The Rubenesque avatar of the season has returned for another year to his North Pole home, the presents are unwrapped, and the final showing of A Christmas Story has come and gone. Christmas is over, and it is time for another edition of KNIFE Magazine’s interview series – 5 from the Grinder. Today we bring you Lee Ross of Lee Ross Custom Knives. While I don’t know Lee personally, I am impressed with his blending of handle materials and functional designs.
Please introduce yourself and let us know what led you to making/designing knives
I am Lee Ross of Lee Ross Custom Knives. I have been designing, creating, and forging knives for over 35 years. Each of my knives are hand sculpted and built to the style and fit to the individual’s hand. I make one-off collectable knives of heirloom quality in a multitude of designs and functions to meet my client’s needs. I incorporate high quality materials including gemstones, woods and leather to make knives look as good as they function. My knives are built to last a lifetime passing down generation to generation.
I began making knives because I like them and have always used them. Whether it was in the wild or in the kitchen, I always have a knife. Building knives is part of my meditation and art and I feel a spiritual reward from my craft. I get lost in the process of the creation.
What knifemaker(s) or designer(s) have had the biggest influence on you? Do you have any mentors?
Nick Wheeler and Kyle Royer have been a significant influence on my work. They showed me how to focus on the details and to have patience in my art. Both of these knife makers have an incredible attention to detail. In a world of “hurry hurry hurry” they spend the time on each project to accomplish their vision. I have learned to be patient and methodical in my knives. Art needs one to slow down and pay attention to the craft. The end result is something that I can take pride in
What is your favorite knife pattern or style from history?
I like a Kukri knife because of its style, weight and it’s chopping ability. However, I don’t regularly chop wood and I rarely decapitate people.
What is the next big thing in knifemaking? / What direction do you see the industry going?
I believe a percentage of the market, the collector and the true aficionado will sway away from the machined, mass-produced knives and look towards getting a one-of-a-kind functional art piece. Many people out there will buy a car from off the lot, but some want a custom car, ordered to their specific interests and needs and it’s well worth the wait.
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?
Even though I make knives for the client based on their tastes, style and needs, I think my neck knives really showcase what I can do in a small package. Being that they are smaller knives, I can really put a lot of work into them. And they’re worn as usable jewelry looking as good as they function. However, I will never make a perfect knife in my mind because I am always progressing in my art. My craft and skills are always evolving. I get satisfaction in the continuing process.
What is your EDC and why?
My daily carry? Which one? I always carry a neck knife as an art piece and to start a conversations. Many people don’t even know it is anything more than a piece of jewelry. Those who do, appeciate it and engage in a conversation….some that can go on quite extensively. I also usually have a hunting knife on me. Sometimes finished or a work in progress. Many of my knives I build out of a labor of love but more often than not, people buy them from me as their “forever” knife.