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.

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Spyderco Lil’ LionSpy Review

June 7, 2016

A few years ago, I received the LionSpy as a gift and this was a great way for me to discover this Lionsteel/Spyderco collaboration that the online knife community was raving about at the time. I’ll cut straight to it, the LionSpy will never be one of my EDC favorites, but I certainly appreciate the gift and it will remain a cherished part of my collection. Everything I didn’t like about the LionSpy, however, seems to be corrected in the Lil’ LionSpy! And the Lil’ LionSpy certainly is one of my EDC favorites!

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The main features I didn’t like about The LionSpy, as a carry folder, are its: weight, smooth surface, pocket clip and high upswept tip. To me, the LionSpy is too heavy for comfortable EDC. The knife’s handle is finished too smoothly for my taste, as I sometimes have difficulty getting a proper grip on the knife that has resulted in a cut finger or two. Furthermore, the clip is too pointy for me. It pinched my hand and tended to rip up jacket and vest liners when the knife was carried IWB.

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On the plus side, I do like the rotolock feature. It’s easily accessible and it works. I also appreciate the G-10 and titanium hybrid handle. The workmanship to meld these two different materials in one solid handle, is superb. I also liked the Elmax blade. It doesn’t stain in my uses and it keeps a good edge, and I’m still able to sharpen it again with little difficulty. The extremely rounded profile of the tip and the thickness of the blade don’t result in a very sharp tip though. However, I’m confident the blade and tip are really strong. Still, The LionSpy is not quite as good for slicing out an article or coupon from newspaper print as, let’s say, my Military. More importantly, my LionSpy is a treasured gift so that in itself makes it a really nice addition to my collection!

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Improvements over the LionSpy
With the LionSpy’s experience in the back of my mind, I wasn’t terribly enthused when I first saw the Lil’ LionSpy. That is, until I picked it up. The smaller folder shares that strong and stylish hard-use folder concept with its big brother. However, the Lil’ LionSpy is lighter, has a better clip and is easier to control. The Lil’ LionSpy is, to me, on par with such ferocious folders like the Lil’ Temperance and the original Mini Manix. Only, it’s more refined. The blade’s tip is a tiny bit tipped downwards, creating a more useable tip, compared to the larger LionSpy. Also, the pocket clip is a close copy of the Spyderco hourglass design, which makes it a top notch clip right away. The Lil’ LionSpy is just plain easy to clip on, and very ergonomic to work with. The jimping on the blade and the pattern on the G-10/titanium handle are a bit sharper compared to the LionSpy. This, together with the smaller size and weight, make the Lil’ LionSpy so much easier to control for me.

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Ergos
The smaller handle of the Lil’ LionSpy fits my hand just right. It shouldn’t be any smaller or else I couldn’t get a proper four finger grip. The roto-lock is still easy to access and operate for me. The wheel turns easily on my sample. And the lock-up, with or without the roto-lock, is very solid.

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Cutting
The knife doesn’t cut as smoothly as such dedicated slicing designs like my Caly Jr. or Nilakka. Still, the Lil’ LionSpy is no slouch. For my suburban EDC tasks, it’s an impressive cutter. Apart from performing all the mundane mail & package opening, food prep etc.…, the knife seems to beg for tougher chores. I did some mild to medium prying with the knife and the knife wasn’t affected in any way.

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Carry
The greatest downside –to me- of the LionSpy design is that rounded smooth G10 and titanium handle surface. The upside of this feature is that it makes for very comfortable IWB carry. This is the same reason I still keep a few full SS handle knives in my carry rotation, they’re easy to carry as the smooth handle surface lets your clothing slip by while you move. This can be a bit challenging if you’re carrying a knife with a rubbery handle or very sharp G10. Another advantage of those vintage Spydies with SS handles, is that they are wonderfully thin. I can carry a Spyderco Police all day and not notice it’s there. Back to the Lil’ LionSpy; it carries very nicely and it’s good and easy to draw.

