Spyderco Brend/Pirela Mamba Review

December 11, 2016

The Mamba is simply awesome. Period. It is not, however, a good EDC. At least in my book it isn’t. I think this feeling applies to many Mamba owners. I think we’ll see plenty of Mamba fan-pictures online, but I doubt I’ll ever see (m)any pics of that sweet curvy black blade all scratched up from use.  

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As is the case with many new Spyderco knives, the Mamba was love at first sight for me. I knew right away this knife would be too big for comfortable everyday carry. And that blade would not excel in any of my daily cutting tasks. And yet, it’s a great design; a beautiful knife that just screams ‘hell yeah!’  And in my book, sometimes, that’s fine. Not every knife in my collection has to be a purely functional folder.

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Blade
The Mamba’s blade is all sweeps and curves, and the flipper adds a lot of ‘panache’ as well as a functional guard. The coating is applied very evenly and it’s a kind of see-through burnished black color. I think this makes for an interesting visual effect when you study the coating from different angles.

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The major downside of the blade is well-known and plenty discussed in YouTube comments and forum threads, that awful dull heel. Because of the deep plunge grinds, the hollow grinds don’t come immediately together for an edge at the heel of the blade. This results in about a centimeter of non-sharpened blade. And that’s a shame from a user’s point-of-view.

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It doesn’t really matter to me, as I appreciate those sweet grind lines a lot more than the edge. Don’t get me wrong though, this knife came very sharp from the box. I cut myself a handful of times when my fingers didn’t move out of the way fast enough, when I closed the blade.

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Lock
The action is extremely smooth. The liners are so thick, I feel it’s really more of Reeve-style integral lock than a linerlock. The lock’s ball detent is very positive, but once you move past it, the blade absolutely flies open. The Mamba is perhaps the fastest opening knife in my collection. The lock is massive and the lock-up is solid. I can’t detect play in any direction when the knife is locked. The detent is perhaps a bit too strong, but considering the size and mass of the blade, that’s probably a good thing.

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Handle
The Mamba’s handle was mainly designed by Joel Pirela and it looks stellar. It feels even better. The handle is very comfortable and ergonomic……for edge-out grips. Your hand locks into the handle like a glove, but it’s not a versatile handle that you could easily use for peeling apples, potatoes etc.… For actual utility work that requires an edge-in grip, I think you’d better reach for a different knife. The Mamba is hard to control for these types of detailed cutting chores.

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The carbon fiber looks superb, and I love the details and facets in the handle. The Mamba features stellar fit & finish work. On the downside, the handle is -to me- simply too big, thick and angular to comfortably carry in my pocket or waistband. This is one of those knives in my collection that just won’t be seeing any serious pocket time.

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Clip
The Mamba features a custom clip that is more ‘Spyderco’ than the rest of the design. It mimics the familiar hourglass shape clip we see on almost all spydies these days, but the three-screw attachment is different from what we’ve seen so far from Golden, Colorado. The clip works well though, the tension is fine. I appreciate the black bug on the shiny spring steel, it fits the design very well.

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Overall
When it comes down to it, I strongly feel that getting a Mamba is not a pragmatic and practical decision-making process to fulfill a particular cutting need. If you’re even a casual knifeknut, you’ll likely to be drawn to those spectacular features of this audacious design. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve enjoyed many an evening enjoying a movie, nursing a Talisker in my left hand and the Brend/Pirela Mamba in my right hand. As the famous YouTuber would say: ‘life is good’.

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9/11: Fifteen Years Later

September 11, 2016

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Rare Variation of the Spyderco Lum Chinese Folder

May 14, 2016

The Lum Chinese Folder is one of those designs in the Spyderco line-up that I’m really excited about. I appreciate its rare combination of amazing looks and incredible functional utility. I managed to collect most, if not all, of the variations of the Chinese Folder. So you can imaging I am very happy to come across this rare variant of the Chinese Folder!

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This particular knife started its life as part of the Sprint Run Chinese Folder with a blue almite handle, and then it was laser engraved at the factory with this bug-in-the-web pattern. This engraving service, and in particular this design, was advertised by Spyderco in one of its catalogs in the early 2000s. However, I’ve never seen such a Chinese Folder ‘in the wild’.

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The knife itself was in excellent condition. It looked like it was only used for opening mail or boxes until the edge lost its factory-edge. A quick touch-up on my Sharpmaker got the edge back to its proverbial hair-popping sharpness. I also brushed out the lint in the handle and applied a few drops of oil in the pivot to make this unique Chinese Folder 100% functional again.

