Probably one of Spyderco’s best looking and most impractical folding knife designs, the C196 Mamba. This is a design collaboration with knife designer Joel Pirela and knifemaker Walter Brend. It looks amazing and it handles wonderfully. However, it is very thick and the corners are sharp. It’s far from comfortable to carry if you’re a suburbanite like me. And if you’d start using this knife for EDC, that beautiful TiCn coating will scratch and wear. Still, the Mamba is an amazing knife that I love having in my collection!
About 5 years ago, I received this custom version of the Spyderco C190 Schempp Bowie. I posted photos and my review of it a few years back. This time, I’m just shamelessly showing it off in this close-up video. I still carry and use the knife, but with care. I don’t baby it, but I certainly won’t go out of my way to see when it would break.
I think I encountered the original concept models for this amazing knife around 2013. Back then, Spyderco was showing 3 sizes of this ethnic American design. I still think they should have gone with the XL-version. The production prototype they did choose was the ‘medium size’. It’s definitely more practical. The design impressed me so much, and Ed is an amazing person and knife-maker, I had to try and get a custom version from him. I wanted a true custom, tailored to my preference. This model is pretty close to the original concept model. Except for the Mokume bolster, lightning strike carbon fiber handle scales, CPM-S90V/CPM-154 cladded blade, wireclip and oh yeah, it’s left-handed. To make it even more personal, Ed engraved my name on the inside of the handle. Well, I guess that’s also a way to stop me from being able to sell it on Ebay. 😉
See more details of the Spyderco C190 Schempp Bowie on SpydieWiki. Or see my first post about this custom knife. You can also see the original production prototype from the Amsterdam Meet in 2014, or the video I shot at the 2014 IWA Show.
The Spyderco C64 Meerkat was originally produced from 2002 until 2004. A respectable run for a Spyderco design, but it’s nowhere near as impressive as such mainstays as the Delica, Military or Paramilitary 2. There have been, however, 4 revivals of this wonderful little big knife. One of these, is this version with a burnt-orange FRN handle and HAP40/SUS410 blade. If you’d ask me, I wouldn’t say that the Meerkat is one of my ‘favorites’, but somehow it does seem to find its way into my pocket regularly.
Let’s start with my main ‘objections’ to the Meerkat: it’s thick and it’s a tip-down carry only. That means it’s slightly more uncomfortable to carry and a little more awkward for me to deploy. But that’s about it. Features of the C64 I do like, are the lefty clip mounting option, the ergonomic 3D sculpted handle, the blade width and excellent edge geometry.
Operating the Meerkat left-handed is not easy. The phantom lock is definitely biased for right-handers. However, there’s no mechanism that cannot be learned by opening and closing it constantly when watching TV, right? My wife and kids are not always happy with this ‘training’, as the click clacking tends to ruin certain moments in movies, or so I’ve been told. 😉
On paper, the C64 is a rather small folder. In reality, the Meerkat’s blade is short – not small. The blade’s width gives the knife very impressive cutting ability. The edge is really thin, and the HAP40 makes it a very smooth cutter. So much so, that I’m not afraid to admit that I cut myself a few times. Playing with that phantom lock might have something to with it as well.
The handle features these divots all over the handle that might look a bit odd at first. Once you grip the knife, you immediately know what these ‘holes’ are for. That provide a positive full handed grip on a pretty short knife.
Lil’ Big Knife
The Meerkat is one of the earlier ‘lil’ big knife’ designs from Spyderco. It came from the ‘Experimental’ and Navigator designs. In regular production, the Meerkat lasted two years. This is a respectable production time, but not too long. I think it’s funny to see no less than 4 sprints of the C64 since its original production ended in 2003. And like that production history, the Meerkat also keeps on finding its way back in my carry rotation. In that respect it’s really the ‘boomerang design’ of my Spyderco collection. It just keeps coming back.
See more details of the Spyderco C64 Meerkat on Spydiewiki.com, or check out my previous articles, such as: an earlier review, my Meerkat countertop display, photos of the prototype of the knife featured in this article, or my impressions of the burgundy and blue sprint run Meerkats.
