In this review, we’re going to examine the Spyderco UKPK knife and see how this lightweight blades compares to the likes of the Caly 3 and Delica when it comes to everything from blade steel and handle to multiple different uses and tasks.
Now, it’s important to know that, in my opinion, the Caly 3 is one of the best designs in Spyderco’s cataloge. It combines an elegant form and superlative function into an irresistible package. Really the only negative that could be leveled against the Caly 3 is that, at $150, it is out of many people’s price range.
One of the best kept secrets of the knife world is that there’s a much cheaper version of the Caly 3 available—1/3 the price of the standard model, in fact. This version of the Caly 3 is more than an ounce lighter, too. Sure, the materials are less exclusive, and it’s a slipjoint, but you can live with that for a $50 Caly 3, right?
It’s called the UK Penknife Lightweight. It was designed to be a UK-legal pocket knife, but because it is the Caly 3 by another name, it is worth looking into no matter where you live.
Below, use our table to compare the Spyderco UKPK to other great knives (such as the Spyderco Urban, the Ambitious and more):
$ = $1 – $30 | $$ = $31 – $60 | $$$ = $61 and above
|Spyderco UKPK||CTS BD1||3" blade||$$||4.9/5|
|Spyderco Urban||N690Co stainless steel||2.61” blade||$$||5.0/5|
|Spyderco Ambitious||8Cr13MoV||2.25” blade||$$||4.7/5|
|Spyderco Caly 3.5||ZDP-189 steel||3.5" blade||$$$||4.1/5|
|Spyderco Cara Cara 2||8Cr13MoV steel||3.75'' blade||$||4.4/5|
|Spyderco Delica 4||VG-10||7.125”||$$||4.7/5|
|Spyderco Dragonfly 2 FRN||ZDP-189||2.25” blade||$$$||4.7/5|
History of the Spyderco UKPK
The UK Penknife was originally released in 2004. Although the knife laws in the US vary from state to state, in few places are they as restrictive as they are across the United Kingdom. Essentially, you cannot carry a knife with a blade over 3”, and it cannot have a lock on it. You can imagine how hard this makes life for knife knuts in the UK.
Spyderco, the most globally-minded of the big knife makers, designed the original UKPK, in G10 and with an S30V blade, in accordance with those restrictions, and the knife was popular enough to warrant the release of many different variations, including the Lightweight line, which are made of linerless FRN. There are five different models of the UKPKLW:
- Leaf Blade Shape (the model reviewed)
- Drop point blade shape
- SpyderEdge (serrated) model, either blade shape
- CombinationEdge model, either blade shape
- PlainEdge model, either blade shape.
Each of these variations can have blue, gray, or maroon scales. Moreover, there is a newer model with a full flat ground blade and black scales. In short, there is no end to the variety if the UKPKLW piques your interest. However, the leaf-bladed model, because it so closely resembles the Caly 3, is my favorite.
Below, please take a moment to view some of the best-selling pocket knives currently for sale on Amazon:
The UKPKLW’s ergonomics are sublime. Contoured in the right places and with an excellent forward finger choil: like the Caly 3, there is a lot to like here.
In fact, the UKPKLW may have better ergonomics than the Caly 3. They have the same exact handle shape, but the FRN of the UKPKLW fills the hand better than the carbon fiber and steel of the Caly 3. Also, it appears that the choil on the UKPKLW, while shorter, is cut just a skoche deeper, meaning that your finger is further away from the beginning of the edge; a very nice touch.
If you compare the UKPKLW to the Urban, another knife designed to conform with strict laws, the UKPKLW comes out on top. The Urban also borrows the general lines of the Caly 3 but, being smaller than the UKPKLW, it feels just a little cramped comparatively.
All three of these knives, of course, are better in the hand than the awkward Delica 4. No choil, odd finger grooves, and a narrower handle all work against the Delica 4 in this category.
The UKPKLW, has a leaf blade shape. This is a Spyderco original, and a great performer in EDC tasks. Unlike the Caly 3, which has a full flat grind, the UKPKLW is hollow ground. Now there are merits to both, but, if I had my druthers, I’d want the UKPKLW with a flat grind—which they do make now.
On a knife of this size I find the overall performance to be more well-rounded with a full flat grind. All that being said, the hollow ground UKPKLW is still a great slicer, better than the Urban (I think this is more a matter of size than grind, however), and way better than the Delica 4. The Caly 3 outperforms it, but not by so much that it would matter to the average user.
Here’s where it gets interesting. The Caly 3 is made from ZDP-189. Seen on high quality kitchen knives, this Japanese super steel is basically without peer when it comes to sheer slicing ability. So we can say that the Caly 3 wins out here over the UKPKLW.
The Urban is made from N690Co, a great European steel. It has better all-around performance than the CTS-BD1 of the UKPKLW. It holds an edge longer, and is comparably rust-resistant.
Now all that being said, CTS-BD1 is an excellent steel. It gets super sharp. It won’t retain that hyper-keen edge for very long, but as you use it, it gets a little toothy, so that it remains an aggressive cutter long after that initial edge wears down. Most knives that get toothy tend to perform poorly with detail work, but CTS-BD1 still performs admirably when I need to slice paper or food or perform other delicate tasks.
It’s nice to see Spyderco trying out some other steels in their sub-$100 knives; CTS-BD1 is certainly better than the VG-10 on the Delica 4, arguably the definitive sub-$100 Spyderco blade (although I don’t know why).
The UKPKLW, true to its name, weighs under 2 oz. That’s over an ounce less than the Caly 3, half an ounce less than the Delica 4, and the same weight as the Urban. To get an almost 3” blade in such a lightweight package is incredible. Now, part of that weight savings comes from the fact that there isn’t any kind of locking mechanism (we’ll talk more about that below), but it is still an impressive number.
In the pocket, that light weight really helps to make the UKPKLW disappear. No Spyderco I’ve ever carried, besides the Dragonfly 2, has totally disappeared in the pocket, just because they tend to be wider than most knives to accommodate the Spyder Hole, but the UKPKLW comes mighty close.
The UKPKLW, like the Urban, is a slipjoint knife. This means that, like swiss army pocket knives, there is nothing to stop the blade from closing when enough pressure is applied to the spine of the knife.
I understand many people’s reticence with slipjoint knives, but in EDC tasks, the UKPKLW will not close on you. The forward half-and-half choil puts your finger in the gap between blade and handle, so it couldn’t close without a ton of pressure being placed on the spine.
Additionally, in more demanding tasks like breaking down a cardboard box, you’re making push cuts, which are the safest cuts to make with a slipjoint because they push in the same direction that the blade moves to stay open.
Both the Delica 4 and the Caly 3 are lockbacks. If you like the UKPKLW’s design but want a lock, the Caly 3 is your knife.
Spyderco’s catalogue is full of odd, experimental knives. And although the UKPKLW is popular, I think of it as one of those experiments: it took one of their best, most popular designs, and stripped away the glamour, simplified the materials, and took away the lock. I had the UKPKLW for a year before I realized that it was essentially a Caly 3. Compared to other Spyderco designs in the $40-$50 range, the UKPKLW is extraordinarily refined. It is not without its quirks, but if the lack of a lock doesn’t bother you and you are considering something like the Delica 4, I think you’d be much better served with the UKPKLW.
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