Bob Loveless Knives – Copied by many, Perfected by none
Sometimes, it seems that all the great names in knife industry are somehow connected. At the beginning of the 20th century, William Wales Scagel set standards for a completely new generation of knives as we know them today. The legendary Bo Randall made his first knife based on a Scagel model which he bought from a fisherman who scraped the paint off his boat without damaging the edge. Throughout 1940s and 50s, Bo Randall became the most revered knife designer of the last century.
Bob Loveless was born in 1929, and at the age of 15, he enlisted in the Merchant Marine. In the unforeseen turn of events in the 1940s, he graduated from Chicago’s Armour Institute of Technology, which was based on the foundations of the German Bauhaus school. It was the legacy of Bauhaus that would influence his later knife designs which were known for their simple and clean lines. In 1953, Bob Loveless saw a couple of Randall made knives, highly praised at the time. As he didn’t make an impression as a reliable buyer, the salesman told Bob that the knives are on nine months backorder. Disappointed with the answer, Bob designed and crafts his first knife from a Chevy suspension spring which he bought on a junkyard and tempered in his ship’s boiler room. When he landed on the second time, he went to the same shop from which he was sent empty-handed. He was ready to watch the salesman’s jaw drop, but instead he ran into the foreman with whom he makes a deal to produce knives for sale.
The first Loveless’ models are reminiscent of Randall made knives, with their stacked leather handles and clip or drop-point blade shapes. At the very beginning, Bob included a skinner which he will perfect in the years to come.
Over the years, Bob Loveless had been working for various workshops. Moving from place to place, looking for work, it was only in 1969 that he decided that knifemaking will be his sole profession. Unlike Bo Randall, Loveless had never established the mass knife production. Instead, he made unique, hand-made knives which he sold at the knife shows across the USA. Besides, he also sold his designs to big companies, which then produced them in large batches.
What made Bob Loveless big was his capability to make an outstanding design, with excellent ergonomics, which is then copied by others. His Drop Point Hunter is regarded a paramount hunting design even today. It has been copied by many, a fewer tried to improve it, yet no one succeeded.
Aside from unquestionable quality of all his knives, Bob Loveless is famous for the immense impact on knifemaking industry across the world. He was the first one in the States who used stainless ATS 34 steel, which was used for jet engine fans. Even today, the ATS 34 is a steel fo choice for industry and hand-made knives.
It wasn’t only the steel, because Bob Loveless is also the “father of micarta“, as he was the first one to use this popular material for his handles. Micarta is a material made of laminated canvass or paper and glued with phenol resins. Over the years it was widely used for electric installations, but today its prime use is for knife handles.
Bob Loveless is also the pioneer of the design where the blade, bolster and handle were made from one piece, which was a tremendous success in the 70s when he made the first models.
It’s hard to discuss Bob Loveless and not to mention his hunting knives. He designed a number of hunting and fighting knives, but his real success are the hunters, which are by all means most widely copied knives in history.
What’s the easiest way to describe a Loveless hunting knife? Frankly, it’s a knife which doesn’t need any improvements or simplifications. It’s a knife which has no surplus features. Loveless has perfected the drop-point shape on the flat grind blade and combined it with remarkably ergonomic handle with a small bolster, which is more an aesthetic than safety feature. Depending on the material, the handle was often shaped in all three dimensions, to ensure better handling in every possible grip.
In the course of time, Bob Loveless had made several thousand knives and hundreds of models. They would be impossible to describe all of them, as they deserve, but they have a common trademark – a nude girl lying sideways and “R W Loveless“ inscripted on the left side of the blade. The same girl is on the right side, with the mirrored text.
After the hunting knives, Loveless is known for his every-day carry (EDC) knives. They differ from the hunters in shorter blades and thinner handles, which usually have a finger groove instead of a bolster.
If you are getting annoyed because you cannot afford a genuine Loveless knife, stop worrying., You can find a knife that is a Loveless design at every outfitter’s – from the cheapest models, made from third grade materials, to the finest replicas as those made in limited editions by Bob Dozier or Lone Wolf. Knives made by Loveless’ designs can be bought for reasonable prices. All high-end replicas will perform as well as the original. I’m sure that many of you own a knife that is a copy of a Loveless model, but you weren’t aware of that until now. I hope that this text and the photos will help you recognize all the qualities of the knife you own.
Images with courtesy of Bob Loveless Knives and Outdoor Life.