Review: Mini Manix PE & CE

January 31, 2006

Since the Mini Manix is a virtual look-alike of my beloved Li’l Temp, I didn’t hesitate to get two right of the bat. The profile of the Mini Manix is a lot like the Li’l Temp: same leaf blade shape, similar length and a similar tough hard-use design. For the purpose of this review I’d like to compare the two.

The Manix 80mm is also known as the 83mm, but I prefer the name coined on the forums; so from here on it is referred to as the Mini Manix. The Mini Manix probably has one of the fastest production cycles I’ve seen to date. A very first concept model was shown at the Amsterdam Preview show in March 2005, and the first models shipped in December of that same year. Spydies usually take a little longer to fully mature before they are released into the wild.

Handling
The Li’l Temperance is famous for its ‘putty-like’ handle. It is light and melts in your hand. Furthermore, the handle is very secure and I can’t imagine ever dropping it or sliding my hand from the handle in any direction. The Mini Manix is not that lightweight, nor does it have the same finesse in 3D handle design like the Li’l Temp does. Still the Mini Manix offers a full grip and above average grip security.

Grip
Gripping the handle before the choil, I can fit all four fingers of my XL-size hand just right. Using the choil, the handle is plenty large. The Mini Manix’ handle is a brick compared to the Li’l Temp. A smooth edged brick, but a brick nonetheless. It has to be because the design was intended to be lefty-friendly, so both sides of the handle were made symmetrical. The handle is no match for the Li’l Temp’s 3D design. But the Li’l Temperance is an exception to many Spydies that way. Compared to most other Spydies, the Mini Manix is just as comfy to grip.

There is no busk on the handle, but the Mini Manix is very thick and the G10 is of the usual ultra grippy variety. A busk would be nice, but it’s not necessary. Plus, adding a busk would compromise other features, such as ease of carry and acquiring a quick and easy grip on the clipped knife. The Li’l Temperance with its finger grooves does offer a type of busk, so theoretically it is the more secure handling knife. This is an important feature for MBC aficionados. It is so sloppy to drop your knife during sparring. Trust me, I know ;-).

Action
The action is silky smooth on both of my Mini Manixes. The Li’l Temp uses a compression lock, which is as smooth as the finest linerlock for opening and closing. I would have expected the Mini Manix to be rougher to open because of the higher tension generated by its locking bar. Surprisingly enough, the Mini Manix is as smooth to open and close as a Li’l Temperance. However, the action did get a little rougher after I used my PE Mini Manix for a couple of weeks and washing it out without oiling. The action became rougher because the locking bar needed a little oil. A drop or two of Tuffglide and the smooth action was back again.

Weight
The weight distribution is a little different on the Minis, when compared to its full-size predecessor. The Manix was pretty dead in my hands for MBC applications. The Mini-Manix’ balance on the other hand is very nice. It moves light, fast and snappy. In this respect, it resembles the Li’l Temperance again.

Choil
The Li’l Temperance doesn’t have a choil, which makes it a little less desirable from a utility viewpoint. For the mundane urban utility stuff my knives get to do, a choil is much appreciated. It is excellent for those finer things, like peeling fruit or cutting out articles and the like. So the Mini Manix gets extra points for its choil.

Clip
The clip on the Mini Manix is reversible for the (correct 😉 ) tip-up position for left- and right-hand carry. One important thing to mention is that none of the clip screws were dipped in loc-tite. So the clip-change was ever so easy and cosmetically pleasing, as there was no chance of stripping the screws in any way. The clip is high, but not too high. I don’t like the UKPK’s high clip mount as it leaves me with little knife to grip from a pocket or waistband. Not so with the Mini Manix. And there are plenty of screws there for added grip.

However, the Mini Manix clip is no comparison for the feature rich clip of the Li’l Temperance. The Li’l Temp boasts holes to aid in gripping and grip changes. It’s nice and wide and really becomes part of the knife with no sharp corners to pinch the hand. The Mini Manix uses a stock clip that is found on many other Spydies. For most people it works well, but some find this type of clip uncomfortable to work with. To me, the current Mini Manix clip is OK. But mostly because it is reversible for lefties. The Li’l Temp is strictly intended for righties, although I find it OK for left-handed use.

Cutting
The S30V edge holding has become what I expect from this steel in a Spydie. In my subjective opinion S30V holds an edge better than VG-10, about 3 to 4 times longer. But I never let my knives go really dull, so YMMV. The serrations on my CE Mini Manix are a bit different. It looks like someone found a way to provide sturdy but sharper points on the teeth by lowering the scallop. Interesting. Performance is the same as the teeth on my Li’l Temp.

