Hogue EX-04 Upswept

This is a collage of the Hogue EX-04 with Upswept Blade in Blue Lava G-Mascus, with photos and description of this knife.

Hogue EX-04 blue
The Hogue EX-04 with modified Drop Point Upswept blade in Blue Lava G-Mascus G-10 handle.

Hogue logo

I first came across a photo of the Hogue EX-01 online (the exact photo I first saw as shown at right), and thought the entire knife to be very well designed, beautiful even (still a very beautifully designed folder in my opinion which I would buy with spare cash).

Hogue EX-01
The first folder (EX-01) in the Extreme Series which I saw that started my research on Hogue knives.

Having looked at knives with a keen interest for 30-plus out of the 40 years of my life, I was surprised that the name Hogue didn’t ring a chord. And the reason for that was up until recently, Hogue was mainly involved in the production of gun grips and other items in the firearms industry, and only made their foray into knife production in the last few years.

Coincidentally, I had also stopped any research on new knives in the last 5 years or so. Not surprisingly then, for someone who lives in a country that deems firearms to be illegal, the name Hogue would be quite unfamiliar. Here in Malaysia, we don’t look at guns or read about them as much as our American friends do, I presume.

Hogue EX-04 Hogue EX-04
Hogue EX-04
Made in USA, by gun-grip specialist Hogue.
Hogue EX-04
Designed by Allen Elishewitz.
Hogue EX-04
Contents: One knife. One document.
Hogue EX-04
Knife kept safe in light padding.


  • Overall: 22.8 cm (9.0 in)
  • Weight: 161.0 g (5.68 oz)


  • Blade Length: 9.8 cm (4.0 in)
  • Thickness: 3.8 mm (0.15 in)
  • Material: 154CM
  • Blade HRC: 57-59
  • Finish: Gun-KoteTM, black
  • Grind: Double Hollow Grind
  • Style: Upswept
  • Edge: Plain
  • Deployment: Thumb Stud, ambidextrous manual
  • Lock Type: Button Plunge with Safety


  • Length: 13.0 cm (5.0 in)
  • Thickness: 16.8 mm (0.66 in)
  • Material: G-10
  • Style: Blue Lava G-Mascus


  • Style: Spoon, bent
  • Finish: Gun-KoteTM, black
  • Configuration: Tip-down only

The Hogue EX-01 was priced at about US$200, and although considered reasonably priced for the American market, I considered it too much when converted to my currency. RM740 just seemed like a lot of money to pay for a brand I had not heard of only until then.

Most of the folding knives I then own from knife manufacturer names like Cold Steel, CRKT and Spyderco were at the most about US$100 to US$120. The idea of buying a Hogue quickly dissipated at the thought of the daily lunch meals over a period of about two to three months I could get with one folding knife. Yes, it’s that insane!

As I scoured online for new knives to add to my collection over the last few months, I kept running into Hogue knives on my screen, whether it was on eBay, on YouTube, or simply on personal knife review blogs. Call it subliminal marketing!

A few days of information download and I found out that Hogue had actually released 4 models in the Extreme series over the last few years, culminating in the EX-04 a couple of years back.

Get It On eBay

Now, when I saw the EX-04 in an online review for the first time, I thought the knife was quite odd. It seemed like a knife you’d either love entirely or hate altogether, and I was in the latter camp.

It is quite a deviation from the other three knives in the Extreme series. While the EX-01, -02, and -03 had mostly straight lines in their designs, the EX-04 was taking “curvaceous” to a bold level.

One may say it’s too sexy for a mean object like a knife. We don’t seem to have a problem with other coveted objects like supercars, watches and laptops being sexy (Apple products come to mind!)…we shouldn’t have a problem with a knife being sexy I guess.

I started finding more about this knife, and the more I researched it, the more I began to find reasons to like it.

Blue Lava G-Mascus G-10 Handle

“It is a beautiful knife and did, after all, garner the American-made Knife of the Year at the Blade Show 2013 Awards.”

First and foremost, the linerless handle is beautifully crafted. This is probably the first thing about the knife that you will notice.

I happen to like G-10 scales and handles for my folding knives, and the multi-layered three-tone G-10 on the EX-04 is contoured down to reveal what is termed by Hogue as the G-Mascus Lava pattern, which simulates Damascus patterns on steel.

