Sunday, March 26, 2017

Spyderco Byrd Cara Cara 2 Review


I'm not a huge fan of lockback folders. Don't get me wrong, it is a good, solid locking mechanism, and they work very well. But I don't like em. Why? Well, for one, they are more difficult to open. They don't spring open like most liner or framelocks. The locking mechanism puts tension on the blade, and prevents it from flipping open quick. Secondly, and most important, they are much more difficult to close one handed. You have reposition your hand on the knife several times, or use something else, like your leg, to help it shut. It may not be a big deal for a lot of people, and you get used to it, but I'm a practical guy. I'm all for function. Why would you put it on a knife if it doesn't function as well as a liner or framelock?

I have heard that is strength. Lockbacks are strong locks. There is no danger of the stop sliding out of the blade ramp on a lockback. Once it's locked, it stays locked. Some versions, such as Cold Steel's Triad lock, are strong enough to hold under hundreds of pounds, something that many liner or framelocks couldn't do. So there are some pros and cons for all of them. Regardless, personally lockbacks are not my favorite. 

I got this knife, the Spyderco Byrd Cara Cara 2, mainly because it is touted all over the Internet and knife forums as being extremely high value for the money. Naturally, as a red blooded knife loving eternally broke dude, that spoke to me. It is also not only a good budget blade, but a Spyderco. Spyderco knives have become rather legendary for their high quality folders and unique but perfect blade and handle shapes. I have heard so much about this company that I just had to get one of their knives in my hand, to discover what it was all about.

But guess what, this knife is a lockback. I'm already biased! 

Specs:
Overall: 8.5
Blade: 3.75
Closed: 4.75
Handle material: Injection molded FRN, (Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon) with stainless liners.
Lock: Lockback
Weight: 3.4 oz
Steel: 8Cr13MoV 






Blade:
Spyderco knows how to make good cutting blades. With its full flat grind, this knife is a beautiful slicer. It made short work of the paper and cardboard I put it through, gliding through all of it with ease. In the kitchen too it excelled, cutting apples, onions, tomatoes, etc; it really does a great job. The 8Cr13MoV steel takes a razor edge, and holds it fairly well. I haven't had much experience with this steel, but it seems to hold up well, and it is pretty standard for cheaper folders. Almost the whole Byrd line uses that steel, as well as many of CRKT's knives, even including a number of their more expensive offerings. Kershaw uses it on quite a few of their folders as well. I have been told that it's performance is pretty much the same as the Japanese AUS 8 steel, which is the other big budget knife steel. Overall, I am satisfied with its performance.

One thing I am not satisfied in was the tip. The tip of this knife is rather weak. I tried sticking the tip into a 2x4 and prying a bit, (my standard tip strength test) and it immediately bent. Now, I'm not talking about sticking the thing half an inch in and putting all my weight on it. That is understandable. No, I just stuck the tip in, not deeper than an eighth of an inch, and applied some light pressure. It instantly bent. I pushed the other direction, and it bent back. I tried several times, with the same result. This isn't, I don't think, a problem with the hardness of the steel, but with how thin the blade is at the tip. It is how the blade is designed. Now, it's not a huge deal for a lot of people to have a super strong tip on their pocket knife. After all, most pocket knives are only used for cutting open boxes, opening letters, and slicing up the occasional apple. I think it is safe to say that this knife wasn't designed to take any hard use. It's more of a lightweight gentleman's knife. For those purposes, a thin tip is more important than a strong tip. 

But not for me. I want my knives to be strong. And that is not an impossible thing to ask for in a folding knife around this price. I tried the same test with my Ontario Rat 1, and it passed with flying colors. Absolutely no bending. 

I really like that Rat. 

On the plus side however, the blade shape is pure awesomeness. It takes a little getting used to, being a bit out of the ordinary, but it performs wonderfully. I can see what makes Spyderco knives so popular. It has the perfect balance of straight edge, belly, and fine tip for an EDC. I have really enjoyed using it.



