Spyderco CF Caly3: One Year Later

Concept: 3 out of 5
Execution: 4 out of 5
Yeah, but: You had me at "laminated steel".

The Long Version: A year ago I bought a Spyderco Caly3 CF, so it's time for a quick update to the original review. To recap just a little, my reason for buying the Caly is that I really like my old Spyderco Native, but wanted a plain edge; my conclusion was that they're both great knives, and I couldn't really recommend either of the current generation over the other.

Well, the reality is that I carried the Caly almost exclusively for half a year, and only started using the others again when I noticed that the Caly was wearing through the back pockets of all of my jeans. The very similar Native almost never made it out of the house; my second choice was my clip-point 3" Voyager, and occasionally I'd carry one of my 4" Benchmades for variety.

The Calypso is the most sophisticated and functional knife I own. It has an excellent blade and a superb handle; the carbon fibre scales have enough grip and the thin profile carries extremely well. Yes, I wish that the scales at the pivot end wouldn't wear through my jeans quite so quickly, and the broad blade makes it difficult to accomodate my phone in the same pocket, but those are easy to forgive in exchange for such a great shape.

A slightly larger issue is that the open/close action isn't particularly smooth, and sometimes emits a slight squeak. It's not ideal, but it has never been annoying enough to make me investigate possible solutions, let alone enough to discourage me from carrying and using the knife. And after a year those are the only little quibbles that I have.

I've even become accustomed to the deep-carry pocket clip, which none of my other knives have. The last time that I carried my Stryker I realized that I was taking it out of my pocket by wrapping my index finger under the bottom of the clip, a la caly, instead of by grasping the butt of the knife between thumb and knuckle, which was my old method.

The refinement of the Caly's construction is really remarkable. It's easy enough to design a knife that works well when it's open, but look at the way the closed blade merges into the handle. It's perfect. There are some really exceptional knives that miss details like this, and it makes the Caly3 very nice to handle and carry.

The Caly's flat-ground blade is amazing, being able to slice exceptionally well and being easy to insert between the flaps of a sealed cardboard box. Because, let's face it, I'm no Survivorman wannabe: I use knives for breaking tape, cutting cardboard, stripping labels, and otherwise opening things. But I do actually use a knife on a daily basis, and the Caly3 has handled every task I've tried. I do occasionally need to sharpen the awesome ZDP steel that makes up the core of the laminated blade, but it does hold and edge significantly better than the ATS134, 154CM, or AUS8A steel in my other knives.

Size is always a contentious issue – look at the excitement when Apple offers an extra half-inch – and a lot of the appeal of a certain knife will depend on how it's being used. For box-breaking duty I like to keep my index finger along the side of the blade as a depth control, and the Caly's blade and handle design is as large as I can comfortably hold without over-extending my average-sized hand or gripping the knife by the sharp bits. Even the Spyderco hole comes into play here, providing a better grip for my thumb.

It's possible that the Caly3 really could be my perfect knife – or, at the very least, one of my perfect knives. No matter how good the Caly is, I accumulate knives because I enjoy them, not because I have some life-critical task that can't be done with my current selection. So the fact that I've just gone ahead and ordered yet another knife isn't a criticism of the Caly3; in fact, the one that I've picked out to complement it is an overwhelming testament to its excellence.

But that's a review for another day.

last updated 14 sep 2012


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