Spyderco Balance and Delica modded by Ed Schempp

January 6, 2014

One of the first folders I carried this year, was my Spyderco Ed Schempp Balance and my old(er) favorite, a Spyderco white FRN Delica 4. However, both knives have been modified or modded by Ed Schempp himself. Both knives have been enhanced by Ed with some Devin Thomas raindrop pattern stainless damascus steel.

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The white damascus Delica has been featured on this website for a few years now and is not ‘new’. During the photoshoot for the Balance, I decided that the Delica needed some better pictures. So here you go.

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9/11/2013 Spyderco WTC Memorial Knife

September 11, 2013

There are a few spydies in my collection that are more special to me than the rest. I tend to carry those knives only on special occasions. This WTC memorial knife is one of them. Every 9/11 I take it out of its wooden box, wipe the protective grease of the inlay and blade, shoot a picture of it and clip it to my pocket for EDC.

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Spyderco Fluted Titanium Native 5 Impressions

August 11, 2013

After the 2013 Amsterdam Meet, the Spydercrew gave me a familiar red and black box as a ‘thank you’. The box turned out to contain an -amazing- thank you that I simply have to show off. My only response was ‘you’re more than welcome!’, before I started to drool uncontrollably all over this brand new fluted ti Native 5. After that, it became a safe queen until I decided to give this knife a proper workout a few months ago.

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Because of the challenges in production, it took a long time before the fluted native made it to distributors, dealers and collectors. The knife does seem to be trickling down the distribution chain now, even if it is in very low numbers, judging from the sparse pics and reviews on the forums.

Use
I’ve carried and used this Ti Native for the past couple of months and my use of this knife won’t constitute ‘hard use’ in anyone’s book. I have used this titanium folder like many fellow urbanites will probably use a pocket knife: peeling and cutting up fruit, opening envelopes and packages, and cutting off the occasional loose thread. I also used the Ti N5 as a paring knife in the kitchen, to give it a better workout. And at the end of the month, I used the Native 5 to cut down a stack of cardboard boxes for the recycling pick-up. I didn’t baby the knife, but I also didn’t go out to baton through tree trunks or try to cut bricks. The fluted Ti N5 performed beautifully. It’s an awesome pocket knife, period.

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Handle
The titanium handle scales are slightly radiused and become thinner when they reach the bottom edge of the handle, i.e. the part of the handle you’d wrap your fingers around in an edge-out grip. The grip on the fluted titanium handle is very good. I found it very comfortable and it didn’t create any hotspots during longer cutting chores. The edges of the fluting were not sharp on my sample. The titanium N5’s handle is probably just as thick as the G10 N5. I don’t have calipers on hand but comparing the two side by side seems to show  that both handles are equally thick. The titanium N5 doesn’t use liners, so in pictures it might seem a lot thicker than the G-10 version.

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Fit and finish
The Ti Native’s fit and finish is just spot on perfect. I can’t detect anything close to resembling a flaw in the fit and finish. If you’re really nitpicking, you’d notice the edge grind on one side starting one millimeter past the start of the heel of the blade. Then again, that’s a part of the blade I’d probably have trouble reaching with my Sharpmaker stones anyway. Furthermore, I’ve also noticed this on the blade of my G10 Native 5. The N5’s blade is perfectly centered, the lock-up is solid as a rock and I can’t detect any flaws in the ‘fluting’.

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Weight
As an EDC knife, like Yablanowitz noted in his review, I also think this titanium handle is a bit too heavy for what I’m used to in a spydie this size. It’s definitely not too heavy; it rides just fine clipped to jeans or IWB. Carrying it clipped to loose fitting slacks, however, could be annoying. The titanium Sage 2, for example, is a much more lightweight piece. But that one isn’t as nicely finished as this folder. The production tolerances for this Golden USA made N5 seem to be tighter than the excellent knives made in Taichung.

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Overall
This piece is, of course, mainly attractive to afi’s. From a purely functional point-of-view, you’d be just as well served (if not better) with the lighter G-10 N5, that’s even easier to obtain. However, black G-10 doesn’t give as much satisfaction or bragging rights, as that bright fluted titanium handle. It’s an awesome pocket knife – truly a centerpiece in my collection.

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Classic Spyderco Spotlight: C42 Viele

May 13, 2013

Back in December I aimed my classic spydie spotlight on the C48 Tim Wegner. This time, I’d like to shine the ‘light’ on my C42 Viele. It’s been in my collection since 2004. To me it’s been a great stylish gentleman’s folder, with surprisingly good EDC features for a lefty like myself. The Viele never was a ‘must have’ knife for me; the opening hole was too small, the false bolster didn’t appeal to me and the entire knife just didn’t seem very lefty friendly at all. Actually handling, carrying and using the Viele, definitely changed my perspective.

