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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Classic Spyderco Spotlight: C48 Tim Wegner

December 16, 2012

After photographing my new Caly 3 damascus/cf sprint with my vintage Calypso Jr. knives, I decided to carry those old spydies to see what they were like today. This is in turn, inspired me to take a new look at some other vintage spydies in my collection. How would they stack up to today’s spydies? Last weekend, I dusted off my old large C48 Tim Wegner.

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I think I got this knife back in 2001 or so. The Wegner was quite popular on the forums back then and the custom versions made by Phil Boguszewski were selling really well. I even read that this Wegner design was the ‘official’ tactical folder of the Gunsite institute. I was still into ‘tactical folders’ back then. Needless to say, I was sold and had to have one.

The Wegner didn’t turn out to be one of my favorite folders and I never carried it much. The handle design didn’t work for me, I disliked the knife’s weight and the opening hole was too small for me. I did like the curved blade and handle design. I even got the Ocelot later on which solved most of my ‘problems’ with the C48.

After cleaning and oiling the large Wegner, I found that the knife still works great. The action is smooth and lock-up is still excellent. The Wegner rode in my pocket all weekend and did all the cutting chores I could find.

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The C48’s curved hollow ground blade is a great slicer for most small kitchen chores. It cut up onions, peppers, meat and potatoes like a champ. I could even get a little ‘rocking’ action with that curved blade. The Wegner’s blade is pretty thick all the way to the tip. Especially when you compare it to a full flat ground slicer like the Military, but in practical use this didn’t bother me. The hollow grind is very well done. The thick blade and tip inspired enough confidence to subject the blade to some twisting and turning when I had to ‘dismantle’ thick plastic packaging materials. It didn’t affect lockup or cause blade play. After three days of cutting paper, envelopes, fruit, meat, veggies, cardboard, plastic packaging etc… the knife got a little dull. There was still a good working edge, but the Wegner definitely couldn’t shave anymore. Sharpening was easy on the 40 degree setting of the Sharpmaker; one advantage of a ‘medium performance’ steel like ATS-34 (years ago ATS-34 was considered a high performance stainless though).

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I found that the weight of the large Wegner didn’t bother me as much this time. In the years since the Wegner came out, I must have gotten used to carrying heavier spydies like the Chinook, Manix, PPT and the Lionspy. The texture of the G10 is really smooth. Back then, Spyderco didn’t use that extra glass-filled G10 they use now. It almost seems as smooth as non-patterned FRN.

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The small opening hole still bothered me a bit, especially for a folder in this size. I had a few instances where I wanted to draw and open the knife and ‘misfired’. The grip still doesn’t quite match with my hand. I have the same problem with the Endura, that knife too doesn’t ‘click’ with my hand. I still don’t quite understand the full steel spacer. It adds lots of weight and I don’t quite get the functional need for this spacer in an otherwise refined design.

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I realize that a future sprint run is extremely unlikely, as Wegner/Bladetech has launched its own line of production knives. The large “C48 design” is still prominent in their catalog. I love what they did with the design. To refine the C48, I too would suggest an ambidextrous lock, 4-way clip option and less weight. Oh wait; did I just describe a Stretch 2? The Stretch is very similar to the Wegner, but with better ergos, less weight and you can even get one in ZDP-189. The blade and tip won’t be as thick as on the Wegner though. I definitely recommend getting at least one folder with a sturdy tip in your ‘arsenal’. Spyderco makes some excellent folders in this category; the Techno and Lionspy come to mind. Those blades are probably even sturdier than the blade on the C48, while offering the same or better cutting performance.


Spyderco keychain knives: Jester & Manbug

October 21, 2012

Spyderco is making some fine premium keychain knives these days, like this sprint runt grey G10 Jester and regular production G10 Manbug. They are almost too nice to put on you keychain. Lucky for me, I don’t put them on my keychain I put them on a Victorinox Classic and carry them in my watch pocket. I highly recommend this knife/tool combo. This ‘watch pocket tool combo’ has worked very well for me over the past ten years.

