Sometimes you grab a knife and you just know it is a serious cutting tool. This is certainly the case with the Spyderco Slysz Bowie. The frame lock concept, developed more than 25 years ago by Chris Reeve, is considered to be the ultimate construction of a folding knife. It is simple, yet effective as part of the thick titanium handle slab forms the locking mechanism. As a consequence, the harder you work and the more pressure you put on the handle, the sturdier the lock becomes.
The Slysz Bowie was designed by Marcin Slysz, a talented knife maker from Poland. I have had the pleasure to play with his custom Bowie folder and I must say that the Spyderco version is as close to the real deal as possible. It includes even some of the finer details like the backspacer jimping pattern and handle contouring. It is a typical EDC sized folder with a blade length of 3.4 inches and a handle length of 4.5 inches. I will not bore you with the technical description and detailed specifications, as you can find it on the Spyderco website.
The first thing that jumps out at you when checking the specifications is…the suggested retail price of almost $500…wow! Especially considering it is an imported knife that is manufactured in Taiwan. But don’t worry, first of all it is just MSRP and regular street/net price is closer to $300, so it is reasonably priced for what it is. Additionally, the Spyderco factory in Taichung is a state of the art facility, producing some of the best Spydercos ever, so rest assured it is premium made. Titanium frame locks have never been cheap to start with and considering the fully contoured Spyderco Slysz Bowie’s handle, the cost is not just in materials but precise 3D sculpturing, which not only requires additional time but advanced ( and expensive) CNC machinery. Though, the materials do add their fair share to the cost being made up of hi-tech blade material (CTS-XHP high performance powder technology steel), bronze washers and a machined G10 back spacer…yeah, the Slysz Bowie cannot be a cheap knife, sorry. So let us check if it really holds up to the promise made indicated by the price tag!
Overall shape and size is very anatomical and provides the user with a very positive grip. The titanium handle has been finished with a coarse, semi-matte stonewash, which has been darkened a bit during the process. Even without a heavy surface texture, the knife is not too slippery. It still looks good and does not destroy your pocket during clipping/drawing, which is often the case with overly textured handles on many knives today. Handle cleaning is easy, which is important when you plan to use the knife in your camp kitchen or as a skinning blade. There is a clearly pronounced guard and G10 backspacer with exposed jimpings, so it is really a safe knife design. If you grip the knife properly with a firm grip there is no chance your fingers end up on the [sharp!] cutting edge. Also, a reverse grip is very comfortable with thumb supported on backspacer’s texture. Last but not least, if you would like (or need) to keep your knife leashed, there is a lanyard hole big enough for standard paracord lanyard.
Above is a photos of a full hammer grip. As you can see, it fits really well in my big hands.
As I mentioned before, the handle is contoured, comfortably rounded and slightly curved, Marcin Slysz must have really studied the anatomy of the human hand. The opening hole is well exposed by the handle cut-out and it is optimized for right hand opening. However, there is a big part of the hole exposed when knife is closed, which also allows it to be opened with the left hand without too much of an issue. Sure, it is not a fully ambidextrous design but since the clip can be positioned for left-pocket carry we can call it at least a left-hand friendly folder. Wire clip is a personal thing aesthetically, but its functionality is really great. It keeps the knife in place and allows for quite a deep pocket carry, meaning low visibility, which is an important factor to consider these days. The wire clip is not obvious, making it difficult to spot and the matte finish ensures it blends nicely with casual jeans. It really almost disappears on my classic 501’s! It is a titanium frame lock so it is by no means lightweight, but thanks to the handle sculpturing it is reasonably flat and does not feel heavy in the pocket. I have been carrying it in the office every Friday for last couple of months and I have never been asked about what I had in my pocket (which was not always the case with some of my other EDC folders).
The blade is the essence of a knife. It should be sharp and cut well. There is a trend today to use more and more modern steels made by hi-tech powder metallurgy facilities. Spyderco has always been a very innovative company (they invented modern pocket clip, did you know that?) so they follow the trend. The Slysz Bowie has been fitted with the CTS-XHC hi-tech steel which is manufactured by a US based metallurgy company, Carpenter.
XHC blends the best corrosion resistance of 440C with the toughness of tool steel and the edge holding of D2 steel! It is a state-of-the-art alloy hardened to 61-62 hrc, so you can expect perfect edge holding and great overall performance. Full flat grinds, perfectly even on both sides, make this knife a real slicer, typical of the spyderco-razor-sharp out of the box reputation. Of course it will eventually dull with use and it will need sharpening, for which you should invest in a quality diamond sharpener. You could use a standard ceramic sharpener as well but I strongly suggest the diamond sharpener for anything above 59 hrc, as it makes the process much easier and more efficient. To make it a really aggressive cutter, I do not polish the edge, as the micro-serrations on the cutting edge are a good thing. This means that a fine diamond rod or stone is all you would really need. The best solution is Spyderco Triangle Sharpmaker with diamond rods and it is my personal recommendation. The Bowie blade shape (hence the name) has nice belly, a rounded spine and thumb support jimpings. It is a classic blade shape with very good blade-to-handle ratio.
So how does it perform? I really enjoy working with this knife. I have been carrying Spyderco Slysz Bowie for about six months now, which has given me ample time to develop an opinion of it. I have been using it in the forest, in the office and also in the mountains. I even took it with me on a snowy winter mountaineering trip and tried to operate it in sub-zero conditions with gloves. The Bowie performed with no problem at all as the hole is big enough to allow one hand opening even in winter gloves. I have used it in the camp kitchen to chop food, slice meat, etc.
My Bowie has cut countless pieces of paracord and other kinds of string; I have used it for whittling, box opening, and I also tested it on a garden hose…it was not as relaxing as chopping chives of course but easy enough to cut several pieces one after another. Feels great and secure in the hand, the frame lock (called the Reeve Integral Lock by Spyderco) has never failed and the blade runs smooth.
Take look at the whittling performance shown in the photo above. The blade yields long even cuts that are clear and straight. It is not very often you can see these kind of hardwood shavings.
The Spyderco Slysz Bowie is certainly not a typical tactical knife with its fine cutting blade, so if you are looking for a tank-folder you might need to look elsewhere. However, if you need a high-performance utility cutter for your next hike, hunt, or just for EDC use, look no more! I have bought my first Slysz Bowie and really did not hesitate to dish out three 100 dollar bills for it, as it was money well spent! I later received another as a friendly gift so now I keep one in my country cabin as a backup folder in case I go there directly from the office with nothing more than a gentleman’s folder in my back pocket. I think this is one of the best utility production knives money can buy today and a street price of $300 is more than justified. If you were to pair this with a hefty fixed blade you are most certainly covered for any kind of outdoor adventure, even through Amazon jungle!