See this post for more photos and information on the Spyderco Native Chief Production Sample.
See this post for more photos and information on the Spyderco Native Chief Production Sample.
The Spyderco Lil’ Native backlock is probably my favorite knife from the past year, at least from an EDC point-of-view. This little folder is very useful, very ergonomic, very cool and very Spyderco in every possible way.
The C230 Lil’ Native Backlock is, simply put, a ‘baby’ version of the C41 Native. If there’s one thing that Spyderco is really good at, it’s making small folders that perform really well. Just ask anyone who owns a Dragonfly, Ladybug, Meerkat or any of their many other small folders. Spyderco sometimes calls their diminutive powerhouses ‘lil’ big knives’. Knives that measure small, but perform big. The Lil’ Native is no exception. The C230 was made in two variants, one with a compression lock and one with a mid-backlock locking mechanism. Being an old fart, I prefer the ‘proper’ backlock version as that is how Native folders have been made since the beginning. The backlock version just feels right to me, for a Native.
I’m not sure of the precise backstory of the Lil’ Native’s design. It is likely that Spyderco made the design after customer requests. At the same time the Lil’ Native came out, the larger Shaman came out as well, and I have seen regular requests online to make a larger Native. Both offered size variants of the venerable C41 Native. Why would one want a smaller Native? For one thing, it’s a great ergonomic and functional design, and a smaller version is easier to use in public among non-knife people. Also, if you pay close attention to how much edge you actually use in daily cutting tasks, you’ll notice it’s deceptively little. Living in a modern urban environment, most of your cutting tasks can be accomplished with a 2,5 inch blade. If that’s all you use, then a more compact knife makes sense.
The fit and finish on the knife are superb, but that’s not a surprise considering my experience with the Native 5. One new feature I like in the Lil’ Native, compared to my older G10 Native 5, is the lack of liners. The Lil’ Native is a thick and stout little knife, but it’s also very lightweight thanks to that linerless construction. At first glance, I was a bit disappointed with the stonewash finish. I usually prefer a regular satin finish. The eye wants something as well, as we say in Dutch. Although the Lil’ Native is only 15% smaller than the regular Native 5, it looks a lot smaller. In the hand, the grip is very similar to the Native 5. The Lil’ Native doesn’t feel small at all.
Working the knife
Using the knife to break down cardboard was a joy. The thick blade and ‘lock in’ handle ergonomics make it easy to just stab in a big box and slice down. I also used the little folder in my garden, pruning some plants and bushes. The handle makes holding onto the knife while push cutting through some tough branches very easy. I guess that full flat grind blade helps as well ;-). Some might say that such a thick blade isn’t necessary in a design this small. That may be, but that’s also missing the point of the Lil’ Native. Spyderco doesn’t refer to it as a lil’ big knife for nothing. The Lil’ Native’s blade is thicker than a Chaparral for sure, but it’s no Medford-type brick either. Not by a long shot. The blade thickness is the same as the regular Native 5, that’s all. And this smaller folder really does cut like a much bigger knife.
The S35V steel is a familiar performer. It’s a solid middle-of-the-road steel for me. It cuts long enough to impress most, and it sharpens easily on a Sharpmaker. It also doesn’t rust. The past few months, boxes, zip ties, flowers, envelopes, fruit, and loose strings could not escape the edge of the Lil’ Native – it’s a very fun knife to use.
I might pay attention to the tip of my Caly 3.5 or Chaparral, but not so with the Lil’ Native. It’s a very confidence inspiring little folder. I’m tempted to share one with my cop friend, who has a genuine talent to really mess up any knife he gets his hands on.
The stonewash finish on the blade is fine for a working knife, but I’d prefer to see a regular satin finish on the blade. Also, the clip could’ve been finished more ‘upscale’ if it were up to me. And I certainly wouldn’t mind a few more color options than just basic black, but that’s just me. If the Lil’ Native Backlock would become available in a nice S110V version with that blurple G10, I’m down for one or two. Then I’ll pass along this boring black G-10 version along to my cop friend and see how these stout lil’ folders really hold up!
This is a superb folder, period. I feel it’s not so much a ‘mini-native’, but more like a ‘mini-lil’ temperance’. I’m pretty sure this backlock variation won’t last long, since the market usually prefers a new lock design over something as ‘old’ as the backlock. But the lock certainly is not obsolete, and neither are the Spyderco native pattern of folding knives. With variations like these coming out, it’s proof that many people still love this proven design. If you’re eyeing the Lil’ Native with a backlock, I wouldn’t wait too long.
