Entering the knife making field in 1953, Bob Loveless is one of the grand names in 20th century American knifemaking, credited as the godfather of the hollow ground drop point blade (now virtually the de-facto standard utility and multi-purpose knife blade at home and abroad), the innovator of using 154CM and ATS-34 steel for blademaking, a founding member and early supporter of the Knifemaker's Guild and a blade designer for Gerber and Schrade. The set of eleven knives is mounted in a custom made hardwood and brass display and travel case, each blade resting in it's own French cut space in the golden orange lining, corresponding to a brass information plaque in the lid sharing the particulars of the blade and a larger plaque identifying the set as the "R.W.LOVELESS/DELAWARE COLLECTION", with a pair of heavy brass threaded bolts securing the lid for transport. All but two of the blades are addressed to Delaware and manufactured in the 1950s, representing some of the early work of a noted American Master. Even at this early stage, the quality is unmistakable, and the knives are top notch in form, weight and balance. Though demonstrating a variety of blade styles, the assembled knives show a number of re-occurring features that lend a sense of continuity to the grouping, reinforcing them as a collection instead of a mere gathering, in particular a well aged brass guard on all, and all but one featuring a leather washer grip with bakelite spacers and an alloy pommel, and the outlier showing a similarly toned brown micarta grip with a bright steel exposed tang. 1) "Old Bowie Sub-Hilt" knife, 12 5/8 inches overall with a 7 3/4 inch blade featuring a slight belly to the true edge, 4 1/2 inch back clip and a 3 3/8 inch brass bar reinforcement on the spine, echoing the design of a number of "Confederate" style bowies. The left side of the blade is wire etched "R.W. LOVELESS/MAKER/CLAYMONT, DEL." and "139-B", and the right "No.28/R.W.L.". Fine contouring has been executed on the hilt, with a 3 1/4 inch wide brass guard with matching colored sub-guard and a series of red and black spacers. With a leather "wallet" style case. The plaque attributes the blade as 1958 production, and one of only 3 made. 2) "Combat Knife", 10 1/2 inches overall with a 5 7/8 inch blade, featuring a spear point tip and a 4 3/8 inch false edge. The left side is wire etched "LOVELESS-MADE/CLAYMONT, DEL." on the ricasso and "-DELAWARE MAID-" on the edge bevel, with a "vase" profile grip featuring red, black, and white spacers. An unmarked but professionally made brown leather sheath is included. Attributed as 1956 production. 3) Loveless & Parke "Bowie Sub-Hilt" knife with Abercrombie & Fitch markings. According to legend, one of the first things that spurred then-sailor Loveless into making knives professionally was being told by an A&F clerk at their New York store that he'd have to get on a nine month waiting list for a Randall Made knife (the current waiting list for a Randall is just shy of 4 years), and responding by making a knife himself good enough for the retailer, and Parke was one of Loveless' first business partners, handing the marketing end while Bob made the knives. 11 inches in overall length, with a 6 inch blade showing a 2 1/2 inch straight clip, marked "Loveless & Parke/makers/Sierra Madre, Calif." on the left and "Abercrombie & Fitch Co." on the right. The hilt is finely finger grooved, with red, white and black spacers at the guard and pommel and red and black spacers around the brass sub-guard. Attributed as 1968 production. With an unmarked hand made brown leather sheath with tie-down thong. 4) Delaware Maid/Abercrombie & Fitch "Fighting Knife", 9 7/8 inches overall with a 5 3/8 inch drop point blade. Attributed as 1956 production, many of these early knives were made out of spring steel salvaged from old car suspensions, a technique Loveless would later endorse as a fine way to get started in knifemaking. The blade is etched "Abercrombie & Fitch Co./-New York-" on the right side and "=Delaware Maid=" on the left, with a series of black, white and red spacers on the contoured hilt. With a Loveless branded brown leather sheath, signed "R.W.L./AUG.'98/OCT.'03" below the belt loop. 5) Loveless & Parke/Abercrombie & Fitch "Hunter" knife, attributed as 1964 and marked to match #3. 9 5/8 inches overall, with a 4 7/8 inch straight clip blade, single finger guard and red, white and black spacers. With a "Loveless-Parke" signed brown leather sheath. 