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Spyderco Chaparral 3 C152STIP Stepped Titanium
Folding Knife Review

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Spyderco Chaparral 3 C152STIP Stepped Titanium CTS-XHP steel

The other day, which was late spring 2013, I was browsing through the Spyderco knives on the net, trying to pick something, since I've only had couple Spyderco knives at that time. Not that I was feeling obliged to get more, but to get a new cool knife is always a good thing. Besides, I was trying to get my hands on the Carpenter CTS-XHP steel, and I knew Spyderco was experimenting with that alloy. I've said in many other reviews, I really like and respect Spyderco as a knife company. Constantly on the move, testing new alloys, lock mechanisms, other materials used in knife construction, collaborations with custom makers. On top of all that, they always produce solid quality knives, good heat treatment and stand behind their products. All that is super, except for the fact that I can't get myself to like majority of their designs. Anyway, I've stumbled upon the Chaparral with Titanium(Ti) handles, which wasn't a framelock and I liked it. Chaparral has been around for a while, but Ti version was new, I suppose one of the sprint runs(for non Spyderco people, that's be limited edition with better materials). Actually, there were two versions of Ti Chaparral, smooth Ti handles and stepped Ti. Frankly, I'd rather get the smooth Ti version, but that was sold out, so I had to settle with more expensive and a bit convoluted(to my taste) stepped Ti version of the Chaparral.

Spyderco Chaparral 3 C152STIP Packaging

General

 - The Chaparral folder arrived packed in a box, wrapped in a bubble wrap bag. Inside the box there was a pouch which contained the knife and paperwork. The pouch is the usual thing for the high end, limited edition knives. I've proceeded with visual inspection aided by magnifying glass. Overall, Chaparral 3 is a very nice, little knife. Considering that it is all metal construction, feels very solid in hand, and generally speaking has a very nice feel to it. Fit and finish are superb. Everything fits very precisely, nothing rattles, nothing wobbles, there are no gaps anywhere between any parts in open or closed position. Machining was very high quality too, no grind marks on the blade, nice satin finish, stepping on the titanium handle is precise, I suppose CNC machine wouldn't screw up. I've played with the knife for a while, and it was an absolutely enjoyable experience. Not that I am suggesting knives are toys, they are tools, but you know, handling one can be rewarding ;) As it is, I'd describe Ti Chaparral as high performance, light cutter, gentleman's knife. It has a thin, flat ground blade, both of which help with cutting performance.

Small size and nice looks make it rather friendly to non knife crowd. Can't say I have had any serious problems during my knife collecting years, but a few times, when I had to use my knife, I did get that silly question - "why do you need that knife, are you gonna stab someone with it?". We can skip discussion about how silly the question is, but Chaparral being a small, stylish knife is less likely to trigger knifophobia in those types of individuals. Well, that's not a 100% guarantee either, but Chaparral is definitely less scary for the irrational knifophobics.

And for the curious minds, the name Chaparral originates form mid 19th century Spanish:
chappara - dwarf evergreen oak, and modern definition being - Vegetation consisting chiefly of tangled shrubs and thorny bushes.

Spyderco Chaparral 3 C152STIP CTS-XHP steel

Blade

 - The blade on the Chaparral folder is 70.00mm(2.76") long, 1.9mm thick at the heel, and 26.15mm at its widest. Like I said above, it is a small, thin blade, and adding there flat ground blade profile makes it a very efficient cutting machine. Blade geometry is very similar to bunch of other Spyderco knives, at least that's what it looks like to my non Spyderco expert eyes. Spyderco Manix, Sage, Dragonfly, Sage etc. they all have very similar blade geometry, dimensions notwithstanding. Blade has very nice satin finish. Tapering from the spine is even, and results in a very thin edge. Given the size of the knife, I think it was a great decision to optimize for cutting performance. I see no point in having a thick blade on a knife this small. Actually, I prefer thinner blades on a larger knives too, but that's a different story. Chaparral blade features dual gimping, which I am not too excited about. The choil has gimping and the blade spine, from the handle to the spyderhole. On the bright side, gimping is just right, as in not too aggressive. I am not so sure why gimping is really required for a knife so small, but at least it's not too bad to get in the way.

Out of the box sharpness was quite good, semi polished edge, definitely sharpened above 2000 grit. Initial edge measured around 30° inclusive. I just stropped it on the 0.50µm and 0.25µm diamond charged leather strops and finished with a few strikes on a plain leather strop. Easily shaving arm hair in either direction and all other cutting was also very easy due to the factors listed above(thin blade, full flat grind). And finally, to complete the blade section, let's mention markings, Spyderco's logo, Company name and steel name on the left side, Taichung Taiwan on the right side. In case you were wondering, no, the markings do not improve Chaparral's cutting performance ;)

Spyderco Chaparral 3 C152STIP CTS-XHP steel

CTS-XHP Steel

- One of the main reasons I got the Chaparral 3 Ti, was Carpenter CTS-XHP steel, although, I like the knife enough that I'd pick it up in any decent steel. Anyway, CTS-XHP steel made by Carpenter steel company, was used in several Spyderco Knives including: Dice, Domino, Hungarian Folder, Foundry, Slysz Bowie, couple mules and few other models in various sprint runs. Actually, Carpenter and Spyderco have pretty good working relationship, at least I see quite a few Carpenter steels used in Spyderco knives. As for the CTS-XHP, it is high carbon, high carbide volume steel which also has quite high stain resistance. Some sort of middle ground between AISI 440C stainless steel and AISI D2 Tool steel. Basically, the idea is to have a steel that can reach 64HRC like D2 does, and be as stain resistant as 440C steel is. Unfortunately, Chaparral 3 is hardened to more conventional 60-61HRC. I'm not really surprised about that, based on the fact that D2 steel and its international counterparts like Japanese JIS SKD-11 steel are typically hardened to 58-62HRC range. Japanese makers however do max out SKD-11 to 64HRC. Pity, small, high performance cutter like Chaparral would definitely benefit from high hardness steel, but partly it's be because of the western knife users too. Complaints about difficulty with sharpening and broken knives would definitely be a problem. As it is, I find CTS-XHP to be fairly easy to sharpen, responsive to stropping and able to obtain and keep an aggressive edge. Small size of the knife prevents extensive testing, as I am limited to light cutting, but CTS-XHP does have very decent edge holding ability, won't beat CPM 10V steel on cardboard, but for light EDC use it is just fine.

