Review: Temperance PE, SE, Black & Drone

April 4, 2006

This is my absolute favorite fixed blade to date. The blade is short enough for a folder enthusias to master quickly. The blade cuts like a razor and looks like a benign kitchen knife. The handle is great for MBC in all basic grips, especially the fashionable pikal grip.

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Sal explained to me that this pikal grip was specifically intended for the Temperance, in case you had to use it when attacked by a wild animal, like a cougar. This animal lover would like to think that staying on the trails and stop infringing on wildlife’s habitat with ever expanding suburbs would be a better solution to that particular problem, but for MBC it’s great. The thumb groove in the handle’s butt is a very functional and innovative feature for a reverse edge out grip.

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The sheath is good, retention excellent, souple release and no rattle. I believe the current sheath design features a retention screw to allow for a slightly tighter fit, which I prefer. At least, that’s the version that came with my drone. In practice, I found the relatively short blade to blend perfectly with my MBC skills with folders. I love it so much that I got all variations that I could lay my hands on. Function-wise, I would like to see the edge dropped a bit, so that it is more functional as a kitchen and camp knife, so you can bring more edge to a surface. But it’s perfectly functional as is. I would love to see a Temperance FB with a 7 inch blade and of thicker stock, to go head-to-head with such popular combat knives like the Becker CU7 and the Chris Reeve Green Beret knife.

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Review: K08 Santoku

April 4, 2006

Why wouldn’t you want the knives in your kitchen to be as good as the one in your pocket? Not my line, I saw it in an ad, but it exactly represents my opinion on the line of Spyderco kitchen knives that have come into my possession.

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The Santoku, utility and paring knife were on my wish list for a long time, but a new folder always seemed more attractive. It was the same thing with the Sharpmaker; I put off buying one way too long. Furthermore, I can be found in the kitchen all the time, cutting up stuff to try out a new folder. The kitchen knives are much more effective cutters when cooking than any folder.

Santoku
The Santoku is best used for cutting everything that can be found in the vegetable aisle, and then some. Potatoes (not the peeling part), paprika, onions, celery you name it, the Santoku takes it apart like a laser. The wide blade not only protects the knuckles on my non-cutting hand, it also makes for a nice little shovel. In fact, the main reason I like this knife so much, is the fact that it is 50% shovel! Just turn the blade over (edge up) and you can neatly and safely pick up the food you just cut, or slide it cleanly from the cutting board directly into the pan. The fact that the Santoku has a nice rounded and blunt tip only reinforces this shovel function.

Handle
The handle, which is the same on all of these kitchen knives, is pretty peculiar. It’s a type of rubber that not too sticky when dry, and it gets stickier when it gets wet or greasy. I prefer to grip the Santoku with part of my thumb and index finger on the base of the blade. If I hold the knife on the rubber grip only, it feels as if I’m not getting enough control of this knife. It could be that I have to get used to using a longer blade.

Rockin’ the edge
The catalog states that the edge is slightly rounded to allow for rocking cuts. As a trained butcher, I am not so keen on this cutting technique as it does not work on meat. Also, I never had a good knife that could to this rocking. It’s very nice. When you’re cutting up an onion and the ‘order’ is lost and all you’re left with is a disorderly pile of large chunks, just put in the blade and start rocking. Within 30 seconds, a pile of fine onion bits emerge.

Cutting meat did not go as well. The wide blade acts like glue on meat. Both beef and chicken just stick too much on the blade. The Santoku’s blade shape and length encouraged me to try and cut some cheese. Oddly enough, the cheese didn’t stick as much onto the blade as the meat did. The curved edge allows for a nice two-handed rocking motion through cheese, just like a real cheese knife. The blade is pretty thin; it hurts the palm when pushing on the spine for cutting cheese for example (more resistance). That same thinness also accounts for the smooth cuts it makes.

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Conclusion
Overall, I should’ve gotten this knife a lot sooner. For the price, you get an excellent vegetable chopper, a cheese knife and a miniature shovel. The Santoku is faster than (setting up) a blender, and a whole lot more fun to use too! My girlfriend expressed that she tought the knife was a bit too big, she feels a bit uncomfortable with it. And the fact that I keep ‘hogging’ the knife during cooking, is not helping either. In time though, I’m sure we will both find it to be our favorite kitchen knife.