An edge-up grip is very secure and comfy for all types of fine and rougher utility work with the Mini Manix. This is a bit trickier with the Li’l Temperance because it has no choil and the edge comes so close to the handle, compared to more traditional folders. During food prep, a slight inconvenience with the Mini Manix came to the surface. That huge wide blade, that offers such a thick blade (yet sharp edge), is not exactly the right tool for fine turning cuts. The wide blade doesn’t turn as easily as my Calypso. The Li’l Temp is also not really suited to this type of cutting, but the blade spine is more tapered, so it is a tiny bit thinner. Other than that, the Mini Manix is fun to use and it plain works. There’s plenty of curve on the edge to use it on a cutting board, and the short blade is easy to control.

The grip serrations on the spine above the hole on the Mini Manix did prove useful in the kitchen. My wet hands found ample grip. In regular MBC type cutting on the dummy with dry hands, these serrations help to just plain glue the knife to my hands. The Li’l Temp has no gripping serrations on the spine. But this is because it doesn’t need them for grip. The 3D grip design helps to settle the knife in the hand in various other ways. For example, the butt of the knife rests securely in the palm of my hand during thrusts.

The large bump on the choil of the Mini Manix sticks out a bit, from the rest of the body. Not only does it make a really nice guard, it also helps to ‘find your way around the knife’. I liken it somewhat to a trigger. My index finger finds that trigger and quickly settles in the rest of the fingers and palm. It could be a little more smoothed out for comfort, but I like how it works. The Li’l Temp has no choil but a separate guard.

Carry
The Mini Manix feels just a bit heavier than a Li’l Temperance. In my case, I like to carry a pair of Mini Manixes, one PE for everything that needs cutting and a CE one which edge is reserved for all types of emergencies. You do feel it when carrying two Mini Manixes at once. It’s not a bad feeling though, and it certainly doesn’t drag down my pants. The Li’l Temp is made of G10 with only thin steel liners. In addition it is a very open design, versus the closed lockback of the Mini Manix. I imagine that carrying two Li’l Temps would noticeably more lightweight. However, that would not be as comfortable since the Li’l Temp is a right-hand-only design.

Overall
In the end I really like my Mini Manixes, because I can comfortably carry and use two at a time, because of the excellent clip options. The wide thick blade offers an amazingly sharp blade, just like my beloved Li’l Temp. The grip security is similar to the Li’l Temp as well, but the Mini Manix is a bit more ‘blocky’. When purposely squeezing the Mini Manix’ handle you feel a few hotspots. In practical use this discomfort did not pop up. The Mini Manix’s opening action is as smooth as the Li’l Temperance, but requires a little more oil for maintenance. Other than that, the Mini Manix is the same all-round sturdy design. Excellent for utility, strong and lively enough for MBC.

It seems like someone took notice of the fandom that the Li’l Temperance has acquired last year. I remember a couple of Mini Manix requests, but much more requests for a Li’l Temp. With the Li’l Temp II still in a concept-stage, the Mini Manix is an excellent alternative to hold us over until my dream Ti integral compression lock SE Li’l Temperance with a full set of divot holes arrives.

The bottom line: 1 Li’l Temp still beats 1 Mini Manix, but two Mini Manixes beat 1 and even 2 Li’l Temps. I’m happy with my Mini Manixes to wait for the next generation of Li’l Temperances to arrive.

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Review: Polliwog PE

October 22, 2005

The Polliwog has kicked the Dodo out of my pocket for sure. There I said it. I carried the Dodo as an EDC since that model first came out. It carried great as an ‘office-tactical’. The Polliwog is better for me. It carries more discreetly, the draw is more fluent, the blade shape is more versatile and I can really sharpen this non-reverse-S edge.

I had the good fortune of witnessing a tiny part of the Polliwog’s evolution, from concept model to prototype to final product. I handled a proto in 2004 and a pre-production version in 2005. Sal related that this new Eric-design was meant to be a ‘kit model’. A model the ELU could put together himself, but also customize with different handle materials and blade shapes. A Spyderco Lego kit if you will. That idea never came to fruition, mostly due to liability issues I believe.

Weight
The first thing I noticed about the Polliwog is its weight. Definitely more heft than the Dodo. But this weight seems to disappear when clipping it IWB or when you hold the opened knife. Eric did it again. How does he do that? Like the Manix, the perceived weight magically disappears during use. At least, that’s how it works out for me.

Ergonomics
The great thing about the Little Big Knives is that full-size hand-filling handle. The same is true for the Polliwog. The steel handle is contoured to keep the knife from sliding backwards and forward, while the cutouts or slots (an Eric Glesser trademark) offer gripping points for the fingertips. These cutouts work great when retrieving the knife from you waistband and during cutting. The little slots provide gripping pads in an otherwise smooth handle. The slots offer the same ‘grip’ as Spydie G10.

