Tuesday, January 30, 2007

What's In My Pocket? #2: Spyderco Volpe

What qualities bring a new knife into my collection? Tough question. As is true of my comic art collection, I can't always explain the reasons why I'm drawn to a particular piece. But when I lay all of my knives out side by side — as I do on occasion, when that mood strikes me — certain themes emerge:
  • Most of my blades are fairly large. Of the pieces I'm likely to shove in my pocket on any given day, only one has a blade shorter than three inches. Most measure at least 3.5 inches. That's mostly because a smaller knife doesn't fit comfortably in my chubby little hand.

  • All of my blades are practical tools. I never buy a knife I can't actually cut stuff with. Because a knife is, above all else, a device for cutting stuff. That's a key reason why I don't own any tanto-style blades, whose only real purpose is defensive. I've lived a long time without ever needing a weapon. But I need a letter opener — or box cutter, or paper slicer — several times every day.

  • I like a little style with my sharpness. Aethetically, I want a knife with eye appeal. Not one that makes me look as though I've watched too many episodes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. (I have, but that's not the point.) Just one that, when I flick open the blade and hold the piece in my hand, causes me to squee just a bit on the inside.
Because I'm such a dogged creature of habit, it sometimes takes me a while to work a new blade into my everyday carry rotation. Here's a knife that I owned for quite some time before I ever showed it the inside of my pocket. Then, for whatever reason, I selected it for Christmas present opening duty a month ago. It's probably the prettiest knife I own, so perhaps I just felt festive that day. I immediately fell in love with it. It's been a regular in the rotation ever since.

The Spyderco Model C99 — aka the Volpe — bears the brand name and insignia of one of America's finest makers of folding knives: Spyderco, based in Golden, Colorado. The knife itself, however, is manufactured in the sleepy hamlet of Maniago, Italy by Fox Cutlery, one of Europe's premier knifemakers. (Volpe means fox in Italian.) Although the Volpe incorporates Spyderco's trademark round hole opening effect, the rest of its details sprang from the imagination of Italian cutlers Gabriele Frati and Gianni Pauletta, known collectively as G&G Design. It is, to use a word that Signori Frati and Pauletta might approve, bellissimo.

The Volpe's drop point blade is crafted from N690Co stainless steel, an outstanding Austrian-made chromium steel notable primarily for its unique cobalt/vanadium alloy composition. (Vanadium is among the elements added to steel to increase its hardness and edge-holding capability; cobalt is far less commonly used.) Like every Spyderco blade I've owned, this bad boy arrived screaming sharp and has remained so. The round Spyderhole enables smooth one-handed opening (your thumb catches in the hole and slides the blade from the handle), even for a klutz like me. The indentation on the upper edge of the blade provides purchase for your index finger during a downward cutting stroke — a terrific control feature if you're making a long, straight cut.

G&G Design lent warmth and attractiveness to the Volpe by adding blonde olivewood inlays to the handle. (Mine have gorgeous butterscotch grain. I'd post a photo, but I can't find the camera today. So the stock shot above will have to suffice.) On the flip side, Spyderco's spider logo ("the bug," as they call it) is laser-cut into the frame.

And it's shiny. Really shiny. Chrome bumper on a '72 'Vette shiny.

Mmmm.... shiny.

All in all, the Volpe makes a stylish yet functional presentation. It's classy enough to carry on any occasion, much like a traditional gentlemen's folder. Its ergonomics are excellent, its fit and finish top-notch, its utility outstanding. And, after it's warmed in one's pocket for a while, the Volpe's olivewood inlays smell nice. I can't make that statement about any other knife I own.

I think I'll see if the mail's here.

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1 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger Scott Roche offered these pearls of wisdom...

That's a thing of beauty indeed.

7:04 AM  

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