Knife Maker Mel Pardue Passes Away

Some very sad news: Mel Pardue, one of the true luminaries of the knife world, has passed away.

Pardue’s legacy touches just about every part of the knife industry. He took his first steps into the knifemaking world in the late 50s, although he didn’t make his first actual, full custom piece until 1972. That was the same year that he met Frank Centofante, an experience that Pardue has described as life-changing. Four years later, in 1976, Pardue became a full-time maker, and he’s considered one of the pioneers of the “tactical” custom knife – a style that lead directly into the modern production folder (tactical or no) as we know it today. It’s tempting to say that Pardue’s work blends modern and traditional sensibilities, and that is true in a sense; but really, as with any truly great maker, Pardue’s work stands on its own, with a feel like nothing else out there.

For many knife enthusiasts, Pardue’s most recognizable work is that which he did during his long collaboration with Benchmade. He designed some of their most enduring models, chief among them the Griptilian, a production classic of the first water that is still impressing newcomers to the hobby as well as longstanding collectors. The Griptilian brought Pardue’s understated genius into an accesible, work-ready format that still loooks beautiful in its own rugged way. To this day it’s one of the few enthusiast-approved knives that you might see in the pocket of a non-knife person.

Pardue was also the head of a three generations-strong knifemaking family. His son is Joe Pardue, and his grandson Robert Carter: both men followed in Pardue’s footsteps, creating beautiful custom knives and working on production collaboration models.

“Mel helped us usher in an era of collaboration with custom knife makers that continues to inspire the industry decades later. From icons like the Reflex auto to the venerable Griptilian, Mel’s work had an immense impact on the knife world, and his designs have withstood the test of time. His dedication and passion for the knife community were unmatched, and we will miss him greatly,” Benchmade wrote last night. Our hearts go out to his wife Dodie, his children, grandchildren, and passionate fans all over the world.”

The KnifeNews crew counts ourselves among those passionate fans. Thanks for everything, Mel.

[Image Credit: Benchmade]