Spyderco Chaparral 3 C152STIP CTS-XHP steel

Handle

- Handle on the Chaparral 3 Ti is made out of the Titanium. One of the high end materials for the folding knife handles in general. As I mentioned in the beginning, Ti handle is sculpted, I think CNC would be the right guess. My preferences for smooth TI handle aside, the sculpting on the handle has a purpose, besides visuals I mean. You can call it a side effect if you will, but that sculpting forms numerous ridges on the handle, thus improving grip security. Although, I'm not so sure how useful that is on a small knife like Chaparral, since it is very unlikely it would be used for any heavy duty cutting. Well, perhaps if you have hands covered in oil and have to cut something with Chaparral anyway, that might help a bit. Backspacer is stainless steel, which is highly polished and fits the space between the handle slabs just perfect. I couldn't detect transition between the spacer and the handle slabs with my fingernail. Chaparral 3 uses traditional lock back mechanism, which I personally prefer over frame and liner locks. String, dependable lock, and doesn't violate handle design symmetry like framelock does. If I had a choice, I'd go with axis or Spyderco's own cage ball lock though.

Spyderco Chaparral 3 C152STIP CTS-XHP steel

Usage

- Chaparral's size and thin blade do limit its overall use area to light(mostly)/medium cutting, which is fine for that knife, it's not designed for anything else. Therefore, most of the testing conducted was in the same area, plus I do carry Chaparral 3 more or less regularly, obviously I've included regular use experience in this section. I did the mandatory cardboard cutting session at the beginning. Thin blade was more beneficial during cardboard cutting than the short blade was detrimental. Went through about 200 inches of cardboard and tested the edge, pretty much no change, at least on shaving tests, would easily slice through the free hanging newspaper too. After that, picked up the usual mix of garage items which included PVC tubing and 6mm thick rubber sheets. Again, thin blade was a major advantage, especially with the tubing. I've sliced about a dozen rings from PVC tube which had 9.5mm outer diameter and 6.35mm inner diameter, i.e. the wall thickness was just above 3mm. Mostly push cutting, and in the end there wasn't much of the degradation either. Both tests(hair shaving, free hanging paper) still pass.

Next step was the assorted wiring. Not exactly a regular EDC task, but does fall under EDC use, as in you walk into a garage and happen to need to cut a wire type scenario ;) Anyway, the usual assortment of various wiring copper, aluminum, coaxial. I want to stress the technique again, wire is cut with stead hand, vertical push down. Don't slice through it, or worse, make a loop and pull over the edge, that will kill any edge right there and then. Anyway, cut all the wires, and examined the edge with the magnifying glass and visually. No deformation was detected, and wiring is too narrow to affect the sharpness of the overall edge. Main purpose was to test the edge strength, and for those tests 60-61HRC edge was more susceptible to damage than high hardness edges at 64-67HRC I've tested many times. Still, CTS-XHP survived the test. Last test was the edge lateral strength, which is also simple, stick the edge about 1-2 mm deep into the wood and twist. Normally, 30° edges survive the test without any drama, but in this case, Chaparral has a very thin blade, i.e. behind the edge thickness is also very low, helps with cutting ability tremendously, but lateral strength is lower too. Anyway, twist test was fine too. In the end, after all that I had not a single chip or a roll on the edge, and I was satisfied with the knife(and CTS-XHP steel) performance.

I did minor cutting in the kitchen, but it was more of a covenience/comfortability test than edge holding anything else. Small knife, and in the kitchen I could only use it as a paring knife at best. Will do in a pinch, like a real pinch, otherwise, it has no business in the kitchen. If you ask me, folding knives of any size have no busines sin the kitchen, but that's a general rule, nothing specific to Chaparral. Post kitchen, went back to cardboard, and cut another 250 inches of it, which did kill the shaving ability. Not completely, but I could tell the edge was degraded when testing, however, due to thin edge cardboard cutting itself was pretty much unchanged in terms of the effort. 0.25µm diamond charged leather strop did restore the edge in about 10 strokes per side, which is also a very good result.

Conclusions

- Very nice, high end, small pocket knife. The only drawback - its price. 362$ plus shipping isn't exactly a chump change. Then the question is whether or not you want to use the rare and expensive knife as your EDC, or generally, whether you want to use it or at all. I use absolute majority of the knives I buy, Chaparral 3 included. What will you do with your knife if you decide to shell out close to 400$ is up to you. On the positive side, it's a high quality knife, from a very reputable maker, and it's rare at that. I don't generally view knives as investments, as in I never buy them with an intent to sell later at a profit, I use them, because I am curious and I like to. Anyhow, there are no issues with build quality, design and performance. You'd have to weight all that vs. hefty price and that'd be it.

Last updated - 08/02/15

Specifications:

  • Blade - 70.00mm(2.76")
  • Thickness - 1.90mm
  • Width - 26.15mm
  • OAL - 161.00mm(6.34")
  • Steel - CTS-XHP steel at 60-61HRC
  • Handle - Titanium
  • Weight - 77.00g(2.6oz)
  • Acquired - 08/2013 Price - 362.00$

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