I’m sitting here in the Downtown Radisson located in Salt Lake City writing this article, and I’m getting ready to attend the Outdoor Retailer show which officially kicks off tomorrow (when I wrote this article). I’ve got quite a few appointments set up to meet with manufacturers to see what’s new and getting ready to hit the shelves this fall. One of those companies is Spyderco. Several weeks ago, I received one of their new models for review, and since I’m meeting with them this week, I wanted to make sure to have the review on their Temperance 2 complete before I spoke with them. My reasoning was that I could hit them with my impressions and any suggestions I might have for the model. And, do I have a doozy for them, but that’s for a little later.
Not too long ago, I made arrangements with a custom maker to obtain what I thought would be a great camp knife. Out of all the knives I have on hand—fighting knives, hunting knives, bushcrafting knives, large bowies, folders, and so forth—I don’t (or didn’t at the time) have one that I thought would really fit the bill as a camp knife. More particularly, I wanted something that would work well in the camp kitchen as a great slicer when it’s retired from the trail that day. Wouldn’t you know it? Not more than a week after I received that knife, another one fell into my hands, and that was the Spyderco Temperance 2. Fate’s little practical joke, I guess. While I have owned and used a vast assortment of Spyderco knives, I’ve only owned one of their fixed blades. That was a drop-point Moran that rode on my belt through many hikes and backpacking trips. But aside from that one, all the other Spydies have been folders. Well, I’ll tell you right now, the moment that the Temperance 2 slipped into my hand, I was in love. There are so many things that are great touches to this design, it’s going to be tough to cover them all in just one article, but I’m going to try. First, it comes with a Canvas Micarta covered handle which is an excellent material that wells wear out on the trail and provides a sure grip if the knife happens to get wet along the way.
Speaking of the handle, the grips on the Temperance 2 are contoured very nicely for a comfortable, yet secure, purchase on the knife. At the top end of the grip is a contour for the first finger that serves as a semi-guard, and at the bottom is a similar type of countour to help the user’s hand to lock in place. I’m sure it will be up to individual tastes and hand sizes whether or not this will be comfortable. But, for me, it was like coming home again! Extending beyond the grip is 4.875 inches of VG-10 steel that has a maximium thickness of .15 inches. What do I mean by maximum thickness? Well, I’ll cover that in a bit. Hower, another positive aspect of the actual blade portion is that the blade has a slight cant to it relative to the handle. In other words, if you hold the knife out parallel to the ground, the tip will actually be closer to the ground than the portion near the grip. That slight, forward tilt of the blade is an ergonomic function that enhances the ease of slicing chores. It allows the user to keep a more natural grip on the knife while slicing through something rather than having to tilt the wrist down unnaturally to complete the task. I’ve had a couple of knives with this kind of design and have always appreciated their ease of use for specific cutting chores.
Now, we come to what I talked about before about “maximum thickness”. Spyderco bills their treatment of the blade as a double distal taper. Most of you will already know what a full flat grind is, and that is a very popular grind for slicing knives. Essentially, the grind on the blade starts from the spine and extends all the way down to the edge. There is no shoulder before the edge. Though there are different groups of people that will argue edge geometries and different grinds that are best for slicing, but it’s without doubt that a full flat grind is certainly one of the best. Now, Spyderco took it a step further and also did a similar type grind from the beginning of the blade near the grip slabs all the way to the point of the knife. So, the blade steel is thinner at the point of the knife than it is back at the handle.
Now, I’ll admit that I didn’t pick up on this right at the beginning. I was just happy to see the Big Brown Truck and yanked the Temperance 2 out and started playing with it. When I saw the edge, I knew it was going to be a cutter. The first thing I did was some arm hair shaving. Who hasn’t done that? When I did this test, I used the portion of the blade nearest the point. Without exaggerating, I’ll say that the hair slid off my arm with ease. I’m not even sure that the Temperance 2 even touched the hairs. I think it just yelled at the hairs and told them to get the Hell out of the way! Without question, the Temperance 2 is the sharpest production fixed blade knife of this type that I have ever used. Yes, I realize that there are small scalpel-type knives or very nice iterations of fillet knives, but I’m talking about knives that are of substantial size and build quality that can be employed in a number of different chores.
What made me look closer at the knife and at the specs was that I didn’t get that same slick hair removal with the blade edge closer to the grip. It still took the hair off, but it took a little more effort and I felt it more than the first test. At first, I thought that maybe there was a difference in the grind from front to back that would cause that. But, when I looked at the spine of the knife, I saw how the blade thinned out the closer it got to the point. Well, things started to make sense then. When I considered how the double distal taper was implemented in this knife, I actually liked the concept a great deal. To me, it gives the user a bit of both worlds. You get the added strength of a thicker blade for the largest portion of the knife, but you also get that thin slicing edge you want to use for things like food preparation. Even though the blade is thinner at the end, it’s still quite strong and I wouldn’t hesitate to use this blade for general work in addition to the around the camp chores.