And like Damascus blades, the handle on each EX-04 seems to be unique and carries its own signature pattern not repeated in another EX-04, even though this is a production knife and not a custom one. I gather this from the many EX-04 I came across online, and every EX-04 I saw had its own distinctive G-Mascus pattern – almost like it was material of natural origin like wood or staghorn.

Some people may find this superficial, but I think it is an important feature in production knives where they are all normally expected to look the same inside out. Here itself is a form of personalisation in a production knife, straight from the manufacturer.

Hogue EX-04 Hogue EX-04
Hogue EX-04
Beautiful G-Mascus G-10 handle in vivid Blue Lava pattern, contoured to fit in the hand and grip.
Hogue EX-04
The G-Mascus texture resembles the scales on a snake or lizard, without the wet and cold. Adequate grip texture – gentle, not aggressive.

On closer inspection, the G-Mascus takes on a sheen and scaly texture quite akin to that of a snake. Or lizard. At least, that was my observation.

crumpler backpack
Now I remember why the Hogue spoon clip reminded me of my Crumpler backpack…

The G-Mascus provides a comfortable level of grip without being overly aggressive on contact, in comparison to the G-10 on some knives such as the Cold Steel Hold Out series.

There is much to praise about the contours on this handle – it seems to be carved at all the right places, such that it rests comfortably in the palm of your hand, whichever way you grip and hold the knife.

The spoon clip is also bent at the right spots so that it doesn’t get in the way of your fingers, whether the knife is held in the left-hand or right-hand, with a hammer-, sabre- or reverse-grips.

Hogue EX-04
The pocket clip is of bent spoon style, mounted on a standoff by means of three Torx screws.
Hogue EX-04
As the standoff is only found on this end of the handle, and would look odd near the pommel or any other area on the handle without a clip, the knife is only available in one configuration – right-hander tip-down carry only.
Hogue EX-04
The butt end of things. It’s hard to imagine having a standoff here or anywhere else on the handle for the clip, without the clip being present.
Hogue EX-04
But…a lanyard hole, yes. A necessary feature, it blends well, with the hole slightly elongated to allow passage for thicker lanyard material.
Hogue EX-04
Seen here is part of the stainless steel bolster plate that forms part of the G-10 handle…
Hogue EX-04
…a bolster plate that extends to the pivot, which allows the blade to swivel open and close smoothly, without causing wear to the relatively softer G-10 handle material. With the steel bolster, the knife does away with any washer or bearing system.

Hogue EX-04

I am also one who is not too fond of very bold curves on my handle, and was worried that the EX-04 would be too curvy on the handle towards the pommel end like my Kershaw Freefall Tanto, which I had found to be a little uncomfortable if held with the way I usually hold my knives.

In fact, this was the first thing I tested when I got hold of the EX-04, and while I’m glad that the drop curve on the handle rear of this knife isn’t as steep and fits very nicely in the palm when held with the hammer-, saber- or reverse-grip, it doesn’t feel quite as comfortable when held in the modified saber-grip, which is the way I normally do (thumb pad flat on handle surface) – see illustrations below.

It may not be a practical way to hold knives, but it’s one I’m accustomed to. Still, it caters well to the other three grips, which is the way most people handle their knives anyway.

Hogue EX-04
Hammer-grip – Thumb side on handle surface.
Hogue EX-04
Saber-grip – Thumb on spine.
Hogue EX-04
Reverse edge-out grip – as shown.
Hogue EX-04
Modified saber-grip – thumb flat on handle surface. Not quite as comfortable, due to sloping pommel. Unfortunately, this happens to be my favourite grip. Still, not too bad.
Hogue EX-04
Sculptured contour on the front side of the handle…
Hogue EX-04
…makes a comfortable resting place for the forefinger in any forward grip.
Hogue EX-04
With the valley of the pocket clip aligned to the sculptured contour in a straight line on the reverse side of the handle…
Hogue EX-04
…left-handers will find it just as comfortable a resting place for the forefinger in the forward-grip, and right-handers for the pinky in the reverse-grip, with little to no hotspots.

Hogue EX-04 G-Mascus colors

The G-Mascus handle comes in three standard flavours – red, black-gray, and blue – and a special more expensive edition in solid black, for those who find lava patterns too distracting.

