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Last Updated: August 4, 2019
I have always enjoyed Bob Lum’s elegant approach to designing knives. I have previously reviewed a couple of Bob Lum’s creations, including the Spyderco Lum Tanto and the Benchmade Onslaught.
The Lum Chinese Folder is another elegant knife, and in some ways it is even more special than his other designs. To start, I love the sheer simplicity of this knife. The Chinese Folder is a single graceful curve in the both open and closed positions. There is a real feeling of balance with this design, and it results in a knife that is both a pleasure to view and to hold.
Spyderco has released many versions of the Chinese Folder over the years, but what you are looking at in this review is one of the original versions of the knife, manufactured in 2000. Furthermore, this knife has been serialized. That designates it as part of Spyderco’s first manufacturing run, also known as a Spyderco “Collector’s Club” knife. So what we have here is a very special version of the Lum Chinese, and I couldn’t be more pleased to share it with you.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The Lum Chinese Folder has an overall length of 7-3/16 inches, features a 3-5/32 inch blade, and weighs a mere 2.8 ounces. The Chinese Folder could work as an EDC knife, a gentleman’s folder, or simply a collectible. Either way the size-to-weight ratio of the knife is pretty wild. A sub 3-ounce carry weight on this relatively large and sturdy knife is incredible. And I have to say, the Chinese folder feels impossibly light in hand. If this all sounds a little too delicate, Spyderco also makes a large version coming in at a beefier 4.3 ounces.
The blade of the Chinese Folder is often referred to as “leaf shaped.” What we have here is a graceful arcing blade that has been given a full flat grind, and a very small swedge running pretty much the entire length of the spine. This is not only a pretty blade to look at, but it is highly functional as well. The Lum Chinese is an exceptional slicer with its full grind and 3mm thin blade. Speaking of thin, this blade is very thin behind the edge, and is a big part of what makes the knife cut so well.
My Lum Chinese is made in Seki City, Japan and features Japanese VG-10 for the blade. A stainless steel, VG-10 is easy to sharpen and is capable of taking a razor sharp edge. It is also highly resistant to corrosion. I am a big fan of VG-10, and think it is a natural choice for the Lum Chinese. Fans of higher performance steel may be interested to learn that the Lum Chinese has also been previously offered in ZDP 189 as well.
Handle, Ergonomics and Pocket Clip
The handle on my Chinese Folder is aluminum, and has been given a green almite coating. Almite is simply a type of finish for aluminum (like hard anodizing). Over the years Spyderco has released the Chinese Folder in a number of different handle materials including carbon fiber, various colors of aluminum, titanium, and G10. I happen to really like the dark green color of this knife. It’s a deep green, and from a collector’s perspective I find the unique color to be extremely intriguing. As for actual construction, my knife is screwed together. There is a black G10 backspacer, and a single steel liner. Overall, construction is lightweight, but solid.
In hand the Lum Chinese fits surprisingly well, but is not without it’s caveats. The curvature of the handle matches the contours of my palm and the knife is quite comfortable to hold. Despite this, I wouldn’t recommend the Chinese Folder for anything beyond medium duty. The aluminum handles are somewhat slippery and there is no thumb ramp, finger choil, or any kind of jimping. For light to medium use I think the ergonomics are quite alright, but lets be honest – this isn’t a knife you will want to take to war, or be in your pocket aboard a commercial fishing boat. I really don’t mind that as the knife market is already well saturated with those kinds of knives.
The pocket clip is a simple stainless steel Spyderco clip. It offers good retention and makes the knife easy to insert and remove from your pocket. For carry options you have the choice of right side tip-up or tip-down carry. All-in-all I really like the way the Lum Chinese carries, it’s extremely light and very thin. This is a knife you will forget is in your pocket.
Deployment and Lockup
The Chinese Folder features a 12mm thumb hole that is easily accessible from either side of the knife. The Chinese isn’t the fastest deploying knife in my collection, but it opens easily and feels very smooth. Thin phosphor bronze washers aid in deployment.
The Lum Chinese has a thin linerlock and it snaps open crisply. It’s a very satisfying sound from such a small knife. Lock engagement is early, and I detected no zero blade play. I know that the somewhat thin liner lock will disappoint some, but given the intended use I have found it to be quite adequate.
