Spyderco C223 Para 3 Lightweight Exclusive Review

November 3, 2019

The Para 3 lightweight was the belle of the ball at the 2019 SHOT Show. Apart from being the first lightweight compression lock, it also featured CTS-BD1N steel that got a lot of attention. Having been around Spyderco knives for some 20 years, I knew I wanted to stay away from that first edition of the Lightweight Para 3.  I like colored knives, and black usually just doesn’t do it for me. I knew that a nice colored variant, as an exclusive or sprint run, would turn up soon enough. And here it is, the red C223PRD Para 3 Lightweight, and exclusive variant for DLT Trading.

DLT Trading has quite a few Spyderco exclusives in it stable. They all feature red G10 handles and M390 steel. The Para 2, Manix and Para 3 all received this treatment. This lightweight is a first, in that it appears to be their first FRN handled exclusive. It’s still red and also features M390 steel though. It is also the first Para 3 Lightweight exclusive to hit the market. I think we’ll see more lightweight exclusives in the future though.

Trainer
For us old-timers, it’s still a bit awkward to see so many sharp red handled folders from Spyderco. For many years, red handles were reserved for drones or training knives. The Calypso Jr. & Jess Horn lightweight sprints did come before the red C223, but they had a distinct burgundy color. It really is a strikingly different shade of red, compared to the bright red FRN of the Delica and Endura Trainers. The shade of red on this Para 3 Lightweight seems lighter than the burgundy FRN we saw before and a bit darker than the FRN handle of a Delica trainer.

First impressions
This is my first Para 3 lightweight and I like it a lot. It feels -very- light, even lighter in the hand than an FRN Native and a Lightweight Manix. The lock-up is solid, and remained so during the past weeks of carry and use. The closed blade was a little off-center but that is only a cosmetic problem.

Wireclip
I’m not the world’s biggest fans of fold-over wireclips, but this one worked nicely. The tension of the clip, combined with the smooth FRN surface that interacts with the clip, made it very easy to draw the folder from my waistband or pocket. The FRN pattern is nice and grippy, but it is significantly less aggressive than on my Manix or Native Lightweights. The rest of the Para’s grip is very familiar. This is a very solid and ergonomic compact working folder.

M390
Onto the good part. M390 steel. I’m not much of a steel junkie, as I never test blades to their limits. I do like to carry, use -and in that way ‘play around’ with various steels. I loved super blue steel for its performance for example. But I also easily switch to VG-10 which is one of my favorite steels actually.  Sal Glesser explained to me that super blue makes for a ‘hungry edge’, when I related my experience with it. You see, I kept on looking for food to cut with it. M390, in my opinion, is a ‘sticky edge’.

Cutting
Whenever I start a cut, the M390 edge stay in there to finish it. The sharpness also seems to stick around M390, for a long time.  Your mileage may vary, as my knife-uses are rather mundane. My EDC-needs rarely require more than cutting envelopes, fruit, cardboard etc.… To test a new knife I creep into the kitchen to see if I can help prepare the food instead of only cleaning up after eating it.


Overall
I’m happy to have waited for this exclusive to dive into the Para 3 lightweight. Since it’s the first of its kind, I’m sure plenty of collectors will jump on this run. So don’t wait and start saving. Something tells me, there will be -many- more exclusives of the Spyderco Para 3 lightweights.

Check out specs of the Spyderco C223 Para 3 Lightweight at the Spyderco.com website, and find out more details and background information at Spydiewiki. Also, see the DLT Trading website for this and other Spyderco exclusives.


Spyderco Meerkat Countertop Display

June 16, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Grail achieved: Spyderco Lil’ Temperance 2

July 27, 2018

Every knife collector has regrets, and mine was the Spyderco Lil’ Temperance 2. Luckily, I managed to correct my youthful mistake in letting it go back in the early 2000s. Spyderco co-founder Sal Glesser has said about his design: “A little Temperance is a good thing”. I think I’ve shown plenty of temperance when I waited 15 years before I got mine. Although ‘foolish’ would be a better description.