When 9/11 caused security checkpoints and a fear of anything edged to spread like wildfire, I had to find an alternative to the Spyderco Ladybug on my keychain. I figured I would simply combine my other bladed keychain tool with my Spyderco Ladybug and carry it in the watch pocket of my pants. That way I can easily take off any blades I carry and never forget it’s on my keychain. After going through many micro-multitools, I settled on the Victorinox Classic. I settled on the Victorinox Classic and similar models, because they contain all the tools I could possibly need in an average day (and even many non-average days). It is a very compact and carry-friendly tool. I don’t need pliers or a can opener in my pocket, but on many occasions I have needed tweezers, a toothpick, nail file and scissors. I also like the fact that these tiny Swiss tools complement the grip of the Ladybug/Manbug like it was made for my hands. They are also very affordable and they come in many colors and variations.

The blade length on the Jester and Manbug is identical, but both micro-folders ‘feel’ completely different. The thicker Manbug easily feels like it is more of a ‘real knife’ than the lightweight Jester. They both cut equally well so far. Not that this means much coming from me. I consider the Ladybug/Jester/Manbug as back-up folders to my primary utility folder, or when I need to use a knife in front of some hostile non-knife people (NKP). These small cutters are only used to cut the occasional thread or opening a package etc… So these little knives don’t see much actual use in my collection, I do carry one every day and feel naked without them though. And if I had to, I wouldn’t mind having to use a Manbug & Victorinox combo as my only pocketknife.


Spyderco Chaparral Titan Stealth Review

September 27, 2012

I know I can be a superficial kind of knifeknut. I can easily be attracted to knives with mere gizmos and cosmetic features, as opposed to pure performance designs. The Titan Stealth prototype I handled at the Amsterdam Meet was one of those new designs that instantly pressed the ‘want’ button in my brain, which is located slightly behind the knife shop detector. The production version certainly did not disappoint. Apart from its striking looks, this Chaparral is a really nice user too. I suppose those of you that own the carbon fiber Chaparral already know that.

The facets on the titanium handle are very shallow. They’re actually not that noticeable when using or carrying the knife. I have to pay attention to notice them; the surface remains very smooth to the touch. The Titan Stealth Chaparral feels very much like a regular stainless steel handled spydie.

Fit and finish
Fit and finish on my sample are superb, I can’t detect any flaw in this respect. In the close-up pics you’ll notice ridges or lines in the facets. I don’t really notice those ridges when handling or using the knife. It’s definitely not a feature that helps add traction to the handle’s surface, for example. In that regard it’s very much like regular SS handled Spyderco folding knives. The high level of F&F extends to the inside of the knife too. I was surprised to find only very clean and highly polished surfaces inside the handle. The inside of a folder’s handle is usually not that nicely finished.

Lightweight
One thing I really like about this titanium spydie is that it’s a real lightweight. The Ti Military and Ti UKPK are great knives, but they are definitely heavier than I would have expected for a Ti knife. The Chaparral is, in my opinion, a true lightweight. The knife is as light as you’d imagine a small titanium handled folder to be.

Clip
One of the first things I, as a lefty, look at when handling a new knife is how easy it is to change the clip for left-handed carry. The Titan Stealth scored a lot of points in this respect.  A few turns with the right sized torx driver released the screw holding down the wireclip. Fitting the clip to the ‘right’ side of the handle was as easy as screwing down the proper screw. I have experienced a lot more trouble with many wireclips on UKPK models, to the point of having to disassemble the entire knife (the backspring on the UKPK is the culprit, it exerts a lot of pressure on the clip screws).

Most Spyderco wireclip assemblies consist of three parts, a clip and two screws that screw into each other to tighten the clip onto the handle. The wireclip assembly on the titanium Chaparral is made up of four parts: a clip, two identical short screws and a threaded bushing. The threaded bushing was loctited tightly into place and didn’t (need to) come loose.

The two screws did seem a bit short to me. They’re definitely shorter than the clip screws on a Delica, Endura or Stretch etc… Theoretically, I can imagine these shorter screws would be more prone to loosening and falling out. Time will tell if this is a real world concern or just an imaginary risk.

Use
This is my first Chaparral. I wasn’t attracted to the carbon fiber premiere of this model. I have a very nice Michael Walker Sprint Run that fits my inventory for a ‘small user in Carbon Fiber’ really well. I didn’t feel the first Chaparral could improve on that design for me. The titanium handle design attracted me to this edition of the Chaparral design, and the Chaparral has proven to be a really fine user. The Chaparral looks, feels and cuts very much like my leaf blade Urban. The Titan Stealth does seem to be a little thinner than my Urban. The 2 mm thick blade also seems to slice a bit better.

