Before my son and I dove back into the world of super fast cars, I remembered the power trio from my teenage years: Porsche, Lamborghini, and Ferrari. Just as I was transitioning into being interested in girls, I had heard of the McLaren F1. And so, twenty years later, when my son became interested in cars after my Dad got a Corvette I was introduced to a whole new class of cars--Paganis, Koeniggseggs, and Bugattis. In this dive into automotive badassery, there was one car, aside from the Huyari, that caught my attention: the Ariel Atom.
The Atom is sold as an enthusiast driver's car. It lacks anything that would distract from that mission--no radio, of course, and no climate control. Heck the Ariel Atom lacks body panels and a windshield. This is car reduced to is high-performance essence. Cool fact: all of this driving badassery can be had for under $80,000. That's a pretty penny for a car that is essential a chassis, four wheels, a steering wheel, and an engine, but this is a car that competes with multimillion dollar hypermachines in terms of track time and performance.
In many ways the Spyderco Chaparral is the knife lover's knife, the blade for the aficionado. Its graphene-thin blade and marvelous handle give you a knife that performs like no other blade I have handled. But its not a general audience product. A blade this thin would be instantly destroyed by the neophyte that doesn't understand that knives are for slicing and not prying. This is not a blade for the Philistine, that asks where the framelock is or why there is no flipper. Blingmeisters need not apply--this knife won't work with a flaming skull pocket clip and doesn't run MokuTi or another other material that disincentives use. This is a knife for folks that love knives as tools. And in that regard, the Chaparral is one of the best knives I have ever used. I reviewed the carbon fiber version when it first came out for www.everydaycarry.com but I didn't have enough experience to truly appreciate how great it was. Now, a few years later, I really get it.
Here is the product page. It costs $120 street. There are no written or video reviews of this particular Chaparral yet. Here is a link where you can buy the Chaparral:
And here is the review sample:
Twitter Review Summary: The knife aficiando's EDC.
As a smaller version of the Spyderco Sage, the Chaparral is doubly refined--incorporating all of the Sage's finer points and then taking them a step further. In looking at the Chaparral in comparison to the other Spydercos of similar size and design, it is clear that the Chaparral is truly an evolved product. The hump is smooth, allowing for a good purchase for the thumb yet without the pokey point of something like the Dragonfly (heresy, I know, I mentioned a flaw on the Dragonfly...). Yet, despite the compressed blade, the thumb hole is almost completely exposed. Then there is the knife's thickness. There are thin knives and then there is the Chaparral. Any thinner and it would be uncomfortable in the hand. And the size, with a blade shape at 2.75 inches, the Chaparral is ideal for EDC use, big enough to slice apples but not so big as to be scary. It is almost exactly the same size as the Benchmade Mini Grip, but with a shorter blade thanks to the amazing half and half choil. Simply put, the Chaparral is the most evolved design in the Spyderco line up, a iterative masterpiece on a form that Spyderco has been tinkering with for two decades.
The handle material merits special attention. First, I know it is polarizing. To some people it looks like barf or sparkly seaweed. And in pictures I tend to agree. But, there are somethings that even with our modern technology we cannot full capture and the look and depth of the Raffir Noble is one of them. For example, people that make displays have long known that certain colors cannot be accurately rendered. Tyrian purple, one of the ancient world's most precious resources, is one of them (Tyrian purple is fascinating...go click on that link). The in-person look, despite my many attempts just falls flat. But that is not the only thing that is intriguing about the material--I also like the fact that it is unique from knife to knife. Lots of folks in the knife world like natural materials for this reason, but they tend to move, shrink, and split as they age. But synthetic materials generally can't be truly different from knife to knife. Raffir Noble is. And that is cool. I like it in acrylic barreled pens and I like it here. It does mean, however, that you could be jammed up with a shitty scale of Raffir Noble, but generally what I have seen is that the less visually dynamic scales are used on the clip side of the knife. It is also lighter than carbon fiber laminate used in the first gen Chaparral means you get all of this with a slight performance boost. That, in my mind, makes the Raffir Noble a no-brainer. Oh, and it is sometimes the cheapest version of the Chaparral released thus far (with the FRN version still coming as of end-of-August 2017), though the price is usually within $2 plus or minus of the CF version.
The performance ratios are very good. The blade:handle is .77. The blade:weight is 1.21. Both are well above average. One easy shorthand for good performance ratios is this: is the difference between the blade length and handle length less than an inch? If so, its got a good blade:handle. And for the weight ratio, if the blade length is greater than the weight you are looking at an elite design. Here, the Chaparral has both.
Design-wise there is a ton to love here. The rest of the knife is carried through by this compelling blueprint, but thanks to the fact that it is a Taichung Taiwan Spyderco, you can count on build quality...
