The Hogue EX-04 is a unique looking knife. Particularly the modified Wharncliffe. While I’ve heard mixed opinions concerning the blade profile(s), I immediately took interest. Do we need another drop-point in the collection? How about another Titanium Frame-Lock Flipper with thrust bearings? While I personally collect, own and enjoy many of the aforementioned, it is exciting to see a designer and manufacturer buck the trend while delivering above average function, fit and finish.
The EX-04 comes in two blade types that are similar to the designer Allen Elishewitz’s Jekyll and Hyde custom knives. The Jekyll style is an upswept profile while the Hyde is the meaner looking, modified Wharncliffe. The models come in 3.5 and 4″ blade lengths. I have a preference for the company’s 4″ varieties throughout the EX series and find that the lines render more elegantly across the larger, wider profile. Regardless of personal taste the 4″ EX’s are large, totaling 9″ in length. 3.5″ models at 8″ are still capable and embody identical build quality while being easier to carry.
The steel used is 154CM. This is a premium stainless produced by Crucible with a high carbon, chromium and molybdenum content. A US version of ATS-34, it is perfect for cutlery applications providing excellent corrosion resistance and good edge retention along with easy maintenance. The EX-04 is hardened between 57-59 Rockwell through a cryogenic heat treating process.
Both versions have a unique double hollow grind. The inspiration comes from sword fullers which lighten and balance a blade while adding rigidity. Due to the technical complexity of manufacturing an even, contoured double hollow grind, the knife had some growing pains pending release. It was definitely worth the wait however as these are (as far as I know) the first production blades brandishing such an ambitious cross section. The final edge bevel has been given an immaculate mirror finish for perfect out of box sharpness.
The ‘Up-swept’ EX-04 has a long sloping belly that is useful for a variety of utility tasks. The blade width follows near to the tip where a swedge slightly narrows the .150″ blade stock. The over-all profile provides good lateral strength. Although wide, the spines dropped-point meets the belly at a broad spear-like end. The resulting tip is deceptively good at penetrating cuts rounding out this hard working geometry.
The modified wharncliffe has a unique wing-like shape with animated, flowing lines that terminate in a hook-like point. This profile is much more purpose-built and excels at slicing, especially toward the tip. The cutting edge has a pronounced belly with a slight re-curve at both ends of the cutting edge. This model will likely be a polarizing aesthetic, but for me is a welcome diversity and my favorite of the two. Due to the curving edge, it’s good to note that this model is more difficult to sharpen than the Up-swept which has an even convex edge profile.
The concave spine on both allows for comfortable thumb placement giving the user great control. All of the blades in the 04 series come in an even, matte black finish with Hogue USA and Elishewitz’s logo etched on the blade. Satin and stone-wash are not offered in this line-up, possibly due to the complexity of finishing the double hollow grind.
For deployment the knives use stepped, dual ambidextrous thumb-studs. These sit a good distance away from the handle and are benefited by scalloped cut-outs in the scales for quick, reliable deployment. The pivot is exceptionally smooth and has a washer-less construction. The inside “bolster plates” have a raised surface that contacts the tang with a substantial surface area allowing for a laterally stable action.
On opening a button or “plunge” lock holds the blade firmly without play in any direction. Plunge locks are long wearing and mechanically robust. A spring pushes a hardened, tapered cylinder into a slot in the tang preventing closing. When the blade is stowed, the rounded plunger head makes contact with another slot in the tang acting to hold the blade closed. The plunger’s double duty is an elegant solution, negating the need for a ball detent. The mechanism is housed in the nested bolster plates for strength and longevity. In order to prevent accidental disengagement all models have a manual safety.
The handle on the 04 provides a very comfortable four finger grip on both the 3.5″ and 4″ models. The shape fully leverages cnc machining capabilities being contoured on all axis. The resulting grip feels natural in hand, much more-so than a slab built knife. This is true in a standard and reverse position. The standard maximizes reach while the curved tail lends itself to thumb placement in a reverse grip. The concave inner edge is shaped perfectly to lock the hand in place without feeling restrictive, supplying confident use. The first finger nests comfortably in the same cutout that helps to access the thumb-studs.
Hogue is offering four color variations including blue-black, red-black, grey-brown-black and solid black layered G10 (G-Mascus) in a “Lava” pattern. For carry, there is a lanyard hole and right handed tip down spoon shaped pocket clip. The handle shape would make tip-up clip placement awkward. As an interesting detail, Hogue has machined the clip stand-off into the scale. This is a nice touch but won’t work aesthetically if you wanted to remove the pocket clip all together. Since the handles are primarily G10, only having steel for the partial nested liners (bolster plates), the weight is kept reasonable despite the large size. 3.5′s weigh in at around 4.48 oz while 4″ models are 5.68 oz.
In closing the EX-04 is an original design with above average ergonomics, attention to detail and an excellent mechanical design. The blade variants allow for different applications: the Up-swept ready for utility jobs and the wharncliffe for tasks requiring more aggressive slicing or tip control. Availability in 3.5″ or 4″ blade lengths accommodate size preferences while the multiple scale colors give users even more choice. The double-hollow blade grind is another selling point for fans of stylized blade geometry and is an achievement in manufacture and design. Although delayed in release the EX-04 was certainly worth the wait. Hogue and Elishewitz have successfully pulled together another high quality, locally produced folder at a reasonable price. Throughout the EX line, the company has definitely established themselves as one of the leaders in US manufactured folding knives.
Overall Length: 8″ (203 mm)
Weight: 4.48oz (127g)
Overall Length: 9″ (229 mm)
Weight: 5.68oz (161g)
Upswept and Modified Wharncliffe styles available
Length: 3.5″ (89 mm) and 4″ (102 mm)
Blade Thickness: 0.15″ (3.8 mm)
Blade Material: 154CM Stainless Steel
Blade Hardness: RC 57-59 (Cryogenic Heat Treated)
Blade finish: Black
Dual Hollow Grind
Dual Thumb Studs
Black powder coat finish
Partial Nested Liners
Available in Grey-Brown, Red-Black, Blue-Black and Black
Length: 4.625″ (118 mm) and 5.125″ (130 mm)
Right hand, tip down stainless steel spoon shaped pocket clip
Button (plunge) lock
Safety locks open
Made in the USA