When a company sets out to create a special-edition product to celebrate a milestone anniversary in its progress from startup to success, the result typically aims for the combination of special high-grade materials, either in an all-new design or in a command-performance version of a time-tested, popular offering. As Spyderco’s 40th year in business arrives, the company has done just that in creating the model C41CF40TH Native 5 Carbon Fiber Damascus, based on the enduring Native family and dressed up in premium materials.
Throughout its four decades, Spyderco has relished its reputation for ignoring tradition when it stands in the way of innovation. The head of the company enjoys the doubting comments of those who don’t quite understand his company’s focus on researching the best (and often the most interesting) ways to solve technical problems, meeting needs that customers don’t necessarily realize they have, giving quality control obsessive attention, and always looking for the best blend of performance, reliability, and enduring materials. That focus has enabled Spyderco to invent and engineer features that stand today as normative expectations of what a folding knife is and does, including the pocket clip and the serrated cutting edge. The company’s history includes numerous collaborations with custom designers and expert users, and the introduction of more than a dozen blade steels. From launch to 40th anniversary, Spyderco epitomizes entrepreneurial spirit, beginning with founder Sal Glesser and wife Gail Glesser traveling the knife show route in a converted bread truck.
Given that history, you won’t be surprised at the attention to detail and the carefully considered specifications that make this Spyderco anniversary knife much more than a commemorative issue. The Native 5 Carbon Fiber Damascus emerges from Spyderco’s headquarters and manufacturing facility in Golden, Colorado, as a limited edition (Sprint Run, in Spyderco’s vernacular) that’s certain to find a home in many prized collections.
Among Spyderco’s offerings, the Native series forms a signature family of knives that feature designs refined over the course of multiple generations of products. Building a premium commemorative edition of the company’s practical, affordable Native tools recognizes the importance of the Native series within the Spyderco product line, at the same time that it adds materials that elevate the anniversary edition to the level of hard-working art.
Spyderco pioneered the leaf-shaped blade as a slightly asymmetrical version of the spear-point profile. You won’t find a swage on the spine of this design, but you will find the signature Spyderco Trademark Round Hole in the blade itself to make it an ambidextrous knife you can open with just one hand. The leaf shape doesn’t include the ample belly curve you’d find on a drop-point profile to increase the area of the cutting edge.
Instead of a traditional forefinger groove on the bottom edge of the handle, Spyderco uses a jimped choil that removes a curved area from the blade between the cutting edge and the handle. The shape of the choil blends seamlessly into the corresponding curve of the handle’s front quillon. A second set of jimping grooves appears on the spine of the blade just in front of the handle.
For this momentous special edition knife, Spyderco adds its 40th anniversary logo to the left side of the blade, laser engraved next to the company logo. The company name and the name of the blade steel appear on two lines of type, parallel to the ends of the handle and located between the sets of jimping grooves on the spine and cutting edge of the blade.
Spyderco offers the Native 5 Carbon Fiber Damascus with a full flat grind on a single-edged blade. This edge style lightens blade weight and reduces the tendency for a blade to drag through the material it cuts. Spyderco also refers to this unserrated blade grind as a smooth edge.
No coating for this Spyderco knife: Black-finished blades may offer tactical advantages in terms of their ability to make knives virtually disappear in the dark, but when a product features a steel as beautiful as the Damasteel DS93X Thor pattern used for this anniversary knife, covering up the intricate whorls and swirls of its pattern with a coating would constitute a waste of a premium material.
With names such as Björkman’s Twist, Odins Eye, Vinland, and Thor, the products of Sweden’s Damasteel sound like places and people in an epic saga. In choosing Damasteel’s DS93X Thor for the Native 5 Carbon Fiber Damascus, Spyderco incorporated Damasteel’s 20th anniversary pattern into its own celebratory product.
