torsdag 1 februari 2018

Knifereview Spyderco Shaman

- Spellbound by a Shaman


Today we are going to talk about the Shaman, a not completely standardized Spyderco in my eyes. Exactly what I mean by that demands an explanation I guess. This since all the classical features are there including the hole in the blade, their own compression lock and the overall design language which by now are either a sign of quality or something to avoid for those who can't stand the looks.

Someone even called it a "lovechild" between a PM 2 and a Native even if I only partly concur. But it's not that strange that it is a recognizable shape since the designer behind the knife is the founder of Spyderco Mr Sal Glesser himself. And it doesn't seem too far fetched that he would base a new knife on previous successes and take it from there.


Spyderco C229G "Shaman"


So it was with high expectations I received this particular knife. It was also my ticket to the "world of Natives"  since that model is lacking in my collection so far. For some reason they have not caught my interest enough. Most probably because they are too close to other top ranked Spyderco models both in size and function. So every time I had my finger on the ordering button I changed my mind. But then this model was released and exploded like a bomb in my small knife universe. Sometimes bigger is really better!


A Native on steroids?


The most objections I held against Native on a theoretical level disappeared with the change in format and only the positives remained. Foremost they are centered around ergonomics and looks. Shaman is one of those few Spyderco models that lacks "humpback" which for sure makes it less noticeable but the more elegant. Native 5 is for the same reasons better looking than para 3 in my eyes.


Twitter version: The spell of the Shaman, bigger is better!



Blade


The blade of the Shaman is a very good one even if it seemingly is a bit of recycling going on. We have seen this leaf-shape before haven't we? It doesn't deviate too much from the Native- or Sage-series of knives just to name a few. But there are differences and the most obvious is of course size. This blade is more comparable to the Manix 2 but thicker still and stands taller, think "giant leaf"*.

Bigger, sturdier and without a thumbramp otherwise an easy recognizable shape


Despite being thick this blades cut very good due the FFG and height of the blade


The blade measures over three and a half inch in length and the thickness is over 0.14". Thicker blades are often inferior for almost every cutting task but in this case it's in line with the rest of the construction. Simply put more robust than your average Spyderco. And this combined with the ergonomics are what makes this knife great (pun intended).

Another deviance from the common Spyderco theme can be found in the blade finish. Instead of being a satin it's stonewashed and then semi-polished. The grind is also worth mentioning, it's not a full flat even if it is close. Those two details makes for an almost two-tone look. Anyway it's a nice finish that is both aesthetic and practical. Scratches have a tendency to show less which feels more important for a knife that in every aspect is a user. 


Shaman compared with Manix 2 LW, an otherwise equally large knife. 
The neck is thicker but the knife isn't that much fatter in pocket


I like almost everything about this blade except for the strange hump that is supposed to act as a finger guard. What is it doing there at all? At least it could be less obtrusive. Besides not being very useful it is in the way when closing the knife since it protrudes past the lock which from time to time can be annoying. And why is the blade tang sticking out in closed position? There is no reason for that and Spyderco are successful in hiding it on almost every model they make with a few exceptions.

The blade steel isn't much to talk about since this first edition of Shaman is equipped with one of Spydercos go to steels, Crucibles CPM S30V. An excellent allround steel for pocketknives by the way. I say "first edition" because It isn't too daring to guess that this knife will be able in other configurations within short. The platform is too good for not being used for some experiments. 


Handle


The handle construction on the Shaman is very robust and based on a sturdy steel frame with a lot of holes in the liners for weight reduction. Over the frame are attached scales in black G10. What characterizes them and makes this knife stand out besides being very solid is that they are heavily chamfered. That almost results in vaulted sides and add to the splendid ergonomics of this knife. The surface is rather smooth which isn't too common in a world full of sandpaper like grips. For some reason there seem to be an assumption from almost every manufacturer that all knife users are butchering jellyfish all day long for a living. That idea might be fueled by a couple of Youtubers.


The biggest sales pitch for the Shaman is it's ergonomic handle


The handle measures 4,7 inch in length which almost guaranteed fits most hands no matter how big they are or if you work with gloves on.

The back of the knife is semi open with a small backspacer in steel. At first glance it can look a bit redundant but is put there to act as a counterweight to the massive blade and thus contribute to the neutral balance of the knife. It is also a bit countersunk in relation to the rest of the grip. Why Spyderco chosen to make it that way is more than I can answer. 

A rather open construction with a heavy lightened frame and a small back spacer for better balance


In work this handle is a pure joy to use. To be honest, from a practical standpoint this is one of the best handles that are available on a folder period. It is both flexible and comfortable. Flexible as in being able to grip in a number of different ways. That is made possible by being large enough combined with an excellent forward choil. I'm not the biggest fan of forward/50/50 finger choils in general but if you are going to put one on a knife this is the way to do it!

What's prominent with this handle is that all grips works equally good. More common is that one or two grips are in favor. One of few objections I have is that the clip can be felt especially when gripping the knife in a "saber grip" without using the choil. But thanks to the length of the handle this can be avoided by slightly adjusting the grip.