6) Delaware Maid "Straight Hunter" knife, 10 inches overall with a 4 3/4 inch drop point blade. Deviating from the rest of the set, the Straight Hunter features full tang construction with a pair of brass pinned brown micarta grips and an extended tang with lanyard hole, and is attributed as 1957-1958 production, possibly Loveless' first full tang knife. The full tang and the use of micarta were major milestones for Loveless' knife development, with the full tang design being often copied and micarta becoming a favorite material for it's durability and working properties; in statements given for a Sports illustrated article in 1980 Loveless speculated that the micarta handles would outlive most of the collectors buying them, and contemporaries have stated that the smith would have built a house out of the stuff if he could. With an unmarked leather sheath. 7) Delaware Maid "Utility" knife, attributed to 1956. 9 1/4 inches overall, with a 4 1/2 inch drop point blade marked "-DELAWARE MAID-" on the left and "R.W.LOVELESS, MAKER/CLAYMONT, DEL." on the right, with a finger grooved grip and red, white and black spacers. With a brown leather sheath, stamped "J" on the rear. 8) Delaware Maid/Abercrombie & Fitch "Drop Hunter" knife, attributed as 1957 manufactured. The Drop Hunter was in many ways the blade that put Loveless on the map; originally following the patterns popularized by Randall, Loveless determined that they made great fighting knives, but he could make a better "working man's" knife, something shorter, lighter but without sacrificing strength, designed from his own outdoors experience as well as feedback from hunters and field guides. Both the market and the attention of other knife makers have validated his theories on the matter. 9 1/2 inches overall with a 4 1/4 inch drop point blade marked "DELAWARE MAID/R.W. LOVELESS,MAKER/CLAYMONT, DEL." on the left and "ABERCROMBIE & FITCH CO/-NEW YORK-" on the right, with "C" stamped on the left side of the finger grooved grip, a trimmed down brass guard and red, white and black spacers. With an unmarked brown leather sheath. 9) Delaware Maid/Abercrombie & Fitch "Utility" knife numbered "9", manufactured around 1957. 9 1/2 inches overall with a 5 inch clip point blade, marked "Delaware Maid" and "9 RWL" on the left side and "Abercrombie & Fitch Co" on the right. The finger grooved hilt is fitted with red and white guard spacers and red and black pommel spacers. With a brown leather holster marked "654-B" on the rear. 10) Delaware Maid/Abercrombie & Fitch "Clip Point" knife, attributed to 1955. 9 3/4 inches overall with a 4 3/4 inch blade, marked "-DELAWARE MAID-" and "No. 73" on the right side, and "ABERCROMBIE & FITCH CO., N.Y." and the "A&F/Co" monogram on the right. The round leather washer grip is fitted with a white bakelite spacer in lieu of one of the washers, flanked by thin brass panels and positioned shortly below the guard. With an unmarked brown leather flap holster. 11) Delaware Maid/Abercrombie & Fitch "Utility" knife, attributed to 1957. 9 1/4 inches overall with a 4 1/2 inch drop point blade etched "DELAWARE MAID" and stamped "11" on the left side and etched "ABERCROMBIE & FITCH Co." on the right, with a series of red, white and black spacers at the ends of the contoured and finger-grooved grip.
All knives are very good overall, showing a well aged gray patina on the steel and an appropriate mustard tone on the brass, along with some light handling marks. #2 shows some light scuffs on the grip, #3 has a small amount of play in the sub-guard, #4 shows minor cleaned pitting near the guard, #5 and #7 have some loose spacers, #7 has a small patch of spotting on the left side of the blade, #10 shows shallow cleaned pitting overall and #11 has been lightly polished and sharpened. The sheaths are solid overall, showing typical wear and some verdigris buildup. The display case is in excellent condition. A fantastic gathering of the early work of Bob Loveless, and without a doubt the finest single group of Loveless knives yet seen at this auction. Any item alone would be worthy of an advanced knife collection, but the whole set is an advanced collection onto itself. If you miss out on this grouping, there is no way of knowing when, if ever, a similar opportunity will arrive again.
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