“If you’re a veteran, especially a combat veteran, you’re used to a certain pace of life,” Lucas says. “Everything moves quickly, everything’s got a bit of danger to it. I find all of that in the forge.”
DECKED Ambassador Lucas O'Hara ( @Grizzly_Forge) has built quite a following through creating one-of-a kind survival and bushcraft knives. His completely custom blades sell out in minutes and have ended up in the hands of Nate Diaz, Cristian Craighead, and Joe Rogan. We sat with Lucas to learn more about how he got his start in his craft, how he balances his work life with his family life, and how he uses his truck Kodiak to be the best dad possible.
He grew up in Atlanta, homeschooled and sheltered with his five other siblings. His height earned him a lot of unwanted attention: “I was messed with a lot as a kid. People always want to mess with the tall guy,” he recalls. “I think that’s why I wanted to join the Army... because messing with people is all the Army does.”
He knew all he wanted to do in the Army was become a sniper. He had a rough start...it turns out the Army doesn't take kindly to 6'7" recruits arriving to Basic Training 20 lbs under the minimum weight requirement. But he was determined, and the Army was, too.
At Basic, the Army gave him a new diet: “I was instructed to eat as much as I could in thirty minutes,” Luke remembers. “For the first half-hour of PT, I was eating while the rest of the platoon was getting their asses kicked.” Lucas explained. He ate had to eat as much cheeseburgers and ice cream as possible to gain 20 pounds in six days while still training alongside fellow recruits. He vomited a lot, but he eventually gained enough weight to satisfy the requirements and graduated alongside his platoon. He pushed through the Sniper Course at Fort Benning, and deployed multiple times to Iraq and Africa.
He retired from the Army in 2013, but still gravitated towards the regimented nature of the military, so he spent two more years working as a contractor: "I liked being told where to go and what to do. Meals are taken care of, housing is taken care of. Everything just makes sense."
While contracting paid the bills and kept him grounded in the military world he needed, he eventually got out and wondered what to do next. He attended a blacksmithing class, was given a railroad spike, and told to get to work on making a knife. As always, he followed his orders, and fell in love with it.
For Lucas, making knives focuses his energy in a similar way as combat did. He works with extremely high temperatures, sharp blades, and heavy hammers, so staying disciplined and concentrating proves vital to avoid danger.
He specializes in bushcraft knives; large, tough blades that can be used for almost anything. From skinning an animal to splitting kindling, it's no exaggeration that a well-made knife could save lives in the outdoors. Lucas crafts them to survive a lifetime of abuse using high carbon steel, heat treating, and robust thicknesses to handle whatever heads their way.
Lucas likes to experiment with his creations. He's made dozens of knife shapes, tomahawks, cleavers, and bottle openers. His handles come from all types of hardwoods, resins, and antlers, and he learns something from every knife that takes shape on his anvil: “Even a master of his trade still has something to learn. The willingness to learn is what makes him a master.” He carries this mentality into every aspect of his life. Whether it's his knife making, being a father, a bowhunter, or just a man trying to find his way through a crazy world.
Since he works long hours away from his family, he takes every available opportunity to spend time with them outdoors and away from cell phones, tablets, or tv screens. His truck, Kodiak, is completely built out to facilitate getting away and unplugging from people and cell service, which is why we're highlighting it as our September Build of the Month.
Can you tell us about Kodiak? What's its purpose?
My rig gets me and my family as far away from people-- and cell service-- as possible. I work ridiculous hours during the week, so when I get to spend time with my wife and kids, I want to be 100% involved. No cell phones, no screens, Kodiak gives me the opportunity to get away and focus on what's important in your life.
What aftermarket additions have you added to Kodiak that you can't live without?
It sounds obvious, but my DECKED Drawer System. It was the first thing I purchased for my truck when I got it four years ago. When I'm camping with the family, organization is key, and it helps keep everything stored and safe.
Speaking of organization, how do you keep your gear organized in your rig?
A lot of this probably carries over from my military days, but organization is a big part of my life when it comes to overlanding... Especially medical and recovery gear. I keep all those things separate from the other standard camping equipment in my drawer system. Traveling with small children, especially over long distances and without cell service, means you need to know exactly where everything is in your rig so you can get to it fast in an emergency.
What else is in your drawers?
That changes daily. Camping gear. Rifles and ammo. Archery and hunting equipment. If I’m headed to work, I store my blacksmithing tools. It depends what I’m up to.
What mods or details are you most proud of?
I did a modification on my DECKED system and installed my ARB directly in one of the ammo cans. I can plug directly into the deck for on-board air.
How has DECKED changed the way you use your rig?
There’s huge value in being able to just grab gear, neatly arrange it in the Drawer System, and hit the road. I honestly have about 20 D-Boxes in my garage already packed and ready to go.
If you won the lottery, what would you add to your rig next?
I’ve already won the lottery in life, and I’m living exactly how I want to. I saved for a really long time to build my truck and it’s exactly how I want it. Maybe check back with me in a few years.