Stainless steel knife blades are a great thing to have at the ready, in your pocket at any time. A completely stainless knife is one better. Add a dash of class, a pinch of titanium, and a ton of unique style, and bake at $234 for 3-5 days, and the result is the Spyderco SpydieChef.
EDC tool. With a nice thin blade stock, a very well ground geometry, and a slim overall profile, it’s sure to tick most boxes for EDC lovers everywhere.
Key Specs: Spyderco SpydieChef
Spyderco has a reputation for great flat ground blades. And the SpydieChef is no exception. Enhanced by a relatively thin blade stock, 0.11” to be exact, this 3.3” blade was born to slice. How “slicey” a blade is, has become a word that’s used so heavily by knife statisticians, I’m getting tired of it. But it’s knives like the ‘chef that started it all. The broadness of the blade is the third and final aspect that lends the SpydieChef to be a great slicer. We’ll hit on the cutting performance a little later here, in the field test section of the review. Spoiler- it’s great.
The blade also has a unique trick up its preverbal sleeve, and that’s the LC200N steel composition. This particular steel was developed by NASA, for ball bearings in aerospace equipment. But, it’s been used in the food industry, chemical, recycling, and pharmaceutical industries, and of course, in this particular knife’s steel. The 4 most common attributes that a knife steel is gauged on, is toughness, edge retention, ease of sharpening, and corrosion resistance. Many times, one thing is sacrificed for another with blade steel. Super tough steels don’t hold an edge long. High wear resistance steels take longer to sharpen and are usually not very corrosion resistant.
But, LC200N is nearly rust proof, holds a great edge, isn’t very difficult to sharpen, but may not have the best toughness. However, this is a good track record overall. LC200N, in my estimation, is very similar in feel and use to everyone’s favorite steel to hate, S30V. But, with that extreme corrosion resistance. And that’s a very good thing.
The blade shape found on the SpydieChef is technically considered a sheepsfoot, and it is, but with a beer belly. I’ve never seen a pocket knife with a deeper belly than the ‘chef. When the knife is sitting on a flat surface with the blade perpendicular to the table, the belly of the blade hits the table before any other part of the knife. And that gives the knife more credibility to its name, allowing it to slice food without having to tilt the handle way up in the air to avoid hitting your knuckles on the table. It’s a very unique feature, and it works great.
One aspect of LC200N that gets a bit of flack from users, is it’s inevitability to take on scratches easier than many other stainless steels. I’d assume part of this is due to the nice shiny blade and grind lines left over from manufacturing, but the steel composition itself seems to allow scratches on the blade to almost appear spontaneously.
And, this is where things get a little weird. Unique, one of a kind, different. These are words that tend to be objectively “good” things when describing something. But weird, is not in that word family. When the SpydieChef is closed, it looks sleek. But looks are not the focus of this section of the review. Deploying this knife with the thumb isn’t terrible, but it’s not as intuitive as maybe a Paramilitary 2 or a Benchmade Bugout. The opening hole position works as is just fine, but it’s the way the knife has to be held to get the blade going that’s awkward, and the blade has to be pushed away from the handle to the side, rather than up or at a 45° angle. This makes opening the ‘chef more of a thought process than I’m interested in, when I just need to use one hand to get my knife open. And it’s not bad, just has a learning curve to develop the unique muscle memory.
It is smooth to deploy, that’s for sure. But, so are most knives that come from Spyderco’s Thaichung plant. And once the blade is open and locked in place, it’s very solid. I couldn’t find any perceivable blade play in any direction, which is something that can’t be said for the ever popular Paramilitary 2. Is it the most important part of using a folding knife? Not really. But it’s something that adds to the overall build quality of a folder.
Unlocking the knife is also not so straight forward. The big issue here is, with the slender profile of the SpydieChef, it’s very difficult to keep pressure off the lock bar with the pinky and ring finger. So, inevitably, you’ll push the lock bar over to unlock the knife with your thumb, but simultaneously pushing the lock bar the wrong way with the pinky and ring finger. It’s a weird problem, and I’d venture to say most people don’t realize this is why they think the SpydieChef has such “bad lock stick”. If you have one, and you’re reading this, try unlocking your sticky ‘chef with 2 hands, keeping all other fingers off the lock bar. I bet it’s not as sticky as you thought. We are our own worst enemy sometimes, but here, the design almost forces you to work against yourself.
