Having been a long time Spyderco fan, I felt like there was a bit of a lull in their releases over the last couple of years. Although there were some atypical designs it’s been mostly a murky blur of forgettable slab-built black G10 liner locks with VG10. The last model that I was interested in for review was the Southard, released in late 2012. It was a knife that had a mixed reception and was thus subjected to several criticisms. A glut of resales and after market modifications followed. Part of this was likely due to the massive difference between a Southard custom and the production model. It would be unrealistic for a mass produced SKU to be anywhere near the same tier of quality, have matching attention to detail, or use the same luxurious materials. That is, at a palatable price point. There was also the surrounding hype which caused luke warm receptions, as was the case with other knives like the Zero Tolerance / Hinderer 0560 series. Reasoning aside buyer disappointment wasn’t softened. Many people were hoping that the model would satisfy their want of a Southard custom. Big shoes to fill indeed.
Similarly Michael Burch has attained status amongst the custom knife making elite. Getting a hold of one of his knives will either carry years of wait, if you can somehow sneak into his books, or an exorbitant after market price tag. While both of these makers have offered mid-techs, there is still a clear market for a less expensive option. For Burch fans this has materialized in two models, the Impetus made by Böker, for their affordable Plus line and this knife, the Spyderco Chubby.
At the time of writing this article, custom and mid-tech knives are the hot topic and subject of most of the online hype. Because of this, it seems that the Chubby has flown a little more under the radar than the Southard did. When it came out, higher end production knives were a little more fashionable than their pricier, custom counterparts.
The Chubby is stout knife with similarities in stature to another “little big knife” from Spyderco, the Techno. Its over-all dimensions are 5.96” in length with a blade of 2.3” and weight of 4.1 oz. The weight here is an interesting detail and testament to the knife’s brawny construction. It comfortably sits in the overbuilt category sharing similar heft to considerably larger knives like the ZT 0454, for example. At 9.75” long the Zero Tolerance is 3.79” longer and only 0.2 oz heavier. While a bit of an apples and oranges comparison, I think that it helps to define the design paradigm that the Chubby and other stout Spyderco knives prescribe to. Either way, 4.1 oz is pretty light.
The CPM S30V blade of this knife is its most interesting feature. As with several Burch folding knives the pattern is notably wide at the base. While his designs typically maintain this width for a good length of the blade, the Chubby almost immediately tapers to a point. The overall shape is defined by a pronounced, sweeping belly met by a steep, sloping spine.
The primary bevel is produced with an aggressive hollow grind that significantly reduces the thick, .175” stock to a surprising thinness. A secondary bevel completes the cutting edge. The swedge is also hollow ground, helping to create a fine tip for effortless penetrating cuts. Because the belly is exaggerated there is a good amount of edge to work with, despite the blade’s diminutive length. The large belly may be somewhat polarizing since there isn’t any length of straight edge with this design. The cutting edge is a continuous curve, handling differently than your typical drop point, or more opposite, something like a wharncliffe. The finishing on the grind looks amazing and catches light nicely due to its compounded geometry.
Unlike the original, Spyderco has chosen not to include a choil for sharpening. I find this detail irritating because you can’t really sharpen the blade right up to the plunge line. For whatever reason Spyderco loves to jilt the humble choil. Many of their models exclude them. I find that bizarre since they started out making sharpeners. While the original doesn’t have a choil per say, the edge does rise above the ricasso rather than blend into it, so you can sharpen it to the heel.
Spyderco’s round hole is used for opening. It isn’t obstructed by the scales on either side so it is easy to get at. A strong detent allows you to reliably flick the blade open from either side. Likewise the detent allows for a safe tip up carry.
The lock is a Reeve Integral (RIL) better know as a frame-lock. The Reeve part comes from Chris Reeve who is credited for its invention. The spring tension is quite strong and the lock up is secure. When I first got the knife the interface was sticky but that cleared up quickly and is now working smoothly. Nowadays many of companies are including a steel insert at the end of the lock arm to prevent stickiness or uneven wear. Since titanium is much softer than the steel tang, it can be problematic over time. At this price point some might argue it would’ve been a good idea to include an insert; however, knives that I’ve had over a long time like the Techno have been fine, thanks to solid lock geometry. Hopefully the Chubby will follow suit. Disengaging the lock is easy with your first finger. Since there isn’t a cut out and fact that the inner handle edges are sharp, thumbing it open isn’t as pleasant, but doable.
The handle is made with two thick slabs of titanium separated by a partial, G10 back spacer. The inner edge has a finger groove followed by another dip for your middle and ring fingers. The details are shallow so they aren’t restrictive while still providing a great grip. The back edge curves downward nesting in your palm comfortably. It meets the opposite side at a rounded pommel that sits against your pinky finger. At 3.66” it’s a “three and a half” finger grip. Since there’s a lanyard hole you can effectively extend your grip by using it. Personally I find it substantial and secure in use as is.
On the show side of the blade there are three inlaid discs. These are a substrate with a textured carbon fiber laminated on top. It would be good to see some of the more popular, full carbon fibers laminated here instead of this. Marbled or cross cut comes to mind. Like the Domino or Szabo this cheaper partial substitute doesn’t help its looks. As such people are already modifying it. It’s a bit unfortunate since the inlay tolerances are close to perfect.
For carry there’s a tip up, right handed pocket clip. The clip has good tension and works well. Because it is fairly wide and low it doesn’t get in the way. While it does its job and matches the inclusive shape of the knife I find it to be the least attractive detail. I also dislike how it partially covers one of the handle fasteners countersink’s making the positioning look like an afterthought. It should be noted that the original custom does not have this and is cleanly implemented.
From a visual design perspective the shape of the handle and blade blend attractively. The knife has a considered form when both open and closed. It would have been good to see some handle contouring to really polish the ergonomics. Instead, this is slab built like most older Spyderco knives. On a side note, manufacturers like Kershaw and CRKT have managed to pull off more elaborate machining on inexpensive knives like the Injection or the Foresight. I’m not sure why Spyderco can’t on a 200-ish dollar knife. To Spyderco’s credit they’ve managed to shape the handles on their Rubicon and Slysz Bowie but the pricing isn’t nearly as competitive as other company’s offerings.
While the fit and finish of the Spyderco Chubby is excellent, the manufacturing isn’t breaking any new ground creatively. Also, the addition of a choil, better clip integration and materials for the inlays would make this knife more polished. Ideally some handle contouring would add to the attractiveness and pull it closer to the custom as well.
Although there are some execution details to nit pick, the over all design is easily lovable. Burch’s touch really makes the model stand out from the crowd as something truly unique. I think that this alone should make the knife desirable, collectible and arguably worth the asking price. While the Chubby is functional it is probably best suited to Spyderco fans and those of the designer. It’s one of the more interesting offerings from the company in the last few years thanks to Burch’s distinctive eye.
This review has been made with the support of our affiliate GP Knives who donated the Chubby for review. If you are thinking of purchasing the Spyderco Chubby, please consider GP. Supporting affiliates helps cover the expenses of running this site.