One to Watch-Spyderco Caribbean
Tony Sculimbrene 08.22.17
If you are steel junkie, then Spyderco is likely your favorite drug dealer. Their Mule Project and their pioneering use of ZDP-189 have made them the go-to company for production knives in cutting edge (see what I did there?) steel for more than a decade now. And their push for a new ultra-stainless steel in the form of LC200 N has been fascinating to watch.
First, they released a Mule in the steel. Then they released it on the high-priced and weird Tusk. Then they followed that up with a titanium framelock designed by the mastermind behind the Techno Marcin Slycz called the SpydieChef. Both were admittedly niche products. Not evreryone loves a fixed blade that lacks both a handle and a sheath, and the SpydieChef was designed as a folding kitchen knife. But the LC200 N steel (also known as Z-FiNit) hold so much promise that us steel junkies were just waiting for a more conventional design.
Spyderco has long had a line of water-friendly knives, called the Salt series. Many of these blades were Spyderco evergreen classics with blades made of H1. H1’s stainless performance is somewhat better than rocks, but its edge holding is on par with butter, so while it got the job done, it wasn’t something that was worth carrying generally.
But LC200 N has a HRc upper limit of 60-62, making it a steel that can be used daily. Zapp designed the steel has a replacement for 52100 ball bearings made for NASA. It is both easy to machine (and sharpen) and handles loads well. This last thing was a limitation of H1. Not only was it too soft to hold a full flat grind (trivia note: the only Dragonfly II without a full flat grind is the H1 version), it was also not good under pressure, meaning that H1 blades couldn’t be used on liner locks or frame locks. With the compression issues out of the way and a higher hardness, LC200 N is ready for the prime time, and that prime time’s name is the Spyderco Caribbean.
The Caribbean is the latest edition to the Spyderco Salt line up, and it comes as a pair of folders with bi-directional (ugly bi-directional) handles. There is a sheepsfoot and a classic leaf shaped blade. Both are 3.67 cutting edge on a 3.70 inch blade, and the knives lock up using a Compression lock.
Taken together, the size, the design, the steel, and the lock, all make this look like first truly mainstream LC200 N blade. The knife, despite the big blade, only weighs 4.2 ounces. While Spyderco clearly intends this to be a niche Salt knife, the features and size make me think that this could be a knife that everyone likes, as it lacks any of the weird or specialized features of previous LC200 N knives. And, unlike the SpydieChef, the most mainstream of the previous offerings, the Caribbean costs a very reasonable $157 street.