I like to curl my pinky completely around the little tail, and the knife stays put. Yes, the handle is SS, which is a no-no for hard thrusting moves (or even accidental ones during food prep!). But with the pinky securely curled around the tail, this knife is not going anywhere. I must add that this type of grip is kind of instinctive for me. In Iaido we are taught a similar gripping technique. Curl the pinky under the butt of the sword handle and you can safely thrust with a Boken with the Tsuba removed. The extreme blade to handle angle, make the Polliwog look like a folding Ka-Bar TDI knife. I imagine that this is how a small derringer feels.

The closed Polliwog is also an improvised Keating Stinger. Orient the closed Polli in you fist like a push knife, with the pivot end resting against your palm and the tail protruding between you index and middle fingers. The knife is surprisingly comfortable in this grip. Even when punching with it, I experience no severe pinching at all. Everything is nicely rounded and dehorned, which is also great for pocket carry. Of course you need to be a circus juggler to safely turn around the knife from this grip to open it again quickly, but I think it is a fun feature. The Dodo never worked for me as an impact tool, my hands are too big.

Arc
The blade and handle combine to make a really nice symmetrical arc. The arc naturally guides your index finger along the spine for fine point work. I would prefer the spine to be left rough, like on the Dodo. This offers a bit more grip. If not for the rough coating, I would like some thumb grooves for more grip on the spine. I can see why these features were left out though. The Polliwog in its current configuration is one of the smoothest carrying and drawing folders I own.

The blade cuts nice enough, though I would prefer a full flat grind. The drop point blade and full grip are ‘conventional’ enough that you tend to want to use this micro folder as if it were a –much larger- Native. When you do that, it strikes you that this folder is too big for such a limited blade length. Compare it to a Kiwi, and the picture changes. The Kiwi is a great utility design, but I like to complement such a knife with a stronger and more substantial knife. In comes the Polliwog.

Friendly looks
Closed, it looks like the ball will fall out. A nice feature to point out to NKP’s. The whole ‘look’ of the knife is very NKP or sheeple friendly. It looks like a Meccano kit. The small blade length and large round shapes help to further improve the Polli’s perceived ‘innocent look’. In this respect it would be great to take off the swedge and make it a full flat ground blade.

Overall
I love it, I carry it a lot, and I love to work with SS handles these days. They are so comfortable to use, since there are no hotspots. The slots, blade to handle angle, and the finger cutouts make sure the handle never gets too slippery.

What else is there? The wire clip is just right, the tension is perfect. The edge holding is what we have come to expect from VG-10. It’s not much of a food prep knife, too short. Then again, neither was the Dodo. In my mind, this is a great design for guys who like gadgets (looks) and small tactical folders. And the drop point blade with a strong tip, make it a nice utility folder. But bring along a Delica for the picnic. The Polliwog doesn’t seem to work as well for me in food prep. And if you were put off by the Dodo’s reverse-S blade, because of perceived sharpening difficulties, this is the knife for you.


Review: Native 3 PE

March 25, 2005

Since my first Native, I have been a fan of the pattern. So when a new variation was announced, I was very anxious to see what the Spydercrew did to this design. Unfortunately, even this loyal fan though that the first prototype of the Native III looked ugly with those smooth spots all over the handle. Up close and personal, it’s quite a different story. My first Native III was the most excellent forum Native in 2003. And the Native III looks just as nice up close as its older variation. And function-wise there were a few improvements too.

Blade
In my opinion the blade is just gorgeous. The refined false edge is way better looking than the older spear point. It looks less like a dagger, which is always good in today’s society. In use, this blade felt like it was thinner and sliced better. Of course, the blade is made from VG-10 and didn’t hold its edge quite like my CPM440V Natives. The thumb serrations on the blade’s spine work, but I do think the older indented serration pattern worked better for keeping my thumb or index finger in place. I can imagine that the older pattern was a bit too aggressive for some (pencil pushing wussies! 😉 ).

Handle
The Native was my first experience with knives that have mega-grip handles. And lo and behold, they managed to do it better. The finger choil is slightly is deeper, so it offers more room for larger fingers as well as improving that locking grip. The handle is now fully 3D. It has a palm swell, (thumb) gripping serrations at the butt for reverse grips, and those spots are natural positions for thumbs and fingers. In a ‘sideways’ grip, with the blade cutting on a horizontal plane, the spot at the pivot offers not just comfort for a thumb but a bit of grip as well. In the banner on top of this page you can see that the spots are lightly textured, as well as the tiny little logo, Sal managed to incorporate in the new Native. The jury is still out on the FRN thumb serrations that lengthen the whole thumb-grip from the blade’s spine. Sure, they work, but little FRN ridges look very fragile. Long-term use will show whether or not it keeps working.

