Spyderco Steel Handles

January 13, 2020

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.

Review: Scorpius SE & PE

April 9, 2006

The Scorpius is billed as an urban tactical/utility knife and, unfortunately, a lot of online reviews seem to focus on the tactical part of that description. The SS handles are easy to critique for tactical applications. However, two thirds of the design objective is missing in those reviews. The Scorpius is also an urban utility knife, and SS handles sure work and look the part for that purpose.

I am usually attracted to Spyderco’s newest designs, and this folder isn’t that innovative when it comes to materials, lock or grinds. With the Scorpius you can tell that it was made by a company who did the pioneering with SS handled lockback knives a long time ago. The fit and finish is perfect, spot on. The opening action was smooth and tight, as is closing the knife. This nice tight and smooth feeling is like what you’d get with high quality leather sheaths. The leather locking tabs are made tight, so that with use the fit becomes perfect rather than loose. It’s the same with the action on the Scorpius. After a week’s worth of working and playing with this knife, the action became just a hint looser. The closing and opening became just a tiny bit smoother, which tells me that this knife has many years of service in it before it becomes a ‘gravity knife’ under the definition of Canadian customs’ officers ;-).

The handle is half the reason the Scorpius can be called ‘tactical’ and the main reason it is a wonderful utility cutter. The SS handle features a long tail, partly designed for using the closed folder as an impact weapon. In this mode, it didn’t work for me at all. My hands may be too big (regular XL glove size), but the tail pointed too far away from the centerline of my closed hand. Since I’m already trained and used to ‘straight’ palm sticks, this angled palm stick distorts my targeting.

The tail is wonderful for utility applications though. Just wrap your pinkie around it and grip changes become as easy as if you were a juggler. For every major or minor grip change and shift, the tail becomes a steady anchor along which the knife changes position. Furthermore, there is no sharp corners on the handle -despite those wavy lines- so the hand can work with this knife for a long time. Edge-in, edge-out, forward-grip, reverse-grip and any combination thereof; you can use it comfortably to make the cut in the most weird and mundane cutting tasks. I can choke up on the blade -safely- and leave 0,5 cm of blade and make a very detailed cut. I can also just as easily wrap my last three fingers around the tail and back of the handle, leave my index finger in the forward arch of the handle (not the 50/50 choil) and my thumb resting forward of the blade, and the knife almost invites chopping?! Best utility handle ever for me, it allows the widest range of grips for utility work. And all of that without pinching my hand or fingers, or even a credible risk of slipping onto the edge.

Tactically speaking again, the handle is adequate to prevent the knife from slipping out of your hand. Not perfect, but it works well enough for most situations. A couple of impact drills on ye olde dummy proved that the knife stayed where it should, in my hand. I did feel that the knife wanted to twist in the hand a little. Probably my sloppy technique ;-). A patterned FRN or G10 handle would give me more trust in keeping a proper grip on the knife for MBC.

However, the SS handle lacks any sort of really deep choil (like on a Native III) or gripping serrations for the thumb on the spine of the blade and handle (like on the Yojimbo) to prevent the hand from sliding onto the blade. The butt of the handle tries to nest itself in the palm (like a Li’l Temp) but the SS is too slick, so it would just slide out of that secure place. No, the Scorpius does not pass muster as a ‘real’ MBC player. Then again, that’s not what I was looking for.

The blade is just gorgeous, great spearpoint lines and a nice curvy belly tapering to a very sharp tip. This blade is just what you want for picking out splinters for example. Even though the blade is hollow ground, I honestly can’t feel the difference between it and the Calypso jr.. From a thread on the general discussion board of BladeForums.com, I got the idea of cutting a free-hanging hair. Apparently, a guy undertook a whole journey of learning to sharpen and strop to achieve a single cut of a medium length free hanging hair. After touching up the Scorpius with a total of 6 passes on both the grey and white stones, I matched his skill! A gentle flick of the wrist and I was left with a half a hair. Nice parlor trick, but the blade geometry is really amazing during food prep.

The amount of binding on the blade (meat and cheese) was actually a little less then with a Calypso jr.. Perhaps this is due to a tiny ‘wedging’ effect with the shallow hollow grind, or the false edge relieved enough pressure from the cutting action. In short, the blade cuts just as nicely in everyday life as my Calypso jr.. And the VG-10 holds up just as well, and sharpens up into a really keen edge. A Sharpmaker induced polished edge on 40 degrees gives me the same ability of picking up the hairs on my arm, individually, as my Yojimbo did with a coarse out of the box edge.

Suggestions for improvement
As a lefty I would appreciate a run of left-handed Scorpi (correct plural ?) and not an optional clip mounting. Those little holes would look ugly on this stylish folder. I really like the torx screws on the clip. Finally I can change the clip with all the trust in the world that I won’t strip the screw heads! Please use that feature in more knives. And I would also like more access to the hole. A tiny bit of hole is covered by the handles when closed. It doesn’t hinder functional and good opening with either hand, but I think the opening of the knife would ‘feel’ more secure. I love the full sized opening hole though, don’t change the diameter.

Interesting attempt at making a utility/fighting folder for urban carry. That did not exist in the line-up yet. The Li’l Temp is in my opinion a true fighting/utility folder (if serrated), but gives of a much more ‘outdoorsy’ vibe, not urban. If cutting is the one thing you’re betting your MBC plan on, then the Scorpius should work OK. In my opinion it would not work if you’re a closet “Perfigo” fan (the Crawford custom ‘to pierce through’ design). I don’t know for sure, since I don’t have a trainer and I did not actually try forceful stabbing into the dummy.

Also, when closed, the knife does not work for me as an impact tool. The tail angles away from my preferred ‘centerline’. Some will say that you don’t need ‘precision targeting’ with the palm stick, which is true to a certain extent, but I just don’t play that way. I only feel comfy in training if I have the utmost control of my technique.

But don’t get hung up on the tactical thing this knife has attached to it. The Scorpius is a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious utility folder. Much more so than an SS Delica. There’s more belly to put more edge on the cutting board, the handling with the large hole and long tail is ultra-versatile and comfortable. I could work for hours with this knife and won’t feel a significant hotspot. That tail also makes the Scorpius a nice toy to practice opening and grip changes for mundane cutting chores. And I for one, like the fact that a ‘lot’ of handle sticks out above the clip. It makes it easier for a lefty like myself to retrieve and manipulate this folder.