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The handle has no damage at all from use or carry, I couldn’t find any scuffs or scratches anywhere. I’m very happy to add this unique variant to my collection of Spyderco Lum Chinese Folders.

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Have you seen a similar Chinese folder in the wild, or in your collection?


Spyderco Lightweight Native 5 Review – 2015 Forum Knife

November 21, 2015

As an avid Spyderco forumite, I always try to get any special edition forum knife that’s offered. The 2015 version was, again, a very nice sprint run variation of the Native 5. This was my first lightweight Native 5 and I am very impressed with it. Not only did this knife ‘solve’ my most important objections to the Native design, but the production quality was very impressive. I’ve been using and collecting Spyderco knives for more than 15 years, and I didn’t think I’d get this impressed about a new design.

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For many years, Spyderco has stuck to the Native design for their forum knife. The 2015 forum knife was the new Lightweight Native 5. What makes this knife unique is its maroon FRN handle, S90V blade and the cool rounded laser engraving on the blade. These features make it a very collectible knife. However, the Native design has always been a working knife and not so much a ‘collecting’ knife. Spyderco’s not-so-subtle hint at the Native’s ‘work ethic’, is that they used a very high performance S90V blade. Playing with the knife for a few minutes told me everything I needed to know. To fully appreciate this -to me- new lightweight design called for prolonged pocket time.

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Cutting
Since I’m left-handed I switched the clip and stuck it in my pocket for a few weeks. I didn’t cut anything that ‘hard-use aficionado’s’ would take seriously, just regular EDC-type chores that a suburbanite encounters. For the last two months, I prepared dozens of fruit snacks, pitched in with cooking to cut onions, tomatoes and potatoes for about 6 meals. I also opened many envelopes and about 8 packages. In addition, I broke down cardboard boxes to fill two small recycling containers, dug out one splinter and I cut about three loose strings. At the end of this period, the knife literally still shaved arm hair. S90V is impressive stuff, especially in a full flat grind with a nice toothy out-of-the-box edge.

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Carrying
Carrying this lightweight was a breeze. That’s not much of a surprise as many Spyderco FRN CLIPITs are extremely lightweight. What sets this Native 5 apart from the rest, is that full solid and sturdy overall feel. There are no liners, but working with the knife, it felt as solid as a folder with liners. This solid feel gave me plenty of confidence to stab thick cardboard and to twist the blade during longer cuts. I certainly wasn’t babying this lightweight folder.

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Handling
The Native 5 has much more friendly ergonomics, to me, than the previous Native designs that featured sharp choils. Using the knife in an inverted grip, i.e. edge-up or edge-in, was very uncomfortable. This excellent Native 5 pattern solved these objections for me. It’s almost as versatile to grip as a Delica, but the choil and jimping still allow you to solidly ‘lock’ the knife in your hand.

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Locking
The 2015 forum knife had no blade play in any direction. I feel the Spydercrew in Golden has zoomed in on making the perfect lockback; one that works every time and doesn’t require even a tiny bit of blade play. The jimping on the hammer of the lock is a nice touch for added grip security.

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Overall
Although I love my Military and appreciate that many consider it a longtime flagship of the Spyderco line-up, I think the Native 5 should be crowned the current Spyderco flagship. It’s a solid working design that features many practical design refinements; high-tech and high-performance materials, solid top-notch production, and it’s a ‘native’ of the Golden plant. I usually recommend a Delica 4 when people ask me advice for their first high-performance folding knife. These days, I’ll add a lightweight Native 5 to that advice!

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Spyderco Sprint Run Titanium Pingo Photoshoot

August 27, 2015

I don’t need to carry and use Slipit, as I still enjoy a modicum of sane legislation when it comes to carrying and using a pocket knife in public. Still, I really admire what Spyderco has accomplished with their Slipit line. They are great knives, even if you can still carry locking folders. This new sprint run Pingo with an Elmax blade, titanium handle and anodized bug logo is a nice change of pace from the existing Spyderco Slipit line.

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The Pingo was specifically designed for Danish knife users, and it apparently was named after their crown prince. The lightweight Pingo folders proved to be great EDC pieces during my vacation in Denmark last year. I still like to carry one at home sometimes, when I’m looking to carry a truly lightweight folder that’s also extremely non-knife-people-friendly.

