Spyderco is almost as old as I am, so I got to carry this knife for the first time on my 40th birthday. The C41CF40TH Native 5 is an impressive commemorative folding knife. Somehow, it’s both flashy and understated at the same time.
The blade is made from Thor pattern Damascus steel, from Damasteel. I find it a very interesting pattern; a vivid painting of expressive black lines on a light grey background. To me, that makes it a very cool and somewhat discreet Damascus pattern. As a bonus, all attendees of the 2016 Amsterdam Meet got a ‘hole’ cut from the steel that was used for the 40th anniversary Native 5. And yes, that included me. 😉
The handle is a work of art too. Not only is it a beautiful linerless carbon fiber, Spyderco took the extra step to add a fluted pattern to the 3D sculpted handle. It is amazing to examine in real life. It’s also a very nice ergonomic handle pattern. Again, a somewhat understated added feature to celebrate Spyderco’s 40th anniversary.
And yes, this is one of those knives in my collection that spends more time in my cabinet than my pocket. I do carry it sometimes, and it makes for an amazing discussion piece.
Many knifeknuts enjoy shooting photos of their orange handled knives in the Fall. I’m no different. This one is a vintage sprint run from about 20 years ago, the C80OR Dodo.
At first glance, the only difference from the 2005 production model appears to be the orange G10 handle. If you look closer, however, you’ll notice that the spine of the blade and back spacer now feature a satin finish, instead of the bead blasted finish of the original production Dodos.
Some find the Dodo ‘ugly’, but I’m pretty sure they haven’t handled or used it. The Dodo just has this awesome handle design that is both comfortable and it locks securely in your hands. Now, I’m far from the authority on so-called hard-use of pocket knives, but I did use one of my original Dodos to cut out carpeting of a friend’s house and the knife was an amazing performer. The reverse-S blade shape is great for lighter everyday cutting tasks too. It’s a superb box opener to start with, and you’ll find that you can do a lot more than you’d think, like peeling fruit for example. The full size handle offers tremendous control of the 2 inch blade.
Martial Blade Craft
Those who are in to martial blade craft might also appreciate the Dodo; it is easy to deploy and features a secure lock and great handle design. I imagine the blade design makes for an excellent ‘let go device’. It reminds me a lot of the Fred Perrin La Griffe design, but folding and ‘sans’ the iconic index finger hole.
I think it’s interesting how this design never stayed away too long. Spyderco introduced the design in 2003 and discontinued it in 2005. This orange sprint run was the first ‘resurrection’ of the C80 in 2012. It was followed by another sprint run with a carbon fiber handle later in 2012. In 2019, Blade HQ commissioned a dealer exclusive of the Dodo in M4 steel and a Jade G10 handle, followed by a serrated version in May 2022. This is one Dodo that doesn’t stay extinct for long (sorry for that pun, it’s kind of mandatory when you write about the C80 😉).
With its bright orange handle, the Dodo is not just a cool collectible. It’s also easy on the eyes of many non-knife people. Even with that ‘evil’ looking reverse-S blade shape. Highly recommended, 5 out 5 stars, as my 10 year old daughter would say…
You don’t see a Spyderco SpyderSaw every day. It is one of the bigger folding knives, or rather a tool, that Spyderco made. I know it’s a cliché, but the T02 really packs a lot of cutting/sawing power in a very light package. The almost 5-inch blade is actually thinner than the locking bar, but it locks up just fine. The opening/closing action is also exceptionally smooth, compared to similar FRN lockbacks from this era. Back in the day, its MSRP was under $50. That is a lot of value for money.
If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ve probably noticed that the images I share, often feature colored handles. I really like some color in my EDC. The main reasons are aesthetics and advertising. To be clear, when I refer to colored knives, I refer to handle colors as I’m still not on board for coated blades. The best looking and performing blade in my book, features a clean polish, not paint! 😉
Like many other knife guys who started getting into knives back in, what my daughters like to refer to as the ‘late 1900s’ (the 1990s), my perfect carry knife was ‘tactical’, featured a tanto point, had lineage to Navy SEALs and most importantly was ‘all black’ or ‘subdued’. Oh man, if I only knew then what I knew now.
