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!

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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.


Spyderco 25th Anniversary Delica and 40th Anniversary Native 5

July 9, 2017

An anniversary knife is a special treat for collectors, if they’re done well. Spyderco did it right by carefully selecting the right design and adding some unusual features you won’t find in an ordinary production knife. The 25th Anniversary Delica and 40th Anniversary Native 5 are, in my opinion, more than just ‘cool commemorative knives’.  I’d like to think both knives are also interesting expressions of this wonderful knife company at two different points in its impressive, but still recent, history.

History
Spyderco celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2003. This occasion was celebrated by the release of the C76 Anniversary Delica. Wait wut?! A Delica designated C76 instead of C11? I don’t know why the number was changed, just accept it. The C76 was only made for one run of 500 pieces by Moki, one of the very best Japanese knifemakers. All the knives were individually numbered. The Delica makes sense for this celebration. It’s been a watershed design for Spyderco that helped bring their unique design to so many happy knife users. Even back in 2003, there had already been three generations of the design as well as many different production variations.

At the time, the knife’s MSRP of $529, 95 was the highest price Spyderco ever had to ask for a knife. It caused some online complaints, but that died down quickly. Try to find one now, good luck! That pretty much says it all. I never got one back in 2003, it was too rich for my blood at the time as I needed to finish my studies first. After entering the workforce for a few years, I managed to come across one at an offer that was too good to pass. It’s been somewhat of a grail knife for me.

If I recall correctly, the C41CF40TH 40th Anniversary Native 5 was formally announced at the 2016 Amsterdam Meet. The knife was released in September of the same year in a run of 1,200 knives. The Native 5 has, at least in my opinion, become the new flagship knife for Spyderco. It might not be as ‘exciting’ a design as say a Nirvana. The Native 5, however, does features an excellent design with superb construction and impressive fit & finish. Furthermore, in its FRN incarnation, this new Native still qualifies as a working knife for many people. Just look at Eric when he talks about the Native 5 at a show or meet. He is rightfully very proud of the quality and usability Spyderco is able to offer with the Native 5.

Wait huh? A 25th anniversary in 2003 and a 40th anniversary in 2016? Who’s doing the math here at Spyderco HQ?! Easy there, it’s like this. In 1981, Spyderco made their first knife, the C01 Worker. But the company start back in 1976 when it made the portable hand, a device used e.g. for making precision electronics. Later on, Spyderco made sharpening products and that led to the development of the first one-hand opening clip carry folding knife we all love so much. I ordered a 40thAnniversary Native 5 as soon as possible and have been pretty happy with the knife in my collection. It’s definitely a different kind of knife than the C76, but more on that later.

Blade
The 25th anniversary Delica features a hollow ground VG-10 blade with a mirror finish. Other than the mirror finish, it’s the same blade you would find on a FRN Delica 3. The blade is 74mm long, 2.5mm thick and the edge is around 63mm long. It’s nicely finished with very even bevels and even the edge has been sharpened very precisely. Mind you, this was before Spyderco started to use a sharpening robot on selected models. I’ve only used this blade to open a few gifts at Christmas. And that’s probably all the workout it will ever get. This is a very rare piece that I’m very careful with.

 

I feel, the 40th anniversary Native 5’s blade got a nicer treatment than the C76. This time the production steel (CPM S35N) was replaced by something special: Thor™ pattern Damascus steel from the Swedish firm Damasteel® (who apparently used this steel to celebrate their own 40th anniversary in 2016). The Thor Damascus was made from layers of RWL34 and PMC27 steel. The blade is flat ground and finished pretty much like a regular Native 5. A distinctive feature on the blade, apart from the Damascus, is the laser engraving denoting this to be the 40th Anniversary knife. Some feel the engraving is too garish. I think it matches well with the Damascus swirls. More importantly, this is an anniversary knife. And, overall, this Native is kind of ‘subdued’ and without the engraving it could very well be a ‘regular’ sprint run. So I’m personally OK with this engraving. In addition, attendees of the 2016 Amsterdam Meet got a Damascus hole cutout from this very knife!

 

Handle
The C76 handle is a real treat for collectors, as it features a Damascus bolster handmade by master smith Ed Schempp! The Damascus pattern features the Spyderco bug logo in a web pattern. A very striking and welcome feature for this anniversary Delica! In Ed’s own words: …To get the 40 some pounds of bolster material for the twenty-fifth anniversary knife I forged about 450 pounds of steel in primary billets, The forge scale loss was about 15% the balance was to cutting and grinding. This project took about three months of forging and labor. I think that gives you an idea to why the material is expensive….

