Expectations are a terrible thing to shake. As gear geeks, hopping onto the hype train is all too easy, especially because most of us are passionate about our hobbies. We see something cool – either the newest catalog or the latest teaser on Instagram – and start forming our own idea of what the end product will be like. All too often, those expectations proceed to get in the way of enjoying the product for it is.
Enter the Spyderco Rhino. When it was first teased (long enough ago that I can’t remember the date), it was slated to be a refreshing new entry to Spyderco’s line-up, sporting G10 scales, BD1 steel, and a compression lock in a reasonably sized package. What’s more, its original street price was going to fall right around $50.00. That was a hell of a steal at the time, and honestly would still be a great buy today, even with the recent price drops in premium steels.
Unfortunately, that version of the Rhino never made it beyond the trade show demonstration booth. Apparently that package was too much of an ask for the factory, and the project was put on hiatus. The next time we caught a glimpse of the Rhino, it was a radically different product: the steel was upgraded to CTS-XHP, the handle scales were upgraded to carbon fiber, and the street price was upgraded all the way up to $140.00.
That’s the point I lost interest in the Rhino. It had morphed from a product that would challenge the market to yet another overpriced and oddly designed Spyderco, destined to hang out in the inventories of cutlery purveyors across the world.
In the months that followed its debut, I started to see it pop up online. Folks that I follow on Instagram (whose taste I respect) started including the Rhino in their daily updates. After seeing it a few more times, my curiosity was once again piqued. That’s when I started to realize that on paper, it was still a good product: high-end steel, carbon fiber*, a great lock, and the perfect size for everyday chores. It didn’t take too much speculation along those lines before I picked one up. I’m glad I did, but you’ll need to read on to learn why.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The Spyderco Rhino is considered part of the “little-big-knife” family, a design ethos that seeks to pack the maximum amount of cutting power into a compact package. Other standouts include the much-acclaimed Techno as well as the Dragonfly 2. Like its cousins, the dimensions of the Rhino aren’t great on paper. Its 2.37” blade is housed in a 3.57” handle, and the overall package weighs in at 2.27 oz. Taken together, neither the blade to handle or blade to weight ratio is very compelling. Much like its cousins, however, these numbers don’t speak to the whole truth.
My tastes are depressingly pedestrian when it comes to blade shapes. Give me a nice drop point or modified wharncliffe and I’ll be happy; give me more than one angle to worry about when resharpening and I won’t. The Rhino’s trailing point walks a very thin line between being interesting and being a hassle, and – in my case at least – the jury is still out. When grappling with a clamshell package, it’s great: the refined tip and thin grind make short work of that modern headache. When it comes to spreading peanut butter or condiments (essential picnic tasks, in my view), the trailing point is uniquely unqualified. If that isn’t a concern for you, there are few downsides to this blade shape. The exaggerated belly also means that the cutting edge is longer than the listed blade length.
As expected, the grind that the fine folks at Taichung put on the Rhino is impeccable. The stock starts at .118” thick and is brought down to a very keen edge by a full flat grind. Between the stock and grind, the Rhino makes for a very mean cutter, passing the apple test with ease. If there’s a complaint to be made, it’s that the satin finish is slightly tacky and seems to attract gunk. Regular cleaning and a bit of extra vigilance is probably required.
This is actually my first experience with Carpenter’s CTS-XHP steel. If rumors hold true, it was designed to have the upsides of D2 (great edge retention and toughness) while mitigating D2’s chief drawback (poor rust resistance). My experiences with the Rhino generally reflect that: the edge rarely needs touching up, and it’s warded off rust handily, ever after I inadvertently stored it with fruit juice on the blade. Unfortunately, most users report that it can be a pain to sharpen, so I’ve been proactive with my strop, and actual resharpening hasn’t been necessary.
Handle, Ergonomics, and Carry
Unfortunately, the handle breaks two of my cardinal rules when it comes to knives: avoid finger scallops and Spyderco’s carbon fiber/G10 composite scales. The former rule is rooted in ergonomics; the latter in priggish snobbery. My experience with the Rhino has made me reevaluate both – to an extent. The composite scales are reinforced by a skeletonized and recessed steel liner, and have endured everyday wear and tear without showing it. Moreover, they don’t have the glossy, too-light quality I’ve felt in other knives with carbon fiber scales.
