Les George is a custom maker, designer for KAI-USA (Zero Tolerance and Kershaw), former Marine, and in my limited correspondence with him one heck of a nice guy. He actually found us, and dropped me a line offering to participate in our “5 from the Grinder” series. He also was an enthusiastic participant in our recent Knife Madness tournament on social media, rallying ZT and Kershaw fans to support the companies, helping them nab both the Champion and Runner-up positions.
He sent this in last week, but I wanted to hold off until the tournament concluded, lest I be seen as putting a thumb on the scale. Not that ZT needed the boost as it turned out.
SO without further ado, we present “5 from the Grinder” with Les George.
First, in a few sentences, please introduce yourself and let us know what led you to making/designing knives.
I’m Les George and I just always liked knives, my parents put the hold on my knife collecting when I was 12. I still wanted more knives, so I decided to make my own. Unfortunately I had no idea what i was doing, but fortunately I was too stupid to quit.
Question 1: What knifemaker(s) or designer(s) have had the biggest influence on you? Do you have any mentors?
I was mentored and taught folding knives by the late Stan Fujisaka when I lived in Hawaii. Long before that as a kid making fixed blades, Gary Bradburn in Kansas was a huge help and influence.
A lot of other knifemakers have helped me thought the years, to make a list would be to leave someone out, but Allen Elishewitz and Don Fogg are two that stand out.
Question 2: What is your favorite knife pattern or style from history?
I love daggers most of all. I have a collection of most military daggers used by the USA and its allies from the last century. I also have a number of modern daggers. Of all of them, the M1918 Trench Knife is probably my favorite.
Question 3: What is the next big thing in knifemaking? / What direction do you see the industry going?
I don’t know where the industry is going. I know that for my own knives, I am stepping back a little from Midtech work to focus more on custom work. My customers have made it very clear to me in the last few months that they want more higher end work. I make knives for a living, what kind of knives I make doesn’t matter much to me really. That said, I am excited to me doing more custom work. I have a lot of new ideas, and designs to work on and I am looking forward to bringing my work back full circle.
Question 4: Is there a knife from your lineup that you feel best exhibits who you are as a knifemaker/designer in terms of design elements, aesthetic or techniques used?
I really like all my designs, obviously. Anytime you design or make something you are balancing trade offs. I think the knife that best fits my personality is the Rockeye series. I don’t want to make knives that I don’t like or believe in, but every knife is not made for me, so I have to balance what I like with what people want to buy. It wouldn’t help me to make the best knife in the world if no one else thought it was worth buying.
Question 5: What is your EDC and why?
If I am not caring some new design that I have made or a production proto that I designed, I usually have a VECP in my pocket. Today its an Eagle that I make for Wilson Combat. I just did a batch with hand ground damascus blades and one of them “fell off the truck…”