Jimmy Lile (1933 - 1991) was a knife designer from Arkansas that designed the first two survival knives for use in First Blood andRambo: First Blood Part II. The two knives were known as "The Mission" series and their basic practical design influenced other knifemakers of the time.
A Russellville Arkansas native, Lile was the son of a coal miner. He made his first knife at the age of eleven by grinding an old file into a blade. He spent his young adult life working as a high school teacher, serving in the United States Army, and as a construction contractor.
In 1971, Lile became a full-time knifemaker and was known as "Gentleman Lile" or "The Arkansas Knifemaker". He was particularly known for his survival knife designs known as "The Mission" series, created by request for Sylvester Stallone to use in his first two Rambo movies. These designs would go on to influence other knife makers in the 1980s. In addition to creating the Rambo knives, Lile designed and made several Bowie knives that he presented to Governor Bill Clinton and U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon and Gerald R. Ford. Other owners of his work included John Wayne, Peter Fonda, Fess Parker, Bo Derek, and Johnny Cash.
Lile was elected president of the Knifemakers Guild in 1978 and was an early member of the American Bladesmith Society. He was elected to the Board of Directors of the ABS in 1977 and acted as a liaison between the two groups. His "Lile Lock" folding knife is on display at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. In 1984, he was inducted into the Blade Magazine Cutlery Hall of Fame.
When Lile was approached with the specifications for the "Rambo" knife, he was told to design it not as a mere "prop" but as a basic tool to perform a variety of tasks. Lile adapted a basic clip point Bowie knife which could be used to chop wood and slice food while retaining an edge. He employed a waterproof hollow handle design to store matches, needles, thread, and a compass; the hollow-handle allows the knife to be fitted to a pole to make a spear or gig. The handle was wrapped with nylon line that could be used for fishing or making snares. The tips on the guards were made into a standard and Phillips screwdriver and the blade's spine was serrated. Lile chose to forge the blade of 440C high-carbon steel, which he claimed could cut through the fuselage of an aircraft. He designed the First Blood survival knife for use in the 1982 film First Blood and the Rambo II Knife for use in Rambo: First Blood Part II. Stallone contacted Lile in 1988 to make a Rambo III knife that differed from the original "Mission" knives. Stallone wanted more of an exotic, larger Bowie knife. Lile could not afford to produce this knife and had to decline. Stallone instead contacted Kentucky knifemaker Gil Hibben, who he was also a fan of, and Hibben would go on to design the famous knives used in Rambo III andRambo.