Field Grade, Deluxe?? Small, Large?? Huh??

For some reason, Bob's naming scheme would often confuse people. It can be if you don't follow his work. Here's what I've come to understand of it, and what I use when I'm asked questions about his models:

Bob offers two classes of knives: One-off customs that follows a style/pattern, and his "Regulars".

The One-offs could be fashioned in any way, often determined by the customer who placed the order. And in the early to middle part of his career, most of the knives he made would fit into this category. These include Hunters, Skinners, Large Tanto's, Fighters, and his Armour Piercing Dagger (including the Americanize Tanto variant). This is also where Bob exercised his creativity with his tantos. They would come in any size, with multitudes of details and finishes.

His "Regular" offerings were his "Bread and Butter" models. In the later stage of his career, the naming scheme would apply more to his Folders than his Fixed Blades. Of his Fixed Blade offerings, he had a few models; Tanto, Stalker, Chinese Fighter, and Sabertip Fighter. Of his Folders they were many, among them; Chinese Folder, Folding Tanto, Folding Stalker, Folding Skinner, Folding Dagger, All-Rounder, Folding Tanto II, Forester, Two Bladed Folder, and others.

What differentiates his models are the handle treatments. Bob's low end models were always the Field Grade ones. These usually were handled with Micarta, G10 or Carbon Fiber, and in plain Titanium for his Folders. The other range is the Deluxe models. These will include wood and other natural materials for handles (the most popular choice being Stag), and would very often have bolster treatment(s).

Regular models have one additional variation: they come in several sizes. Small, Medium, and Large. For Fixed Blades, Small came with a 3" blade; Medium with a 4" Blade; and Large with a 5" Blade. For Folders, Small came with a 2" Blade; Medium, a 3" blade; Large, a 4" Blade. Some Folders also came in an XL size with a 5" Blade.

Hopefully this has helped demystify Bob's offerings. If not, and you have one of Bob's knives that you're not sure which model it is, I would be more than happy to help you sort it out. Just email me some pictures of the knife.


Miniatures: Lums #007 to #009

Few people knew that Bob makes miniatures. I only found out when I stumbled onto a Stag Handled Tanto Miniature in the hands of a Japanese collector. I then asked Bob to make me a few. Of course I had to have a Tanto, and one of the Grandmaster Darn Dao. They were made as a match set with African Blackwood handles. I then asked Bob to make one more Grandmaster Darn Dao, but to dress it up. He did so with Ivory handles. These are scaled replicas of his full size models; including such details as tapered tangs, full bolster, and even the full spine swedge he often did on his tantos (see photo below).

#7, #8, and #9 (Top to bottom):

#7: is an Ivory Handled Miniature Grandmaster Darn Dao. Blade length is 3.5", OAL of 5.5".

#8: is an African Blackwood Handled Miniature Grandmaster Darn Dao. Blade length is 3.5", OAL of 5.5".

#9: is a African Blackwood Handled Miniature Tanto. Blade length is 2.25", OAL of 4".

Unfortunately, Bob did not enjoy making these, as they took the same amount of effort as a full size model. Which may explains why he made so few. It may also explain why he tends to charge near full price for them. :-)


Wooden Sword Award 1983

Here's a little gem I thought I share. The image was scanned from the Knives 1983, Third Edition Annual, as edited by Ken Warner. Which during it's time was THE book on custom knives. A complete complation of all the goings ons in the knife world (primarily for the US) for the previous year. It covered custom and production, and would be something to look forward to for any knife fan.

In 1983, KenWarner started his Wooden Sword Award in recognition of deserving knife makers. In the first year, he award Bob Lum the award for his introduction of the tanto style knife. Quoting from the article (pertaining to Bob):

"... the third defined a trend, perhaps a change."

" Lum tantos have, over the past two years at least, caught the consciousness of other knifemakers, and you may look to a lot of tantos in the next few years."

"The Wooden swords point at knives you could own, knives well worth owning."

Knives well worth owning. Words I took to heart. And when Bob finally showed up at the New York Custom Knife Show in 1986, I took the time out to meet him. I needed to see for myself that there was indeed someone of Asian decent doing well in the custom knife market. We spoke for a while and I placed my order for one of his Large Field Grade Stalkers, to be delivered when completed. Little did Bob, or I, know what that one meeting would turn out into.

Thanks to Jim Cooper for sending me this scan.