I got a chance to handle the Lil’ Native with a compression lock at SHOT and last year’s Amsterdam Meet. And although it’s an impressively cool translation of the Native design, I mean it actually felt like handling a dragongly sized Native, it still wasn’t quite what I liked. After collecting and using Spyderco’s for almost 20 years, a Native kind of ‘has to have a backlock’. I can’t give a rational explanation. You all have fun with those compression lock lil’ Natives, this backlock version will be mine.
Overall Length: 15,7 cm / 5.94 inches
Blade Length: 6,3 cm / 2.47 inches
Blade Thickness: 3,7 mm / 0.125 inches
Weight: 60 grams / 2.1 ounces
An anniversary knife is a special treat for collectors, if they’re done well. Spyderco did it right by carefully selecting the right design and adding some unusual features you won’t find in an ordinary production knife. The 25th Anniversary Delica and 40th Anniversary Native 5 are, in my opinion, more than just ‘cool commemorative knives’. I’d like to think both knives are also interesting expressions of this wonderful knife company at two different points in its impressive, but still recent, history.
Spyderco celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2003. This occasion was celebrated by the release of the C76 Anniversary Delica. Wait wut?! A Delica designated C76 instead of C11? I don’t know why the number was changed, just accept it. The C76 was only made for one run of 500 pieces by Moki, one of the very best Japanese knifemakers. All the knives were individually numbered. The Delica makes sense for this celebration. It’s been a watershed design for Spyderco that helped bring their unique design to so many happy knife users. Even back in 2003, there had already been three generations of the design as well as many different production variations.
At the time, the knife’s MSRP of $529, 95 was the highest price Spyderco ever had to ask for a knife. It caused some online complaints, but that died down quickly. Try to find one now, good luck! That pretty much says it all. I never got one back in 2003, it was too rich for my blood at the time as I needed to finish my studies first. After entering the workforce for a few years, I managed to come across one at an offer that was too good to pass. It’s been somewhat of a grail knife for me.
If I recall correctly, the C41CF40TH 40th Anniversary Native 5 was formally announced at the 2016 Amsterdam Meet. The knife was released in September of the same year in a run of 1,200 knives. The Native 5 has, at least in my opinion, become the new flagship knife for Spyderco. It might not be as ‘exciting’ a design as say a Nirvana. The Native 5, however, does features an excellent design with superb construction and impressive fit & finish. Furthermore, in its FRN incarnation, this new Native still qualifies as a working knife for many people. Just look at Eric when he talks about the Native 5 at a show or meet. He is rightfully very proud of the quality and usability Spyderco is able to offer with the Native 5.
Wait huh? A 25th anniversary in 2003 and a 40th anniversary in 2016? Who’s doing the math here at Spyderco HQ?! Easy there, it’s like this. In 1981, Spyderco made their first knife, the C01 Worker. But the company start back in 1976 when it made the portable hand, a device used e.g. for making precision electronics. Later on, Spyderco made sharpening products and that led to the development of the first one-hand opening clip carry folding knife we all love so much. I ordered a 40thAnniversary Native 5 as soon as possible and have been pretty happy with the knife in my collection. It’s definitely a different kind of knife than the C76, but more on that later.
The 25th anniversary Delica features a hollow ground VG-10 blade with a mirror finish. Other than the mirror finish, it’s the same blade you would find on a FRN Delica 3. The blade is 74mm long, 2.5mm thick and the edge is around 63mm long. It’s nicely finished with very even bevels and even the edge has been sharpened very precisely. Mind you, this was before Spyderco started to use a sharpening robot on selected models. I’ve only used this blade to open a few gifts at Christmas. And that’s probably all the workout it will ever get. This is a very rare piece that I’m very careful with.
I feel, the 40th anniversary Native 5’s blade got a nicer treatment than the C76. This time the production steel (CPM S35N) was replaced by something special: Thor™ pattern Damascus steel from the Swedish firm Damasteel® (who apparently used this steel to celebrate their own 40th anniversary in 2016). The Thor Damascus was made from layers of RWL34 and PMC27 steel. The blade is flat ground and finished pretty much like a regular Native 5. A distinctive feature on the blade, apart from the Damascus, is the laser engraving denoting this to be the 40th Anniversary knife. Some feel the engraving is too garish. I think it matches well with the Damascus swirls. More importantly, this is an anniversary knife. And, overall, this Native is kind of ‘subdued’ and without the engraving it could very well be a ‘regular’ sprint run. So I’m personally OK with this engraving. In addition, attendees of the 2016 Amsterdam Meet got a Damascus hole cutout from this very knife!
The C76 handle is a real treat for collectors, as it features a Damascus bolster handmade by master smith Ed Schempp! The Damascus pattern features the Spyderco bug logo in a web pattern. A very striking and welcome feature for this anniversary Delica! In Ed’s own words: …To get the 40 some pounds of bolster material for the twenty-fifth anniversary knife I forged about 450 pounds of steel in primary billets, The forge scale loss was about 15% the balance was to cutting and grinding. This project took about three months of forging and labor. I think that gives you an idea to why the material is expensive….