Features, fit, and finish
Marcin Slysz, the designer of the knife that collaborated with Spyderco to get this piece out to the masses, put some great design elements into the look of this knife. When closed, the opening hole in the blade shows exactly half of the lock bar through the hole, which is in line with the handle on the show side of the knife. That isn’t an accident. It looks awesome. Is the SpydieChef just another titanium frame lock? Well, ultimately, yes. But with some of the features of the ‘chef, it’s a little more than that, with some unique attributes.
The handle of the SpydieChef has some features that I really enjoy. Comprised of full titanium, the finish on the scales is very well done. They have a nice, finished feel, albeit a little slippery, especially with wet hands. And that’s not something that is arbitrarily added here, if this knife is meant to be used in the kitchen from time to time, or maybe on a fishing trip, wet hands go along with these settings.
But, the shape of the handle is great. At first glance, it looks like it would be awkward to hold in most grips. But it absolutely isn’t. The scales have some decent contouring to them, and the overall shape of the handle feels very comfortable. To further this feel in hand, the top of the scales have some heavy chamfering that allow your hand to work up close to the blade without poking back at your fingers.
Spyderco’s CQI (constant quality improvement) sector of the company does some great things. Many times, without mention. The SpydieChef has gone through 2 iterations of the CQI treatment. The original ‘chef had a steel detent ball, and was prone to minor rust, if the knife was used in wet conditions without regard to keeping things dry under the hood.
The second generation of the ‘chef was upgraded with one very small change; the detent ball went to a ceramic variant rather than steel. Now you get a completely almost fully rustproof knife. Then, in 2019, Spyderco quietly did another revision, this time changing the screws to a black version instead of the original silver. To be honest, I can’t find why this change happened. But it is known as the “second gen CQI” SpydieChef. I’ve had one of each generation, and the latest is definitely the smoothest, with the least amount of lock stick, and the most solid lockup.
Pocket clips are something that get overlooked, or at least seem like they fall by the wayside in terms of importance on a folder. But I’m a clip critic all day, y’all. Spyderco’s wire clip, used on quite a few of their models, is great. The use of it here on the ‘chef is a good choice in my estimation. It has decent retention, looks discreet in carry, and seems to fit the sleek look of this knife. I also like that behind the clip is smooth titanium, so you get a very easy in and out of the pocket retrieval.
How a knife carries is a big deal to me, and the chef carries very, very well. It’s not overly light, or heavy, at 3.78 oz. It’s also very slim overall, with a handle thickness of just .40”. That doesn’t sound a whole lot different than the more common .50” that many other common folders hover around, but it makes a significant difference in the pocket, aiding further in the comfortable carry of this knife.
Jimping is something we see on just about every folder we use. And it’s completely lacking on the SpydieChef. At first, I was beginning my usage with this knife and thought to myself, “wow, it’s nice not to have any jimping pushing back at me”. Cutting up an apple, which of course is a very simple task, tests the blade geometry of the knife. And when slicing up a crisp Fuji in the kitchen, the ‘chef lived up to the hype. The apple slices had absolutely no cracking in them, and the blade cut through the apple akin to a dedicated kitchen pairing knife. It was refreshing. I put the ‘chef under running sink water, rinsed it off without worrying about water getting under the pivot, and called it clean. And that’s where the beauty of the SpydieChef shines.
Back to the topic of jimping, I started to miss it, when moving on to breaking down some cardboard. Jimping isn’t necessary most of the time; a knife’s handle shape should help keep it confidently held in your hand. But the slippery titanium finished scales, coupled with a blade spine that’s completely smooth, I started to wish I had a little bite somewhere on the knife. But, in slicing up the cardboard, the ‘chef was still giving a performance that couldn’t be forgotten.
The aggressive edge left by the factory, paired with the great blade geometry and thin blade stock, got the knife slicing through the cardboard very easily. And, the sheepsfoot blade shape gives that nice ability to be able to use the knife upside down to open a box or envelope without putting nearly any of the tip of the blade into the material. This is one of my personal favorite attributes of this blade shape. It’s definitely not a “stabby” knife, where you wouldn’t want to try and use it as an awl to get through a 2×4, but every blade shape has its advantages and disadvantages.
Speaking of 2×4’s, I like to grab a piece of wood from the garage pile and shave down some feather sticks and dig into the wood a little, to test out the ergos in a more demanding setting. No, I don’t need to take a $234 pocket knife on a hike to make a fire on a regular basis. But why not test all knives the same? This test allows me to really push on the handle, and see what it’s really doing in terms of ergonomics, while also testing the geometry of the blade. And this is an area where the SpydieChef falls a little short. It’s likely to be expected that a knife designed to be a backup/companion kitchen knife, with EDC use in mind, doesn’t perform like a Chris Reeve or a ParaMilitary 2 in this regard. But, with complaints aside, the ‘chef still held up fine to some light wood cutting, with the exception to how slippery and thin the knife is overall. There’s just no getting a nice, hand filling grip with a knife this thin and uniquely shaped.
