3-28-2017

Spyderco Mule Team blades

Now we are onto a whole new thing.

These are blades without handles sold at a nice price to showcase various interesting knife steels. This is just a cool thing done by Spyderco to cater to "knife steel junkies" and folks with a "do it yourself" bone in their body. The original price is typically around $70.

If you go looking for one of the sold out versions, you will find them selling for $110 and up to cater to folks collecting the unusual versions. There is an unhappy problem with people buying these to "flip" them and it has been discussed in the "flipping" thread linked below.

The blade length is 3.46 inches. Overall length is 7.63 inches. A typical blade weighs about 3 ounces.

When the first (MT1) was announced, it was said that quantity would be limited to 600 pieces. Some have been more limited (in one case due to manufacturing issues), and one run went to 1000 pieces. At any event they are scarce and special items.

The series is up to MT24 as of 3/28/2017.

I ordered an MT22 in RWL34 on 3/28/2017. The price was $69.95 plus $13 shipping. So it pays to order something else, but ordering two Mule Teams to get free shipping no longer works as Spyderco wants a $150 order to offer free shipping.

I was surprised when my MT22 arrived that it was made at Spyderco's Taiwan facility. This is entirely fine by me though, as I am well aware that some of Spyderco's finest knives are made in Taichung. The MT23 is also made in Taichung. But this varies with each mule, some are made in the USA and one was even made in China.

MT23 in CPM-20CV

Spyderco's twenty-third Mule Team installment features CPM 20CV steel, a highly wear resistant, powder metallurgy stainless tool steel. CPM 20CV is unique in that it contains a high volume of vanadium carbides and the highest amount of chromium of any high-vanadium stainless steel currently available. This potent combination of elements gives it a remarkable combination of high wear resistance, superior corrosion resistance, good impact toughness, and excellent polishability. These properties are maximized by the powder metallurgy process, which ensures an extremely clean steel with small carbides and a very fine grain size.

CPM 20CV excels in industrial applications that demand high wear resistance and high corrosion resistance, such as plastic injection feed screws, barrel liners, screw tips, and mold cavities. It is also used in food processing equipment and pelletizer knives and is an extremely popular blade steel in high-performance custom knives.

CPM 20CV's alloy composition is as follows: Carbon: 1.90%, Manganese: 0.30%, Silicon: 0.30%, Chromium: 20.0%, Tungsten: 0.60%, Molybdenum: 1.00%, and Vanadium: 4.00%. An advanced alloy that offers outstanding potential in high-performance cutlery applications, CPM 20CV is a truly unique blade material and we are proud to feature it on the MT23 Mule Team blade.

MT22 in RWL-34

Spyderco’s twenty-second Mule Team installment features RWL 34, a "rapidly solidified powder" (RSP) martensitic stainless steel made by the renowned Swedish firm Damasteel®. RWL 34 is a variation of the 420 martensitic stainless family that contains 14% chromium, as well as molybdenum and vanadium for improved corrosion resistance, hardness, and strength. The performance of these alloys is further enhanced by the RSP process, which involves using high-pressure nitrogen gas to force the molten steel through a nozzle. Just as in the CPM process used by Crucible, this creates a spray of small spherical droplets that rapidly solidify into powder particles, drastically reducing the segregation, or settling, of the alloys in the steel to produce an extremely fine, uniform carbide structure.

RWL 34 has long been a favorite of custom knifemakers—particularly Canadian maker Brian Tighe, designer of the Tighe Stick—because of its high-performance characteristics and the fact that it is capable of taking an extremely high polish. However, it has not been used in the production of factory-made knives because it was not available in large sheets. Recent improvements in the availability of the material have changed that situation, so Spyderco quickly seized the opportunity to incorporate RWL 34 into our Mule Team Project.

RWL 34's alloy composition is as follows: Carbon - 1.05%, Manganese - 0.50%, Silicon - 0.50%, Chromium - 14.0%, Molybdenum - 4.00%, Vanadium - 0.20%. This advanced alloy mix makes it a very close equivalent of 154 CM and ATS-34 stainless steels, but since it has the additional advantages offered by the RSP process, it is actually closest to CPM 154—Crucible’s particle metallurgy version of 154 CM — with the addition of several trace elements.

MT24 in Maxamet

This one "jumped ahead" of the MT23 release and is now no longer available. It was somewhat expensive at $110. Some nice photos in the following thread:

MT25 in LC200N

This became available on April 12, 2017 (and I got one). It is claimed (and may be correct) that LC200N is a new name for "Chronidur 30".

