Ed Schempp was known to Spyderco fans as the designer of solid full size folding knives like the Persian, Kris and Barong when the C141 Balance came out in 2010. Contrary to those other designs, the Balance is very small, almost tiny. However, like those other designs, the C141 features the same refined ergonomics that make it work really well. I recently clipped the Balance in my pocket again and was pleasantly surprised to rediscover this little gem in my collection.
I wrote about the Balance before, and I can’t add much to those impressions from 2011. I’m mostly a little disappointed in myself that I don’t carry it more often. Alas, but that is the ‘curse’ of the collector; always seeking out a new design to satisfy both the hunt and curiosity to see if there is a better knife out there.
The Balance is a classy gentleman’s knife, especially my customized version from Ed Schempp himself. I’d love to see a more ‘pedestrian’ version, e.g., in a sprint run or exclusive, with G10 grips for example. Just to see how it would feel and work as a more regular EDC folder. The Balance is still one of the smallest clipped folding knives in Spyderco’s line-up and that makes it unique.
It’s as small as a fingernail, but you can get a solid grip on it and put it to all sorts of everyday cutting chores. If you can find one, I absolutely recommend that you try it out for yourself!
I know I’m a sucker for colored folding knives and sprint runs, but this one was, yes, how to put it …. It is -a lot- No scratch that, this one is just too much. And that it why I think it’s amazing. From the Colorado flag dyed onto the G10 handle, all the way to the multi-color engraved flag on the blade. It’s a unique piece for sure, and it has gotten plenty of criticism online. I’m also sure that given a few years, this will be very collectible. That’s just how it goes with all the ‘outrageous’ looking spydies.
Perhaps it’s because one of my first Spyderco folders was a Delica 3 lightweight with a blue handle, but really like this Para 3 Lightweight in SPY27. It’s incredibly light, an impressive cutter and easy to bring back like new again. SPY27 is still new to me and so far, I like it a lot.
The Para 3’s blade is almost 3 inches long, almost as long as my beloved Delica folders. However, the C223 sports a significantly wider blade than a FFG Delica. This would give the Para 3 a lot more cutting power. Now, this is not something I could quantify, but I do notice the C223 slicing through a box a bit smoother than a C11. It’s also easier to settle in my knuckles against the wider blade of the C223 when it’s pressed into service as a paring knife in the kitchen. And yes, I enjoy to help out cooking once in a while, with my cleaned folding knife. It’s fun and it helps to test a design. My preferred blade length is 3,5 inches for a utility folding knife. The C223’s blade does everything great, it just comes up a bit short when it comes to food prep. The Para 3 is great for allround everyday cutting chores though, just not ‘perfect’ (at least for me). The SPY27’s edge came from the box nice and ‘sticky sharp’, as Sal likes to put it. Its edge-holding appeared to be better than VG10, which is one of my favorite steels. The main thing I like is that SPY27 is stainless, I just love a clean looking blade, or a blade that can be cleaned up again. And I’m never far away from a Sharpmaker to touch up the edge. And SPY27 is very easy to bring back. Just how I like it.
The Para 3’s FRN’s handle is nicely rounded compared to its G10 version. One thing most people forget about these lil’ big knives, is that they’re basically ‘chopped’ versions of the – in this case – full size Military or Paramilitary. That short but wide blade offers excellent slicing, but it’s pretty wide compared to most other 3 inch blades. Same goes for the handle, it might be on the short side, but it’s wide. The wider blade of the Para 3 also means it needs a wider handle, compared to the C11 Delica. And here is where it adds more benefits. The wider handle fits my hand better. I do use the choil for a full grip on the C223, but it is the kind of grip where I can’t or just barely touch the palm of my hand with the tips of my fingers. So I can really grab that knife. However, the wider than usual handle (and blade) for such a compact folding knife, means that it does take up some real estate in a pocket or waistband, especially compared to a Delica for example.
The wire clip is very nice, it allows the C223 to ride nice and low in a pocket. And the round wire make it very ergonomic in use. Sometimes, I have trouble switching the clip, the screw won’t come out. I actually rotated one screw assembly through the handle material, screwing up the knife. The good people at the SFO set me straight. Make sure you put the knife down on a surface below the waist. That way you approach the screw with your torx driver in a good linear angle straight down. It works like a charm. Even after 25 years of collecting Spyderco knives, there’s always something new to learn.
The lightweight Para 3 is an excellent lightweight folder. Just like the lightweight Manix, you get so much blade for such little weight. I clip these on my shorts each summer. The SPY27 is a very nice steel, excellent for the user and collector who has access to a Sharpmaker. And the blue handle makes it a very nostalgic callback to the blue lightweight Delica that was I think the second or third Spyderco in my collection.
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!
