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