A customized version for me would get a slightly shorter handle, tuned to left-handed use (the regular handle is slightly asymmetrical, tuned to right-handers), and make the blade just slightly thicker to improve handling with the support hand. Heck, a thicker Santoku should prove to be a pretty good camp knife!


Review: Homemaker

April 4, 2006

Ever since I received the entire set of Spydie kitchen knives as a wonderful gift, I have been keeping a close eye on any new kitchen knife Spyderco releases. When the homemaker came out I figured it would be a great ‘classy’ kitchen knife, and ‘let’s see if these scallops work as advertised’.

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Handling
The Homemaker’s handle is longer than the kraton grips of other Spyderco kitchen knives, like the Santoku or K04 Utility. It fits my hand a little better even though the handle is very straight. The Homemaker is significantly lighter than the Santoku. This knife made me a much faster cutter. The light weight combined with the scallops allow me to make a solid and steady ‘takketakketakketakketakketakke’ sound on the cutting board. And no, I haven’t cut myself yet. And yes, I do produce nice looking slices.

Scallops
The scallops work as advertised, mostly. There is much less food sticking to the blade. It doesn’t prevent sticking completely though. I’d guesstimate that in my use, about 60% less food sticks to the blade. This makes the Homemaker a much faster and sharper knife to use.

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Tip
The tip on the Homemaker is not pointy, but rounded as is evident from the catalog pics. However, it is fully sharpened all the way around the tip. I am not quite sure what to do with that tip, let alone resharpening it. I am not much of a freehand sharpener. My main use of the tip in a large kitchen knife, is to ‘stick ‘n pick up’ food from its packaging and placing it on the cutting board. It does this just as well as a pointy blade. So in a chopping knife of this design, I guess that the rounded tip facilitates ‘rocking’ motions with the blade. The blade has no or extremely little curve for rocking cuts, unlike the Santoku.

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Overall
Great ergos, very sharp and very fast in the hand. It looks classy too. Some people commented on the ‘cheap’ look of my prized Spydie kitchen knife line, until they used them. The micarta and overall design of the homemaker is much classier, befitting of its performance. Sal, please try and make more designs with the maker of the Homemaker. I need some micarta serrated utility knives, to go with the Homemaker.


Review: K05 Utility Knife

March 31, 2006

“Utility knives in the kitchen, why on earth would you need a utility knife in the kitchen?”, this kitchen-knife newbie wondered out loud. Then his girlfriend tossed some packages of food on his cutting board. Ah, it is all clear now.

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Opener
The smaller K05 is just perfect for opening everthing that’s wrapped around your food items, that you wish to decimate with the mighty Santoku. A fine point for sliding under wrappers, and if you’re in a hurry just use those serrations to cut through anything that’s in the way of the food.

Meat
While meat tends to stick to the Santoku’s blade, the little K05 zips right through. The serrations leave a nice smooth cut. I find this surprizing, since I expected a jagged surface on the meat with a serrated edge. Apparently, SHARP serrations are quite a different beast. Although the narrow blade helps minimize ‘sticking’ I also suspect that the serrations are helping with ‘separating’ meat. The K05’s edge does protrude beneath the handle but not enough to fully guard my knuckles when putting the complete edge on the cutting board. If there’s one upgrade I would recommend is to find a way where the edge lies well below my knuckles, without increasing the width of the blade.

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Bread
I wanted the K04, thinking it would make and excellent ‘bread’ knife with a point. The K05 proves that it indeed should be a great bread knife. It’s sad but true; the Tell-Sell commercial got it right. I do appreciate uncompressed bread now! And again, no jagged cuts whatsoever. Sharp serrations not only perform, they leave cuts that are just as smooth as the most expensive plain edges.

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Conclusion
You do need a utility knife in the kitchen for everything the Tell-Sell commercials say you do, such as divind a frozen ‘block’ of vegetables. Plus, the K05 has proven itself as a top-notch package-opener, meat cutter and bread knife.


