Monday, June 17, 2013

Spyderco Manix2 Lightweight Review

I am the first to admit that I have a strong bias against big blades. I have never found them to be all that useful, or more accurately--sufficiently more useful to justify the extra size and weight. Why bother, especially if self-defense is not a concern, with carrying a 6 or 8 ounce knife when all or virtually all of your tasks can be handled by a 2 ounce knife? It was a dilemma that meant that I hardly ever carry a big folder. If I want to do something heavy duty I have a few fixed blades I fall back on making the big folder the "neither foul nor fair" knife. It was something, because of the inherent increases in size and weight, that I had no interest in carrying.

This doesn't mean that I fail to see the non-self-defense advantages of a large blade. There are benefits in terms of increased grip, more blade length for better reach and more distribution of wear, and in terms of ease of deployment. But I am not about to "pay" 4-6 more ounces to get those things. My favorite big knife, the Paramilitary 2, tipped the scales at 3.75 ounces, just about the limit of what I like to carry. There is a reason it is and was one of my favorite blades. But it has been displaced. With basically the same blade length (3.44 inches v. 3.37 inches), the Manix2 Lightweight (M2LW) is almost a full ounce lighter. There are certainly differences in the steels, but I happen to like BD-1 a lot. Oh, and it also happens to be about $30 cheaper than the PM2. The M2LW is, in my opinion, the best option on the market for a large folding knife.

Here is the product page. The knife usually costs around $80. Note, however, that Spyderco's listed weight of 3.0 ounces is HIGH. My scale, borrowed from my wife's state of the art lab, lists the M2LW at 2.92 ounces. There are four variants--blue translucent FRCP with and without a partially serrated edge and black FCP with and without a partially serrated edge.  I strongly prefer the look of the translucent blue version, but I had the black one as a review sample. Here is a video review from Nutnfancy.  He kinda liked it too. Here is a written review.   Here is a link to Blade HQ, where you can find the Manix2 LW and all proceeds benefit the site when you purchase things through this link:

Blade HQ

Finally, here is the review sample:


Twitter Review Summary:  Big blade size, small blade weight=Large EDC perfection.

Design: 2

This was the "Innovative Knife" of the year at the 2010 Blade Show for good reason. Through the use of cutting edge design and materials, Spyderco has managed to make a large blade that weighs as much as a small one. It is the very epitome of what I like in gear--getting something for nothing. The overall shape of the knife is quite pleasing in the hand, choil is very pronounced and gives you excellent control in the event that you are doing detail tasks with such a large blade. The blade size itself is perfect. It is substantially larger than the Delica/Mini Grip class of knives but doesn't reach the never useful behemoth category of silly knives like the SOG Fatcat and the Cold Steel Espada (see? I can pick on other stupidly large knives too).

All of this is well and good, but here is the kicker--the M2LW is an entirely Made in the USA product. The steel is from a US company, Carpenter, and the knife is made and finished in Golden Colorado. This is truly stunning when you figure that usually you get USA made plus cutting edge design at a staggering price. Here all of this home grown innovation is yours for well under $100. Thanks Spyderco.

The ratios are, as you can imagine, strong with this one. The blade:weight is a delicious 1.15 (3.37/2.92). The blade:handle is .72 (3.37/4.66). Obviously neither is the record holder as the Al Mar Hawk's numbers (2.81 and .84 respectively) seem as untouchable as Cy Young's win record, but no other big knife is even close on blade:weight. Some, like the PM2 and the Cold Steel Mini Recon 1, are right with the M2LW on blade:handle. Here is the M2LW with the Zippo and in my meat hooks:


Meat hook shot:


Again, this is a big but not ludicrous knife (LUDICROUS SPEED!).

Fit and Finish: 2

The level of polish on the BD-1 is impressive and it gives the entire knife a clean, well finished feel. The detent on the ball bearing lock is excellent, holding the knife closed, but easy enough to overcome and flick the knife open with one hand and no wrist action. This is a sign that the knife has been built and assembled with extreme care. I also like the edges on the FRCP handle. The jimping, though nothing like the jimping on the regular Manix, is plenty good enough. The thumb hole is nicely finished as well. Very, very good.

