Review : Spyderco Military and Calypso Jr.

Cliff Stamp

Oct 5, 1998
A few weeks ago I ordered a plain edge Spyderco Military and a flat ground Calypso Jr. from Chai Cutlery. What I was looking for was a slim elegant folder that sliced well and would not seem too tactical (Calypso Jr.) and a more rugged blade for heavier use out around (Military). The main attraction to the Calypso Jr. was the flat grind, and for the Military it was the 440V steel.

Review can be seen here :

Nice review. Do you find the AUS8 blade of the Calypso Jr. compares well to other AUS8 blades you have seen in terms of edge-holding? (i.e., how is the grind and heat-treat)

Eagerly awaiting your review of the Military...
Burke, it has about the same performance as the AUS-8A in my Cold Steel Vaquero Grande. The VG has a thicker grind, and blade, so it is somewhat more durable. I don't particularly like AUS-8A as it will not take a really shallow final edge bevel. My mini-AFCK had an edge that was under 15 degrees. If I lowered the Calypso Jr. to that acute a bevel the rolling would be much more severe. On a positive note, because AUS-8A is kind of "soft" it does not chip out easily but just impacts or rolls, which is easily repaired. It also is very easy to sharpen and takes a really high polish well, I think Sal mentioned that its grain structure is fine which would explain both of those aspects.

I am hoping that the performance of the 440V in the Military is as high as the specs. from CPM indicate. If they are I might be able to lower the edge angle on it much more than normal (say 10 degrees) and still get decent durability. And of course at this shallow an edge you are approaching full grind performance.

I've tested and re-tested the Calypso Jr. enough to be very confident of my impressions, but nevertheless it's great to see someone else come up with generally the same views.

One of the things I've been trying to emphasize is the Calypso Jr.'s surprising slicing ability. Even with the edge slightly polished, Cliff and I both seemed to have noticed that the knife still cuts through things very nicely, because the edge geometry is so good that you can almost push-cut through things most other knives have to slice through. Cliff complained about handle comfort when doing this hard. For me, the handle comfort wasn't the issue. The limiting factor for me was the lock, which starts to bow out slightly once you get to medium cardboard.

In all, though, the Calypso Jr. is an incredible gent's scalpel. Don't know how I got along without one!

A more expensive but comparable knife in this "incredible edge-geometry" class is Steve Mullin's Pack River folders. It addresses all of Cliff's concerns, and all of mine. The handle is more comfortable, the blade steel is hold-an-edge-forever 440V, it has the same incredible long flat grind as the Calypso Jr., a bigger blade, and a significantly stronger lock. Can't believe I haven't picked one up yet!

Joe, I remember you noting the lock concern and I looked for that when I did more forceful cutting. I did not see any evidence of give in the lock in any respect. I can take the Calypso and press it very hard into my desk (at work), hard enough that it notches the wood, and the lock does not give at all. However I have noticed that an Endura my brother has will exhibit this behavior. The blade sort of bows back a degree or two, is this what you mean? The Endura its well used and a year old. I wanted to make reference to your review of the Calypso but I could not find it.


Yes, that's exactly what I'm talking about. I find you can get this behavior on just about any lockback, it's just a matter of how much pressure you need to put on the edge before it happens.

I found it not all that difficult to get this behavior on my Calypso Jr. Leaning medium-hard on the knife to get it through rope or thick cardboard got the lock bowing out on me, sometimes enough to make me uncomfortable. Maybe I just got a lock spring that's a little softer than most? I can also get my endura to bow out, but it takes a lot more pressure.

I may be imagining this, but I also feel that something about lockbacks seems to relax a little in use, and that this bowing out seems to get more noticeable with time and use. However, when I first noticed it on my Calypso Jr., it was still fairly new.

Joe :

I may be imagining this, but I also feel that something about lockbacks seems to relax a little in use, and that this bowing out seems to get more noticeable with time and use.

Yes that is exactly what happened with the Endura I mentioned above. It was really tight and solid when it was first bought, but now it is fairly easy to get the blade to bend back, and there is slight lateral play in it.

My new Calypso Jr. is much more solid and shows no sign of either, even when I exert considerable strain on it, more than would be require to slice through anything.

Cliff - The reference was to lockbacks and the possibility of "a small amount of verticle play as a result of bearing down hard on the blade".

This is acutally in the geometry of the lock. Even close tolerances will permit a small amount of "pop up" when pressed hard.

This particular lock geometry of the lockbacks we use has proven to be the strongest, best lock up, least breakage and lock shear and in addition produces the secure "Click" when reaching the locked position. This is all within the lock geometry and the way the parts of the lock interface with each other.

They really don't "relax" or "wear in" as in some lock geometries. They are that way when new. CS uses the same lock geometry and as a result can enjoy high lock strengths.

Regarding reserrating, we have done it, we could not do it as a service at this time as there would have to be a service charge and we're not yet sure what would work. I believe that Mike T is just about set up to reserrate?
Sal :


They really don't "relax" or "wear in" as in some lock geometries. They are that way when new.

Well Sal all I can say to that is simply I have seen this aspect change over about a year so it definately did relax / wear in or whatever you want to call it.