I ended up with the Viele because the deal I got was just too good to pass up on; the knife was a gift. I always thought the knife ‘looked’ great but I didn’t think it would be a good user. I did clip the knife on and started carrying it and I was pleasantly surprised. This is one of those spydies in my collection that kind of got relegated to safe queen status. I just kept getting new spydies to try out and carry that made kind of forget about the Viele. Apart from the fact that the Viele lacked true left-handed ‘controls’ (lock, clip), I don’t remember having any significant complaints against the C42.

Eccentric pivot pin
Inspection of my long neglected Viele revealed that the liner had traveled almost to the opposite end of the tang. Luckily, my C42 is the upgraded model that features an eccentric pivot pin. IIRC, the eccentric pivot pin was designed by the Spydercrew to tune the fit of the lock in final assembly. Back then, production tolerances were tight but not close enough to guarantee perfect lock-up in every knife. A side-effect is that the end-line user, i.e. me, can tweak the lock after it’s worn. You can move the entire blade a little closer to the liner to improve lockup. It’s also possible to move the blade away from the lock, if you want to.

I took off the clip to reveal the pivot pin which I unscrewed about ¾ before I pushed it through to the bolster-side of the handle. Turning the pivot assembly two slight turns in the right direction, and pushing it back in the handle, was all that was needed to start the liner right at the start of the tang again. This process took me about 10 minutes. The Viele also needed a bit of sharpening to be shaving sharp again.

Use
I carried the knife all week and used it for all sorts of mundane tasks. The C42 is a ‘straight’ design; the blade doesn’t angle ergonomically in your grip, like a Delica or Military for example. The thick rounded micarta scales improve the ergos significantly. It’s one of those knives you could work for hours and you’d hardly get a hotspot in your hand.

Des Horn
The Viele’s closest current spydie is the Des Horn folder. The Viele’s blade and grind is a bit thicker, and the production tolerances aren’t as tight as on the Des Horn. Still, in daily use the C42 holds its own. The Viele with its tiny belly, turned out to be a nicer paring knife in the kitchen than the Des Horn. The modern folder from Taichung is the better mail opener; that narrow wharncliffe tip makes it easier to find the sweet spot for opening envelopes and packages. The Des Horn is also lighter to carry. One major advantage of the Viele is the fact that a righty and lefty can open the knife as easily as they can operate a Bic lighter. The sharp thumb serrations stick out a few millimeters from the handle, when the knife is folded. Push against those serrations, in the opposite direction of the wheel on a Bic lighter, and the blade flies open. With a little practice this becomes instinctual and controlled.

Overall
For those looking for a stylish narrow ‘straight’ gentleman’s folder from Spyderco, the C42 is definitely a nice choice. Considering the design’s age and reputation it’s actually a quite refined choice. From a functional point of view, however, the Des Horn is the better choice. The Des Horn is lighter, has better blade steel, better edge geometry and is definitely easier to find. However, the old Viele does have a certain panache that can’t be beat if you’re a knifeknut.


Classic Spyderco Spotlight: C48 Tim Wegner

December 16, 2012

After photographing my new Caly 3 damascus/cf sprint with my vintage Calypso Jr. knives, I decided to carry those old spydies to see what they were like today. This is in turn, inspired me to take a new look at some other vintage spydies in my collection. How would they stack up to today’s spydies? Last weekend, I dusted off my old large C48 Tim Wegner.

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I think I got this knife back in 2001 or so. The Wegner was quite popular on the forums back then and the custom versions made by Phil Boguszewski were selling really well. I even read that this Wegner design was the ‘official’ tactical folder of the Gunsite institute. I was still into ‘tactical folders’ back then. Needless to say, I was sold and had to have one.

The Wegner didn’t turn out to be one of my favorite folders and I never carried it much. The handle design didn’t work for me, I disliked the knife’s weight and the opening hole was too small for me. I did like the curved blade and handle design. I even got the Ocelot later on which solved most of my ‘problems’ with the C48.

After cleaning and oiling the large Wegner, I found that the knife still works great. The action is smooth and lock-up is still excellent. The Wegner rode in my pocket all weekend and did all the cutting chores I could find.

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The C48’s curved hollow ground blade is a great slicer for most small kitchen chores. It cut up onions, peppers, meat and potatoes like a champ. I could even get a little ‘rocking’ action with that curved blade. The Wegner’s blade is pretty thick all the way to the tip. Especially when you compare it to a full flat ground slicer like the Military, but in practical use this didn’t bother me. The hollow grind is very well done. The thick blade and tip inspired enough confidence to subject the blade to some twisting and turning when I had to ‘dismantle’ thick plastic packaging materials. It didn’t affect lockup or cause blade play. After three days of cutting paper, envelopes, fruit, meat, veggies, cardboard, plastic packaging etc… the knife got a little dull. There was still a good working edge, but the Wegner definitely couldn’t shave anymore. Sharpening was easy on the 40 degree setting of the Sharpmaker; one advantage of a ‘medium performance’ steel like ATS-34 (years ago ATS-34 was considered a high performance stainless though).

