by Dexter Ewing
I first became enamored with this design back when Spyderco released the Calypso Jr, then dubbed the Experimental SPX04. The Experimentals were new designs of small knives, test marketed for the purpose of seeing which designs appealed to the knife buying public. This design seemed very natural in the way it fit the hand. All the curves are in the right place to make the knife feel as if an extension of the user's hand. The Calypso Jr is my choice to recommend to anyone who wants a small lockback for utility purposes, and it is extremely attractive to boot. When I first learned that the company had a larger version of the Calypso Jr in the works, I was elated. This particular knife design is one that I feel would work very well as a small knife OR a large knife. I'm happy to see that Spyderco has again caused agony with folding knife lovers everywhere by offering yet another attractive and functional piece of fine bladeware. The SP54 is simply an impressive knife!!
The evaluation sample I received was straight out of Spyderco's display case from the 1998 Blade Show. This particular model is not perfect by the company's standards, since the blade is not exactly centered inside of the handle when it is closed. I would like to say that this very minor flaw does not at all affect the performance or opening/closing of the knife. With that said, on with the dissection!
What can I say? Micarta is one of my favorite handle materials! It is ultra-slick in touch and look. It is strong yet classy. Goes well with casual or dress attire. I have always admired the handles on the SP16 Goddard, SP34 Horn, and as mentioned before the SP52 Calypso Jr models for their liner-less black micarta handle slabs. The chrome pivot, assembly rivets, and lanyard tube give the 5 _ inch long handle's appearance an extra boost. Sort of like looking at a customized street rod with the gleaming chrome engine accents and exhaust pipes. The Calypso SP54 is built for show--.and go! Overall, the fit and finish of the handle is extremely good. The edges are rounded off for a very comfortable grip. Combine this with the curves of the handle, and you have a knife that you simply cannot put down because it is so darn comfortable to grasp!
The 4 inch modified clip point blade is flat ground out of 1/8-inch thick VG-10 stock. It is very pleasing to the eye, especially in the plain edge configuration. Here is the composition percentage breakdown of VG-10:
C = .095 - 1.05
Cr = 14.50 - 15.50
Co = 1.30 - 1.50
Mn = 0.50
Mo = 0.90 - 1.20
P = 0.30
Si = 0.60
V = 0.10 - 0.30
The cutting edge of the blade is relatively flat, making edge maintenance a breeze. Speaking of edges, the Calypso SP54 models are available with either a plain edge (SP54BM) or a fully serrated edge (SP54BMS). The evaluation knife was the SP54BM.
The blade's opening and closing action is very smooth, and locks up solidly with a resounding "CLICK!" The lock release bar is positioned approximately in the middle of the handle for easy closing with one hand. Round one of the performance evaluation included cardboard cutting and whittling. During these two parts, I discovered that the edge geometry of the plain edge blade is outstanding! It bit into the double-wall cardboard and sliced through it with ease. Light pressure was exerted, on the blade, and the flat grind and the blade's razor sharp edge took the Calypso the rest of the way through, effortlessly. I have reason to believe that the flat grind is a major contributing factor to the knife's performance. Think in terms of aerodynamics and automobiles: the sleeker the vehicle body design, the more miles per gallon you get (less fuel used to go faster and farther). Shifting back to the knife -- the flat ground blade is the "vehicle" and the sheet of double wall cardboard is the surrounding air. Since the flat grind's cross section looks like a thin, tapered "V", there is minimal blade profile presented to the material being cut. Therefore the blade slices through, with less drag. After I converted a large sheet of cardboard into a pile of small strips, it was time to move on to the next phase.
In regards to whittling, this is another area where the edge geometry shines. Rummaging around my yard, I gathered up several limbs -- a few roughly 5/8 inches in diameter, and a bigger one with about a 2-inch diameter. Applying the VG-10 blade to the first limb, I could feel the blade bite into the wood. The resulting shavings had the earmarks of a properly honed blade: thin and curled. Rounded edges made the handle feel very comfortable in the tight grasp, and the thumb rest behind the opening hole accommodated the thumb to aid in applying pressure to the blade. When precise cutting control is needed, the finger choil (formed in part by the blade tang and handle) makes it easy to choke up on the blade: index finger is placed on the choil, the thumb perches atop the thumb rest. I managed to whittle points onto several sized limbs with the knife. Overall, I did not experience any discomfort from the handle.
Another task (albeit small) I undertook with the Calypso in hand was to harvest produce from my garden. This is where the knife's long reach shined, when it was required of me to reach through the leaves into the heart of the plant to sever the lifeline of the fruit with the slender blade. Each cut was made quickly and cleanly with no hassle at all.
In all, my first experience with VG-10 is a very positive one. I like how it takes and holds an edge and judging by the price of the Calypso, is a relatively inexpensive steel. Cost conscious, but engineered to perform, similar to AUS-8 and GIN-1. I hope Spyderco can use more of this steel for upcoming knives. So far, the only other knife with VG-10 is their FB01 Bill Moran design fixed blade.
As the knife is, I would not change a thing. How about an SP54 with a different handle material in addition to micarta? G-10 would be a good choice, or perhaps carbon fiber (on the other hand, using carbon fiber would make the knife ultra-expensive but would look pretty cool!)
All in all, the Calypso SP54 makes for a good lightweight work knife or a gentleman's folder. This is another great addition to the ever-expanding Spyderco line, and a particular design that works well either as a large folder or a small folder (as evidenced with the SP52 Calypso Jrs.) On those days in which I feel like going the "double barrel" route, I'll pack the SP54 Calypso and another big folder like the SP36 Military!
DEXTER "Blade Man" EWING
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