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. 😉
My favorite Spyderco general utility folder is the Stretch. So when I first encountered the Kapara prototype, it can’t be a big surprise that I liked what I saw. Handling the prototype quickly sealed the deal; it’s a must-have. What made it even better, was that I met the Kapara’s designer, Alistair Phillips, at the 2018 Amsterdam Meet, and he is really great guy. The older I get, I find that I simply like my knife designs a lot better, if the designer is a good guy as well. The Kapara does not disappoint. Especially this DLT Trading exclusive edition of the C241.
The Kapara’s 3.5 inch blade hits my personal sweet spot for a folding knife length. Sure, I can make do with shorter blades or longer edges. But a 3.5 inch blade just feels right for me. What the Kapara does better than the Stretch, is the slightly larger negative blade angle. This translates into a more ergonomic cutting design. The C241 also features a 3D rounded handle that is more ergonomic to grip than the Stretch with its flat handle slabs. Compared to the carbon fiber handle of the production Kapara, this gray G10 handle subjectively feels a bit more solid and ever so slightly more ‘tactile’. I wouldn’t go as a far as calling it grippy, as both handles are smooth. The overall ergonomics of the handle is what makes sure it stays on your hand.
The inspiration for the Kapara’s design was to create a folding picnic knife, or food prep knife. I think it is a very different design than the SpydieChef though. The Kapara doesn’t try to be a rust proof hard working folding kitchen knife, but rather a really nice folder that works great at lunchtime. And the CPM20CV performs great. I didn’t push it so far that it actually ‘needed’ sharpening. Subjectively, again, it 20CV feels like cutting with Super Blue steel. This DLT exclusive Kapara also has that ‘hungry edge’ I encountered in my Super Blue Delica. It has a very keen edge that just seems to cut a little more aggressively into sandwiches, apples and tomatoes, as well as packages and other cardboard boxes.
If you’re looking for a classy folder that is a high performance slicer, practical for food prep and that could also pass for a gentleman’s folder, the Kapara is it. And what I find equally important, the maker is a really great guy! If you can find this exclusive edition of the Kapara, I can heartily recommend it, you won’t regret is – either as a user or a collectible.
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.
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…
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. 😉
The C242 Ikuchi is unlike any other Spyderco folding knife. Not because it is a flipper, or even a front flipper (The C42 Viele was first in my opinion). It is unique because it has such a narrow profile. The Ikuchi is also a fidget fan’s dream, but it is a true working pocketknife that also carries as easy a pocket lint.
The first generation of the Ikuchi was a disappointment to me. I read reviews from people complaining that the wheel was too tough to operate. This was not a problem in my sample. What was a serious problem, was the fact that this very sharp up-swept tip rode too high in the handle when closed. I’d poke my hand frequently when trying to pull the knife from my pocket or waistband. My CQI-ed sample of the Ikuchi solved this problem. I no longer get cut by the closed blade. The wheel does need a deliberate push/pull (depending on your technique) to operate, but it’s also very smooth.
Blade I’ll admit the fidget factor of the front-flipping Ikuchi is high, very high actually. To date, I haven’t been able to handle this folder without ‘spinning that wheel’ at least once. But the slender curvy blade works great too. It’s very easy to work that tip in the crease of the flap on an envelope, to cleanly slice it open. Another advantage of such a narrow blade (compared to most spydies), is that it offers increased control for detailed cuts in an edge-in grip. Peeling fruit is a joy with this blade.
There is one disadvantage to a slim blade like this. A narrow blade doesn’t offer a whole lot of ‘real estate’ for that full flat grind to come to a really thin edge. The blade on the C242 is by no means some kind of blunt chisel, on the contrary. But there are thinner blades and edges in Spyderco’s line-up.
S30V is a well-known entity. It cuts well and doesn’t rust in my suburban use. I barely developed a little dull spot on the edge, from breaking down a lot of thick cardboard boxes. It was child’s play to bring the edge back. Just a few swipes on the white stones of my Spyderco Sharpmaker was all that was needed.
Handle The handle features a slight curve that really helps make it a very ergonomic folder to carry and use. I’m not a huge fan of the G10 & Carbon Fiber laminate, but it does offer a bit more grip than full carbon fiber. Don’t get me wrong, if this one is ever offered in a full carbon fiber version, I’ll go for it. But I will admit this laminate looks nicer than black G10 for this particular design. A nice design touch is the hole in the handle. It lines up perfectly with the hole in the blade (which is there purely for trademark purposes).
Clip The wire clip is the perfect complement to this thin classy folder. It almost makes it look like a pen in your pocket. As with all wire clips, there is a little flex or play when you move the clip from side-to-side. It’s inherent to the design and doesn’t affect the clip’s grip on your pocket or waistband. This side-to-side play is also the reason I am not a big fan of wire clips. However, I was happy that the clip was easy to switch to my preferred left-handed carry position.
Collectible I usually stay away from labeling a particular knife as a real collectible or a good investment. Mainly because I feel that you should only buy a knife because you really like it. That way, you’ll never be disappointed. The C242 however, does offer a few unique features. The Ikuchi is perhaps the second design in Spyderco’s line-up to be designed as a one-hand opener without a functional opening hole. The C27 Jess Horn was made with a depression in the blade for one-hand opening. The Ikuchi has its serrated wheel for one-hand opening. The absence of a functional opening hole allows the blade to become a lot narrower. At least a lot narrower than most other spydies. I will admit the C27 Jess Horn, as well as his other designs, the Des Horn and most of Frank Centofante’s collaborations feature very slim blades as well. The C242, however, takes this slim profile and extends it all the way through it handle design. The combination of the front flipper wheel, extremely narrow profile and the absence of a functional opening hole, make the Ikuchi a really unique folder in Spyderco’s production history.
Conclusion Overall, the Ikuchi is a wonderful folder. I also think it’s remarkably versatile. If you’re a die-hard Spyderco collector, get one. The C242 only features a trademark hole in the blade, and has a slim and narrow profile that is rarely seen in Spyderco’s line-up. If you mostly use your knives to fidget with, that serrated wheel on the C242 is just what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a gentleman’s knife? The Ikuchi is a very stylish and low-key design that will ride nicely in your suit pocket. If you’re just looking for a practical EDC folder that’s both compact and full size at the same time, the C242 can fit that role really well too. I mostly like the Ikuchi because of that unique -to Spyderco- slim design. And that front flipper is just plain fun to fidget with.
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.
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.
Check out the specs and history of the C81 Paramilitary at SpydieWiki.com, and specifically the 2018 forum edition, at Spyderco.com.