Discovering Spyderco on the forums back in the day taught me all about performance, ergonomics, sharpening etc… And no one there seemed to care about the all black ‘tactical look’ of the knife. And if it did matter, the performance of the coating counted, which is why we now have DLC coatings. Actually, I seem to recall one noted ‘tactical knife instructor’ mentioning the benefit of using colors in your knife handle. His name was Michael Janich, you might have heard of him. What I remember is that a blue G10 handle could help ‘camouflage’ your knife against a pair of blue jeans. I loved that idea. I went out and got a pair of blue lightweight Delica 3 knives – which I still own and love in my collection. Naturally, I got a blue G10 Yojimbo when it came out. All agreed that the notorious ‘smurf blue’ didn’t really match any color jeans, but it did look very cool.
Another aspect I immediately appreciated about these colored knives, is that they injected a fresh new energy in my knife collection. All those black and grey knives ended up looking kind of boring to me. I simply love the diversity and energy all the various colored knives bring to my collection. I love all sorts of colors, whether it’s done in FRN, G10, Titanium, stones, wood and other natural materials, I love all these expressions. Some I like for their refined aesthetic, others just because of the over the top expression.
I also recall Sal on the forums mentioning that colored handles on knives make the knife seem more ‘friendly’ looking to non-knife people. I learned to appreciate that benefit of colored handles a lot. Not because I’m too worried about what other people might think of my ‘evil knives’, but I love spreading the gospel of knives just as much as collecting and using them. My audience usually is way more receptive when my knife in question has a nice looking color, instead of ‘scary black’. The ‘Oh, I didn’t realize you could get a knife like that in such a nice handle color’ seems to make them listen better when I point out the steel, grind or lock for example. The look of a knife, as with people you see on the street, is what gives of the first impression and a cool colore is definitely a proverbial foot in the door for the rest of the story about design, materials and performance.
These days, after more than 20 years of knife collecting, I’m in the fortunate position to pick any colored knife that suits my mood on any given day. To use that horrible hasthag: #blessed. I find myself skipping ‘boring black’ handled knives in a new catalog automatically, unless it offers something else I like, such as a new innovative design or performance. The Ikuchi and Lil’ Temp 3 are such examples. The Ikuchi in particular, is a wonderful slim EDC folder that I would – love – to see in a cool ivory G10 or bright smurf blue G10. What are your favorite colors for knife handles?
I know I’m a sucker for colored folding knives and sprint runs, but this one was, yes, how to put it …. It is -a lot- No scratch that, this one is just too much. And that it why I think it’s amazing. From the Colorado flag dyed onto the G10 handle, all the way to the multi-color engraved flag on the blade. It’s a unique piece for sure, and it has gotten plenty of criticism online. I’m also sure that given a few years, this will be very collectible. That’s just how it goes with all the ‘outrageous’ looking spydies.
Perhaps it’s because one of my first Spyderco folders was a Delica 3 lightweight with a blue handle, but really like this Para 3 Lightweight in SPY27. It’s incredibly light, an impressive cutter and easy to bring back like new again. SPY27 is still new to me and so far, I like it a lot.