Clip
I am a fan of the wire clip, but have had bad experiences with it on an early Salsa, which was way too tight. This clip, however, has perfect tension. Just like the regular clips it holds the knife in place and releases easily. The bonus with a wire clip is handle comfort. It is almost impossible to find hotspots on the clip when working with this knife. Wire after all is round. While some argue that the clip should be modified a la the UK Penknife, for deeper pocket carry, I prefer the better grip you can get on the handle when retrieving the knife.

Overall
I can’t say much more about this knife. Sure a full flat grind slices a lot better, but few will notice that. What this knife does best is offering an economical folding knife with a lot of very sophisticated features and a -very- secure grip. Plus, I strongly feel it’s the best FRN MBC folder in the line-up to date, The reversible clip allows you to get two (e.g. PE & SE) for left- and right-hand carry, and you are still likely to have enough money left to get a Sharpmaker. Which you really should have gotten after your first Spydie!


Review: Manix PE

January 16, 2005

I have been fortunate to have handled a pre-production prototype of this knife and at the time I remember being not too impressed with the design. If I recall correctly, the blade featured a saber or hollow grind, and the handle was identical to that of the Chinook II. I was however amazed at the lightweight of the knife. Then along came a picture of the finished product, and it looked a lot like my favorite Li’l Temperance.

Temperance lineage
In fact, I believe Sal’s original idea for the Temperance line of knives would be to introduce a small and large folder and a fixed blade. It seems that Eric took over where Sal has left off. Sure there are many differences between the Li’l Temp and the Manix, but there are strong similarities; a thick full flat ground leaf shape blade and an MBC rated lock. Some aspects of the Li’l Temperance are actually improved, albeit at the cost of ergonomics. The clip can be positioned in every which way you like, tip-up, tip-down and for left and right-handed carry. This necessitated a symmetrical handle design, which isn’t as refined as the Li’l Temp. Amazingly this handle seems molded for my hand. This is mainly due to the thicker and ‘boxier’ feel of the handle. I many ways the Manix is an evolution of Al Mar’s SERE folding knife. Most of Al Mar’s field-type knives had relatively large handles that you actually had to grip, they definitely didn’t disappear in your hand. The Manix is likely to be much stronger and is definitely made from more advanced materials. Then again, I think these two models span almost two decades.

Not so MBC
Certainly this knife is too big to carry and use in public for me, since I live in an urban society that at times is almost hysterical with fear off terrorism and random acts of violence. No, this knife is purely an exercise in fun! A dandy ship’s mate to my Chinook II. While the Chinook II is an excellent MBC knife that offers much to interested and broad-minded martial artists, the Manix is a joy to use in the field and around the house. I actually tried some MBC drills with this knife, but it just doesn’t feel right to me, rather awkward. Sure it’s sharp and offers a very secure grip and opens very intuitively, but the alignment is off and it feels rather comatose in my hands during MBC drills. Objectively, this design should excel in MBC, large blade, good solid point, MBC-rated lock, handle can be used as pressure point instrument etc. But for me the feel of this knife is totally off for MBC use. Where it really shines is utility chores, cutting up everything you run into.

Cutting
The CE blade cuts very aggressively. Rather than measuring twice and cutting once, as Chris Reeve likes to say in his ads, this knife just has to be put in the right direction and it cuts what you want to. For example when cutting up a large cauliflower. I was amazed to see that by just inserting and twisting around the tip of the blade into the stem of the vegetable, all the desired chunks just fell off. I think it’s due to the enhanced leverage of the strong and large Manix.

The design stimulates you to make use of this enhanced leverage, yes even in a folding knife, I chose the ComboEdge because of the blade length and the straight angle of the handle and blade. I knew that I wouldn’t be enjoying that fine plain edge near the heel of he blade, for cutting on flat surfaces. Moreover, I am used to 3-inch utility folders or less and the Manix leaves just as much PE left for regular chores.

Furthermore, with my experience with the Rescue 79mm folder, I am steadily favoring serrations. I do insist that a plain edge is more satisfying to use and sharpen than serrations. It takes more skill (on a Sharpmaker) and it is easier to modify -and appreciate- the edge to your liking (coarse, fine, angle etc..). The Manix’ serrations slice through cardboard like the proverbial butter, which went way better than I anticipated because of it’s relatively thick blade. The tip is plenty fine for cutting out newspaper articles. With the Manix it is even possible to comfortably slice fruit in the hand. Let me explain. I use a forward inverted grip, edge-up, and rest the thumb of the cutting hand on an apple, which I am holding in my non-cutting hand. A natural task when chilling on the couch eating a piece of fruit. Now I only want to use the PE section of the blade. This is a large knife, closed it’s just as wide in the hand and pocket as a Spyderhawk! I have to reach quite a bit on the blade to get a good grip. This is where that wide blade, large choil and light weight all help to get a safe and handy grip on the knife. You can choke up on this blade extremely well.