The Temperance 2 comes with its own sheath constructed of Boltaron. If you know what that is already, you are a step ahead of me. This was the first time I ever heard of it. But, being the dedicated writer providing the background for others, I looked it up. It’s a brand name for a PVC plastic that has actually been in use since the 1960’s. As an aside, one use for it was as inlay material for guitars made by Martin Guitar. No matter, though, as it forms well to the knife and has a very secure and satsifying locking characteristic when the knife is sheathed. It has a robust feel to it and lacks nothing in quality in comparison to other Kydex-type sheaths I’ve tried in the past. In fact, most of you already know this material as Concealex which has been used for some time in producing holsters and sheaths. Boltaron is just the company’s brand name for the material. The sheath comes with a J hook on it which is easily attached to your belt without having to undo it first. I’ve only had one sheath with a J hook in the past, and I’m still not 100% sure how I feel about it. It has its advantages but I’ve always used sheaths with the standard loops or a locking mechanism for that added bit of security. However, during the past few weeks of carrying and using the Temperance 2, I haven’t had any issues with it.
In the past several weeks, I’ve taken the Temperance 2 with me out into the woods on our land and on some of my recent ventures into Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. I’ve used the Temperance for all type of chores to test its range of versatility. Unfortunately, as with all products, one design will not fit all purposes ideally, so we’ll start with how the Temperance 2 handles chopping. Because of the thinner blade steel in the forward half of the blade, you’re not going to get a great amount of momentum with your swing. So, you’re going to be limited to lighter chopping tasks. But, even so, if pressed into that role, you can get by with decent technique. I used the Temperance 2 to cut down a few limbs to make tent stakes for a shelter review that I’m working on. It did the job well enough, but not as quick as a model with more weight in the blade. But, that’s really to be expected.
As we move up the spectrum, we start to get into the areas where the Temperance 2 really begins to shine. After I got the limbs down, I began doing some quick work on them to make them the right length and cut out notches to keep the paracord lines in place. Granted, I’m no real bushcrafter, but I’m learning! The blade edge of the Temerance 2 is very sharp and very easy to control with the way the handle is countoured and profiled in contrast to the cutting portion. It was no sweat for me to quickly carve out notches in the stakes I was making. In fact, it cut so well, I got a little carried away and went a a little too deep in a couple of them! I’m not one of those folks get that into the whole “pioneer” concept of making my own utensils and flatware with my knives, but the Temperance 2 does lend itself to being a great knife to play around with at camp.
And, along those same line, the Temperance 2 is a great camp knife, especially where you’ve got a backwoods culinary expert who needs a good slicer for whipping up dinner. The 4.8 inch blade length is just about perfect for this area of endeavor. I’m currently reviewing an interesting item for grilling in the outdoors, and I decided to throw together some of my own backwoods kabobs to for dinner. I used the Temperance 2 and another knife to compare them and to gauge how well they perform at this kind of task. The Spyderco performed admirably in this regard. Having little practical cooking experience myself, I was surprised by how quickly I whipped through the assortment of meat and vegetables. I actually felt like I knew what I was doing, but as all people know, everything tastes better in the great outdoors!
A lot of the utility and comfort of the Temperance 2 comes from the nicely contoured handle with the natural canvas micarta slabs. Whether the handle is wet from food prep or the weather, the handle material ensures a firm purchase under all conditions. As a last resort, I could see the Temperance 2 performing nicely as a defensive weapon as well. It has a great edge for slashing cuts, and the double distal taper lends the blade to being a great penetrator as well. All in all, the Temperance 2 covers most wilderness needs quite nicely. Besides that, it’s one of the first knives to come along in quite a while that has actually been fun to use, which brings me to my last point.
Heads Ought To Roll!
And, now, we come to the part where I said I wanted to make a suggestion to Spyderco about their Temperance 2 model. To me, it’s such a big misstep, I think one of the execs ought to go on a rampage to find the parties responsible for this unforgivable naming blunder. (Well, not really…) When you look up the word “Temperance”, the definition states that it is “moderation, restraint in personal action”. If you look at the plug on Spyderco’s site, it says the Temperance 2 is a “study in control”. That may well be. The ergonomic design of the handle and blade profile certainly exhibits all the qualities of a knife that would be easy to control and act as a natural extension of the user’s hand. However, that has nothing to do with temperance, which is self-control. Once you pick this knife up, it will be extremely hard to exercise any kind of self-control. In fact, once you pick it up and use it, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that instead of the “Spyderco Temperance 2” its name should have been the “Spyderco Exhilaration!”