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Overall
I don’t read much about the Lil’ LionSpy and that’s a shame. Perhaps many knifeknuts are put off by the LionSpy, which wasn’t very popular in the end, I think. Please reconsider the Lil’ LionSpy as it’s a very nice folder. As part of Spyderco’s Little Big Knife line, the Lil’ LionSpy is definitely up there with designs like the Lil’ Temperance and Mini Manix. I feel it’s a modern interpretation of that type of folding knife design. The Lil’ LionSpy differs from these two venerable designs in that it feels a lighter, smoother and more refined.

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Spyderco Peter Carey Firefly

February 7, 2016

I wasn’t too enthusiastic when I first saw the Firefly prototype a couple of years ago, but the design has grown on me. Enough for me to ask to handle the production version at the SFO last Christmas. I was drawn to its cool looks, and hey, at least it should make a nice mate to my Rubicon right? Wrong. The Firefly makes a wonderfully useful utility folder.

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I’ve been carrying the little guy for the past month and I love it. The closed Firefly is about the size of a Dragonfly. However, when opened you’re working with a Delica-sized blade and edge. The tip is thick and sturdy, as is the linerlock. The lock-up is still rock solid. The Spyderco Firefly is the nicest looking hard-use folder in my collection. And I love that classic Spyderco hump, it makes for a nice ‘anchor’ between your fingers when you’re making detailed edge-in cuts. The Firefly’s fit and finish are superb, and I’d like to encourage the Taichung factory to bring down their pivot tolerances. Then the Firefly could become a slightly thinner knife I think. Also, the clip is very small and it won’t easily clip to thicker clothing. The clip was very tight out of the box, so I bent it a little to make it easier to clip onto a pocket. Since these photos, I switched the clip to my preferred tip-up position. The Firefly’s edge came mirror-polished from the box, by the way. I highly recommend the Firefly if you’re looking for a gent’s knife that can do some tough work too.

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Spyderco Stretch & Stretch 2 Comparison

June 9, 2015

I have been a big fan of the Spyderco Stretch since the release of the peel-ply carbon fiber & ZDP 189 version. This design, as well as the FRN variants and Damascus sprints, has been in my EDC rotation since it came out. I think it’s the finest utility folder there is, period. Last year, Sal Glesser shared news about a design update for the Stretch on the Spyderco forums. To put it mildly, I was very interested. My Stretch 2 finally came in last week and I’d like to share my first impressions of this updated design, compared to the earlier Stretch.

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When I took the Stretch 2 out of the box, the first thing that struck me was a how great the overall fit and finish is. It’s definitely a (small) step up from my older carbon fiber Stretch. The lock-up is tighter, but the opening action is still very smooth. Unlocking the blade is a bit harder on the ‘2’, but by no means a problem. My older Stretch is well worn from years of use and carry and it unlocks a lot easier than the ‘2’.

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When I compare the blades on both Stretches, it’s clear that the blade on the ‘2’ is a bit wider and tip is more rounded. I’m not sure if this is an advantage. I really like that pointy tip and narrower blade on the previous Stretch design. This allows you to easily make turning cuts in either food, or cardboard for those crafts projects with the kids.

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The earlier Stretches feature a light choil with jimping that worked fine. I appreciate the jimping in the choil, not so much for grip but to let me know by touch that my finger is in the choil and not on the blade. The ‘2’ features a much deeper choil that I really like. I use the choil in 90% of my cutting chores, so a more positive grip in this area is certainly appreciated.  The pinky hook on the handle is all but gone on the Stretch 2. That too, is a feature I really liked on the earlier Stretch design. So I’m not sure I will like this upgrade. The 2’s handle is also a bit wider, to house that slightly wider blade. It does give a better grip, so that’s a plus for me.