Spyderco Lum Chinese Folder Review – Final Thoughts
The Lum Chinese is a graceful knife that is a delight for all the senses. I have greatly enjoyed mine, and spend a fair amount of time admiring the clean lines, the beautiful handles, and the crisp action. The knife works, and it will certainly cut, but the form-over-function approach to the ergonomics keeps this knife from becoming a real user for me. That doesn’t mean I don’t like the knife, but I just want to “keep it real.” If I had to pick one EDC knife to take to the grave, then the Lum Chinese wouldn’t be it. But if I was looking to add an elegant and unique Spyderco to my collection, well, I’d be all over this one. I feel that the Chinese Folder is a very special knife, and it has been an absolute pleasure to spend some time with this gem of a folder.
At the time of this review the Lum Chinese Folder can be had in both a carbon fiber version and a large version in black G10. If you really like the knife then I recommend picking up a couple. Like my original green-handled beauty, you never know when the knife might slip out of production.
Spyderco Lum Chinese Folder – $139.95
Retail Price: $219.95
You Save: $80.00
I recommend purchasing the Lum Chinese Folder at Amazon or BladeHQ. Thanks for checking out the review.
I said it on the video but I’ll say it here again.
Bob Lum was a designing genius. This knife reminds me of what I heard an aviation engineer say once: “If something looks pretty odds are it will fly well. If something looks wonky odds are you have to make it prettier to fly well. Or you could do what McDonnell Douglas did what the F4 and just make it uglier and jam really big engines on it”. The Lum Chinese folder is as graceful as flying waterfowl, there is not a single thing wrong with the shape of it. Nothing harsh, simply organic and pleasing design.
Lol! Love the quote and how well it translates to knives. I agree, I’m a huge fan of this one. It just works, and it looks great. As always, it’s been an absolute pleasure.
It’s a beautiful knife because it borrowed from a beautiful traditional Chinese design.
The retail price on the Lum is ridiculous. And the “marked down” price is still way high. It should sell for $70, tops.
Very cool Sharpenit! That is a beautiful blade… I can definitely see the inspiration. As for the price, well, it is what it is brother! Can’t change the weather unfortunately although I do think it’s a very nicely made knife. Thanks for stopping by and sharing!
The knife in the forum is most likely made by my father! What a coincidence! He is the only member of Chiu’s family who is still making knife. However, the shop on the address is closed now.
This one is my father gave me, which is special made with deer antler’s handle. Not for sold, of course 🙂
More of his work:
That is extremely cool Iris! Your father does amazing work. Thank you so much for sharing.
Edge Observer says
I’m surprised you like this knife. Not that it isn’t an amazing knife but just doesn’t seem Dan style. Either way, I like it and it’s great you like it too. Personally the Foliage/Black is my favorite. Wish it was another steel though. Super Blue would fit this knife well. I think a patina may really set off the design (and be a great substitute for my TiNi favorite).
Lol! You mean because it doesn’t weigh 8 ounces and come with it’s own American flag presentation box!? 😉 Just kidding man, I hear ya. I like to think I can appreciate all kinds of knives, although my hard headed pride sometimes gets in the way.
I like that Foliage/Black version, it’s pretty snazzy. Super Blue would be really cool, I’d love to see them do that.
Thanks for stopping by man, always as pleasure.
This is one of the most beautiful and oddest designs I saw. It would definitely be a keeper and a user. Thanks for the detailed review
According to Spyderco (Sal Glesser), Takefu originally developed VG-10 for making grafting knives in horticulture. Hence the reason it is so fine-grained and takes such a keen edge.
For me, this knife is meant to look attractive and perform slicing tasks gracefully. No putting your shoulder behind cuts with this blade, just let the cutting stroke pass through the material.
That does not surprise me! VG10 takes a heck of an edge. I think you are spot on with what this knife is supposed to do. It cuts stuff and looks great while doing it. If you need something else, bring another tool for the job! Thanks for stopping by man, an absolute pleasure.
Elise Xavier says
I own the version of this knife with the Nishijin glass fiber scales, and I have to admit it’s tied for my absolute favorite knife (with the Spyderco Sage 1… love that knife). To be honest, I really can’t think of another knife that looks and feels as good as the Lum Chinese, at least for me personally. Though I’m guessing a lot has to do with the fact that I bought the version with the glass fiber scales. So damn pretty!
I love that it’s a liner lock, that it’s easy for me to open and close with one hand, and that it just always feels nice in my hand no matter how long I’m using it for. I actually bought a second just cause I like it so much.
Glad you like it, Elise. Thanks for dropping by!