Spyderco Ed Schempp Balance Review

For me and a few other Spyderknuts, the Balance concept-model was love at first sight. Unfortunately, it would take a few more years for the Balance to become a production model. Now that I finally have one, I seem to have forgotten the ‘ waiting period’. The knife is pretty much symmetrical when closed, hence the name, which makes for a visually striking design. More importantly, the knife has proven to be a very nice cutter in the hand even if it has limited applications. 

I like knives for many reasons; one is my fascination with the intricacies involved with knife design. Ed Schempp for example, is not afraid to build a knife around a principle that ‘works’, even if the end-result looks unusual. Ed is really good at positioning folders in your hand that line up perfectly with the bones in your forearm. This results in cutting tools that may look odd, but work incredibly well. The folding Khukri is a good example of this design principle. Lots of people scoffed at the idea, failing to see beyond the image of a khukri as a large fixed blade chopping knife. The folding khukri designed by Ed and made by Spyderco is probably the most ergonomic and efficient slicer in my collection. I feel that the Balance is a refined successor to the now-cancelled (due to poor sales) folding khukri.

Features
The carbon fiber handle is smooth but not polished to a mirror finish. It seems to be a compromise between the collectors who want polished CF and the afis who want to put their knife to work. The matte finish hides most common lighter dings and scratches. It offers a bit more traction to the touch than my smooth polished CF Delica 3.

The clip is a micro-sized version of the now familiar hourglass clip. It could have used an extra minute or so on a polisher, but after I took these shots I did the job myself. I spent about twenty minutes polishing the clip with my trusty tube of ‘Super polish’. That removed all imperfections in the stock clip. 

The linerlock is actually more like the ‘integral lock hybrid’ on the PPT. The liner is thick enough to almost match the thickness of the blade.

Use
The Balance is a nice conversation piece, but how does it work? Two words: portable zipper. I coined the term in my G10 Dragonfly review, but it’s more appropriate for the Balance. Simply put, the Balance excels at ‘opening stuff’. And that’s much more useful than you’d think. How often do you see (non-knife) people struggle with cords, packages, wrapping and what not? The Balance is perfect for these chores. The little cutter opened anything and everything I threw at it. Sharpening the thin VG-10 blade is easy, once you figure out how to deal with the angled blade. I use a Sharpmaker and when using the flats I prefer to ‘drop’ or ‘lower’  the handle to keep the edge as horizontal as possible.

The extreme negative angle of the blade combined with its short blade length make the Balance a poor food prep knife. A task that the G10 Dragonfly accomplishes quite well if need be. One thing that the short Schempp folder did do very well on a flat cutting surface, was cutting out coupons or articles.

 

Problem
I encountered only one problem with my Balance. The screw holding the stop pin wanted to work its way out after a couple dozen cycles of opening/closing. I ended up rummaging through my spydie-toolbox and found a baggie with spare Delica parts. Apparently the screws holding together a D4 handle fit perfectly in the Balance. The Delica’s screw was a bit longer than the Balance’s, so it makes more contact with the opposing female part of the stop pin assembly. I suspect this was the problem with the original screw. I added some loctite to solve my problem permanently and it worked. After reading about other owners complaining about the same problem with their Balance, I’ve come to the conclusion that the maker probably forgot to add loctite to this screw on the first production run. I suspect this problem has been solved by now, as I haven’t read any similar complaints about the Balance.

Overall
The Balance is an amazingly cool knife. It has very high gadget appeal and doesn’t seem likely to ever bore me. Functionally speaking it might have limited appeal, but it solves 90% of my urban cutting needs. On the downside, considering the price I would have expected a bit more finishing of the clip and no problems with the screw in the stop pin. Then again, this was a first production run knife of a completely new design. This knife is not for everyone, but if you’re interested in something fresh and functional you could be very happy with the tiny Balance, the Balance is it.

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4 Responses to Spyderco Ed Schempp Balance Review

  1. Dan says:

    You know, the balance was a knife I “kinda” liked, it’s cool looking – but I thought it was small and I didn’t really “get it” – especially since it was pretty expensive for a little knife.

    But after your reading your review I understand what you would use the knife for. Now that I have gained some appreciation for the design I might consider a balance for my job in a office, it’s a great size and useful for the kind of tasks I would be putting it to.

  2. yojoe says:

    This is my next knife purchase.

  3. Sooza says:

    Thanks for the awesome review. This little buddy appealed to me from a design point of view from the get go but I was wondering how it would deal with the practical side of things. Too bad I can’t legally carry it here in Germany. :-/

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