Opening and Lock


The spyderhole is about  the same size as on the PM2 for instance but it doesn't protrude as drastically which makes it a bit less easy to get to. But access is still adequate and the knife can be open in several ways. As per usual you can open the knife with a slow and controlled movement with the thumb, a "Spydieflick" with the middle finger or simply release the lock and turn it into a gravity knife**.

The Spydercohole is of the same diameter as on the PM 2 but feels smaller due to the height of the blade


On this knife the edges of the hole is less sharp than they can be on some Spydercos. That can partly be explained by this being a Golden Colorado product and part due to the surface treatment on the blade I guess. The result is very good and provides a secure grip for your finger without chewing on it.

A good lock but is this really necessary? Why have a metal part protrude like this?


This knife is equipped with Spydercos contribution to the existing fauna of locks, the compressionlock. In this version as good as always. Or almost as good is closer to the truth. Because here the small detail with the finger guard recur. When closing the knife you simply have to remove your finger from the lockbar in the end of the motion or the blade won't close entirely due the protruding elongated piece of the blade tang.

The function is without blame in every other aspect and the blade show no tendencies what so ever to move in locked position. I must admit though that everything else would have been a big disappointment with the price level, the brand and the pedigree of this knife in mind.

The blade runs on phosphor bronze washers and the general tolerances are very tight and therein lays part of the explanation to why the knife feels so solid. 


To Carry


Some things have to be sacrificed on the alter of strength and ergonomics. In this case it's weight but foremost volume. But the Shaman still weighs in under ?? oz and is therefore not a true heavy weight. It is however somewhat of a fatty. The handle is substantial and demands pocket space.

Shaman isn't totally anonymous in pocket. Nore the pocket clip or the size allows that


But the weight is well balanced and the clip sturdy so the knife stays put. The clip is by the way tumbled so it matches the finish on the blade. Another little detail that enhances the overall impression. The shape is Spydercos standard "spoon" and it can be relocated to all four corners of the handle. If you combine that with the lock and the hole for opening you got a rather lefty friendly knife.


To Conclude

The first question that needs an answer is of course if the initially high expectations were fulfilled? The answer is a simple one - yes, with emphasis. This knife hardly left my pockets since I got it. It soon climbed to the top not only among Spydercos but all my larger folders. The combined strength of a well thought out blade, a good steel, a secure lock and above all a comfortable handle makes for a serious contender in it's class. I also find it attractive in a robust sort of way. It's hardly what you call an elegant knife.

What Spyderco have done is to take the advantages from the Native but added a few things missing for many in that model and that is size and another lock mechanism. And Shaman was also very priceworthy. I write "was" because I bought it for around 140$ and now it cost closer to 180$. It's still as good of a knife of course but the competition also gets tougher in the higher realms.

Spyderco Shaman was able to fulfill my high expectations


In order to understand how good the Shaman actually is I want to compare it with another almost iconic knife, the Paramilitary 2 from Spyderco. That comparison can be the subject for an entire chapter itself but a few areas can be highlighted. 
  • First is ergonomics. In my hand the Shaman fits even better than the already very good PM 2. Most of that advantage lies in the fact that the Paramilitary has typical flat sided scales while the Shaman is much more chamfered and rounded off in every way. The surface finish is also smoother which I prefer. 
  • The next thing worth mentioning is that the tip is way sturdier on the Shaman than on the rather infamous thin tip on the PM 2. Sure, you loose some precision but not much. 
  • Thirdly, it looks better! It is however a very subjective standpoint. But it is "humpless" which heavily influences the overall lines of the knife. The bulb that is usually the result of the hole in the blade is one of the things that usually turn some people off when it comes to the way Spydercos looks. 
To be fair all of the above mentioned positives can also be turned and had against the Shaman especially since it is a tad heavier than the PM2. It's by and large a matter of taste.

A future classic?

To all them who is not that big of Spyderco connoisseurs I want to clarify, Shaman is a damned good pocket knife and a very capable candidate to the title of "best folding knife" overall. But that is said with one distinct disclaimer. It only goes for the ones who prefer somewhat larger folding knives for EDC use.

Despite all it measures over nine inches in total length and add to that a certain roundness and you get a knife that isn't for everybody. Because of size it doesn't compete on the same premises as other EDC-favourites of mine such as Spydercos Sage-series,  Fox TurViper Dan, Benchmade 940-series, Kizer T1 and Gemini to name a few. 

I predict that the Shaman will linger in the Spyderco catalogue for quite some time and that it will be subject to  many variants and sprint runs in order to keep the interest. But it is sure worth it!



Spydercos product page

Specification:

Length Overall: 8,31"
Length, Folded: 4,7"
Weight: 5,2 oz, 148 g (weighed by me)
Blade Length: 3,61"
Blade Thickness: 0,145"
Blade Steel: Crucible CPM S30V,
Handle: G10 over steel frame
Lock: Compression Lock

Produced by: Spyderco, made in USA



/ J - enchanted

* There even was a model called "Super Leaf". In this case the Shaman deviates because it's sturdier than we are used to from Spyderco. But in there extensive catalogue there are other examples of this over the years. Tatanka and Tuff are the ones that springs to mind but also Starmate measures ?? over the neck and all three are thereby thicker than the Shaman. 

** Which unfortunately makes this and many others with similar variants of locks illegal in some jurisdictions. But that's another story. 


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