Review Kumo

January 22, 2006

I got this one mainly for its looks, but it has proven to be quite a handy little fixed blade. Although the Kumo was designed –also- as a tactical fixed blade, I find the overall size and thin narrow design quite useful as an EDC for around the house.

The Kumo is as thin and sharp (edge and point) as any Spydie folder. The edge geometry and tip sharpness compare favorably to the Calypso jr.. And surprisingly enough, it works just as nicely as a Calypso jr. too.

Handle wrap
The handle wrap is gorgeous but also immensely grippy. The texture out of the box, to me, was even a bit too rough. After carrying it around for a while and using it, the initial roughness smoothed out and now the Kumo is easier on the hands. This tacky handle was used on purpose to add grip-security to this tactical blade, so that conventional guards wouldn’t be necessary. R.J. Martin explained this on the Spyderco Forum. I think the Kumo is much like the customs from Bud Nealy, which knives also don’t use much in the way of guards or finger cutouts.

Grip
The many deep dips and peaks in the handle wrapping are more effective for twirling and grip changes than any divots I have used in knife handles. A careful piercing test in a stack of cardboard proved to me that the handle was tacky enough to forego a traditional guard or deep finger cutout. The ‘skull crusher’ is not an accessory I particularly need or like, but it came in handy when crushing some walnuts. And the pommel’s point is a little rounded, so ‘capping the thumb’ is definitely an option. Still, I’m a bit leery of the lack of guard and finger cutout. Those features are something I’m so used to, it’s hard to neglect that. But in my testing the wrapping proved adequate.

Kitchen duty
R.J. Martin even hinted that the Kumo was a good performer in the kitchen and that gunk could be easily cleaned out of the handle wrapping. I did use it in the kitchen but I was careful to keep that wrapping clean. No particular reason, but I wanted to prevent ‘messing up’ this nice knife. The Kumo is quite the performer in the kitchen, though it’s too straight of a design for prolonged slicing and dicing on a cutting board. The edge is straight and doesn’t protrude below the knuckles of your hand, so you have to put the tip on the board to slice and dice. The grinds used in the Kumo supposedly make the tip stronger than it looks though. The blade doesn’t flex, but it still looks, well, thin. The Kumo is too nice for me to test it to the point of breaking.

Overall
Overall, it’s a looker that works much better than expected as a (plain) utility knife around the house. I prefer folders for actual carry, but if I would carry a fixed blade the Kumo is thin and short enough. I expect the Kumo is one of those “didn’t know I had it on me ‘till I needed it” type of knives.


Review: Rocksalt

May 2, 2005

The initial attraction to the Rock Salt, for me, was the ‘wow- factor’. Gorgeous lines, curves, cool size and amazing ergonomics. I knew from the start that I’d never use this blade to its full potential, but I simply had to have one. When Ed showed the concept model at the Amsterdam Meet last year, I knew it was one of those knives I’d have a hard time waiting for. But it has been released and I’ve been using it as a gardening tool, utility knife and kitchen knife for the past two weeks. Unfortunately there were no field trips or camping trips for me to give this knife a proper test. Nonetheless, I’d like to share my impressions of the Rock Salt.

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Blade
The blade certainly looks the part, but how does it perform? The edge from the box was sharp but not hair-popping sharp. I’d call it a good working edge, it would shave hair in most places but it doesn’t compare to a Caly III straight from the box. It’s probably the sensible choice for a large field knife with a handle design that entices chopping. Still, I wanted to get a really sharp edge on the Rock Salt. It’s a relatively thin blade, I’d like to optimize that with a polished edge.

It took me about 4 sessions with a Sharpmaker and UF stones, to get the edge really –really- sharp. H1 sharpens easily, and I was mostly learning how to deal with the recurved edge. I almost exclusively used the corners of the stones to preserve the curves. The UF stones really add an extra level of sharpness to a sharpening session. Overall, it was real easy to sharpen the Rock Salt, especially if you’re used to large fixed blades or recurves. I can get the edge to easily pop hair of my arms.

