Just yesterday, Dan previewed the Dragonfly 2 ZDP-189, but today lets take a look at another small Spyderco.
Living where I do, I am very cognizant of blade lengths. Although I reside and work in Maryland, where I typically do not need to be concerned, I live less than a mile from Washington, D.C. where the legal limit is 3 inches. It helps not needing to worry about my blade if I decide to go downtown. Additionaly, federal buildings have their own 2.5” length limit. A friend of mine works in one of these buildings and needed a new EDC recently. The trick was finding a small enough knife that still has enough grip to handle any heavier chores that may come your way. Enter the Spyderco Cat…
The Cat walks a fine line between being a small knife and a larger knife. The leaf shaped blade, instantly recognizable as a Spyderco with their signature opening hole in lieu of thumbstuds, is just under 2.5” long, measured from the tip to the leading edge of the handle scales. Yet, because of the way the scales and blade come together when open, forming a generous finger choil, I can easily wrap all four of my digits around the grip. The choil does use up some real estate that might otherwise be sharpened, but the trade off in gripping power is worth it. You really do feel like you are holding a larger knife.
The blade also bears characteristics that put it somewhere in between small and larger knives. Being quite wide and almost 1/8” thick, the knife should be able to hold up to some rougher tasks. However, the blade sports a full flat grind, allowing it to be extremely thin behind the cutting bevel, making a very fine edge.
The inherent distal taper with this combo of blade shape and grind creates an extremely acute point, giving up some tip strength but allowing for excellent precision work.
Construction/Fit & Finish
In a nutshell, the Spyderco Cat uses quality materials and is well put together.
The blade is 440C and opens smoothly thanks to bronze pivot washers. The liner lock is solid, with only the tiniest hint of blade play up and down, and none side to side. The G10 scales are lightly textured and the machining of that texture is perfectly regular with no abnormalities.
Pocket gunk will have a hard time lodging itself inside this knife. The open post construction makes it easy to clean, and the blade is well centered when closed.
I have only two gripes about the knife, one relating to the design, and one to the manufacture.
My design gripe relates to the miniscule lanyard hole. The diameter is too narrow for paracord, leather strips, or any other quality cordage I had on hand. Even some ball-chains are too big to fit through the hole. Personally, I have no desire to use a lanyard on this knife, but if Spyderco is going to include the hole, it should at least be usable.
The only thing I could find wrong with the manufacture of the knife, was that the edge wasn’t completely sharpened all the way to the back, giving up roughly 1/32” of sharpened length. Not a huge difference, but disappointing considering the otherwise flawless construction.
In spite of that small oversight, the feel and quality of this Taiwanese knife give some of Spyderco’s more expensive offerings a run for their money. The Cat certainly feels just as solid as any Delica, but that knife’s FRN plastic scales can not compete with the tactile satisfaction of the Cat’s G10.
With all four fingers wrapped around the knife, the Cat has a gratifying feel to it. The lightly textured G10 provides just enough grip without being aggressive.
The opening hole is rather large, making it very easy to open, even for those with sausage fingers, like myself. You can also flick the blade open, if that is your thing, by hooking your thumb into the hole and flicking upward.
The integrated thumb ramp and choil feel natural, although they seem to be screaming out for additional jimping. More on that a bit later.
The shape of the handle is designed to accommodate various grip styles. The knife can be held with all four fingers and it is very comfortable to do so. Another option is to eschew the choil and grip the knife using only three fingers. This is still comfortable and allows you to exert a little more leverage onto the blade, something I took advantage of while performing cardboard cutting tests.
A reverse grip with your thumb placed in the choil area also feels natural. A reverse full grip is a bit less comfortable due to the finger groove created by the choil.
Pinch grips are comfortable, and the blade is wide enough that it provides plenty of space to choke up on the blade for detail work. I also found myself using the knife by nesting the butt in my palm, with my index finger on the thumb ramp for control.
For as wide as this knife is (1.4” when closed), the Cat is thin enough and carries very comfortably in the pocket.
