Monday, March 14, 2011

Spyderco Leafstorm Review

The Spyderco Leafstorm is a production version of a custom knife designed by Kevin Wilkins. Here is the production model's product page. Here is the custom Leafstorm page. Here is a fair street price. Here is a shot of my Leafstorm:

The knife gained a bit of notoriety when brainsploded dyed his black, as seen here.

If Spyderco was smart, they'd release a Sprint run of this knife with a small set of dye packets so you could color yours any color you want. It would be a perfect compliment to the buzz surrounding this knife.

The knife was clamored for on the forums when the customs finally made it into people's hands. The blade size, massively overbuilt pivot pin, Ti framelock, and the pocket carry of the knife made many people drool for a production version. Then, last year Spyderco released the production model. A lot of criticism has focused on two aspects of the knife: the "bearded axe" blade with a lack of a choil, and the clip placement. Here is a shot of the clip side of the knife:

I got mine in August of 2010 and carried it almost exclusively until Christmas when the Sebenza arrived. The knife is a great little EDC blade, something where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. It has some flaws, which I will address below, but it also offers a lot in a relatively small and inexpensive package (inexpensive compared to other Ti framelocks). One thing that will strike you the minute you hold the knife is just how beefy the blade is. It is substantially thicker at the spine than my Zero Tolerance 350 which is a significantly larger knife. I really like the overall size of the knife and the blade. Its 2.5 inch blade (or around there) just hits a sweet spot for me. Finally, this is the smoothest and fastest opening knife I have every handled. It blows the Sebenza out of the water in terms of deployment speed, more on that later.

The design was released at the same time or around the same as two other similar knives (Ti framelocks that are overbuilt designs in a small package), both of which are more expensive: the Strider PT (Strider's main page has been down for a month, that cannot be a good business model; Mick its called the internet...) and the Benchmade Sibert 755. I have handled both though not extensively and I can say that the Strider is a better design, though the execution is wanting. The Sibert is just a hamburger of knife--the the George Costanza wallet of the bunch. Its overbuilt, but so much so that it is just not that pocket friendly. Oh well, another Benchmade knife that values looks over performance.

Steel: 2

I am not going to bore you with another ode to how much I love S30V. A great all around steel in a nice Scotch Brite finish.

Grind: 2

This is a scandi grind and a very thin one at that. It is very difficult to taper a blade to a thin edge from such a fat spine in a short distance. As a result this has one of the most pronounced hollow grinds I have ever seen on a knife. I thought that would make material bunch, but it hasn't. Like a lot of things with this knife, it seems like it could be a problem in theory, but it never has been in use. I haven't exactly beat on this knife, but it has not been a shelf queen either. I have used it to cut all sorts of twine and cardboard boxes (an infant generates a lot of cardboard, what with all the diapers). I used it in a home repair and cut...gasp...drywall with it. And it is still shaving sharp. I did touch it up on the Sharpmaker, but it wasn't arduous at all.

Blade Shape: 1

The ricasso with its pointed beard is not finger friendly. That said, once you adjust to it, it is not that bad. I feel like a little "Spyderfication" could have a gone a long way with this design, adding a choil where the beard is, but they chose a literal interpretation. It is workable, just not ideal (hence the 1).

Lock: 1

Ugh, is the lock side of this knife ugly. It is just a mess. But the lock itself works fine. It does wiggle a bit when engaged, but it has never come close to failing. I have found that if you give it a squeeze right after the lock engages, there is no wiggle at all. Still this is a $130-150 knife and lock wiggle is sort of a problem. It works fine, but gives me concern.

Design: 0

In terms of pure design, how it looks on paper, this knife is an epic fail. The lock side is a disaster. The ricasso is silly. It just stinks. But I like my knives in pocket and not on paper, so those design mistakes aren't fatal. Even the custom versions are still pretty muggly. The blade to handle ratio is a poor .67. I harp on this because absent some special consideration, like the martial blade craft applications of the Yojimbo, the closer to a 1:1 blade to handle, the better. Its like FREE blade length.

Fit and Finish: 1

Lock wiggle aside there is not much wrong with the fit and finish of this knife. The edges are chamfered. The Ti is nice and bead blasted. The grinds are clean. The lock up is solid, even if the lock itself wiggles, the blade doesn't.

Retention Method: 2

I like Spyderco's standard spoon clip. Works well, doesn't abrade the pockets. Very good. Its placement is a design issue, but the clip itself is fine. It is not moveable in anyway though, it is strictly tip up/right hand carry.

Deployment Method: 2

Oh my.... The detent biased to the closed position is perfect. The thumb hole is perfect. The speed is perfect. Even in a Spydie drop, this thing is awesome. I feel like James Coburn in The Magnificent Seven. Same speed, no switchblade needed.

Grip: 1

The grip is not great. Compared to another three finger knife, the Dragonfly, the Leafstorm leaves much to be desired. Here are my ham hocks holding the blade:

The swell at the end makes a hammer grip awkward and the ricasso prevents any choking up.

Carry: 2

Ah, another great part of the knife. For a blade this stout and capable, this knife carries very, very well. It is small, humpless (a rare feature in a Spyderco) and all of the edges are eased by a chamfer. Great carry knife and it fits in most jeans coin pockets. The humpless design makes it much less wide than most Spydercos.

Overall Score: 14 out of 20

This is not a cheap knife. It has a lot of drawbacks. This review seems overly negative because it has a number of flaws, but the flaws don't impact how the knife cuts or how it carries. It is a 14 on my scale, but that somehow doesn't capture how good this knife is as an EDC knife. A few fixes and this could be an all-time great blade. It is really different from other Spydercos and in that respect it is fun to own. A unique, quirky, but ultimately very good knife.

One Year Later:

I'd drop the score here to a 13, going down to a ZERO on grip.  I just poked my finger too much on the sharpened "beard".  The knife is a great facsimile of the Kevin Wilkins custom, but it isn't a great knife.  It has a lot of fans out there--its size, steel, and lock are very sought after, but I have a feeling when the simpler and equally well-sized Techno is released the small furor over this knife will pass away.  I'd much rather have a Dragonfly or, if pressed into a larger size, a Chaparral than this knife.  A sign that I didn't like it all that much--I sold it as part of the ever revolving selection of gear I have.  If your in the market for this knife, just wait a few months for the Ti Chaparral or the Techno.  

1 comment:

  1. I have both this and the Techno now. The Techno is a much better knife, but the Leafstorm is a more refined, office-friendly knife. The Techno WAY out-preforms the LS (and the lock on the Techno is rock-solid, again proving the Taiwanese Spydies are better than the CO. ones). But, it's nice to have the LS for a gentleman's carry. The Techno, though tiny, is still Tactical-looking enough to freak out co-workers.