The Para 3’s blade is almost 3 inches long, almost as long as my beloved Delica folders. However, the C223 sports a significantly wider blade than a FFG Delica. This would give the Para 3 a lot more cutting power. Now, this is not something I could quantify, but I do notice the C223 slicing through a box a bit smoother than a C11. It’s also easier to settle in my knuckles against the wider blade of the C223 when it’s pressed into service as a paring knife in the kitchen. And yes, I enjoy to help out cooking once in a while, with my cleaned folding knife. It’s fun and it helps to test a design. My preferred blade length is 3,5 inches for a utility folding knife. The C223’s blade does everything great, it just comes up a bit short when it comes to food prep. The Para 3 is great for allround everyday cutting chores though, just not ‘perfect’ (at least for me). The SPY27’s edge came from the box nice and ‘sticky sharp’, as Sal likes to put it. Its edge-holding appeared to be better than VG10, which is one of my favorite steels. The main thing I like is that SPY27 is stainless, I just love a clean looking blade, or a blade that can be cleaned up again. And I’m never far away from a Sharpmaker to touch up the edge. And SPY27 is very easy to bring back. Just how I like it.
The Para 3’s FRN’s handle is nicely rounded compared to its G10 version. One thing most people forget about these lil’ big knives, is that they’re basically ‘chopped’ versions of the – in this case – full size Military or Paramilitary. That short but wide blade offers excellent slicing, but it’s pretty wide compared to most other 3 inch blades. Same goes for the handle, it might be on the short side, but it’s wide. The wider blade of the Para 3 also means it needs a wider handle, compared to the C11 Delica. And here is where it adds more benefits. The wider handle fits my hand better. I do use the choil for a full grip on the C223, but it is the kind of grip where I can’t or just barely touch the palm of my hand with the tips of my fingers. So I can really grab that knife. However, the wider than usual handle (and blade) for such a compact folding knife, means that it does take up some real estate in a pocket or waistband, especially compared to a Delica for example.
The wire clip is very nice, it allows the C223 to ride nice and low in a pocket. And the round wire make it very ergonomic in use. Sometimes, I have trouble switching the clip, the screw won’t come out. I actually rotated one screw assembly through the handle material, screwing up the knife. The good people at the SFO set me straight. Make sure you put the knife down on a surface below the waist. That way you approach the screw with your torx driver in a good linear angle straight down. It works like a charm. Even after 25 years of collecting Spyderco knives, there’s always something new to learn.
The lightweight Para 3 is an excellent lightweight folder. Just like the lightweight Manix, you get so much blade for such little weight. I clip these on my shorts each summer. The SPY27 is a very nice steel, excellent for the user and collector who has access to a Sharpmaker. And the blue handle makes it a very nostalgic callback to the blue lightweight Delica that was I think the second or third Spyderco in my collection.
I’ve been lucky enough over the years to have visited the Spydercrew in their natural habitat, i.e. the Spyderco HQ in Golden. Since the start of the pandemic, I haven’t had a chance to see the crew at all, since most shows were cancelled. Luckily, the pandemic is waning and we got to travel across the pond again. Our first destination: Golden, Colorado, U.S.A, Earth.
Meeting the people who make my favorite knives is always a treat. It’s a lot of fun to connect with the people. Meeting and talking with everyone also provides a deeper understanding in the work each crew member performs, to bring those cool designs to life. Even if you’ve been around these knives for a number of years, like myself, there is always something new to learn. If you get a chance to meet the Spydercrew at the SFO, a show or meet, do take that chance. They love talking knives and you’ll learn so much more than just from your IG feed.
For example, it was pointed out to me that for unscrewing those single-sided clip-screws in the FRN handle of the Lightweight Para 3, it is important to lay the knife down on a table top and to exert enough downward pressure. A screw that didn’t want to come loose, now did come loose. As I said, there’s always something new to learn.
More importantly, it was good to reconnect with my ‘tribe’ again. My daughters have crawled around the SFO before as toddlers, and now they share their experiences in fluent English, of the trip and school and friends back home. Luckily for Mom, their interest in the candy drawer upstairs proved a lot stronger than the knives at the SFO downstairs. 😉
Probably one of Spyderco’s best looking and most impractical folding knife designs, the C196 Mamba. This is a design collaboration with knife designer Joel Pirela and knifemaker Walter Brend. It looks amazing and it handles wonderfully. However, it is very thick and the corners are sharp. It’s far from comfortable to carry if you’re a suburbanite like me. And if you’d start using this knife for EDC, that beautiful TiCn coating will scratch and wear. Still, the Mamba is an amazing knife that I love having in my collection!
