Monday, December 22, 2008

Spyderco Native II vs Native III

UPDATE: pictures and comparison here! (natives near the end)

A while ago I said,

Looking at their line I see little variety, and extremely limited evolution. In fact, the only evolution I can see is the initial implementation of the choil (which I really like, by the way). Then I see a more innovative grip design in the Manix. Then I see a stronger blade design, and a more accentuated grip in the Native. Then I see the Native III with a strong blade attached to a grip that looks like it was made to actually fit a human hand. The Native III is a very functional utility blade, high-quality materials, a properly fitting grip, and a choil feature for added control. But it seems to have something that the other models don't. Is it heart? Is it creativity? Is it a flair for utility? I don't know, but they've made a good knife. It's different from what they've done before. And they know it.

I should have listened to myself.

I love everything about the Native III except the steel. The Native III is anomalous in the Spyderco line, and I like it. I picked up my Native III with partial serrations, and after regular use, the serrations got dull, chipped, and worthless. It couldn't even cut through cardboard. So the Native III sat unused. Which is a shame, because I love almost everything about it.

I decided to pick up a Native II in plain blade because it was the predecessor to the III, and it used my favorite steel. Sure it's a previous evolution of a knife I like, and it's still Spyderco, but it can't be that bad! Well, I got it this weekend. It's that bad.

The handle is too smooth, too skinny, and too cheap. It feels like it might shatter if I dropped it, and fails to offer the assurance of a positive grip. The choil exists, though slightly less pronounced, but the steel on the blade side is not rounded, and scrapes the skin off your finger in a forward grip. The grip side of the choil is flat, and gives nothing for your mid-digit to wrap around, introducing the exact opposite of the choil's intention; uncertainty with your blade. The blade and body is not tall enough to fit my hand like the Native III did.

In short, it felt like I was holding a Spyderco knife.

Thin, light, plastic-y grip, unfinished edges, and just a bad feeling from my hand. The only reference I have for that feeling is when I picked up a cheap Chinese reproduction of a CRKT M16. My hand immediately felt the bad balance, burrs, and hard edges pressing into my hand. It just felt wrong. The first thought in my head was, "This knife is fucking my hand." It was like I was holding a splintery piece of wood. The Native II gives my hand a similar feeling, (but nowhere near as terrible). It just feels wrong.

All weekend I was opening both of them, and holding each one right after the other to get a sense for what it was that made the II so completely different from the III. It's Monday, and I still have no complete answer. It's perplexing because they seem so much alike. It seems like the II shouldn't be as bad as it is, but there is simply no comparison between the two.

I had some faint hopes of swapping grips to get the Native II blade on the Native III grip. But since the blades are riveted in place, there's no chance of even trying.

I want a plain blade Native III, but after talking to Josh, and some recent comments, I want to get a simple serration sharpener and work the Native III over to see how it sharpens, and get a better feel for the steel.


Fletch said...

If I had never handled a Native III, the Native II would be pretty impressive.

The game has been upped.

Anonymous said...

Next time we get together, I'll bring the Sharpmaker. It really pays to use the right tool for the job, and thats the right tool. VG10 takes an awesome edge, but its hard so it takes about 5 minutes to do it right.