Friday, April 1, 2011

SpyFox Review REVISED

Fox Cutlery is an Italian knife company. They have made a few in-roads into the US, but have largely been a fringe company, aside from this beautiful exception: the Spyderco Volpe. Here is a picture of the knife:

The curves and cuts in the handle, accentuated by the olive wood scales, are simply stunning. The blade has an unusual shape that matches the handle well. The knife lacks a choil, but its overall appearance, in my opinion, puts it in the top five best looking production Spydercos of all time (quick aside, in no order: Ti ATR, CF Caly 3, SpyKer, Fluted Ti Military being the other four). After the Fox/Spyderco collaboration, Spyderco lent its opening hole to Fox for the production of a tiny gentleman's knife called the SpyFox.

So far as I can tell, the SpyFox was a limited run of 600 knives, sold exclusively through AG Russell in America. In Europe, the knife had a wider release, though the total production run seems to be 600 units. Here is the product page for the SpyFox. Here is an excellent video overview of the SpyFox.

I received my SpyFox as a gift from my wife for my birthday in 2010. Here it is with its light&saber buddy, my Muyshondt Aeon:


I wanted to have a nice gentleman's knife. I had considered the Chris Reeve Mnandi, and I will probably eventually acquire one, but I wanted something a bit cheaper. There were lots of blades out there that fit this bill: gentleman's knife, one hand opening, less than 1.5 ounces, under $200, and a pocket clip was a bonus. Here was the list of things I was considering:

1. Al Mar Hawk Ultralight
2. CRKT Ken Onion Eros Small
3. A.G. Russell Spire
4. Fox Cutlery SpyFox
5. Benchmade Opportunist

I bumped the Hawk because, while it was nice, it did not have the style that the other blades did. I bumped the Eros after handling it. I did not really like the pocket clip or the blade shape (it is a REALLY tapered point that seemed to want to snap off of its own accord). The Opportunist was the fattest of the group, coming in well over the 1.5 ounce limit. It was down to the SpyFox and the Spire. I ultimately chose the SpyFox because of the imported Spyderco ergonomics. Having never seen a Spire in person, I can't say whether I made the right choice, but both knives were so nice there wasn't really a wrong choice.

Design: 2

Like the Volpe, this knife is a beautiful knife. I liked the straight grain of the olive wood over the amboyna. The entire knife is very small, but the top of the blade is rounded and the entire shape is curvy in the hand, smooth but not grippy (see below). It is a little small, but in its role as a limited use gentleman's knife, it is not too bad. The steel is polished well. Blade to handle ratio is: .71, not too bad. The frame lock is stopped from over extension by the wood onlay.

Fit and Finish: 1

The onlays are held in place with screws which is a little crappy (compare to the Mnandi inlays). The steel itself in the handle is REALLY thin. There is no play in the blade, but everything seems so thin that even in light use, this thing sometimes makes me feel like it will fail. The grind is also a little sloppy, especially compared to the immaculate grinds from Spyderco, Benchmade, or SOG (SOGs are especially nice).

Grip: 0

This is a tiny knife, a two-finger grip at best. And in this role, the thin handles do not promote a lot of grip at all. The edges feel sharp and the wood onlays offer nothing in the way of grip. Still, this is not an EDC knife or a hard use knife, so grip is not a big deal. An overall more ergonomic shape, even without thicker steel or jimping, would make for a better knife.

Carry: 2

This is a tiny pocket dweller and its ultra shiny finish makes it a scratch sponge. The clip is also not that hot, but more on that later. It does sit well in a jeans pocket and is light enough not to feel weird in slacks or a suit. It also rides well in the top pocket of a dress shirt. As such, for its application, it carries well.

Steel: 2

I have no other knives with N690 steel, but Nutfancy gave it a good review, and so far it has remained sharp and cuts well. The light build of the knife makes it hard to test real cutting ability, but for what I have needed it for, it does well. The lack of information and experience with the knife, means that I am going to given it a 1 (or works adequately well) until I see otherwise.

REVISED Assessment: Having used this knife a little longer and having watched carefully assessments of this steel on the internet, specifically Nutnfancy's evaluations, I think this still better than I gave it credit for originally. My experience has matched Nutnfancy's and others and over time, in the past two months or so, I have carried and used the knife a lot more. This steel is actually quite nice. I'd put it slightly above VG-10 (a bit more edge holding in my experience with equal rust resistance), but not quite in the S30V category. Excellent in the role it is used in this knife--as a gentleman's blade.

Blade Shape: 1

The lack of belly seems completely unnecessary in a gent knife. There are plenty of gent knives with good belly (see Hen and Rooster Model 107 and Mnandi). The tip is VERY slender but somehow more robust than the tip on the Eros small.

Grind: 1

A bit sloppier than I'd like, but nothing fatal.

Deployment Method: 2

It has the Spyderco hole, and it works okay. You can do a Spyder Drop, which is about the fastest way to open this blade one handed, but really this is a two handed knife. In a knife this small there is no practical way, aside from the IKBS-powered flipper of the Eros small, to do one hand opening. The size of the handle makes it difficult to get another "flip" in your thumb to power open the knife with a Spyder hole.

Retention Method: 0

The clip on this knife is sharp-edged, very tight to the handle, and ugly. It covers up the beautiful wood onlays. In a knife this small you need to so something original with the clip, otherwise it just sticks out terribly. I think I might just remove the clip on my knife.

Lock: 2

The frame lock on this knife is milled from thin stock, but it works very well. The detent is set correctly when the lock is disengaged and it matches up nicely to the rear of the blade. I worry that it may eventually slip off the rear of the knife, but I don't see this happening soon. Also, the onlay acts like a Hinderer stop mechanism, preventing the locking arm from overextending when it is being disengaged. Beautiful design where aesthetics and function aid each other.

Overall Score: 12 out of 20
REVISED Score: 13 out of 20 (increased because of +1 on the steel rating)

The score seems bad, but really I like the knife for its limited purpose as a gent's folder. I can't imagine any of the other knives, except the Mnandi scoring higher. The problem is the gent's folder design is a very restrictive one, kind of like the knife equivalent of a trim router. It is fun to look at this knife, I think it is just beautiful, but it has such a limited role. I have plenty of other knives, but this would definitely not be my first and only knife. Instead, just try to find a nice looking, regular knife and skip the extra fancying up of these very small, very frail feeling knives. All of the knives in this category are like this, except the Mnandi, which is significantly larger. But for the money, $85 from AG Russell, this is a good one hand opening gent's folder.

1YL: Score: Same

The steel has proven to be quite good, but the knife is just too small for all but the most gentile of uses.  I like the look and scaled up to the size of a Dragonfly, this would be a serious contender.  As it is, it is pretty novelty. 


  1. If you are looking for a good gentleman's knife that is still a little modern, you should look for a Spyderco Kopa. A few variations are still for sale out there if you look around. I just got one a week ago and its great. VG-10 steel, pocket clip, great inlays. The blade shape is similar to the Dragonfly you love so much. Just my 2 cents.

  2. Could you do a review on some other fox knives?