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Overall, the Stretch 2 design is a bit more straight design, than the older Stretch. There’s hardly any noticeable downward angle between the blade and handle, when you grip the Stretch 2 as opposed to the earlier Stretch. It’s a feature I really like on the older Stretch, as it makes for a more ergonomic design. So far, I’m not convinced I’ll like the upgraded version better than my trusty and beloved Stretch that I’ve carried for many years. I’ll certainly have fun carrying, cutting and testing out the new Stretch 2 over the next weeks, and I’ll be sure to let you know what I think after a proper review.


Spyderco Delica Super Blue, Super Cool

February 2, 2014

I am no steeljunkie. In fact, I prefer stainless blade steels because I like their performance just fine and I can keep them looking nice. I love high performance steels, but my inner-collector wants to be able to keep those instruments looking great. This is why I wasn’t terribly excited when the first Super Blue sprint runs came out of the Spyderco factory. Those full Super Blue blades seem to tarnish like the knives of yesteryear. However, a laminated Super Blue sprint was just right for someone like me. It offered a chance and excuse for me to try out this steel, and the blade would still look great afterwards.

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When I unpacked the Delica, I was struck by the odd blue/gray color of the handle and the light film of oil on the blade. The Delica is one of my favorite Spyderco designs, so the knife itself was very familiar to me. The edge was something else though. Out of the box, the edge on this Delica sprint run was probably the sharpest I have ever encountered. After a quick switch of the clip to the (for me) proper left-handed location, this folder was ready to go.

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Test process
I proceeded to carry and use the Super Blue Delica as my only user for over a month. I thought it would be fun to track the blade’s progress in the accompanying pictures. While the blade excelled in opening all sorts of packages, envelopes etc…, this folder shined in the kitchen. Cutting up fruit and food for dinner, caused the blade to tarnish. I actually started to enjoy this process. Each time I cut up some food items, I was curious to see how the blade would discolor.

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Food prep
This thin sharp Super Blue steel was amazing for food prep. Somehow, the Super Blue steel seemed to cut ‘better’, and the edge seemed to have lasted longer than, say, my ZDP189 blades. After a month I decided to sharpen it and that hair popping edge came right back after only a few swipes on my Sharpmaker. I wasn’t particularly hard on the blade, and the soft 420 steel that was used in the blade’s sandwich was hardly scratched up.

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Impressed
Overall, my little test and experiences with this particular flavor of Delica 4 left me very impressed with Super Blue steel. It’s very sharp and stays that way for a long time, and it sharpens very easily. The discoloration was fun, and it adds a cool look to the rest of the stainless blade. I totally get the appreciation for the full Super Blue sprints now. Still, I’m going to stick with the laminated blades for now and I’m looking forward to the laminated sprint runs. I am, after all, a user and collector.

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EDC Pic: Spyderco Centofante Memory & Tattoo Ladybug

February 9, 2013

An EDC Pic I took a month or so, from a weekend where I had to ‘dress up’. Why not match the pocket jewellery, right? Pictured are the Spyderco Centofante Memory, Surefire Pen II in blue and a Spyderco Ladybug Tattoo & Victorinox Classic.

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Spyderco Centofante Memory – Something Special

January 7, 2013

The Spyderco Centofante Memory is dedicated to the memory of knifemaking legend Frank Centofante. He passed away in 2009; a year after my father’s passing (nearly to the day). It took my dad some time to warm up to my knife collecting hobby. I tried getting him a good knife a few times, but it was the Spyderco Centofante 3 that eventually became his EDC. It’s in my collection now, but it’s not a knife I really ‘enjoy’ carrying. The Centofante Memory is a fitting tribute to Frank Centofante, but for me, also to my dad.

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My father carried his Centofante 3 all the time and used it for everything, even chores that were not intended for knives. Cleaning, oiling and sharpening the lightweight folder were chores left to me. He had the knife on him the day he died. My mother gave me his folder and I guess I spent almost a week with that knife non-stop every evening; washing, cleaning, polishing, oiling, sharpening, washing, cleaning, polishing, oiling, sharpening etc… It was the only Centofante model in my collection and I still don’t consider it mine. I had been eyeing the Wharncliffe version to be my own Centofante Spydie, but when I handled the Memory prototype I knew that would be it.

