By Dexter Ewing, Knife Collector and Enthusiast
Spyderco's long awaited Native series of folding lockblades are finally making their way to dealer shelves after spending a couple of years in development and refinement. This family of knives was designed to be truly "native" with any cutting task be it big or small, difficult or precise. The particular Native model received for this review was the fully serrated SP41SBK.
The SP41SBK's fully serrated; hollow ground blade is constructed of GIN-1 stainless steel in a spearpoint pattern. To reduce weight, Spyderco added a false edge (which also enhances the appearance). To enhance user control, there are some traction notches cut on the tang to provide a comfortable thumb rest. A feature that I always find to be really nice on any folder is integrated finger choils (e.g. integrated choils can also be found on other Spyderco knives like the SP52 Calypso Jr, SP36 Military). When opened, the blade and handle of the Native form a choil that is used to achieve a comfortable "choke grip" permitting the user to exert precise control during demanding cutting tasks. In the choke grip, the index finger takes in the choil while the middle finger fills the handle's finger recess, the thumb rests atop the notched thumb rest, and the other fingers fall into place. It is this exact grip that the Native feels as if an extension of the user's hand.
The Native is one of those folding knives that make a great candidate for a daily carry, general purpose working folder, for several reasons. Its full Zytel handle keeps the overall weight to a minimum while the traction patterns on the handle keep your hand from slipping. The company says that this bi-directional pattern eliminates hand slipping, forward or backward. Speaking of the traction pattern, it is unique in appearance - the way it radiates outwards from the circular Spyderco insignia in the middle of the handle. And finally, what is a Spyderco knife without a pocket clip? The Native features a reversible metal clip that is held secure by a specially designed fastener that also serves as the lanyard hole. The clip can be moved easily from either side of the knife, in order to suit right handed or left handed users. This is done with the aid of a coin or flathead screwdriver. I'm happy to see more of the other lightweight Spydercos employing this same clip design - it is not as fragile as the older molded-in style and can be easily and quickly replaced by the user if necessary. The entire handle of the Native fits very comfortably within the hand even in a tight grip. A large finger well provides a nice place to rest the index finger and aids the user in achieving a perfect grip, everytime.
During the course of this evaluation, the Native was used to cut a variety of materials. First, cardboard - this is my favorite medium to test any knife. It is a tough material that can dull blades rather quickly (depending on the type of stainless steel). With its factory edge, the Native sailed through the 1/4" thick fibrous material with ease. After about 50 cuts, the edge started to dull, which required me to exert more force to complete the cuts. The blade was resharpened using a DMT Diafold coarse grit serration hone, in less than 10 minutes. After the blade's edge was restored, I decided that it was time to tackle some PVC pipe. Clamping a small section of 1" pipe in my bench vise, I proceeded to saw off a section of the pipe. Because of the relatively short (3 1/8" long) blade, I had to really work it in order to saw off a small section of pipe. The reason for this is that the serrations do not cover the entire length of the cutting edge (a la Endura or Delica), only 1 21/32" of the total length. When the edge started to dull again after a few cuts, the going really got tough. This really was not the correct size knife to use for this task, but the Native handled it okay.
Toting the Native around is a breeze. As with the rest of the Spyderco lightweight handled knives, the weight is kept to a minimum, making the Native comfortable to clip to the top of the pocket or discreetly inside the waistband. I carried the Native clipped to the rear pocket of my jeans, where it was easily accessed and opened with my left hand, though I am right handed (this is also testament to the knife's ease of opening).
Speaking of the blade's action, it opens and closes very, VERY smoothly. I was pleasantly surprised at this fluid action. And yes, the Native is a rocker bar lockblade! Upon close examination of the portion of the tang (the part which comes in direct contact with the rocker bar), it was revealed that this part is highly polished. Couple this with the mild spring tension that keeps the rocker bar in constant contact with the tang, and these factors make for an incredibly smooth functioning knife. Heck, the Native's action is smoother than that of some of my more expensive locking liner knives! Kudos to Spyderco for fine tuning the action.
The aforementioned mild spring tension did raise some concern during my PVC sawing test. During this portion of the evaluation, I noticed that my tight grip pressure on the handle did cause the lock release to depress slightly (due to pressure of the fingers pressing the handle spine into the palm). But, I want to stress that it was not to the point where total lock failure was eminent. Under most conditions of use, I see no reason why the lock mechanism of the Native should fail.
In closing, the Native sports a great combination of features that anyone would certainly appreciate. The two years or so that the Native spent in development were well worth it! I applaud Spyderco for bringing out two versions of this knife - the other being a stainless steel handle. For anyone who may not favor molded thermoplastic handles, the SS version is their answer. Whatever version of the Native one chooses, this knife is a good choice for a general purpose, daily carry work knife. Another fine product from those "sharp" folks in Golden, Colorado!
DEXTER "Blade Man" EWING
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Have a knife day!
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