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James Keating - SPYDERCO Chinook, review

Nov 25, 1999
<center><font size=4>James Keating - SPYDERCO Chinook.</font></center>
<center><small>Patr 1 of 3</small></center>

<a href="http://albums.photopoint.com/j/View?u=222944&a=1651093&p=31356840&Sequence=0&res=high" target="_blank"><IMG align=right SRC="http://albums.photopoint.com/j/View?u=222944&a=1651093&p=31356841&Sequence=0&res=high" border="2"></a>When I saw this knife first time at SPYDERCO booth at IWA gun show in Nuremberg my first impression was: "What a funny knife! It reminds me malicious pirate's saber in cartoon". Because there was few time and were a lot of nice knives which where currently in production (or where ready to go into production) I didn't take too much attention to this prototype. Now it is here, and I can play with it as long as I want (and I do want) and as much time I have to play (I would like to have more

And here are my impressions.

<a href="http://albums.photopoint.com/j/View?u=222944&a=1651093&p=31356852&Sequence=0&res=high" target="_blank"><IMG align=right SRC="http://albums.photopoint.com/j/View?u=222944&a=1651093&p=31356853&Sequence=0&res=high" border="2"></a>Chinook is not a big knife, here you can see it on my palm for comparison and I have normal medium-sized man's palms. I have made these comparisons because the Chinook generally appears bigger than it really is, for me at least.

<a href="http://albums.photopoint.com/j/View?u=222944&a=1651093&p=31796324&Sequence=0&res=high" target="_blank"><IMG align=left SRC="http://albums.photopoint.com/j/View?u=222944&a=1651093&p=31796326&Sequence=0&res=high" border="2"></a>Here it is shown in comparison with other well-known spydercos. As you can see: it is hardly noticeably bigger than Wegner and also hardly noticeably smaller than Starmate. And it is considerably smaller than Military.

But Friends, this is really one the hellish piece of knife!
<a href="http://albums.photopoint.com/j/View?u=222944&a=1651093&p=31356848&Sequence=0&res=high" target="_blank"><IMG align=right SRC="http://albums.photopoint.com/j/View?u=222944&a=1651093&p=31356851&Sequence=0&res=high" border="2"></a>Near indestructible G-10 scales are supported with more than 1 mm thick full-length double-sided stainless steel liners. Also stainless steel back spacer makes the handle even stiffer and stronger. Additionally it allows to use knife's butt as hammer to crush something if required. No doubts the handle is strong enough even for this not characteristic for folding knife role.
I didn't screw the pivot pin out so I can't evaluate how thick it is and how thick are the rivets what hold this knife together but I believe SPYDERCO engineers made them suitable to entire knife construction.

<center><small>to be continued...</small></center>

[This message has been edited by Sergiusz Mitin (edited 10-29-2000).]
<center><small>Patr 2 of 3</small></center>

<a href="http://albums.photopoint.com/j/View?u=222944&a=1651093&p=31356842&Sequence=0&res=high" target="_blank"><IMG align=right SRC="http://albums.photopoint.com/j/View?u=222944&a=1651093&p=31356843&Sequence=0&res=high" border="2"></a>The handle fits my hand very well in saber, hammer and reverse grip (which I do not like and almost never use, btw). Highly ergonomically designed handle's shape provides both comfortable and secure grip. Relatively short (15 millimeters) patterned area on the rear of the blade spine allows positive thumb placement and accurate blade indexing. This pattern is quite aggressive but not uncomfortable. The forefinger placement area isn't patterned at all but thanks to well thought out handle's shape this seems not necessary. G-10 scales have medium texturing which is quite enough to make the grip even securer without handling comfort affecting.

<a href="http://albums.photopoint.com/j/View?u=222944&a=1651093&p=31797452&Sequence=0&res=high" target="_blank"><IMG align=right SRC="http://albums.photopoint.com/j/View?u=222944&a=1651093&p=31797453&Sequence=0&res=high" border="2"></a>SPYDERCO Trade Mark round opening hole allows easy one-hand opening using both right and left hand, it is available on both sides equally (see the second picture in first part). Hole's diameter is as large as on Military (14 millimeters) and allows operating the knife with gloved hands as well.

<a href="http://albums.photopoint.com/j/View?u=222944&a=1651093&p=31356846&Sequence=0&res=high" target="_blank"><IMG align=left SRC="http://albums.photopoint.com/j/View?u=222944&a=1651093&p=31356847&Sequence=0&res=high" border="2"></a>Seems I should say here: "The lockback is back!" Why at the time of new generation locking mechanisms and having their own new Compression Lock SPYDERCO decided to equip this knife with seemingly well-worn back lock? Here I must quote Sal Glesser (Sal, sorry if my quote is not too precise in form but I believe it is precise in spirit): "It is no matter what locking mechanism is used. The matter is how it is performed". SPYDERCO claims that Chinook's lock can hold 200 pounds of load per inch of blade. This is the torque comparable with large car engine's torque, quite impressible! Of course I should simply to break the knife to check these data, I have neither intention nor possibility to do it. But I can believe this claim by all means, it is enough to take the knife into hand.
On the other hand I'm somewhat malicious beast and I have tried to make the lock to fail without breaking. Some spine whacking tests didn't impress this knife at all. Well, I tried to grip the knife the way to cause lock disengaging, it is known that "white knuckle test" sometimes is critical for lockbacks. I have tried to imitate different natural and unnatural grips on knife handle but I couldn't cause lock unwanted disengagement. I think the main reason is pretty diminutive cutout on the knife handle's spine. Additionally it is placed in very proper place, directly at the middle of the spine where the palm applies the least pressure when hard cutting or pulling the blade out of cut material.
Sorry Friends, maybe I'll have better luck trying to let fail SPYDERCO Compression Lock when I'll have opportunity to play with.