Fit and Finish: 2
This is a Taichung Spyderco, which, if you have been following production knives for the the past five years tells you all you need to know about the fit and finish. In a word: flawless. Even the Raffir Noble, which could be tricky in the same way that lightning strike carbon fiber could be tricky with tiny barbs poking out when the material is smoothed and rounded, came out great. The centering is amazing, the pivot is smooth without being loose, and the index notch has a small, but just-right about of contouring. In other words, its a Taichung Spyderco.
Like all Chaps this version is exceptionally thin, but also like with all Chaps, this one is great in the hand. Between the half-and-half choil, the aforementioned index notch, and the rest of the handling being pretty neutral, it is hard to find complaint with the Chaparral handle. It is important to note the size of the knife--this is the Goldilocks size. I love the Dragonfly II, but some might find it a bit small. The Chaparral is just right for virtually everyone not Andre Roussimoff. The greatly reduced thumb ramp with its roundover is also quite nice. This knife has, but probably does not need, jimping. If you are anti-jimping bear that in mind. I am jimping agnostic so it doesn't bother me.
Aside from the fact that in certain thin pants, the Raffir Noble can be a little slick under the clip, there is nothing to complain about here. The Raffir Noble looks quite decent scratched up, something I was worried about. And the shape of the knife and the thin profile are quite great. Finally, unlike a lot of Spydercos this one isn't tremendously tall in the pocket. The reduced hump makes it one of the best in-pocket Spydercos available and that is saying quite a bit.
As CedricAndAda's testing demonstrates, CTS-XHP is a very good steel. My use of the steel provides me with no basis to disagree with that assessment. It is capable of getting cell-whittling sharp and keeps that edge for a long time. It is an aggressive cutter and stain resistant. I have had it get a bit of coloration in some very potent food prep tasks, like pitting cherries, but its not that can't be washed off. Excellent, superior steel.
Blade Shape: 2
Its beautiful, this iteration of the leaf-shaped blade.
I appreciate the belly and the fact that there isn't a monster thumb ramp. The blade just works and works well. There are some slight differences between this blade shape and that found on the Caly3 or the DFII. There is a point where the spine drops ever so subtly but it has zero impact on performance. In fact if you aren't looking for it, you probably wouldn't see it. Ask me my favorite blade shape and I will tell you: the leaf-shape blade on the Chaparral. I love it.
The Perceval was amazing. Truly amazing. But it was essentially a folding kitchen knife, not that there is anything wrong with that. But this grind is so nearly as good that the difference between the two isn't worth dwelling on to any extent. But what is clear is that the gulf between the Perceval and the Chap and the rest of the knife world is huge.
I have delighted in carving apples, cutting carrots, pitting cherries (BTW, what the hell am I going to do for testing when my boys are old enough to do this themselves?), slicing cheese (seriously, did you think I was going to fall into that one?), cutting paper, and processing cardboard. The grind is so perfect, so utterly thin that I feel like the rest of my knives are a bit broken.
The combination of CTS-XHP in this grind makes the Chap one of two of the best cutters in the EDC world. If you need a lesson on the importance of grind, compare the Chap to the grind on my beloved but much less capable Techno. Same steel, vastly different grinds.
Deployment Method: 2
Love the Spyderhole. Love Taichung's fit and finish. And here, in what Spyderco bills as a gent's folder, Taichung has stepped up the polish a notch and the rear tang of the blade is one of those places that the extra attention shows. This is a smooth knife, but not a loose knife. One of those two things requires skill to execute, the other does not. T
Retention Method: 2
The wire clip is one of the better Spyderco innovations and here we get a tight, strong clip. It helps to make up for the smooth scales.
Its amazing how innovative Spyderco is and the wire clip is just another truck in that parade of innovation.
I have no problems with lockbacks and this is a very good one. The choil also helps to close the knife safely.
Overall Score: 20 out of 20
The Spyderco Chaparral in Raffir Noble is the most interesting of a line of excellent knives. Its wafer-thin grind and excellent steel give you a great performance tool. The wire clip and leaf-shaped blade represent decades of refinement. And the build quality Taichung is known for abound. Simply put this is an easy 20/20.
But this is not a knife for everyone. Its not a TFF, so that will make a lot of folks just get up and walk away. It has an unusual handle material with some people think is hideous. Finally, the grind that I love so much is probably too thin for the masses raised on years of knives with blades as thick as a finger. I am not going to give it a Perfect because I want to reserve that distinction for knives that literally anyone could pick up and love to use.
If you are an aficionado, consider this one of a few knives that makes for a perfect EDC. If you want something a bit heavier (why, I am not sure?) try one of the two metal handled knives. If you want carbon fiber (again, why?) try the original Chap. But for me, the Raffir Noble Chap is so unique and so interesting I can't keep it out of my pocket. It has the great Chap bones and handle materials used nowhere else in the knife world. And it cuts like a mutha....
Twenty years of iteration by the best minds in the business results in a knife that is simply sublime. I love the Chap Raffir Noble. Its a bit more polished than the DFII and a tad more comfortable than the Benchmade Mini Grip 555-1. But these are all preferences. In terms of utility, they are all probably equal, but in terms of panache, its the Raffir Noble.