Lock
This model has a lockback, without the praised and hated Boye-dent in the locking bar. Strangely enough, the spydercrew managed to make it in such a way that it unlocks very smoothly, but I cannot make it unlock accidentally. Especially in a pikal of edge-in reverse grip. With my hands, I cannot come up with a realistic using grip that would cause my fingers to come near or exert pressure on the locking bar. Maybe this is because of that long handle. The locking bar is just much further away than usual.

Weight
Much has been said about this knife’s weight. On paper it heavier than a Chinook II. In the hand it feels just as heavy as the Chinook, but also a Military or Stretch. The weight distribution is very astonishing. For example, I changed my Leatherman Wave into a Pulse, simply because it’s a very heavy and clunky box of steel on the belt. Not so with the Manix. When carrying both a Chinook and Manix (OK I have some Freudian issues 😉 ), my pants certainly don’t drag down. You feel they’re there but without any hotspots. The profile of the knife when closed is nice and smooth, unlike the of the ParaMilitary which tang sticks out in the pocket.

Grip refinements
This model definitely does not need a cobra hood. The blade is thick enough with the proper thumb serrations, to rest your thumb or index finger on. And if that is still not enough, then grip the handle slightly more to the butt-end (plenty of room on that handle), and place you thumb on the spine of the handle. That is so thick, it would be hard to slip off of that. The choil by the way, is coated with the same bead blasted surface as the Dodo’s spine. The Chinook II has this as well. It’s a very nice addition. It adds more grip without chafing your finger. And if it would wear off, you have a regular choil.

Overall
Overall, this knife is for everyone looking for a large strong no-nonsense utility folder. MBC fans, pass on this one unless you can handle it before buying. The knife’s balance is totally off, as is the edge and point alignment with the hand, wrist and forearm. Furthermore, using the closed knife as an impact weapon is possible, but definitely a challenge. The closed Manix is just too wide to get a quick and non-slip grip on. But that same wide blade allows you to put your fingers on to control the blade for extremely fine cutting chores. Not that you will be doing much of that anyway though. The whole feel of this strong knife just begs you to use it hard. It’s as much hummer as I have seen Spyderco put in a knife to date. And despite the somewhat heated debate, I am convinced it will draw in people who are considering getting a(nother) Strider(type) folder.


Review: Persian PE

January 15, 2005

The Persian is the Spydie that Jim Bowie would carry. Now hold on, before you all start yelling that Jim Bowie surely would choose a Chinook before a Persian. Admittedly, I don’t know much about Bowie, but I do believe he was a gentleman. And old times’ gentlemen carried high quality knives that befitted their standing, which is where the Persian comes in. In Spyderco’s current line-up, I feel it is the ultimate gentleman’s tactical.

MBC
Many have touted the Persian’s tactical qualities, and as a hobby MBC player, I wholeheartedly agree. The grip perfectly locks your hand in what I believe to be a more traditional saber grip, like on an actual saber, with a dropped point. When I held this knife for the first time, I was kind of looking for a glove to smack someone in the face with and challenge him to a duel at dawn! That is what this knife feels to me when held in the saber grip. So it should go well with a tux 😉 !

The tip is Delica thin, so I don’t see much hardcore utility use there. Utility All kidding aside, it is a fine utility folder for those who think an Endura is too mundane. The Persian’s sexy curves make for a very good cutter on plates and cutting boards. The edge and point are very sharp, Yojimbo sharp, which has a similarly delicate tip. Those same curves definitely lighten the load when carrying this ‘hefty’ folder IWB. It also makes for a very quick draw, even when the action is a bit stiff at first. Although for me this knife is intended as a suit-and-tie knife, which means it will be carried not so much, and used even less, I still gave it a workout to see how it holds up.

Despite the hollow grind, I felt no appreciable resistance when cutting through veggies and meat. There was a little more sticking when cutting cardboard, but less than my Manix which has a full flat grind but a noticeably fatter blade. Despite the larger blade than usual -for me- I found that the curvy handle design definitely helped to control the point, which I found very controllable during precise cutting. When gripping the knife edge-in-point-forward, for peeling fruit, the knife was still very controllable despite the smooth handle surface. I am sure that, again, this was due to those handy curves. Since the edge is closer to the cutting target than straight knives, you don’t have to exert as much pressure.

Sharpening
 The VG-10 blade sharpens up nicely too. I even learned a new trick when sharpening this blade. Instead of applying downward force, which you shouldn’t be doing too much anyway, apply a hint of sideways pressure towards the stone and let the knife almost fall down. This is a very light action, and at first you are not even feeling like you are sharpening. But I tried it because I wanted to maintain that curve and delicate tip. It works great for me. Since there is less pressure on the blade, not slipping tips off the stones becomes easier and I think I am removing the fewest steel as is possible with the Sharpmaker. Most importantly my knives get just as sharp as before, if not sharper. Choil Spyderco’s famous integral choil is there, but I don’t think you’re supposed to use it much, like in the Native series.

