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.


Nobody said...

I just saw this link from the USN and came here. I'm shocked and saddened by our loss to the knifemaking world. I met Mr. Lum a couple of years ago at the Blade show in Atlanta and we talked for a while. He was a very nice gentleman and I enjoyed making his acquaintance. He will be sorely missed by all those whose lives he touched. My sincerest condolences to all his family and friends.
-Bruce Parris

Anonymous said...

Tony I love your beautiful tribute site for Bob. My husband and I are Oregon hunters and actually use our Lums for skinning and butchering deer and elk. Bob was a friend we saw too infrequently and his death was a shocking loss for many around here. We are happy to have his knives to use and treasure. Kathy Forster

Anonymous said...

How wonderful how you have honored such a great man.
I am just an ordinary man and not a knife collector.
I am a sculptor and engraver. One evening years ago I noticed the craftsmanship and beauty of Bob's work quite by accident on the internet while searching for something else related to the art of engraving. I e-mailed Bob and he called me back the very next day. We spoke about life,fishing and about what kind of knife he could create for me. Over the next few years we had many wonderful conversations and became friends you could say.
He created me a magnificent unique Tanto designed just for me. What was so special to me about this man Bob Lum is how he treated me, an ordinary man, and how he took the time to talk with me. I am truly honored to own a piece of his art-work and to have known him. His wife Jean is as well a woman of great vision as Bob was. I am also honored to know her.
I never have collected anything. But now I have a complete collection of one piece. The best things in life are not 'things'. And knowing Bob was a gift.
Having a piece of his work, a tangible memory of a great kind human being.

Patrick Baron

SapHappy said...

As editor of Fighting Knives Magazine, now many years ago, I was honored to author the first and to my knowledge the only detailed article about Bob's introduction of what is now commonly called a "tanto".

Upon Bob reading the final story he expressed his deep feelings about finally being given the rich distinction of being the creative source of one of the most popular U.S. knife designs in the past 75 years.

Bob and I last saw eachother, quite by accident, at the VA hospital after his cancer had recently been diagnosed. We enjoyed a brief reunion before our appointments, Bob showing me one of the first Benchmade leaf pattern folders just then coming into production.

He expressed his happiness with the collaboration in terms of fit, finish, and attention to his original design.

Bob Lum was a good man, an artist, and one of the finest custom knife designers and makers the U.S. has contributed to bladeware.

May he truly rest in peace.

Greg Walker (USASF, Retired)