Review: Spyderco C230G Lil’ Native

March 4, 2019

The Spyderco Lil’ Native backlock is probably my favorite knife from the past year, at least from an EDC point-of-view. This little folder is very useful, very ergonomic, very cool and very Spyderco in every possible way.

The C230 Lil’ Native Backlock is, simply put, a ‘baby’ version of the C41 Native. If there’s one thing that Spyderco is really good at, it’s making small folders that perform really well. Just ask anyone who owns a Dragonfly, Ladybug, Meerkat or any of their many other small folders. Spyderco sometimes calls their diminutive powerhouses ‘lil’ big knives’. Knives that measure small, but perform big. The Lil’ Native is no exception. The C230 was made in two variants, one with a compression lock and one with a mid-backlock locking mechanism. Being an old fart, I prefer the ‘proper’ backlock version as that is how Native folders have been made since the beginning. The backlock version just feels right to me, for a Native.

Purpose
I’m not sure of the precise backstory of the Lil’ Native’s design. It is likely that Spyderco made the design after customer requests. At the same time the Lil’ Native came out, the larger Shaman came out as well, and I have seen regular requests online to make a larger Native. Both offered size variants of the venerable C41 Native. Why would one want a smaller Native? For one thing, it’s a great ergonomic and functional design, and a smaller version is easier to use in public among non-knife people. Also, if you pay close attention to how much edge you actually use in daily cutting tasks, you’ll notice it’s deceptively little. Living in a modern urban environment, most of your cutting tasks can be accomplished with a 2,5 inch blade. If that’s all you use, then a more compact knife makes sense.

First impressions
The fit and finish on the knife are superb, but that’s not a surprise considering my experience with the Native 5. One new feature I like in the Lil’ Native, compared to my older G10 Native 5, is the lack of liners. The Lil’ Native is a thick and stout little knife, but it’s also very lightweight thanks to that linerless construction. At first glance, I was a bit disappointed with the stonewash finish. I usually prefer a regular satin finish. The eye wants something as well, as we say in Dutch. Although the Lil’ Native is only 15% smaller than the regular Native 5, it looks a lot smaller. In the hand, the grip is very similar to the Native 5. The Lil’ Native doesn’t feel small at all.

Working the knife
Using the knife to break down cardboard was a joy. The thick blade and ‘lock in’ handle ergonomics make it easy to just stab in a big box and slice down. I also used the little folder in my garden, pruning some plants and bushes. The handle makes holding onto the knife while push cutting through some tough branches very easy. I guess that full flat grind blade helps as well ;-). Some might say that such a thick blade isn’t necessary in a design this small. That may be, but that’s also missing the point of the Lil’ Native. Spyderco doesn’t refer to it as a lil’ big knife for nothing. The Lil’ Native’s blade is thicker than a Chaparral for sure, but it’s no Medford-type brick either. Not by a long shot. The blade thickness is the same as the regular Native 5, that’s all. And this smaller folder really does cut like a much bigger knife.

The S35V steel is a familiar performer. It’s a solid middle-of-the-road steel for me. It cuts  long enough to impress most, and it sharpens easily on a Sharpmaker. It also doesn’t rust. The past few months, boxes, zip ties, flowers, envelopes, fruit, and loose strings could not escape the edge of the Lil’ Native – it’s a very fun knife to use.

I might pay attention to the tip of my Caly 3.5 or Chaparral, but not so with the Lil’ Native. It’s a very confidence inspiring little folder. I’m tempted to share one with my cop friend, who has a genuine talent to really mess up any knife he gets his hands on.

Negatives
The stonewash finish on the blade is fine for a working knife, but I’d prefer to see a regular satin finish on the blade. Also, the clip could’ve been finished more ‘upscale’ if it were up to me. And I certainly wouldn’t mind a few more color options than just basic black, but that’s just me. If the Lil’ Native Backlock would become available in a nice S110V version with that blurple G10, I’m down for one or two. Then I’ll pass along this boring black G-10 version along to my cop friend and see how these stout lil’ folders really hold up!

 

Overall
This is a superb folder, period. I feel it’s not so much a ‘mini-native’, but more like a ‘mini-lil’ temperance’. I’m pretty sure this backlock variation won’t last long, since the market usually prefers a new lock design over something as ‘old’ as the backlock. But the lock certainly is not obsolete, and neither are the Spyderco native pattern of folding knives. With variations like these coming out, it’s proof that many people still love this proven design. If you’re eyeing the Lil’ Native with a backlock, I wouldn’t wait too long.

