IWA 2015 Spyderco
Tony Sculimbrene 03.24.15
NOTE: Here was Spyderco’s SHOT Show line up from this year. As you can see, SHOT is not where they debut their knives. IWA is.
In January, most major gear and outdoor companies showed off new products at SHOT Show. As is customary, Spyderco brought stuff, but none of it was debuting there for the first time. Instead, Spyderco usually saves its product debuts for IWA, an outdoor show in Germany. The show was last weekend and the information about their new models is now out.
Spyderco is a quirky company in many ways, but how they release information is probably one of the most unusual things they do. Instead of using traditional gear news sources, Spyderco shows off all of their new stuff to a select few individuals, hobbyist bloggers, and they release that information to the world. The primary source of this information is Wouter over on Spydercollector. Other information comes out on the Spyderco forum from other folks at the show that are friends of Spyderco. All of the images in this article are taken by Wouter and used with express permission. The knives shown are all prototypes or production prototypes and subject to change between now and their release. Also, we do not know the pricing or release date of any of these knives.
The 2015 IWA showing is really important for Spyderco, or at least it is for Spyderco fans. The past few years have featured some boring and odd line ups. Last year was the year of titanium slab framelocks as they released the Chubby, the Slycz Bowie, and the K2. The year before they released some very me-too designs. The uber pricey stepped titaniuam Chaparral was very unexciting, perhaps the very definition of a gilded lily, and the LionSpy was a huge swing and miss–Spyderco-fying the Lionsteel SR1 while at the same time removing all of its unique features.
While all of this was happening in the high end, the mid-priced knives, like the Kiwi4, were getting much more expensive, and new entry level stuff was all but non-existent. Spyderco has a tremendous amount of brand equity built up from years of innovation and doing the right thing for consumers, but the recent line ups have been pretty bad.
Fortunately for Spyderco and its fans, this year Golden hit it out of the park at IWA 2015. Among the knives shown were a mix of revamped classics and new collaborations. Heck, they even showed off a budget knife, the Raven 2, part of the Byrd line. This was a full-court press compared to the past two years, and something that rivaled what KAI, Benchmade and CRKT put out at SHOT Show.
They showed off a few hold overs from last year, the Carey Firefly and the Draper (the Draper is the ugliest tool made by man). Both were delayed because the production facility had some issues, and Spyderco, being Spyderco, decided to keep the production of these two knives with the facility in the hopes that the contracts could help them get through some tough times. This is a decision very few other companies would make, both in and out of the knife world, and is an indication of Spyderco’s moral compass. I can wait on the Firefly, especially if this the reason it is delayed. The Draper…well, let’s just say its not an “instabuy.”
But there is another knife in the line up that is–the Michael Henningsson Vrango.
Henningsson (careful with that link, your eye balls might fall out and your wallet will go run and hide) is a custom maker from Sweden, and he makes some of the finest folders on the planet. His multi-kilobuck creations are inaccessible to the majority of people, but the Vrango distills a lot of the lines of those uber-blades into a small utility folder. Named for where Henningsson lives, the Vrango will have a 2.56 inch blade that has a recurve and some real belly to it. It will run S30V steel and uses a liner lock. In all likelihood this will be made by Spyderco’s awesome Taichung, Taiwan manufacturer. This is certainly an instabuy for me, if there ever was one.
There were a pair of big knives–the Walter Brend Mamba and the Filip De Leeuw Myrtle. The Mamba is, frankly, one of the most aggressive and awesome knives I have seen in a long time, with its giant two-toned blade and flipper.
This is a knife that would not be out of place on the utility belt of Christopher Nolan’s Batman. The Myrtle is a knife only Spyderco could and would make with its highly unconventional blade shape.
Both big knives run S30V, are liner locks, and are produced in Taichung, Taiwan.
There were two titanium handled framelocks that were shown, and both, thankfully, are a reprieve from the parade of slab handled knives we were treated to last year. The Tighe Stick, designed by Brian Tighe, and the Nirvana, designed by Peter Rassenti, were both on display and both were impressive. The Nirvana is an integral, meaning the handle is made of a solid piece of material, with the blade and pivot inserted after a channel is cut in the material.
These are the “ships in the bottle” of the knife world–technical feats of ingenuity. They also create a much simpler and more solid knife. The Tighe Stick, though not an integral, is impressive in its own right–a seriously sculpted handle conveys the essence of Tighe’s style.
It’s not my particular cup of tea, but it is impressive and different, something Spyderco’s line up has been missing over the past two or three years.
Two revamps were also shown–the Lil’ Temperance and the Lil’ Lum Chinese Folder. Both are smaller versions of cherished Spyderco designs. The Lil’ Temperance is designed as a small but bulletproof blade, with a large, over built handle, thick blade stock, and Spyderco’s awesome compression lock.
The blade is 2.95 inches long, runs VG-10, and the knife is made in Japan. Similarly, the Lil’ Lum is a Japanese made, VG-10 blade that runs a linerlock.
Bob Lum’s designs have always been among the most popular production knives. From the Benchmade Onslaught to the original Chinese Folder, his clean, bold lines and excellent attention to detail have won him fans everywhere. I have always liked the look of the Chinese folder, but they always seemed a touch big for me. But now with the Lil’ Lum, I am all in. This is another instabuy.
Two makers that made heralded Spyderco debuts in recent years, Gayle Bradley and Brad Southard, return with new knives. The Southard Ion is a smaller knife than the original Southard, but runs the same blade steel, CTS-204P, and is also a flipper.
It has contoured carbon fiber handles and a wire pocket clip. The Bradley 2 looks a lot like the original Bradley folder (not the Air, the larger one) but with a few more conventional cuts and curves.
It still runs Bradley’s steel of choice–M4. Both look super solid and both are liner locks made in Taichung, Taiwan.
Spyderco showed off a pair of Martial Blade Craft fixed blades, a new Phil Wilson fixed blade that is smaller than the Southfork, and a Gayle Bradley Bowie running the spray-formed powder metal PSF27, a steel with a recipe similar to D2. They also had the Szabo Hawk, another item not out of place on Batman, and the two premium slippies–the Squeak and the Pingo, both with Elmax steel and titanium handles. They also had a Dogtag-ish folder, but it has a lock, and they showed off the odd Endeavor edition of their Bushcraft knife. Who ever heard of a bushcraft knife with carbon fiber handles? It looks amazing, so I’d get one despite the nontraditional choices. Finally, they showed G10 Raven2, which, for the Byrd line, looked not bad.
Overall, this is both the best showing from Spyderco in years and is easily on par with showings from the two best at SHOT Show–KAI and Benchmade. There were big blades, little blades, innovative knives, and much needed revamps. They still have a lot of stuff at the top of the price spectrum–that Rassenti collab will undoubtedly be a pretty penny–but at least that stuff is now both interesting and worth the cash. The instabuys are pretty easy for me. The Vrango and the Lil’ Lum Chinese are done deals. I also will probably pick up an Ion for review and I wouldn’t turn down either of Bradley’s designs. I don’t normally buy big showy knives, but there is something about the Mamba that is like a siren’s call. Finally, now that we know the reason for the delay of the Firefly (and the Draper; I just thought Spiderman had stolen it), Spyderco should be commended for their decision to remain with the original factory. Kindness and loyalty have a high return on investment.