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.
I’m a shallow knifecollector. I’m easy to ‘catch’. You make a good knife in a different color? As long as the blade isn’t coated, I’m in. That’s why I wanted the C127 Urban sprint run back in the summer of 2019. Why was the sprint run made? To bring AEB-L steel to the Spyderco fanbase. I know, I have a talent of missing the point. Still, I brought this slipit with me on vacation this summer, so here’s my impressions of the knife, and….the steel.
Color Spyderco rarely makes knives with coyote brown, tan or sand-colored handles. The most famous one is the tan FRN used in the Native 3 made exclusively for military personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and later in the Operation Inherent Resolve Native 5. There’s also been a tan colored Endura and a Paramilitary 2 came out this year. So when this Urban came out, I had to nab one. Because I like colored handled knives. Colors offer variety to a collector, and they always make the knife easier to accept for non-knife people.
Heritage The Urban is part of the Calypso/Caly 3 family. Don’t believe? Just lay out your Urban on top of your Caly 3 or UK Penknife etc. Line op the choils and opening holes and you’ll notice that they match exactly. That’s also the recipe to the Urban’s wonderful ergonomics. It shares the same ‘cockpit’ design as the famed Caly 3. The C154 Squeak is also part of this family by the way, it’s its smallest member.
Steel The AEB-L steel proved to be a solid performer. I’m far from a steel junkie, so when a steel is easy to maintain I’m satisfied. The AEB-L Urban did just that. It didn’t see much more action than opening packages, food prep and breaking down a few boxes, so far. It was easy to sharpen again, I got it quite a bit sharper than it came from the box somehow. One odd aspect of the blade was how it handled the sticky residue from tape that holds boxes together. On this Urban’s blade I could easily wipe it away with my fingers. Usually, I’d have to properly clean it with water and soap. The blade’s finish is probably what caused this effect. It was a funny discovery though. The knife’s action was a bit stiffer than my older regular production Urban, perhaps it needs a little break-in time.
Overall What I like about the Urban? Easy: it’s fully ambidextrous and the clip is easy to switch, it’s sized right for travel – it opens anything you need and it’s big enough to pull picnic duty, and it’s light and flat enough to carry easy in the warm summer weather IWB, and it’s a cool sprint run that makes me feel special! 😉
I recently dusted off my trusty Caly 3 the other day and clipped it to my waistband. I admit it’s been a while since I carried this knife. You know how it goes. A new knife arrives and you just have to try it out, then another comes in and the cycle repeats itself. I try to make it a point to deliberately pick up some of the older knives this year and give them another round of EDC. That is what I did with the Caly 3 and -spoiler alert- this design can still go toe-to-toe with the latest and greatest knives.
If you’re looking for a detailed review, check out my article from 2007. I just felt like putting down a few thoughts after revisiting my G10 & VG-10 Caly 3 after a week of carry and use.
VG-10 Spyderco has really been expanding their steel selection lately, and the afi market seemed to have embraced high-performance steels lately. And that’s great. I just know that it’s not necessarily for me. I prefer stainless steels, there, I said it. I am the SpyderCollector after all. I love using and carrying my folding knives, but I also like to collect them. And my inner-collector likes to be able to enjoy his knives looking nice. I don’t mind the patina on a cladded blade, but not so much on the entire blade. I don’t mind sharpening my knives either. And with VG-10 I get all the performance I need in the suburbs, and then some. Don’t get me wrong, I love playing with ZDP189, S90V, S110V, HAP40, REX45, Maxamet etc…, and I’m very much looking forward to the new SPY27 steel, but VG-10 does everything I need to do. And it’s easy to bring it back looking like new.
Perfection After a week’s worth of carry and use, I’m simply left with the impression that the Calypso/Caly 3 pattern might just be the perfect modern pocket knife for the suburbs. It’s lightweight, extremely sharp, very practical, sized just right for practical use and it doesn’t seem to scare non-knife people as much. With that full flat grind, even when the edge is dull, the blade is so thin you can still make a good cut. The lock is ambidextrous and the clip is removable, so I get to have a great left-handed knife. I just can’t find any objective faults with this knife. Personally, I consider the Stretch 2 to be my favorite Spyderco utility folder. Now, if there would ever come a Caly 4, I wouldn’t mind if it had that same drop point pattern blade.
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.
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.
The Spyderco Amsterdam Meet 2020 was supposed to take place on 1 March, but it didn’t. The Spydercrew was prescient enough to recognize the threat of the, then new, COVID19 or coronavirus that’s making its way around the globe. On the same day the announcement was made, the first patient was reported in the Netherlands. I fully support this decision. But still, it sucks. I was ready to go and had my photo gear all prepared and packed up. So I don’t have any photos to share of new Spyderco designs.
Before I packed my little mobile photo studio, I did a little test-run. I like to make sure everything works since the Amsterdam Meet is the only time of the year when I use that set-up. These photos are the result of the test-run. So, in a way, these are Spyderco prototype pictures. Not of actual Spyderco prototypes, but prototypes of my mobile studio. ;-). I’m looking forward to the Spyderco Amsterdam Meet 2021!
I know, steel handles are sooo 1990 right? They’re heavy and slippery and just ‘too old’ As a handle material for folding knives, steel is not cool these days. It’s kind of surprising to see that Spyderco still carries a few steel handled variants in its line-up. As a modern EDC aficionado, I’d like to make a case for steel handles. I still see a rol for the steelhandled folding knife. They might be old but not obsolete.
