Spyderco Pacific Salt


The review consists of : Image hosted by Photobucket.com

This above image is from the Spyderco website, the Salt which is described below has a plain/straight edges.

Introduction and Specifications

From the Spyderco webpage on the Pacific Salt :

A big myth in the knife world is that out there somewhere is a knife that seriously cuts but cannot rust. Knives claiming these super powers are usually made with steels that are unable to hold a cutting edge for any measurable amount of time. Finally a steel foundry in Japan called Myodo Foundry makes this myth a reality with the introduction of a new steel called H1. H1 steel is a PH steel, meaning it is a precipitation-hardened steel. "Huh" you ask? Utilizing .1% nitrogen instead of carbon to harden the steel, it reaches a Rockwell hardness of 57-58rc. Spyderco uses H1 on its new C91 Pacific Salt model.

It's PlainEdge or SpyderEdge and is similar in shape and size to Spyderco's best-selling Endura model but with a slightly more rounded tip. All internal steel parts are treated as well making them impervious to rust and pitting and of course, salt. Those challenged by cleaning and maintaining their knives will find the Pacific Salt stays rust-free even if put away wet. The blade's hole is enlarged to 14mm for easier opening/closing with gloved, wet or cold hands. Textured in a checkerboard pattern, the black FRN handle has a grippy texture and is fitted with a reversible metal pocket clip which positions for right-handers and lefties. The addition of a lanyard hole offers a backup method of attachment (thong or lanyard cord) for use around water where once dropped, a knife is often lost or elusively hard to retrieve.

Specifications :

Stock testing

The Pacific Salt would readily shave smoothly and push cut newsprint with no draw but not catch hair above the skin. This high sharpness was reflected when cutting light thread as the blade only required 126 (6) grams to make a push cut. In short, the new in box sharpness was very high in general though a little low for Spyderco.

The Pacific Salt made push cuts through the 3/8" hemp with 18 (2) lbs and had solid aggression on a slice, making a cut in 12 (1) lbs, showing a complete sharpness profile. It did well on carving hardwoods, carving a point on a piece of birch hardwood with 76 (5) % of the efficiency of a stock Paramiltary.

The point on the Pacific Salt is fairly robust due to the slightly rounded tip which shows readily in some penetration work. On a phonebook it sinks 133 (7) pages with a 50 lbs push, and 606 (29) pages with a hard vertical stab.

Kitchen

The Pacific Salt was initiall sharp enough to cut even the most difficult of foods cleanly such as over ripe tomatoes, soft mushrooms as well as trim meats and cut away fat on both cooked and raw meats. It also responded well to the traditional steels commonly used in kitchens. While the sabre-hollow grind doesn't offer the same level of cutting ability as the high flat grinds on some Spyderco models like the Paramilitary, due to the very thin and acute edge on the Pacific Salt the cutting ability is still in general very high as long as the cutting is shallow.

Specifically for example, on three inches carrots, when the Paramilitary was taking 9-11 lbs to make a cut, the Pacific Salt was just behind at 11-13. As the carrots got smaller a difference could still be felt, but it was now at a pound or less. Of course as the vegetables get larger then the wedging effect of the sabre grind and relatively thicker stock will produce a significant drawback requiring more force to be used.

Probably one of the stronger features of the knife for food preperation is that the steel is well suited to kitchen use as the resistance to corrosion is extremely high. The Pacific Salt and won't rust even if left exposed to salt water for extended periods of time, plus it is fairly tough and ductile so has decent chip resistance for a stainless steel.

Wood and brush work

The Pacific Salt works well trimming light brush, it can cleanly cut through the 1/2" thick Alder branches with a light wrist pop. It does not have the mass as some of the other larger folders, mainly as the handle is just FRN with no liners but for just carving it works well, but again the as-boxed profile is one geared more towards durability rather than pure cutting ability. This is a knife which typically easily handles the harder work, removing sods, doing root and harvesting work and will take such use with only minor edge damage and due to the very high grindability is easy to repair after such work.

Edge retention

Carpet : through some extended cutting of used carpet the Pacific Salt did well when used with a rougher finish compared to the finer finish on a Paramiliary showing how a suitable finish is just as critical as the steel type as H1 was able to hold an aggressive slicing edge as long as S30V when the grit finish was lower to compensate for the lower wear resistance. However with both were used at a similar finish, the Pacific Salt well behind again due to the lower wear resistance.

The Pacific Salt and Byrd Meadowlark were used slice 1/4" and 1/8" ridged cardboard and 1/8" through three centimeters of edge. Previously the primary edges had been reground on both to 6.5 and 6.3 degrees respectively for the Pacific Salt and Meadowlark. A micro-bevel at 20 degrees and about 1-2 tenths of a millimeter wide was applied to each with the medium rods of the Sharpmaker. Sharpness was measured by slicing light cotton under 200 grams of tension. The average results of two trials for each card stock with complete sharpenings :

Pacific Salt and Meadowlark on 1/4" cardboard.
Card Salt Meadowlark
0 0.41 (3) 0.46 (2)
  3.2 1.03 (9) 1.18 (5)
  9.7 1.6  (1) 1.6  (1)
22.5 2.7  (3) 2.1  (2)
Pacific Salt and Meadowlark on 1/8" cardboard.
Card Salt Meadowlark
0 0.41 ( 3) 0.43 ( 3)
  5.9 1.0 (1) 1.1 (1)
17.2 2.3 (2) 2.2 (3)
39.3 5.0 (5) 4.5 (2)

At the end of the 1/4" cardboard comparison both blades could still slice newsprint, they could both still push cut it on a 45 after 9.7 meters was cut. At the end of the 1/8" ridged cardboard the blades would no longer slice newsprint. In short, there was no significant difference in edge retention between the two blades. This is consistent with the CATRA results which show these steels to be very similar and much more work would need to be done to show the difference between those steels.

