Al Mar Falcon Ultralight

Oct 3, 1998
Everybody loves the Spyderco Calypso Jr. BM, right? Well, if you like the Calypso Jr. but want something slimmer, you might want to look at the Al Mar Falcon Ultralight.

In several important respects these two knives are very similar, to the point that a reasonable person might bet they were made in the same Japanese factory. Both knives are made of the same materials--polished black linen Micarta and Aus8 steel--and both are lockbacks with similar construction, right down to the size of the pivot circle and handle rivets. Both knives are finished to the same excellent standard: very smooth operation, with the blade perfectly centered in the handle; crisp, even edge bevels and shaving sharp out of the box. Both knives have a full flat grind and a nice thin edge for excellent cutting performance. They lock up tightly with no perceptible blade wobble, and they snap closed resolutely.

The Falcon is the middle-sized knife in a series of three similarly shaped Al Mar folders, the Eagle being the largest and the Hawk the smallest. They are available serrated, partially serrated, or plain, with either satin or highly polished blade finish. My Falcon is the plain edged, satin finished version. I have fairly narrow hands, and of the three Al Mar Ultralights, I found the Falcon to be the best fit. The handle has a graceful curve to it, and there is a swell under the pivot to help keep the fingers from sliding onto the blade. This is a very attractive knife.

Comparing the Falcon and the Calypso Jr. BM., the most important difference is in the shape and thickness of handles and blades. The Falcon has an overall length of 7" (3-1/8" blade), whereas the Calpyso Jr. is about 6-5/8" (2-7/8" blade). The Falcon is a thinner knife, being 1/4" thick in the handle compared with the Calpyso Jr.'s 3/8". The Falcon is also narrower in both blade and handle: 5/8" where the the edge meets the choil, compared to just over 1" on the Calypso Jr. Of course the relatively broad blade of the Calypso Jr. is a function of the thumb hole/shoulder. The Falcon has dual thumb studs instead of the Spyderhole., so both knives are similarly ambidextrous in this respect.

Regarding ambidexterity, it should be noted that the Falcon has a reversible, butt mounted clip (for tip up carry), reminiscent of 1998 Spyderco Lightweights in that it makes use of the lanyard hole and is easily reversible. The mode of clip attachment is quite different, however. In the case of the Falcon, the clip screw plugs into the lanyard hole, so you can't use a lanyard while the clip is attached. The Falcon's clip screw requires a 2.5 mm hex key for removal rather than a coin. The clip has a small tab that fits into a slot on the edge of the lanyard hole, which effectively prevents the clip sliding around once it's attached.

I bought the Falcon Ultralight with a very specific set of criteria in mind. Basically, I wanted a Calypso Jr. with a narrower blade and a straighter handle. I intended to carry the knife in my shirtpocket, and I planned on using it for a variety of non-warlike applications, including opening mail, sharpening pencils, cutting string, manipulating bagpipe reads, and peeling and coring fruit. I favor a flat-ground drop point blade, which the Falcon has, as does the the Calypso Jr. BM. To really appreciate the shape and size differences of the Falcon vs. the Calypso Jr., all you have to do is peel an apple, quarter it, and cut out the core from each section. The Calpyso Jr. can do this, but the Falcon does it better. The Falcon is also a good cheese slicer, due to the thinness of the blade, and also because the blade's narrowness offers relatively little surface for sticky substances to adhere to.

The Falcon is my folding, shirt-pocket paring knife. Its flat handle and light weight allow it to ride well in my shirtbocket, along with a pen and a spiral memo notebook. The Falcon would be better as a shirtpocket knife if the clip were mounted on the pivot end, (like the Calypso Jr.) but this is a minor inconvenience; all it means is that you have to elevate your elbow and cock your wrist a bit more when withdrawing the knife.

The thinness of the Falcon makes it less robust than the stalkier Calpyso Jr., but it is by no means a flimsy knife. It's plenty strong enough to whittle a hardwood dowel, and it passed the beeswax test: I used it to cut through a cylinder of beeswax about the size of a votive candle. Beeswax, as everyone knows, is fairly dense and very sticky. You have to push a knife very hard to cut through a thick chunk of beeswax. Just for the heck of it (the devil made me do it) I decided to see if I could break the Falcon by pushing as hard as I could as I was cutting the wax. I pushed so hard it was difficult to hold onto the handle, and I had to push with both hands. I had to cut around the wax cylinder in a circle. When I finished, I expected to find some vertical play in the blade, but there was none whatsoever. This is not a hard-use knife by any stretch, and I would not consider it if I had self defense or prying in mind. Nevertheless, you don't need to worry about breaking this knife in any reasonable cutting task. I consider it in the class of "gentleman's folder", and I carry it as a compliment to my Benchmade AFCK.

This is an excellent knife, and I wonder why I don't hear it mentioned more often.

