The Calypso 3 in ZDP-189, known as the Caly3, is one of the most beloved knives made by Spyderco, a company with a history of venerated blades.
In many ways, the Caly3 is the most refined knife in the Spyderco catalog, the final step in an evolutionary process that began with the C01 Worker in the mid-80s.
The original Caly3 had VG-10 steel with G10 handles, but the final evolution of the knife uses carbon fiber handles and the Japanese super steel ZDP-189. It is one of the finest production knives ever made, even though it lacks many of the doodads, bells, and whistles that more recent releases have.
If you want cutting performance, ease of carry, and sublime ergonomics, the Caly3 in ZDP-189 has all of it in spades. Its level of refinement and performance places it in the same class as the Chris Reeve Sebenza, a knife more than twice the Caly3’s price.
The Caly3 is out of production, but this one is worth hunting down and still easy to find. If you like bigger blades, the Caly3.5 can also still be found, but it’s not quite as pocket-friendly, running a 3.5-inch blade.
‘Leaf Shape’ Blade
Designed by Sal Glesser, the founder of Spyderco, the Caly3 has a lockback design. The blade shape is what Spyderco calls a “leaf shaped,” meaning that it is something of a pronounced drop point.
The real trick of the Caly3 is the in-hand feel. The knife has a half-and-half finger choil, a curvy handle, and a rounded thumb ramp. There are simply no points or pokey parts anywhere (other than the cutting edge and tip), allowing the user to work comfortably for hours with the Caly3.
Matching this design preference for long work is the ZDP-189 steel (the blade is actually a laminate of very soft stainless steel with a core of ZDP-189; this helps compensate for the high hardness/brittleness of the ZDP-189).
This is a powder metallurgy steel that has an amazing chemical composition. With 3% carbon and 20% chromium, among other things, ZDP-189 has world class edge retention yet does not tarnish or patina like other uber-hard steels (such as M4).
Thanks to the high purity of its ingredients, made possible by the powder metal process, you can use the ZDP-189 for hours without needing to sharpen the knife. In normal EDC use, the Caly3 needs only a quick stropping to keep cutting for weeks. ZDP-189, like all steels with an HRc in the 64-66 range, is a bit of a Faustian bargain though — if you fail to do routine maintenance like stropping, getting the edge back can be a grueling task.
The Caly3’s package is rounded out with a very thin and light handle and an excellent over the top, discrete wire clip. It’s easy in the pocket, just like it is in the hand.
The Calypso 3 may not be the flavor of the week — titanium frame lock flipper’s are trending — but it cuts with precision and maintains that edge forever. Find one, put it in your hand, and you’ll need to buy it. It’s one of my favorite knives ever –production or custom.
Spyderco Calypso 3 Specs
- Price: Discontinued but $150 at online retailers
- Steel: Laminate 420J sides with ZDP-189 core
- Blade Length: 3 inches
- Overall Length: 7 inches
- Weight: 3 ounces