I often find myself looking at new knives. Online shopping and social media pull on the heartstrings of blade lovers everywhere. There are so many brands, so many steel types, price points, and design styles, choosing a knife can be fun and exciting. And this is where I think Spyderco shines. They offer just about any handle material, blade steel, blade shape, lock type, and size you could imagine. And, nested somewhere in the middle of their price points and sizes, is the Shaman. Our test unit is the Sprint Run variant, in CPM CRUWEAR with natural Micarta handle scales. And (spoiler alert) it’s awesome.
How do you make something that’s intended to be used as a tool to cut with a razor sharp edge, still somehow nearly soft in the hand? Pick up a Shaman sporting a Micarta handle, and you’ll find out. The material used on this knife has the feel of an old pair of jeans. It’s a softly textured material, with increased grip when moisture is added to it, and curves that melt into the hand. If you need (or want) to process an acre of cardboard with a pocket knife, I don’t think you could choose a better knife for the job.
Key Specs: Spyderco Shaman
Spyderco often uses a steel that is considered “premium”, or high end, in a lot of their knives. S30V is today’s standard, run of the mill steel, that most of their models are manufactured with in their base form. And the Shaman is no exception to that. Contoured, 3D machined G-10 scales, and a blade comprised of S30V is the Shaman’s base model formula. But this sprint run variant is running CPM Cru-wear in it’s blade steel composition, with the previously mentioned natural micarta handles.
Cru-wear is generally regarded as a very tough steel, relative to pocket knife and small fixed blade steels. It is not technically a stainless steel, as it is a tool steel, nested comfortably between 3V and 4V in terms of toughness (3V) and edge retention (4V). Cruwear is also relatively easier to sharpen when compared to 3V, and has just enough stainless properties to keep it from corroding easily. It can still show a patina or even rust with some acid food cutting or letting water sit on the blade, but it’s possibly the most stainless tool steel there is. Which is a great thing, since you get some great toughness properties, good strength at the edge, and a sharpness to the edge similar to M4 or even K390. It’s a steel that likes to be sharpened and used, and won’t chip at the edge easily.
The blade has a nice, neutral drop point shape, with a high saber grind. It’s 3.62” blade is extremely capable, even if the forward choil takes the cutting edge down to 3.14”. There is a distal taper to the blade’s broad side, terminating in a thinner tip, similar to what’s found on a PM2. The blade stock (.14”) is thick enough for some heavier cutting tasks, and maybe some prying, if you’re into that sort of thing with your folders. But it’s still thin enough to use for EDC tasks and not get in its own way in cutting. It’s nearly a flat ground blade, with the exception of the very high section of the broad side being left for some heft near the spine.
And speaking of the spine, there is some aggressive jimping found on the base of the spine near the top of the handle. The 50/50 forward choil (half on the handle, half on the blade) shares this jimping in its large cutout for users of all hand sizes. The blade geometry is good overall, albeit a bit thick behind the edge in Spyderco’s typical fashion. It could be thinner, but it works well, and cuts without too much effort in most cases. The blade is also very tall, giving it more material to taper into the spine, lending to better-than-average cutting performance, but we’ll get into that more later in the review.
Deployment and lockup
Continuing with innovation in the use of new and different blade steels, Spyderco also uses their own in-house designed compression lock on the Shaman. It’s generally regarded as one of the most loved folding knife lock mechanisms, with great reasoning. Coupled with a Spydie-hole (Spyderco’s original deployment method), flipping open, using, and quickly closing the knife is a breeze.
The compression lock is well known, with a few attributes that make it more desirable than frame locks (Reeve Integral Locks, technically speaking), liner locks, and lock backs. The first, and the biggest reason most knife addicts love the compression lock is that it doesn’t require and of your fleshy digits to be in the blade path while the knife is closing.
It’s similar to a liner lock, but on the back of the handle rather than the front, which engages between the blade tang and the stop pin. So, with the knife open, depressing the compression lock tab, and letting the blade freely fall (once the knife is broken in a little), the knife will close with ease and your fingers never crossed the path of the falling blade. It’s (relatively) safe to use, and gives that higher end feel of a free dropping blade, all while being quick, strong and effective.
Another attribute the compression lock has, which it shares with liner locks, is that your hands don’t generally touch the locking mechanism when handling the knife. Often times, frame locks and flippers require some thought when deploying the blade, but with the compression lock tab being part of the handle liner, you never have to think twice about how you hand is positioned on the knife to reliably open it without unintended resistance to the lock bar.