Handle:
The scales, as before mentioned, are made of injection molded FRN, otherwise known as fiberglass reinforced nylon. FRN is cheap, lightweight, and strong. They are reinforced by stainless steel liners, which you can just barely see inside the handle. The liners are skeletonized to keep it light, and indeed, lightweight is what this knife is all about. 

There is a very aggressive texture on the scales, which make it very difficult to lose your grip on the knife. Not sure why they are textured so much, as it is really unneeded on a folder like this. Nothing wrong with it, just unneeded.

Unfortunately, there is a bit of play between the blade and liners, and the blade is not centered correctly. I can also feel some play in the lock when I am pushing down on something hard. Nothing extremely bad, but I expected better from a knife with this reputation. This knife's closest competitor, (in my opinion anyway) the Ka-bar Dozier folder (which is the same price, a lockback, and also has FRN scales) has none of this play. 


Gap between blade and scale


Blade not centered correctly


On the plus side once again though, the lockup is solid. It opens with a beautiful resounding click that feels so good. There is just something indescribably enjoyable about opening a well machined lockback. 

Rough spots in finish ^^^
On the down side again, I really don't the handle materials. I don't like FRN. At all. It simply feels cheap and weak, despite that it is actually pretty strong. It looks cheap too. And there are some unfinished spots in the scales that do not add to the looks. Trust me, the pictures make it look nicer than in reality.

To be blunt, I would prefer just about anything else on a handle than this stuff. I can understand the  reason to use it, after all; it's strong, cheap, and very lightweight. I just don't like it. 

I'm not crazy about lightweight knives. I like to feel some heft. Knives with weight to them feel solid and dependable. Its mental, yes, but still. 

I am prone to look down on knives designed around lightweight-ness.

Deployment:


I was rather interested when getting this knife how I would like Spyderco's trademark hole in the blade for deployment. As I'm sure you noticed, this knife does not have a thumbstud. Instead, you use the comet shaped hole in the blade to flick it open. Well, it works. That's about all I have to say about it. It's not anything amazing, and I don't know that it is an improvement over the thumbstud or not. It really seems about the same to me. It is a little rough on your thumb, I can say that. The punched edge of the hole is a bit sharp, and at first it made my thumb a little sore. Nothing a little sandpaper couldn't fix, if you wanted too. And my thumb is calloused now.


Like most lockbacks, the deployment is a bit slow. You aren't going to flicking this knife open like it was an assisted or anything. That's just the way it is with lockbacks. There are no washers between the blade and liners either, to facilitate faster opening. If this knife were not a lockback, I'm sure I would enjoy the comet hole more. 

I don't know. There isn't much special about this knife as far as deployment. Its fairly normal. Nothing to write home about.





Pocket carry and clip:
This knife has all four clip mounting points, which is very nice. Whether you are a lefty, or just prefer tip up carry, this knife will work for you. 
When I received it, I switched it from tip up (what it came with) to tip down carry. I did this for two reasons. Number one is that I am simply more used to tip down, as all my other folders have it. Number two, and most importantly, the jimping on the thumb ramp was constantly catching on the edge of my pocket, and I had to work a little to get it to go in. After a few times I was done messing with it and switched it around. Like I said, I am practical. I like function. It wasn't functioning well tip up.

I have a bit of the same problem though, with it tip down, however on the opposite side. Now the jimping will catch a bit on the inside of the pocket, making it a bit harder to pull it out. It's not that bad,  but it is tearing up the lining on the edge of the pocket, as you can see.


Jimping rips the lining of pocket


The clip functions very well, it is very smooth slipping in and out is the pocket, and there are no hang ups as with clips on some of my other knives. It has a nice tension, and hasn't loosened up any. It functions very well. It looks classy too, I love the polished finish.



On the subject of the FRN scales, as you can see the back of the handle where it rubs against my flashlight has gotten a bit damaged. I'm a bit surprised, as I thought the stuff was a harder than that. Another reason I don't like FRN.



