SHAKE-DOWN: LES GEORGE by Dexter Ewing
Custom maker Les George of Blue Springs, Mississippi, began his knifemaking career in 1992. Specializing in tactical knives, his designs are based from his real-life experiences while serving in the Marines. Enlisting in 1997, George has extensive experience ranging from a heavy equipment mechanic to being an Embassy Guard, and a Senior Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Technician. His many deployments have taken him to such far-flung places such as Thailand, Laos, North and South Korea, Peru, Mozambique, South Africa, and Iraq. Among many of his skills are Improvised Explosives and Devices, Explosive Dynamic Entry, Advanced Access and Disablement, Close Quarters Combat, and Weapons of Mass Destruction. Yes….we can also include blade grinding in among those! George is the designer of the Spartan V-14 dagger, inspired by the original V-42 dagger that was famous in WWII. Let’s find out more about him.
Dex: Through your years of experience as a Marine EOD Tech (among the many roles you had), how have your experiences with the Marines shaped and molded your design and execution approach to custom knives? What kind/brand of knives did you carry and use while in-service?
Les: The biggest thing I realized is that not all of my preconceived notions as a “knife guy” were right. For example, I was never a fan of the idea of using the butt of a knife as a hammer. That is until the night I had to use the butt of my knife as a hammer to fix the truck in the middle of Iraq. I have come more to terms with the fact that the knife is a universally abused tool, it's the whipping boy of the kit and sometimes it just has to take punishment and do the jobs that no one thought of before. I never thought that I would use a knife that I made to hammer a broken screw driver into the metal airline to let the air pressure build back up to uncage the brakes and get us all moving again, but there I was MacGyver-ing the thing back on the road. In Iraq, I had one of my large EOD fixed blades, a small Benchmade fixed blade and a Leatherman multitool. In other places, I usually had a larger frame lock in my pocket and on the ranges and in the field I had the EOD knife.
Dex: You’re a custom maker specializing in tactical knives. I know the late Stan Fujisaka was a major influence in shaping and molding you into the knifemaker you are today (correct me if I am wrong but I believe Ken Onion was also heavily influenced by Fujisaka). What about Fujisaka’s work intrigued you the most and what elements of his work do you still incorporate into your knives today?
Les: It wasn't Stan’s work product that made the most impact on me. It was the workmanship. I could make the same kind of knives that Stan made, he set me up too, I even have some of his patterns, but I make in my own style, but I still use a lot of the methods that he taught me. I worked in Stan’s shop for several years while I lived in Hawaii, and I would not be where I am today without his help. I had several years experience as a knifemaker when I showed up at Stan’s but he taught me how to be a professional knifemaker. A great many makers have helped me along my path, Allen Elishewitz, Gary Bradburn, Bill Harsey, and many many others, but Stan was the one that really invested in me, and I will be forever grateful.
Dex: What do you enjoy making the most? Fixed blades or folders? Why?
Les: All knives matter! I went a long time without making any fixed blades, I have been making more fixed blades lately, especially more daggers. I am happy to be doing it, I am happy to be working in the shop regardless of what I am making. I like daggers.
Dex: The V-14 dagger you designed for Spartan Blades arguably is one of the sexiest tactical fixed blades on the market. It also is a reproduction of sorts of the classic V-42 dagger, but with modern premium materials. What is it about this design that draws you in, that captivates you?
Les: When I approached the design of that dagger, I read everything I could get my hands on about the development of the WW2 commando daggers, going all the way back to Shanghai. I tried to get a sense of the design intent, what they wanted the knife to do and be and how they went about getting there. Then I took that intent, and tried to apply the last 70 plus years of material, design and manufacturing technology to the same problem, while not being under the pressure of a great World War and the V14 is what shook out.
In addition to Spartan Blades producing his V-14 dagger design, Les George has also furnished designs for Kershaw Knives, Zero Tolerance Knives, and Pro-Tech Knives. The Spartan V-14 dagger also won Collaboration of the Year award at the 2014 BLADE Show in Atlanta, GA. You may visit his website at http://www.georgeknives.com . His email is firstname.lastname@example.org, and can be found on Instagram at @les_george.