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Blade
The blade is regular VG-10, so it’s easy to sharpen and it won’t stain or rust with a little maintenance. The line in the blade near the tang, revealing the flat grind, is almost hidden when the knife is opened. I think this is a classy and nice looking touch that reminds me of the Li’l Temperance.

The opening hole is smaller than I usually like, but that’s the norm for many Spyderco blades without a hump. Since I’m a lefty, it doesn’t even matter to me. I open the knife left-handed using the tip of my middle finger. That way I can flick the blade open like flicking away a cigarette for example. It’s fast and fun. The blade slamming on the stop pin hasn’t caused the liner to move since I got the knife a few months ago.

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Handle
The Memory’s lines are clean and seem very straight. However, a subtle curve in the handle makes all the difference. The knife handles really well, not like a straight titanium stick at all. The silver–colored woven-glass fiber onlay is a striking contrast with the blue anodized titanium handle. The scale has a highly polished finish, and it can scratch more easily than e.g. the carbon fiber handles that Spyderco uses these days. I actually put one deep scratch on it in the first month of use. It doesn’t show in daily use because of the weave pattern. I suppose I could polish it out easy enough, but I kind of like it. It makes the knife a user.

All the corners on the handle have been rounded, smoothed and polished. The straight no-frills/no-feature handle has revealed something to me. It’s very user friendly in ALL grips. Puukko fans will know what I mean. A curved handle or finger cutouts in a handle are great, but they limit versatility in gripping the knife. The Centofante grips just as good (or bad depending on your point of view) in any grip. No features also mean no limitations when the knife is in an alternate grip (upside down) for example. That means I can move the edge in any direction and position I want for a cut without compromising my grip. Not that I’m cutting so much intricate chores every day, but I noticed how easy it is to transition to a good grip for cutting away and towards me in the same chore. It’s a kind of refined simplicity.

The handle features a full length decorated spacer that mimics file work. It is refreshing to see a full spacer in a modern linerlock. A welcome change after many generations of tactical folders with open handles.

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Fit & finish
The knife feels both light and solid in the hand. The action is proverbially smooth as glass. The blue Ti liner engages the tang just right and lock-up is solid. There is no blade play whatsoever in any direction in my sample of the Memory. Fit and finish are on par with my Spyderco Kopas, if not better. It is good to keep in mind that the anodized titanium finish is not as durable as your run of the mill G-10 or FRN handle. The titanium itself is certainly as durable, if not more, than G-10 or FRN. However, the anodized finish can scratch or wear down. BTW an excellent method to revive those vibrant blue colors on the anodizing, after weeks of use and pocket carry, is to clean it with Windex or a similar product.

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Use

The blade is a great cutter; it’s been a good universal-opener of packaging (cutting paper envelopes and plastic bags of all types) and a wonderful fruit knife. After repeated testing, thank to my daughter, I also found that the Memory also easily cuts the tops of Popsicle ice creams (to open the plastic wrapper). Mind you, it cuts the ice; it doesn’t wedge and break it.

From a cosmetic point of view, the clip –Spyderco’s regular silver hourglass clip- did seem a bit odd with the rest of the lines. But in the hand, this clip really matches the overall feel of the design. It’s a solid and smooth cutting tool and the clip just feels right. The knife looks pretty, but in handling, carrying and use I realized it is something special. It’s tough to put into words and pictures. When using the Memory, it has the same touch of quality you would find in a Rolex watch or a Mont Blanc Pen for example.

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Conclusion
This knife is not for everyone. You can get a utility folder that’s lighter and has a more high-performance steel. There are many options that are cheaper too. The generous access to the linerlock, straight lines and smooth handle surface make this knife less than ideal for any sort of tactical or MBC use. It’s also not a collectible per se. It’s far too useful and practical to put it in your collection gathering dust. The Memory is something special, even more so when you use it. I’ve got a generous collection of spydies that I collected and used for the past 15 years or so, and this seemingly simple design has me very excited.

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