I have a love-hate relationship with Spyderco knives. I love how easy they are to open with the giant thumb hole, and how slicey the blades are with the thin and tall leaf shape to them. In hand almost any Spyderco feels pretty damned great. But I hate how bulky they are to carry, and how lefty-hostile they make their knives. There are, for sure, a few true lefty knives from Spyderco, but compared to other knife makers they have basically none.
Most useable Spyderco knives for a left are lockbacks — Spyderco, I will note, does not agree as they label their compression locks as lefty friendly. They are wrong, but whatever.
It’s been a while since I reviewed a Spyderco, but I was recently pointed at the Chaparral knife series having first picked up the FRN handled Lightweight version, and then swapping that for the Carbon Fiber variant. It’s a very good knife, but misses a bit for me.
Blade & Materials
This is a stout little knife. It’s very thin in profile, but also very solid which defies how most thin knives feel. This is a lock back knife with a thin and short CTS-XHP blade. The overall blade length is 2.8”, but as with many a Spyderco, the actual cutting length is much shorter at 2.28”.
The scales are Carbon Fiber, but there is the light weight version which utilizes the classic FRN scales. I found the Light Weight to be a better feeling knife, but the scales to be so grippy that they were a detriment to sliding the knife cleanly out of my pocket organizers. The Carbon Fiber adds a bit of weight, but only slightly reduces the friction on the scales (the carbon fiber is textured for grip).
The knife has stainless steel liners and thus it feels very stout. This is a well made knife, which came extremely sharp out of the box. All in all, a nice bit of kit.
For those wondering about CTS-XHP, it can be thought of a little like CPM S35VN which is probably the closest comp on the market. They have trade offs from each other, but they are close. Where the biggest difference is the XHP can be hardened much further than S35VN. I’ve nothing great or negative to say about the steel.
Carry and Use
Carrying these knives is interesting. They are a small blade, but they don’t carry any smaller than my other knives. They are still bulky. Spyderco knives are always wider than their counter parts because of the ‘hole’ they utilize to open the blade. Because of that, it’s still a decently bulky knife in the pocket, even though it’s extremely thin.
(Note in all the comparison pics, the knives shown all have longer blades than the Chaparral, I chose as it shows the trade offs of the Spyderco design.)
Top to bottom: Mini Adamas, Deka, Small Sebenza 31, Chaparral.
The stock clip is the wire clip, which I found to be awful on this knife. I replaced it with a LynchNW clip that made the knife significantly better to use.
I found the knife to have a strong detent on it, and a loud and solid lock up. This gives you a lot of confidence when using and carrying the knife, with the trade off being that it is far from quick feeling.
The lock back is much too strong. I find it annoying to use and operate, and tiring on my thumb when releasing the blade. Most days I will fidget with a knife — opening and closing it sporadically — but with this knife I almost try to find reasons not to use it. It’s not quick to open and requires two hands to close safely. So it’s not at all fidget friendly.
There are people who will want the reassurance with this knife in how it locks strongly in place, stays put to what it is clipped to and takes a measure focus to close, but I am not one of those people.
That said, like with all Spydercos, when you get this open and in your hand there’s few knives which feel this great. It sits perfectly balanced, if a little weighted to the handle. The jimping at the back of the ‘hole’ is a natural spot for your thumb and the design allows for easy choking up for fine work, or having your hand sit back for more leverage.
Either way the knife is exceedingly comfortable for any task and use. The blade lends itself well to slicing, without feeling overly thin and delicate. The steel feels durable with good edge retention and easy enough to touch up on a strop.
All in all this feels like a tool, but carries larger than the small stature of the knife warrants.
At a touch over $160 for this knife, it is well worth the money. It feels very premium, and the lightweight might be the better option if I am honest. Though I didn’t have mine for that long. A LynchNW clip is a must for upgrades as well.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this knife from a practical standpoint. However, I don’t like carrying it, and I find my self not wanting to carry it. And there’s a few reasons for this:
- I carry everything in pocket organizers and this requires a larger organizer to fit the Chaparral, and even then it doesn’t smoothly slide in and out of the organizer and requires a lot of extra work.
- The lock back is too strong, and annoying for me each time I close the blade. When I am using the knife a lot, my thumb can get tired of using this lock.
- It carries like a 3.25” blade, yet is decidedly shorter than that. The Small Sebenza is decidedly smaller to carry, and offers a larger blade too.
If you don’t trust locking mechanisms, and you want something that slices well — this will be a great buy. For me, it doesn’t meet the high bar set by my other knives, so I’ll be moving on. It should be said, that this is my favorite Spyderco to date, and I think for most people this is probably a really nice and reassuring knife. I certainly like it, but I still don’t reach for it.