“It’s been a long road
Getting from there to here
It’s been a long time
But my time is finally near…”
Yes, it has been 22 years (since 1999) that we have been waiting for the Native Chief to be produced.
Sal Glesser said:
In 2008: “We only made one prototype. The model never went into production.”
In 2017: “The Native “Chief” has been on hold for some 15 – 20 years. I imagine we can get it to queue if there is demand. I’ll watch the thread. The Shaman is designed to be 3.5″ blade length which is legal in more places that the Chief’s 4.0″ blade.”
In 2018 “Working on the refinements for the 3rd prototype. We work on roughly 20-30 designs at any given time…. We’ll use a Golden back lock.”
“I’ve been carrying a “Chief prototype. A 20 year old “sal” design with modern “Eric” mods.” had written Sal Glesser in March 2019.
As shown on Eric Glesser video “Native Chief Breakdown”, the prototype looks a lot like the finale version.
Here is also a video from Wouter (Spydercollector) presenting the production sample:
Also, knowing the Vanilla version released in 2019, all made in their new facility in Golden Colorado Earth, was in S30V, waiting for a Sprint Run was mandatory in my case.
I got my eye on the Rex45 Chief before even to be able to get the Tree Rex Shaman. Rex45 seems to me a great steel for such a “toothpick”. Last year I had the chance to get a Tree Rex and my experience with that alloy made the wait of the Chief even longer.
You can read my thoughts about CPM REX45 here:
To quote Spyderco’s site:
“Crucible® CPM® REX® 45 is a super-high-speed particle metallurgy tool steel enriched with large volumes of cobalt, tungsten, molybdenum, and vanadium. Its high cobalt content increases the steel’s attainable hardness and enhances the positive properties of the steel’s other alloys. The addition of vanadium promotes the formation of vanadium carbides, which provide high wear resistance, fine grain size and increased toughness.“
CPM Rex45 is just great: no chipping, pleasant to keep ultra sharp with only some leather + compound stropping: a great super steel. Just be careful with its dust with 10% of toxic cobalt, better be safe than sorry.
OK, my Chief was expected for the first of April, hence the name “Joker”. The slim shade and the burnt orange color scales also inspired me… (Certainly not the Joachim’s or Jared’s crappy interpretations, much more Ledger and Bolland.)
Back to the knife: stretching in length the Native is a beautiful result. Since the Native model people were asking for a longer version and a shorter version, they have been heard.
Right out of the box, the Chief felt very angular: sharp edges on the scales, gritty G10, and a lot of hot spot on the choil/ricasso and the blade spine.
My Mandy City felt the exact opposite and it cost me a third of the Chief Price. So I was a little disappointed. It was not love at the first sight. Luckily , I know my Spyderco for a looooong loooong time and get my sandpaper ready.
I have send it under the tap to avoid any G10 dust which are really toxic for the lungs. Now the handle is suiting my taste.
The last experience I got with thick all-G10 construction knife in the Spyderco Family was the great Manix 2 Lockback (sold for 99 euros !) which was a great hard working folder.
The G10 slabs are much more thick than with the steel liners construction.
“Actually Eric and Tom went over this model with the engineers for quite a while before making the decision to make it liner-less. We’ve done a lot of experimenting lately and you can see a lot in the many different designs and options. It surprises me that some would think to make decisions on values without any experience. if we screwed it up, we’ll fix it, but we don’t screw up often considering the many envelopes we’re willing to push.”
Compared to the Police:
You can compared thick G10 and thinG10+Liners.
As with the steel liner’s knives, there is zero flex and zero play, horizontal or vertical. It is like a vault. (My old Benchmade AFCK BM800HSS got titanium liners and flexes a lot.)
G10 is a really solid material. They even makes stealthy fixed knives with G10 blades… A steel liner could also bend and warp, not a thick G10 slab IMHO. Also the Cold Steel Recon folders are steel linerless and Cold Steel’s Recons are known for their sturdiness. I got an XL Recon and the lack of liner is really not an issue.
The blade, helped by two bronze phosphorous washers, chutes free when unlock which is very reliable and easy to learn to put back the knife in the pocket. It is done smoothly and fast.
It is a very secure way to close your knife.
Let’s not forget: a one hand opening knife needs to be a one hand closing knife. The best example is using a knife at the top of a ladder: you want to be able to get the knife back in the pocket easily and safely.
I’m not a huge fan of the hour glass clips founded on the Native 5 and the Delica/Endura/Paramillie/Para3. It has been immediately replaced mine with a Blade4sell small titanium clip.
Let’s do a family photo:
On the Shaman (“made to be a fairly heavy duty folder. Simple, but stout.” according to Sal), the Chief, the Native and the Lil’ Native my favorite clip is that last one.
The Native family is the no “hump” clan of the Spyderco Catalog.
The Chief is co signed by Eric and Sal.
Back to the Orange Chief, I was not really pleased also by its edge geometry. I felt it thick behind the edge. Even if the knife was razor sharp out of the box, it could not pass my plastic bottle test which consist in cutting the butt of a soda bottle by the center which is thicker.
The thin Manly City was able to do it right out of the box, as were able my Swayback, my PPT or even my Delica too for example… The champions being the Michael Walker and the Nilakka.
It is a matter of “deshouldering”, convexing the edge as always.
Diamonds are super steel best friends.
And now it is able to pass the test. 🙂
But let’s do it again for good measure.
Once thinned with diamonds, I usually strop it for a nice shining results. So far I need more elbow grease but it slowly get better and better.
Also the choil was very sharp to my taste. A little diamond filing and it was much more finger friendly.
So far, the Chief is a slim knife but destined to be very polyvalent. When the Shaman is very outdoors oriented, the Chief finds its place also in the kitchen.
It takes time to built a natural patina on Rex45 but it will come later after some fruits and hot meats.
The orange scales make it very table’s friendly too, despite its very pointy shape which could make sheeples nervous.
In a plate nothing force you to keep the edge perpendicular to the surface. I have found REX45 being hard to dull on plates anyway. It is a very easy going steel.
Another easy going steel is K390 found in the Police Model. You can see it is a tad longer than the Chief with also a thinner stock blade.
The Chief is elegant and certainly one of the most beautiful design in the Spyderco scuderia. Their backlock is so solid, the handle will break before it. Sal Glesser knows that making a longer version of the Native was not as simple as a sketch on a drawing board. You can watch the video at the end of this article about that.