Ergonomics:

The ergos on this knife are extremely well thought out. The placement of the jimping, as well as all the finger grooves and curves in the handle are simply perfect. You can't hold this knife in an uncomfortable position, whether you are choking up on the blade, holding it lower down, or even upside down in a stabbing position. The handle and blade shapes look funny in the pictures, to be sure, but once it is in your hand you absolutely love it. I know now why Spyderco is so popular. Their knives are awesome in the hand. If the handle was a bit thicker, or was made of better materials, I think it would be extremely difficult to beat. They got the shape down perfect.








Final thoughts:

I have to admit, when I first received this knife, I wasn't very impressed. It didn't help that I got this knife at the same time as my Ontario Rat 1, which, to be frank, looks and feels a 100% nicer than this one; for about the same price. The Rat also is a linerlock, flicks open super fast, has a great heft, and a very strong tip. If I were to compare the two, the Rat would win without a second of hesitation. But I won't compare them, because they are really in separate categories. The Cara Cara 2 is designed to be an inexpensive, very lightweight, lighter duty pocket knife. It hardly weighs anything, while still being large and fairly strong, and functions superbly well at everyday cutting tasks. (cutting boxes, opening envelopes, halving a sandwich, forcing entry into those terribly defiant plastic packages, etc) It does not function well, nor is it designed to on more difficult cutting tasks.

It is just not built tough enough for me. 

My Dad is a contractor. (which means, of course, that I am a contractor's apprentice/slave, haha) I work with him all the time, usually once or twice a week. (We are also presently constructing a workshop in the backyard as well) Construction is tough work. You need a knife that can stand up to abuse. Contractors don't wear expensive pocket knives. They use five dollar box cutters with disposable blades, for good reason: they get destroyed. 

I also am out in the woods a lot, and enjoy doing simple bushcraft type crafts. I need a knife that has a strong tip for many of these. This knife has a weak tip, wouldn't, I don't believe, stand up to a lot of those.

To get right down to it, when I put on a knife, I need to know that it is tough enough to handle any tasks that I may be faced with in the course of my day. I just don't feel that way with this knife.


Now don't get me wrong, this is a decent blade. For the cost of $20, it is very nice. For a lot of people, who don't do the kind of activities I do, it would make a great lightweight EDC folder. Its just not for me. I'll wear it when I know I won't be doing any kind of tough activities, around the house, or to church for example, but when I'm going out to the woods or to work, I generally leave it in the drawer. 

And, to be brutally honest, I think there are better (definitely tougher) knives to be had for that price. To name a few, the Ontario Rat 1, which I own, is available on Amazon most of the time for a tad under $25. It is superior to this knife in just about every aspect. I have also heard amazing things about the CRKT Drifter, which is the same price and steel, but appears to be constructed out of better materials. The scales are G10, it has beefer stainless liners, and is a liner lock, which you know I prefer. There are also several Kershaw assisted opening folders in this price range, such as the renowned Cryo. I could go on to name several others, but you get my point. For myself at least, this is not my first choice for a twenty dollar folding knife. 

However, if you are looking for a budget priced, very ergonomic lightweight pocket folder, with impressive cutting power and fine point, for lighter duty around the home or office; this is a very viable contender. There are a lot of folks out there who really love this knife, and I can see why. 

If you fit the qualifications listed above, I don't think you will be disappointed. This knife has grown on me, and I find that it's in my pocket much more often than I thought it would be. 




I'm only giving this knife 3 out of 5 awesome stars. I almost feel guilty only giving it three, because it really is a good knife, but I have to remind myself what it could be. It has a weak tip, the lock has a bit of play when I push hard on it, and there is too much play between blade and liners. If it wasn't for those, I would award it 5. 

This knife is available on Amazon.com right now for $20.



I will also mention that Spyderco makes another version of this knife with G10 scales, big stainless liners, and much improved, well, just about everything on the handle. I don't own it as of yet, but from other reviews and pictures I think I would like it a whole lot more, and it would solve a lot of the problems that come with this model. However, it is priced at a little over $10 more than this one. Whether or not it is worth $30 is a question that I don't know the answer to (yet). You might want to check it out though.

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