Elijah Isham of Isham Blade Works The Knife Junkie Podcast (Episode 26)
Most designers. I would say that they kind of focus on the mechanics in the pivot placement stopped in lock face a locker leaf all that like measurements and stuff before they actually go in and do the the profiles. I actually do that last. I everything starts out is pretty much fixed blade with a pivot that way after I have that profile. I can then put in the mechanics of it. So I can go on the opposite can work backwards a bit. Welcome to the knife junkie podcast. Your weekly dose of knife. News and information about knives and knife collecting, here's your hosts Jim person involved the knife junkie DeMarco. Hello and welcome to the knife junkie podcast. I'm Jim person. And I'm Bob DeMarco from the knife junkie dot com. Welcome. Hey, Bob here, we are again on the knife junkie podcast. And guess what? We're gonna do. What's that? We're gonna talk knives. Let's do it. Let's talk knives. And who you're gonna talk nice to today's guest is alisha item. And if you wanna talk knives, even wanna talk unusual knives. If you wanna talk avant garde knives. Let's talk alisha item. A lot of words. It's a fancy way of saying he makes some pretty fancy knife designs. Right. He's he's kinda come onto the scene. Like a storm in the past couple of years and has really created some designs that frankly, look kind of impossible, but they are functioning ergonomically sound working tools. So I can't wait to talk to Elijah and find out where these things come from. Well, and also I had a chance to talk to Bill Goodman of good knives. LLC he's the show promoter for the Lehigh valley. Knife show that show's coming up early part of may. And that interview also becoming up to give our listeners a chance to learn about that show and Lehigh valley. And maybe get their plans made to to go ten that. But when I tell you that this knife junkie podcast is brought to you by quick books. Self-employed it's your year round tanks solution. It's a must have if you're a contractor a freelancer if you're self employed and doing any kind of business you'll want to go to the knife junkie dot com slash QB thirty that's Scooby three zero knife. Junkies will get a free thirty day trial of QuickBooks, self employed, again, thirty days for free. Just go to the knife, junkie dot com slash q. Be thirty. You know, you're a knife junkie if you love your knives. More than your spouse. My guest today is a knife designer without peer his enigmatic blade Centric sculptures have been the engineering pride of some of the top manufacturers in the industry. And his style has helped define the aesthetics of the current era of knife design, Elijah items greatest hits include the Escott on and pleura for we the mega Therion and Sega for Kaiser and the recent innovative Blackstar released under his own label and blade works. Elijah? Welcome to the knife junkie podcast. Birch wherever just in looking at all of your work. You seem to have been pretty prolific just in the past few years. There seems to be quite an emphasis on art in your work. Very unusual designs that also are functional. So where did you come from a have you always been a designer and a knife guy? Yup. Been enough guard since I was really little about six years old didn't really start getting into design work, though, until started designing knives which was about twelve and yet for the most part, it's always been kinda art focused a love paintings and sculptures at first it wasn't. It was Bush craft. Focused. But then as I got more into a folders, I figured well. There's not a whole lot of Bush crafts stuff in the folder markets. I might as well switch over to my other interests, which were art and sculpture, it's actually comes as quite a surprise to meet this to hear that your interest started in Bush craft and Ives because just in in thinking about their design there so sort of straightforward, and that's not how I would describe your designs your that was one of the things that I want to continue on with because those are built for pure function in the built solely cut wood. And usually only need like a broomstick handle and straight drop point or like a kept her style blade in your pretty much doing the same thing over which is fine in its own. Right. But it can get a little boring. If you if you're wanting to, you know, put your flourishes on some stuff in your perspective on design, it can kinda get muddled. So you kinda have to branch out and just use different lines and shapes and folders his let me do that. You talk about. Your perspective on design, and that's kind of an interesting. Well, it's a it's a real difference from having a perspective on the function of a knife. That's meant solely the cut would what inspires your designs. I mean, I think of a of graffiti, I think of hair on mango figures, I think of Italian future ISM when I look at your designed what what is your design process. Look like where do you get these inspirations, especially coming from the background of Bush craft initially there, so unusual where do you get your inspiration roughly from like biomechanical influence, or and some Futurists like said Mead and pretty much anything with like sinuous lines on it like a flowing organic cut a structure is always intrigued me. So I usually try to through my take on that into a lot of my knife handles in