I’ve been a big fan of the original Lil’ Temperance folders, since they originally came out back in 2002. They were made in two blade shapes: the Lil’ Temperance 1, with the now familiar Spyderco leaf shape, and one in a more ‘wilder’ trailing point version – the Lil’ Temperance 2.

Back then, I thought the ‘rhino’ Lil’ Temp just seemed a bit too much. I went with the leaf blade and have been happy ever since. The Lil’ Temp is an awesome working knife, and its colored and 3D machined handle added some ‘panache’ to the design that satisfied my inner knife nerd. I went so far as to collect variations of the Lil Temp, and have been quite successful at it.

Over the years, I did start to appreciate that trailing blade shape and a little regret started to kick in. I wanted that rhino lil’ temp! One problem would be that I’m not a big buyer/seller on the secondary market. Let’s just say I don’t Ebay. Last year, one of my familiar forum friends announced a sale on his Instagram channel, and it featured a Lil’ Temp 2. Now here was a guy I knew and trusted. The sale was quickly settled.

When I received the knife, I was stoked to see the blade was marked 440V, these were made early on in production, as Spyderco switched to S30V in 2003. It was clear the knife had been carried. The blade was a little dulled, and I noticed some scuffing and bending on the clip and the G10 was worn in a few places. A quick disassembly, washing, oiling, reassemble and sharpening session brought it right back to where I liked it.

I haven’t cut much with it, just opening envelopes and breaking down cardboard for recycling. One kitchen cutting session did enlighten me about the possibilities of this blade shape for food prep. I might yet have to get that Hundred Pacer.

The knife is awesome. If there’s one advise I can give to a fellow collector; dare to go for the ‘quirky’ designs of your favorite maker, you’ll be glad you did later on.

If you want to learn more about the Spyderco Lil Temperance, then go to www.spydiewiki.com.


Spyderco CountyComm Exclusive Tan Ladybug 3 & Victorinox Classic

April 27, 2018

I have a fascination with the Spyderco Ladybug series, and Spyderco keeps bringing out new variations to add to my collection. This tan version in H1 was an exclusive for CountyComm that came out a few years ago. I finally found the right Victorinox Classic SD to mate it to. This combo rides in my watchpocket and fulfill all my ‘tool’ needs in everyday life. The Ladybug is both a back-up knife or when I want to demonstrate the value of a good knife to a nervous non-knife person.

This particular combo will make a nice summer carry companion!


Customized Spyderco Schempp Balance

February 10, 2018

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

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

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

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

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


The Mosquito – Unofficial Spyderco Folder

January 13, 2018

Years ago, I saw a curious little Spyderco folder from one of my friends who also works for the amazing knife company from Golden, Colorado, USA, Earth. If you’re a Spyderco Forums ‘old-timer’, you might remember the photo of his Mosquito. It looked like a Ladybug, but with a dramatically different blade. It seemed to have been replaced by an awl of sorts. My friend explained it was a gift from Sal, called ‘the Mosquito’. For many years, I never saw another one, they were never a catalog item. Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity to acquire my own Mosquito!

Modified Ladybug
The Mosquito is, in fact, a modified first generation Ladybug (LBK). The handle appears unmodified. The blade was ground down, straightening the spine. The edge has been completely ground down and tapered into a very fine and solid point. The edge is gone, it’s completely rounded, and the tip is  -very- sharp. I’m not sure what the intended purpose of the Mosquito was. It could’ve been a folding awl or toothpick, or just a really cool way pick off olives at a cocktail party while showing off to your fellow-spyderknut friends. 😉

Never a production item
From what I gathered, the Mosquito was never a production design, nor a prototype for a new design or Ladybug variant. It seems the Mosquito was just an experiment of sorts. According to the story I heard, Spyderco modified a small quantity of Ladybugs and they were gifts for employees and friends.

To me, it’s a wonderful addition to my collection of Ladybugs, Manbugs and Jesters. If you get a chance to own a Spyderco Mosquito, go for it. Remember, this never was –nor will it be- an official commercially available Spyderco. I’ve only seen two over the years, and that includes mine.


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.