Bob Love­less

The Shed - - Knife-making -

Robert ‘Bob’ Wal­dorf Love­less (1929– 2010) is re­garded as one of the most in­no­va­tive of knife-mak­ers. He pi­o­neered the drop-point hunter de­sign, and he was also re­spon­si­ble for ta­pered tangs to re­duce weight and ‘Love­less bolts’ — screw-type fas­ten­ers to se­cure the scales on han­dles.

Bob Love­less had a very var­ied ca­reer that in­cluded time in the Mer­chant Ma­rine on the Great Lakes and a stint in the United States Army Air Corps dur­ing World War II. He made his first knife aboard a tanker us­ing a piece of au­to­mo­bile spring steel hard­ened in the ship’s oil-fired gal­ley stove. He showed this to the head of Aber­crom­bie and Fitch’s cut­lery depart­ment and the com­pany agreed to buy the line. He pro­duced 1000 knives of the Delaware Maid brand.

He be­gan to in­tro­duce new in­no­va­tions to the craft of knife-mak­ing from 1960. Th­ese in­cluded ta­pered tangs. The tang is ta­pered to about 1∕16 inch at the end and ex­tends right through the han­dle. Up to this time tangs ex­tended only half the way into the han­dle. Love­less’s in­no­va­tion made for a stronger knife. The ta­per of the tang matched the ta­per of the blade, mak­ing the strong­est point of the knife and its cen­tre of grav­ity the base of the han­dle. Along with the in­creased strength, this makes for a more bal­anced knife. The tangs usu­ally have holes drilled to re­lieve weight and al­low the epoxy to flow through for bet­ter ad­he­sion be­tween the scales. Love­less is re­garded as the first to create the ‘tac­ti­cal knife’, a kind of fight­ing knife de­signed for com­bat. Fa­mously he ini­tially re­fused to sell them to any­one who could not pro­vide ei­ther mil­i­tary or po­lice iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. He was par­tic­u­larly sen­si­tive about the use of knives as weapons, as his mother had been stabbed to death.

Love­less pre­ferred to acid etch his brand on the knives, be­liev­ing that stamp­ing the brand on could in­duce stress frac­tures in the steel. His most fa­mous brand, and one he rue­fully came to regret, was the out­line of a re­clin­ing nude, taken from a paint­ing he saw in Las Ve­gas, which was re­pro­duced from the rear on the re­verse side of the blade.

Bob could be quite can­tan­ker­ous and had a rep­u­ta­tion for not tol­er­at­ing fools. He was fa­mously con­temp­tu­ous of col­lec­tors, pre­fer­ring his knives to be used as tools. When told that his knives were sell­ing for thou­sands be­cause of his name he said, “I wouldn’t spend that much money for a knife if it were au­to­graphed by Je­sus Christ him­self!” Nev­er­the­less, the Love­less brand is still a sign of a valu­able knife and they sell on the col­lec­tors mar­ket for up to US$150K.

Left: Robert ‘Bob’ W Love­less (1929–2010) Be­low: Love­less re­clin­ing nude logo

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