Sharpening the LC200N blade was not a big deal, in my use. I personally use a KME sharpening system. The stones cut the steel fairly easily, again being comparable to the feel of S30V. Flipping the burr back and forth and progressing through the stones was very routine, which is a good thing. And the steel composition lends itself to a fairly high polish on the edge, without much effort. I personally use a 1 micron diamond spray on either leather or balsa wood, and this steel took a very nice edge, with some decent shine to it.
All these knives available at BladeHQ.The SpydieChef isn’t alone in the world of pocket knife offerings in LC200N. Spyderco just recently released their Siren model, which was developed in collaboration with Lance Clinton (a kayak fisherman). It boasts the same great steel, but trades handle materials for extremely aggressive G10, and the lock moves to a lockback rather than the frame lock. And it saves some Benjamin’s, coming in at only $168. The blade is a bit longer, too, at 3.6”, but still has a comparable weight at 3.6 oz. it’s interesting to see 2 knives with the same use in mind, with completely different designs and looks. One was made more for that fishing life, one more for the kitchen, but we know they’re both supposed to be able to ride along on a daily basis in the pocket.
Quiet Carry isn’t a new company, but it’s one that makes a knife with some striking similarities to the SpydieChef. The Drift is a knife with an oblong opening hole instead of a round one, a forward choil for ergonomics, and a different blade steel. It’s running Vanax steel, which is similar to LC200N in regard to its extreme stainless properties, but gets a huge bump in edge retention. But, along with that increase, comes a price hike, too. This one is right up at the $315 mark. The Drift also has 3 color options, bead blasted, black or orange, and had a blue exclusive at one point as well. There is also an option for textured or plain handles, too. The Drift also uses a wire pocket clip, like the SpydieChef. It’s a comparable knife in many ways, but it’s got some criticism behind it for being a little difficult to deploy, “soft” screw heads that seem to strip easily, and a bit of a heavy price tag.
Spyderco also makes their “Salt” line, which is comprised of a few knives in H1 steel, but more of them are moving to the newer LC200N offering. The Native 5 lightweight, with the LC200N blade, and yellow FRN handles, is another much more affordable option to compare the SpydieChef to. It’s also nearly completely rust proof, with a back lock, and much lighter, at only 2.5 oz. It’s a 3” blade, with a forward choil, so it doesn’t have as much blade length to work with as the ‘chef. But, it’s only $130. I’d argue that the Native 5 has some of the best ergonomics out there, and with this blade steel and overall profile, it’s a great alternative to the ‘chef.
The Spyderco SpydieChef is a great knife. But it’s definitely not for everyone. It fits in a price range somewhere between Spyderco’s more common knives in the $120-180 range, and their higher end knives in the $300-400 range. It’s a fair price, but it’s a bit tough to swallow when this knife was closer to $180 in the last year or two. But, with LC200N blade steel, a titanium frame lock, some very unique curves, and an overall design that looks futuristic and totally different from most other knives, it’s still priced fairly.
It also touts a design that’s great for its original intended purpose as a kitchen companion, and doubles as a decent EDC knife. But, I found myself opening and closing it with more caution than with most other knives, because of the awkward deployment and unlocking, and because of the slippery nature of the knife as a whole. It’s just always in my head when I carry the ‘chef, that I need to be careful when opening it, careful not to scratch the blade when using it, careful not to drop it… but not careful when rinsing it in the sink or when it gets something that’s usually corrosive on it.
It’s a pleasure to carry, and great to use, for most daily tasks. I personally wish they did a little sandblasting on the scales, and put some “soft” jimping on the spine of the blade. I understand why they didn’t, but it feels like these aspects are missing. And it’s nice to see it get the CQI treatment not once, but twice, but why not add a bushing pivot like the Kapara with its CQI upgrade? Why not add a little texturing to the handle? We’ll never know, but the SpydieChef is one that will go down in pocket knife history as one of the most unique and interesting knives in Spyderco’s history.
- Smooth operator, unique design, extreme corrosion resistance, carries great, very good blade geometry, versatile daily user.
- Priced a little high, slippery in hand, awkward to open and close, can’t be pushed into “harder” roles.