such, but it's like what the Escott on the Iraq is especially that kinda has flowed into the blade. In the kind of rounded out. So yeah, those are those are definitely more art influenced. But a a definitely try enough focused on organics function just as much as the artistic aspects of pretty much equally as best I can, well, what is your design process? Look like is it all CAD or do at work stuff out on paper has that work for right now from like, I think about twenty thirteen mid twenty thirteen twenty fourteen it's all done in CAD like I don't even Doni sketches anymore because I was doing sketches for awhile with a pencil and paper, but it would change so much that kind of got frustrated because the sketch would either be almost near impossible to replicate in CAD to to function as a functioning folder. So it would kind of be stuck in like a fixed blade profile. So I just did everything in CAD from then on it was just easier. Everything kinda flowed together better race, and it was much faster process. Is it easier for you to conceptualize the mechanics of a folder in CAD, or for sure most designers? I would say that they kind of focus on the mechanics in the pivot placement. Stop in lock face a locker leaf all that like measurements and stuff before they actually go in and do the the profiles. I actually do that last. I everything starts out is pretty much fixed played with a pivot that way after I have that profile. I can then put in the mechanics of it. So I can go on the opposite can work backwards sue working backwards a bit meaning. Yeah, you sort of work on aesthetics in then get the function out of it. You're not so much like necessarily just the aesthetics, but it's kind of basically a a slip joint. I guess you could say it just folds. So after that, you can go in and think about where you're you're stopping locations gonna be your lock face. Whether it's going to be in the blade in the handle and anymore. A lot of my stop pinzel. You'll notice her in the blade in the. Track is actually in the handle because when you do that allows for much more free to around the pivot for like different geometry and stuff because otherwise the stop pen was in the handle than the track would be on the blade, and it would cut into it would there's so much the little space around the pivot that everything can get really tight. So you gotta make room for everything. And if it were in the handle than it would just interfere with the lock face. So it's gotta be in the blade on a lot of my more recent designs, so what kind of fabricating capabilities? Do you have in your shop? I'm not sure if you are if you make knives in your shop. Do you three D print them is the proving happening in the virtual world with three CAD? Well, I don't really have a shop per se. I do a couple of machines some old stuff. I do have a Bridgeport which I have yet to us. But for right now just on a three D printing. And just physical paper cuts. Outs. The check economics everything. But after you've done it for so long, you kind of know by the measurements of stuff whether it's gonna work out. So as far as the shop, that's like something in the future that I'm thinking about like actually making some knives. Some customs later down the road so collaborating how important is it in what you do. Right now, you have collaborated with some of the top manufacturers who have been able to realize you're very complicated and unusual designs. And you've also worked with other knife makers like Jeff Blau, for instance, with the drool worthy black Knight satellite knife. I love that. How do you approach the collaborating process differently when you're working with a we knives? As opposed to Jeff Blau for we especially they can the manufacturing process with the fancy in their wiry diem is just far more advanced than anything a coastal maker could do a shop the one man shop. So the limits or kinda not there like it's kind of a abound Lewis opportunity to kind of design whatever I want in handed off. And then see if it's you know producible and luckily enough with the wine is it was what the eschaton and the some of the more crazy ones. I mean, they they must look at the when you hand them a design like that they must take that as a challenge they can't pass up because if they pull it off they get to brag that they pulled it off, and then that will only inspire more crazy designs, and I don't mean to call your work crazy. But you know, it is it is. It is quite unusual there for sure I would agree with that is a bit crazy. What gives you the the nerve? What what gives you the right to design such not not giving. I think it's really cool. I mean is they're they're extremely unusual. But they all have they all touch the the real world if you will end I'm thinking right now about the Paloma which I have yet to hold myself, but I'm a great big fan of sway Bax. And to me, this is a vodka tive of sway back in. Of course. I'm not the first person to say that. But to me from an outsider's perspective. It seems like that might be the most usable of your knives. How would you qualify that statement? And what design of yours? Do you think is the most crossover the Perot is definitely up there because it's definitely a crossover design like you said it came from the the last set of five in the simple series that I did. But I took those kinda further a wanted to like put a