I've carried the CRKT production version of Alan Folts S.P.E.W. for several days at work stocking the endless shelves of my dark corporate masters. Ai, profit! While, certainly not the sort of job that one respects, it is a good habitat to judge the abilities of a blade.
The E in SPEW stands for Every Day Carry and being carried is exactly what this knife excels at. The excellent sheath system and the fantastic ergonomics of the knife itself work together to produce awesome results. The sheath system as mentioned before is solid for both belt and pocket carry. It retains well, but also isn't hard to get out when needed. The opening has something of a flair that awesome for a bit better re-sheathing once you're used to it. The jimping, the handle shape, and the textured G10 scales are a one-two-three punch that cannot be denied. The grip contour and choil provide excellent and secure purchase for the hand to pull this blade free even without thumbing the sheath off. The jimping, while partially obsurced, keeps the thumb in the proper position. Lastly, the g10 grips have an excellent rough texture that will keep this stable in a sweaty palm. Also, the light weight and small size certainly contributed their fair share of making this blade a true joy to carry.
I knew that the blade steel would weak point of this knife from the beginning. I found the edge catching on plastic wrap. While, it cut paper at first, it did so very jaggedly. It would cut cardboard but rapidly started to loose cutting power. 5Cr15MoV is similar to 420HC which is found in many Gerber blades. It is soft and has paltry .45% of carbon content versus the .75% of AUS-8 which along with 440C serve as the base standard for quality knife steels. It is a soft steel, that I, and other reviewers, found hard to put a good edge on.
Dan at Blade Reviews managed to finally get a decent paper cutting edge after using his considerably greater knowledge and skill of sharpening. Whereas, my skills are very poor and Irely upon a set of lansky Crock Sticks, to take care of my sharpening needs. While, quickly able to restore my AUS-8 and 154CM blades to a proper edge quickly, I was unable to get a good edge on the SPEW myself. However, at work, an ex-meat cutter used a honing steel from the meat cutting room and managed to give the blade enough to barely, poorly shave my arm hair. My Benchmade Griptilian did a better job after 15 minutes on my crock sticks. I have long held that one of advantages for a wharncliffe is ease of sharpening. Sadly, using this steel, I can't say that for the SPEW.
In the end, I grudgingly pronounce this a decent blade at a fair price. However, I say this with clenched teeth and glare angrily at CRKT. This design is flat out one of the best I've had to opportunity to handle and use. The ergonomics and sheath are spot on for what an awesome carry knife should be. They make up partially for the poor choice of blade steel and allow this to be a decent knife, but it should have been an awesome production knife.
It is deeply frustrating that CRKT decided to adhere to a price point rather than go the extra mile and tack on maybe $10 more to the price to provide this with at least something equal to AUS-8 or 440C. Right now, I should be raving about how you all should be hitting BladeHQ, Knife Center, Ebay, and Amazon ordering this knife. It kills me after falling in love with this knives good points. Fortunately, the SPEW is not one of Alan Folts' more expensive custom blades. GP Knives list several with various kinds of G10 grips and in the excellent ATS-34 blade steel for the very reasonable price range of $155-180. If I had the money to spend, I would not hesitate to order one.