Ed did end up with some ‘spare’ bolster material which ended up in the hands of some collectors and Spyderco afi’s, as Damascus tiles. This stunning bolster is mounted in a stainless steel handle frame that’s also the base for genuine honey colored jigged-bone scales. I really like how both the bolster and handle scales are natural materials that differ from knife to knife.
The clip was left off this wonderful handle. I bet the mounting would’ve been problematic for the horn material. Oddly enough, for a knife that has a striking ‘classic’ look, the more modern boye dent was added to the locking bar. I think the ‘dent’ doesn’t fit the design cosmetically, but it was a defining Spyderco feature at the time.
The 40th anniversary Native has a wonderfully striking handle made from solid carbon fiber with a machined fluting pattern. Spyderco had been working with the fluting process for a few years at the time of this knife’s release. First with the titanium handle Military, and later on a titanium handled Native 5. They never managed to produce these ‘fluted’ knives in large quantities though. I did see a prototype carbon fiber fluted ParaMilitary 2 at one of the Amsterdam Meets. And I think it’s very nice to see this type of handle released for the first time on the anniversary Native 5. As cool as the fluting is, it also makes the knife kind of subdued, which to me is a bit odd for a knife that celebrates a momentous occasion.
The Native features a regular stainless steel hourglass clip. I think this knife could have used a bit more ‘wow’; one more accent that makes this more of a celebration knife. And I think the clip could have been that feature. Now, I’m certainly not a knife designer or maker. But if it were possible, I’d love to have seen a Damascus clip or another twist on the clip to make the knife stand out a bit more. I do appreciate how the 4-way clip mounting invites you to actually carry and use the knife. Something that the C76 definitely doesn’t do.
When it came to the packaging, again, the anniversary Delica got a nicer treatment with a special cocobolo rosewood box. The 40th Anniversary native was shipped in a zippered pouch. Sure, the pouch is more practical to actually use to transport your knife etc.…. but that cocobolo box just ‘pops’ in my display case!
I love both of these very special anniversary knives. Studying them a bit further I get the impression that they both reflect their main designers very well. I’ll go ahead and assume that Sal Glesser, co-founder of Spyderco, was the main driving force behind the C76. And I would like to assume that Eric Glesser, Sal’s son who is succeeding him as head of the company, headed the C41 anniversary project. I have no factual info to support this, but please bear with me. Sal, together with his wife Gail, started the Spyderco company from scratch, working and traveling out of a bread truck for years, and they built it into the respected knife company it was in 2003 (and still is). Considering where they came from, it makes sense to go all-out with the C76. The anniversary Delica’s design almost seems a tip of the hat not only to the Delica, but also to the many custom makers that have helped Sal and Gail learn even more about knife making. This Delica very much has the look and feel of a classic custom knife.
The 40th Anniversary Native could be interpreted as a much more modern product. It is the design of someone who is proud of the Spyderco history, by evolving the classic C41 Native design. But also someone who is very committed to modern production and design, using a carbon fiber fluted handle. The C41 is a look into the future of knife making. This future involves modern production methods and materials for sure. But knife making only has a future when the knives are used, hard, and that might very well have been a motivation (conscious or not) for the C41 to have a much more practical –and therefore subdued- design. You could actually use this fine folder. The production run for the C41 was more than twice as big as the C76. This primarily reflects the growing popularity of Spyderco knives since 2003, but perhaps it also invites actually using the knife. With Eric at the helm, building on the work of his parents and the many people that have and still make up the Spyderco crew, I am positive we’ll see quite a few celebration knives to come!
There you have it, one fanboy’s appreciation of the anniversary knives of his favorite brand. Are these knives must-haves for a casual fan? Heck no. I did try to give an amateur analysis of these knives and how they, at least in my opinion, reflect the company at different times in its very respectable but still recent, history. I do actually use these knives on birthdays etc.… they only open a gift or two and that’s it. They make for nice conversation pieces too. Most importantly, I appreciate these as cool collector pieces. I have an anniversary of my own coming up, I’m turning forty soon. Guess which knife I’ll be carrying!