One of my minor gripes with the otherwise excellent Taichung made knives is the jimping. I think the maker uses a grinding wheel to cut the jimping in the blade’s spine. I prefer laser-cut sharp jimping on the spine of a blade, like on the Delica 4. I will admit that the jimping on my sample of the Chaparral 2 is sharper than on my PPT and Sage knives. However, the jimping still isn’t as sharp as I prefer. I could definitely do without the jimping inside the choil for 90 per cent of my cutting chores. It does come in handy when using the knife edge-up though.

This is my first Spyderco that uses CTS-XHP steel. For the past two weeks or so, it hasn’t needed sharpening, but I touched it up anyway on the white stones of my Sharpmaker. It seems to sharpen easy enough, and it has also proven to be pretty stain/rustproof. I used the Ti Chaparral as an EDC pocketknife and paring knife in the kitchen. The thin full flat ground blade is a great performer. Envelopes, packages, cardboard boxes, apples, carrots, meat and cucumbers proved to be no challenge for the Chaparral. The blade is a bit short and not really suitable for food prep. I used the Chaparral in the kitchen mainly to get more use out of the knife for this review over the past few weeks.

I noticed that the blade doesn’t seem to have the infamous vertical bladeplay in Spyderco lockbacks or midlocks. I broke down a few cardboard boxes, a chore that typically reveals this bladeplay in my spydies. I didn’t notice any play with the Titan Stealth. It could still reveal itself later on in use. I’ve only had this knife for about two weeks.

Overall
The Chaparral Titan Stealth works for me both as a gent’s knife in a suit and a cool EDC in jeans etc… Non-knife people also took a liking to its looks, the titanium facets look ‘cool’ and ‘pretty’ to them (and me too BTW). It definitely took a minute or so longer than usual to get my knife back from them. If it wasn’t obvious by now, I really like this small folder. Its size, design and F&F make it a folder I really want to use a lot. My Michael Walker definitely has some competition in the ‘cool small folding slicer’ category of my collection.


Spyderco Meerkat: a fun and functional little folder

September 2, 2012

Spyderco has been designing little big knives for quite some time now. The Co-Pilot was probably one of the first, followed by the Dragonfly, Cricket, Pegasus and Navigator models. I never really liked the Navigator, as I felt there were too many sharp corners on the handle. The Navigator pattern has evolved in the Spyderco line-up into the Navigator 2 and the Meerkat. The latter has steadily been growing on me with those wonderfully colored sprint runs.

The Meerkat features the phantom lock that’s housed in relatively thick FRN handle scales. The dimples and corners in the FRN handle make the Navigator a very ergonomic knife to use, especially for its size. The FRN Meerkat handle is a welcome improvement over the sharp thin aluminum scales of my Almite Navigator. The Meerkat can be noticeable to carry due to its thickness. However, that extra thickness also makes the knife easier to use and it helps to easily manipulate the phantom lock.

I received a Reverse S serrated Meerkat for Christmas many years ago. It was a wonderful piece, but I have little use for a reverse S blade shape in daily use. It’s a nice addition to my collection, to be admired and only occasionally carried. The blue sprint run that came out few years ago instantly pushed the Meerkat in my EDC rotation. The drop point full flat ground blade proved much more useful for my daily cutting tasks. The NKP friendly color and phantom lock also made the blue sprint run Meerkat a great conversation piece. The Burgundy sprint run seems to be the same as the blue sprint run, except for the color.

I did encounter one problem with my new Burgundy Meerkat when I wanted to switch the clip for left-handed carry. Two screw-holes in the FRN scale did not match up with the holes in the steel liner underneath. It was impossible to screw the clip on the left-side of the handle. I was able to fix it by carefully filing out the FRN to provide clear access for the tiny screws through the steel liner. The heads on the screws hide the enlarged holes in the FRN. Functionally and cosmetically, no-one will realize there was anything wrong with the knife. Now, I was able to fix it because I’m a stubborn knifeknut with a collection of miniature files, screwdrivers etc…A regular lefty knife user would have probably had to ship the knife back for a replacement.

The Meerkat sprint run is a great cutter and even better conversation piece. It’s one of the knives that have proven to be a welcome sight at family birthday parties when there are presents that need a little help opening. It gets the kind of reaction that a Titanium Military just can’t match. 😉

How do you like your Meerkat?