Grip: 2

The texture pattern on FRCP handle is very good and the finger choils are awesome:


The jimping while not crazy is more than fine. It is really the pronounced choil that makes this thing a hand magnet. The width of the handle is an issue for small hands, but for average hands or larger it is fine. This is a WIDE knife, both in the hand and in the pocket.  I can hear people moaning right now.

"The handles flex under stress." Yep.

"They feel cheap." Well, that is a matter of opinion, but fine whatever.

"They don't give me confidence in the knife." Nope.

I never once felt like the knife would fail. If you are using folders for those kinds of tasks you asking for trouble. They make fixed blades for a reason and this knife felt fine doing any task I would do with a folder.

Carry: 2

This is a wide knife, but a total featherweight. It is also equipped with the always excellent Spyderco wire clip and the placement of the clip is JUST right. I like the fact that the clip is not deep carry here because deep carry seems to impact the knife's stability in the pocket, especially on big knives (see ZT560 review for more). None of the curves or cuts are a problem and the handle scales are all very nicely finished. I could see someone giving this knife a less than perfect score for its weight, but no big knife I have used has carried quite as easily as the M2LW. It also happens to be quite thin for a knife this size. Excellent.

Steel: 2

And here is where there might be some controversy. BD-1 is a new steel from Carpenter. It hardens to 58-60 on the Rockwell C scale and has done well on the total card cut (TCC) test used by CATRA, scoring a 570. For more TCC numbers, though not BD-1, see here. That places it ahead of Spyderco's version of S30V and right around the benchmark for independent tests of S30V. It performed better than both VG-10 and 154CM. For more on the CATRA machine and TCC numbers, check out Episode 9 of Gear Geeks Live or stay tuned, I am writing a piece on them to be posted soon.

BD-1's reputation is a little weird. Some see it as an American update to 440C. Others think it functions like Gin-1. Cliff Stamp placed it some where near ATS-34. Here is a thread with Sal's responses about the steel. He points out that it is a steel that wears well but is not impossible to sharpen like some of the new super hard steels like M390 and M4.

My experience with the steel confirms most of what was said in Sal's comments. It is a very fine grain steel that handled push cuts well. Compared to the Elmax on the ZT560 I was testing at the same time, it seemed sharper out of the box (which is probably a function of Spyderco's sharpening and not the steel), but did not hang in there as long as the Elmax. It push cut paper and cardboard with ease, but dulled quickly when forced to cut wood during whittling. The good news was that touching it up was easy. A charged strop was sufficient most of the time. My experience is that BD-1 is very similar to VG-10 in terms of sharpness and edge holding, maybe a smidgeon better. It was easier to sharpen than S30V and much easier than ZDP-189. It did not retain a high sharpness edge as long as Elmax or ZDP-189.

This is a subjective call here. I liked the combination of traits here, especially on a large EDC knife, but I could see why people would want Elmax or S35VN. If you are adverse to sharpening then give the BD-1 a 1 instead of a 2. If you feel comfortable touching up your blades you will be very pleased with the sharpness you can get.

Blade Shape: 2

No weird angles or beeps or borks along the cutting edge. No recurves or other impossible to sharpen lines. Just the leaf shaped blade we all know and love:


Thank you. Also, I like the thumb ramp quite a bit.

Grind: 2

The classic, full flat ground leaf shaped blade that Spyderco uses is well suited to this knife. I love the simplicity and the full flat grind gives this wide beefy knife a good approach to cutting material. It is a surprisingly good slicer for the size of the blade. Simple is best.

Deployment Method: 2

Like the PM2, the M2LW sports a positively massive thumb hole, one that is so big you can easily open the knife with no wrist action at all. Gloved hands still find the thumb hole with ease and it is well cut, sharp enough to grab but not so sharp as to slice. Perfecto.

Retention Method: 2

Perhaps it was added as a measure of modest weight savings, but whatever the reason I love the wire clip. This is a more sturdy wire clip, more like the one seen on the Dragonfly 2 than the Techno or the Caly 3.