The transition from the thickness of bolster to the blade is too much, and your fingers are quite unprotected. In a pinch you can certainly use the choil to choke up on the blade. However, don’t buy this knife, if that’s your preferred grip, a Military works much better in this grip.

Clip
The clip appeared a bit delicate at first, considering the relative heavy handle, but it looks glued in place, so it holds up nice and tight. The clip is nice and rounded, so as not to pinch your hand or pockets. And I love that gold bug, which in my case is protected -and hidden- beneath my belt.

Overall
It’s not typical Spyderco all function and no play. This knife has plenty of looks that have been put to good use. The Persian is also a bit heavier, at least in my hands, than say a Military, Stretch or Endura. I even consider it heavier than my Manix, but this is one has different weight distribution, it’s more compact. I wanted a bigger knife for fancy-dress occasions, and I could have gotten a Santa Fe Delica or Endura, but this one is definitely cheaper. And this grip and blade length make it suitable for limited Save and Serve functions too….and some MBC fencing role-play.


Review: Yojimbo PE Black & Blue

January 14, 2005

Eagerly awaited by many and me too! Especially when a got to handle one at a mini-Spyderco-show in 2004. I have always been addicted to my Li’l Temp, for several years a main carry folder, but this has changed. My beloved Li’l Temp has been cloned and genetically modified. In my opinion the Li’l Temp split into two designs (the Paramilitary and Yojimbo) taking up firm places at the utility and MBC ends of the 3-inch bladed folding knife spectrum. For those seeking a pure 3-inch MBC player, the Yojimbo is the best of the Spyderco crop, even better than my beloved Li’l Temperance. At least, that is how it works out for me.

Design philosophy
The Yojimbo offered me a revelation, that all MBC designs from Spyderco strongly echo the personalities of their designers. Take for example, the Chinook II, the Li’l Temperance and the Yojimbo. In my earlier review of the Chinook II, I noticed that this folder is a perfect choice for martial artists, since it offers a few subtle features for people who love martial arts, and are not necessarily interested in knife or street fighting. From what I know of James Keating, that reflects his personality. His main background is in martial arts, starting with Karate, moving on to Filipino styles and finally developing and rediscovering bowie knife fighting as a western martial art. I believe that this is his essence, as related to knife design.

Sal Glesser, designer of the Li’l Temperance, is in my opinion a knife designer first. This is evident from the top-rate materials, colored handle and that ultra ergonomic handle of the Li’l Temp. The leaf shaped blade is a natural and efficient compromise between utility and MBC. These are features that will appeal to knife collectors and aficionados too, not just MBC players. Carrying and using the Li’l Temp really made me appreciate the intricacies of the design and materials.

The Yojimbo was developed by Michael Janich, whom I mainly regard as an excellent MBC instructor. Chinook, Li’l Temp and Yojimbo, designed by a martial artist, knife designer and instructor. These knives are in many ways very personal expressions of their designers. This is nothing new in the world of knife making, but it is not something you would expect of three factory folders made with basically the same materials.

Student’s knife
If the Yojimbo was designed by an instructor, how can you tell? First, it is in the basic dimensions. Street legal blade length of 3 inches in a relatively demure looking blade shape. It kind of looks to a rescue type knife to the non-knife people I showed it to. Second, the handle’s -deep- finger cutout is the best guarantee I’ve seen in a folder against sliding onto the blade. Even better than the Li’l Temp, which also relies on the handle’s butt resting in your palm for added grip security. This handle design is very forgiving to MBC novices; it’s rather difficult to get a non-secure grip on this knife.

Third, when gripping the knife in Michael Janich’s signature modified saber grip (see: Knife Fighting – A Practical Course from Paladin Press, or do an on-line search), it is almost impossible to miss you target. In this forward grip with the thumb resting flat on the blade’s thumb serrations, the tip lines up perfectly with the bones in my hand, wrist and forearm. This grip is in my opinion, better suited (more intuitive) to cutting than thrusting. From what I can read from and on Mr. Janich, this is how he has set-up the MBC program, to defend and stop an attacker with mainly blocking, passing and cutting techniques.

Closed folder
Since Mr. Janich is also a believer in integrating techniques from other styles, and de-escalating a confrontation, the closed Yojimbo is also a very dandy palm stick. Actually, much better than my beloved Mini Maglites (for AAA batteries).