Review: Spyderco Des Horn

July 9, 2012

At the 2011 Amsterdam Meet a few knives stood out to me. One of them was the Des Horn Folder and it went immediately to the top of my mental wish list. After using it on and off for the past seven months, the Des Horn has become one of my regular carry knives. I am left-handed when it comes to utility folders. No, I don’t have some special version of the Des Horn that was made with a left-handed linerlock. Yes, the tip seems awfully thin and fragile. No, the tip hasn’t snapped off yet. The main thing that made me like the Des Horn folder was its high ‘stickiness factor’. It almost seems to stick to my hand and pocket because I just plain like this folder a lot.  

Going over the sleek folder and playing around with it a while during the 2011 Amsterdam Meet, proved that it could be a real nice left-handed folder. How? Well, I place the tip of my left-hand ring finger in the opening hole and flick the blade open as if I were flicking away a cigarette. The blade just flies open. I must have done this hundreds of times since I got the knife over seven months ago. The linerlock hasn’t moved visibly and the lockup is still just as tight as it was on day one.

Blade

I’m not a big fan of wharncliffe blades, but I certainly appreciate for what they can do. The Kiwi has always served me well around the office. In my experience, the only place a Wharnie doesn’t work well is on a cutting board or a dinner plate. With one exception. Cutting out a coupon or article with the Des Horn’s sleek S30v steel blade is like racing a formula 1 car over the thin paper. It’s like pointing a laser over the tabletop. The tip slices through the paper like it isn’t there. I do miss not being able to properly use the knife for food prep. I prefer droppoints for that chore, not wharnies. Beyond that, the straight edge and needle-like tip have their uses. The Des Horn is great for all sorts of controlled cuts. It excels in opening bags, packages, envelopes etc…. It’s also probably the best folding fruit knife I’ve worked with to date. My wife certainly appreciated my enthusiasm to prepare fruit snacks for our kids and to help peel the potatoes for dinner.

Looking down on the blade’s spine, you’ll notice the blade stock gradually thinning to a needle tip. Combined with the blade’s acute profile, it makes for an extremely sharp tip. The corners on the blade’s spine are acute, but not sharp. When it did become time to sharpen the blade, my kiwi-experience kicked in. I only use a Sharpmaker and it takes a bit of technique to preserve that needle tip on a wharncliffe. During the sharpening strokes, I prefer to drop the heel of the blade slightly and never let the tip slip off the stones. I also recommend going slow and only use light to moderate pressure when sharpening the blade on the ceramic sticks.

Handle

The handle is made from G10 and the surface is polished smooth. The decorative striping adds grip and lots of great looks. I love how the lines from the handle extend into the blade. The grooves in the blade have a function too. If I happen to miss the hole when trying to deploy the knife, I can just push against the grooves to open the knife. The Des Horn Spyderco collaboration has a smooth handle and not a hint of finger choil, guard or serrations on the spine. And no, I never came close to cutting myself because of this. That could be due to the fact that the handle tapers down to a narrow tip, it’s a mirror image of the blade’s profile. This helps to anchor the knife in the palm of my hand. The butt end can be a bit sharp, but I only notice that in a reverse grip with my thump ‘capping’ the handle.

Fit and finish

Is there anything these Taiwanese makers can’t do? There are miles between the production of the Perrin folder and this Des Horn masterpiece, yet both are made well. A full flat grind or a hollow grind? No problem for the good folks in Taichung. Function is flawless and the fit and finish is simply great. I do see that they’re not quite up to Moki standards. Looking into the inside of the handle I notice the gaps between the blade and the handle. The washers are a bit thick. From a cosmetic point of view, I’d like to see closer tolerances on the pivot of this knife. However, I realize that it would make the knife that much more expensive.

Conclusion

This is a pretty knife and it works great. Although I haven’t damaged the tip with use or the occasional drop, it’s not a hard-use outdoor folder. It’s a great choice if you’re looking for a lightweight EDC gent’s folder. It’s an excellent urban utility folder. By the way this is the second Spyderco to feature a tip-down wireclip. The Meerkat was the first. However, the Des Horn is the first Spydie to use the pivot bolt assembly to anchor the clip. And if it wasn’t obvious yet, this is also the first Spyderco with a non-left/right reversible wireclip. But it doesn’t matter to me; I can open it faster left-handed than my right-handed friends with their right hand. Moreover, thumb-opening this folder isn’t half as much fun as flicking it open like I’m doing right now.