I was initially drawn to the black-gray, and thought it looked its part as a tool for the outdoors, without looking too funky. But the G-Mascus itself is an artistic creation, and I eventually felt that the Blue Lava brought this element out the most, and ultimately bought this as my colour choice.

The solid black certainly looks like it means serious business, but the special “almost no two are alike” Damascus pattern is lost in it. That’s fine if you don’t fancy that sort of thing like I do.

OK, enough about the G-10 handle. That was certainly a lot to talk about…just on handles!

Modified Drop Point Upswept Blade and Plunge Lock

Hogue EX-04 Hogue EX-04
Hogue EX-04 Hogue EX-04
Allen Elishewitz is a world-renowned custom knifemaker, whose studio is in Canyon Lake, Texas. His work has been featured in many magazine articles and front covers as well as several museum-quality books. Collectors of his work include heads of state, members of royal families, members of elite special forces units and serious enthusiasts of fine craftsmanship. His early interests in knives, combined with his background in the martial arts and as a Recon Marine led him to become one of the premier tactical knifemakers. With his classical art background, this self-taught artist has designed a wide range of innovative knife models as well as luxurious pens and watches. Over the years he has been a member of the Italian Knifemakers’ Guild, American Bladesmith Society and Knifemakers’ Guild where he served on the Board of Directors. His work has been awarded numerous prizes throughout his career.

Now this is something that beckons attention. It is at this point that I should mention the name Allen Elishewitz.

Mr Elishewitz is a knifemaker who is involved in the design of knives by Hogue, especially on the blade designs, lock mechanisms and other crucial aspects of the knife. More about Allen Elishewitz in the inset box at right and below.

The Upswept blade design as seen in the photos above and below is actually a modified drop point blade, with a unique “upswept” curve that runs with a swedge towards the tip.

Seen from above, the swedge aids in gradually easing the lines from the thickest part of the blade along the spine near the handle, to the narrower region near the tip.

The blade is secured in the open position by a plunge lock, which is released by depressing a push-button. A wide barrel or cylinder along the line of the plunge lock finds its place in a matching notch on the blade.

Pushing the plunge lock downwards disengages the cylinder from the notch, freeing the blade and allowing it to swivel to a close. Interestingly, the cylinder also serves as the detent for the blade in the close position – a detent which is strong and holds the blade closed tightly.



Allen Elishewitz

“I have been interested in knives ever since I was very young. I have been practicing different martial arts over the past 30 years like Okinawan Te, Thai Boxing, Northern Shaolin and Kali. These trainings, along with my experiences as a Recon Marine, gave me the perfect background to design both defense and utility knives.”

– Allen Elishewitz

Hogue, Inc. worked with custom knifemaker Allen Elishewitz to combine art, design and joint manufacturing expertise to deliver a fresh, new innovative approach to sporting cutlery. Successful knife designers usually come from one of three backgrounds: custom knifemaker, martial arts or the military. Elishewitz […] is rather unique in that he has a background in all three.

Elishewitz started martial arts when he was 10, and has trained in Thailand, Taiwan, Greece, and the United States. He has studied more than a dozen different styles including Boxing, Karate, Kali and Thai Boxing. He joined the Marine Corps after high school where his first military occupational specialty (MOS) was as a Naval/Artillery Call for Fire Scout; he was also a Recon Marine.

Elishewitz has been self-employed solely in the knifemaking business for more than 20 years. During this time he has made a lot of different fighting knives, from fixed blades to folders, testing them to see which would perform best. By doing so, he was able to develop a foundation and an understanding of what a true military/defense knife should be. Elishewitz says that as a knifemaker, tactical and defensive knives are what define him and are a natural extension of his personality. He believes that his past experiences gave him the knowledge and the understanding of what a knife needs to possess in order to perform best in a self-defense or military application.

