Customized Spyderco Schempp Balance

February 10, 2018

A few years ago, I got a very nice little folder from knife maker and frequent Spyderco collaborator Ed Schempp; a Balance. It wasn’t just any Balance, it featured some Damascus customization, but with a twist.

You see, Ed didn’t replace the standard VG-10 blade with a Damascus blade. No, he replaced a handle scale with one custom made from Devin Thomas stainless Damascus. It’s a slightly thicker steel than the very thin factory handle scales. And it helps to get a better grip on an already ergonomically designed knife.

The Balance was, in my opinion, the folder for people asking Spyderco to make a small ladybug-type folder with a clip. The regular production version is light, flat and small enough to actually carry on your lapel. The customized Balance, as well as the carbon fiber version, have been in my carry rotation for quite some time now, and they still get a turn every once in a while. They make an especially great carry companion while wearing a suit.

The Spyderco Schempp Balance is rarely seen or discussed and it has been out of production for a few years now. Still, this is an underestimated design in the Spyderco line-up. I predict it will become quite collectible in the future, especially this one…

Click here to see Ed discussing the design of both the Balance and the Equilibrium, and here  for Eric’s presentation of the Balance. Back in 2010, I got to shoot some photos of the prototype Carbon Fiber Balance and in 2011 the prototype Balance in stainless steel.

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Spyderco Balance and Delica modded by Ed Schempp

January 6, 2014

One of the first folders I carried this year, was my Spyderco Ed Schempp Balance and my old(er) favorite, a Spyderco white FRN Delica 4. However, both knives have been modified or modded by Ed Schempp himself. Both knives have been enhanced by Ed with some Devin Thomas raindrop pattern stainless damascus steel.

balancess_spyderco

balancess_spyderco_blade

balancess_spyderco_handle

The white damascus Delica has been featured on this website for a few years now and is not ‘new’. During the photoshoot for the Balance, I decided that the Delica needed some better pictures. So here you go.

Click for a full size image in a new window

Click for a full size image in a new window

Click for a full size image in a new window

Click for a full size image in a new window


Spyderco 2013 Prototype Video – Equilibrium (& Balance)

January 21, 2013

For my last SHOT show video, Ed Schempp was kind enough to sit down with me and my camera to explain the origins of the Balance design, which in turn inspired the upcoming Equilibrium folder. These are very refined little big knives. I can highly recommend them. The customized Balance Ed shows at the start of this video, features a scale made from Warren Thomas stainless raindrop pattern damascus. Ed made the scale from this material.


Spyderco Ed Schempp Balance Review

April 21, 2011

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.


Spyderco 2011 Prototype Video – Ed Schempp Balance

March 24, 2011

A quick overview of the upcoming Balance, designed by Ed Schempp, with a stainless steel handle.


Spyderco 2011 Prototype – Balance SS

March 7, 2011

The first Balance concept model was shown a couple of meets ago and I and a few other spyderknuts had been pushing Sal to put this little gem into production. Last year it finally happened, and now we got to see the Stainless Steel model.

It’s thinner than my CF version, more slippery too. Still, Ed’s magic with ergonomics prevents this folder from being too slippery in the hand.

At first I thought the lock on this prototype was completely travelled over, but on closer inspection I noticed that the lock-up was just right. I would recommend rounding of the sharp lower corner on the locking tab. I think it could be a little hotspot when the knife is used for a longer period. 

I think I’d like to see the Balance a bit thicker, perhaps use some thicker Ti slabs? Then again, that would probably drive up the price too much.

Since I already have a nice CF version, this one probably won’t make it to the very top of my wish list, but I’m sure I’ll end up with one before the year is over.


Spyderco Ed Schempp Balance Video

March 15, 2010

This is a short clip of Eric Glesser presenting the Ed Schempp Balance, a Spyderco Production Prototype that’s scheduled to be released in 2010.