Memorial Service

From those that were able to attend the service on Saturday Dec. 8th, I was told it was a very moving service. A tribute to the man and all those he touched. In attendance were many of his peers from the knife making community. In tribute to his craft, a table was laid out in the lobby, decked out with his signature red table cloth, adorned with a photo album that he always had at the knife shows he attended, and a few of the knives he made.

 One thing that surprised me to have learned about Bob, was that he was an excellent singer. I was aware of his guitar playing (and that's a story for another time), but now I regret never having heard him sing.

As I could not attend the service, I would like to share my favorite memory of Bob here:

It was a few years ago when he asked me to help him get an anniversary present for his wife Jean. While at the same time, Jean also called to ask me to help buy him a present. I was greatly tickled to be in the middle of this, as I didn't let on that I was helping both of them. They found out later once the gifts were exchanged. I don't know if Bob was more mad at me for helping Jean get him his present, or that I didn't tell him, but I do know that they both enjoyed their presents that year.

I miss you Bob. You were among few I can call "Brother". And although I never told you, you were very much a Father figure to me. I've learned so much about being a better person by listening to you, and by simply being around you. The times we spent together after the shows were among my most memorable; the shopping trips to B&H, the meals we shared, and the talks at Paul's place. I'll miss our multi-hour phone calls about knives, photography, watches, food, and life in general. Thank you for including me in your journey through life.


Gerber Knives: Double Take

Another factory collaboration, this time with Gerber Knives of Oregon. This is a production version of Bob's Small Twin Folder. For some reason, this association is not as well marketed. And that's a shame. Because, for less than $25 street price, most people can own one of the most technical folders that he makes. The unique feature here is that both blades share a common liner that acts as the locking bar when opened.


My first set of pictures; my daggers by Bob.

Daggers are often the true indicator of a maker's grinding skills. Not only does the grind need to be symmetrical (both side by side and back to back), but the spine needs to be maintained perfectly straight. Bob's daggers reflect his ability as an excellent grinder. One thing of note about Bob's daggers, is that they are often finished with a Diamond Cross-Sectioned Armour-Piercing Tip, not the simple needle point more commonly done with daggers. See picture below. The hollow grind is maintain until the very point, where the diamond tip is formed.

#1 & #2:

This set of Stag Handled are my favorite of the daggers.

#1: The large one was delivered to me as a companion piece to a similar sized Deluxe Stag Handled American Tanto (it's the one seen right below in in the top picture by Jim Cooper). I asked Bob to make it with Double SS bolsters in the lines of an Medieval styled dagger. The front bolsters are flared for the thumb and forefinger control, while the rear bolster acts as a counterbalance. The blade length is 9", OAL is 13.5".

#2: The smaller one is more representative of Bob's Deluxe Dagger offerings, with a single large front bolster. This one has an 8" blade, OAL is 12".

#3, 4, 5, and 6 (Left to Right).

By virtue of being daggers, and wanting to have them posted together, these are #4 through #6; the remaining daggers in my collection.

#3: is a Small Deluxe Dagger with Burl wood handle. This one is unique in that the blade is waisted with what is called a Leaf Shaped Dagger. Blade length is 4", OAL is 8.25".

#4: is Bob's standard Field Grade Dagger. Handle is Black Micarta (sans bolsters). Thong holes are includes for a lanyard. Blade length is 5", OAL is 9.5".

#5: is a special request by me. It's similar to his Field Grade Dagger, but in Military finish; with a bead blasted blade and Green Linen Canvas Micarta. This dagger has a full tang, not the tapered tang that Bob prefers to do. Blade length is 5.5", OAL is 10".

#6: is a Deluxe Dagger with Mammoth Ivory handles. Blade length is 6.5", OAL is 11.5".

As you can see, there is no regularity in his work. The length of the bolster is determined by the balance; width of the blade is mostly determined by the OAL length to maximize his sense of lines; and the handle's end treatment is a result of both balance and lines.


Bob's Website

Not sure how much longer it'll be maintained, but it should be enjoyed while it's still available.

The website also showcased Bob's skill as a photographer with all the pictures on the website taken by him.

Spyderco Knives

Spyderco Knives, of Golden Colorado, was most responsible for bringing Bob's work to the masses. They first introduced Bob's Large Folding Tanto. Then released the Medium Chinese Folder. Lastly, his Medium Field Grade Fixed Tanto. The Chinese Folder has become a cult favorite among Spyderco fans for it's compact size but amazing utility capabilities.

A huge thank you to Mr. Sal Glesser, CEO of Spyderco Knives for sending me these photos, and allowing me to share them here.