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This sprint run with an Elmax blade and anodized titanium handle is a dandy little jewel of a knife. The fit & finish rival that of the older spydies made by Moki. The sprint run Pingo is definitely a very finely finished piece. The Spyderco Slipit line, so far, have been all business like EDC folders, using G-10 and FRN as handle materials. The UKPK did come in a Ti handle, but with a dull finish unlike this shiny sprint run Pingo. The sprint run Squeak and regular production PITS designs also feature shiny and more flashy titanium handles. It definitely adds a touch of ‘class’ to the Slipit line, if you’re into that.

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The anodizing of the bug doesn’t cross and wrap around the spacer which is a pity. I suspect this was done because the anodizing wouldn’t stick or line up properly to the backspring/spacer. This part does move a bit when opening and closing the knife.

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Titanium has always been touted as a high-tech, strong and light material. Mind you, this is a relative term. This titanium folder is significantly heavier than its FRN counterparts. This is why I really like my fluted Ti Military. With the Military, you get to enjoy the anodized titanium handle at a –to me- similar weight and feel as the G-10 original.

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The knife shipped with a tiny piece of plastic stuck under the clip. That way, the handle doesn’t get scratched before you switch the clip for left-handed carry. Spyderco also added this piece of plastic under the clip of the titanium PITS folder and, reportedly, also on the titanium Squeak sprint run. A nice touch that this lefty certainly appreciates!

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For me, this is a suit and tie type folder; a gent’s knife. I’ll be carrying it at more formal occasions, so it won’t see as much pocket time as e.g. my Stretch folders. I’m sure I won’t stretch the limits of the Elmax blade, but I certainly enjoyed adding this knife to my collection and I’m looking forward to its occasional carry and use.


Ultimate Grail Knife – 22 Years in the Making!

November 30, 2014

Among knife aficionados, you’ll often hear the term ‘grail knife’. This usually refers to a knife the ‘afi’ in question has a hard time to hunt down and that’s number 1 on his wish list. I’ve been careful not to throw the term around too much myself. However, the knife I’m posting here is certainly worthy of the moniker. This fall, I scored a vintage Al Mar model 4009 Commemorative Presidential Bowie knife. I had been pining for this knife since I first got into knives in the early 90s. Now, this very same knife is mine!

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My main EDC and collection interest is Spyderco and I cannot imagine that to change. Before I arrived at the Golden brand, however, I went through all major factory brands and some custom makers. I carried, used and collected a little bit of everything. Al Mar was a brand that appealed to me very early on. Not so much for use, but for the pure enjoyment of collecting. The wood, leather and brass parts, combined with very powerful blade profiles, are still an irresistible combination to me. Later on, I was delighted to learn that Al Mar played an instrumental role in the founding of Spyderco. On a vacation trip to Switzerland around 1992, I visited a knife shop that featured this massive Al Mar bowie knife in its own red velvet lined lacquered box. It was love at first sight, but the price was astronomical.

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Swiss knife shop
During my first trip to Switzerland I was pleasantly surprised. Every town seemed to feature knife shops! As you’d expect, they were all stocked to the ceiling with traditional Swiss army knives. But you’d also find plenty of cool ‘real’ knives. In one of these towns, close to our camping site in the Swiss canton of Graubünden, I found the shop that carried this Al Mar Presidential Bowie. My dad taught some courses there, and we would often combine our family vacation with these courses. This way, I would visit the shop every couple of years and I’d always be heartbroken to see this awesome knife still sitting there. But it was simply too expensive for me.

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Mission
Since my dad passed a few years ago, we still like to occasionally visit the area for family vacations. This year was different as I had a mission. I’d been saving up and this time, I was determined to take the knife home with me. Despite my growing worries about the knife being sold, I was relieved to find the knife still sitting there in a dark corner of the basement-level in the shop! The store had been slowly transforming from a real knife shop into a shop focusing on souvenirs and culinary items. In the basement were some of the last ‘real’ knives. I had to play it cool, as I wanted to negotiate a lower price. I noticed the handle color had faded a bit, there didn’t seem to be a certificate and the wooden case’s lid had warped just a tiny bit. And don’t forget, this knife hadn’t sold for over 20 years. There should be some room for negotiation right?

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Negotiation
It turned out that the Swiss aren’t accustomed to haggling. I had to speak to the manager who wouldn’t be in for a few days. That was OK, after all those years I could wait another day or two. It turned out that the manager worked for the previous owner, who passed away a few years earlier. He was a collector and he loved this knife as well. It was actually the only knife still left in the shop that he had acquired. The conversation didn’t go very easy at first, but once she noticed that I was a real collector things got better and we struck a deal. She finally said that she only agreed to negotiate, because she figured it would be going to a proper home.

