Where can I buy a Spyderco Balisong
Balisong Compendium, Part 2 - Manufacturers and Models
After the first part has dealt with the origin, history and technical concepts of the Balisong, this part of the Balisong Compendium deals with the development of knives over the past forty years. This includes knives from current production as well as the archetypes of the Balisong scene. The range of manufacturers extends from Benchmade and Spyderco to BRS and Jerry HOM. The third and last part shows the butterfly knives in the print media, their role in film and television and ends with a look at the Balisong sport.
Content and overview
The manufacture, import, sale and possession of balisong (butterfly knives) are currently prohibited in Germany. Balisong are prohibited items under the Gun Act; unlawful acquisition or possession is a criminal offense and can result in severe penalties.
Balisong Compendium: Modern Balisong
Today, many companies offer high-quality balisong, with the focus clearly on the USA. There are no limits to the imagination when it comes to blade shapes, handle materials and blade steels, and the choice is no less than that of pocket knives in the upper quality segment. The classic blade steels 154CM and D2 are still widely used today, but powder metallurgical steels have also become widespread in butterfly knives. Limited special models and custom knives are often equipped with Damascus blades.
Since the design of a balisong offers the designer little space for unusual stylistic elements, in addition to the blade shape, the elaborate design of the handle pieces has developed as an element for the individuality of the knife. State-of-the-art manufacturing techniques, careful material selection and creative creativity paired with the highest processing quality are a matter of course in the top class of the Balisong.
Entry into the league of high-quality ("mid-tech") balisong starts at around $ 400 (2019) and can, depending on the handle material, blade steel, design and processing effort, go well over $ 1,000. One-off pieces from well-known custom forges, special models from the major manufacturers or handcrafted small series from limited editions are often even in the mid four-digit dollar range.
Balisong Custom by Darrel Ralph with Damascus blade, based on his model "V8" (Photo: Darrel Ralph)
During the 1970s, tens of thousands of Balisong from Asia, but also from Germany and France, were introduced to the USA. Almost all of them were knives from the lower or at best medium quality segment. At that time there were no high-tech products or hand-made one-offs in these countries.
Initiated by the success of the small company "Bali-Song Inc.", a real scene for high-quality butterfly knives began to develop in the USA in the early 1980s. Little by little, well-known manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon and the entire market segment quickly picked up speed. Well-known manufacturers of Balisong include: Bradley Cutlery, BRS (Blade Runners Systems), Microtech, Roton, Pro-Tech and SWAT, but also knife makers like Jerry HOM or Darrel Ralph.
The (formerly) Californian company Benchmade is associated with the Bali song more than any other well-known name in the knife scene. A look at history shows where the roots of today's global player Benchmade lie and how butterfly knives have enabled and shaped the company's development. How closely the founding and success of Benchmade are linked to the Balisong is described in detail in the article "The Benchmade Story".
In many market segments there are products whose popularity and distribution is so pronounced that they not only dominate their market segment for years, but also de facto form a standard. The VW Beetle belonged to this group many decades ago, as did the ball-head typewriter from IBM in the 1960s and, more recently, Apple's iPod®. Benchmade achieved worldwide success with the model 42, because shortly after its introduction and, so to speak, during its “lifetime”, this knife became a legend. The dream of every knife maker became for company founders Les de Asis reality with his 42 balisong.
The 4x model series was introduced in 2000 and comprises a large number of different balisong, which differ in their different blade shapes, blade steels and handle surfaces. The handles are made of titanium on (almost) all 40s and were milled from a block of titanium. The handles were then skeletonized through six holes. The result is a well-balanced, stable and surprisingly light knife with a weight of approx. 116 grams. The processing of the 40s corresponds to the high standard of Benchmade and the knives of the "4x" series are considered indestructible.
The first 40 model appeared in 2000 with the designation BM42. It already had two typical features of the series with a Weehawk blade and a T-Latch. Right from the start it was enthusiastically received by the Balisong scene and sold like "freshly sliced bread" for 160 dollars. Within a very short time, the Benchmade 42 became the reference for modern balisong.
The knife was offered under the name BM42S with a Weehawk blade and partially serrated edge (Combination Edge or Combo Edge for short). For the 2001 model year, only minimal changes were made (harder pivot screws) and a variant with anodized titanium handles at a price of 180 dollars enriched the range.
In 2002 the Benchmade 42 was offered technically unchanged, but expanded to include models with black titanium handles (BM42 BLK and BM42 SBLK). From 2003, the knives were equipped with a spring-loaded locking lever so that the latch points backwards in a straight extension of the handle when flipping and cannot get between the handles.