Spyderco’s first folding knife was made with a steel handle, the C01 Worker. Subsequent models like the Mariner, Police and Executive etc… all used steel as a handle material. In the early 1990s, polymer molding came on the scene, which resulted in the lightweight Delica and Endura. The Golden company also introduced steel handle variants of the Delica and Endura in the mid-nineties. I also recall the Native 2 in all steel in the late 1990s. In the mid to late Nineties, G10 became king of the handle materials. Titanium also surfaced but it was still rare to see in a production knife. Rumor at the time had it that titanium was just too rare and expensive for use in production knives. Still, Spyderco held on to steel for some designs. In the early 2000s, the Scorpius and original Stretch came out with a steel handle or steel frame with Kraton inserts. Still, G-10 and molding become more prominent and preferred by customers. And titanium finally became a more regular sight in knifeshops in the 2010s. These days, customers definitely seem to have moved away from steel handles.
Traditional high quality
Nevertheless, Spyderco maintains a few steel handles in its line-up: Delica, Endura, Ladybug, Police, Dragonfly, Harpy – the classics. Mind you, these older designs have been tweaked and updated with boye dents, steel, lock and clip updates. These ‘traditional’ Spyderco designs are still very functional. In the early Amsterdam Meets, I recall Sal relating that it’s easier to make up a prototype or first production run in steel, before investing in a much more expensive mold for FRN handles for example. Also, I recall hearing that the type of Steel Spyderco uses for a handle is what other companies use for their blades!
Engraving or polishing out scratches
I figure most people who buy a steel handled Delica do so because they’re traditionalists who prefer a more ‘classic’ look, and more heft to the knife in use. A nicely finished steel handle also allows for engraving or embellishment; Santa Fe Stoneworks mostly use steel handles as a canvas for their stone onlays. Also, a scratched up steel handle slab can be brought back like new, with some very fine sandpaper and polishing compounds. You could maintain the finish yourself if you wanted to.
Easy to carry
However, I still see a more contemporary benefit to keep a steel handled folder or two in my rotation. They carry oh so comfortably inside the waistband. I know the objections: “steel is too heavy”. Well, how do I explain this. Many Spyderco designs weight a certain weight on a scale, but in the hand or pocket they ‘feel’ differently. It’s the same for me with these steel handled folders. The ‘big’ Police actually is easier and lighter for me to carry than a Chinook 2, Mamba or Tighe Stick for example.
Better grip than you’d think
But a steel handle is way too slippery! Well, like many things that are said online, the truth is a bit different. First, the finished surface or a brand new Spyderco steel handle, is not smooth as glass. Sure, it’s finely and smoothly finished, but there is a bit of traction when your hands are dry. These handles don’t come with a mirror polish from the box. Second, Spyderco is known for their ergonomic designs. A Police, Dragonfly or Scorpius handle has curves in all the right places. And those curved handles, combined with the hump in the blade, absolutely keeps your fingers off the edge in use. One of the biggest benefits for me, is that steel handled knives are nice and thin. Together with their smooth finish make them very easy to carry inside the waistband. I can carry a Police easier than a thicker but smaller FRN or G10 Native 5 for example. And with a Police, that’s a lot of edge by comparison. This comes especially in handy when wearing a suit and a good belt.
A funny thing occurred to me a few months ago. I posted a few images of my old Spyderco C125 Khukuri, designed by Ed Schempp. A lot of people didn’t know what it was and some questioned its practical use. I was surprised to learn this design had been ‘forgotten’. Most critiques of the design were ill-informed judgments, based on a picture, from people who appear to mostly appreciate knives on how they ‘look’. Straight folders might look great, but they’re more awkward to work with than a folding knife with a negative blade-to-handle angle. The knife world needs more practical ergonomic designs like the C125.
When the Khukuri came out, I got one straightaway. Meeting Ed Schempp in person at the Amsterdam Meet was very enlightening. I clipped on the C125 and started conquering the many cutting chores and challenges one encounters in the suburbs! I was very impressed. You can still check out the review I wrote at the time. I will admit that new designs got the better of me, and my love of Spyderco has led me to a life of carrying new knives when they come out. I also don’t sharpen very often; I just grab a different knife. Still, sometimes I’ll revisit an older design. And the Ed Schempp designed folding khukuri felt right at home in my hands again. A drop of oil and a few strokes on the corners of the white stones of my Sharpmaker made the khukuri good to go again.
Use The folding khukuri is a joy to use. The blade is perfectly in line with the bones in your forearm, which makes cutting easy and controlled. The surprise is for many, is that this ‘extreme’ angled blade works in any grip. Choking up on the blade to cut out a coupon or something, no problem. Turning the blade over in your hand, for an edge-in grip, to peel a potato or apple, no problem. And it folds up great too. Trust, me the folding Khukuri carries just as easy as any other Spyderco and the ergonomics will surprise you. The only request I’d make for an improvement is a thinner handle design. Ed’s customs are wonderfully thin, and feature beautiful damascus steel of course.
Looks vs Use It’s great to see so many new knifecollectors and aficionados coming out. Social media channels like Instagram and Facebook have helped spread our wonderful hobby in amazing ways. However, as a “grumpy old man”, I notice that these visually-driven platforms have a logical disadvantage. Many new knife collectors tend to focus more on ‘looks’ (and likes of course), than the practical use of the knife. So, when Spyderco makes a ‘weird’ looking knife, try to keep an open mind. Don’t judge it in a second on its looks and scroll away. Imagine holding it in your hand and how it would fit and work. Try to check one out at a shop or show too. Remember, Spyderco knives are usually designed in the dark!