SHOT Show 2016: Spyderco
Tony Sculimbrene 01.18.16
Due to having two little guys, I wasn’t able to go to SHOT Show this year, but a lot of the major knife companies were kind enough to send me sneak peeks. The following articles are my take on the new 2016 line ups. First up Spyderco.
SHOT Show is the premiere trade show for the hunting and outdoor world, but Spyderco usually previews the majority of their new wears at IWA, a European hunting and outdoor show. Nonetheless, the 2016 catalog came out in December and gave us a hint of what they would have at the show. The past three years have been a roller coaster for Spyderco’s new releases. Some years produced tepid or befuddled responses from the knife world. Other years people were genuinely excited. This year is one that I think will generate genuine excitement. There is a lot happening at Spyderco this year.
First there are the IWA knives, which I covered here. Many are starting to show up at knife retailers and they range from interesting to insta-buys. New knives from Brad Southard, Gayle Bradley, and others all promise to make big impacts in the knife community in 2016. Then there are the sprint runs or steel upgrades of many of Spyderco’s evergreen classics. Two steels featured prominently in these groups are Hitachi’s HAP40 and Crucible’s S110v.
The HAP40 knives include the Dragonfly (oh my poor wallet), the Stretch, and both the Manbug and Ladybug. All of the HAP40 knives will run burnt orange handles.
HAP40 is a steel that came over the high end kitchen knife world. It is a a laminated steel with the HAP40 serving as the core, usually surrounded by a softer stainless steel. It runs a healthy dose of cobalt, which helps with high speed and hot uses, which makes sense given its original use as an industrial high speed steel. The trick, or at least the claim, is that despite its high hardness, around 64-68 HRc, it remains easy to sharpen on traditional stones. This is similar to the beloved Super Blue that Spyderco ran a few years ago, but HAP40 is much more stain resistant (or should be according to the data sheets).
S110v is a more known quantity and will show up on the Native 5. It has already shown up on the Paramilitary 2, and will show up on the Military.
Usually marked with translucent purple or blue handles, the knife community has already praised this steel as an upgrade over S90v. Crucible’s data sheet notes the inclusion of niobium and a few other elements. The overall result is a steel that is more abrasion resistant than S90v (a very impressive feat) and one that is also more corrosion resistant than 440C (another impressive feat). Lots of high end makers (like RJ Martin) very much like S110v. Offering it on a wide range of Spyderco classics is a good thing for knife knuts.
The last steel upgrade is the 40th edition of the Native 5. It is a spectacular blade with sculpted and milled carbon fiber handles, but it is the Damascus steel that captures your eye. Made of two European steels PMC27 and RWL34, Spyderco calls it Thor93X. Whatever you call it, it looks amazing.
But it’s not all steel upgrades for Spyderco. They also have a few new knives. I covered the Ray Mears exclusive Spyderco WolfSpyder here.There is also the two new titanium frame lock flippers: the Mantra 1 and Matra 2. The Mantra 1 looks very much like a flipper version of the Delica or Endura (it is right in between the two size-wise), while the Mantra 2 has a very strong Brad Southard influence to it. (How amazing must it be for Mr. Southard to not only collaborate with Spyderco, but have them emulate him in one of their own designs?) Both run a favorite steel: M4. The first Spyderco titanium frame locks look like real winners.
It wouldn’t be a year of Spydercos without some oddballs. This year is no different. Of course there is the Introvert, which was shown in Germany last year. It has a full finger ring that doubles as a flipper. I am sure the knife is nice but it looks weird and would be a nightmare to carry. Spydercos are wide as it is, and the Introvert is probably 50% wider than a Spyderco with the same blade length. There is also the Janison, a one handed balisong variant. Yes, you read that correctly; it’s not a koan about clapping with one hand. The Janisong is basically an overseas only product as legal restrictions bar it from being sold or imported into the US (and given all of the disclaimers in the catalog you’d think the blade steel was made of enriched uranium). The idea of the knife is that it swings open, something like a Barry Wood folder (which I wrote about here). Both are oddballs to say the least, right up there with the “magnetic lock” T-Mag and the Spyderco Q.
Probably the least exciting but most important news is Spyderco is again making kitchen knives. There is just too much money out there to ignore this segment of the market. When Williams and Sonoma can sell handmade kitchen knives in malls, you know there is a big market out there. The star of their line up is their first really high end knife: the Cook’s Knife. With its VG-10 blade, sculpted Corian handle, and full tang construction, it makes me want to carry it as a camp knife. The knife looks amazing. There are an assortment of lesser kitchen knives, but it would be nice to see Spyderco right next to Shun in the display cases at the mall. Again, these may not be exciting to you and me (but seriously, go look at the Cook’s Knife), but they have the potential to bring in waves of new revenue that no other Spyderco offering could. In terms of the health of the company, these blades are as important as any other.
2016 looks like a good year for Spyderco. Lots of previously shown knives are finally on the market, there are bevy of good blades coming, and they are opening up to other cutlery markets. The use of premium steels on classic products means that almost everyone will find a knife they want (or an old knife they want to upgrade). There is also a better than 50% chance that the Cook’s Knife is my first serious kitchen knife review.
Insta-buys: 3 (Mantra 1, Dragonfly 2 in HAP40, and Native 5 in S110V)