In the following years numerous special models and further developments appeared. Any attempt at a complete listing is beyond the scope of this article. Four different blade steels have been used over the years: 154CM, Sandvik 12C27, 440C and D2. The blade shapes include: Weehawk, Tanto, Spear Point, Bowie, Utility, Kukri and Kris, several blade shapes were combined with different steels and / or handles made of cocobolo wood, depending on the year and series.
Some model 40 variants:
- Mod 40T, 40 TR - 2003 - training knife, 40 TR, red colored handles
- Mod 42, 42S - 2000 - Weehawk blade, 154 CM, titanium handles, 42S with combo edge
- Mod 42A - 2001 - Weehawk blade, 154 CM, anodized titanium handles
- Mod 42 BLK, 42S BLK - 2002 - Weehawk blade, 440C, anodized titanium handles
- Mod 42, 42S - 2003 - Weehawk blade 440C, titanium handles, Spring Latch
- Mod 42 SS - 2003 - Weehawk blade, 440C, stainless steel handles, weight: 221 grams
- Mod 43, Bowie blade, 440C, titanium handles, Spring Latch
- Mod. 46, Spear Point Blade, 440C, titanium handles, Spring Latch
- Mod 47, Tanto blade, 440C, titanium handles, Spring Latch
- Mod. 41, Kukri blade, 440C, titanium handles, Spring Latch
- Mod. 48, utility blade, 440C, titanium handles, spring latch
- Mod. 49, Kris blade, 440C, titanium handles, Spring Latch
Production of the 4x model series was discontinued at the end of 2009; this series is mentioned for the last time in the 2009 catalog. The knife scene was speechless. The 42 was for many years one of the best mass-produced balisong in the world and firmly established in the market. At the end of 2008, knives from the 4x model series, whether with Weehawk, Spear Point, Bowie or Tanto blades, cost 280 dollars.
Immediately after the rumor that the series would be discontinued proved true, prices soared. Today you can't get an old 40 in good condition for less than $ 500; in top condition, up to $ 750 is demanded and paid for. Models with rare blade shapes, anodized titanium handles or "Limited Edtions" can be significantly more expensive.
Amazed by the market response and driven by the indignation of knife fans, Benchmade launched small special series of the Model 42 in 2010 and again in 2011. Apparently there were still enough materials in the warehouse to build more knives of the 4x series. It can be doubted whether the old machines and / or production facilities still existed after 2009.
The quality of the knives from both special series does not come close to the high level of the first series and many customers reacted with harsh criticism. The surface of the titanium handles is significantly rougher in the new editions and the handling does not come close to the old series models. Anyone looking to buy a 42 should make sure that it was produced before 2010.
In 2009, Benchmade presented a successor with the Model 51. In contrast to other benchmade balisongs, the knife also has a name: "Morpho". The name stands for a genus of butterflies to which 29 species belong. Déjà-vu for readers of the first part - again the number 29.
Morpho butterflies belong to the noble butterfly family and are found in various regions of Central and South America. The best-known representative of this genus is the "blue morpho butterfly", whose bright blue, metallic shimmering wing tops make it an unmistakable appearance.
From a technical point of view, the Benchmade Morpho is quite a treat. The spear point blade made of D2 steel is 108 mm long, with only 2.5 mm thickness for a balisong relatively thin. It is hardened to 61 HRC, easy to cut and sharp like a scalpel.
The carrying clip is made of the same titanium as the two liners and shows the Benchmade lettering without a logo. The locking lever can be brought into a kind of parking position with the aid of a spring, so that it cannot get between the handles when flipping the knife. A special feature of the Morpho is that the latch opens automatically, i.e. the locking lever snaps open with the aid of a spring when you gently squeeze the handles of the locked knife. At just under 94 grams, the Morpho is one of the lightest balisongs of this size on the market.
The handles of the knife are a feast for the eyes: Analogous to the blue-black wings of the butterfly, they consist of light blue anodized titanium plates (English liners) and skeletonized scales made of black G10.
The surfaces of the titanium plates are ground in a complex machining process so that they have special reflective properties. The sunburst finish makes the titanium liners of the Morpho look particularly elegant.
The Benchmade model 32 "Mini-Morpho" is the little brother of the 51 with its 82 mm blade. The small company offers morphos for both Flytanium Polished titanium handle scales. owner Jacob Knudsen started his own business a few years ago with the production of “tuning parts” for Benchmade Balisong. Its titanium handle scales are technically perfect and give every knife not only a noble look, but often also a better balance. The weight of the Morpho increases with the conversion to Flytanium handle scales from 94 grams to 125 grams.