About a year ago I bought an Endura for my brother and tested the lockup and blade stability before I gave it to him. It was solid with no play in any plane. I periodically asked about it. I was curious how the aggressive serration pattern held up mainly. Since I only handled it every few months or so I could spot differences my brother could not becuase he used it every day and thus any change was too gradual to notice. The last time I had a look at it, the blade would angle up a degree or two under very slight cutting (cardboard). This was definately not there before and gives a very insecure feeling when using the knife.

As for this aspect being expected behavior, that is surprising as I had not seen it before, certainly not to the extent that Joe commented on. Are you saying that what he describes is acceptable performance?

Update : I have recieved the Military back from Spyderco. The lock is much more stable now and it will not release under most normal grips. There is one exception though. If I use a full grip with my index finger in the cutout and my thumb coming on top of it - when I tighten my grip the liner will move to the side and thus unlock. This grip would be easy to avoid during normal use though as the lock instability is very sensitive to the exact placement of my index finger. The liner has to run just along the top of my first knuckle.

I was curious to know if the grip I was using was likely to happen if I wasn't careful so I then simulated "emergency" pickups (like I needed to cut something in a hurry) and it usually took me more than 15 tries to hit the grip needed to release the lock. This of course is biased by the fact that I knew what grip I was looking for.

I tried to fail the lock with various gloves on and could not. The material of the gloves would move and not the liner. I also passed it around to some of my friends. Most but not all could get it to collapse when I showed them the exact grip I was using.

Anyway, I really like the blade design, handle ergonomics and the 440V on the Military (on paper), and when the Rolling lock versions comes out I'll probably pick one up. This one is not for me though as I don't want to chance an accidental unlocking.


[This message has been edited by Cliff Stamp (edited 21 June 1999).]
Cliff -- For some mysterious reason, I saw your review of the Calypso Jr. not until yesterday. Great job, well on the "esoteric" side. You're really making a science of (some aspects) of knife-testing! And your way to add hyperlinks to relevant additional information and discussions is much valued. That, in fact, creates almost a book of every review. Remarkable!

One question: Can you give any estimate of the time it takes from you to do such a review (including the tests, composition of the text, linking, etc.)? Just curious, though I know you enjoy every minute.

Markku, this is how it usually goes :

When I first get a knife I examine it for fit and finish, make some measurements, look at the balance, check the ability of the sheath to retain the blade, ease of use and stuff like that. That is about an hour or so.

I then do some light cutting to have a look at how the factory edge works on different materials and how the grind performs. I am also interested in the ergonomics of the handle and other factors. This is a couple of hours and will include a session of extended hard use (say 10 minutes) to see if there are any immediate problems with the grip.

Next I give the knife out to friends and let them put a couple of months or so use on it. This allows me to see if extended use will bring any problems to light, see how the edge wears and get a feel for how it sharpens. It also allows me to get anothers perspective on various aspects so I don't bias the review too much towards my personal use.

Once they have finished then I will duplicate some of the work they have done and compare my experiences against thiers. This usually takes about 2 weeks or so as I will run it over a range of materials under different conditions. For example, a knife that chops a pine 2x4" well might break up on small diameter seasoned hard wood or a knife that chops on hard wood really well might get stuck in soft woods really easy and be very frustrating to use.

After this is done I will move on to looking at durability. Specifically the tip, edge, handle (grip and butt) and finally gross blade strength. This only takes a few days.

The writeup takes about 2 hours including all the links, which usually I collect gradually as I read BladeForums (I have a folder with a bunch on the Busse Mattle Mistress now for example).

This can change a little from blade to blade but that is more or less how it goes.


[This message has been edited by Cliff Stamp (edited 23 June 1999).]
What a recipe! Thanks. The time expenditure really shows. The idea of a folder for the knife/knives to be reviewed is a fine one, as is letting some friends to really use the knife, too.

Happy Midsummer,

Cliff - regarding the lock relaxing, I don't think the geometry would permit it. My guess is that perhaps the spring relaxed reducing the amount of force necessary to put the face of the lock against the face of the tang. I don't think the lock will fail, but if there is a concern, you might shoot it out to Customer Service for a "look see".
Sal, the knife just came back from the warrenty dept. The full details are available here :

Basically what happened is that I bought the knife and the lock was really unstable and would unlock under most grips. So I sent it back to the warrenty dept. . It came back better, but still unstable.

As for it failing, if I tighten my grip the liner will move and no longer engages the tang. Thus the knife is not locked and nothing is keeping the blade in place.

A while back a mini AFCK unlocked while cutting cardboard and sliced into my fingers.
Got an axis and swore to never have a liner lock again. However, just this week I relented and ordered a new Military in 440v.
Is the lock failure Cliff is describing on his military from faulty construction, excessive machine tolerances, or has he just found an inherant weakness in the design of this knife?? Other??
Will the liner lock tests be able to spot this??
Inquiring minds want to know.
Absolutely not a flame of this knife or the manufacture.
I Still have the scars from the AFCK.
Cliff, your review was excellent. I have been pondering buying the Calypso Jr. Your review definitely helps make my decision.
Mainly due to some problems with the handle ergonomics on the Calypso during some recent heavy cutting, I took my Dremel to the knife yesterday and made a few modifications. The first thing I did was cut some badly needed grooves along the hump and then round the inside edges of the Micarta slabs. Since I had the tool out I rounded out the pointy top of the hump and also softened up the edges at the top of the choil. Feels much better in the hand now.

Thank you for the reply, Cliff..
My new military will arrive in the next day or two, and I will put it through the tests.