I’ve been using and collecting Spyderco knives for over 20 years. And I have settled on a few design features that I particularly like, and some that I dislike. Here’s a rundown of my favorite grinds that I encountered in Spyderco knives so far.
Hollow grind My very first Spyderco knives were the lightweight C11 Delica and C41 Native. At the time, they were made using a hollow ground blade. I love the cutting performance of these great pocket knives. I’m sure there was more to the cutting performance than just the grind, such as the relatively thin blade, steel, blade shape and ergonomics, but it sure didn’t hurt. If the blade isn’t too thick or when the blade is wide enough to allow for a nice gradual hollow grind, I don’t mind this type of grind at all.
Sabre grind In my opinion, this is a hollow grind gone wrong. I get that for some knife users the hollow grind leaves you with a relatively weaker edge and tip, and applying a flat grind in the place of a hollow grind fixes that. However, a hollow/sabre grind only goes up to about the centerline of the blade. This is very little room for the grind to run from a sharp edge to the full thickness of the blade. Where a good hollow grind can still provide a nice slicing blade, a sabre grind blade is -to me- like cutting with a chisel. I’ve encountered this grind in the Delica & Endura 4 designs. Which I vastly prefer in their full flat ground variations.
Full flat grind This is the grind that became all the rage online, when I first logged onto a knife discussion forum over 20 years ago. The Spyderco Moran and the Military were the first major designs at the time that helped celebrate the gospel of the ‘FFG’. My personal experience with this grind started with the Calypso jr. lightweight, an amazing pocket knife that I still enjoy carrying from time to time. After that, I cut my proverbial teeth on the full flat grind with my Military. This grind, as done by Spyderco at least, offers that excellent extremely fine slicing experience. If you want to impress someone with a sharp knife, let them cut something with your full flat grind. A nice added bonus of this grind, is that it can also be part of a stronger thicker blade design, while still maintaining good cutting performance. A good example would be the Lil’ Temperance design. The full flat grind has become a mainstay and dominant grind in Spyderco’s line-up. You can’t miss it. Spyderco’s most popular knife these days appears to be the Paramilitary 2, and not surprisingly, it features a full flat grind.
Overall Naturally, each grind has its place and tasks where it excels. As a suburbanite, I prefer thin edges and smooth cutting when I open a package, envelope or piece of fruit. That is why I prefer a nice full flat grind. However, were I to rely on my folding knife to perform hacking and prying tasks all day, then I’d probably prefer a sabre grind. However, as things are now, I like my grinds smooth and slicey.
What are your favorite grinds? Feel free to leave a comment.
This is my second ‘two cents’ of things I like in my Spyderco knives. For this entry, I’d like to share my preferences in pocket clips. According to the Interwebz, wireclips are really popular and you should always seek out a custom clip for your Spyderco knife ;-). While I totally get the fun in customizing your knife, I prefer to use stock clips. Spyderco invented the pocket clip on a folding knife, and has made it into an art form. They also learned many lessons about clips in their 40+ years of design and manufacturing experience. Here’s a rundown of the types of Spyderco clips I like.
My main mode of carrying a Spyderco folding knife, is inside-the-waistband at 3 and 9 o’ clock. Your experience and preference might very well differ from mine, especially if you carry a clipit in your front or back pocket, inside a boot or on the lapel of your shirt (yes, I’ve seen people do this very successfully). Here’s just my personal take on pocket clips.
4-way hourglass clip: the evolved ‘standard’ solid pocket clip, found in the Delica and Endura and many more. If given the choice, and if it matches cosmetically with the color scheme of the folder, go with the ‘all stainless’ version, as the black will wear from your clip. I really like this type of clip, it works, is comfortable in the hand and very durable.
Foldover wireclip: a wonderful low-profile carry solution, found on the UK Penknife, Urban and SpydieChef. This type of clip makes the folder almost completely disappear from sight, and they very comfortable in the hand. However, a knife that’s this deeply tucked away is also harder to pull from your pocket or waistband, since you often pinch-grip the clip and opposite handle scale to draw your knife. This pressure on the clip makes it harder to get the knife out. More importantly, and why I don’t particularly like this type of clip, is that there’s always a bit of side to side play that annoys me. I don’t dismiss a folder on the basis of the wireclip alone, but it’s not a plus to me.
Wireclip: this is an older variant of the wireclip, found on the Dodo and lightweight Manixes. I love this type of wireclip. It leaves a bit of handle for an easy draw, the round wire is comfy in the hand and they are solid. No side to side play in these wireclips.
Custom clips: some Spyderco customcollaborations feature custom clips. A clip designed to fit the knife. Now these may look good cosmetically, but often they just don’t work right for me. They’re either too small, or sharp to the touch, or don’t clip the knife to your pocket as good as a standard issue hourglass clip.
