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Bob Loveless: Knife Maker and the Legacy of His Iconic Knives

Written by:
Aleks Nemtcev
Updated:
February 8, 2024
Bob Loveless knife

R.W. Loveless, also known as Bob Loveless, born in 1929 and passing in 2010, was a seminal figure in the world of custom knife making, whose designs and craftsmanship have left an indelible mark on the industry. Loveless, also known as R.W. Loveless, was an American knife maker who revolutionized the craft with his innovative designs, high-quality materials, and meticulous attention to detail. His work has influenced generations of knife makers and enthusiasts, establishing standards that are still revered today.

bob loveless knife maker
Image credit: BLADE magazine.

Early Life and Career

Loveless’s journey into knife making began in the late 1940s, after serving in the Air Force during World War II. His interest in knives was sparked by a desire to improve the utility and quality of hunting knives, which he found lacking. Without formal training in metalwork or design, Loveless was largely self-taught, relying on trial and error, and an innate sense of aesthetics and function.

Rise to Prominence

Loveless’s reputation began to grow in the 1950s and 1960s, as he introduced designs that would become iconic in the knife-making world. Among these was the “Drop Point Hunter,” a design that featured a dropping point blade to provide a larger surface area for slicing while maintaining the strength of the tip. This design became a staple in hunting knives, showcasing Loveless’s ability to blend form and function seamlessly.

Innovations and Contributions

Bob Loveless was not only known for his distinctive designs but also for his innovative use of materials and techniques. He was among the first knife makers to use ATS-34, a high carbon, high chromium stainless steel, and later, CPM-154, a powder metallurgy version that offered improved consistency and performance. Loveless also pioneered the use of full tapered tangs in knives, enhancing their balance and strength.

The Loveless Shop

In 1970, Loveless established the Loveless-Merritt Knife Shop with fellow knife maker Jim Merritt. This partnership marked a period of prolific output and creativity, during which Loveless’s designs continued to evolve and set industry benchmarks. The knives produced by Loveless are highly sought after by collectors, with some pieces commanding high prices at auctions and sales.

Loveless’s impact extends beyond his knives. He was a mentor to many in the knife-making community, sharing his knowledge and skills with upcoming artists. His commitment to quality and innovation has inspired a generation of knife makers who continue to honor his legacy through their work.

Bob Loveless knives

Bob Loveless’s legacy in the knife-making world is built upon several iconic models that have set the standard for form, function, and craftsmanship in custom knives. Here are some of his most famous knife models:

Drop Point Hunter

Renowned for popularizing the drop point blade, Loveless crafted this knife with a blend of functionality, durability, and aesthetic elegance. Featuring a mirror-polished drop point blade adorned with the iconic “R.W. Loveless maker Lawndale, California” logo, it boasts a full tapered tang for superior balance. The blade, approximately 4.375 inches in length, is paired with exquisite micarta scales and red liners, accented by a nickel silver guard. Each knife is complemented by a meticulously crafted sheath, reflecting Loveless’s commitment to excellence. A symbol of craftsmanship and design, the Drop Point Hunter remains a highly sought-after collectible, embodying the legacy of a knifemaking legend.

bob loveless drop point hunter

New York Special

Designed to navigate the stringent knife laws of New York City, the New York Special has become one of the most elusive and sought-after Loveless creations, initially limited to just seven pieces before the discovery of an eighth, further cementing its rarity.

This exceptional knife boasts a clip point blade, approximately 3 and 3/8 inches in length, set into a handle that often features brown linen micarta, though materials may vary. The overall length of the knife is about 7 and 3/8 inches, making it both compact and concealable. It is crafted using CPM 154-CM blade steel, celebrated for its durability and performance, and is finished with stainless steel bolsters, a tapered tang, and a lanyard hole.

bob loveless New York Special

Big Bear Classic

Distinguished by its rare amber-stag handle and absence of typical Loveless bolts, this fighter-style knife is a unique masterpiece. Valued at an impressive $35,000, its rarity and design make it highly sought after. The knife features a classic Loveless drop point blade with a full tapered tang, crafted from 440C stainless steel with a hand-rubbed satin finish, premium stag scales, and 416 stainless steel brushed bolsters.

bob loveless Big Bear Classic knife

Utility Hunter

This exceptional knife features a high-polish clip-point blade, measuring approximately 4.75 inches in length with an overall length of 9.625 inches. Its construction boasts a full tapered tang, ensuring strength and balance, with a blade stock of 0.188 inches and a depth of 0.968 inches. The handle is crafted from Micarta scales with brown liners, complemented by a stainless steel guard, and is distinctly marked with “Lawndale.” Each knife also includes a matching numbered leather sheath and a padded zipper case for protection and presentation.

bob loveless Utility Hunter knife

Sub-Hilt Fighter

This knife features a distinctive sub-hilt design, a pioneering Loveless innovation, that offers unmatched grip stability and blade control. The extra trigger-like extension on the handle allows for precise control and secure handling, making it ideal for intense use. While its unique design enhances grip stability, it also means the knife is optimized for a specific holding technique, which may limit versatility and quick draw capability. Available in single-piece steel construction or with a built-in sub-hilt, this knife represents the perfect blend of form and function.

bob loveless Sub Hilt Fighter

Loveless knives prices

The value of Bob Loveless knives can vary widely based on factors such as model, rarity, materials used, and provenance. Some of his knives have sold for tens of thousands of dollars at auctions, reflecting their desirability among collectors and enthusiasts. While pinpointing the single most expensive Bob Loveless knife ever sold is challenging due to the private nature of some sales and the fluctuating auction market, certain models and pieces have been known to fetch exceptionally high prices.