The Rock Salt is a real nice cutter. In the kitchen I didn’t notice that much difference in performance compared to the Homemaker. Sure the Rock Salt is thicker and gives more resistance when cutting through a whole cauliflower for example, but not nearly as much as I expected. The recurved edge really does add extra cutting power. Starting a cut on a cucumber at the heel of the edge and then slicing through with the belly, is just plain fun. The slices just pop off.

I also used the Rock Salt to trim some vines in the yard. Not much of a challenge as the thickest branches were only as thick as a thumb. The Rock Salt chopped through such branches in a single chop. The edge held up nicely, after 30 minutes of cutting and light chopping, the blade would still scrape off hair from my arm.

Breaking down boxes and smaller cardboard packaging for recycling was a fun chore. The blade would cut and chop through them all. This showed the great ergos of the Rock Salt; I never had the feeling I was wielding an ‘large’ fixed blade.

The edge and tip were thin enough to comfortably open the mail and cut out articles. Sure, my Stretch II does this much easier, but it can be done with the Rock Salt too. I can imagine that the Rock Salt is able to handle fine work like cutting and scraping for wooden utensils in bushcraft.

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Handle
The handle is a striking feature of the Rock Salt. Four of my NKP friends handled the Rock Salt and were amazed by the controllable grip and light weight. That’s where I got the inspiration to use the Rock Salt as a kitchen knife. It feels like a slightly heavy kitchen knife, so why not use it as one? The handle allows for a solid grip in many different modes. The Rock Salt does favor the point forward grips more than reverse grips. The nice thing about the handle design is that you can use a hammer grip back on the handle, and you’re wielding a large knife. Using the choil and resting your thumb on the spine, drastically enhances controllability and it seems the shrink the knife. I like the checkering on the handle slabs, ramp and inside the choil. However the hump is a bit too sharp for my tastes. Most of my uses for the Rock Salt involved fine work, where I want to rest my extended thumb along the spine. In this grip the hump pinches a bit. I found a good use for the trademark round hole, it helps control the knife (especially when wet) for finer work.

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Sheath
The sheath is an injection molded design. The blade locks in very securely, with a little practice the blade draws fluently. The material seems different from concealex/kydex/boltaron, it almost seems FRN. After a few days I noticed a slight rattle, which I think is inherent in injection molded sheaths. The rivets are shinier and larger than other sheath designs, it’s probably highly rust resistant as well. The G-clip is a really nice evolution of the mini-teklok design. The g-part of this clip does work nicely to hold the knife on a pair of pants without the belt. Overall, a perfectly functional sheath. I might try to reform the sheath a bit, but I’m not sure if the material responds to that.

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Overall
The Rock Salt is a great knife that can do the work to back up its good looks. It’s a nice medium between a backpackers knife and the large choppers I occasionally read about in the knife magazines. I like the design a lot and can only wish I lived somewhere in the country, where I could use a knife like this more as matter of fact, as opposed to having to look for stuff to cut.


Review: K09 Paring Knife

April 25, 2005

I put the paring knife on my wish-list figuring it ‘should’ be there to round out the collection. After all, how much better could this little knife be than my other cheaper paring knives? Note to self, don’t underestimate Spyder innovation!

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Handle
The thing that stands out the most on this knife is the handle. It’s longer than I expected and noticably thicker. Thicker handles give you something to hold on to. The long handle works off the same principle as a surgeon’s scalpel, it adds control! Whereas in the past, I wasn’t able to peel off the skin of an onion, now I can! Sure the fine tip, thin blade and sharp edge help, but I think not as much as that excellent little handle!

Blade
The blade is thin,pointy and small. I was surprised that I didn’t see any real flexing of the blade when digging little chunks out of hard vegetables like potatoes and onions. The tip design and sharp edge make peeling any fruit or vegetable realy easy. I would guesstimate that my potato skins are now half as thin as before, when I would use my Stretch. And that is without trying.

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Conclusion
I should get a couple more, so me and the Mrs. won’t argue over who gets to use the paring knife when cooking! The paring knife is not just an accessory. Using it really brought home the saying, getting the right tool for the job.