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Last Updated: August 7, 2019
Hands down the best part about operating a website like this, is the excuse to play around with bad ass knives like the Spyderco Caly 3.5 in Carbon Fiber. This special version of the Caly3 uses exotic Japanese laminated steel and carbon fiber handle scales to give the original Caly3 an extra touch of class. The original Spyderco Caly (short for Calypso) was introduced in 1998 and featured a 4″ blade and micarta scales. Spyderco has refined the knife over the years in their quest to get this knife to become “part of the hand”.
Before I launch into the details of this review let me just say, this knife is really nice. I got one mainly as a collectible but this thing is built like a bank vault and Spyderco considered every detail so if you intend to use the knife for Every Day Carry (EDC) it will perform. My first impressions leave me with nothing but good things to say about this blade although I will do my best to find some weaknesses for those seeking the dirt on this high end production knife.
General Dimensions and Blade Specifics
The Spyderco Caly3 CF has a total length of 7 inches, a blade length of 3 inches, weight of 3 ounces, and is made in Japan. The knife is slender with a total thickness a hair under 3/8 of an inch. These strike me as ideal dimensions for an EDC knife and I think EDC is exactly what Spyderco had in mind when they put together the Caly3. It also makes a handsome gentleman’s folder.
The blade on this knife is very interesting. It’s a standard Spyderco leaf shaped blade with a thumb hole for deployment and a long curving belly for plenty of cutting space. The blade stock starts at 1/8″ thick and it tapers down to a fine, razor sharp point. The entire blade has been given a beautiful full flat grind and a 12.5 degree edge.
The blade steel Spyderco selected for the Caly3 CF is ZDP189/420J2, a Japanese laminated steel. This is accomplished by sandwiching a piece of ZDP189 between two pieces of 420J2. The 420J2 outer layers are incredibly tough. 420J is commonly used by high end knife manufacturers for liners due to the strength and corrosion resistance of the steel. The cutting edge is ZDP189, an ultra high end steel that is extremely hard. This steel gets incredibly sharp and holds it’s edge very very well. The problem with ZDP189, is that it’s extreme hardness makes it difficult for some to sharpen.
Another potential problem with the 420J2/ZDP189 combination is that 420J2 scratches relatively easily. That said, 420J2 is very stain and corrosion resistant, so the blade is less likely to rust. For those considering the Caly3 CF for EDC, scratching will happen with any knife. Arguments on the pros and cons of the 420J2 outer layer could go on for days, so I’ll just leave it at that.
And on the subject of scratching, one concern with this knife is that the tang rubs up against the knife when deploying and you get very fine circular rubbing marks on the tang. I’ve noticed that this doesn’t only happen with my knife, others have reported it too, and from a collectors standpoint it’s a bit problematic. Perhaps these marks can be carefully buffed out; I will update the review if I try this.
A very cool result of this laminated process is that you can see where the the 420J2 ends and the ZDP189 begins. At first glance, it almost appears as if the knife has been given a saber grind, but upon closer inspection you can see that it is in fact one full flat grind.
Handle, Ergonomics and Pocket Clip
The handle has steel liners (that have been painstakingly and attractively milled out to reduce weight) and polished carbon fiber scales. The carbon fiber is lightweight and handsome however it doesn’t provide the kind of grip a textured G10 handle does. The handle does feel a little slippery when wet. Again I think if Spyderco was going for all out utility they would have selected a different handle material (they did in fact do that for their regular Caly3.5). Even with the lightweight carbon fiber the handle has a little heft to it.
As far as ergonomics are concerned, the knife has excellent jimping on both the thumb ramp and the finger choil. The design of the thumb ramp and choil make the knife fit very well in the hand. Despite the absence of textured handle scales when you are gripping the knife you feel in control, largely due to the excellent ergonomic design. The carbon fiber scales have been radiused and there are no sharp edges in the palm. I think Spyderco came very close to their goal of making the knife an extension of the hand.
The pocket clip is simple yet elegant. It is a single blackened piece of wire that is held in place with a star bolt. I like this style of clip for smaller knives because it is plenty strong and very discrete. Spyderco designed the Caly3 for tip up carry and the clip is reversible. The knife rides low in the pocket and the clip has good retention.
Deployment and Lock
The Caly3 CF uses the signature Spyderco thumb hole for blade deployment. I have found the deployment of the Caly3 to be slow. There is quite a bit of blade retention and it appears to be impossible to flick open. Maybe I need to loosen my pivot screw up? I’d love to hear some opinions. When you do open the knife it clicks in place very forcefully with a nice snap.
The Caly3 is a lockback knife and the lockback is positioned in the middle of the handle. There is absolutely zero blade play and it almost feels as if you are working with a fixed blade knife. This is one of the most solid locking knives I have handled and I am very impressed by the way this knife engages.
Spyderco Caly 3 Carbon Fiber Review – Final Thoughts
The Spyderco Caly3 CF is one hell of a knife. Beautiful materials, rock solid construction and an amazing attention to detail make this a near perfect EDC option. However, the steep price, slow deployment and non-textured handle scales may make people think twice about making this their go to blade. I will say that if you end up deciding on a Caly3 CF, you won’t be disappointed.
- Iconic Design - The Calypso is one of the classic mainstays that spawned numerous variations and converted legions of knife buyers to the benefits of flat-ground, thick leaf-shaped blades
- More To Love - Available now in a premium variant, is the Caly 3.5 with a ZDP-189 blade and carbon fiber handle. The Caly 3.5 combines beauty and functionality into a new Spyderco classic
- Superior Blade Steel - The leaf-shaped blade is made of three layers of steel. The core is high carbon ZDP-189 Japanese powdered steel, the outer laminated layers are softer, pliable 420J2 steel.
- Pocket-Friendly - It comes with a gray carbon fiber handle and a mid-positioned back-lock. Its low-seated wire clip designed for right-hand deep-pocket, tip-up carry.
- Ergonomic - Great Ergonomics means more control over the cutting edge. The Caly 3.5 accomplishes this with a substantial finger choil located where the handle and blade meet.