Damascus steel consists of a combination of two or more steels. In the crucible steel of ancient Persia, secret recipes produced smelted results that used poor grades of steel by modern standards. The process of repeated twisting, folding, and forging, and the many-layered results it produced, aimed to overcome the weakness that could beset long-bladed weapons in which the grain of the metal needed to align along the long dimension to reduce the chance of breakage across the blade. In modern production, Damascus steel often is produced by welding the two steels together in a seven-layer sandwich, and then forging and folding the result over and over again until it consists of more than 100 layers. The combination typically matches up a high- and a low-carbon steel, marrying high-carbon’s strength and eventual bright color with low-carbon’s softness and dark appearance.
Headquartered in Söderfors, Sweden, Damasteel operates in a village with nearly 350 years of steel-making tradition. The proprietary Damasteel process dates to 1992 and brings the ancient art of Damascus steelmaking into the very modern day. Instead of being smelted, heat treated, and formed, Damasteel uses gas atomization to produce a powdered result. As molten steel flows through a small nozzle under high pressure from an inert gas, the steel piles up in tiny particles, each one a miniature ingot representing a thorough mixture of its component elements. Next, the powder loads into a canister for processing under heat and pressure, which densifies it into a capsule approximately 30% smaller than the material that enters the forming container. This capsule moves on for forging and rolling into the proper dimensions for the final patterning process.
Ancient or modern, the process of forging and layering Damascus steel produces dramatic patterns of light and dark metal across the billets that result from it. Many of Damasteel’s patterns carry trademarks denoting their uniqueness. The patterns stem from planned fabrication sequences that create a predictably exotic appearance in the steel. Unlike textures that only exist on the surface of a steel, Damasteel patterns run all the way through the metal. The patterns snap to life after the steel undergoes chemical processes, including etching with various acid mixtures that yield specific shades of light, dark, or bright gray on the two alloys combined in the forged metal. These etching solutions consist of hydrochloric or sulfuric acids and other chemicals.
Martensitic steels demonstrate a specialized tetragonal crystal structure. Damasteel’s martensitic stainless Damascus steel combines two powder-based Swedish alloys that result from cutting-edge metallurgy. RWL 34, the bright high-carbon steel, features 1.05% carbon, 14.00% chromium, 0.50% manganese, 4.00% molybdenum, 0.50% silicon, and 0.20% vanadium. It takes its name from the initials of the knife maker Bob Loveless. PMC 27, the dark low-carbon steel, incorporates 0.60% carbon, which technically classifies it as a medium-carbon steel, along with 13.00% chromium, and 0.50% manganese. Both of these component alloys represent variations on a classic 420-type steel, although PMC 27 contains more carbon than standard 420 steels do. The alloys used in Damasteel’s martensitic products feature the hardness and corrosion resistance necessary for an effective blade steel. In general, hardness comes from the carbon, chromium, and silicon, and manganese content; toughness from vanadium; corrosion resistance from chromium and molybdenum; wear resistance from carbon and manganese; and edge retention from molybdenum.
Among the basic performance parameters that characterize knife steels, hardness measures a material’s ability to resist impact. The Rockwell Hardness Scales quantify this property, with the C scale used to characterize knife steels. Toughness, which exists on a continuum with hardness, represents a steel’s damage resistance and its capacity to bend rather than break. Wear resistance defines a steel’s ability to withstand the twin forces of abrasion and adhesion. Abrasion results when a steel comes in contact with a rough substance; adhesion, when the steel picks up material dislodged from another surface. Corrosion resistance quantifies a steel’s lack of oxidation when it encounters environmental elements such as moisture and salt. Finally, edge retention provides a subjective measure of a steel’s continued sharpness despite use.
Carbon fiber composites provide light weight, rigidity, and a high strength-to-weight ratio, characteristics that offer obvious benefits in knife handle fabrication. The carbon filaments come from precursor polymers, which are spun into yarns about the diameter of a human hair, heat treated to remove impurities, and formed into unidirectional or woven sheets. These sheets can be layered at 60-degree angles or combined with a backing material. With the application of a thermoset or thermoplastic resin, the desired “sandwich” of carbon fiber is molded and formed under heat and pressure. Short-run parts can be produced in a vacuum mold or fashioned from carbon fiber that’s impregnated with resin before being shaped. For quick production of large batches of parts, carbon fiber can be produced under compression in a highly precise mold. Some complex parts require the use of a filament winder to position the carbon fiber around a core shape.