<center><small>to be continued...</small></center>

[This message has been edited by Sergiusz Mitin (edited 10-29-2000).]
<center><small>Patr 3 of 3</small></center>

<a href="http://albums.photopoint.com/j/View?u=222944&a=1651093&p=31356855&Sequence=0&res=high" target="_blank"><IMG align=right SRC="http://albums.photopoint.com/j/View?u=222944&a=1651093&p=31356857&Sequence=0&res=high" border="2"></a>The pocket clip is the same as on Military, it holds the knife in medium position in the pocket, not too deep and not too high. The knife is easy to draw. One interesting detail: this is lockback and some locbacks have quite unpleasant tendency to catch the pocket's edge with the notch on blade tang (clearly visible on the second photo in first part). It is not an issue if you carry your knife in the front pocket but it can obstruct quite efficiently when the knife is drawn from rear pocket.

<a href="http://albums.photopoint.com/j/View?u=222944&a=1651093&p=31356859&Sequence=0&res=high" target="_blank"><IMG align=left SRC="http://albums.photopoint.com/j/View?u=222944&a=1651093&p=31356860&Sequence=0&res=high" border="2"></a>Here this is not an issue. The clip places this notch above the pocket upper edge and it can't snag when knife is drawn in hurry. I have pointed this with white arrow.
One important "trifle" more - the clip screws are screwed into steel liner, not into G-10 scale.

<a href="http://albums.photopoint.com/j/View?u=222944&a=1651093&p=31356844&Sequence=0&res=high" target="_blank"><IMG align=right SRC="http://albums.photopoint.com/j/View?u=222944&a=1651093&p=31356845&Sequence=0&res=high" border="2"></a>My main complaint of this design is that the clip can't be moved onto opposite side. The opening hole is available equally for both hands. The back lock is ambidextrous by it's nature. The opposite liner allows to screw clip into it as well. So why the clip is not movable to opposite side? The small step lacks to make this knife truly ambidextrous and this step could be done easily. But it didn't. Seems SPYDERCO doesn't like lefties as well as some another brand named manufacturers

Sometimes here are discussed the matters like "the strongest folder" or "which folder is built like tank". Do you need such folder? Here it is!
As to me I really can't imagine the situation when I could use this knife's entire strength potential. Yes, it has nice belly and could be used for skinning, but in this case such strength is not necessary. But for defensive applications I would prefer straight stabbing techniques and as result - SPYDERCO Starmate.
I'm not martial artist and I could miss something in this knife's philosophy, anyway I'm ready to discuss this matter. Each man is convicted to learn during entire life and in spite of this to die being silly

Can I say I like this knife more than my Starmate, Military and Wegner? No, I can't. But I can say certainly - this knife has the balls!

Sergiusz Mitin
Lodz, Poland

[This message has been edited by Sergiusz Mitin (edited 10-29-2000).]
Thanks Sergiusz! Do you think the thick blade in 440V will take more punishment than in my Military?


"To strive to seek to find and not to yield"
Ranger motto
Didn't read through all the reviews so maybe my questions was covered, but why did Spyderco not sharpen the back edge of the knife? I know zero about knife fighting but an expert friend of mine that owns one of the first of these released from Spyderco mentioned this to me, and I find it strange that Keating would not have demanded that the back edge be sharpened before allowing this to go into production. It is my understanding that Keating wanted the back edge sharpened. Again, I know zero about knife fighting but it has been a point of debate among the friends I have in this circle. Since I know nothing about knife fighting the blade does look like a nice utility folder in my opinion....wouldn't mind carrying one of these in the woods.


Randall's Adventure & Training

Sharpening the swedge would make the knife illegal in most jurisdictions. Something Spyderco/Sal would not want to do. Having said that, I the last .5 inches at the tip is totally in the handle. So if you sharpen, as I believe JAK mentioned in ROS, it is still safe in the folded position. It would be an easier job though if the swedge were thinner, like the Native. I mentioned that in the Spyderco forum. Perhaps in future runs.

For now, the slightly higher (trailing tip) will still cut through most "soft" materials and leave a vicious tear on a "backcut." Try it on a stack of cardboard or leather and you will see for yourself. Also, the tip is not so high that it can't thrust. It actually does it quite well if adjust a tad bit. If the thrust comes up from low... WHOA!

Good review, SM.


