Spyderco Shaman Folding Knife

By Gary Zinn

Spyderco Shaman Folding Knife
Image courtesy of KnifeCenter.com.

The Spyderco Shaman is a contemporary design, lock blade, folding knife. It is robustly built with premium S30V blade steel and G10 handle scales, making it suitable for heavy duty use. It incorporates several popular and use-proven Spyderco design features.

Specifications (as reviewed)

  • Model designation: C229GP
  • Blade pattern: Spear point
  • Blade length: 3-5/8" (3" sharpened edge)
  • Blade steel: Crucible CPM-S30V stainless
  • Handle material: G10
  • Liners: Stainless steel
  • Closed length: 4-11/16"
  • Weight: 5.2 ounces
  • Country of origin: USA
  • 2018 MSRP: $280

The Shaman is essentially a larger version of the long popular Spyderco Native design. Overall, the Shaman blade and handle are about 5/8" and 3/4" longer, respectively, than the Native blade and handle. The Shaman also has a proportionally thicker, wider blade and a beefier handle.

Otherwise, the only notable differences between the latest version of the Native (the Native 5) and the Shaman is that the Native 5 sports a S35VN blade and has a back lock, while the Shaman features S30V steel and a compression lock.

The review knife has a plain edged blade with a non reflective stonewashed finish. Other variants of the Shaman are the C229GS (fully serrated stonewashed blade), C229GPBK (plain edged black blade) and C229GSBK (fully serrated black blade). Spyderco calls the blackened blade coating DLC, which they assert stands for "Diamond Like Carbon." Now, you know as much about the blade coating as I do.

The Shaman is a high end production knife, with a 2018 MSRP of $280 for the stonewashed blade models and $300 for the DLC coated blade models. Discount retail prices run about $180 and $195 for the knives with uncoated and coated blades, respectively. I mention this, because a working knife at this price point had better give the buyer high quality in both materials and workmanship with exceptional performance and durability in use.

The blade of the Shaman is a substantial piece of steel. It is a broad spear point pattern, 1-3/8" wide at the grind plunge, with a mostly curved edge. The blade is not only wide, but robustly thick, measuring .145" (3.7mm) across the main part of the spine.

It is flat ground, but the grind does not extend quite all the way to the blade spine. Rather, the blade is ground to leave a narrow area below the spine at full thickness for about half the distance between the grind plunge and the tip. Thereafter, the spine tapers down to the blade tip. The spine thickness and the grinding trick just described imply a very sturdy blade, which should stand up well under heavy use.

Other features of the blade design include a generous sized thumb hole, to facilitate one-handed opening with either hand. There is finely cut jimping on the base of the spine and on the underside of a finger choil that spans the space between the sharpened edge and the handle.

The factory edge on my review knife, formed by a narrow and totally uniform micro bevel, more than satisfied my top classification of edge acuity, which I call Extremely Sharp. I did a set of test cuts (slicing paper, breaking down cardboard, cutting rope, whittling wood), but soon became bored. The Shaman cut through everything easily, so there was nothing left for me to prove. With this exceptional factory edge on a blade of premium S30V steel, I expect the knife to work a long time before even a light touchup sharpening will be needed.

The one blade characteristic about which I could not find a specification is the hardness to which it is tempered. Most knife makers using S30V quote tempering to Rc 58 - 60 or 59 - 61, so I presume Spyderco is tempering its S30V blades in the same range. Given the premium steel, design and faultless milling and sharpening of the blade, I judge it to be totally satisfactory for a high end production knife.

The handle is built around a pair of skeletonized stainless steel liners. These are covered with contoured G10 handle scales. The top of the handle is mostly open, with a steel wedge that bridges the halves of the handle at the butt end. This wedge extends 1-3/8" from the butt along the handle spine. The pivot pin and a blade stop pin, together, anchor the front of the handle.