I don't mind at all that it is not deep carry. It works well and actually aids in grip.

Lock: 2

The ball bearing lock has been loved or hated for a while. After poor performance on the useless and ridiculous spine whack test, it was redone and on the M2LW, there is a metal plate above the ball bearing. The lock works very well. It is easy to engage and disengage. I have found that it is both strong and stable. It does not seem to attract gunk and there is only one spring, a benefit over the more parts intensive Axis lock. Also, your fingers never pass through the blade path and it is fully ambidextrous. I love lock a great deal, second only to the compression lock and even then it is basically a toss up.

Overall Score: 20 out of 20, PERFECT

This is it. This is my new favorite large blade. The finish is better than the PM2, the weight is better, and the price is quite nice. If you are in the market for a larger folder, this is a no brainer. It is all USA made too. I'll make it easy, here is the Blade HQ link again:

Blade HQ

This is the first large blade I truly enjoy carrying and it works incredibly well. I like the steel a good deal too. There is really nothing I don't like.  It even photographs well:


Update: Well, unfortunately, the march of time has robbed this version of the Manix of its elite classification.  It is hard to have this listed as perfect, when there are versions that weigh the same and cost a pittance more that run S110V steel.  That version is $113 and this is $93.  And hell, there is a Maxamet version coming.  In short, this is still a great knife, but not the cream of the crop anymore.  The BD-1 steel, while very sharpener friendly, is not S110V.  When the steel you compare to is S30V, then BD-1 is probably a 2.  When S110V is the comparison, BD-1 is not a 2, its a 1.

New Score: 19 out of 20, no longer perfect.   


  1. VERY interesting. For some reason I thought this knife was a lot costlier than it turns out to be. (Maybe because the translucent blue version looks so fancy.) And yeah, that weight is a remarkable achievement. Gear design is getting so advanced.

    I'll tell you what I think is one natural point of comparison for this knife in the "lightweight large EDC" category. The FFG Endura 4 is a hell of a knife. It gives you 10% more blade length than the Manix, and the solidity of steel liners, and you "pay" less than half an ounce for that. If the Endura FFG boasted a really bulletproof modern lock like the Cold Steel Triad Lock, I would probably sell off most of my other large folders. That said, my current E4's backlock is holding up well. At 3.4 oz it feels sprightly in the hand; I can only imagine what hefting the M2LW must be like. I think the Endura might be a bit narrower than the Manix in the pocket.

    It is also $10-$15 cheaper. Though again, I gotta say that is far less of a price differential than I would have assumed before your review made me look it up!

    Amped to hear your thoughts on the Strider and the little Queen Cutlery knife.

  2. Very nice, Tony! I like this version with the black scales over the translucent blue. Call me old fashioned but the blue just didn't do it for me.

  3. Hi Tony
    I just picked this up yesterday and so far I am liking the size. I thought it was too big too. I was looking for something like my 555HG but with better steel. The 154CM on my 555 is terrible! I thought of getting the full size Grip, but with the steel on it, no thanks. So happy with the M2LW!!!

    I did swap out the wire clip with my Pingo. I definitely like it better!

    I picked it up on sale too, can't beat that!


  4. Hey Tony,
    This review made me think. In most, if not all, of your reviews, there is a subjective feel, and an objective curve that the products are judged by. With your writings on BD1, it seems that it is not practically different than VG10 or Cold Steel's AUS8, both of which are 1-point steels. Your appraisal of it here may stem from it's country of origin - and while that's fine for your subjective tone, it may be misleading for those trying to find objective data about a product. Your "Perfect" scores are not always 20 pointers, though you may not announce it - see your article concerning your gear "benchmarks" for reference.

    Honestly, I think you should separate the two as much as possible. This knife is clearly a great achievement, and more than the sum of its parts. It's affordable, has a great user steel, and has some awesome design chops. But the steel is not up to snuff with other two pointers, according to your appraisal of other, similar steels. If we look at it objectively, it merits a 19/20. But it can still be a "perfect" knife, as it is the best in its class - top of the curve, so to speak.