Three screw old school clips: found on vintage knives and new sprint runs, like the Calypso jr. They work great, they’re not as ergonomic to the touch as an hourglass clip though.
Barrel bolt clips: found on many lightweight folders such as the Gen 2 Delica or Gen 1,2 and 3 Native, as well as the Gen 1 Matriarch. Performance-wise they’re the same to me a three screw old school clips. I did appreciate how easy it was to change the clip for lefty-carry with just two coins.
Lil’ Temp 1 and 2 clip: found on the … Lil’ Temperance 1and 2 folders and the original ATR. These clips received some criticism online at the time, for being too large and that they could damage your pocket. I never had any issues with these clips tearing up my jeans though. And I really like the feel of these clips in hand. I also never had a problem with the clips’ size, due to my preferred IWB carry mode. Another reason I like this clip design, is that it uses 4 screws to keep it in place instead of 3. I snagged my clip one time and it was bent horribly out of alignment with the handle. The clip was still solidly stuck to the handle though, and I could carefully bend it back and it still works fine today.
Integral FRN clip: found on the lightweight Dragonfly 1. I don’t like this design at all as I never found a sample that actually clipped to my pocket or waistband with any proper tension. The ergos in use are great though. You’re not likely to find a Spydie with and integral FRN clip anymore, as Spyderco abandoned this design many years ago. Apparently, the main problem was that many people broke them too easily.
Kraton covered clips: found in some vintage Spyderco folders like the Hunter and Civilian. This would give the user a more solid non-slip grip when deploying the knife and a more comfortable non-slip grip in use. I’ve seen them wear and come off as they’re basically glued into the clip. The concept however, can also be replicated with some skateboard tape. I did this way back when I was into the whole ‘tactical’ thing. It worked really well and they could be easily replaced. The bad thing is that, well, this abrasive tape works really well at being abrasive. It would scratch up my belt and wear on pockets, and table tops when I slid the knife over etc…
I’ve been using and collecting Spyderco knives for over 20 years by now. And I have settled on a few design features that I particularly like, and some that I dislike. Here’s a rundown of my favorite Spyderco blade shapes. I’m sure it’s not complete or correctly described, it’s just a personal list.
Leaf shape: they’ve become a classic because they work well for all kinds of uses, and often they’re also aesthetically pleasing. I like this blade shape a lot. My current favorites with this blade shape are the Manix 2 and Caly 3 family of knives. Classic favorites with this blade shape for me, are the Lum Chinese Folder and Lil’ Temperance folders.
Spear point: to me this is a relative of the leaf shape blade. I like it, but it also depends on the overall design to me. My favorite folders with this blade shape are the Native designs, and oddly enough to many I’m sure, the Jot Singh Khalsa. Purely as a collector piece, I’d recommend the Ed Schempp designed Euro Edge, such an impressive spear point design.
Drop point: I learned to really appreciate the drop point in the Stretch design. It is amazingly useful. I’ll admit its looks take a little getting used to, but try one out for a few weeks and I’m sure you’ll like it. My vintage drop point picks are the Wegner and Ocelot.
Bowie: I love it, but slightly more for its aesthetics than actual use. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Blackhawk and Reinhold Rhino as very practical carry folders. I can do pretty much of all my regular cutting chores with one. But that Bowie blade shape, especially in a design like the Chinook, make me ‘feel’ like I’m using a cool fighter. 😉 There’s a reason I asked Ed Schempp to create a special left-handed custom version of his iconic Schempp Bowie. It works great and looks awesome.
Clip point: a variant of the clip point is that typical original Spyderco blade shape. You know, like in a Delica, Endura, Military etc. Most people, especially when they’re more visually interested in knives than functionally, think these are ugly knives. The beauty becomes apparent in its use. There a reason Spyderco is still around after 45 years. Sure, the one-hand opening, clip carry, serrations, sharpening savvy, high quality production and good people all matter. But if this blade shape didn’t work, Spyderco simply would not have succeeded like it did. This blade shape is just plain practical. If you place your thumb on the ramp behind the opening hole, the tip becomes a natural extension of your thumb. Turn the knife over to an edge-in grip for peeling fruit for example, and you can ‘anchor’ the ‘hump’ between your index and middle finger. You get a very ergonomic grip for this cutting chore thanks to the hump. You can also easily extend your index finger along the straight spine for fine cuts. It just works really well, once you get over ‘the optics’. And once you figure that out, it actually becomes a very good looking blade shape. One downside of this blade shape can occur when a thinner blade is used. Combined with a distal taper, the tip can get very thin, making it vulnerable to breaking. But this seems to be a rare thing, especially in current designs.
Wharncliffe: looks very interesting to me, and it’s much more practical than you might think. My main office carry is the venerable Spyderco Kiwi. I also like the stylish Des Horn a lot.