Here is Bob's obiturary from The Register-Guard:

Robert Lum

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, at the First Baptist Church of Springfield for Robert Wayne “Bob” Lum of Eugene, who died Dec. 4 of lung cancer. He was 64.

He was born Sept. 8, 1943, in Astoria to John and Clara Wong Lum. He married Jean Roberts on April 8, 1979, in Santa Barbara, Calif.

He graduated from high school in Astoria and from Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara.

He served in the U.S. Army from 1968 to 1969, during the Vietnam War, as a photographer and cook. He was a custom knife maker and designer specializing in Japanese and Chinese swords. He also managed the Shutterbug at Valley River Center.

Survivors include his wife; a son, Eli of Mountain View, Calif.; and two brothers, Ronald of Napa, Calif., and James of Colorado Springs, Colo.

Inurnment will be at West Lawn Memorial Park in Eugene. Arrangements by West Lawn Memorial Park & Funeral Home in Eugene. Remembrances to children’s programs at First Baptist Church of Springfield.

Benchmade DejaVoos

Bob's most recent factory collabration was with Benchmade Knives in Oregon. They decided to produce two models based on his Custom All-Rounder Folder. The smaller model, the 745 Mini-Dejavoo is a faithful reproduction of his Medium All-Rounder. The larger version, the 740 Dejavoo, is not as faithful. When compared to the Custom Large All-Rounder, distinct differences in the lines of the handle and the blade can be seen. Both are very well made pieces, and has helped allowed Bob's designs to be enjoyed by the general public.

Special thanks to Les and Roberta DeAsis for permission to use Benchmade's photos of the DejaVoo.


First Set of Pictures

To start off, I would like to share some pictures taken by noted knife photographer, Jim Cooper.

I want to achieve two things by starting off with these professionally shot photos. 1) To remind myself how much I need to learn to be able to take pictures of this caliber. 2) To show Bob's work in the best possible light.

RIP Mr. Lum

My good friend of 20 years, Mr. Bob Lum, the custom knife maker from Eugene, Or., passed away on 12/4/07 around Noon. This came after a rather brief battle with lung cancer. Brief, because the cancer was only discovered this past April. I hope in creating this Blog, to be able to pay tribute to him as a man, and most importantly, as an artist of the highest caliber.

In the world of custom knife making, Bob is considered by many to be at the top of the game. He has made many contributions to the knife making world. He is best known for the introduction of the Japanese tanto style knife into the US market in the late 1970's. While many would argue that the tanto isn't new, and confused the situation by mistakenly claiming he invented the tanto, the truth of the matter is very simple; Bob Americanized the tanto . The leap in design was to create a tanto style knife using modern, non-traditional Japanese, knife making methods; blade shaped by stock removal, not forged; using pre-formed modern cutlery steel; heat treating done in the same method used by many knife makers today; and completing the process by replacing the traditional cord wrapped tsuka with standard knife handle treatments. Thus allowing many knife companies, and custom knife makers, to offer the tanto as an available blade style for their customers. The popularity of this blade style can be seen in the multitude of offerings made since.

Bob also has other accomplishments. He is regarded by many of his peers as one of the best grinders in the business. His hand rubbed satin finish is often imitated, and is one of his trademark signatures. But most importantly, he is known for the clean lines in his designs, which were always original. He may have borrowed from past patterns and styles, but each model he made was his own; each with elements of his signature style. His knives can be identified by simple clean line, uncluttered with unnecessary elements. When held, they all exhibit proper balance, making even the largest knife fast in the hand, with complete sense of control. And most importantly, uniqueness, because he didn't use patterns when he made a knife, making each knife an original. I can attest to this because I have had the privilege of handling hundreds of his knives over our long friendship. All the while, maintaining a collection of 100 for myself. Thus the title for this blog.
I have been collecting Bob Lum's work since I first met him at the New York Custom Knife Show in 1986. After a brief conversation, I placed my first order; a Large Field Grade Stalker. Around three years ago, I did a quick inventory of my knives by Bob, and realized I was only a dozen short of 100. The intention then was to build a site to popularize his work. But due to his recent success, and subsequent health, the project was shelved. It is now reborn as something I never thought it would be, but I can't think of anything more fitting as a Tribute.

Lum in Chinese means Forest. I too am part Lum, as it's my Mother's surname. I hope to share with you, the readers, my forest of Bob Lum's work. Please join me in paying tribute to one of the most wonderful man, and friend, I have had the pleasure of knowing. I will post pictures of the his knives from my collection here for you to enjoy. I will also post my thoughts, feelings, memories and whatever. Because this is how I intend to mourn, honor, remember, tell, and share him.