Deploying the Shaman, and most other Spyderco knives, is most comfortably done by use of the opening hole. While drilling a large hole in the blade of a knife doesn’t always sound like a great idea, Spyderco has been doing this for decades, and has had very few issues with blades breaking at the hole. It allows the knife to be opened with any available finger or thumb, from either side of the knife, and like the compression lock, allows for quick access without the worry of missing the deployment. Occasionally, especially with gloves, it’s easy to miss the deployment on a thumb stud opening knife.
And for these reasons, the Shaman is great to deploy with your bare mitts, or with glove-covered hands. The action is somewhat smooth, thanks to the phosphor bronze washers between the blade and liners. But, the compression lock cutout can be a bit on the small side when using gloves, and I found it pretty difficult to disengage the lock in this manner.
Features, fit and finish
Spyderco makes an incredible amount of knives every year. They have an interesting division of their production, dubbed CQI, an acronym for constant quality improvement. This sector of their production allows the company to continuously improve a product, even years after its original debut. The Spydiechef, for example, has gone through two separate CQI revisions, and continues to be one of their most loved knives. The fit and finish on the Shaman hasn’t yet been run through the CQI sector, probably because it hasn’t needed it yet.
In this particular sprint run Shaman, the micarta handles are an absolute joy to hold and use. They’re smooth like soft demin, grippy when your hands start sweating during use, and durable for a long life of the tool. The edges are finished well, with one exception; the inside of the handles are not chamfered. This is one spot they could easily lightly deburr at the factory and it would give the knife an overall feel of more quality and comfort.
Also lacking some fine tuning in the chamfering department, is the jimping and opening hole. These two spots are nearly sharp. So conveniently opening your sprint run Shaman feels like a freshly drilled hole that wasn’t deburred afterward. Why? I truly ask you, Spyderco, why? The standard G10/S30V Shaman features a stonewashed blade, and the feel of the opening hole and jimping is ultra smooth, but then you leave sharp edges on the sprint runs. That needs some CQI love.
Can it be remedied with a few minutes of time by the end user? Sure, but we shouldn’t have to smooth off any part of a knife that’s over $200. Especially one produced at their Golden, Colorado plant, where the typical fit and finish is regarded as their highest level of quality production. And not only does it dig into the fingers during use, it’ll shred a pocket faster than a hungry hamster in a cardboard box. Sal and Eric, lets get that CQI going on the Shaman, and while you’re finishing off those rough edges, let’s incorporate that bushing pivot the Kapara recently was upgraded to with its CQI revision, making the deployment and action even smoother.
The construction of the Shaman is very similar to the Paramilitary 2 (and a lot of other Spyderco compression lock knives). Nested liners, a pivot with a D-shaped cutout on one side, and two body screws into standoffs keep the knife nice and tight at all times. There is another possible CQI improvement to be found; the forward choil also has a large nub that pushes itself into the compression lock cutout when the knife closes. Many users and reviewers complain that this is a deal breaking issue for them. I don’t personally care, as Sal Glesser said in a post on his forums, it’s there to stop the hand from accidentally moving onto the sharpened portion of the blade during use. This little nub can hit the finger being used to unlock the knife and close the blade, but I’ve learned to simply move that finger out of the way while closing the blade. Problem solved. Some users grind the nub off, but I’m happy with Sal’s decision in this aspect of the design.
There is also a backspacer added to the bottom portion of the handle, rounding out the hand – filling fuel of the knife overall. There are lots of aftermarket knife part makers who make back spacers for this very reason, and it’s a pleasure to find it installed on the knife from the factory. But again, another aspect that could be improved on, is it’s fitment in its position. It is not flush between the handle scales, leaving a small lip that is felt when holding the knife tightly. Again, I ask Spyderco, why? So many parts of the knife are so well finished, then you leave the back spacer not flush? Maybe we’re nitpicking here, but that’s what fit and finish is all about. At this price point, in a USA made piece of hardware, things should fit better than this.
My favorite part of the Shaman is using it. The feel in the hand is like a broken in glove. It just fits, with its curved, contoured handles. The blade spine doesn’t have the thumb ramp found on the PM2, leaving the back of the handle in line with the blade spine. Not only is it more aesthetically pleasing, it allows for a more neutral hand position. Choked up on the blade, utilizing the sharply jimped forward choil, the knife feels like a piece of molded clay was gripped, dried, and put back in the hand. It’s the most ergonomic Spyderco I’ve personally ever used.
Choked back toward the lower half of the handle, there is ample room for a large sized hand to still have a full grip on the knife, more in a saber type grip. Either of these positions are comfortable for use, but it seems the Shaman was intended to be used with the forward choil more than the choked back position. My reasoning on this theory is that, the lower positioned grip makes the cutting edge of the blade too far away from the hand to use with a feeling of control.