– excerpt from Knives Illustrated Buyer’s Guide 2013

Hogue EX-04
1. Ambidextrous thumb studs; 2. Pivot; 3. Plunge Lock Button; 4. Manual Safety Lock Switch
Notice that all four features are consistent in design – four-tier concentric circles or part thereof. These resemble a part of a handgun I have seen before, cannot remember which.
Hogue EX-04
The manual safety lock switch in the unlock position. This switch is inoperable when blade is in close position. It will slide, but it will not keep the close blade locked. This is not necessary as the detent is sufficiently strong.
Hogue EX-04
Pushing the switch forward as shown in the blade open position hinders the plunge lock push button from moving, thus preventing accidental depression of the plunge lock button during use.
Hogue EX-04
A wider cylinder along the plunge lock finds its way into the notch on the blade, keeping it open securely. The blade notch is hardly visible above.
Hogue EX-04
Pushing the plunge lock button down moves the cylinder out of the blade notch and into the handle (reverse side), freeing the blade and allowing it to swivel to a close.
Hogue EX-04
Hogue, its logo trade mark and the country of make and manufacture appears near the spine on the front side…
Hogue EX-04
…and the designer’s name and logo appears on the reverse side of the blade, a blade that is thoroughly finished in black Gun-Kote.
Hogue EX-04
Slight premature wear of the black coating near the handle due to the blade’s repeated brushing with the detent during blade opening and closing.

The plunge lock did sometimes stick during use, which required a harder press on the button than normal to disengage the lock on the blade. This, I hope, will lessen with use, as the knife is run in and the points of contact wear down a little and become smoother.

Blade Material and Treatment

Hogue EX-04 Upswept

The Hogue EX-04 uses a respectable 154CM high-grade stainless steel for blade material, a Crucible Industries production and is the American version of the Japanese ATS-34 later produced by Hitachi Metals.

154CM is a popular steel selection in Benchmade knives, and has good edge retention and wear resistance. In the Hogue EX-04 and others in the Extreme Series, the 154CM is further treated cryogenically to convert austenite in the steel to martensite which is of harder crystalline structure, resulting in a stronger and stiffer metal.

Blade Profile and Size

Another innovation on the blade is its double hollow-grind profile, which serves to reduce material drag during the cutting process.

This is usually achievable with thinner blades, but the double hollow-grind on the Hogue EX-04 accomplishes this without compromising on blade strength and rigidity.

There were some complications in the making of these grinds on a production blade, which led to the delay in the release of this knife. It was understandably quite difficult to implement consistently on a large scale, but as it turned out, Hogue and Allen eventually succeeded making it a reality, and beautifully executed at that!

Hogue EX-04
Double hollow grind on a modified drop point upswept blade…
Hogue EX-04
…never done before on a production knife, but apparently well executed!

The EX-04 comes in 2 sizes – blade lengths of 3.5 and 4.0 inches.

Having in possession folding knives from blade lengths of 2.5 to 5.0 inches, I personally prefer knives in the upper limit of the 3.5-to-4.0-inch range for an EDC.

Most of the online reviews I came across prior to buying the Hogue also claimed that the 4-inch somehow fits better in the hand.

Nevertheless, the 3.5-inch option is there for those who prefer something smaller and lighter, and don’t appear too menacing when deployed for daily cutting activities.

Hogue EX-04
The Hogue EX-04 is built to tight tolerances.
Hogue EX-04
Blade centering is spot on! Not surprising, considering it is a Hogue.

Based on personal preference from experience, I ultimately selected the 4-inch version of this knife because it is a size that is large enough for me to comfortably carry and use. Also, simply because my kiasu-ness nature demands that I carry the bigger blade.

Hogue EX-04
The Wharncliffe blade option.

Aside from size difference, the EX-04 also comes in two different blade styles – this Upswept Drop Point, and a modified Wharncliffe (right). I chose the Upswept as I was in the market for a drop point blade.

Furthermore, I found the Wharncliffe a little too quirky for my taste, although many who own it love the design dearly and swear by its effectiveness.

Both blade styles are finished with a black coat of Gun-Kote. I had not read about this anywhere at that time, and was fortunate to be informed about it by Allen himself in one of our correspondences.

I personally prefer my knife blades to be uncoated, for the glint of steel to be obvious. However, for some technical reason, it seems the double hollow-grind on the blade requires it to be coated, and that seems to take precedence over the finishing preference of the blade – a case of function over aesthetics.

Hogue EX-04 jimping
No jimping, a first in deviation in the Extreme series of Hogue folders…but that’s ok.

Surprisingly, the Hogue EX-04 does not sport any jimping on the blade spine, a first in deviation in the Extreme Series of Hogue folders – the EX-01, -02 and -03 were all designed with jimping. The reason for this is not known, but I suspect it is to do with the way this knife was crafted and designed.

