Legendary Knife Makers: standing on the shoulders of giants

Last time we looked at the history and origin of knife making. This time we take a look at some of the legends of the craft - those men who continue to inspire us today.

Jim Bowie (1997-1836)

This is as far back in history as we are going!

Many stories have been told of this legendary American soldier and pioneer - some more true than others! His connection with knives arises from his involvement in a duel in 1827, which became known as The Sandbar Fight. As a result of this altercation, he became famous for his knife fighting prowess, not to mention his highly unusual knife, which apparently boasted a blade that was 23.5 cm long and 3.8 cm wide. Bowie gained a reputation as a superb fighter. 

Other battles ensued, and the Bowie knife became increasingly popular, although there was much dispute over who had made the original version, which was also known as the Arkansas Toothpick. The design evolved over the years and nowadays, a Bowie knife is considered to possess a blade of 21 cm in length, and 3.2 cm in width. 

Bo Randall (1909-1989)

The young Randall developed a keen interest in knives in 1936, after being highly impressed with a William Scagel knife he purchased. Scagel became a mentor of sorts and Randall went on to forge his first hunting knife in his garage, from such unlikely materials as a leaf spring from an automobile and a handle of stag. He opened his first shop in Florida in 1983, starting out his career making sporting knives. However, the advent of World War Two saw him producing 'All Purpose Fighting Knives" or "Randall made knives". He made four thousand of these models for US troops. 

He also designed the Model 17 Astro and built seven of these for NASA - one of which made twenty one orbits around the Earth!

 

Robert Waldorf Loveless (1929-2010)

Loveless, better known as RW, is regarded by other blade smiths as one of the most innovative of their ilk. He first turned his hand to knife making after trying to purchase a Randall made knife and being told there was a nine month waiting list! He fashioned his first blade from a 1977 Packard Automobile Spring that he found in a junkyard, and he forged it in the galley store of a ship in which he was serving. 

From such humble beginnings, RW went on to make more than one thousand blades over the next few years known as "Delaware Maids". He studied nineteenth century knife making techniques and introduced new types of steel into the knife making world. 

He is considered to be the first maker of the tactical knife and also designed, among others, The Gerber Guardian and the "Big Bear Classic" hunting knife.

Ron Lake

Bringing us up to the modern era is Ron Lake, a man who's name is synonymous with the modern, handmade folder knife. 

He first began making knives in 1965 in Illinois and claims it took a good six years before his business really started to take off. He had difficulty, at first, convincing his customers to invest in his more expensive, hand made creations. 

His innovations, such as the interframe and tail lock are now widely used and he is a leader in the folding knife section of the industry, not to mention a member of the BLADE magazine cutlery hall of fame.

These, and many other trailblazers, offered us innovation and inspiration. May we continue to follow in their footsteps ...