Hunched over a workstation in a secluded corner of the factory in Oregon City, a Gold Line Tech puts the finishing touches on a set of jeweled liners. Wrapping up the 8 hour process (per knife), Eladio Xep Choguaj sits back, flexing his hand open and closed while admiring his work. He’s by no means a boastful craftsman, but the amount of pride he takes in his work is apparent from the minute you interact with him. Eladio is part of a small team of tenured technicians responsible for the assembly of our Gold Class knives, and this is his story…
Born in Panajachel, Guatemala, Eladio is one of eight children. Panajachel sits along the picturesque shoreline of Lake Atitlán in the Sierra Madre mountain range; A region steeped in rich Mayan history and culture. Eladio’s family owns a modest farm, where he spent his free time working alongside his siblings. Throughout the course of his childhood, Eladio developed a passion for art in the form of drawing, carving, and photography.
“My goal is to put beauty into my work, no matter what I’m working on.” states Xep Choguaj. This concept started at an early age, and carries through to the work he does today.
Growing up, Eladio was never particularly interested in knives. He and his family used machetes on the farm, and he recalls an early fascination with sharpening. His grandfather used old tire rubber to fashion handles for his machete, captivating Eladio’s attention.
“If you told me then that I’d be hand finishing knives worth hundreds, if not thousands of dollars for a living, I’d never believe you.” laughs Eladio.
Once he completed school, Eladio went to work for his sister, teaching Spanish to foreign travelers. During this time, he met people from all over the world, including a gentleman that left him a disposable camera. This camera inadvertently sparked a lifelong passion for photography.
“A group of friends and I took the camera on a hike above Lake Atitlán, and I was immediately hooked on taking pictures.” states Xep Choguaj. Hungry for adventure, Eladio eventually set his sights on the United States after working at the school for a few years.
“It was a total culture shock when I arrived in Portland back in 2007. I was 20 years old and had never driven a car before. I spent my first year applying for job after job. It was one of the hardest years of my life.”
Through a twist of fate, Eladio had crossed paths with Les de Asis who recommended he apply for an open position in the factory. Low and behold, Eladio got the job and began working in Blended Cell where he built the 42 Bali-Songs and kitchen knives.
“I was fascinated by the intricacy of the work. The technology was unlike anything I’d ever seen, and I was learning from some of the best in the business during those early years.”
Mastering His Craft
Eladio eventually took an interest in the art of sharpening, working tirelessly to perfect his craft. He had transitioned from Blended Cell to a full-time sharpening position on the shop floor. He enjoyed the challenge of shaping an edge that not only functioned properly, but looked beautiful. When an opportunity opened in Gold Cell, Eladio knew he was ready. Excited by the chance to work alongside some of the company’s most skilled technicians, Eladio’s talent became increasingly apparent.
Gold Class knives are the embodiment of craftsmanship and artistry. A perfect opportunity to flex a little creative muscle. Given Eladio’s constant drive to put the beauty into whatever he does, he was at home. Eleven years later, Eladio remains humble, passionate, and intentional in his work. Don’t let his calm demeanor fool you though, he can often be found bobbing his head to some seriously heavy metal while working in the shop.
He’s a father, a son, a brother, and a member of our Benchmade family.