The Spyderco model C41CF40TH Native 5 Carbon Fiber Damascus uses handle scales milled from carbon fiber. If Spyderco had attempted to mold in the knife’s distinctive sunburst surface texture, the result would show softer lines than the crisp precision that results from machining the carbon fiber instead.
This is no quietly plain knife handle. On Spyderco’s model C41CF40TH Native 5 Carbon Fiber Damascus, CNC-machined carbon fiber handle scales feature a sunburst pattern milled into the surface of the material. The rays of the sunburst fan out from a point located in the middle of the area occupied by the knife’s back lock. The pattern combines aesthetic appeal with the grip assistance of a texture permanently built into precisely milled parts. The shape of the handle also enhances your grip, with a quillon at the front of the handle belly to protect the user from the injuries that can result if fingers accidentally slide onto the cutting surface of the blade during a hard strike or forceful move. The jimped choil in the blade edge and the point of the quillon form a continuous semi-circular curve that leads into the shape of the handle belly. The butt of the knife culminates in a rounded point that echoes the curves of the rest of the handle. The back lock on the spine of the handle curves into the scales in a shape that parallels the finger-grooved belly.
Four Torx screws, including the blade pivot, secure the Native 5 Carbon Fiber Damascus together. A lanyard hole, centered in the width of the handle, appears near the butt of the knife, adjacent to sets of attachment holes that accommodate alternative positions for the knife’s four pocket clip attachment.
To hold a blade safely and securely in an open position, Spyderco uses 12 different systems in its knives, including nine locking and three non-locking mechanisms. The back lock located on the handle spine of the model C41CF40TH Native 5 Carbon Fiber Damascus represents a refinement of a design that Spyderco introduced many years ago, and that the company uses on its entire Native family. This lock uses a rocker arm with a center pivot hole and a lug on the front end. The lug engages with a notch in the tang of the knife blade near the pivot screw. In profile, the lock silhouette might remind you of the shape of a long pipe wrench.
The manual operation nature of a back lock knife like the Spyderco Native 5 Carbon Fiber Damascus means that it can’t match the virtually instant blade deployment of an automatic design. To open the knife, position the pad of your thumb in the Spyderco Trademark Round Hole and slide the blade away from the handle. Wait for a click that indicates the back lock has engaged.
The stainless steel pocket clip on the Spyderco Native 5 Carbon Fiber Damascus represents the company’s most-implemented clip style. Attached with three Torx screws, this clip features an ambidextrous, reversible design that accommodates tip-up or tip-down carry positions. The knife handle incorporates two sets of attachment holes on each scale, one set at each end. This four-position flexible clip style characterizes the entire Spyderco Native family.
Knife Dimensions and Weight
Spyderco’s model C41CF40TH Native 5 Carbon Fiber Damascus measures 6.95 inches long overall and 3.97 inches long closed. Its blade measures 2.98 inches long and 0.122 inches thick, with a cutting edge that measures 2.48 inches. The knife weighs 2.7 ounces.
If you enjoy adding limited-edition knives to your collection, either to use and admire every day or to retain in as-new condition as appreciable assets, the model C41CF40TH Native 5 Carbon Fiber Damascus represents a must have. Its premium materials, thoughtful design features, ambidextrous clip attachment, and collectable nature give it a special significance, especially for those who appreciate Spyderco knives. The knife includes a padded zipper pouch for storage.
|Native 5 Carbon Fiber Damascus|
|Cutting edge length||2.48″|
|Lock type||Back lock|
|Handle||Fluted carbon fiber|
|Clip||4-position ambidextrous (Left/right, tip-up/tip-down)|