It is a work of art, with smooth sweeping curves and beautiful lines that would otherwise be marred by jimping and other unnecessary embellishments. Jimping isn’t really a necessity for me in this case, and I would certainly prefer the knife to be as aesthetically pleasing as it is functional in a minimalistic fashion.

It is easy to imagine how jimping would detract from the overall beauty of this knife, with the blade closed or open.

Other Photos of the Hogue EX-04

Hogue EX-04 blue
The Blue Lava G-Mascus G-10 handle is truly exquisite and literally one-of-a-kind.
Hogue EX-04
The razor-sharp Upswept blade swivels open smoothly despite the lack of phosphor-bronze washers or a ball bearing system.
Hogue EX-04 Upswept
The Upswept blade is a creative touch, as is the double hollow grind, which takes a stocky blade and gives it a slim profile to aid cutting, without compromising on blade strength.
Hogue EX-04
The four silver-grey blade deployment features on the Hogue EX-04 display a consistent design – a four-tier concentric pattern that seems to mimic a handgun feature. It is after all, a Hogue!
Hogue EX-04
The integrated stainless steel bolster plates prevent premature wearing down of the G-Mascus frame during blade movements, and incorporates a blade stop pin that also inherently strengthens the rigidity of both halves of the G-10 handle.

Hogue EX-04 damascus
The same knife with a Chad Nichols damascus stainless steel version, from Elishewitz’s website.

I had come across a Damascus steel version of this blade in one of Allen’s blog post, and enquired about it. Allen told me that those blades were a special run he did for Hogue for the Blade Show a couple of years ago, and doesn’t produce them on request.

This is quite unfortunate, as a Damascus steel version of this Upswept blade would have made the Hogue EX-04 the more ideal knife for me. Uncoated steel, with stainless Damascus patterns on a blade – traits I truly desire on my blade of choice currently.

What Others Have to Say About the Hogue EX-04

The following are video reviews done by Blade HQ and The Edge Observer – the people who bring great reviews on knives and cutting tools.

Technical Notes by Allen Elishewitz on the Hogue EX-04

These are some of Allen’s technical notes on the Hogue EX-04 in four parts, including the how and why the blades on this knife look the way they are.


Hogue EX-04 magazine
The Hogue EX-04 was featured on the front cover of the March 2014 issue of Tactical Knives magazine.

The Hogue EX-04 Upswept counts as a premium production knife utilising well-regarded steel fused with an artistic yet highly functional handle, a strong offering from Hogue which retails at US$259.95. It is at the upper limit of production knife prices; expensive…but easily justified by the beauty and thought that went into its design and creation, not to mention the complexities in getting the required consistency in implementing the double hollow-grind in a production knife. It took a while in the initial stages, but Hogue and Elishewitz successfully achieved this in the end.

Personally, I do not fancy black coat finishing on any blade on my knives; in this case, the coat gives the 154CM steel a layer of molybdenum disulfide protection. While it does give the steel self-lubricating properties, I am just worried about how a worn black finish would look after the blade is put through some hard and harsh paces. I suspect this wear and tear will be something not easily maintainable or restorable by the layman end user.

collection of knives
You have to like the Hogue EX-04 for what it represents
– art, craftsmanship, beauty and versatility in a single practical and functional package.
The elegance of the Hogue EX-04 is obvious even before the blade is opened, and is further enhanced when the blade is fully deployed.
“The Hogue EX-04 counts as a premium production knife utilising well-regarded steel fused with an artistic yet highly functional handle, a strong offering from Hogue…”

At 161 grams for a 4-inch folder, the Hogue EX-04 is considered light, largely due to its lightweight G-10 frame, thus giving the knife a slightly blade heavy feel.

I personally favour this, for I prefer the weight to be inclined towards the business end of the knife. And, the business end does indeed cut and slice well – I’ve run it through paper, plastic and cardboard material in the course of work.

The Hogue EX-04, which is available on Amazon, is one of my EDC of choice, especially when I need a large blade which is comfortably portable weight-wise as well.

It is a beautiful knife and did, after all, garner the American-made Knife of the Year at the Blade Show 2013 Awards.

knife collection
Blade: 9.8 cm (4.0″), Handle: 13.0 cm (5.0″); Overall Length: 22.8 cm (9.0″)







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