little bit of the. The odyssey series. Like of what the eschaton Iraq is our on a kinda like put a little bit of that flavor in there too. So that's why the construct the crazy construction and the the floating spine the vertebral integral construction, but it was just a plain sway back design to begin with. And then I just kind of kept going with it until I felt it you know, it was done. But yet that one pretty much in the hand. And when you're using it as just a normal sway back design. It's actually really like really functional yet, and that blade not only is it too. So it one stroke, very obvious. But also very imaginative with the with the floating thumbs dead. I mean that is such a cool, touch, but the blade itself. Also seems like it you could just get a ton of mileage out of it or the they got the grind down to. I think like fifteen thousand five hundred ten to fifteen and it is like super slice, but like on the on the floating foam stud, the reason that. I did that is because it's this way back pattern. And if you know I usually like to hide my flipper tabs completely in the handling and dumb. I couldn't do it on this model because it would there was no way doing it with John Kerry is it just wouldn't allow for one it would be sticking out and just kind of ruined the flow. So I thought about the blade cutout was already there. So I thought about adding thumb stud, and that was kind of the only spot that it made sense. And I didn't want to get rid of the cutout either. So I just kinda shaped it around to perform that little island steals at the the thumbs said can arrest on it just kind of worked out, and I actually do have another model with a we coming out. Probably you'll probably see it in a for blade show west it has the same construction in it also has a the flowing thump side as well. But it say it's more like a Persian design. It's like, it's no Persian type of thing. Yeah. Stubby meaning small it's kind of small it's like the same about the same size as the parole Perot. But it's the blade is kind of wide. In its yes. Just got like an aggressive sweep to it. It's really it's interesting. The black star that came out in twenty eighteen if I'm correct that knife came out to a lot of fanfare because it's beautiful and also because it's non locking. But I think it's a it's where where your other designs are very innovative aesthetically. There's things we've never seen before this knife. The black star is very innovative mechanically. It is a non locking knife. But it's not like when we've ever seen before end its flipper. How did you come up with that? What was the what was the impetus for that that creation? Well, Justin Lundquist. Are you familiar with his work? Yes, I've been friends with him for quite a while. I've been talking with him about doing a slip joint design, and I finally did like three of them. But two of those were kind of still in the works. But we talked about doing one for a long time in how we both liked a Jared. As work his modern so joints. And it seems like right now it's kind of cooling off a bit. But I don't know. I mean, you can never really tell you can really predict where it's going. You mean the lip joint? Phase right? The slip joint craze. Yeah. Last year. It seemed like to hit its peak, but I really wanted to design a a new take with like a news somewhat kinda new mechanism an-, a modern slip joint. Incited the the flipper, but swordsman chanko had done that. But in his own way, and I kinda had to do my own take on it. So in that resulted in the the black store because I wanted to clip point like a Bowie that clip point, by the way, I would love to have that in a big fixed blade that the profile played is just killer. And I think it would make a really sweet belt knife. But that aside you wanted this to be flipper. So why why the so was it about the non locking aspect of it is that why you set out to design it in the? A first place year. It was kind of spur of the moment. I wanted to be attritional joint, but with the flipper tab that was going to be an impossibility with the the spring bar. So I had to just do the detect driven spring bar inside the frame, and that seemed to work pretty good on the next run of the black star. There's actually two spring bars. So it's a little stiffer. That's one problem that a lot of people had that it was a little too easy to close the position. So it's gonna have to spring bars. But a yeah, I don't know. So intrigued me about that that whole system like a small knife. But with a clip right perfect for the watch pocket Kerry. Oh, yeah. So this knife came out under under your item. Played works shingle is then the first knife to come out into your own brand. Yes is the very first life. They'll be others. But that was the first one we released it it took about a year to get to market. And then we released it in about October November last year. I saw I was looking poking around online. And saw an artist's statement that you made on we and you mentioned sacred geometry and try to integrate as much sacred geometry into your designs as possible. What does that mean? I kinda have an inkling, but I'm not really sure. Well, it's like it's kind of hard to explain a little bit. It has to like deal with the way line flow like relates to itself like proportion in relation to ratio like the phonology sequence. It's like the following number after