Spyderco Native Magnacut – plain vs serrated

Spyderco Native Magnacut – plain vs serrated

Did you know that the Spyderco Native Lightweight has been around for more than a quarter of a century now? This iconic US-made knife has been produced in 5 generations, multiple colors, and countless steel options – including the latest greatest – the MagnaCut.

But does it live up to the hype? Is it better than the already fantastic SPY-27 version? And finally – which one would be a better fit for your needs: plain edge or maybe a fully serrated one?

The Spyderco SALT series is created for use around water, especially in the saltwater environment. Per definition, it should be absolutely rustproof, easy to deploy with one hand, lightweight, and easy to spot.

For years, Spyderco has used H1 (now H2) steel as a fully rustproof material. Then Spyderco added LC200N to the SALT knives, which is still rustproof but holds the edge considerably better than the H-series.

And finally, they introduced MagnaCut, which is like the goldilocks of all steels – it’s super tough, with fantastic edge holding capabilities, and it is even more rust-resistant than LC200N. Sounds like a dream steel? And it is!

So let’s check it in 3 scenarios: as a dedicated SALT knife, as an overall vacation knife for field use, and also as a general-use EDC knife. Plus, how it stands vs. the blue Native in Spyderco’s proprietary SPY-27 steel.

When describing the Native, it’s hard not to praise the overall ergonomics of the design. It’s one of the most comfortable and secure-to-use knives, not only in Spyderco’s lineup, but in the total knife world.

It’s lightweight, easy to operate, has a very sturdy and time-proven lock mechanism, and has one of the most reliable opening systems with a round hole in the blade. The Native must be the most popular Spyderco knife ever produced in the headquarters facility in Golden, Colorado, US.

I’ve used both variants of MagnaCut Native SALTs for about three months on various occasions, mainly during my sailing adventures, fishing trips, and at sea. I also EDC’ed it quite a lot and last but not least, I had it with me in a forest during some outings, and even took it for a week to the Tatra Mountains to check it as a lightweight mountaineering companion. Nevertheless, there are multiple reviews of Spyderco Native online, so I’ll focus mainly on the steel performance and edge configurations.

Let’s start with the intended use onboard a sailing boat: For most of the on-deck tasks during sailing, the serrated blade performed considerably better. Slicing through thick rope, trimming thin lines, working with fabrics, webbing, etc., was fast and easy.

The serrated edge is excellent when working on dirty ropes with sea sand between the fibers. The serrated edge remained usable for a long time, and the cutting was crisp and aggressive without the edge sliding on the rope’s fibers.

Another important aspect is food preparation in a yacht’s galley. Both blade configurations worked well, with just minimal differences in some specific uses. The plain version was slightly better at peeling vegetables, but the serrated one was a clear winner at slicing bread and cutting meat.

However, the plain variant is an overall winner in the kitchen as peeling fruits and vegetables with toothy edge was not only less comfortable, but also not so safe for my thumb due to the spiky teeth.

Next one was using it for fishing – that means cutting through the fishing line and removing scales off the fish — and that was easier with a serrated edge. But if precise line trimming is critical (like in fly fishing), I’d suggest the plain edge. So it depends on your fishing experience and your primary method. Overall, both worked well.

Now, let’s walk into the woods and do some bushcrafting. Surprisingly, both edge configurations worked reasonably fine in basic woodcraft jobs! Both can make feathersticks; both can quickly whittle wood if you need a tent peg or something similar.

Still, with the plain edge, you can control the knife easier. Also, any kind of notching work is much easier and safer with a non-serrated knife. Even the shavings on a feathersticks are longer, thinner, more curly, and easier to ignite. Even simple cuts when whittling are straighter and angle control is more manageable with a plain edge.

Operating the Native as an ultralight mountaineering knife was mainly about food preparation and general cutting. The Native was very secure to hold, easy to spot inside a backpack or in terrain. You can easily choke up on it for additional blade control.

It’s compact and lightweight to carry 24/7 (just 68 grams, which is 2.4 oz), has a useful lanyard hole (big enough for 440 paracord), a strong clip, and can be positioned in a left or right pocket, tip-up or tip-down.

Overall, the performance of the MagnaCut was fantastic! For testing purpose I kept the knife wet in both fresh and sea water, and also didn’t clean it immediately after kitchen use.

And three months later, both MagnaCut Natives show ZERO signs of stain, rust, or discoloration. It’s at least as rust-resistant as LC200N, if not more. And it is considerably better than S30V, which can receive black dots if not rinsed after saltwater use. Remember that S30V has always been considered an actual stainless blade material.

The edge holding of the MagnaCut is superb, but don’t think it is some sort of ever-sharp unobtanium. Indeed, it stays sharp for longer than S30V or S45VN, and even Spyderco’s SPY-27, but I’d not put it much above m390 or 20CV in pure edge holding.

After a couple of days of work on deck (including cutting dirty anchor rope), I had to touch up the blade on an extra fine sharpener and strop on a diamond compound. I gave my plain edged Native the first regular sharpening after only 3 weeks of extensive use as a vacation knife. And that is fantastic result, no doubt.

The serrated one still cuts tremendously and I didn’t have to touch it at all, except for the occasional stropping on the edge of my leather strop with a diamond compound. With a lightweight folder, it’s tough to check edge toughness – after all, it’s not a knife you want to baton through wood. Still, after all that time, I didn’t find a spot with a chipped or damaged edge. Some say MagnaCut’s toughness is on the CPM-3V’s level.

Anyway, so far – zero damage to the cutting edge during reasonable use (as a knife, not a screwdriver). Also, sharpening the MagnaCut with a quality diamond sharpener is easy. I’d place it between SPY-27 and m390.

Overall I love that steel; it shines in all areas, and its only downside is the price. But still, Spyderco charges a mere $10 to upgrade from SPY-27 to the mighty MagnaCut, which is an outstanding deal.

As you can already guess, it’d be impossible to recommend just one Native to answer all your needs. If you need a knife for true aquatic use, for rafting, kayaking, sailing, or use on a fishing boat – I’d certainly suggest a fully-serrated Native SALT in MagnaCut. This knife can do any job in no time.

For rope and fibrous materials, it punches WAY above its weight. It’s a perfect sailor’s EDC blade and an awesome aquatic vacation knife. As a sea skipper, I experienced situations when a knife was a true life-saving tool.

Imagine a rescue wheel attached to a railing with a piece of rope. Which, after months of being exposed to elements, just can’t be untied. And you have literally seconds to throw it to the person overboard. After more than 30 seasons under the sails, I see a good knife as an essential tool in my pocket when I’m on a boat. And the serrated Spyderco Native is a darn good one!

For outdoor use, I would instead put the plain edge Native into my pocket. It has proven to be an excellent hiker’s friend for no less than a quarter of a century and counting. A flat ground MagnaCut blade, combined with a hi-vis yellow handle is a perfect outdoor combination. Easy to use and hard to lose.

And last but not least, everyday use. As an EDC the SALT series has only one (but serious) disadvantage — with that bright yellow handle, which is a godsend for professional use, it is not only easily visible but just screams “LOOK, I’M HERE!” from a distance.

As a discreet urban EDC, especially to carry in jeans’ pocket, that denim blue SPY-27 version would be my natural choice. It disappears in a pocket, particularly if upgraded with an aftermarket deep-carry clip. And for all the small everyday tasks, a SPY-27 steel is more than you need. Honestly, I can’t think of any EDC-type situation in which you’d be disappointed with a blue Native in SPY-27.

By Piotr Ma

Senior Contributor & Edge Specialist, more posts.


Dec 21, 2023