Spyderco Cat Review
Tony Sculimbrene 03.25.15
The Spyderco of the late 1990s and early 2000s is perhaps gone. The superior designs with excellent and varied steels at inexpensive prices are out the window. Having pushed the industry further than anyone else in the past 20 years, Spyderco is now following others into the highly profitable but frankly bloated high priced production market.
Their recent offerings have been insanely expensive, especially for what you get. The Kiwi4 is a G10, VG-10 knife that costs over $100 street. Given how quickly it went on sale, that combination wasn’t hot with knife knuts. But that’s not the only Spyderco that seems outrageously overpriced. The Rubicon, nice as it is, is quite expensive, as is the Lionspy and the Mini Lionspy, the Elmax Pingo, and the Squeak. This seems to be the new Spyderco. The age of the Dragonfly, Delica, and the Endura is over.
In this line up there are a few things that are new, solid designs that are under $75. Two are the twin brother knives the Cat and the Chicago.
This pair started out as premium midsized knives with carbon fiber handles (or Spyderco’s faux carbon fiber–a thin sheet of carbon fiber over a G10 base). There were serious fit and finish issues with the knives so Spyderco dropped it. Good versions of these knives go for a premium on the collector’s market. Spyderco redesigned them about a year later as entry level knives with 440C blade steel and G10 handle scales. These fill a niche between the Chinese made Tenacious line of knives and the Japanese made Dragonfly/Delica/Endura lines.
The Cat is a mid-priced knife with a known quantity steel, lock design, deployment method, and handle material. The Cat’s blade length is a good size, between 2.5 and 2.75 inches.
It has an over the top, deep carry wire clip. It runs 440C blade steel with black G10 handle scales. The knife has a liner lock and uses the typical Spyderco thumb hole opener. The overall package carries well for its size and weight.
I carried the Cat on and off for a month or so and used it to do general everyday cutting tasks–food prep, packages, breaking down stuff on recycling days, and the like. This knife is too small for real outdoor use, though it did okay prepping feather sticks for fires. The winter weather got a few swipes at the Cat as it was in my pocket during one of the three dozen or so winter storms over the first two months of 2015
The Cat is an odd duck, design-wise, with the Spyderco line. In many ways it is clearly inferior to the the Dragonfly; it’s heavier and not as nimble in the hand.
But in other ways it is better than the mainstays of the Spyderco line up. Its choil makes it better in the hand than either the Delica and the Endura. The blade shape is a bit unusual, pointer and more spearpoint than the classic leaf-shaped blade found on the Dragonfly and Caly3. It’s not exactly awkward looking and it’s fine in the hand. Everything else, the handle shape and materials, the pivot, and clip are pretty by-the-numbers.
Everything here is solid. Not great, not bad, just solid. Take the blade steel for instance–440C is a very competent blade steel, even in 2015, but it is no one’s idea of high tech. It can take an edge and it can throw off the water without a mark, but holding an edge isn’t its forte. Lots of folks swear by 440C; the Shirogorovs uses it on some of their midtechs, but so does Boker on most of its mid to low end knives.
The Cat’s pivot was similarly competent. There was zero blade play, not a smidgen, but it was also incredibly tight, so tight that unlike many liner locks, it was never flickably smooth. So while the Cat opened okay and the blade stayed still, it didn’t blow me away. And here is the thing, other knives in this price point manage to have better action. The Kershaw Skyline, as direct a competitor as you can get, is just better. Even if you drop down a price tier to something like the CRKT Drifter, you get better deployment. And if you decide you want to roll the dice on a really cheap knife, the San Ren Mu 605 is better.
The Cat’s an okay knife. It’s not a world beater, not by any means. It gives you more of the genuine Spyderco feel than say, the even more-by-the-numbers Tenacious, but time has passed Spyderco by in the mid range part of the market.
Their $120 knife is the Kiwi4. It’s meh. Kizer’s $120 knife is the Ki3403, and it is amazing. The Cat is similarly lagging behind its competition. It’s not bad, but it’s just as good as stuff that costs the same or less. In 2015, you can just do better for the $40-$50 you’d pay. The Skyline is simply a better design. The CRKT Ripple is a better design. The SOG Mini Aegis is better too. In fact, you can do better in the Spyderco line up itself. The Dragonfly is better, even in VG10. The Delica is probably better. This is a knife that you just don’t need and frankly, neither does Spyderco. The Cat isn’t bad, there is just better out there.
Worse than anything about the knife itself is the fact that the Cat seems emblematic of the new Spyderco. Their budget offerings are bland, ho-hum knives and their real focus is on the upper end stuff.
The sad part is that Spyderco used to make new awesome knives regardless of where they fell on the price spectrum. That’s what made Spyderco beloved. That’s why there are passionate fans out there. Worse than all this is that until just a few days ago at the IWA show, it seemed that their high end offerings were weird or boring stuff–either the Draper or another slab handled titanium knife (like, ready, the Chaparral 2, the Chaparral 3, the Chubby, the Slycz Bowie, the K2…). Things seem to be better on the high end front after IWA, but the middle of the market is still pretty bare. But this new Spyderco, the one of the Kiwi4, and the Draper, and the Rubicon, it makes $50 knives just like everyone else–they are merely okay.