The Benchmade Designers:
It takes a lot to make a Benchmade, a Benchmade. When Benchmade is talking about their designers, they have said, “Form and function are the key ingredients to any knife design, and we take both very seriously. That is the reason Benchmade believes working with custom designers creates the most innovative and functional designs in the industry. These skilled artisans and craftsmen pour their passions into their work and agonize over every detail. By collaborating with a selection of world class custom designers, we’re able to tap into the newest locking mechanisms, modern materials, and custom blending and finishing techniques. The results are innovative, quality designs that are built for performance, reliability, and dependability. Benchmade has about 9 major designers: Mel Pardue, Warren Osborne, McHenry and Williams, Shane Sibert, Greg Thompson, Seiichi Nakamura, Butch Ball, Robert “Bob” Lum, and Ken Steigerwalt.
Mel is the senior team member and has been grinding sparks, making knives, and creating a following for over 25 years now. He started hand making knives way back in 1957. Mel is now a master knife maker as he can make Damascus by hand. Mel has even taught college courses in knife making. Right now, Mel and his son Joe currently run Pardue Knives as a
joint venture. He has a unique style that contains class and simplicity that you won’t find with anyone else. The Pardue collaborations with Benchmade provide us will great utility to the everyday knife user while at the same time presenting an upscale distinction. You will find with Mel’s designs that less is definitely more. Some of Mel’s popular designs include the Griptillian, the 530, and the 553.
Warren was raised in a farming and ranching area and this industry quickly taught Warren what a great utility knife can truly offer you in life. From early on in his childhood, knives were a great interest to him. Because of this, he would make knives of all shapes and sizes from
anything such as crosscut saws, chainsaw bars, galvanizes steel stays, and any other pieces of metals that he could find laying around. He has three brothers and because bladed weapons were a family thing, they came to own quite the collection. Warren later worked as a ranch hand in Australia and then as a horse trainer in the US, so sharpening and making knives became something he would do in his spare time. When Warren is making a knife, he works to make a knife feel comfortable in the hand even after extended use, the blade design and edge configurations are mandatory, and the types of materials that he uses go into strong consideration. Warren says, “Quality has always been the motivation for me, bringing tight tolerances and fine hand finishes into one complete package. […] I hand worked my knives then and still do.” Some of Warren’s popular collaborations with Benchmade include the fixed Contego and the Volli.
McHenry and Williams:
This duo includes Bill McHenry and Jason Williams. This is Bill and his stepson Jason, so apparently knife making runs in the family. The two of them spend their days making exquisite pieces of “art with an edge on it”. The duo’s dedication and talents complement one another very well, and have led to several noteworthy innovations in the knife making world. Benchmade was fortunate to be involved with one such innovation, the AXIS mechanism. Since the AXIS locking mechanism is now infused into a wide group of Benchmade’s knives, I’d figure we’d break it down to show McHenry and Williams’ pure genius. The lock is made up of a spring tensioned bar that slides back and forth on a track that is cut into the handles of the knife. The butt of each blade featuring an AXIS lock has a flat spot that allows a spring tensioned bar to lock into place when the knife is opened. To close the knife, you pull the bar towards the back of the knife, using the thumb studs, and fold the blade shut. What is truly spectacular about this locking mechanism is that right and left handers can both easily use this lock, because the bar is accessible from both sides of the knife handle. As far as ambidextrous knives go, the ones with the AXIS locking mechanism is by far the best. One of the most popular knife family’s that McHenry and Williams produced with Benchmade is the Infidel family.
Since 1994, Shane Sibert’s goal has been to design and handcraft unique and functional knives that will invoke pride of ownership, but also have the capabilities to perform challenging tasks effortlessly. When speaking about his knife designs, he has said, “I started making knives in 1994 with the idea of creating blade that were simple, practical, and efficient.” He has been a full time knife maker since 2004. Shane has established a reputation for making knives that are constructed to hold up to the rigors of various hostile environments. Shane has been a lifelong avid backpacker and hiker, so he draws inspiration from adventurous treks throughout the Pacific Northwest’s vast wilderness and from hobbies that have included Martial Arts and SCUBA diving. Something unique about Shane is that once a year, he does construct a unique one of a kind combat dagger for the collector or double edged aficionado, which he tries to have ready for the Oregon knife show in April for display and sale. Some of Shane’s popular knives with Benchmade are the Bushcrafter and the Adamas, both of which have been made in the USA.