 


Spyderco Meerkat Countertop Display

June 16, 2019

My collection contains many nice knives, but some of my most prized collectibles don’t have a sharp edge. This Spyderco Meerkat countertop display is a good example. It was designed to demonstrate the Meerkat’s phantom lock. To me, it shows more aspects of Spyderco’s philosophy than ‘just to show how the new phantom lock works’. In many ways, it’s a great piece of Spyderco history.

The Meerkat countertop display definitely shows its age in the fact that it was designed to be used in physical brick and mortar stores. Yes, kids, once upon a time you’d have to physically travel to a different building in order to see and buy goods. We used to call it a ‘shop’, and it they only sold knives, we called it a knifeshop. You never knew what you might find inside. Looking back, this was actually one of my favorite parts of going to a knifeshop. Without the benefit of the interwebs, a display like this would alert your customers to a brand new product. I realize this display might have also seen use at shows, but that doesn’t really make sense to me, as you’d have a Spyderco rep right there to show you how it works.

The display features a steel bug logo, that is held upright at a slight angle by two removable stands. In the middle of the bug plate, a little shelf displays the Spyderco Meerkat. The knife is almost fully functional. Almost, because the edge is missing. The Meerkat is tied to the display on a long chain. That way the Meerkat couldn’t accidentally ‘walk away’ with a ‘customer’. The chain is long enough to clip the knife to your pocket to test it out. The lock and clip are fully functional.  Below the shelf is a little cardboard card with instructions, revealing the secret of the phantom lock. The entire unit can be taken apart into one flat package, making it easy to store or ship.

I like this display because it shows a few of Spyderco’s core principles. Innovation, since it supports a -then- brand new design with a lock nobody had ever seen before. Edge-u-cation, the primary function of the unit is to educate knife users and shop owners on the new phantom lock. Creative marketing, a secondary benefit of this display is that it is a fun way to also announce you have a brand new knife to offer. It also challenges customers to see if they can figure out the lock. Supporting dealers, it’s a challenge for many manufacturers to figure out a balance between supporting online and brick-and-mortar retailers. Spyderco has always been faithful to the brick-and-mortar stores that supported Spyderco, especially way back when Spyderco first got started.

That ‘new and wierd’ hole in the blade  and clip on the handle, not even to mention the serrations on the blade, probably needed a LOT of edge-u-cation to -and support from- dealers. It was the brick-and-mortar stores that helped make Spyderco a success before the advent of the interwebs. This display must have been made in 2002, when the C64 Meerkat was introduced. At that time, the internet and buying knives online was already happening. That makes it all the more poignant that Spyderco made this display.

Today, this display is one of the pieces in my collection I’m the most proud of. I got it from a good friend who works for Spyderco, so it also symbolizes the family-aspect that I appreciate so much from Spyderco. I haven’t seen a second one, online or offline, but I’m sure there must be a few more floating around out there. If you love Spyderco and have chance to pick one up, do it, it’s a rare piece!

 


Spyderco 2019 Production Sample – Emphasis

March 26, 2019

The Spyderco Emphasis is kind of a larger version of the Efficient. So with the Efficient, Small Efficient and the Emphasis, you got a nice trio of value folders. The Emphasis handled heavier but well balanced, compared to the Small Efficient. It also looked and handled a lot like another large G10 handled knife I get to show you in a later post.






Specifications
Overall Length: 21 cm / 8.26 inches
Blade Length: 9,1 cm / 3.58 inches
Blade Thickness: 3 mm / 0.11 inches
Weight: 136 grams / 4.8 ounces

I have no information on pricing or specific release dates.


Custom Schempp Bowie

August 31, 2017

I finally did what plenty of knife collectors have done before me; I ordered a custom knife. Mind you, not a ready-made custom knife from a webshop. No, I’m talking about a custom folding knife tailored to my personal preferences. After deciding on what I wanted, I approached the knifemaker to see if he was interested and able to make it. He was, and right away I tried putting the entire project out of my mind to ease the waiting period. The result is in, and it has surpassed all my expectations. I present you, a left-handed 100% custom made Schempp Bowie folding knife, made by Ed Schempp!