The 6x series was introduced by Benchmade in 2012. Although not directly presented as the successor to the 4x model range, they are always compared with them. The most obvious difference between the two series is the handle material used. Instead of titanium, the handles of the "6" series are made of stainless steel using layer technology.
No other parameter influences the handling of a balisong as effectively as its weight. The larger mass of the knife not only requires significantly more force in the fingers and forearm, it also leads to deep cuts in the fingers of the Balisong user if a "move" lacks perfect precision. A weight difference of 60 grams may not sound dramatic, but in practice the difference is extremely noticeable.
Heavy balisong have always had their supporters and their opponents, it's a kind of religious war. When the handles of a 62s close with a swing while flipping, you think you can hear a safe door slam into the lock. To do this, the “manipulator” needs significantly more force to move the knife around its fingers seemingly weightlessly and playfully. When applied to cars, the models 42 and 62 behave like a sporty convertible to an off-road vehicle.
The “good” old D2 is used as the blade steel for the knives of the 6x series. There are currently three different blade shapes on offer: BM62 with Weehawk blade, BM43 with Bowie blade and BM67 with Tanto blade. The list price (as of 2019) for a knife from the 6x series is an impressive 355 dollars. A training knife that is identical in terms of size and weight is offered under the name BM62T.
Some manufacturers have achieved great success with their balisong, others have tried this type of knife and could not make a success story out of their commitment. Spyderco belongs to this group and has an interesting history in terms of balisong. For almost two decades, Spyderco completely ignored the butterfly knife market, while Benchmade and other manufacturers achieved respectable sales in this segment year after year.
Finally, Spyderco surprised the Balisong scene in the second half of 2003 when the "Spyderfly" model was announced. The knife was presented in the 2004 catalog under the SKU "B01".
Spyderco has worked with numerous well-known knifemakers in its company history and in this way integrated a lot of external know-how into its products. Spyderco's first balisong was home grown and was designed by Eric Glesser. In contrast to his father, he has an affinity for Balisong and is not clumsy with these knives.
You blades and other individual parts of the Spyderfly were manufactured in Japan and assembled at the company's headquarters in Golden, Colorado. Cooperation with Japanese suppliers had a long tradition at Spyderco and many knife models with the imprint "Seki, Japan" were considered to be of high quality and were well received by customers. The first batches of the Spyderfly had blades made of VG-10 steel, later editions were made with blades made of 440C.
Spyderco B01 "Spyderfly" in the rare fully anodized version
It was not the look or the choice of material that made the knife fail with Balisong enthusiasts, but its moderate balance. Only a few fans attested the knife had a good "swing"; it was regularly panned out in the scene. The average balance of the knife and the below-average workmanship for Spyderco limited the group of buyers. Only a small series, elaborately anodized by hand and assembled in Golden, Colorado, could convince in terms of quality. Ultimately, however, the knife failed to achieve economic success.
Unfortunate marketing was not part of the failure. At first it was difficult for potential buyers to place an order for the “Spyderfly” at all, and it was just as difficult to receive the knife they ordered later. After the initial edition of around 1000 units had been delivered, a considerable number of complaints arose within a very short time, as some parts manufactured abroad did not meet the quality requirements of the customers.
The import of Balisong parts was also a disaster for Spyderco in other ways. Components for balisong are subject to similar import regulations in the USA as parts for firearms. Due to ignorance and formal errors, Spyderco got entangled in the jungle of import, sales and export regulations and was fined $ 75,000 by US Customs.
The knife was then moved from the main catalog to the S&S catalog and no longer publicly advertised. The term "S&S" stands for "Save and Serve". Products in this category are aimed at police and military personnel and are typically not sold or exported to civilians. After the Spyderfly attracted little attention in the S&S catalog for two years and the worldwide Balisong scene favored other products, Spyderco removed the knife from its range in 2007 without comment.
In the Spyderco Forum, the "B01" was heavily discussed under numerous aspects. When, while researching for this article, I wanted to read old forum threads and comments from Sal Glesser about the "Spyderfly" in the Spyderco forum, I was amazed to find that all the relevant threads are no longer archived, in other words: the whole unfortunate one The knife's history has been erased.
Parallel to the "Spyderfly", Spyderco manufactured the B03, "Szabofly" model in 2005 and 2006. It comes from the collaboration with the Hungarian knife designer Laci Szabo, with which Spyderco has carried out several successful collaborations. The first batch of less than 1000 pieces, like the older "B01", had a blade made of VG-10 steel, was initially listed in the customer catalog and sold for $ 149.95.