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My knife
The knife itself is still in excellent condition. It just needed a little bit of cleaning up (I know I hurt the collector value, but this is MY knife now!). After polishing the brass guard with a mild brass cleaner, I noticed a number in the guard. According to an old Al Mar catalog, this commemorative Bowie was released in a 100 piece run. It turns out that I got number 16! I also cleaned and carefully polished the green pakkawood handle with some renaissance wax. This significantly improved the color fading I noticed earlier. The handle is actually a one-piece design that exposes the tang only on the spine of the handle. The massive blade is about 12 inches long, 2 inches wide and 0.196 inches thick. It certainly held up well all those years. Although it shows no signs of resharpening etc.., the edge was still screaming sharp. The etching is also in excellent condition. I did notice a few imperfections in the blade’s polish from the manufacturer, through my magnifying glass. It doesn’t show up in regular handling and display though.

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Boxes
The lid on the box shows some slight warping, but it is not dinged or scratched. The box is a shiny lacquered wooden affair. I also noticed a few of the nails from the hinges were loose. I carefully fixed that, again, I know this hurts the market value but I still don’t care ;-). The lock came with one key and the mechanism still works well. I added a drop of oil just to be on the safe side. The velvet lining in the box was not cut, torn or worn in any way. There was just a bit of dust that I carefully brushed off. There was no sheath with this knife. A moot point; as I cannot imagine actually carrying this magnificent blade. After a thorough search of the warehouse area, the shop manager even turned up the original blue cardboard box. The knife did not come with any paperwork and I do kind of miss the certificate, which I’ve seen in both a vintage catalog and several eBay auctions.

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Overall
I’m incredibly happy and satisfied that this knife is now in my collection. I visited this knife many times in the 22 years that I knew it existed, and now I was able to take it home with me. I get a little boost of nostalgia every time I look at this beast of a knife. Although the knife was designed to look the part, the construction is old-fashioned Al Mar. the same construction that was put in the famous field knives, was also used to manufacture this beautiful Bowie. The knife handles surprisingly light and the grip is quite ergonomic. I might offer my daughters to use this knife to cut their wedding cakes. I can’t think of any other use that I would risk scratching the finish of this great looking knife. Thank you Al Mar for creating such an awesome design, and of course for helping Sal to produce his first Spyderco knife!


Spyderco Chaparral Titanium Stepped into my Collection

June 22, 2014

The Spyderco Chaparral ‘3’ with its stepped titanium handle is the most expensive (MSRP) spydie so far, so this one won’t be a big hit with folks looking for a simple hard working knife. Still, it’s a very striking design and I’m very pleased with it. There has been plenty of discussion about this model being overpriced etc… I won’t get into that, but I will predict that in a couple of years a -lot- of collectors will lament not getting one for this price when they could. The Chaparral ‘3’ is bound to become a ‘grail’ knife for many.

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The fit and finish are simply superb; I couldn’t detect any flaws on the steps or any other part of the knife. The Chaparral opens smoothly and locks up tight, the edge came very sharp from the box and the clip was easy to switch. Basically, it’s a really nice gent’s folder and a great utility EDC folder. The Chaparral makes for a superb universal opener and a limited food prep knife. Function-wise it’s just as nice as my ‘titanium stealth Chaparral’, that I reviewed in more detail back in 2012.

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Handle pattern
As is obvious from the photos, the handle pattern features an intricate design of tiny steps. I understand it takes a lot of fairly complicated machining, and the design took quite some time to develop. Spyderco apparently can only make about 10 per day, so the stepped titanium Chaparral is not going to be widely available at dealers. What impresses me is that there are no curved lines in the handle. All the machining is done with straight cuts.

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Escher
The steps in the Chaparral’s handle remind me of the art by M.C. Escher who, apart from having the best initials ever for rap battles with fellow artists, was a Dutchmen like me. So I carry this little gem with a bit of extra pride. The wow-factor of the design is simply off the charts. The Chaparral stepped titanium is currently the best conversation piece in my collection and it’s the best liked knife by the non-knife people I know. That is, until they hear of the price, or rather my unwillingness to share the actual price when they ask. You’ve been there, right?

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Obsession
As much as I love my spydies, I totally ‘get’ the obsession fellow spyderknuts have with custom knives or mid-techs like the excellent Sebenza by Chris Reeve. Whenever I get that urge, I just clip on the Chaparral ‘3’ and I’m good, knowing that this is a much more ergonomic design with the best opening device for folding knives, the Spyderco opening hole.

Click here to see photos, video and information on the Stepped Titanium Chaparral 2013 prototype.