Background
The Spyderco Amsterdam Meets are not just great gatherings with fellow knifeknuts that offer an exclusive first look on new and upcoming Spyderco designs. They are also very enjoyable lectures on knife design. Ed Schempp has joined a few meets in the past. I felt his design philosophy and kind demeanor, was an awesome addition to an already great meet. He is very generous with his time and knowledge to educate and entertain everyone with tales of knife design, performance and metallurgy. I thought I knew a thing or two about knives. After meeting Ed, I knew I was wrong ;-). Ed’s work seems like a perfect fit with Spyderco, it’s focused on performance, with good steel and excellent ergonomics. The fit seems mutual, considering his long relationship with Spyderco as a knife designer for most of Spyderco’s ‘Ethnic Series’ of knives, which celebrates iconic knife designs from all over the world.

Schempp Bowie
I’ve enjoyed all of Ed’s designs with Spyderco and marveled at the custom made concept models that passed in front of my camera at the Amsterdam Meet. I knew I wanted him to be the maker of my first custom folder, and I chose the Schempp Bowie as the basis for my custom knife. The design really grabbed me when I first laid my eyes and hands on it. During the 2013 Meet, the design was still a full custom made concept model called the Frontier, and it was shown in several sizes. Spyderco ended up making the middle-sized one. In 2014, the design had evolved to the production prototype stage and it was my personal favorite of the show. For my custom folder project, I wanted the knife primarily to be ready for everyday carry and use, but I also wanted a little eye-candy.

Blade
I’m familiar with Ed’s amazing work in Damascus, such as the bolster on the 25th Anniversary Delica. However, Damascus is usually not stainless, except for Devin Thomas stainless Damascus – which Ed has used to customize a spydie or two. For EDC, I simply prefer stainless steel. Still, I wanted the blade to have some cool factor. Then it clicked. I remembered reading on the forums about a cladded powdered blade steel, combining a CPM S90V core and outside layers of CPM154 steel.

Moreover, Ed Schempp had something to do with the development of this steel, as he explained on the Spyderco forums a few years ago:

Many years ago I was bothering Dick Barber from Crucible Steel to make a USA laminate for the cutlery market. Dick and I exchanged many emails on the topic. … As a result of the emails that Dick created a file, a couple of years ago at blade I gave a recommendation for a clad steel using S90V and cpm 154 cm as an example. … Crucible made a test billet and I played with some …. Theoretically you should get a blade that is polishable and scratch resistant that is tougher than S90V. This material should be considerably less expensive to grind than solid S90 V. To ensure accuracy of placement of the core, smaller billets will be hipped, raising the price of the material. I like that this is an American made product and the first commercial laminate made in the USA.

If you’re wondering about the practical performance considerations of this cladded steel, Ed added this to the discussion:

Many of the Spyderco ELU have complained that their 420 J2 laminated blades were getting scratched in use, the clad was too soft. This is not a function problem but a cosmetic problem. The S90V CPM 154 CM recommendation was for folder blades and kitchen use. A lower Carbon clad would be desirable to gain a synergy of the two steels.

It polishes very well, better than most stainless knife steels. This laminate should outperform many of its steel competitors for their given applications. This stuff is cool and it is pretty. When you look at Halle Berry do you wonder how fast she runs a 100 yards? It is not always about performance, it is nice to have a high performance piece of steel in your pocket that you are intrigued and amazed by.

This steel would tick off all my boxes for the blade; stainless, high performance, cool factor, and extra resonance because of Ed’s involvement in the development of the steel! In addition, Spyderco has used this cladded steel on sprint runs of the Manix 2 and the Paramilitary 2. On my knife, Ed added a high polished finish to the blade and he delivered it –very- sharp. The blade is around 1 mm thicker than Spyderco’s production version. And the spine of the custom blade is slightly radiused. It’s not completely rounded like on a Sebenza, my custom Bowie still has a serviceable corner on the spine for scraping chores for example.