I’ve been using and collecting Spyderco knives for over 20 years. And I have settled on a few design features that I particularly like, and some that I dislike. Here’s a rundown of my favorite grinds that I encountered in Spyderco knives so far.
Hollow grind My very first Spyderco knives were the lightweight C11 Delica and C41 Native. At the time, they were made using a hollow ground blade. I love the cutting performance of these great pocket knives. I’m sure there was more to the cutting performance than just the grind, such as the relatively thin blade, steel, blade shape and ergonomics, but it sure didn’t hurt. If the blade isn’t too thick or when the blade is wide enough to allow for a nice gradual hollow grind, I don’t mind this type of grind at all.
Sabre grind In my opinion, this is a hollow grind gone wrong. I get that for some knife users the hollow grind leaves you with a relatively weaker edge and tip, and applying a flat grind in the place of a hollow grind fixes that. However, a hollow/sabre grind only goes up to about the centerline of the blade. This is very little room for the grind to run from a sharp edge to the full thickness of the blade. Where a good hollow grind can still provide a nice slicing blade, a sabre grind blade is -to me- like cutting with a chisel. I’ve encountered this grind in the Delica & Endura 4 designs. Which I vastly prefer in their full flat ground variations.
Full flat grind This is the grind that became all the rage online, when I first logged onto a knife discussion forum over 20 years ago. The Spyderco Moran and the Military were the first major designs at the time that helped celebrate the gospel of the ‘FFG’. My personal experience with this grind started with the Calypso jr. lightweight, an amazing pocket knife that I still enjoy carrying from time to time. After that, I cut my proverbial teeth on the full flat grind with my Military. This grind, as done by Spyderco at least, offers that excellent extremely fine slicing experience. If you want to impress someone with a sharp knife, let them cut something with your full flat grind. A nice added bonus of this grind, is that it can also be part of a stronger thicker blade design, while still maintaining good cutting performance. A good example would be the Lil’ Temperance design. The full flat grind has become a mainstay and dominant grind in Spyderco’s line-up. You can’t miss it. Spyderco’s most popular knife these days appears to be the Paramilitary 2, and not surprisingly, it features a full flat grind.
Overall Naturally, each grind has its place and tasks where it excels. As a suburbanite, I prefer thin edges and smooth cutting when I open a package, envelope or piece of fruit. That is why I prefer a nice full flat grind. However, were I to rely on my folding knife to perform hacking and prying tasks all day, then I’d probably prefer a sabre grind. However, as things are now, I like my grinds smooth and slicey.
What are your favorite grinds? Feel free to leave a comment.
About 5 years ago, I received this custom version of the Spyderco C190 Schempp Bowie. I posted photos and my review of it a few years back. This time, I’m just shamelessly showing it off in this close-up video. I still carry and use the knife, but with care. I don’t baby it, but I certainly won’t go out of my way to see when it would break.
I think I encountered the original concept models for this amazing knife around 2013. Back then, Spyderco was showing 3 sizes of this ethnic American design. I still think they should have gone with the XL-version. The production prototype they did choose was the ‘medium size’. It’s definitely more practical. The design impressed me so much, and Ed is an amazing person and knife-maker, I had to try and get a custom version from him. I wanted a true custom, tailored to my preference. This model is pretty close to the original concept model. Except for the Mokume bolster, lightning strike carbon fiber handle scales, CPM-S90V/CPM-154 cladded blade, wireclip and oh yeah, it’s left-handed. To make it even more personal, Ed engraved my name on the inside of the handle. Well, I guess that’s also a way to stop me from being able to sell it on Ebay. 😉