Advertisements

The case for backlocks

January 13, 2019

Does any knife ‘aficionado’ still consider backlocks when buying a new folding knife? There doesn’t seem to be much interest in them, on social media at least. Sure, I understand it. The old venerable backlock can’t compete with the current wide variety of newer and stronger locks. Many modern lock offer more strength, comfortable unlocking, wow-factor and more. However, most cannot easily be unlocked one-handed, with gloves. The backlock might not be the newest, strongest or easiest to operate, but it’s still the ticket for when you work a knife with gloves on.

Personally, I don’t care much which lock is on my folder. I’ve been using so many over the years that my muscle memory can easily transition between linerlock, backlock, and compression lock etc. Strength is not my main consideration for a lock either. After all, I know how to use a knife and my experience using knives hasn’t shown any need for extreme lock strength. My main concern for locks is that they’re reliable, i.e. not defeated by pocket lint and lock up easily each and every time. Another feature I look for in locks is that they’re ambidextrous, since I’m mostly left-handed. So for me, backlocks work just fine.

Another feature of the backlock to consider, is its history. Many quality knifemakers have been making backlocks for a long time. Much longer than most other locks on the market. What’s my point? A backlock from a quality maker is remarkably consistently made. I can still see different levels of lock engagement in linerlocks, integral locks and compression locks. Backlock? Every single one, from Spyderco at least, locks up great the same way straight from the box.

I realize the backlock isn’t the newest or strongest lock on the market today. However, they are very reliable, very lefty friendly and … the best lock to operate when wearing gloves.


Spyderco UK Penknife: and old concept ahead of its time

October 21, 2018

I own this knife for 10 years now, and lo and behold; high-quality slipjoints are back in style these days. Lionsteel is making them, Chris Reeve Knives is making one and according to my Instagram feed, the genre is also doing very well for custom makers. Especially for designs that echo the patterns of yesteryear when a lock on a folding knife didn’t even exist. Why has this design become cool again?

Spyderco developed the UK Penknife in 2004, simply to accommodate their UK customers who were facing new knifelaws limiting the carry of locking folding knives. What made this development process especially cool, was that UK forumites helped design this knife. In return, they were offered a special engraved UK Penknife that said ‘UK Penknife design team’.

In 2008, the design was slightly refined (opening/closing was smoother) and offered in two blade-types (droppoint and leaf shape), and multiple colors G10 (foliage green and orange). That is when I stepped onto the UKPK train, so to speak. I was pleasantly surprised that this slipit was just as useful as my locking knives. And ever since, I add a Spyderco Slipit to my pocket when I’m traveling to countries with stricter knifelaws, such as on this woodswalk in the forest near Bastogne, Belgium, during last year’s vacation trip.

Spyderco has been making slipits in some form since the introduction of the UK Penknife. This year, the slipit design has become en vogue with other brands. Why? Sure, knifelaws haven’t gotten much more relaxed in the world since 2004, but I think it’s something else. I think more and more knifeknuts are discovering that they rarely ‘need’ a lock. To me, it is a special (small) kind of joy to just open, cut and close your knife without having to unlock it. Try a slipit, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.


Review: Spyderco C41CFF5 Native 5 – S90V & Fluted Carbon Fiber

September 22, 2018

I really like the Spyderco 40th anniversary Native 5, but I know I’ll never ‘hard use’ that knife (whatever that means these days). When this very same knife in a S90V blade was announced, I took notice. This new C41CFF5 could be a neat companion piece to my anniversary knife, one that I actually would use a lot easier.  It turns out that I liked this ‘plain’ Native a lot more than just something to have on me to prevent scratching that beautiful Odin’s eye Damascus steel of the anniversary Native.

Fluted history
This knife’s main draw, for me, is that gorgeous fluted handle. I really like its backstory, or what snippets I picked up from it. Spyderco has been working on fluted handles for years, way before the C41CFF5 was conceived. The fluted titanium Military was the first knife to come out in 2011 and the handle finish and lock were tweaked several times during production. The fluted titanium Native 5 won American Made Knife of the Year at the 2011 Blade Show, but didn’t become available until 2013. Both knives were dropped from production in 2017. Sure it’s a respectable run, but the fluted titanium knives was always only available in small quantities. Was that because of a lack of interest? Nope. Apparently, they were just extremely difficult to make, in a consistent quality and on a production scale.

