Spyderco Domino Review

The Domino is a knife that I almost wasn’t going to review. I’ve been following the Titanium Framelock Flipper Arms Race closely ever since the ZT 0560 took the production knife market by storm. Like pretty much everyone else, I’ve enjoyed these knives, but felt some initial hesitance to the Domino for some reason. I talk about this in my video, but I feel like the knife was almost too easy for Spyderco. After all, it parrots many of their already successful designs only this time we have a flipper, framelock, and bearings.

Obviously I caved and bought the knife, and I am actually very happy I did. The Domino is a stellar performer and at a sub $200 price point I also think it’s a pretty decent value. Where else are you going to find the impressive feature set of the Domino, with a level of fit and finish that few companies can rival, with all the creature comforts of a Spyderco, for less than $200? Furthermore, the Domino absolutely kills it as a flipper, and the action is so much fun that I have a hard time putting the knife down. While the knife isn’t perfect, and the Domino is still arguably the best production knife of 2013. I will do my best to show you why in this review.

General Dimensions and Blade Details

The Domino comes in with an overall length of 7.68″, a 3.13″ blade, and weighs 4.1 ounces. The knife is a decent size for EDC. It’s a little larger and heavier than my Sage 1 (the quintessential EDC knife), but it still pockets well and makes for a reasonable daily carry.

Spyderco Domino

The blade is a classic Spyderco leaf shape, and includes a full flat grind, a very fine tip, and a slight curving belly. It’s everything you need for an EDC blade. The 3mm thick stock is ground thin and the knife slices well. Although I must say that I find the wide blade is a little precarious tasks like carving apples, a task I often relegate to my trusty Victorinox Alox Cadet. Still, it will slice and dice with the best of them and I find it a good match to common tasks like opening letters and breaking down boxes.

Spyderco Domino Blade

Spyderco selected CTS-XHP steel for the Domino. CTS-XHP is made in America by Carpenter, and is supposed to be formulated with cutlery in mind. In practice I think it’s a good steel. It combines moderate edge retention with an ease of sharpening that I find lacking in steels like S30V. I had no issues with chipping or corrosion, and the steel took very well to both my strop and Spyderco stones. For those interested in extreme edge retention, I must confess that I found the steel a little lacking, but I am one of those people who prefers easy sharpening to ultimate edge retention so I wasn’t disappointed. I discuss this in greater detail in my video review.

Handle, Ergonomics, and Pocket Clip

The handle of the Domino sports a faux carbon fiber scale over a titanium liner with a titanium frame lock. You also get flow-through construction, a sleeved lanyard hole, and a steel lockbar insert that doubles as a lockbar stabilizer. My biggest beef with the knife has to be the ridiculous handle scale. I suppose Spyderco wanted to step it up a bit with an unusual handle appearance, but I could have done without the Domino patterned carbon fiber. Ruminating on this further, I think the knife would have been even nicer if they went for a full titanium handle rather than the carbon fiber (which is really just a thin veneer of carbon fiber over black G10 anyway). Some may appreciate this “unique” handle material, but I think the after-market knife modifier crowd will be in business for a very long time if companies continue to release knives with such blatantly distasteful handle materials.

Spyderco Handle

The ergonomics of the Domino are good. This is what you would expect from a mid-size Spyderco. The bulbous handle fills the palm, while the double choils give you plenty of options for finger placement. There is a mild run of jimping on the spine of the blade that provides a little feedback without being overly aggressive, making the knife acceptable for extending cutting while still appealing to the TNP and mall ninja crowds. Although every folding knife handle is a study in compromise, I still found the knife reasonable to use in hard cutting situations like 1/2″ rope cuts and carving into bamboo.

Spyderco Domino Closed

The pocket clip of the Domino is sturdy and functional, although it won’t win any beauty contests. Spyderco selected a standard hour-glass clip and gave it a lustrous black chrome finish. It definitely beats a satin finished clip, while the chromed finish gives it a little depth and character. The handle is drilled and tapped for 4 corner carry, and the knife doesn’t ride too deep in any of the positions. On these more expensive knives I tend to like a knife with a one or two position clip over a knife with tons of holes in it, but functionally speaking there is no reason to complain. This knife itself is relatively thin and light and isn’t too obtrusive in the pocket. While the pocket clip and carry isn’t anything outstanding, the knife will certainly be able to get from A to B without issue.

Deployment and Lockup

Of course the Domino features a flipper, after all, that’s probably why you are interested in the knife. I am very pleased to report that the knife flips phenomenally. The detent is so well tuned that the blade practically explodes out of the handle when you press down on the flipper tab. I am very happy Spyderco took the time to ensure this aspect of the knife was squared away, as the action alone makes the knife worth the price. The over-sized pivot and caged bearing system certainly doesn’t hurt the performance either, and the knife is very fluid even when using the thumb hole.

Spyderco Spyderco Sage, Spyderco Domino, and Spyderco Southard

For lockup you have a very nice stonewashed titanium framelock that includes a steel lockbar insert. In theory this steel insert should prolong the lifespan of the lock, and if things ever wore out you could (again, theoretically) replace the insert. In practice the knife is rock solid, without even a suggestion of blade play in any direction. Much like the other titanium framelocks I have seen come out of Spyderco’s Taichung factory, they got the geometry right and the lockup is worry free.

The steel insert also performs double duty as an overtravel-stop mechanism (sometimes called a “lockbar stabilizer”). This prevents you from hyper-extending the titanium when disengaging the lock. I’ve never had this problem, it’s a nice touch and aesthetically it doesn’t detract from the knife.

