I've actually slowed down in all my knife acquisitions over the last couple of years, Spydercos included.
I used to tell myself that buying a new knife was to fill a need for a particular type of cutting tool - whether for EDC, or cooking, or work or recreational pursuits like camping and hunting.
Often I justify a new Spydie purchase by telling myself I want to learn about a new steel.
Now that I'm pretty well served on all those fronts and I know what steels and designs I like, I tend to be slower to buy a new Spyderco, these days. If I stop to think about a shiny new Spydie I covet, I often realise I'm just as well off with an existing knife in my collection.
So having said that, the last couple of years were when I finally dipped my toe in the water to check out some fixed blade Spydies. Up to now, most of the fixed blades I've been using are customs or handmade knives.
So although they weren't released in 2019, the Waterway was a definite contender, as was the Caribbean. I also really liked the AEB-L Urban.
The Waterway is a very fine knife in both design and materials. It's obviously made by someone who is actually well versed in frequently using a knife as a tool, unlike some knife models. I like the light, slender, balanced profile, the rustproof LC200N bladesteel, and the grippy handle. I also dig the low profile taco style, foldover boltaron sheath.
This knife is a definite winner, which will certainly find it's way into my deer hunting kit. The only reason it didn't merit more consideration as my Spyderco Knife of the Year in 2019, was I got it rather late in the hunting season, so it will have to wait for next year to really be put through it's paces. I've used it enough in the kitchen and for prepping cuts of Sambar deer meat for the table, to know I really like it. From memory, the edge wasn't too crash hot, but that's fine as I thin out all my knives pretty much straight after I get them anyway. The LC200N steel takes an extremely fine, keen edge.
The AEB-L Urban was a knife I'd been keenly awaiting since Sal announced they would produce it. I have to say kudos to Sal for actually making it a reality, despite what I sensed were some misgivings about AEB-L's edge retention being towards the lower end of the scale.
But for those who remember John Verhoeven, Roman Landes', and Cliff Stamp's advocacy of the steel, it's long been a grade which many have been curious about. It's advantages are outstanding toughness and fine edge stability in thin cross sections - it will take an extremely sharp edge due to the very fine carbide structure. Spyderco's product literature compared it to a stainless 52100 in it's desirable properties.
The Urban was a great platform for this bladesteel, although the run itself had some fit and finish shortcomings compared to previous iterations of the Urban. I honestly didn't find the issues too hard to iron out, and anyway it was the steel that I was interested in.
After being thinned out and fettled a bit, this knife has been in my pocket for a good part of the year. I love this little pocket scalpel, and how wickedly sharp it gets. A few passes on the UF rods when it dulls a little will see it straight back to hair whittling sharp.
I like plenty of high wear resistance steels, but I really think with many of them, you are just delaying major, lengthy resharpening, and often committing to using a half dull 'working edge' for a long time. With the AEB-L Urban, as long as you can sharpen competently, and spare literally a minute or so every day or two, it's no problem to keep it in the upper echelon of sharpness.
Utimately, I had to consider that the knife wasn't presented as well as the outstanding K390 version was though, from the factory.
So my Spyderco Knife of 2019 is the PE leaf bladed Caribbean.
Obviously this knife has been out for a little while already. I was hesitant to bite the bullet, because of the bright colour scheme, and the handle shape. Being in Australia, I prefer to have a low key knife that doesn't stick out of my pocket and announce it's prescence. It's OK in the eyes of the law here to have a knife on you if you have a 'legitimate reason' for it, but who wants to get into that debate with Mr Plod? I also enjoy designs with a forefinger choil, for the versatility.
In the end it was Evil D, who really persuaded me to go ahead and get this superb knife.
His 'Graphite' RIT dyed and reground SE sheepsfoot Caribbean looked so cool, and reminded me I could easily mod the knife to be more to my liking. It was pointed out that the handle design also brings your forefinger just as close to the cutting edge as it would be while 'choked up' on a knife with a 50/50 finger choil.
I put the order in for a PE leaf bladed model, and a black powder coated deep carry Ti MXG pocket clip, and bought some dark ''Gunmetal' synthetic fabric dye.
When the knife arrived, I was very pleased with the quality - in fact it was nigh on flawless. The action was glassy smooth, all handle corners were radiused, and it was super comfortable to carry and use.
Sometimes, looking at my Spydie collection, you can see distinct 'eras' of Sal's philosophy of design.
The Caribbean is certainly the culmination of years of design experience. The fully nested male/female liners are a new development - the inside is a fully flush smooth surface, and the G10 is machined on the inside to fill the skeletonised liner holes. I suppose this would also add structural strength. I understand there is a kind of pivot stud which runs in a machined raceway in the blade and scales.
All in all, this is a superb knife, and I will probably also acquire a SE version at some point.
The LC200N blade has been completely rust proof in my usage, and I look forward to using it in my humid mini hothouses where I grow my hot chilli peppers this summer.
The knife sharpens easily, and tends to roll rather than chip at the edge apex, when pushed past it's limits. It takes an extremely sharp edge, and actually reminds me of the AEB-L Urban a little bit in that regard. If I could make one minor nitpick, it would be nice to have the steel a little harder and stronger - maybe in the 61-62 HRC range, if that was possible.
I know it would be expensive, but I would absolutely be up for a Vanax SC Caribbean.
Anyway, that's my favourite Spydie of 2019: the superb Caribbean Salt.
Thanks Sal and the Spydiecrew!