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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”.
Buy the Spyderco Caly 3 at BladeHQ
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.
I recommend purchasing the Caly 3 Carbon Fiber at Amazon or BladeHQ. Thanks for checking out the review.
This is a great review and the photos are spectacular. I really enjoyed reading about this knife Dan. It is such a great value that it was in the running when I bought my Sebenza and it was less than half the price. It came in second out of four, besting the Strider PT and a WH blade.
Thank you Tony! Glad you enjoyed the review. It’s a very nice knife, my father owns one. It has that ZDP 189 that you like and the knife is scary sharp – beautiful tip on it. It will push right through a receipt like it isn’t even there. I have a Sage I review in the works. To me the 2 knives are very similar, but I think I like the Sage I a little more.
Braden Lynch says
I have both the Caly 3.5 and the Caly 3.
Be aware that the Caly 3 does not have a lanyard hole, while the Caly 3.5 does have one.
I did not know that – thank you Braden!
Great review, as always, Dan. I picked up this knife last year and the Damascus Sprint Run last month. Love them both!
Thank you very much, Dale! The Caly is a sweet series – very happy to hear you are enjoying yours. 🙂
I have read all of your reviews and I would really like to thank you for providing everyone such an awesome resource. The Blade Steel outlines are awesome and the reviews are never so technical that the new guys (myself) can’t enjoy the read. I’m torn between this and the Sage right now, and without your reviews and site I probably would have never even heard of them. Thanks a lot man, and sorry for the detail. I look forward to reading the new reviews, and will continue to point people in your direction.
Thank you very much, Mike. I am glad the reviews are still relatively easy to follow and of value, even after I have been steeped in industry jargon for years. The Caly 3 is just a beautiful knife although I am fond of my Sage 1 for some reason. Anyhow, please let me know if there is anything I an help with. I do plan on continuing to pump out the reviews. Thanks again for your support and the kind comment.
Question for you. I’m thinking of getting either the Caly 3 or the Benchmade 940 as an EDC/Gentleman’s knife. Any recommendations?
Tough call! Both are beautiful knives. I would probably select the Caly 3. I think it’s a little more EDC friendly. But you can’t go wrong between the two.
Thanks bro. Just pulled trigger on the Caly. One I was leaning towards anyway
Great and informative review! I decided to pull the trigger and make this my first Spyderco after reading this, and I love it! It has become my favorite EDC for the time being. I have found it to be a great whittler and precision cutter in addition to normal edc needs. In regards to your comment about flicking it open, I have found that with time and breaking in, it can be flicked (a cool feature, seeing as my last knives have mainly been Cold Steel). My next knife will probably be a larger Spyderco. Thanks for the informative review!
So glad to hear you have been enjoying your Caly. It is a beautiful knife. Spyderco makes some nice larger folders – perhaps a Paramilitary 2 is on your horizon.
The Paramilitary 2 was precisely what I’ve been pondering! Just waiting for the black handle / DLC coated version to be in stock somewhere…and my next paycheck!
It’s a nice knife and the black on black version is especially compelling. Let me know what you think once it lands.
Great and very informative review. I’m currently considering between the caly 3 and the Gayle Bradley to get for between EDC usage and Utilities usage. Any recommendations? Really appreciate it!
Thank you, Dominic. I prefer the Caly 3 for EDC over the Gayle Bradley because it is smaller and more practical for my kind of suburban daily carry. The Caly 3 remains a top EDC option (even though Spyderco has recently decided to discontinue this carbon fiber / ZDP 189 version).
I suspect the Caly 3 will be a better EDC choice for most people, but if you are able to EDC a larger knife then the GB remains a great choice.
Shawn Cronin says
I agree with you on everything.
The knife was stiff and slow to open, the hole was very slightly beveled or rounded on the top where it needs to be a sharp 90 degree angle to the blade so your fingernail can catch the edge and assist in opening the blade. Oddly, the bottom of the hole was a good 90 degree angle. I’ve done jewelry work, so I know what I’m talking about. I immediately tried to lubricate the hinge with silicone oil, but that just made the opening process seem gritty and even more slow. I cleaned that oil off and used a motorcycle chain lube that goes on thinner than water, but the carrier evaporates and it becomes rather sticky and is very persistent. I also loosened the pivot screw imperceptibly and it is now easy to open and it is smooth. The carbon fiber scales are way too smooth, they look great, but are quite slippery. I would have preferred a textured micarta option.
But the knife is excellent!
Great fit in the hand, perfect size for me, and an excellent steel choice!
I like it a lot, just adjust it to your personal preferences, and you’ll be very happy with your choice.