Spyderco Domino – Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the Domino is one hell of a knife. Here we have classic Spyderco fare like a thumb hole, 4-corner pocket clip, and good ergonomics coupled with the latest crazes in modern knifemaking. That alone should be reason enough to give this one a try, but I am very happy to report that they really executed this right. As I mentioned alone, for a flipper aficionado the action alone will be worth the price of admission, and Spyderco has once again turned out a very high quality product from Taichung Taiwan.

Of course an obvious comparison would be with their previous flipper, the Southard, and it’s worth taking a second to differentiate the knives. First of all, the action on the Domino is vastly superior to the Southard. The detent on the Southard is acceptable, but it is weak in comparison to the crisp action in the Domino. Also, the design of Southard may be a little “out there” for classic Spyderco fans. Personally, I find the Southard to be a far more interesting knife, but to each their own. I am sure the Domino will appeal to traditional Spyderco fans.

Of course I do have a few issues with the knife, and I might as well re-cap them now. Mainly I wish they went a different route with their handle scale, but I could also do without 4-corner carry on a $200 knife, and same with a sleeved lanyard hole (I think both features detract from the appearance of the knife). The pocket clip could use a little work too. But by and large this is a home run for Spyderco, and I think it will be an excellent addition to anyone’s collection of high end production knives.

I recommend purchasing the Spyderco Domino at BladeHQ or Amazon. Purchasing anything through any of the links on this website helps support BladeReviews, and keeps the site going. As always, any and all support is greatly appreciated – thank you very much!

Spyderco Domino on BHQ
Spyderco Domino – $199.95
From: BladeHQ

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This entry was posted in EDC Knives, Folding Knives, Spyderco, Titanium Frame Lock Knives and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Spyderco Domino Review

  1. Anon R.D. says:

    Very interested to read your thoughts on this one, Dan. I totally share your instant repulsion from the “domino” pattern on the handle scale. That’s just kind of a sad gimmick attempt to make the knife stand out. Some kind of subtler twill pattern would be preferable (I prefer the one fiber/G10 scale over all titanium).

    Otherwise there’s a lot to like. Your review makes me want to play around with the flipper action on one of these.

    About the blade shape: A lot of the Taiwan-made Spydies have wide leaf blades like the Domino & Sage or thick blade stocks like the Southard.

    There seems to be a meme afoot on the enthusiast sites that we’re all supposed to agree the Taichung Spydies are the best. I dunno. They have really good fit and finish but I don’t think the *designs* are as refined, time-tested, and practical as the Japanese-made Spydies such as the Caly, Endura 4, Stretch, or Delica 4. Those long, thin, FFG blade profiles that slice and pierce beautifully are a major reason why I’m a Spyderco fan for life. I don’t get the same performance yet out of the Taichung Spydies I’ve owned (Sage, Chaparral). They get sold and the Japanese Spydies, despite sometimes lesser fit & finish, stay in the collection. BTW the Moki-made Calys have fantastic F&F that I would put up against a Sage any day.

    TL;DR: Taichung is overrated right now and Seki City underrated, at least from a user standpoint.

    • Dan says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Anon, and for leaving the very insightful comment.

      As for the Seki City / Taichung argument I see you point and tend to agree. When I’m talking about the “best” Spydercos coming from Taiwan, I purely mean from a fit and finish perspective. From a practical and functional perspective there is a lot more room for argument and you make good points about the classic Japanese Spydies – which are undeniably uber practical knives. And for whatever it’s worth, I still think the Caly 3.5 CF is a lustworthy knife – even in the age of bearings and titanium flipper framelocks.

      Thanks again,

      Dan

      • Anon R.D. says:

        The only thing that keeps me from pulling the trigger on the CF Caly 3.5 is that I don’t love the laminated blades on the ZDP Calys. Looks really technical and precise, but I worry the 420 outer blade would get scratched up and take away from the beautiful aesthetic of the design.

        Instead I have the non-laminated, 100% ZDP blades on the (Seki-made) Dragonfly and Delica FFG and they are great to use; awesome cutters. I have not had any toughness problems when using them for appropriate tasks. They convince me that the laminated blades are not needed.

        The “normal” VG-10 Caly 3.5 with G10 handles is probably my favorite Spyderco. Design, ergos, fit & finish, discreet carry clip, blade shape, grind, handle:blade ratio — it’s just a delight. It is one of those knives that reveals whole swaths of one’s knife collection as dispensable. “I like owning these other blades, but do I need them? Not really, no.”

        Always a pleasure to read & comment here.

        • Dan says:

          The 420 does get marred up around the pivot from just opening and closing the knife so I can understand your concern there. My dad has one and I occasionally take it out and marvel it a bit. I don’t really have it in me to carry one – mainly because my collection has plenty of other users to choose from. The design is classic Spyderco and I agree it’s among their best. Everything else is variations on that theme.

          Thanks again for dropping in – I’ll do my best to keep coming up with stuff for people to read and comment on.

  2. Jason says:

    Nice Review sir…I’ve been thinking about picking this one up as well.

  3. Maurice says:

    Excellent information on the Domino. How do you feel about the lack of jimping on the flipper? Is it a deal breaker?

    • Dan says:

      Thanks, Maurice. Not at all, I have not noticed the absence of jimping on the flipper at all. The knife is very easy to open and your finger doesn’t get torn up.

      Dan

  4. Matt says:

    Great review! I am absolutely in love with the looks of this knife. It screams “refined Tenacious” to me. I am yet to handle one but it’s on the list. I was really surprised to see it was made in Taiwan. Just goes to show that “Made in USA” isn’t a prerequisite for making a great knife.

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