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I found that the weight of the large Wegner didn’t bother me as much this time. In the years since the Wegner came out, I must have gotten used to carrying heavier spydies like the Chinook, Manix, PPT and the Lionspy. The texture of the G10 is really smooth. Back then, Spyderco didn’t use that extra glass-filled G10 they use now. It almost seems as smooth as non-patterned FRN.

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The small opening hole still bothered me a bit, especially for a folder in this size. I had a few instances where I wanted to draw and open the knife and ‘misfired’. The grip still doesn’t quite match with my hand. I have the same problem with the Endura, that knife too doesn’t ‘click’ with my hand. I still don’t quite understand the full steel spacer. It adds lots of weight and I don’t quite get the functional need for this spacer in an otherwise refined design.

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I realize that a future sprint run is extremely unlikely, as Wegner/Bladetech has launched its own line of production knives. The large “C48 design” is still prominent in their catalog. I love what they did with the design. To refine the C48, I too would suggest an ambidextrous lock, 4-way clip option and less weight. Oh wait; did I just describe a Stretch 2? The Stretch is very similar to the Wegner, but with better ergos, less weight and you can even get one in ZDP-189. The blade and tip won’t be as thick as on the Wegner though. I definitely recommend getting at least one folder with a sturdy tip in your ‘arsenal’. Spyderco makes some excellent folders in this category; the Techno and Lionspy come to mind. Those blades are probably even sturdier than the blade on the C48, while offering the same or better cutting performance.


Vintage Spyderco Calypso jr. EDC

November 18, 2012

I thought of dusting off these old Spyderco Calypso jr. folders, after I took them out for a photo shoot with my new sprint run Caly 3. I’m certainly not done with the CF & Damascus Caly 3, but I was curious how I’d like these vintage spydies for a couple of days of carry & use.

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Both knives took some cleaning, oiling and sharpening after my many years of neglect. Once they were ready, it seemed they came fresh from the box. The workmanship on both knives is still great: excellent fit & finish, great lock-up and smooth opening action. The micarta Calypso jr. still is a great lightweight carry folder. I used the stainless steel Calypso jr. for most of my cutting tasks. I found it’s not the greatest cutter in my collection. The relatively low hollow grind works but when you’re used to thin full flat grind blades you definitely notice a drag when cutting. The opening hole seemed too small for me and the SS handle really makes this Calypso jr. too heavy for my tastes. It was weird to carry two midlock spydies that only offer one clip mounting option; right-hand tip-up. The Caly 3 definitely is a vast improvement over this vintage design. Still, this was fun little experiment. I will definitely revisit more of my vintage spydies.


Spyderco Caly 3 Damascus & Carbon Fiber Sprint Run

November 5, 2012

As a long time fan of the Caly/Calypso Jr./UKPK design, I simply ‘had’ to get this Caly 3 sprint run. I am definitely not disappointed. Contrary to the earlier Damascus Delica sprints, this one could be an actual user.

The Damascus blade looks excellent, I love the dark wavy lines. It also doesn’t hurt that this is a stainless VG-10 damascus, so it´s good to go for EDC in my book. The fit and finish are excellent: the action is smooth, good self-close on the blade, excellent tight lock-up and the bolster is seamlessly mated to the carbon fiber handle. The blade is centered too on my sample, if that’s something you care about.

I had one little problem with the knife. It was tough to change the clip for the ‘right’  left-handed carry position. It was tough to get the screw assembly out of the handle. The tolerances are so close, that I had trouble pushing out the bolt-part of the clip assembly. Once it was out and fitted for left-handed carry, I noticed the clip didn’t entirely want to touch the handle. It took me a bit of bending and fitting, before I managed to fit the clip for my preferred carry position for the Caly 3. Ideally, you’d want a clip change to be a ‘drop-in’ affair and not a session of bending and fitting. Still, I got the coolest left-handed Damascus/CF spydie on the block now ;).

Overall, this edition of the Caly 3 is a nice tribute to the designer, Sal Glesser, and the wonderful craftsmen in Japan who made this knife. It’s been great to see this knife evolve from the original Calypso Jr. with stainless steel or micarta handle.

The stainless steel Calypso Jr. was a great start, although it never saw much pocket time. I always felt this folder was too heavy for its size.

The micarta Calypso Jr. is a great lightweight folder. Still, too bad about the right-hand-only-tip-down clip and the fact that I only managed to score one with a serrated edge. The FRN Calypso Jr. was a wonderful revelation for this lefty, well over ten years ago.

The Caly 3 and UKPK models are wonderful evolutions of the Calypso Jr.; getting rid of that sharp cusp on the blade’s spine and adding better blade steels and handle materials. Together with the Delica, the Caly 3/UKPK model is my favorite 3-inch Spyderco utility folder. This damascus & carbon fiber sprint run is an awesome edition for us afi’s. It’s a great pocket knife with plenty of bragging rights. I’m sure this one won’t get any cheaper in the next few years.