itself. So like one one three five like it's a way to design that's kind of in everything already inherently in nature. But when you implemented and design kinda just seems correct to the I is this the spiralling out visual geometry image that you see a thicker Notre kind of get into. Yeah. Yet. Anyway. So with the sacred geometry, you find that when you use this ideal in your design process it brings. Out what a more interesting knife or more balanced knife that seems to especially on like the one design that I've used it in the most is the plural with all the curve and all that it kind of it's not really necessarily about line. It's more about curve if that makes sense as like an angular design a really angular linear kind of Quebec or something doesn't have a lot of. But it's it's own thing to the put itself like curvature more than like, straight angular lines. But some people think by work is pretty angular. So well of your own designs in your own work. What do you find the most artistically mature? I would say probably the pleura or some of the new designs that have come out. It's kinda distilling down into this like not as insane geometry kind of it's like subtle, but not so much, but it's not like in your faces the Esca Thomas like the. The new savi's you might be referring to. Yeah. Those those have those seem to have all of your signature while curves. As what you you're talking about seemed to have all all of your lines without much extra is that what you're getting distilled down to just about as much as is needed. Like nothing more than that nothing that doesn't need to be there like the Perot. I think is one of my best designs, and there's some more that are coming that have been shown yet that I feel really good about. So from your perspective who is your customer who is buying your knives. I think like strictly just fans of mine people who want to wanna cutting implement, but also want to carry something that's a little different little intriguing to the I in kind of like like a jewelry piece, but you know, in a knife, but it's not a custom. So it's more tangible because I mean, you can just by any knife. But I try to make every one of these unique as possible. The gotta differentiate them from the next, and yeah, just something of interest like a little get a niche market. So where do you see your designs and your output? How'd you see ice blade works? For instance, evolving in the future over the the goal from the beginning was to definitely start making customs. And now, it seems like a do wanna have a small like a small run production company and also do customs moving forward. But let's take a lot of a lot of time while learning knife making, but that's the goal for the future is to kind of branch into a custom market for sure this are doing eventually starting doing strictly aren't knives. Like one at a time all handmade no seeing seeing that a lot of carving intricate detail work. But a that's that's a ways down the road yet. Do you see yourself designing other products? Are you a product designer first and foremost our? Knife designer first and foremost, I would say definitely knife desire Reveille thought about practice on. But I have recently thought about possibly making other stuff other little gadgets are unlike everyday carry items, and maybe even branching further into some other realm of design, but yeah, I hadn't thought about it in the past. But I am starting to think about that more and more. So what do you want? What do you want your legacy in the knife world to be you've you've kinda captivated and challenge the knife world in the in the few short years you've been on the scene? What do you want to be remembered for the unique kind of just the uniqueness that? I kinda brought to it to give people an idea of what else is possible to not be. So none of the blinders on so much and just kinda think kind of like explore into what other territory of Justice something as simple as a knife could could do like, what could what could be made from the same thing that had been. Made forever. But like offer something brand new counter to it like from just a completely different perspective. Yeah. That's something. We talk about a lot here that the knife is the very first tool, and and you can view it strictly as a tool or you, can you can take it all the way to art knife, as you mentioned with everything hand-carved with expensive materials, and you know, so what's the best way for people to keep up with you. And to find your work to buy your work to keep up with your designs, while definitely on my Instagram at item blade works. That's a my main outlet for everything. I usually post a lot of teasers on their what's new trying to keep up with the story Preregister Li everyday when you start getting your hands dirty and with the actual making of knives. Do you have mentors in mind? People you want to show you the ropes. Oh, yeah. For sure John gray as you're familiar with him. He has offered to apprentice me for. For period of time. Definitely gonna take him up on that offer go out and visit him and learn much can Nick shoeprint. He's probably gonna teach me quite a quite a bit. Even on the CNC side of that in probably Jeff blah out, a good friends with him probably got his shopping. Learn some stuff yet you keep you keep some fine companies her. That's right. So a knife guy since age six