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.