AKTI #A000356

[This message has been edited by sing (edited 10-29-2000).]
Thanks for the great review, Sergiusz! Lots of good information there and some excellent pics.
The Military blade has clear flat ground with pretty tine tip and edge, it displays nice cutting and slicing performance and I like it a lot. It is my first choice when folding knife for outdoors activities or around household use is required. But the Chinook's blade and entire construction is far stronger than Military. Though blade tang has the same thickness 4 millimeters it is consistent up to 28 millimeters from the tip. Please note also: being smaller than Military the Chinook weights 200 grams, it is almost twice as Military (113 grams).
It is really very hefty and strong knife.

Jeff, Sing,
As the Chinook comes out of the box the blade spine is 1 mm thick at 1 mm distance from the tip. It is about 2 millimeters thick at distance 15 mm from the tip - so far we can sharpen back edge safely. With such thick spine it is possible at least to scratch an opponent and only if he is naked

Yes, it is possible to rip the cardboard stack but the cardboard resistance when cutting is incomparable with leave body resistance. After Sing's post I have tried to make some back cuts on the skinned ram's carcass (this ram was killed about 12-15 hours before) - it was really scratching only. Here I should underline that live tissue is more resistant because it is more elastic, and skin even more resistant.

Well, now let's imagine the front part of back edge sharpened. We should "lose" the 1 mm of thickness on 2 mm of swedge width near the tip. And 2 mm of thickness on 3 mm of swedge width at the back of part we can sharpen.
It would be fairly obtuse edge!

So far I think that James Keatint designed this blade's shape for something another than back cuts.
Could someone who trains martial fighting techniques explain the sense of this blade shape?
Okay. They say a picture is worth a thousand words... Here it is:


I sacraficed an old leather jacket for the cause. There were four backcuts made -- right to left diagonals (most natural for a righty.) First cut is on the right hand side. Second cut is actually midway of the big flap on the left. The third cut was over the second and joined together to create the big flap. The fourth cut is on the bottom left.

Don't know about anybody else but my skin ain't as thick as that jacket leather. Don't worry about wasting the jacket though. I can now use it to practice with my really big bowies.

AKTI #A000356

PS. Jeff, yes the chinook should serve admirably as a skinner too.

[This message has been edited by sing (edited 10-30-2000).]
Nice review. Great Photos.


I had similar results back cutting/tip ripping with my Chinook. It's also a natural born slasher with lots of belly.
My dad almost didn't allow me to leave his house with it, he liked it so much.

I don't think you can go too far wrong with this knife. I love it.

Yes, with lot of cutting belly Chinook is good slasher and nice skinner. I became convinced portioning mentioned ram into eatable parts. However for deep slices I like Military better.
Unfortunately I couldn't make photos because my old photo camera kicked the bucket some weeks ago, the photos I have used in my review were made before.

Sing, I appreciate your sacrifice but please do not underestimate your skin
Believe me, it is far thicker and numerous times more elastic than tanned jacket skin. Especially if it is old jacket and the skin became dry and quite crisp.
I'm not a doctor but I saw some wounds in my life. God made a human noticeably stronger than human made his clothing. Human's skin is fairly tough and elastic thing, I do not remember certainly a source but many years ago I read about projectile gelatin tests. The freshly obtained 3-mm thick pigskin (the closest model of human skin) applied as much resistance to projectile's penetration as about 100 mm of calibrated ballistic gelatin which imitated live tissue!

I have crazy idea: here are 7 thousands plus registered members. Maybe on of them could be doctor, the best if he or she would be surgeon or specialist of wounds. Maybe doctor's consultation could settle our discussion?
Jeff, forget the deer skin. How about some choice parts of the dear?
As far as the jacket, if it were a $20 jacket I liked, I wouldn't do it. But this was a hand me down that I never particularly liked.

SM, I was really responding to the question of the intended design of the knife and try to back it up with reference and empirical evidence via the jacket. Hey, folks can take it or leave it. MBC players have their ideas. Regardless, we both agree it's well made knife.

AKTI #A000356

You are right, independently what purposes this knife is designed for it is very well engineered and flawlessly performed. True SPYDERCO quality!
Certainly we both can agree at this point

Sergiusz-I have come to look forward to your reviews. They are top notch in every regard! Once again, my interest is peaked in a knife I previously had no interest in!Well done, and thank you.

"Each man is convicted to learn during entire life and in spite of this to die being silly." I`ll be quoting this wildly! (Hope you don`t mind.)
I think it's reasonable to surmise that the knife was designed to have a sharpened back edge (the handle covers the swedge and it's also a lockback), but Spyderco didn't want to sell it like that. Lockbacks seem better suited for a blade with a sharpened back for a couple of reasons. For one thing, spring pressure holds the blade closed securely, plus the lock usually isn't as susceptible to spine whack failures.

It seems like I remember reading that Mr. Keating sharpened the swedge of his personal Chinook. I'm sure a video will come out on the Chinook, so we can get a better idea then of how it's designer uses it.

So, why isn't it sold with a sharpened back edge? That's a good question. The legal issues that Sing pointed out make up a very compelling reason. Plus, you can make a strong argument that any folding knife should not, on principle, have a sharp back edge. Or maybe Spyderco just tested some prototypes and thought that the knife benefited from a thick swedge for some reason.