5 From the Grinder

“5 from the Grinder” with Allen Elishewitz

It is a completely happy coincidence that I live so close to so many industry legends. I am not saying this to brag, but rather to make the point – I have lunch with Ethan Becker frequently enough that it would be bragging to blog about it every time it takes place. That said, through relationships I have developed at these lunches, I have also been connected to Walter Brend and most recently Allen Elishewitz. Allen has been a top designer and custom maker since the late 1980s, and is the exclusive designer for Hogue Knives on the production side.

I will let Allen tell you more in our latest edition of “5 from the Grinder”.

First, in a few sentences, please introduce yourself and let us know what led you to making/designing knives.

I am Allen Elishewitz, and I have been making knives for 30 years. I started making knives because the makers at the time were not capturing the true intent of my designs. Before I was making knives, I was designing knives; having local makers from Thailand (where I lived for a couple of years) and then Dallas (where I moved to after high school). They were very good craftsmen and made the knives I designed exactly to the shape but they never captured the intent or the soul of the knife that I was after. That is what led me to build my own knives.

Black Dolphin – Timascus

Question 1: What knifemaker(s) or designer(s) have had the biggest influence on you? Do you have any mentors?

I do not have any mentors because I chose not to apprentice under anyone. I have seen too many makers apprentice under a particular craftsman and their work looks a lot like their instructor’s. I know what needs to be made so the hurtle back at the beginning was how to make it. It was through trial and error and a little bit of ingenuity.
When it comes to knife makers or designers influencing me, the answer is no. I kind of move to the beat of my own drum. There are very few makers with an extensive background in classical art and possessing over 40 years of martial arts training; to that you add a military and combative training. With all these experiences I can pool together very practical and functional edged tools and weapons. You can have an individual who has extensive knowledge in a particular field (i.e. hand to hand combat, hunting, military, etc…) but cannot design a knife. On the other hand you might have a fantastic craftsman who can build anything but cannot design the proper tool. My advantage and it always has been, I am able to do both

Question 2: What is your favorite knife pattern or style from history?

The dagger. It is sleek, balanced both visually and physically. If done correctly it can slash and pierce. When it is in your hand it almost wants to come alive; there are very few designs that give you that feeling. It is one of the only designs that its sole purpose is fighting and defense. There is not one trace of utilitarian in a dagger.

TankTi -BluCF

Question 3: What is the next big thing in knifemaking? / What direction do you see the industry going?

I don’t see a next big thing in the industry. The direction I see the industry going for individual makers is more CNC; more people getting into it, more people owning it, more being available for the makers, tools not limited to machining centers but lasers, turning centers, 3D printers… I see individual knife makers possessing more than 1 CNC machine. I see the true art of knife making, making it by hand, disappearing. Individuals making knives by hand will be the minority. We will lose a full generation of skilled craftsmen in this art to technology.

White Swan – MicutiCF

Question 4: Is there a knife from your lineup that you feel best exhibits who you are as a knifemaker/designer in terms of design elements, aesthetic or techniques used?

All of them. I will not have a knife in my line that I do not believe in. Each model represents a different characteristic or approach to a knife design and each one is executed esthetically and functionally. Also they are very different from each other. These show my ability to be flexible with my designs but they all stand on their own. That’s why I cannot say one is better than the others.

Silver Fox Ti – micarta

Question 5: What is your EDC and why?

My EDC is the one I happen to grab for that day. Lots of time I will carry a Hogue folder because I am testing and evaluating so the next model will be even better or if there are any changes needed we can address the issue.

Limited Edition Hogue EX-01


You can check out Allen’s custom work at ElishewitzKnives.com. His Instagram is @eilshewitz_knives. Of course you can see his production designs at HogueInc.com. 

If you are a knifemaker or know a knifemaker that would like to be featured in a future 5 from the Grinder post, please send an email to thetruthaboutknives@gmail.com

 


Since I mentioned Ethan Becker, I thought I would share Ethan’s impression of Allen, whom he considers a close friend. He told me:

“Allen’s aesthetic is not necessarily mine, but he makes some of the most beautiful f#$&*@% knives I have ever seen”.

High praise indeed.

Discussion

9 responses to ‘“5 from the Grinder” with Allen Elishewitz

  1. Clay, thank you for the opportunity to feature my work and share my story. It was nice meeting you; we should all get together for lunch with Ethan of of these days!

    • I would disagree honestly. You can tell from his answers that he’s plaintive and prefers to let his work speak for itself. I actually really respect and admire his answers, as short and initially unsatisfying as they are. By not talking a whole lot, he wants you to look at his work, or even better, get some in hand. Also by trying to avoid influence, the search for a more perfectly realized individual form is admirable to me (even if I think that’s an impossible task, but a debate for another day…).

      I’ve honestly never thought about Hogue Knives before, but I think I’ll check them out next time I’m at SMKW.

  2. Some very striking designs shown. I would love to get my hands on them. Or, at least, read a good review of them.

    By the way, Mr. Elishewitz, when did you live in Thailand? I lived there when I was a kid, from 1966 to 1969.

    • I lived in Thailand from 1985 to 1986, went back to the US for some college and came back to Thailand for almost another year. Did you go to ISB?

      • No, I went to Raum Rudi, a local Catholic school (in the English speaking section). I have good memories of Thailand. I regret that I did not learn the language beyond a hello/goodbye/thank level. I was a little too old to pick it up naturally and too young to realize that putting in the hard work to learn it would be worthwhile.

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