Sheepsfoot blade: like the wharncliffe, it’s a lot more useful than you might think. I tried carrying a Rescue jr. for a long time and loved it a lot more than I expected. Still, I missed a nice sharp point after a while.
Hawkbill: looks intimidating, but I’m not a fan. I haven’t encountered many cutting chores that required this design. I still admire the skill needed to make folders like the Matriarch and Civilian though. I did some informal cutting tests, and a sharp hawkbill will not snag cutting through denim or clothing. At least not nearly as much as you’d suspect. For that reason, I like to keep a Cricket or Dodo around. Their cutting power is very impressive for their size.
Tanto: meh, loved it as a kid dreaming of spec-ops folders, but now not so much. I will admit the Lum folding tanto is still a beauty to behold, and with the slight curve in the edge makes it a bit more practical to me. I did learn of one interesting and peaceful use for a tanto blade shape. Back in the day, I think it was James Mattis on BladeForums who extolled the virtues of a tanto blade as a steak knife. With the right angle, only the tanto tip would touch the china plate, preserving the sharp primary edge for cutting.
Cutting chores In the end, it’s -naturally- all about the cutting chore; that determines the best blade shape. At the office, I mainly open mail and packages and cut out articles or photos for mood boards and such. It also has to be discreet because of the many non-knife people around me (before covid 😉 ) . A small wharncliffe is very useful and when you place your index finger along the spine to aid in cutting, it also obscures you’re using a knife at all to most casual observers. Now if I needed to punch a folder through hard dense materials all-day, I might favor a tanto or sturdy spear point blade. My other main cutting chores vary from limited food prep, breaking down boxes for recycling, and opening packages. A nice all round blade shape like a leaf blade shape and the Spyderco clip point, work just perfectly for that, in my experience.
What are your favorite blade shapes? Feel free to leave a comment.
Marcin Slysz is an amazing knife maker. His knives are very functional, they work great, and they have a very clean look. After the very popular Techno and Bowie designs, many fans were eagerly anticipating the release of the C211 SpydieChef. I was one of them. I finally took this knife along on a recent camping trip as my only folder, so as to give it a proper workout. The SpydieChef works as good as it looks, but I think it needs a longer blade and serrations.
EDC There is no doubt this is a really great everyday carry folder. I love the thin handle and the smooth titanium scales are great for IWB-carry. The blade shape and grind make the C211 an impressive slicer. And the positive blade to handle angle make for very ergonomic cutting; especially on a flat surface, like a cutting board. Using the SpydieChef to open packages, cut strings or break down cardboard boxes went as easy as you could imagine. The LC200N held up quite well. Even when the edge seemed to lose its shaving sharpness, it continued to cut very well. It was no challenge at all, to bring that sharp edge back again.
Folding kitchen knife I’m not opposed to using a ‘folding kitchen knife’. For many years, my go-to kitchen cutlery for camping trips have been a serrated Police 3 and an XL Lum Chinese Folder. I’m also no snob worried about ‘rust’ on these knives. I just use them, and wash them afterwards with water and soap and dry them off. When I come home, I briefly check the inside of the handle and pivot and apply some oil. I haven’t had any problem with dirt or corrosion in these knives for the past 10 years.
Kitchen performance Now, onto the chore the SpydieChef was designed for: food prep. The ergonomics were designed to excel in cutting on a board. And the entire knife is almost rustproof, with its Titanium handle and LC200N steel. The SpydieChef certainly slices and dices with the best of my regular small kitchen knives. However, with its 3.5 inch blade, it is a bit on the short side. Sure I use smaller folders for food prep all the time, in a pinch or for testing. But for a purpose-driven design like this, I’d like to see it with a larger 4 inch blade. This way, it would still also work for EDC.
Serrations Apart from another half inch of blade, I -really- missed serrations. Cutting fresh bread and rolls in the morning was an embarrassment. The C211 just couldn’t ‘grip’ into the crust while slicing. Sure, I could ‘stab’ the bread and then cut my way into a slice. But that doesn’t even come close to the fine job my serrated Police 3 usually does on trips like these.
Overall The C211 SpydieChef is an awesome folder, no doubt. It’s a great everyday carry utility folder with a few added features. You can take this folder into the water without any worries. In that respect it’s nice to have a more ‘classier’ knife option for EDC as opposed to the FRN H1 Salt series. In addition, the C211 is a very nice folding paring knife. In my book, it’s not the definitive folding kitchen knife. For that role, I’ll stick to my trusty serrated Police 3 and (plain edge) Lum Chinese folder XL. The latter is –to me- nicer to use despite the less ergonomic blade/handle angle, because of its wider and longer blade.
Check out the specs and history of the C211 SpydieChef at SpydieWiki.com.
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.