Still, Spyderco wanted to pursue this fluted handle design. So they turned to carbon fiber, hoping that that would be a lot easier to work with for -again- consistent quality and on a production scale. Unfortunately, that too proved very challenging. So much so that this particular knife, was cancelled during production and the finished fluted handles were used for the limited anniversary run of 40th anniversary natives. Still, Spyderco hung on and in August 2017, the C41CFF5 fluted native was released for one production run.

To date, we haven’t seen any other new fluted handle designs. I just love Spyderco’s tenacity to keep finding a way to make the design work. I’m sure that a lots of other makers would just go with a shallow engraving of a wider stripe-pattern and call it a day. This fluting itself is plentiful, spaced very close together, deep and consistent throughout the 3D handle.

Handle
The Native’s fluted carbon fiber grip is a knifeknut’s dream; the look is unique and very aesthetically pleasing and  it actually works. It offers a wonderful grip, not too smooth not too rough; just right for this office worker’s dainty hands. The 3D machining fits my hand really well and the fluting adds just the right amount of traction for suburban EDC work. It’s just a plain awesome handle, and I wish we will see more knives with this handle design. But not too much, as I appreciate the fact that this is a rare and exclusive handle design. I also really appreciated the 4-way clip option. I can set it up as my left-handed utility folder and really use it. A nice touch is that the clip-screw holes feature polished steel threads sitting just a hair below the surface of the carbon fiber handle. The unused clip screw holes tend to disappear from my notice, in the dark fluted carbon fiber.

Blade
The CPM S90V blade on a Native 5 is no stranger to me, since it was also featured on the excellent 2015 forum knife. S90V ticks off all my boxes for practical EDC: it’s flat ground, around 3 inch long, leaf shaped, thin and stainless. I realize it’s not stain-proof, just stainLESS. Yes, I like to play with the occasional carbon steel that Spyderco offers, but it will be cladded with a stainless steel. I just like my knives to clean up nicely after work. I know, I’m superficial, but I’m the SpyderCollector after all and collectors like to keep their precioussessss in good looking order. Edgeholding is just plain boring. Trimming some vines in the yard, opening mail, pitching in in the kitchen for food prep, cutting up apples for lunch – it all just makes that S90V yawn with boredom. All I can say is that with my mundane suburban uses, the edge holds extremely well and it doesn’t stain.

Fit and finish
The overall fit and finish is simply superb. I was actually a bit surprised about it. This C41CFF5’s fit and finish is just as nice as any old-school Moki made Spydie. The opening and closing action is just so smooth, and the lock-up tight as the proverbial bank vault. The fit and finish is on a new level for Spyderco in my book. I can feel the difference between this C41CFF5 Native and the much older G10 Native I own,  which –rest assured- is just fine in the fit& finish department.

Overall
I realize this isn’t a cheap folder and with this knife’s MSRP, you’re getting into Sebenza territory. I like and appreciate the Chris Reeve Sebenza a lot, and I know many purists will point out that the Sebbie has better fit and finish than any Spyderco knife. That’s probably true. But … can you get a Sebenza in S90V with a 4-way clip, and a 3D fluted carbon fiber handle that actually fits your hand comfortably in a variety of grips?  … [mic drop] … 😉

Check out more info on the Native 5 at www.spydiewiki.com


Grail achieved: Spyderco Lil’ Temperance 2

July 27, 2018

Every knife collector has regrets, and mine was the Spyderco Lil’ Temperance 2. Luckily, I managed to correct my youthful mistake in letting it go back in the early 2000s. Spyderco co-founder Sal Glesser has said about his design: “A little Temperance is a good thing”. I think I’ve shown plenty of temperance when I waited 15 years before I got mine. Although ‘foolish’ would be a better description.

I’ve been a big fan of the original Lil’ Temperance folders, since they originally came out back in 2002. They were made in two blade shapes: the Lil’ Temperance 1, with the now familiar Spyderco leaf shape, and one in a more ‘wilder’ trailing point version – the Lil’ Temperance 2.