The black & purple combo on this DLT Trading exclusive C101 Manix 2 still mesmerizes me. It’s fun to photograph, or to put on video. Check out my earlier article on this incredible folder.
When I first got into knives, in the early nineties, I did my best to find the coolest ‘baddest’ ninja-spec-ops folding & fixed blade knives I could find. Naturally, I picked up plenty of knives with black coated blades. After a while, I moved away from that completely. Now, after more than 20 years, I got my first folder with a black blade again: the DLT Trading exclusive C101 Manix with a cruwear blade and purple G10.
What got me was this amazing cool color combination of the purple G10 and black DLC coated blade. I really like that color combination. The liners are coated as well, inside and out. In fact, the only part of this knife that is not coated are the edge and the part of the tang that interacts with the ball bearing lock. I also like the aesthetics of the laser engraving that comes out white on the DLC coated blade.
Apart from the good looks, I was also drawn to this knife because of the cruwear blade. I’m not a big fan of tool steel blades. Partly because I don’t need -or have a big interest in- the increased cutting performance, but also because these steels are prone to rust. The DLC coating should protect it from any rust, and I only have to maintain the edge and uncoated tang near the pivot. I also figured I’d try and see if this coating holds up to use. The main reason I got away from coated blades in the nineties, was that they would just scratch up in use and lose their coating. So far the knife has seen a little use around the house and it the coating has way outperformed the ‘paint’ that was used 30 year ago. 😉
Check out the SpydieWiki page for the C101 Manix for more information on its specifications and production history.
Spyderco was an ‘early adopter’ of online discussion forums. The first forum opened up on BladeForums.com in the 90s, where Sal and several SpyderCrew members would answer questions from fans. More importantly, they asked for feedback which led to several new products and product improvements. In 1999, Spyderco introduced one of the first, if not the first, forum knives for BladeForums.com. A forum knife is usually a variation of an existing design. It shows appreciation to the forumites and -through its sales- help support the forums. Around 2002, Spyderco started their own discussion forum on spyderco.com. And not too long after that, Spyderco offered a new forum knife every few years. The 2018 forum knife, a modified C81 Paramilitary 2, was the last one offered to date.
Spyderco initially offered the PM2 in S30V steel and a black G-10 handle. Since then, Spyderco has offered a few variations in its catalog. But I won’t even start to try and list the many more variations of the C81 as dealer exclusives and sprint runs. The 2018 forum knife however, still managed to offer something new: a grey G10 handle with a stainless steel laser engraved inlay and a CPMS90V blade.
The 2018 Forum Knife never seemed to get much appreciation. And you’ll rarely see the knife in any Instagram post these days. I don’t think it’s the knife’s fault. It’s just that there are so many dealer exclusives out there of the PM2, and they still keep coming. That way, it’s hard to stand out with a forum knife design. I like it, as I like all the forum knives.
Some might say the forums are done, with the rise of other social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. That might be true, but I still enjoy it and appreciate that there are so many different online platforms where knifeknuts can meet each other and discuss, share and celebrate this ‘weird’ hobby of ours.
Back in 2016, I showed off this rare variant of the Spyderco C65 Chinese Folder, designed by Bob Lum. Not only is it a sprint run of this iconic design, made with a blue almite aluminum handle, it also demonstrates Spyderco’s engraving service at the time. The web pattern in the handle was laser engraved at the factory. I hope this little video helps to show off this amazingly cool design
The C65 is one of my favorite Spyderco knives, a personal classic, which is why I gave it a spot in my top 5 challenge. Although in one case, I think Spyderco -or one of its dealers- chose a handle color I vehemently disagree with ;-), I still think the Chinese Folder is a design that perfectly combines looks with function. This rare engraved C65 is certainly the grail in my collection of Spyderco Lum Chinese Folders.
Check out the specs and history of the Chinese Folder at SpydieWiki.com.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.