2017 Preview: Spyderco
Tony Sculimbrene 01.17.17
2016 was a good, but not great year for Spyderco. They pushed their Taiwan OEM to produce make more and ever increasingly complex knives and they did resulting in things like the Nirvana, Spyderco’s first integral. But they also did three things across their product line that were difficult on consumers.
First, they continued to price VG-10 knives as if they were blades with premium steel. While Kizer’s Vanguard line of VG-10 knives was selling for $70-$90, Spyderco’s VG-10 blades were selling for between $150 and $200. Both were overseas made blades so the difference in cost is a mystery to me.
Second, they seemed to forget how to do liner locks as both the Carey Rubicon and the Southard Positron, among many others, had very little clearance to disengage the lock. Finally, they added almost zero new American made blades. In all, it was something that made most production knife fans scratch their heads. Where was all of this going?
Now we know.
Spyderco has been working to expand their manufacturing capacity in the US for a while and 2017 is the year that work reaps rewards, and what rewards they are. Though Spyderco doesn’t bother with SHOT Show really, showing things but holding their new stuff for IWA in Europe (usually around March), this year they let loose a volley of awesome in December when their 2017 catalog came out. If you want to hear more on this, take a listen to GGL 78 (found here where Dan of Blade Reviews and I gush about the 2017 line up). Suffice to say, this is one of the best years from a production company I have ever seen. And better yet, a lot of this stuff is already on sale. The Manix 2 LW in Maxamet and the Efficient are something you can order TODAY. Get ready, because the new Spyderco stuff is awesome.
Let’s start at the bottom of the pricing structure with the Efficient. (No, I am not bothering with Byrd knives. They are generally too expensive for what you get and with the release of the Efficient and the full “Tenacious” line, I have no idea why you’d bother)
If the Tenacious was Spyderco’s paint-by-numbers budget model, something that touched all of Spyderco’s design hallmarks without being inspiring, then the Efficient is the inspired budget blade. For around $38 shipped, you get a 3 inch blade of 8Cr13MoV (yawn) in a knife with a ton of features. There is a real finger choil here, and a great blade and handle shape. It’s as if the Tenacious and the Native had a baby, and that baby looks like the Native but is priced like the Tenacious. This is a sure thing instabuy. Only the steel is something that doesn’t have me stoked. In fact, I bought it the morning I got the email saying it was available. Nothing like a 5:30 AM knife purchase.
Two knives that are especially tantalizing for the steel junkies: the Manix 2 LW and the Native 5 in Maxamet.
These are blades that really make me question the pricing of just about every knife on the market. Maxamet is notoriously tough to grind, so tough, in fact, that KAI abandoned it as the blade steel of choice for the ZT0888 in the middle of production. Add to that the fact that labor, not materials, is always the most expensive part of a production knife, and I am stunned that both blades will retail for less than $180. I love that Spyderco continuously updates their evergreen models with new steels and when it’s something this hard, exotic, and complex, I am thrilled. The Manix is already out there (and the Manix 2 LW is probably one of my three favorite large EDC knives) and the Native 5 will be out there soon.
Many knife knuts were driven a bit crazy after Blade last year when rumors indicated that there was a Para 3 in the works. Spyderco was careful about no pictures being released, but confirmed the rumors shortly after the show. And now we get the knife. This is basically a 3 inch Paramilitary 2. There is a slight redesign of the handle, but everything else is still there: the nested liners, half and half finger choil, the highly tapered blade, the compression lock, and (unfortunately) S30V steel. If there is a successor to the long in the tooth Endura/Delica combination its the Paramilitary 2 and Para 3. This blade is also out in the wild and the initial feedback looks great. Blade HQ has run a knife popularity bracket two years in ago and I believe the Paramilitary 2 won both times. This is a smaller version of a superstar seller and a great blade.
Spyderco also went back and updated one of their most unusual models–the ATR (standing for At the Ready). The new ATR, the ATR 2, is designed as a hard use blade and runs not just the Spyderhole, but also the Cobra Hood, an experimental feature that has all but fallen out of the current line up.
The idea is to make opening the knife that much easier with a plate above the hole. This knife also has a very robust grind and a compression lock. You can stop chasing the originals on forum boards, this new one will be readily available (and probably cheaper). It runs a 3.5 inch blade of S30V.
The last knife that caught my eye was the Rhino–a small, 2.5 inch Persian blade made of BD-1. The knife runs a compression lock. This tells me that the overall price will be very reasonable, making the Rhino one of the smallest and cheapest compression locks ever. The blade is a full flat grind and looks to be relatively thin making this a very good slicer.
There are a host of new updates and iterative new models. The Delica 4 now has two new variants–a wharncliffe and a Zome Green handle (the Endura also gets the special random dye Zome treatment as well). There is a new Police model, a left handed Military and Paramilitary 2 both in G10, the Stretch 2, another new value knife, the Polestar, and a new, cheaper Rubicon (with the same access to the liner lock issue as the original). There is a new Chaparral, this time with a randomized swirl pattern in the handle (the big deal is that it is lighter than the Ti models). Finally there are sprint runs of the Meerkat, the Lil’ Lum in Blue Nishijin, a HAP40 Caly3, and a “flash run” of a miniature Nilakka.
The Spyderco 2017 line up is chock full of awesome. There are a dozen blades I’d love to review and probably many that I will eventually buy with my own money. I am particularly excited for the Efficient, the Paramiltary 3, and the ATR 2. The steel addict in me is stoked for the Maxamet blades. Simply put, Spyderco’s 2017 line up is one of the best I have ever seen, one of the best ever from Spyderco, and puts them right back in the mix for best production company alongside KAI. I couldn’t be more excited to watch them try to outdo each other. We are truly in a Golden Age of Gear.
Overall Grade: A
Instabuys: 5 (Efficient, already purchased, PM3, Native 5, ATR2, and Rhino)