you must have a knife story. Some some day knife save the day or something funny that happened or maybe something that happened on the way taking your designed to we knives. The got any any knife stories are those couple of one of the earliest ones, the one of the first ever got. I'd had it for for longtime us have it. But I had it for a long time up until the point that a cut my thumb open for the worst worst coat of ever had in my life was just a small little Swiss army knife. Just recently this accountable funny story, I was with a Nick shoeprint and Jeremiah Burbank of PDK knives. PDK values. PDK values, and we were in Portland we were going to a club. And we thought oh, they're probably going to have a military's or something. You know, we probably can't bring knives in here. We so we didn't take any nice with us. We completely knifeless, and we show up in the of course, they didn't and later on we were outside, and we were talking to these guys or something somebody started talking about knives. And. Loan behold, a three or four they all had knives on them, and we had nothing. So we were kind of taken aback a little bit. 'cause yeah, these guys had spider coz awesome. Like nothing. And we're the knife guys. Yeah. Yeah. And you can produce like the sweetest things, you know in. Yeah. Yeah. Instead, we got shown showed up by these guys. Yeah. They they were Aaron some pretty cool stuff and we had on the show. So that's funny. Do you carry your own knives or your own designs? Do I carry a lot of other people's designs? Most of the time other people's lives Benza a lot too great knife. But yeah, I carry a like every time I get a new prototype. I always carry it for weeks on end. Just check it out and see how it rides in the pocket and see how it works just little testing. But yeah, I usually carry quite a few my knives, generally, the Blackstar pretty much every day. So it did you ever end up with a black star black Knight satellite? Not yet. We're gonna reffing out like. What we're gonna do with that design moon forward. But we only made Jeff did five of those. And they're all one off. Yeah. We just auctioned the the last one, and that was the most the most Tracy he put like the most time he'd ever put any knife on that one and came out pretty great cheese five out there in the wild. And none of them are in my possession. That is terrible thing. Hopefully, I get to rectify that someday Elijah item. I want to thank you for coming on the knife junkie, podcast, and and talk knives with us. It's been a real honor and pleasure to speak with you, sir. Yes. What applause thank Formule? You're listening to the knife junkie podcast. Cole. The knife junkie at seven two four four six six four four eight seven with your questions or comments, and we're back on the knife junkie podcast talking to Bill Goodman, good knives. LLC promoter of the Lehigh valley knife show, they've got two shows in two thousand nineteen coming up in September. But we're going to talk about today is the show may fourth and may fifth and eastern Pennsylvania and Bill. Thanks so much for being on the podcast with us today. Well, thank you for inviting me absolutely glad to have you always a pleasure to talk with knife guy's and to promote knife shows. So tell us a little bit about the may four and five event that you've got going on in eastern. Okay. Well, it's been a growing show I've been involved with knives show since the eighties and as a member of clubs random, but a few years ago, the one club that ran the local shows went out of business if the clips in business, but they gave up shows. So I said I'd run them. And we have to shows one in the spring of one of the fall. May fourth and fifth and the September twenty eight twenty nine this year. Normally the may show would have been in April. But it turned out that was the same weekend as eastern on. I think I was a good idea prosecutor having it may fourth but next year revert back to April and has held at a community center in eastern Pennsylvania calls Charles shrink community center, also known as the Palmer community center, and it's right along US twenty two which is a major four land expressway owing through eastern, and there are many other highways nearby typically as all night shows we buy sell trade and display knives. We have new antique shiny rusty factory. Custom hunting military trappers carving cooking gardening, kitchen Bush, crafts swords ban. Divers folders Damascus stainless steel carbon steel alloys still forged pocket knives. Buoy tomahawks. Razors. Sharpshooters sees and books. We have blacksmiths and crafters welcome. In fact, blacksmiths set up on the lawn outside the building, and they can do forging right there and the more boxers knife Smith's, we get the better and they demonstrate forging a knife making. We've also had knife throwing contest. In fact, the fella who had been. I think you may still be the national champion knife-thrower setup outside on. Fortunately, can't make the show now 'cause his job as changed. He can't be available. But anyway, it's very popular. It's a nice aren't with lots of lawns around. So we can do a lot of things outside the host communities that are very nice people various biddable, very welcoming to the knife industry. And it's a Saturday and Sunday may four five I think Saturday hours nine AM to five PM Sunday nine to three is their