 

Ed did end up with some ‘spare’ bolster material which ended up in the hands of some collectors and Spyderco afi’s, as Damascus tiles. This stunning bolster is mounted in a stainless steel handle frame that’s also the base for genuine honey colored jigged-bone scales. I really like how both the bolster and handle scales are natural materials that differ from knife to knife.
The clip was left off this wonderful handle. I bet the mounting would’ve been problematic for the horn material. Oddly enough, for a knife that has a striking ‘classic’ look, the more modern boye dent was added to the locking bar. I think the ‘dent’ doesn’t fit the design cosmetically, but it was a defining Spyderco feature at the time.

The 40th anniversary Native has a wonderfully striking handle made from solid carbon fiber with a machined fluting pattern. Spyderco had been working with the fluting process for a few years at the time of this knife’s release. First with the titanium handle Military, and later on a titanium handled Native 5. They never managed to produce these ‘fluted’ knives in large quantities though. I did see a prototype carbon fiber fluted ParaMilitary 2 at one of the Amsterdam Meets. And I think it’s very nice to see this type of handle released for the first time on the anniversary Native 5. As cool as the fluting is, it also makes the knife kind of subdued, which to me is a bit odd for a knife that celebrates a momentous occasion.

The Native features a regular stainless steel hourglass clip. I think this knife could have used a bit more ‘wow’; one more accent that makes this more of a celebration knife. And I think the clip could have been that feature. Now, I’m certainly not a knife designer or maker. But if it were possible, I’d love to have seen a Damascus clip or another twist on the clip to make the knife stand out a bit more. I do appreciate how the 4-way clip mounting invites you to actually carry and use the knife. Something that the C76 definitely doesn’t do.

Boxes
When it came to the packaging, again, the anniversary Delica got a nicer treatment with a special cocobolo rosewood box. The 40th Anniversary native was shipped in a zippered pouch. Sure, the pouch is more practical to actually use to transport your knife etc.…. but that cocobolo box just ‘pops’ in my display case!

Conclusion
I love both of these very special anniversary knives. Studying them a bit further I get the impression that they both reflect their main designers very well. I’ll go ahead and assume that Sal Glesser, co-founder of Spyderco, was the main driving force behind the C76. And I would like to assume that Eric Glesser, Sal’s son who is succeeding him as head of the company, headed the C41 anniversary project. I have no factual info to support this, but please bear with me. Sal, together with his wife Gail, started the Spyderco company from scratch, working and traveling out of a bread truck for years, and they built it into the respected knife company it was in 2003 (and still is). Considering where they came from, it makes sense to go all-out with the C76. The anniversary Delica’s design almost seems a tip of the hat not only to the Delica, but also to the many custom makers that have helped Sal and Gail learn even more about knife making. This Delica very much has the look and feel of a classic custom knife.

The 40th Anniversary Native could be interpreted as a much more modern product. It is the design of someone who is proud of the Spyderco history, by evolving the classic C41 Native design. But also someone who is very committed to modern production and design, using a carbon fiber fluted handle. The C41 is a look into the future of knife making. This future involves modern production methods and materials for sure. But knife making only has a future when the knives are used, hard, and that might very well have been a motivation (conscious or not) for the C41 to have a much more practical –and therefore subdued- design. You could actually use this fine folder. The production run for the C41 was more than twice as big as the C76. This primarily reflects the growing popularity of Spyderco knives since 2003, but perhaps it also invites actually using the knife. With Eric at the helm, building on the work of his parents and the many people that have and still make up the Spyderco crew, I am positive we’ll see quite a few celebration knives to come!

There you have it, one fanboy’s appreciation of the anniversary knives of his favorite brand. Are these knives must-haves for a casual fan? Heck no. I did try to give an amateur analysis of these knives and how they, at least in my opinion, reflect the company at different times in its very respectable but still recent, history. I do actually use these knives on birthdays etc.… they only open a gift or two and that’s it. They make for nice conversation pieces too. Most importantly, I appreciate these as cool collector pieces. I have an anniversary of my own coming up, I’m turning forty soon. Guess which knife I’ll be carrying!


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.

brend-pirela_mamba_spyderco_blade_1

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.

brend-pirela_mamba_spyderco_halfopen_2

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.

brend-pirela_mamba_spyderco_clip

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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