The second batch of Szabofly was offered in 2008 and 2009 via the S&S catalog at a hefty price premium for 299.95 dollars and had a blade made of 154CM steel and matted stainless steel handles.
The design of Laci Szabo is extraordinary and the knife has a high recognition value.
Sales were still sluggish, neither of the Szabofly variants aroused great enthusiasm in the Balisong scene. Resharpening the relatively strongly curved cutting edge requires special equipment and deterred many knife enthusiasts, the balance of the Szabofly was and is controversial. So the knife with the bold, avant-garde design remained a wallflower. After four years, Spyderco seemed to be completely disaffected and unsophisticatedly withdrew the model from the market. Maybe too early: Today many collectors would like to put a B01 or a Szabofly in their showcase.
For the sake of completeness, the “B02, Smallfly” model should be mentioned, a shrunk version of the Spyderfly with a three-inch blade. The Balisong scene liked to call the "B02" "Babyfly", refused to buy it and the knife disappeared silently and just as suddenly as it came.
In order to be able to advertise their Balisong models without clashing with the (then) rather restrictive laws in some US states and abroad, Spyderco manufactured a ballpoint pen in Balisong shape under the name "BaliYo".
Since many of these pens were given as promotional gifts, the construction was made of cheap plastic, was only moderately freaky and therefore hardly helped the marketing. Nevertheless, one occasionally hears gossipers in the Balisong scene that the "BaliYo" is the only Balisong that Spyderco has managed to some extent ...
Today all Spyderco Balisong can be interesting for collectors, especially completely anodized copies of the B01 are rare and coveted by collectors. An interesting footnote on the side: The only mention of the term "Balisong" on the Spyderco homepage can be found in the glossary today, all other entries for butterfly knives manufactured by Spyderco have been completely deleted and do not even appear in the "Discontinued Products" section.
The company founded in Vero Beach, Florida in 1994 achieved greater success with Balisong Microtech. Even before moving to Pennsylvania in 2005, Microtech began producing the first Bali songs in addition to its famous folders and martial combat knives. Two models are currently being produced in different versions.
The top version of the "Metalmark" is a construction with slightly curved handles made of titanium, which were originally combined with a blade made of Elmax (later serial numbers have a S35VN blade). In accordance with their motto "to manufacture the best possible knives", Microtech mills the handles in a monocoque construction from one piece of titanium. The shape of the blade is extremely distinctive and guarantees the knife a high recognition value.
The design of the Microtech Tachyon I was often copied and influences the appearance of modern balisong to this day.
The second model by Microtech with the name "Tachyon" is based on a design from the year 2000. Visually, it is more conservative than the avant-garde "Metalmark" and represents the typical American shape of modern Balisong. A further developed version appeared in 2012 under the name "Tachyon 2" and is an exclusive model for the company "Blade HQ". With a blade length of 11 cm and a total length of a good 25 cm, the "Tachyon 2" is not exactly one of the small balisongs. The Tachyon III is currently in production. The price ranges from the popular $ 300 to four-digit amounts depending on the execution and amount of manual labor.
The special model “Marfione Custom Metalmark Damascus” is at the upper end of the price range. The finest materials are combined in this knife, the anodized titanium handles enclose a blade made of Damascus Devin Thomas. All blades are made from Anthony Marfione Made entirely by hand, which guarantees not only quality but also lasting value. For so much exclusivity, however, the knife fan has to put more than 2,000 euros on the counter.
Blade Runners Systems
A very interesting little company in the Balisong market is the one from the end of 2012 Edward Anthonis founded company BRS. The abbreviation stands for "Blade Runners Systems", a subtle play on words with reference to the film "Blade Runner" in the 1980s. BRS was founded by Balisong enthusiasts, people who regard the use of this knife as an art and a personal challenge. The objective of BRS is concise but clear: “An driven by the input of the Balisong professionals to produce the best possible knives". With this claim, the young company has set the bar high, because they compete against experienced and very successful competitors in a highly competitive market.
Passion sells! The first model from Belfast in the US state of Maine with the name "Alpha Beast" hit the small Balisong world like a bomb. Not that BRS has reinvented the wheel, neither new materials nor unusual design characterize the "beast".
In addition to good materials and excellent workmanship, the values of this knife are perfect balance and good handling. A balisong for athletes and fans. The knife world received the "Alpha Beast" very positively and it jumped onto the podium out of nowhere in the hit list of high-tech butterflies. Despite the price of 370 dollars, it is permanently sold out and many Balisong lovers have it at the top of their personal hit lists.