For instance, custom pieces, limited editions, and knives made during particular periods of Loveless’s career (such as those produced in his Riverside shop) are highly sought after. Knives with unique features, custom engravings, or those that were part of limited runs can command higher prices. Additionally, pieces that have a documented history or were owned by notable individuals might also achieve higher auction prices.

It’s not uncommon for Loveless knives to sell for $20,000 to $30,000, and in some cases, even more, depending on the factors mentioned. However, specific sales figures can exceed these ranges for particularly rare or desirable pieces. The auction record for knives can vary year by year, with new records occasionally being set as the market for high-quality custom knives grows and evolves.

To get the latest and most accurate information on the pricing of Bob Loveless knives, particularly those considered the “most expensive,” it would be advisable to consult recent auction results from reputable auction houses that specialize in fine knives or to inquire with collectors and dealers who specialize in high-end custom knives. 

 Bob Loveless stag lawndale subhilt

Who is John Denton?

John Denton, with over thirty years of experience collecting and dealing in Vintage Loveless knives, has established himself as a leading figure in the niche of Loveless knife collection. Recognized by Blade Magazine in 2017 as the world’s foremost authority on Loveless knives, Denton’s deep understanding and extensive knowledge of these coveted pieces are unparalleled. As the only exclusive Vintage Loveless dealer globally, he offers collectors and enthusiasts unique access to some of the most sought-after knives in the world. Cementing his status as an expert in the field, Denton has authored the definitive book on Vintage Loveless knives, a publication that has quickly become a must-have for anyone serious about collecting or learning about Loveless’s legendary creations. This book not only showcases his profound expertise but also serves as a vital resource for collectors, further highlighting his significant contribution to preserving and sharing the legacy of Bob Loveless’s craftsmanship.

Bob Loveless and John Denton
Image credit: boblovelessknives.com

Bob Loveless Shop: Continuing the Legacy

Robert Waldorf Loveless, a renowned Riverside knife maker, left behind a legacy that continues to thrive even after his passing. His knives, known for their ergonomic design and high-quality craftsmanship, were intended to be practical tools for hunters, outdoorsmen, military personnel, and law enforcement. Although many Loveless knives are now prized collector’s items, the master’s original vision was for them to be used in the field rather than stored in velvet-lined boxes.

Upon his passing, Loveless bequeathed his shop and business to Jim Merritt, his partner of 30 years. Merritt carries on the tradition, crafting knives that bear the Loveless name. Interestingly, at knife shows across the country, there are more copies of Loveless designs than any other style.

Another notable figure in the Loveless lineage is Brent Harp, one of the few protégés who received direct training from Loveless and Merritt. Harp, a former detective with the Redlands Police Department, spent extensive time learning the art of knife-making under their guidance. Loveless imparted not only technical skills but also valuable life lessons. One such lesson was that a knife-maker should avoid becoming too attached to their creations, emphasizing practicality over sentimentality.

In recent years, Harp has continued the legacy from his home shop in Perris, near Lake Mathews, producing approximately 300 knives. Loveless’s influence lives on through these dedicated craftsmen, ensuring that the artistry and functionality of Loveless knives endure for generations to come.

If you wish to get in touch with the current custodians of the Loveless tradition, you can reach out to them at the following address: R.W. Loveless P.O. Box 70910 Riverside, CA 92503 Phone: 951-689-7800 Email: info@LovelessKnives.com

Actual Bob Loveless Knives price list of the shop

Hunting Knives price   Special Purpose Knives price
Dropped Hunter $2000 Lamb Handled Utility $2000
Semi-Skinner $2000 Lamb Handled Semi Skinner $2000
Utility Hunter $2000 Hip Pocket Hunter $2000
Straight Hunter $2000 Piker $2000
Crooked Skinner $2000 Randall $2000
Nessmuk $2000 Long Randall $2000
Skandic $2000 Piker-Randall Set $4500
Gut-Hook Skinner $3500 Stiff Horn $3500
Caper/Finn $2000 City Knife $3500
Bird Knife $2000 New York Special $5000
Pro Hunter $3500 New York Special with Snap $5000
Chute Knife $5000
Fighting Knives price Camp Knife $2500
3 Inch Dagger $5000 Lamb Handled Camp Knife $2500
4 Inch Dagger $5000 Jims Knife $2500
5 Inch Dagger $5000 Town & Country $2500
6 Inch Dagger $7000 Field & Stream $2000
Dixon Fighter $7000 Gents Knife $2500
5 Inch Fighter $7000
6 Inch Fighter $7000 Boot Knives price
Mini Wilderness $5000 Hide-Out $5000
Wilderness $7000 Boot Knife $5000
Battle Knife $10,000 Small Boot Knife $5000
Mini Bear $12,000
Baby Bear $12,000
Junior Bear $16,000
Big Bear $18,000

 

Conclusion

Bob Loveless’s contributions to knife making have cemented his status as a legendary figure in the field. His designs, characterized by their beauty, functionality, and uncompromising quality, have set standards that are still aspired to today. Loveless’s legacy is not only in the knives he created but in the enduring influence he has on the craft of knife making. His work remains a benchmark for excellence, inspiring both collectors and creators in the world of custom knives.

Author: Aleks Nemtcev | Connect with me on LinkedIn

References:

(1) PERRIS: Knife maker keeps the legacy alive – Press Enterprise.

(2) Meet the makers who keep the fighting bowie knife alive.

(3) Keeping Loveless Legacy Alive – BLADE Magazine.

(4) The Official website for the Loveless Knife Shop

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