Spyderco C71 Salsa Revisited

May 24, 2020

The Spyderco Salsa is one of those oddball designs that just can’t get any respect. However, what many ‘presumed’ knife guys call a ‘weird design’ is often an attempt to create something new. That is no different with the Salsa. It probably was Spyderco’s first true lil’ big knives. A full sized folding knife that tried to hide in plain sight from non-knife people.

The Salsa was introduced in 2002. Looking back, it’s no surprise that it arrived when it did. Right after 9/11, many strict knife laws were introduced. Knives had to become smaller. This is a challenge for many knife makers. However, Spyderco has been working with the issue of public perception of (their) knives since the beginning. The Spyderco round hole allowed for one-hand opening as quick as any automatic. It was no accident that the blunt-tipped Mariner was introduced before the Police model. Many people thought these fast opening (and fiercely serrated) blades looked ‘scary’. The C09 Co-Pilot was introduced in 1990, and was intended to be a knife one could take anywhere, even on an airplane. Times have changed, but Spyderco never stood still. And I feel they were better prepared than most knife companies for the post 9/11 knife world.


Width for length
What makes the Salsa a little big knife to me at least, is the fact that it compensated a lack of length, with width. It sports a 2,5 inch long blade. But that blade is literally as wide as a Military. Why? Easy, it makes the knife cut better than a narrower blade. The same goes for the handle The Salsa is as substantial and easy to grip as a large folder. The Salsa actually looks remarkably similar to the famous Lil’ Temperance 1 and 2 (and 3).

Clip
The C71 was also one of the first Spydies with a wireclip. It wasn’t the fold-over type many prefer now. The Salsa doesn’t carry deep in a pocket, but that only makes it easier to draw. Also, the wireclip is much more ergonomic in the hand for use, adding to the ‘working- aspect’ of the design.

Steel
Looking back, the steels the Salsa was offered in, do not seem very spectacular. However, ATS 34 was considered a premium steel at the time. AUS-8 on the aluminum versions was understood to be a cost saving feature, but that still nothing to sneeze at – at the time the Salsa was introduced.

 

Looks
Another interesting feature of the Salsa is its friendly looks. The rounded tip, those friendly round curves, big opening hole and bright colors. The aluminum version could be had in bright blue, green or red (and grey). What else is small, round and has big eyes? Right, puppies and babies. I have no doubt the Salsa’s round shape and big opening hole were conscious design decisions. They’re functional and make the knife look like a very non-threatening tool to many non-knife people.

Overall
The Salsa truly performs like a much bigger knife, and its looks evoke a much smaller knife. The design, however, never really caught on. It enjoyed a fine 2 year production run, which is usual for many new designs in the Spyderco catalog. But it ain’t no ParaMilitary 2, in terms of popularity and sales. For the aficionado, the Salsa offers a few nice touches. The Titanium version was the second folder, after the ATR, to feature and integral compression lock, as well as a cobra hood. The profile, and feel of the handle, is almost the same as the venerable Lil’ Temperance. Another interesting first for the Salsa was its country of manufacture, Taiwan. The Salsa set up many things we enjoy today. The 2020 Spyderco catalog features many very refined smaller knives that perform like much bigger knives. Granted they aren’t as wide as the Salsa was, but the performance is there.

The Salsa is a very capable high performance tactical folder that happens to look like an unassuming pocket knife. If you get a chance to try one out, I highly recommend it.

Check out the specs and history of the C71 Salsa at Spydiewiki.com. Read my first review of the Salsa in 2004, and a little ‘classic spotlight’ article I wrote in 2014.


Review: Vintage Spyderco C24 BlackHawk Folder

February 15, 2020

What’s the current SKU number for new Spyderco knives? It’s up there in the C250s right? Could you imagine a C24? That would almost have to be some sort of stone-age Spyderco right? Yes, that’s right. However, the C24 is more than just an old Spyderco. It still is a viable EDC folding knife. But there’s more. The BlackHawk offered a few features we still appreciate today. Without the Blackhawk, we wouldn’t have the C41 Native (5) or the C210CF Rhino.

I got this vintage Blackhawk from someone’s collection. The knife had seen some very light use, and appears to have been stowed away in favor of a newer knife. The overall finish and condition appears pretty much like it came from the box.  I cleaned off a little tape residue, rinsed out the handle and pivot, dried it and applied some lube. Five minutes on the Sharpmaker put this beauty back in action again.

Performance
The action is still good, but the BlackHawk requires more frequent lubrication than, say, my current production G10 Native 5. The lock-up on the C24 is still very good. The lockbar and blade don’t line up as flawless as on a current Native, but it’s still reliable and functional. Edgeholding isn’t anything to write home about, it is GIN-1, but I like softer steels. VG10 is probably my favorite steel; I rotate a lot so edgeholding isn’t a practical consideration, and it’s oh so easy to sharpen and it always cleans up looking like new. As an added bonus, the GIN-1 blade is as stain resistant as they come, without delving into LC200N or H1 territory.

Spyderco C24 BlackHawk

Clip
Unfortunately, the C24 features only one clip mounting option: tip-down. Luckily, the clip is mounted way lower than most people prefer these days. As I prefer IWB carry, it means I can easily grab and draw this folder for chores and such. The checkering on the aluminum handle is still very sharp and grabby.  Aluminum adds a bit more weight than we’re currently used to. For practical purposes, the aluminum BlackHawk feels heavier than a G10 native, but a lot lighter than a steel handled Delica.

Spyderco C24 BlackHawk Spyderco C24 BlackHawk

Proto-Native
What makes the BlackHawk especially interesting, is that it is very much a ‘proto-native’. Sure, it has a slightly upswept clippoint blade, as opposed to the Native’s spear point design. And the C24’s handle tapers down towards the end, but the Native used to have that as well. I realize that no Native has ever been made using a handle made from aluminum. However, the BlackHawk’s overall profile is -very- similar to the Native. The 50/50 coil was first introduced in the BlackHawk, and made famous in the Native (and Calypso designs).  Size-wise, the C24 is also very similar to the C41. When you hold and use the BlackHawk, it’s obvious, it feels just like a Native.

Spyderco C24 BlackHawk

Overall
The C24 BlackHawk appears to have been reasonably successful for Spyderco. It was offered between 1994 and 1997. In 2002, a small run was made using existing parts. Three years appears to be a standard lifetime for a new design in the Spyderco catalog. To date, there haven’t been sprint-runs or exclusives based on the C24 BlackHawk. I think this is a shame actually, as I really like this medium-sized trailing point design. The fine tip and curve definitely has its place in practical cutting chores. It explains the success of the current production C224CF Rhino. I can’t help thinking Spyderco was sure the Rhino would do well, due to the experience of the BlackHawk some 25 years earlier.

Check out more details of the Spyderco C24 BlackHawk at Spydiewiki.


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.