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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.