Dan Dennehy at work
Another of the great men of the golden age of custom knife-making, Daniel John Dennehy, passed away earlier this year in Del Norte, Colorado.
Dan Dennehy began making knives while serving in the Navy in WWII.
Dennehy knives are characterized by original, simple, and practical designs tailored for specific functions. He produced a number of models specially for use by members of the armed forces, including the Pilot/Crewman, a 6″ rugged modern bowie designed to be capable of chopping an exit through a downed aircraft’s plexiglass canopy or aluminum skin; the 8″ Model 11 Green Beret, a large, double-hilted fighting knife; and the remarkable 6 1/2″, 1/4″ thick Model 13 Hoss, designed by a Navy SEAL as an indestructible knife-shaped pry bar and hammer made of surgical stainless steel which actually simultaneously manages to have a usable knife edge.
Dan Dennehy’s most popular productions, though, were simple and elegant hunting and fishing knives of slender and light easy-to-carry design, representative of the philosophy of the late 19th century outdoor writer George Washington Sears, better known as “Nessmuk,” who popularized the concept of ultra-light, minimal-sized sporting and camping equipment.
Dennehy forged all his larger knives, and a Dennehy forged knife exhibits a peculiar and unique glassy surface unlike any other knife.
Dan Dennehy was, along with Bob Loveless and Bill Moran, one of the founders of the Knifemaker’s Guild, and one of the most respected custom knife makers. Dennehy knives were favored by such celebrities as John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Clint Eastwood, Carlos Hathcock, Barry Goldwater, as well as by the controversial Watergate burglar and talk show host G. Gordon Liddy. Liddy’s own preferred model, a more ornate, stag-handled version of the 4 1/4″ Model 4 Pro Scout became a standard catalogued option, known as the “G. Gordon Liddy Special.”
Dan Dennehy stamped “Dan-D” and a shamrock on every knife as his personal trademark. He mentions in his catalogue that he was only able to produce roughly 100 knives per year. He was in business for a little more than 60 years, so his total production must have amounted to only something on the order of 6000 examples.
An obituary appeared on the Knifemaker’s Guild forum back in January.
A couple of commemorative videos of Dan Dennehy’s assistants at work during the last few few years in the Dennehy shop in Del Norte, accompanied with Johnny Cash songs, have turned up on YouTube.
Best viewed in full screen mode
Dan’s son, John Dennehy, has a custom leather operation in Loveland, Colorado, and makes some knives of his own design. He is currently offering for sale a small number of his father’s knives, and his web-site has more information on Dan Dennehy.