It’s not often a knife review is really about a new steel. But the Spyderco Native with the brand’s exclusive SPY27 blade is just that.
Two trends drive knife production right now: small, limited runs (known in the industry as “sprints”) and the use of ever more exotic steels — from versatile stainless steels to ultra-hard, rust-be-damned, high-carbon tool steels. When you combine these two trends, you end up with highly coveted knives that collectors pursue in a Pokemon-like fever.
But Spyderco outdid everyone in 2020 when it announced an exclusive steel, CPM SPY27. Here is a technical writeup from the internet knife community’s most beloved scientist, Knife Steel Nerds. As the writeup makes clear, SPY27 is designed to be a good all-around knife steel that’s actually user-serviceable. Unlike virtually all high-end steels on the market today, this is a powder steel that sharpens like 440C.
Spyderco released a Para 3 with SPY27 earlier in 2020, but the handle shape and the Compression Lock forced me to skip the Para 3 for the next SPY27 knife — the ergonomically superior Native 5. The moment it dropped (I know because I set a calendar reminder), one was on its way.
Spyderco Native 5 in SPY27
The bones of the Native 5 LW (LW: lightweight) are exceptional — light, compact, and slice-y. The clip, a standard spoon-style Spyderco clip, could use an update, but it’s effective. Lockbacks are definitely not on-trend right now, but they’re ambidextrous, easy to operate, and can be closed without fingers in the blade path. And honestly, the Native 5’s lockback is great.
If you need a midsize folder, the Native 5 should be on your shortlist.
But this isn’t really about the knife; it’s about its steel. I’ve had the Native 5 for 2 weeks, and I’ve put it through its paces, using it in my woodworking shop, doing food and fire prep, and breaking down boxes for recycling.
I’ve used this knife exclusively and have gone out of my way to find cutting tasks. The SPY27 held its edge quite well, roughly the equivalent of S35VN. It was also quite resistant to corrosion.
After a bunch of cutting, it lost its hair-popping edge. So I took it to the Ken Onion Work Sharp, and after a few passes, the knife was back to laser-sharp. The key was time.
While S35VN in this state would have taken more than 30 or 40 passes on various belts to get back to a keen edge, the SPY27 took around 10 passes on the highest-grit belt I had, and it was effectively a razor. This difference is important — SPY27 is basically S35VN that sharpens like 1.4116 or 440C. It’s a super-steel that keeps sharpening and has user maintenance in mind.
This experience matches up with Knife Steel Nerds’ data, meaning my experience is probably representative of the steel as a whole.
If you’re looking for a good EDC folder and you actually use and sharpen your own stuff, the Native 5 LW in SPY27 is probably the best choice on the market.
This is an easy choice. Its price, around $130, is very fair for what you get on the market today. Highly recommend!