Spyderco Chicago

Knives :

This review consists of :

Design details and unique features

Maker Webpage : Spyderco Chicago , basic specifications :

Ad copy from Spyderco Knives :

Laws. Whether necessary, good, or just nutty, they're intended to establish order and ward-off chaos. When our government and society implement rules we do our best to live within their parameters.

As an example, many U.S. metropolitan cities draw the line for carrying pocketknives in public to knives with blades two-inches in length or under. Welcome to Chicago! If I were a Chicagoan and carried a pocketknife regularly, I might be inclined (as a law abiding citizen) to carry a tool falling under this city's restriction.

The Spyderco C130G Chicago is just that. Two-inches of flat ground 440C blade urbanely outfitted with black G-10 handle scales and Michael Walker LinerLock®. The handle is shaped and sized ergonomically with full-length skeletonized liners inside for strength without bulk or weight.

Its leaf-like shaped blade effectively cuts across the board, from significant strenuous cuts like carpet and poly rope to something as simple as fingernail cleaning or scraping tape off of glass.

A deep pocket clip burrows the knife down into a pant's pocket with the tip facing up ready to carry left- or right-handed. This one is for Chicagoans or anyone looking for a city/suit knife.

Initial observations / details :

There are a few fit and finish issues :

Stock cutting

The initial sharpness was low to moderate :

This fairly low sharpness for a Spyderco. The push cut number is less than half of optimal and the slice is less than 10%. As shown in the image on the right the edge is over buffed and rounded. This is confirmed by semi-standard checks as well :

On 3/8" hemp :

These are both very high forces and mainly show the lower than ideal sharpness and especially the lack of slicing aggression as the force on the slice isn't vastly reduced compared to the force on the push cut.

On carving wood compared to the #1260 Mora :

Carving 2" points on some 1" dowel with light force (10-30 lbs) :

On shallow cutting the performance is mainly about edge angle and sharpness and the edge angle on the Chicago is higher and the lower than optimal sharpness leads to it being significantly outperformed.

Making 2" points on some 1x0.5" pine with heavy force (50-70 lbs) :

However on deep cuts the Chicago pulls ahead as on deep cuts the mechanical advantage of the deep primary grind will show its benefit.

Note the image on the right showing the difference in the shavings :

The difference in performance is large enough that the chips can easily be identified from each knife.

On some basic materials :

The knife performs well and has no issues in cutting or no edge damage resulting. The only real concern would be on very thick ropes slices are not an option because the blade length is minimized but of course this isn't a boat knife which is designed to be cutting 1" stock ropes all day.

In extended use, making 500 slices into pine including cutting with a rocking push through pin knots :

Now to be frank the grip ergonomics were not ideal and there were two points of concern as both the top of the clip and the end of the handle are light pressure points in a full hammer grip. It is however fairly decent for a three fingered linear locking clipit folder. It easily outclasses the Leatherman Crater for example ergonomic wise due to the complete lack of chamfering on the Leatherman.

Another 250 slices into plywood :

The issues were grip comfort were the same but as more force had to be used to cut the plywood as it is just harder to cut the forces where higher. This is about the limit of work that could be done barehanded before issues would start to arise with the grip.

As a quick check on edge retention, the images on the right show the before and after of the edge at 50X magnification. Note :

The amount of work done in the above isn't enough to seriously challenge a quality steel but could point out an issue if the steel was not properly processed.

Extended Use

While in general the Chicago would be described as having high cutting ability due to the high flat grind, relatively thin edge and low angle combined with a high sharpness, in the kitchen the combination of :

produces problematic performance. Even a simple task such as slicing up an onion requires

to get pieces small enough to be able to sliced up with the short blade.

The wide blade which often can be a positive as it stabilizes the blade in deep cuts and prevents turning and keeps cuts straight is the exact thing which makes the knife problematic for the type of use that short blades are typically used for :

The Chicago is very similar to the design of an almost ideal paring knife such as the IVO shown at the right :

The only difference is that the blade on the IVO is much more narrow and that makes it much more productive in paring as it is much easier to turn and thus follow the shape of vegetables. Now there is a difference in cutting ability as well as the IVO does have an even thinner edge (typically they are < 0.005" at the edge bevel) but the main issue is difficulty in turning.

Scrap pine, being :

Is a very nice wood to start a fire as it is both easy to cut and make very long splits which light easily. Using the Chicago to cut up a large pail for of shavings then the cutting ability was solid :

and works well with heavy force cutting wise. However in extended cutting there are a number of squarish/sharp points on the grip which are abrasive in continued cutting.


Now there is an obvious point to be made about the Chicago :

and it is intended/designed for light cutting. In that respect it does well and is comfortable in use :

However when used for extended cutting in a heavy hammer grip or other grip which allows significant force against the handle then multiple hot spots will happen do to sharp / square edges.

The first issue of concern :

Now index finger choils are very popular as they provide a point in the grip which allows another focus spot to torque against and add a level of control, security and comfort in cutting as they can both :

Now on the Chicago these issues are there however the sharp point does raise the pressure and after awhile it gets an abrasive hot spot in the hand. All that needs to be done to resolve the problem is just lightly round over the top of the point in both length (from front to back) and width (side to side).

The last point is a very common issues with Spyderco folders and it is one of the weakest points of the knives when compared to other folders both production and custom :

these produce some very sharp edges and these produce very high pressure points. Now the scales are again chamfered, that sharp edge is broken and the chamfering facet can be clearly seen and felt, but that improvement is the least that can be done. If the scale instead had a full round and the inside liner was chamfered then the improvement in comfort would be significantly improved.

Security : the handle has many aspects to increase security in hand both from shape and raw traction :

It could be further increased with jimping :

However even when done very well (Chris Reeve) this can / does reduce comfort in extended lighter work and so a balance has to be reached based on the design/purpose of the knife.

Clip : it has the wire frame clip which has very high ergonomic compared to the standard flat clips and still has strong retention. However the clip can be pushed around a little and there have been complaints about them popping out.

Lock and Deployment

The Chicago has a classic liner lock :

It also is secure under tight grips and fairly easy to operate, no sticking.

The only drawback / limitation of the lock is that with gloves on it is difficult to impossible to open/close. The only knife Spyderco has designed with that in mind is the Military which has a much more open design to allow ease of use with a gloved hand.

Steel - 440C

The knife is made from 440C, a high carbon, stainless steel 1. Nominal composition :

440C is a high chromium carbide steel with a very coarse carbide structure. Note how it compares to a AEB-L type steel as shown on the right. 440C has both a :

This high carbide volume gives 440C a high wear resistance, comparable to steels such as ATS-34, VG-10 and D2. It also has high corrosion resistance due to the high amount of free Chromium and Molybdenum. However the same aspects which give it the high wear resistance give it low :


Overview :

Comments and references

Comments can be emailed to cliffstamp[REMOVE]@gmail.com or by posting to the following thread :

Most of the pictures in the above are in the PhotoBucket album.

1 : Blade materials, general reference (440C)

Last updated :
Originally written: 18/02/2015