The composite scales are well-suited to the role. There is enough texture that your fingers don’t slide around, but not the rough kind of texture you’d expect from Spyderco’s normal G10 treatment. Additionally, the edges and corners of the scales have been chamfered to the point that they are very nearly contoured. I’m very glad they went the extra mile in the finishing process; otherwise the Rhino would be an ergonomic flop, and that’s entirely due to the finger scallops. Apart from those problematic little curves, the Rhino is really quite good in the hand. The dip in the spine of the blade is a perfect place to put your thumb when you need more control, and the organic curve of the handle means that the Rhino can be gripped in a number of ways.
To be frank: finger scallops should be avoided as a rule. They force the user to hold the knife in a set grip, despite the fact that all of our muscular and skeletal structure varies wildly person to person. They do not actually improve our grip on a knife’s handle, according to hand surgeon and knifemaker Kyle Ver Steeg; in fact, by forcing our fingers farther apart, it weakens our grip instead. Finally, why on earth were finger scallops “necessary” on a knife this size? The Rhino isn’t going to be someone’s last ditch boot knife, or stowed in a bugout bag. It’s going to be toted around in some gear geek’s chinos, broken out to to open packages and trim loose threads. The Rhino’s saving grace is that the finger scallops have been chamfered to the point that I hardly notice them.
The Rhino is equipped with Spyderco’s classic spoon-shaped clip. It’s a classic design for a reason: it doesn’t cause ergonomic issues, it keeps the knife in the pocket without shredding your pants, and it’s only a little bit of a paint scraper.
Deployment and Lock-Up
At this point, there’s not a whole lot that can be said about Spyderco’s trademark thumb hole. Even as flippers reign supreme, the thumb hole stands out: it’s simple, versatile, and only there when you need it. The Rhino has at least as much fidget factor as any of my flippers, in part due to the phosphor bronze washers the blade rides on and the excellent detente. Absolutely no complaints in this regard.
In keeping with the “quintessentially Spyderco” theme, the Rhino utilizes the compression lock, an in-house design that’s strong, simple, and lightweight. By using a locking leaf that wedges between the blade tang and the stop pin, the compression lock blends the convenience and strength of an axis-style lock with the snappy action and simplicity of a liner lock. Unfortunately, compression locks do tend to have a bit of vertical blade play, and the Rhino is no exception. It doesn’t register visually or audibly, but you can feel it if you wiggle the blade around.
Spyderco Rhino Review – Final Thoughts
Ultimately, the Rhino is a fine addition to both Spyderco’s catalog and my collection. Part of me still wishes that the original version would have made it to market, but to be honest, the extra finishing on the handle scales probably wouldn’t be feasible at a sub-$50 price point, and the finger scallops would go from a theoretical pet peeve to a very literal pain to deal with. That aside, there’s a lot to recommend here. The blade uses some of the best steel on the market and is ground to be a lean cutter; the handle is remarkably comfortable, in and out of the pocket; and the deployment method and lock are some of the most reliable and convenient available.
As mentioned above, the street price for the Rhino falls around $140. That’s nothing to sneeze at; most of the major production knife companies have strong entries at this price point, from Benchmade’s upgraded Griptilian line to a veritable dragon’s hoard of Kizer offerings. While the competition is fierce, I think the Rhino holds its own. The blade – from the steel to the grind – makes the Rhino stand out in its own way, especially if you like the funky design aesthetic.
There are some people who should pay special attention to the Rhino, and a few who should actively avoid it. The Rhino is especially well-suited to modern office workers: opening packages, breaking down cardboard boxes, and maybe peeling an orange at lunch. If you have more specific needs (like frequent food prep or a knife suited to harder use), look elsewhere, as the Rhino was clearly not designed with those tasks in mind.
- PlainEdge Blade - This knife has a sharpened blade with no serrations or teeth sometimes referred to as a smooth blade.
- Carbon Fiber Handle - Graphic fibers (the size of a human hair) woven together then fused with epoxy resin. Lightweight with a high level of tensile strength it is three dimensional in appearance.
- Full-Flat Grind - This knife features a blade ground with flat bevels that extend from the spine all the way to the cutting edge. This grind reduces drag during cutting and decreases overall weight.
- Specifications - Closed Length (Inches): 3.6, Overall Length (Inches): 5.95, Blade Length (Inches):2.35, Blade Steel: CTS XHP, Grind: Full-Flat