cost for the event. Yes, it's seven dollars admission and if you have supervised Joe. Children. They're welcome. Also, no charge if under thirteen and I'm sure good food is available will yes, we have meals and snacks for sale in the community center. We have cater who comes in. Plus there are many hotels restaurants, nearby working, folks. Get more information website telephone number in his earning kind of death line to get a vendor table. Well, as it's your last question, we certainly hope that they will register for the tables early because it does fill up, but it's a big call. And we do have people always at the last minute. You wanna table we just rearrange things where we can do that. It's always best if they register early. Okay. And the we have several things going over website, which is WWW dot P A, like Pennsylvania knife, show dot com. A repeat p a knife show dot com, you go there and on the website. There's a pop up with show is the obligation. And you can also read about the show in his past the many, knife makers and vendors. We've had there over the years and the ones who have registered already for this year. But also you can go to Facebook under Facebook look up Lehigh valley knife show again that's Lehigh valley. Knife show Lee, high is Elliott's knife show and Facebook has a nice page there for us where we have hundreds and hundreds of photos of past a knife shows with a lot of the vendors holding her favourite knives. And some of the customers, unfortunately, Facebook is not knife friendly, they have a policy against guns and knives. So they frequently locked me down or put me in so-called Facebook jail. Right. So whenever I'm promoting the knife show. But it is there and please log into it. Also, when you go to the website, we hope you will register your name and Email address not because we're going to sell it. We don't. But is there for us for reference, and then we can keep you up to date and keep in send you announcements of shows and other activities so that. It's P a knife show dot com. Go there. Get more information lasts thirty seconds or so Bill kind of tell us anything. I haven't asked or anything. You want us to know about the Lehigh valley knife show in wash folk should be there may foreign may five. Well, I believe it's one of the biggest night shows in the country and the world and a lot of makers were close to New York City and Philadelphia so he draw heavily from a major metropolitan areas. We have like thirty million people living within a hundred and fifty miles. That's usually a big crowd asthma is a good time. Look forward to seeing you. Thanks bill. Bill Goodman of good knives. LLC talking about the may four and may five Lehigh valley knife show, we'll look to have you back on again, maybe an August to to talk about the September event. And if our listeners wanna find out more of these knife shows around the country, just go to the knife, chunky dot com and search our calendar of events, and you can find other knife shows their Bill thanks again. Thank you. There is a phone number. They can call too. Okay. It's a four eight four two four. One six one seven six four eight four two four one six one seven six. All right Bill. Thanks so much for being a podcast with a snake? You, you know, you're a knife jumpy if you're as happy as a kid on Christmas morning when that new knife arrives in the mail. All right. Not unfortunately is gonna wrap up this edition of the knife junkie podcast. But to great interviews this weekend. Some good information baba favourite part or final word is kind of throw it over to you to kind of wrap it up for us. Well, one thing that I really took from my conversation. With Elisa Aisha is that despite the fact that just from looking at his knives, they're so unusual. And so I keep using the term of aunt card looking, you know, they look like nothing you've ever seen before. And yet they still are functioning knives. And so much thought goes into the ergonomics of these knives. And it's just something that's unexpected from the design so it kind of reinforces that don't judge a book by its cover a kind of concept. Well and oftentimes. You can't get both you can get form. But you can't get the function. But then sometimes you can get the function without the forms. I mean, right. Having all those two things kinda come together is really an unusual feat. It is indeed especially in such an unusual package. Right. That is going to wrap it up. Everybody for the knife junkie podcast for Bob the knife junkie DeMarco. I'm Jim person want to say, thanks for listening and be sure to join us again next week. Thanks for listening to the ninth junkie podcast. If you enjoyed the show, please rate and review with review the podcast dot com for show notes for today's episode additional resources into listen to past episodes. Visit our website the night junkie dot com. You can also watch our latest videos on YouTube, the ninth jokey dot com slash YouTube cookouts great night photos on the knife, junkie dot com slash Instagram. And join our Facebook group, but the knife junkie dot com slash Facebook. And if you have a question or comment, Email them to Bob at the night, jokey dot com or call our twenty four seven listener line at seven two four four six six four. Four seven and you hear your comment or question answered on upcoming episode of the knife junkie podcast.