Plywood : A small Sebenza, the Pacific Salt and a Bryd Meadowlark, had all been reprofiled flat to the primary grinds, leaving primary edges of 5.8, 6.5, and 6.3 degrees respectively. The blades were hand sharpened and micro-bevels applied with a Sharpmaker using Jeff Clarks's burr removal method. Due to hand sharpening there was a convexity to the bevels so they increased in angle towards the very edge. The actual edge bevel in the last 1/8" was 10.0 (5), 10.5 (4), and 10.3 (5) for the small Sebenza, Meadowlark and Pacific Salt respectively. The complete process was :

This left all blades able to push cut newsprint at approximately 1" from the point of hold.

This was mainly intended to be a rougher more qualitative test just to benchmark the ranking of the blades as they are radically different steels.

The main criteria to judge sharpness was the ability to cut paper with three main benchmarks :

  1. push cut newsprint at 90 degrees (very high sharpness)
  2. push cut newsprint at 45 degrees (high sharpness)
  3. slice at newsprint 45 degrees (moderate sharpness)

There were three runs of cutting performed with a complete sharpening each time :

A total of three rounds were completed with the force decreasing each round to check the behavior of the edges under different loads :

First round :

Second round :

Final around :

In short :

A Calypso Jr. in ZDP-189 (64/65 HRC) was also later used to repeat the work, the edge on the Calypso Jr. was adjusted to 7.2 (8) degrees per side and also given a slight micro-bevel at 20 degrees on the fine Sharpamaker rods. On an average of three runs the Calypso Jr. would cut 150 slices before losing the ability to push cut on a 90 and never was reduced to the point where it needed a slice.

The damage at the edge of the cutting for the Calypso Jr. was a fraction of what was seen on the Meadowlark and Pacific Salt. It was also used for a few test cuts at high force where it cut entire sections off of the plywood strip, didn't whittle into it, just sliced right through it. No significant damage after 20 heavy cuts. An overview :

Edge retention of the Pacific Salt, Meadowlark, Calpyso Jr., and small Sebenza with acute edge profile on plywood Sharpness was checked cutting newsprint and slicing cotton.
Model push at 90 push at 45 slice at 90
nuber of slices on plywood
Calypso Jr 150 310 -
Pacific Salt 10 150 310
Meadowlark 10 150 310

The Sebenza could not be included because cutting with it had to be suspended in each round due to excessive damage. The extent of blunting with the Sebenza after 70 cuts with light force (15) was similar to 310 cuts with heavy force (75 lbs) with the Salt / Meadowlark.

The Pacific Salt was also used to cut 1/8" stock cardboard :

The Salt easily took optimal sharpness with little burr formation and as would be expected has on the low end of Class I edge retention on slicing the cardboard as the blade has

Ease of Sharpening

The Pacific Salt in general is very easy to sharpen as :

As it does not have a high alloy carbide content it is easily worked even with natural Arkansas stones, there is no need for the harder and more abrasive hones such as CBN or Diamond however they work of course as well.

However after much use and sharpening the edge had thickened to the point it was fairly wide and a lot of metal needed to be removed in order for it to be sharpened. To address this issue it was reground turning the sabre hollow grind into a sabre flat grind (6.5 dps bevel) with no secondary edge bevel as shown on the right. The apex bevel was thus less than 0.005" thick and sharpening was even more rapid than the original as-boxed profile. This also made a significant increase in the cutting ability on woods and similar materials.

After much more work with the Pacific Salt and the knife retaining a high durability even with the greatly thinned edge bevel it was reground again to a full flat profile :

This did slightly increase cutting ability further but the main reason was to cut down the primary grind and thus reduce the rate of thickening of the edge bevel with sharpening as again this is a heavy work knife and thus it gets sharpened very frequently.

Handle

In general the handle has a number of positive ergonomic features :

The only downside is that the choil isn't grip functional unlike the Alantic Salt and is simply a point of unsharpened transition between the blade and the handle.

In general there is no issue with grip specificity and it works well in :

With the only real issue being the squarish nature of the clip. In general clips could benefits from well rounded sides for comfort when high force is used. This handle does show a lot of small detailing though even the front of the handle is well rounded so it is comfortable in a pinch grip in that area for precision work.

As a few general points :

A few of the negatives :

Lock

The lock on the Pacific Salt was stable under white knuckling, torques and various heavy grips, with the stability in the latter enhanced by the milled out section of the lock bar which aids in preventing accidental releases.

After many years of use the knife had developed vertical and horizontal play and the blade tang was no longer meeting flush with the lock bar, a not uncommon problem for pure FRN handles and non-adjustable pins as both will wear in use.

Bruce Rugg did a complete refurbish on the knife :

Which not only addressed and resolved the problems with the play and centering but also greatly improved the aesthetics as noted in the picture on the right.

Overview

Highlights :

Over all very high build quality and the few limitations are mainly due to design goals, no liners to reinforce the handle to cut down on weight/cost, similar for the single position clip/pivot, etc. .

Comments and references

Comments can be emailed using cliffstamp[REMOVE]@gmail.com or by posting in the following threads :

More information can be obtained at the Spyderco website and additional pictures in the PhotoBucket Album.


Last updated : 28 : 12 : 2012
Originally written: 05 : 05 : 2005
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