Handle
Spyderco describe the handle features of the Schempp Bowie folder as follows: “The classic “coffin-shaped” handle has a slightly “dropped” angle to allow a natural wrist angle during use. This subtle detail shortens the blade’s opening arc, increases cutting power, reduces fatigue, and instinctively orients the point with the axis of the forearm.” All these characteristics apply to my custom folder, but I got a few extras.

Since I wanted the blade to be mainly focused on being a practical EDC blade, the handle is where I wanted to add some ‘bling’. The concept models of the Schempp Bowie, handmade by Ed for Spyderco in 2013, featured lightning strike carbon fiber. This was actually my first introduction to the material and needless to say, I found it …striking. Spyderco’s production version features a much plainer, and more affordable, carbon fiber/g10 laminate. Contrary to the flat handle of the production knife, the scales and bolsters on my custom version are gently radiused across their entire width. This absolutely enhances the knife’s ergonomics.

Please note the colored screws in the handle. Ed purposely anodized the screws in the presentation side into a gold color matching the bolster. The screws on the clip side were anodized black matching the clip. As I recall, the screws are from the same material and the color difference was achieved by different heating levels.

I really liked the looks and function of the brass bolster on the Spyderco Schempp Bowie, but also because it echoes the traditional brass S-guard on fixed blade bowie knives. To up the ante, I asked Ed if he could make a Mokume Bolster, which was not a problem. I feel it turned out stunning!

In addition, my custom folder features slightly thicker liners and a full length spacer. To achieve the tip-down clip carry I wanted, Ed used a wireclip straight from the Spyderco factory version which was just fine by me.

Lock
Like many of Ed’s designs this custom Schempp Bowie features a solid linerlock. Mine was so solid, that the lock would sometimes stick. I lightly polished the ramp on the tang with some Flitz, and the stick was gone. Or rather, the lock-up is still rock solid but now also easy to disengage. I trust the knife for hard use, no problem. Since this knife was going to be a daily carry utility folder, and I’m a lefty, I asked for a left-handed knife. I can perfectly manage almost any right-handed knife design, but since we’re creating a custom knife why not do it ‘right’? It’s a rare treat for a lefty like myself to get a left-handed linerlock. You won’t believe how good it feels to me to operate this lock after every cutting chore.

Use
I’ve used the knife for regular EDC-type chores that one encounters in the suburbs. The most frequent cutting ‘challenges’ included opening the mail, some yard work pruning bushes, breaking down cardboard boxes for recycling, and food prep. It hardly gave the cladded steel a workout, but it is the kind of cutting I encounter. Needless to say, the edge is still very sharp. I did touch the edge up once, but that was more about me trying to see how easy it was than an absolute necessity. The knife is a bit heavier than Spyderco’s production version, but it carries like a regular Spydie in a pair of jeans. If you’re looking for a folder to wear in sweat shorts, go for any linerless FRN handled Spyderco.

Ed warned me that with carry and use some of the copper wires in the handle would work their way from the surface. He buffed/sanded the surface multiple times in different directions to alleviate this quirk, but it could still happen. He was right. Over the past six months I’ve noticed this happening three times. I carefully removed the loose wire and continued enjoying the knife. The handle still looks like new to me.

Overall
To me, my custom Schempp Bowie brings together many factors that are important ingredients in my knife hobby: a knifemaker I admire, Spyderco, American history, performance, cool features and good looks. It’s been a wonderful journey to think up this knife and Ed was a great guy to work with, although he did most of the work ;-). As you can tell, I’m more than happy with this knife. It has surpassed all my expectations and is a regular companion in my EDC rotation.

Every knifecollector probably has this dream to get a bespoke folder made completely to their wishes. I realize that my custom folder might not be a wholly original design, as it is strongly linked to an existing production knife. But that’s exactly what I wanted, and that might be just what getting a custom knife is all about; getting the knife you like. I was fortunate to actually make this dream a reality. If you ever get a chance to pursue a custom knife, I’d encourage you to go for it. My custom Schempp Bowie truly is the crowning jewel in my collection.