Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Spyderco Grasshopper SlipIt; slip-joint, non-locking folder

One of my first so-called "tactical folding knives", was an early incarnation of Spyderco's venerable Endura series of knives, followed shortly after by the long discontinued Terzuola Starmate folder. I own a fair number of Spyderco knives, and have owned many others in the past. Sal Glesser's company seems to be one of those brands that strikes a chord in people, whether they love them, or strongly dislike them (surely nobody HATES Spyderco!) there are very few of us indifferent to the company's unique wares. One of the reasons I haven't purchased a new Spyderco knife in some time, is the fact that they can get quite expensive, a trait often compensated for by their high performance and ease of carry. I had a Spyder-craving a few weeks ago, and decided to order their UK penknife and one of their little "Bug" knives, the Grasshopper, more specifically. I'll talk about the UK pen knife series next week.

Spyderco's SlipIt "bug" knives began with the original Bug, a tiny slipjoint folder made out of stainless steel (both handle & blade). The Bug comes in at 2 7/8" (73 mm) overall, quite tiny. Next the Honeybee was released, at 3 5/8" (92 mm) overall, the Honeybee looked to be slightly more usable in everyday life. I'd thought about getting one, but I'm glad I waited for the Grasshopper, the 3rd size in the Bug series. Full length is 5-1/32" (128 mm) and it too is constructed from stainless steel, with a Cr13 blade. As I've mentioned before, you'll see Chinese steels like Cr13 popping up frequently on knives made in Taiwan & China by well known American manufacturing companies. Benchmade used similar steels in their now discontinued Redbox line, and Spyderco uses it on knives like their Tenacious folders, that are made overseas, but still maintain a high standard of quality. I've long thought that an MSRP of nearly $45 USD was sort of ridiculous for Spyderco's famous LadyBug keychain knives. Granted, the long-running LadyBugs, with FRN handles, are Japan made, using VG10, a great steel for their little blades. I'm glad Glesser & Company got on board with the popular knife industry trend of creating a lower priced line of knives for those who appreciate quality, but may be on a budget. The little Grasshopper folder accurately mirrors full size Spyderco folders like the stainless-handled Enduras, and Delicas in many aspects, but instead of lockback construction, they sport a slip joint. Essentially, the concept is the same as nearly every other old-school, classic non-locking folder your Grandpa or uncle used to use, resistance pressure at the knife's pivot area holds the blade open and extended. All it takes to close the knife is to apply some pressure and fold the blade into the handle. They DO however stay open competently, regardless of their lack of actual lock mechanism. Explained slightly better, I found a site that explains slip joint construction as follows: "pressure is simply applied to the flat back of the tang by a leaf spring and it is basically held in place by tension". That's about as good an explanation as I can personally offer without humiliating myself by trying to draw a diagram attempting to explain it. Think traditional small Swiss Army knife blades, and you're close to the intended idea.

The Grasshopper's construction is almost startlingly well done for a Chinese-made knife. Not to say that many other companies don't have great knives made overseas, but for such a reasonable price, these little knives shine. Suggested retail is around $15 USD, I found mine for just a couple of dollars less, plus shipping. When it comes down to it, I DO like to stick with buying knives and tools made here, in the states, but it's obvious that Spyderco's Chinese affiliates are a quality factory. There's no way underfed people suffering in a sweatshop made this knife, the construction is too clean, this knife was made with care by somebody at a factory where they know what they're doing. Bottom line, I'm pretty impressed with the Grasshopper, and I know it would make a great gift for just about anybody. It was packaged in a nice little 2 piece box with a foil embossed Spyderco logo on black, it's practically ready to go as a gift right from the start, throw a bit of ribbon around it and feel the love!

My Grasshopper is still rather new, so I haven't had enough time to fully put it through its paces, but so far, the 2-5/16" blade excels at opening mail and packages. I've carried it around, right front pocket, and it's extremely light for an all-metal knife, just under 40 grams in fact, or about 1.4 ounces. These knives are appropriate keychain size as well, and include a lanyard hole for just that purpose. I'm impressed enough so far, that I'd definitely consider giving the Grasshopper, or one of its smaller cousins as a gift, since we'll be entering that season pretty quickly. The Grasshopper is a really nice little folder for a bargain price, now I'll have to pick up the original Bug and Honeybee to round out the trio!

You can see the Grasshopper and other Spyderco knives at Knifecenter. I know it must seem like I recommend them quite a bit, in fact, I do. I have nothing to do with KC, except for the fact that I've been ordering knives from them since they launched in 1996 or 1997, and they've never let me down. Prices are usually fair, and shipping is fairly quick. They are one of only a handful of sites I feel comfortable recommending to friends and readers for their knife needs, and we all know that there are some retail sites out there with less than acceptable shipping times and prices.

To see the entire knife line and to learn more about Spyderco, go to Spyderco.com.

I'll be back soon with my impressions of the lightweight, American made UK pen knife, also from Spyderco.

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