One-handed opening of the Shaman is about as good as it gets for a knife without an opening assist mechanism. I often struggle with manipulating such knives deftly, but the Shaman is easy. I can rotate the blade fully open with either thumb, or thumb it open an inch or so and then use a wrist flick to snap it fully open. Nonetheless, my natural tendency is to use both hands to open folding knives.

The opening action can be tuned to user preference by using a T-10 Torx bit to loosen or tighten the pivot pin cap screw on the left side of the handle. Doing this in very small increments will significantly affect the ease of blade rotation. Be careful to not loosen the cap screw enough to allow side play when the blade is open.

The Shaman has a compression lock to secure the open blade. Simply put, a compression lock is a liner lock that is positioned inside the top of the handle, rather than in the bottom. When the blade is opened, a tensioned finger milled into the left side handle liner slips over a spur on the blade tang, holding the fully deployed blade quite securely. The end of the finger is shaped to jam solidly between the tang spur and the blade stop pin when the blade is locked open. The lock will not fail if pressure is put on the spine of the blade.

The lock is disengaged by pressing outward on a tab milled into the top of the lock finger. The locking mechanism is on the left side, which makes the Shaman a natural right handed knife, but I have no trouble unlocking it left handed. With either hand, my natural way of unlocking the blade is to press the lock tab with the thumb of the hand holding the knife, using the off hand to start closing the blade. Once the tang is holding the lock finger aside, close the blade as you would any other folding knife.

The handle profile of this knife is very well designed. The handle is curved to fit the natural shape of the closed hand and it is long enough for someone with large hands to get a secure grip. Further, the front of the handle is well integrated with the blade. The fine jimping on the blade spine is positioned just right for a thumb-on-top power grip, while that on the finger choil feels secure against the forefinger when one uses a hand forward grip.

The length and shape of the handle allows for gripping the knife with the forefinger either against the finger choil, or behind the full finger groove on the handle. With either, one may rest the thumb on the blade spine, or close it, for a full-fisted grip. There is a lot of flexibility in how one may securely grip and wield this knife.

The G10 handle scales are nicely radiused and buffed to give a smooth, but not slick, touch. My only small quibble with the handle is that it is a bit too slab-sided for my taste. The handle is about one-half inch thick and I feel that if each scale was between 1/10" to 1/8" thicker, with more radius and a smaller flat area on each side, it would fit the hand better. I have a Buck Selector 2.0 knife with a handle 3/4" thick and it feels more comfortable in my hand than the Shaman.

The Shaman has a pocket clip, which comes mounted for right side, tip up carry. The clip can be repositioned for any of the other normal carry positions, using mounting holes drilled through the handle scales.

I do not tolerate clips that are positioned or shaped so they dig into my palm or fingers when the knife is used. The Shaman clip is not problematical in this regard. Mounted as it came, the clip fits into the hollow of my right palm and does not bite me when I use the knife. With four potential clip positions, one can mount the clip wherever it best suits the hand and grip normally used.

There are two subtle details of the Shaman design that I especially appreciate. I mentioned earlier that a steel wedge is used to span the handle halves at the butt end. Knives built with scales-over-liners handles usually have a hard plastic wedge in this area. I believe Spyderco chose a steel wedge for the extra weight, to balance the weight of the blade. If this was the purpose, it works well, because the knife is neutrally balanced in the hand. A knife that has neutral or handle-heavy balance works more deftly than does one with weight forward balance.

I also appreciate the fine jimping on the blade spine and choil, because it is much more comfortable than the course jimping found on most production knives. The extra machining needed to do this shows that Spyderco pays attention to the small things and cares enough to do them correctly.

Summary evaluation

I divide knives into three broad categories of capability: light, medium and heavy duty. The Spyderco Shaman clearly fits in the heavy duty category. This is a knife that will comfortably execute about anything a folding knife of its type and blade size could reasonably be expected to do.

The Shaman is legitimately a high end production knife. I cannot escape the feeling that buyers pay something of a premium for the Spyderco name, but the premium materials, solid construction and thoughtful details justify the price point at which the Shaman sells.

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