David Rock
I also have several variations of the above knives and like them very much. I often alternate the carry of my Calypso and AL MAR.
When heavier duty tasks are the order of the day I carry the Calypso and the Ulralight finds itself in my dress slacks often. My Calypsos' seem to slice better since they are razor sharp and edge out the AL MAR.
However, I agree that the Ultralight is a better "user" for fruits and manipulation tasks as you described.
I enjoyed your review! Thank you for sharing it with us. Too bad they are discontinuing the Calypso; I have already "stocked up" on mine!

Take care:

How do these knives stack up against the Kershaw G-10 Wild Turkey? Specifically, is the Al-Mar's blade thinner than the Kershaw and is it ATS-34?


The Kershaw Wild Wild Turkey (dang, I hate that name!) is another good choice in the shirt-pocket genre. I don't have one in my collection, so I can't make any direct comparison, but I have handled one at the local store. My main reservation about the Wild Wild Turkey was that the point of the blade was not covered very well by the handle when in the folded position. I was afraid the tip might snag on a fold of clothing and open up in my pocket. It's a liner lock, you know, set up for tip-up carry, so having it open up in the pocket is definitely within the realm of the possible. You'll want to verify that it has a good ball detent before you plunk down your money. This may have been a quirk applicable only to the one specimen I handled; I'm not sure. I remember liking the Kershaw in other respects. It was nice and sharp, and I could easily flick it open with my thumb, almost like a switchblade. I think the Al Mar Falcon has a more conventional drop point (which I prefer), whereas the Turkey (hate that name!) has more of a trailing point. I don't think the Kershaw is ambidextrous.

Perhaps James Mattis could chime in with any additional information. Have you checked out what he has to say about these knives on his web page?

David Rock
Oops, I forgot to address your question about blade thickness and steel. I don't recall which is thicker; if I had to bet without checking, I'd say the Al Mar Falcon has the thinner blade, and probably a tad longer as well. JKM, can you field this one?

The Falcon is not ATS-34, but rather, AUS8. I actually prefer the latter steel in a food preparation knife, as it is less prone to rust. Edge holding is adequate, and I can get it nice and sharp.

David Rock
Thanx for the review. I asked before about the Al Mar "bird" series and received a few replies, but this was a good all-around review. I have heard the Al Mar doesn't hold an edge quite as well as the Calypso Jr. Micarta, but that might have to do with the relative blade widths and the resulting effect on edge geometry (or not?).
One thing has kept me from I correct in my observation the Al Mars seem more expensive for their size than the comparably-sized Calypsos?
James Y:

You bring up an interesting point about the possible effects of different edge geometry between the narrow Falcon and the wide Calypso Jr. Common sense dictates that, all other things being equal, the wider blade will have a thinner edge when flat ground all the way to the spine than a narrower blade similarly ground. However, in this case all other things are not equal, as the narrower blade of the Falcon is also considerably thinner. Whether or not the thickness:narrowness ratio is proportionate between the two knives I can't say. (I don't have precise enough measuring tools, and I hate math

I haven't done extensive enough testing on the two knives to determine which stays sharper the longest. I simply lump them together in my "good enough" category.

Regarding the cost of the two knives, lists the Falcon at $63, and the Calypso Jr. BM at $68. (Not enough price diference to sway me).

If I had to own just one of these knives, I'd be hard pressed to decide. I guess it would depend on what else I could carry to complement it. Maybe I'd go with the Falcon. If I had to own just one knife, period, and it had to be either the Falcon or the Calypso Jr., in that case I'd probably opt for the Calypso Jr., as it is more robust.

David Rock
Oh, and one more thing, James Y, if people are telling you the Falcon doesn't hold an edge as well as the Calypso, are you sure they're not talking about the non-Ultralight series Falcons? Al Mar makes a bunch of them in different handle materials. I believe these have Al Mar's usual AUS6 steel (as opposed to AUS8 in the Falcon Ultralight and the Calypso Jr.), which would probably translate to a disadvantage in edge retention.

The supposed higher cost of the Falcon might also refer to the non-Ultralight version.

Just a thought.

David Rock
Thanks. I plan to perhaps get a Falcon or maybe the little Hawk (w/out clip) for a little, thin, pocketknife. Right now, I don't even own one Al Mar. I'd personally prefer the Micarta version, like your own.
Great comparative review!

Re: Withdrawing a butt-end clipped backlocker from shirt pocket. Have you tried placing the knife in the *right* pocket and opening it to *left* hand reverse-grip with the ring-finger? Works real well for me (and feels kind of natural for a "secondary" blade). Of course, the opening hole is more secure with this (than a stud). But I guess you want it to your right hand in *forward* grip? After all, you did say 'paring', not 'parrying'.

I have a friend who has 2 of these knives. He likes them alot. Has them set up for left and right carry. I was going to get one myself, but missed the sale. They are very nice knives.