A bit to my dismay, I’ve recently found that I’ve associated production knives with being ‘second best’ to a custom knife. The difference has always been huge. After all, how could any factory hope to pump out something of the same quality as a bona-fide bladesmith? I’ve seen more than a few production fixed blades that have come quite close to such a high level of quality, however. But for folding knives? Not terribly common. I look at several aspects to gauge this quality: general fit & finish, tightness of blade lockup, smoothness of opening, comfort in carry and use, and quality of the edge & steel. I’ve largely stayed away from production folders (except several Swiss Army knives, too handy to leave behind) based on perceived deficits in those qualities. It amazes me, however, that I’ve managed to stay away from one brand for so long–Spyderco. And thanks to Spyderco, I’ve received an education on the level of quality that can be produced en masse.
Spyderco is certainly not a new kid on the block, having started making sharpeners since the late seventies and knives since the early eighties. Their first blade, the CO1 Worker, was the first to feature the iconic thumb hole near the spine of the blade. And, so began a tradition! Since then, they’ve produced knives using over a dozen steels, several handle materials, in every size, and in collaboration with around two dozen custom knife makers. I’m not nearly as educated on the evolution of their designs as many collectors and Spyderco-disciples, but even a neophyte can peruse their current catalog and appreciate the breadth of their lineup! While they all vary greatly, from keychain-sized folders to heavy fixed blade choppers, they’re each extremely unique and identifiable as a Spyderco.
One of their newest models, the Manix 2, has impressed the heck out of me. Luckily, the blade is inscribed, “Golden, Colorado… U.S.A. Earth,” or I’d confuse it for something made in another world. This locking folder measures 4 5/8” closed with a 3 inch cutting edge. When opened, it’s an 8 inch OAL slicing machine. The steel is tried & true 154CM with handsome, matte black G-10 handle slabs. It comes with a very strong and de-rigueur pocket clip, that leaves me with no fear of losing it to the likes of gravity. For you southpaws, there are even screw holes on the opposite side of the handle to switch the clip to. (Considerate, ain’t they?) A steel lanyard tube hides indiscriminately near the butt. One of the most striking features has to be the lavish jimping along many portions of handle circumference. The jimping on the dual steel liners extends just slightly beyond the G-10 slabs, allowing for a very secure grip that doesn’t cut up your hand (more on that later).
Clearly it’s got a lot of curb appeal, but that’s not what bowled me over. It’s the opening mechanism that holds the real sweetness! Opening this blade for the first time was like sliding a stick of butter across a hot skillet, like marbles on ice. No folder that I’ve ever used has opened as smoothly. I’ve since learned that this quality is owed to the Spyderco ball-bearing lock system. It utilizes a free-floating ball bearing within a polymer ‘cage,’ making for a glassy-smooth action. The lock-up, once opened, is no less impressive; there is zero play and the blade is perfectly in line. During each cutting or carving task I performed with this knife, the Manix2 always felt more like a fixed blade than folder. And, when whatever task at hand is completed, the blade is easily closed with one hand by pulling on the clear plastic tabs near the hilt, releasing the lock. This is in contrast to the original Manix, which is a more traditional lockback design. The tabs near the axis are much more ergonomic, if totally one-handed operation is desired.
In use, the Manix2 was a sincere pleasure. It handles more like a modified wharncliff than a spear point. It also shaves hair with ease out of the box. This is a common claim for blades, but many scrape hair off rather than smoothly slice it away. This one performs the latter. The first thing I do with any new blade (aside from making my arm smooth) is step outside to make some fuzz sticks and a figure-four trap. They are simple activities, but they tell me a lot about edge geometry and about how comfortable the handle is. The hollow-ground blade bit deeply and was easy to control even on harder woods like some oak branches I found. Trap notches were clean and effortless. Hard to ask for much more than that! Several days of EDC with the Manix2 gave me further insight into just how able this knife is. Within just a few days it was tasked with opening packages, cutting cord and twine, slicing sandwiches and fruit, and fighting a bear. (OK, maybe not that last one. But I wanted to.) The most I can say is that I was never left wanting! The slicing ability is most attributable to the hollow grind, and to the constant but gentle elliptical curve of the edge.
I had initial concerns about whether the width (when closed, 1.68” at the widest) of the Manix 2 would be uncomfortable when worn in my pants pocket. This doesn’t quite qualify as massive, but leaves the potential to be cumbersome or too noticeable when walking and sitting. Thankfully, this was a complete non-issue, even in flimsy dress slacks. This may be owed in part to the fact that the clip is positioned at the base of the knife, the thinnest portion, for tip-up carry. In other words, the widest part of the handle is furthest into your pocket, and away further away from the fold of the hip. In hand, the width was hugely appreciated; it fills the palm nicely, unlike the anemic grip offered by so many pocket folders. The G-10 scales are quite grippy but not at all abrasive. The same can be said of the generous jimping around the handle. Jimping can easily be taken too far and cause more harm to your hand than security, but it seems that being buffered by the G-10 negates that worry. The length of the handle allows for a full four-finger grip, and the choil allows you to choke up comfortably if desired.
It’s hard to find limitations to this blade in all honesty! The fit and finish are obscenely impressive for any knife, let alone a production blade. The G-10 slabs and stainless steel liners meet perfectly, the grinds are even and attractive, and the edge is perfect out of the box. The action is easily the smoothest of any folder I’ve ever used (enough cannot be said about this!). The lockup is rock solid and 100% in-line with the handle. The handle is well designed for even long cutting/carving sessions. The hollow ground, elliptical edge allows for excellent slicing efficiency, rivaled by only a handful of blades in my collection. It’s hard to know what else to ask for when broken down like that! The Manix2 makes for a perfect EDC blade, but demonstrates equal prowess in the backwoods. All I can hope at this point is that I haven’t caught the Spyderco-bug–there are just too many to collect!