    And, as there are several products which score a 20/20 and are not perfect, I think there may be products which score less than a 20 and are perfect. It may be that the "Perfect" seal is reserved for those products which both satisfy your subjective and objective standards. If this is the case, I suggest adding a different seal. The Peak Eiger clearly tickles your benchmark fancy, yet has it's problems. Still, you carry it often, deem it to be the way of the future, and praise it gushingly in your review.

    There are products which are subjectively perfect, such as the Manix 2 Lightweight, the PM2, the Oveready Eiger, the Alox Cadet, the Skeletool CX, and the Tom Bihn Cadet.

    There are products which objectively perfect, such as the Sebenza, the Caly 3, the Dauntless, the Chopper, and the EDMW.

    There are those few products which are both subjectively and objectively perfect, such as the DFII ZDP-189, the Aeon (Mk. 1+2), the Synapse 25, and the ESEE Candiru.

    I would like to see all of these recognized. The latter two categories are: by the score, and by the seal. But I feel there needs to be something to recognize those products which are subjectively sublime, but do have a failing.

    Just my thoughts.

    -Grayson Parker

    1. This is an excellent idea. I am going to think about this for a while and implement something like this.

      As for the BD-1, this is a preview of an upcoming article, but BD-1 slightly performed better on objective cutting tests using the CATRA TCC test than S30V as implemented by Spyderco, and significantly better than VG-10 (BD-1: 570; Spyderco S30V: 565; VG-10: 505). This matches my experience with the steel.

    2. Grayson and everyone else, after this post I sent an email to Carpenter. They confirmed the TCC number is in the 570 range at optimal hardness. They actually got 566.9. Given that information from the Carpenter metallurgist directly, I feel more confident in say that the BD-1 is a very good steel. It performs as well as the Spyderco S30V does or better (according to Cliff Stamp's TCC number chart) and I found it easier to sharpen.

  5. What would you think of the Endura 4, being that it is about $15 cheaper, includes steel liners, has a larger blade with a blade/weight ratio very similar to the Manix 2 LW, granted that it has VG10 (which I would consider equivalent to BD1) and a back lock (not really as strong or as easy to use (kinda?) as the Caged Ball Bearing Lock)?

    1. I ran a search on price and the Manix was like a dollar more than the endura at multiple places. The BD-1 steel is better than VG-10 on TCC comparisons and the liners are, IMO, a drawback not an advantage. I think it is a wash in terms of locks, but I'd still go with the Manix.

  6. Do you think it's worth paying an extra $11 for G10 over the FRN? Great review. I'm thinking of getting this as my first folder.

    1. If your tasks aren't all hard use, the copolymer is fine. This will be an excellent first folder.

    2. I just ordered the G10 manix2 and realized it is the version with 154CM, not the BD1. I know you said 154cm can vary widely. Any experience with Spyderco 154CM? As this is my first blade I will have no benchmark, so I'm sure I'll be pleased, but Im interested in knowing your thoughts. Thank you for such and informative site!

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  21. I haven't really heard of others having the same problem but the tabs/lock actuators on mine would like to have mutilated the pads of my fingers. The lock spring seems to be so stiff that I dread having to close the knife. Just wondering if anybody else has the same problem or if I need to just break it in. Thanks!

  22. I haven't really heard of others having the same problem but the tabs/lock actuators on mine would like to have mutilated the pads of my fingers. The lock spring seems to be so stiff that I dread having to close the knife. Just wondering if anybody else has the same problem or if I need to just break it in. Thanks!

  23. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  24. Tony,
    I would like your opinion on the fact this knife has rivets instead of screws on the scales. I'm under the impression this would make taking it apart very difficult. I rarely take apart knives, but it is nice to know that I can take them apart for extra cleaning if needed.

  25. Tony, how do you feel about the rivets used in construction for this knife? I feel it would make taking it apart for cleaning (if needed, rarely do I take my knives apart) very difficult.

    1. If you rarely take the knife apart, then it doesn't really matter. Pinned versus screw construction is one of those things that people talk about, but seems to only effect about 1% of knife owners.