Back then, I thought the ‘rhino’ Lil’ Temp just seemed a bit too much. I went with the leaf blade and have been happy ever since. The Lil’ Temp is an awesome working knife, and its colored and 3D machined handle added some ‘panache’ to the design that satisfied my inner knife nerd. I went so far as to collect variations of the Lil Temp, and have been quite successful at it.

Over the years, I did start to appreciate that trailing blade shape and a little regret started to kick in. I wanted that rhino lil’ temp! One problem would be that I’m not a big buyer/seller on the secondary market. Let’s just say I don’t Ebay. Last year, one of my familiar forum friends announced a sale on his Instagram channel, and it featured a Lil’ Temp 2. Now here was a guy I knew and trusted. The sale was quickly settled.

When I received the knife, I was stoked to see the blade was marked 440V, these were made early on in production, as Spyderco switched to S30V in 2003. It was clear the knife had been carried. The blade was a little dulled, and I noticed some scuffing and bending on the clip and the G10 was worn in a few places. A quick disassembly, washing, oiling, reassemble and sharpening session brought it right back to where I liked it.

I haven’t cut much with it, just opening envelopes and breaking down cardboard for recycling. One kitchen cutting session did enlighten me about the possibilities of this blade shape for food prep. I might yet have to get that Hundred Pacer.

The knife is awesome. If there’s one advise I can give to a fellow collector; dare to go for the ‘quirky’ designs of your favorite maker, you’ll be glad you did later on.

If you want to learn more about the Spyderco Lil Temperance, then go to www.spydiewiki.com.


My Spyderco Top Five Challenge

June 13, 2018

Last year, I got called out on Instagram for a Top Five Challenge. The point of this challenge is to show the five favorite knives in your collection. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say this kind of challenge is not easy! I went at it from the angle of ‘my top five most used EDC folders’. No surprise, they’re (almost) all Spyderco knives.

Delica
The Spyderco Delica is one of the first knives I got, which taught me that great performance can be had in an affordable package. I have a bunch of Delicas and this older left-handed Delica 3 CF sprint run is a very refined representation of the design.

Caly 3
While the Spyderco Military introduced me to the full flat grind back in the day, my Calypso Jr. was probably carried and used more, because of its size. I used the heck out my Calypso Jr. since I only had like five spydies at the time. If only I got called out for a #topfivechallenge then, it would’ve been very easy! I’m hooked on the Calypso pattern and like the upgrade into the Caly 3 design. I have picked up quite a few variations over the years. This Caly 3 with a ZDP-189 laminated blade and carbon fiber handle is one of my current favorites.

Lum Chinese Folder
The Lum Chinese Folder is an amazingly stylish looking folder that doesn’t sacrifice much in utility value. It is perhaps the start of Spyderco’s series of ethnic folders. For me, the Chinese Folder is proof that knives can be useful AND pretty! This sample was a distributor exclusive I think, and it features a full ZDP189 blade and black almite handle scales.

Stretch
The Stretch is my all-time favorite utility folder by Spyderco, period. It’s got everything I like: right size, full flat grind, spot on ergonomics and it is 100% lefty compatible. It’s big enough to tackle any reasonable chore I have encountered over the years, and its profile is still compact and ‘social’ enough to carry almost anywhere. The second generation of the Stetch, the Stretch 2, is OK but I prefer the original. This Stretch with a full ZDP189 blade and peel-ply carbon fiber handle is my favorite of the line. I consider this Sal’s best design to date.

Ed Schempp Custom Bowie
This custom version of the Spyderco Schempp Bowie is the crown jewel in my collection. It is a recent acquisition and my first true custom knife. Ed made it to my personal preferences: left-handed, lightning strike carbon fiber handle, mokume bolster, cladded CPM154/S90V steel blade, and a pocket clip. The pinnacle of my collection!


Spyderco CountyComm Exclusive Tan Ladybug 3 & Victorinox Classic

April 27, 2018

I have a fascination with the Spyderco Ladybug series, and Spyderco keeps bringing out new variations to add to my collection. This tan version in H1 was an exclusive for CountyComm that came out a few years ago. I finally found the right Victorinox Classic SD to mate it to. This combo rides in my watchpocket and fulfill all my ‘tool’ needs in everyday life. The Ladybug is both a back-up knife or when I want to demonstrate the value of a good knife to a nervous non-knife person.

This particular combo will make a nice summer carry companion!