One to Watch: Spyderco Nirvana
Tony Sculimbrene 06.24.15
When it was shown at IWA earlier this year, folks went nuts. The Nirvana is Spyderco’s first integral knife, meaning the handle is made of a single piece of material, in this case titanium. It is also their first collaboration with the very popular Canadian knife maker Peter Rassenti. The Nirvana also has the potential to be the most expensive Spyderco ever made. Recent leaks indicate that MSRP is going to be a wallet-busting $750. This means the Nirvana will street for around $500-$600. In a line up that includes the Delica at around $60, this is a huge sum of money. I am not sure any knife, from a purely utilitarian perspective, can justify that price tag, but the Nirvana has a good chance of selling well.
First, the integral knife is something of a technical feat, the knife making equivalent of building a ship in a bottle. Until very recently, the integral folder was the exclusive domain of custom knife makers. Channeling out the material and adding the pivot hardware as well as the blade was so time consuming and difficult that large scale production of integral folders was impractical. The machines have been around for a while, but they weren’t fast enough and the public’s tolerance for the high prices the process demanded wasn’t present. With the constant improvement in machine technology and the steady rise in knife prices, that has changed.
A few years ago Lionsteel debuted the first production integral folder, the SR1. It was a beast of a knife and had a then very high price tag of around $400. Since then there have been a few production integrals, all made by Lionsteel, though some were sold as DPx models. The Nirvana marks the first time we will see a non-Lionsteel made production integral. Initial information indicates that it is being made by Spyderco’s Taichung Taiwan OEM.
If this is the case, you can bank on the quality. From the Spyderco Zulu to the Techno, the Taichung OEM has consistently produced some of the finest production folders on the planet. Their tolerances and fit and finish rival Chris Reeve and Al Mar, the two best manufacturers at finishing in the knife world. If you take that attention to detail and add it to machining prowess equal to Lionsteel, you have a potent combination.
There is a strong chance, given the OEM, that the Nirvana is not just one of the most complex production folders to make, but that it is also one of the nicest made. The Nirvana could very well be the high water mark for production knives, even in this Golden Age of Gear. It may not be as flashy as some of the ZT knives, but the stars have aligned to make the Nirvana something very special.
But its not just a matter of gee-whiz five axis CNC machines. No, the Nirvana is taken to the next level because this manufacturing prowess is combined with a great maker’s design. Rassenti has been one of the more popular modern folder makers over the last five years because he regularly makes very clean, very functional, and very unique looking knives. When you bring this approach to Taichung’s abilities, you have something incredibly special. No knife is worth $500-$600 on a pure utility basis, but the Nirvana, if done right, will definitely hold value. In this Golden Age, production knives may have just reached their zenith–this is folder Nirvana. Oh, I held that terrible pun the whole time.