The next knife designer is on Benchmade’s list is Greg Thompson. He is the creator of SOCP (Special Operations Combative Programs), which is the first officially designated combatives program for all United States Army Special Operations Forces. SOCP is now the standard program for fighting in kit, and it has been adopted by all Special Forces Groups. Greg has also trained federal and state law enforcement, FBI, ATF, Border
Patrol, and Special Contract Units. It was after September 11, 2001 that, he became one of the small groups of civilians who taught Federal Defensive Tactics and Air Marshal hand to hand tactics. Greg has a Master’s Degree in Industrial Design from North Carolina State University and he has taken dozens of products to market. The majority of his designs are for self-defense or to enhance combative training. He currently owns five patents and is the author of H2H Combatives. In 200 UFC legend Royce Gracie gave out his first Black Belts to Greg and four other students at Greg’s School. Greg had been training with Royce since the early 90’s. Greg also is a certified instructor Kru in Muay Thai with Black Belts in several other systems and is a MACP Level 4 Instructor. Some of Greg’s most popular knives that have come out of collaborations with Benchmade are the 176 SOCP skeletonized dagger and the SOCP spear point family.
Engineering was his life’s work until he retired to focus his efforts on a passion for custom knife work. He specializes in small Japanese style folders, gentlemen’s carry, and jewelry knives. His eye for artistry and mechanical engineering make him a perfect fit for the innovative Benchmade team. His collaboration with Benchmade began in 2008 with the Shoki which won the IWA International Knife Award in the category of Special Design that year. Benchmade has continued to work with Nakamura ever since and for the first time in 2014 they took a Nakamura knife design and added the Benchmade AXIS Lock. Some of Seiichi’s most popular collaborations with Benchmade include the 482 Megumi, the 484, and the Nakamura Axis family.
Butch Ball developed a passion for knives at a very early age. After building a few fixed blades in the early ‘90s, he decided in 2000 to begin a true custom shop. Butch has always had a fascination with knives and began to build them when he worked in a machine shop in Florida. He built a shop when he moved to Virginia and started to build again in 2001. He builds many different types of custom knives such as folders, fixed blades, and the occasional automatics. He builds a variety of different folding knives including the gentlemen folders tacticals, flippers, and even everyday carry folders. His fixed blades that he builds range from bowies to fighters to hunters an skinners to fillet knives. One of his favorite combinations of materials is ivory and Damascus because of the beauty behind it. He also loves to use pearls and abalone on collectibles. Butch stats each knife as a prototype, which he then tests, recreates, and tests again. At each stage in this development process, he is thinking of ways to improve the design, whether mechanical or ergonomic. The results of this process are designs that are as robust as they are innovative. Some of his popular collaborations with Benchmade have been the Axis Flipper and family and the Precinct Family of folders.
Robert “Bob” Lum:
The late Robert Lum was known as the premium designer and maker of the classic tanto knife and many other Asian designs. His knife making career began in 1976, and he was a full time maker until his passing in 2007. From his obituary, “As the artist and maker that began the tanto style knife from antique versions from Japan, he will be remembered as a considerate, kind and wonderful friend in the knife making word, besides being an excellent craftsman and designer.” Bob liked to integrate good design, ergonomics, and balance with high quality construction. He continually worked on new designs and improved on the older ones, because he was always trying to find better methods and ideas to improve what he does. He has said, “Designing knives is one of the best pars of knife making to me. I enjoy using my creative ideas to make a high quality product.” Since his passing, his widow, Jean Lum, has continued to promote his remaining designs and prototypes for production with Benchmade Knife Company including the Onslaught. Bob’s incredible work contributed to some of the finest custom knives in the world, and he is greatly missed in the knife making community.
In 1978, at the age of 15, Ken found himself at the kitchen table with some files and a vise. Three years later, he decided that knife making was going to be his full time career. If Ken needed a knife, he just made one. His first one was built from a saw blade at the kitchen table. Since then, Ken has dedicated himself to wowing the industry with his innovative style and describes his work as a passion and a journey to build a better knife than the last. Benchmade has been fortunate to be involved with one such innovation, the Nitrous Assist mechanism. Ken Steigerwalt has won 11 Blade Show awards in seven consecutive years, including two Best Folders awards and one Best Folder of the Year. One of the popular collaborations between Ken Steigerwalt and Benchmade is the Torrent family.
There is a huge process that goes into making a Benchmade knife a Benchmade knife. The knife begins as a sheet of metal and then goes through a long process which includes laser cutting, surface grinding, blade and handle milling, beveling, back sanding, finishing, assembly, and sharpening. Each of these steps includes a technician that has been trained specifically for that step. Each of these steps also includes an intense measuring process with many of the measurements needing to be within .0005 inches of the correct spec. But, even before that process begins, another process has been going on: the designing. Benchmade has been collaborating with the best designers from around the world to give you the best knife that they possibly can. These designers include Mel Pardue, Warren Osborne, McHenry and Williams, Shane Sibert, Greg Thompson, Seiichi Nakamura, Butch Ball, Robert “Bob” Lum, and Ken Steigerwalt. May is Benchmade month at BladeOps. Come celebrate with us and pick up a knife that one of these designers has made.