arts and crafts district here in Gatlinburg, which works out great for us.”

Both the Pennsylvania and Tennessee locations offer forging classes for knife-making and handle-making. In addition to the classes, Coffey also sells his knives in-store and online, sometimes traveling to sporting shows and hosting weekly giveaways on the Viking Blade Supply Facebook page

Photo courtesy of Viking Blade Supply.

For more on Viking Blade Supply, or to check out their store, head here