Shortly after the appearance of the "Alpha Beast" - scene slang: BRSAB - the Balisong was revised and improved again. The edges of the BRSAB 2.0 are rounded a little more hand-friendly, all screws are glued in, the axle screw has been reinforced and the manufacturing tolerances have been reduced again.
With a blade length of 4.5 inches (11.4 cm), a total length of 9.875 inches (24.9 cm) and a weight of around 145 grams, the parameters of the "Alpha Beast" are in the midfield. The handles are made of solid titanium and are put together as "layer-type handles" using screws and spacers. The blade is made of the well-known 154CM steel, in my opinion the only drawback of this knife. A powder metallurgical steel or SB1 would go much better with this knife.
In 2014, BRS presented its second model with the name "Replicant". It has an "American Tanto blade, a design that is based on the classic Tanto blade and has elements of a clip point blade. As with the very successful Benchmade “Morpho”, the handles are made of titanium liners with G-10 or carbon layers. The somewhat simpler choice of materials leads to a retail price of 270 dollars and places the "Replicant" in the entry-level class of high-quality balisong.
Knives with the Bradley Cutlery emblem are common in American knife shops. Bradley rather serves the middle price segment. “Mayhem” and “Kimura” are the names of the two current models from Bradley, which are mainly sold through the major Internet dealers. Bradley calls himself "Cutlery" finished but not his knives himself. The "Mayhem" is made to order at Benchmade and is not a bad knife in terms of quality. However, there is hardly anything that speaks against buying the original instead of a Bradley. The "Kimura" model is manufactured by Kershaw Knives, so one must assume that essential or all parts of the knife come from Chinese production.
Other manufacturers in the USA
Of course, the number of suppliers of butterfly knives in the USA is considerably larger and - which is astonishing for many knife fans in the EU - the market is growing steadily. Newly founded companies and established manufacturers without a Balisong tradition are turning to this market segment. One example is the Californian manufacturer Pro-Tech Knives. The company was founded shortly before the turn of the millennium and made a name for itself in the knife scene in the following years, primarily with one-hand and switchblade knives.
After just a few years, Pro-Tech was able to become a supplier for the military and authorities, primarily through clever marketing, and secure a place at the table of the major manufacturers. Butterfly knives were never part of the company's model range, but in 2012 Pro-Tech announced the launch of their first Bali song. The knife bears the name "FlyFather", which is an allusion to the top model "Godfather".
Visually simple and yet chic, the Flyfather appeals to a wide range of buyers with its modern design. First, a limited edition of the knife with a 154CM blade and milled titanium handles appeared at a price of 700 dollars. The first edition was offered exclusively through BladeHQ and was sold out within a few days.
Good and rarely available in Europe: Balisong by 29er Knives
A good address for Balisong is "29 Knives". The reference to the number 29 reflects the name "veintineuve" for the butterfly knife. Company founder Chris Olofson has the Balisong philosophy of bringing old and new values into harmony with modern materials and processing techniques. The knives from 29 Knives always have a classic shape with round or oval monochoque handles, which are always made from modern and very high-quality materials. Stainless steel, titanium, carbon and colored G-10 are typical handle materials for 29 knives, which are very often combined with blades made from ATS-34.
Hardly any other manufacturer of balisong has as many different blade shapes on offer as 29 knives. In addition to Cutlass, Kris, Weehawk and the rare Hawkbill blade, there are numerous variations of the Tanto blade. Knives from "29 Knives" are in the upper three-digit dollar range and have one major disadvantage: they are hard to find. Whenever a dealer offers a knife from this company in his online shop, it has already been sold. The company name of 29 Knives could also be “Out of Stock”.
Those who would like to spend a little more money on a balisong can find what they are looking for at a number of well-known noble forges. Darrel Ralph manufactures custom and semi-custom balisongs, which are characterized by exquisite materials and often also by elaborate decorations. The abbreviation "DDR" on the blades of Darrel Ralph is a bit confusing for German ears, but has no connection with hammer and sickle, but is an abbreviation for the company name Design Darrel Ralph.
The Texan makes many blades from hand-picked damask. The perfect grain of the Damascus blades by Darrel Ralph is legendary, as is the quality of his knives. Darrel Ralph's entry into the Balisong market took place a few years ago as part of a cooperation called "Gemini" with Chuck Gollnick produced a small run of handcrafted Customs.
Lots of knives from Darrel Ralph
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