Whichever grip you prefer, the Shaman is a great cutter, with a couple exceptions. The blade stock thickness is very similar to the PM2, and that’s a good thing. But, when cutting an apple, the thickness behind the edge of the Shaman blade is left with a little too much material to cut without splitting the slices. The high saber grind looks great, cuts decently, but just has a feel of a little too much friction when slicing up the apple.
Moving on to the beloved blade lover’s favorite testing material, cardboard. The Shaman shines here, with a good cutting geometry, and a handle that’s so comfortable, even when pushing harder through some heavy material, the knife slices very well. The high saber grind coupled with a tall, broad blade, allows the material to part without getting caught up in the blade too easily. Shaving down a piece of wood feels homogeneous to cardboard cutting; it’s enjoyable to say the least. This is what this knife was made for. It feels like something that’s asking to be taken on a camping trip or a hike, especially with the Cruwear blade and micarta handles.
The pocket clip on the Shaman is great. It’s positioned better than on some of their offerings, with the lanyard hole incorporated into the clip. This allows the clip to be closer to the end of the handle, rather than awkwardly placed like the Para 3. A little portion of the handle peeks out of the pocket when it’s riding along, but it’s not an excessive amount. The retention on the clip is great too, and although it doesn’t have the double retention point found on Chris Reeve Knives, or the Microtech Socom Elite, it’s tight enough to keep itself in place in the pocket even with running or jumping (yes, I checked).
The weight of the Shaman is 5.0 ounces in its base form, and, thanks to the micarta handles on this sprint run, it’s running a touch lighter at 4.9 oz. That’s too heavy for a certain sector of the market, but I think it’s a good weight for this knife’s intended use. It’s a good knife for EDC tasks, but sits more comfortably in the role of a trade worker, light camp, or hiking knife when weight isn’t too heavily considered. It doesn’t bounce around in the pocket thanks to the retention on the pocket clip, and it sits nicely in the hand with the balance centered on the knife overall. It’s no chopper, but it’s great for some longer duration cutting tasks or heavy push cuts.
All these knives available at BladeHQ.
Sal Glesser designed the Shaman, Eric (his son) designed the Manix 2, and together they designed the Paramilitary 2. And it shows. The Shaman feels like a bigger knife than it is, and it has a look and overall design that could be viewed as a hybrid between a PM2 and a Manix 2. And I think those are the 2 closest comparable knives to the Shaman.
The Manix 2 has many variants available. There has also been a Cruwear Manix 2 sprint run, and a Paramilitary 2 sprint run. The PM2 runs around the 3.7 oz mark, and the Manix 2 about 5.0 oz like the Shaman. But the blade length on the Manix 2 and PM2 are 3.4”, while the Shaman is just over the 3.5” mark. That is a problem for some people with blade length laws, so of course, check your local restrictions and laws. All 3 knives are available in tons of variants and colors, so there’s something for everyone.
But here’s where things get a little weird. Why is it that the Shaman is nearly $80 more than either the PM2 or the Manix 2 in their base G10/S30V variants? Is there more R&D in the Shaman? Probably. But $80 to the end user more? I think it’s getting a little out of hand, Spyderco. I don’t see the price justification here. The Shaman is the newest offering of the three models, but the price hikes that have taken place since it’s debut have been pretty significant. It started off around $150, and has gone up to over the $200 mark in 2 year’s, while the PM2 and Manix 2 are still $120-150. That just plain and simple doesn’t make sense.
Are they seeing how high they can push the ceiling on pricing for future models? Are they funding the tons of sprint run and dealer exclusive models they’re pushing out? I don’t know, but it seems suspect. The PM2 and Manix 2 continue to get sprint runs, but they’re pricing hasn’t jumped nearly as much as the Shaman.
The Spyderco Shaman feels like Sal’s legacy knife. It’s big, bold, and incorporates everything Spyderco strives to portray themselves to be. It’s a tool made for the hand (and in this case, pleasing to the eye), with absolute comfort and control in mind. A lock that’s easy to manipulate (unless you spend most of your cutting time gloved), and a blade that’s easy to deploy. The “Crucarta” Shaman is a beast, that can be used for long periods of cutting, harder pushing type cuts, and light food prep should the need arise. This is one sprint run they could’ve easily made three times the quantity, and still have sold out quickly. Just watch out for that sharp jimping, and even sharper pricing.
- Built solid, excellent blade and pocket clip, nice action, top notch ergos
- Some fit/finish issues, may be a tad heavy for some, a bit pricey
Reviewed by Mason Ball