For closed use, the Yojimbo is pretty much failsafe and straightforward. It is absolutely not necessary to learn a 4-tape set to effectively use the Yojimbo as an impact weapon. The closed knife has two basic grips, reverse grip (ice-pick) and point forward (which is actually the rounded slender tail-end of the handle). I favor the reverse grip, capping my thumb over the pivot area. Both the handle’s shape and the many gripping serrations lock the knife in your hand. If you are feeling fancy, you can even use the divots for flipping from reverse to forward grip on the closed Yojimbo. The Yojimbo’s tail is a very effective stick for attacking pressure points and compliance techniques. In my Jiu Jitsu training we often practice with the EBO-stick, Holland’s version of the Yawara stick. These techniques transferred effortlessly to the Yojimbo.

Closed, the folder is slim enough to offer a good grip, aided by a lot of handy serrations. The Yojimbo is even effective in point forward techniques. The divot could have been a bit bigger in my opinion, but I have yet to drop the knife unintentionally. Remember, drawing and using a closed knife is not a good idea to do -legally- on someone who is unarmed. But doing this against multiple or armed attackers should be a sign of restraint. I will never stop carrying my AAA Mini Maglites.

Blade
The blade is -very- sharp from the box. Look up reviews and info on the Ronin to learn what lies behind this bladedesign. Summarized, it cuts deeper and longer than a curved edge. The tip is a bit fine and susceptible to breaking when dropped. If you drop the knife point-first, you won’t lose an inch of the blade, rather the millimeter of sharpened edge. An incident that resulted in a new knife for me, and a sharp trainer ;-). The tip damage could be repaired on a Sharpmaker.

Why did they make the tip this fine? Well, to produce a very sharp tip of course! Even with the Sharpmaker repaired tip, I can point to a single hair on my arm and pick it up with the blade. It’s devastating on old T-shirt covered with newspaper. The tip doesn’t just rip, it actually cuts! Quite a difference with the sinusoidal (yes I read the Spyderco Story!) blade of the Dodo for example. There, the tip guides the cutting object into the perfect cutting position, or rip. Interestingly enough, this testing put a whole new spin on my Spydercard. I always regarded it as a novelty knife, but it shares a surprising similarity to the Yojimbo. It’s also pretty sturdy too, and offers a full-handed grip. Opening the Spydercard requires a bit of practice though.

Suggestions for improvement
There is one thing I would like to see improved in future runst, the clip. The clip’s divot does not line up perfectly with those in the handle. It does not affect function, but it’s something a collector likes to see improved. Furthermore, the clip is long, resulting in more tension on the screws, which have loosened up after a while. Loc-tite fixes this problem, but it’s not a perfect solution for a left-right reversible clip. The clip’s length also results in a little bit of rattle on the end, since tension decreases along the clip from the screws to the tip. Why not make the clp shorter? Even if the divots had to move up a bit, I wouldn’t mind at all. I’d prefer a shorter fatter clip, than this longer clip with the decreasing tension at the end.

In the end, tension was improved by taking the clip off and bending it into the desired shape. By the way, this long piece of smooth still makes the ‘feel’ of the knife more slippery than it has to be. Again, this does not affect the actual security of the grip, but a smaller or grippier clip would add to the feel of this ultra-grippy knife.

Li’l Temp vs. Yojimbo
I got the Yojimbo to replace my beloved Li’l Temperance, since it was going out of production. Besides collecting interests, I like to learn new stuff and keep up with evolving designs. I am a firm believer in the 3-inch bladed tactical folder for public carry. This not only means PC looks (handle colors) and PC blade lengths, it is also the basic platform by which I judge all my carry knives. A three-inch blade just plain works, at least in my (urban) environment.

First, the Yojimbo is a (very good) impact weapon closed, whereas the Li’l Temp just isn’t. The Yojimbo’s blade shape is optimized for MBC, whereas the Li’l Temp is good for both MBC and utility use. The Li’l Temp’s handle offers an outstanding secure grip, and places emphasis on the grip strength of the ring and middle finer. just like the Yojimbo. But the Yojimbo has a more positive stop on the handle, due to that enormous finger cutout. The Yojimbo also carries more comfortable IWB, It’s longer than the Li’l Temp, but lighter and slimmer.

The opening mechanics of the Li’l Temp are superb, a bit better than the Yojimbo actually. The Yojimbo in the waistband allows for more fingers on the handle before drawing the knife, but somehow the wider handle on the Li’l Temp is just a bit faster to draw and open than the Yojimbo. Then again, my Li’l Temp has about two more years of experience on the Yojimbo. Both knives come in PC colors, green and blue, but the Li’l Temp has a bit more conventional and therefore friendlier looking blade shape than the Yojimbo. However, the Yojimbo’s blade, looks much smaller because of that dramatic taper. Now, I also like my Li’l Temp because of its quirky and custom made look. And I still think the Li’l Temp is still a bit more unusual looking than the Yojimbo, mainly because of the 3D handle design. Still, you would be hard pressed to call a blue Yojimbo a run-of-the-mill tactical folder.