It’s been only recently that I can be considered a Spydernut. Little less than a year ago I bought a plain edged Military and have been pleasantly suprised. I must admit that this was entirely the forum’s fault ;). Little after that, I started to acquire a Moran, blue Ladybug and two Delica’s (plain & serrated). As the ‘spoiled’ little knifeknut that I am, I decided my Military deserved a better companion than the plain edged Delica I carried it with. I always like to carry two folders, one left-handed folder for everyday chores and a right-handed larger folder for rarer tougher chores including possible self defense. Before I had any Spydie, I already owned my trusty large plain Sebenza and some MT SOCOM’s. Since then, my Benchmades and CS Voyagers have been collecting dust and consequently, some have been sold. I always considered my Benchmades to be in the same class as Spyderco. I was wrong, it is my experience that Spyderco not only provides better fit and finish, but also better performance. I like thinner edges for better slicing and cutting. Spyderco does exactly that, for less money too (especially the zytel handled models). I feel that Spyderco especially shines, when it comes to left-handed models. As previously mentioned, my Delica has been a faithful companion for everyday cutting chores, riding next to my Military. But now I have a 440V Native.
Fit and finish are good. Although the center grind line just barely misses the point dead center, I find the grind lines straight and clean. The finish is not like that on a Delica for example, this has something to with the (cost efficiency in working with?) 440V steel. To me it looks a little like the stonewash finish on my Sebenza and MT UDT, and I like that. I expect this rougher finish to hide smaller scratches just as well as a ‘real’ stonewash finish. It contributes to the usability of the knife. The thumb grooves on the spine of the blade are just right, like on my Military. They aid in gripping without being too sharp or otherwise uncomfortable. I like the false edge too. I am not too concerned with any increased ‘piercing performance’ that usually is ascribed to false edges, but it looks very very nice. The point is quite sharp and looks delicate, although the fact that it is made from CPM 440V steel, and probably heat treated at around Rc 56-57 (like the Military?), may compensate for this (I’m not sure though). The hollow ground blade appears to slice and cut very good. In my subjective opinion it cuts quite comparably to my Sebenza, Military, and SOCOM. All of which sport excellent performance ground blades and edges. I must note however, that I am not a knife abuser or really into the technicalities and specifics of cutting testing. I use my knife for the more mundane daily cutting chores in an urban environment, i.e. opening letters, packages, cutting up cardboard boxes, food preparation.
The Native is quite a different beast than the Delica! The handle and broader blade make my Delica look and feel a little wimpy, although they are roughly the same size.The Native really locks in my hand, a very secure grip. I don’t see my hand sliding up to the blade that easily. Since the Native will be my left-handed utility knife first and defensive back-up second, I like such a secure handle. The choil and overall handle design make the handle appear considerably larger than the blade, like with my Military. Some people don’t like that, I do appreciate this feature. It allows for a mega secure grip, or different more comfortable grips for different chores. When closed , the thumbhole is not completely exposed, unlike my Military or Delica. I would prefer a completely exposed hole (in folding knives only! 😉 ), but it hasn’t been a real problem yet. I guess it was some sort of design compromise. The Native is complety symmetrical, making it completely useful for both right- and left-handed people alike. The handle is thicker than that of my Delica. It seems to ride more comfortably in my front waistband though. Spyderco zytel, or FRN is always snag free, allowing for only one sharp edge on the entire knife, the edge.
IMO, the clip deserves a little special attention. It is a slightly different design than that of my Delica. The final part of the clip, that’s closest to the handle, is slightly ‘bent’ towards the handle. This makes my grip more comfortable. At first I thought that it would make clipping to my pants more difficult, After exactly two times, I knew this was not a problem. The knife clips just as easily to my pants as my Delica. For an everyday carry utility knife, clipping and ‘un-clipping’ must be easy or else it will get annoying to the point that it may not be used at all anymore, at least that’s what I think about it.
I like this knife! I am typing this after owning it for just one day, but the Native has impressed me enough to type up this review. Since I have had this knife for only one day, long term cutting performance is not included here. But judging from the experience of other forumites, Spyderco’s 440V is quite a good steel. The price is also right for this piece. It is a little more expensive than other FRN handled folders, like a Delica for example, but for that extra money you get a premium steel and as usual excellent Spyderco fit & finish. I will not be getting rid of my Delica’s though. The Native’s false edge and broad blade give it a bit of an ‘offensive weapon’ look for the sheeple. The Delica therefore, is still my first choice when I need a more innocent looking knif(v)e(s) that I can afford to loose. It appears that the Native is now my perfect lefthanded utility/tactical blade. And I can encourage anyone to just get it!
I already got another idea for the Native, it could make a very nice neck knife. Just take of the clip, make/order a custom concealex sheath for it (in the open position) and voila: a ‘cheap’, light neck knife with a premium steel.
The handle design also makes it a nice back up tactical ‘fixed’ blade. The only problem may be that the whole package will not be as flat as a ‘skeleton (handle) type’ neck knife. But I am sure I am not the first one to think of this. Who turned his Native into a neck knife too? Pictures please 😉 And this concludes my amateur review, cheers.