Spyderco’s wire clip, with its attached end nested inside the scales, is one of my favorite designs and the one on the Cat is reversible for left or right hand, tip-up carry. This clip design may not be as strong as some, but it is very smooth and it looks classy when clipped in your pocket. It is not something that screams “knife!” like more robust designs do, an important factor in those environments where you would need a smaller knife to begin with.
It is not quite deep carry, however. There is a small amount of G10 that is visible above the hem of the pocket, especially with the angled pockets typical of dress pants. Something to consider.
I did not get a chance to examine the factory edge on the Cat, as my friend had already sharpened it on his Spyderco Sharpmaker, but the thin blade was able to take a wickedly sharp edge that simply whispered through newspaper at the slightest touch.
The Cat was very easy to use on cardboard, cutting very efficiently and comfortably as well. I alternated between a four-finger and three-finger grip throughout this test. The design of the handle shines here, giving you options to put the short blade to serious use.
After touching up the edge, I easily cut through 185 linear feet of cardboard accross the grain. Due to the very acute angle of the blade, the Cat cut very cleanly, almost effortlessly, right up until the moment it started to plow. In fact, I was surprised when it did, as the cut immediately before was still so clean and easy. A few more cuts that plowed the cardboard confirmed that the edge was done.
It is interesting to note that the CRKT RSK Mk6 cut almost the same amount of cardboard with steel that should not hold an edge as well as the 440C in the Cat. The reason for this is mostly due to the edge geometry. The CRKT has a much thicker blade and the edge is also thicker, in contrast to the sliver of an edge on the Cat. This added strength is what allowed the Mk6 to keep cutting, albeit with much more difficulty.
This also explains why the Cat seemed to lose its edge at the flip of a switch, rather than more gradually. The thin edge works well on cardboard even as it starts to dull. It may not display those same qualities in other mediums, such as woodworking/whittling where the RSK Mk6 needs to perform.
¾” Manilla Rope
Most small knives will find this task very difficult, and the Cat was no exception. The fancy handle was not able to do much to compensate for the short blade in this test. It still took two very tough strokes to pull through a loop of the rope.
Ease of Sharpening
After the cardboard test, bringing the blade back to hair shaving sharpness was a simple affair with the Sharpmaker. This should not be a difficult blade to sharpen for most people.
If you are looking for a small knife that acts like a big knife, the Spyderco Cat is an excellent choice. A lot of thought went into the ergonomics of the Cat; the handle shape allows you to get the most out of every inch of the blade. For those who work in a Federal building, or Boston, or any other place with a 2.5” blade limit, you need not feel handicapped with this knife.
And it looks great! The way the blade portions of the choil and thumb ramp interact with the lines of the handle, when open and when closed, is especially satisfying.
One thing I should note. Remember my earlier comment about the jimping? A few weeks ago, when visiting Smoky Mountain Knife Works, I found a Cat at the Spyderco booth that bore jimping on the thumb ramp and choil. This appears to be a recent change in manufacture, so if you are interested in this knife, you may want to ask your merchant which version they are selling before placing your order. I think the jimping really completes the knife.
With a street price of around $50, I would not hesitate to recommend the Spyderco Cat, even if you aren’t restricted by blade length limits. It is simply an elegant design that stands on its own as an excellent, small, urban EDC.
Dimensions and Measurements
Weight: 2.55 oz / 72 g
Open Length: 6.09″ / 152.6 mm
Closed Length: 3.556″ / 90.33 mm
Closed Width: 1.407″ / 35.73 mm
Blade Length: 2.495″ / 63.4 mm (from tip to scales)
Sharpened Length: 2.174″ / 55.23 mm
Blade Thickness: 0.102″ / 2.6mm
Grip Length: 3.718″ / 94.44 mm (including choil)
Grip Thickness: 0.392″ / 9.98 mm
Grip Width: 1.031″ / 26 mm
Opening Hole Diameter: 0.52″ / 13.2 mm