Overall
Overall, the Yojimbo is just a more versatile MBC player, left- and right-handed carry reversible, perfectly functional as an impact tool and easier to carry. Looking for a fighter/utility blade? Get a Li’l Temp. Looking for a fighter and a utility piece? Get a Yojimbo and a Paramilitary.


Review: Stretch PE

November 14, 2004

I got this knife as a gift, so you bet this is a biased review! Still this knife deservers more attention, so here is my contribution. My first impression of the Stretch was that is was a very ‘retro’ looking knife. It reminded me of the original Civilian with its kraton inlayed handle, or the older hunter models Spyderco offered in the past. And since I am always into the ‘new stuff’, the Stretch also did not appeal to me cosmetically. Furthermore, I don’t hunt and could never imagine ever going to hunt for recreation either. So what possible use could I have for such a purpose-driven hunting design?

Now, this is a very dear gift, so just because of that this knife makes it into my top three knives that will never leave my side! Furthermore, I felt that I had to give this knife a good workout, out of courtesy as well as to find out why Spyderco would release this “old-looking” knife. Since, the knife is a bit too big for me to carry and use outdoors (for me that’s the city center of one of Holland’s oldest cities) I mostly used it indoors.

Food prep
The Stretch is a great kitchen knife, for this purpose it knocked my beloved Military, Paramilitary and Chinese folder of their crown. The Stretch has a flat grind, but the blade is much more polished which translates into a much sharper knife (by feel). There is hardly any food sticking to your blade. You will also feel the effect of this blade polish on more mundane things like string, potato chip bags and other every day stuff. The semi-skinner blade shape, allows you to bring a lot more edge to the cutting board, as compared to the Military or Chinese folder. The Stretch also has more point, compared to the Chinese Folder, which is better for cutting steaks. In my case, I used to be a certified butcher, I always ask my butcher not to clean my steaks since I enjoy to do that myself in the weekend, and I think I can do it better anyway 😉 ! Cutting-wise, this knife is the Calypso Sr., period.

 

Utility
The Stretches blade tip is thicker than the Military’s, so I used for prying and cutting the lids of heavy cardboard boxes at work, the ICT people always like to see me with a new knife. I am the only ‘suit’ in our office that occasionally comes down the ICT department to help them clean up their boxes. Well, they call it cleaning, I’m testing blades!

The serrations in the choil, coupled with the shape of the handle’s butt, make the stretch the most secure and comfortable upside down cutter of all the Spydies I own. Often you are cutting with the edge facing up, when carefully opening a package for example. This knife will do that very safely, because you thumb rests securely against the serrations in the choil. I am sure this is a typical hunter-grip, for skinning I think.

Features
So far, you have a pretty much ideal utility folder. It’s sharp, cuts well and allows for cutting on a board and a variety of other grips, such as edge-up. In addition the handle is really comfy, despite that uncomfortable looking pointy butt-end which could be a problem for people with bigger hands than my XL-sized mitts. Reverse grip (edge-in or out) is safe and comfy. In the hand, the kraton inlays combined with an SS frame works really well; it’s comfortable and secure. Although others disagree for cosmetic reasons, I really like the four-way optional clip positioning (aka “the Swiss cheese option”).

I’m a lefty and with this size knife the vote for tip up or down should fall somewhere down the middle. My personal rule is always, when the knife’s blade is three inches and under the clip should be tip-up. Four inches and bigger, and the clip should be tip-down, for fast retrieval and opening. The Stretch has an around 3,5 inch blade and works best for me in a tip-down carry mode. And another thing, for the neophytes that always complain about longer handles for shorter blades, the Stretch blade fits perfectly in its handle which isn’t a micro-inch longer than its blade, so you don’t have to worry about so-called efficient handle to blade ratio’s ;).

Improvement
One thing I don’t like about the Stretch is the way the kraton inlays feel when putting this knife in or out of your pocket.Sure, the kraton works when gripping the knife and keeping the knife in your pocket (friction), but the stuff is equally grippy when you pull it out of your pocket. Maybe for hunters who may work around a lot of fluids and grime the grip is more important than pocket carry, but for us ‘urbanites’ who are used to G10, it is not so good. Because of this the Stretch will not be my all-day carry folder. More so, because of its blade length and more importantly because it is a cherished gift I certainly don’t want to lose or damage (excessively).

My one and most important suggestion for improvement would be to replace the kraton with that ultra-grippy G10 found in the latest generation Spydies such as the Dodo and the Yojimbo. Perhaps a blue edition for forumites??!!

Conclusion
The conclusion, if you don’t mind the kraton for getting the knife in and out of your pocket (perfectly remedied by a sheath BTW), then get over the retro-look or “unsightly” clip-holes and get it! The Stretch’s blade geometry is in the same league of the Calypso jr., but only bigger and with a stronger tip.