Spyderco's twenty-fifth Mule Team installment features LC200N steel - a high nitrogen alloyed tool steel that offers extreme corrosion resistance. This extraordinary material is produced by a combination of the PESR (Pressurized Electric Slag Remelting) process and “smart forging” technology to yield an amazing increase in the steel’s purity and a very fine and homogenous microstructure. LC200N is also a true martensitic steel that achieves its hardness through traditional heat treating, so its hardness level can be precisely controlled to meet the demands of specific uses. Regarded as the material of choice for applications that involve high static and dynamic loads in corrosive environments, LC200N is widely used in the food, chemical, recycling, and pharmaceutical industries, as well as in mirror-polished dies used in the plastics industry. It is best known, however, as NASA’s preferred material for the ball bearings used in their high-performance aerospace equipment.

LC200N’s unique alloy composition includes: 0.3% Carbon, 15% Chromium, 0.5% Nitrogen, 0.95% Molybdenum, 0.5% Nickel, and 1.00% Manganese. When this advanced alloy recipe is translated to knife blades, LC200N provides an exceptional blend of toughness, edge holding, and corrosion resistance.

The above is Spyderco's official description.

The following is an interesting and very well done review by

  • a fellow (Surfingringo) on blade forums.

    I first started using lc200n when the Tusk was released and have worked with two other folders and a custom fixed blade since then. I have worked the steel really hard in my kayak over the last year and have formed what I think are some halfway educated opinions about its performance. I doubt it comes as a surprise that I like this steel for my saltwater work. It has proven itself to be 100% corrosion proof like H1 but shows much better edge retention in plain edge. What has surprised me a bit though is how much I have come to enjoy it as a regular "edc" steel.

    I thought I would start a thread about how this steel has made it onto my favorites list and share a little bit about the "why". We all have different tasks, different ways of using our knives, different sharpening routines and all of those things affect what we like in a steel. For my use and sharpening, I've found this steel to work quite well.

    Lets start with sharpening because I think this gets overlooked a lot when we talk about what kinds of steels we like. If it does get included we often only look at how hard a steel is to grind and leave it at that. For me, other characteristics are important, including what type of edge a steel will take (with my sharpening protocol) and the idea of how often I sharpen. I really like the edge I get out of lc200n. I find that not only is it easy to grind and profile, but the steel will get very sharp, almost effortlessly, and takes a VERY toothy microbevel... notably more aggressive than some of the other steels that are popular these days. That's a biggie for me since I finish most of my edges in the 1000-1200 range.

    Another reason that I like this steel is because I sharpen early and often. That means that extreme wear resistance is not a big deal to me and I will trade ease of sharpening for lower sharpness edge retention in most knives. Now, that works for me because I don't find myself in situations where I HAVE to use my knife for extended periods of time without access to a sharpener. If I did then I might favor some of the higher Vanadium steels but for my use and sharpening a steel like lc200n works very well.

    Edge retention on this steel has proven to be more than adequate given the way I use and sharpen. I have a knife I keep on my kayak that will often clean 20-30 fish between sharpenings and will still shave arm hair when its time for a touchup. That's good enough for me. The steel does have some weaknesses though. I find a lack of strength compared to some other modern steels one of them. The result is that sometimes I will get very fast dulling due to microscopic apex deformation. This usually happens when I am cutting into an irregularly shaped or very hard surface that is putting lateral stresses on the edge. This can cause very quick dulling of ANY steel but I find lc200n lags a bit behind the more common stainless steels used today. I would note though that is is still WAY ahead of H1 in this area.

    So there ya go. Spyderco is using a steel that is a very capable performer with good toughness that takes an amazing edge (both coarse and polished) with very little effort. As if that weren't enough, it is fully rust proof. I know a lot of folks love the high carbide steels that will cut and cut and some folks really need that kind of steel for the work they do. But if you are anything like me and like to touch your edge up often and keep your knife at very high levels of sharpness then you might find yourself really enjoying this steel. I certainly am, whether it be in the kayak or just normal everyday use.

    MT20 in CTS B70P

    Spyderco’s twentieth Mule Team Project instalment highlights Carpenter CTS B70P blade steel - a high-chromium, air-hardening steel alloyed with molybdenum, vanadium and niobium. Like conventional steels, the particle metallurgy process begins with a homogenous molten bath of high-alloy steel. However, rather than being poured into ingot molds, the molten steel is forced through a nozzle under high pressure to create a spray of small spherical droplets that quickly solidify into powder particles. The small size of the particles forms micro-ingots, drastically reducing the alloy segregation in the steel and ensuring an extremely fine, uniform carbide structure. This enhances the steel’s edge retention, as well as its grinding and polishing characteristics.

    CTS B70P is a powder metallurgy derivative of Carpenter’s CRB-7 alloy, but offers improved wear resistance and hardness capability. Its corrosion resistance is very comparable to 440C stainless steel. Collectively, these qualities make it an excellent candidate for cutlery applications.


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    Tom's Knife Info / tom@mmto.org