Spyderco: the company history

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Spyderco Inc. is a company specialized in designing and producing high-performance knives and sharpeners. Sal and Gail Glesser founded Spyderco in 1976 and, for the first few years of the company’s existence, focused on selling knife sharpeners and other products, including the original Tri-Angle Sharpmaker® (see Spyderco sharpening tools for more information on the Tri-Angle Sharpmaker designs). In 1981, they introduced Spyderco's very first knife—the C01 Worker™ model—which revolutionized the cutlery industry and ultimately defined the form of the modern folding knife by introducing the pocket clip, one-hand manual opening, and the option of a serrated cutting edge.


Spyderco's history began in 1976 in Redding, California, when Sal invented the Portable Hand [1]. This was a tool designed to hold small objects securely in place, which frees up a hand and aids in intricate tasks. The Portable Hand was a practical solution for people working on electronical components and many other uses, both in industry and at home [2]. At the same time, Sal had an avid interest in high performance sports cars. He noticed that many car manufacturers in the 1970s used the term 'spider/spyder' or 'spydercars' to name their high-end sports cars. The Portable Hand's spider-like looks and the naming of high performance sports-cars, inspired Sal to name his company Spyderco.

During the five years that the Portable Hand was manufactured, Sal invented the Tri-angle Sharpmaker and the first ClipIt knife, the C01 Worker. In little more than 20 years, Spyderco has revolutionized the knife industry and has been a thriving company that recently celebrated its 40th anniversary.

So how did Sal and his crew do it? It all boils down to knowing what the end user really wants. Sal, his wife Gail and the Spyderco team attended fairs and shows all over the U.S., talking to people and finding out what they needed in a knife. Demonstrating and selling the Sharpmaker must have won over huge numbers of knife owners, who came up to the Spyderco booth with a blunt knife and walk away with a scary sharp blade.

Spyderco's early success at these venues funded their research and development. When Sal was unable to find a manufacturer in the U.S. that could meet his quality requirements, established knifemaker Al Mar provided important support. Al Mar introduced Sal Glesser to some of his knife manufacturers in Japan, who they were able to convince the ClipIt was worthy of their involvement. Sal adopted Al Mar’s front lock design for his Clipit, and in turn Al used the Spyderco serrations and clothing clip on some of his knives. The principle of sharing knowledge is still used by Spyderco today. The clip was an idea Sal had when he found how useful a brass frog keychain-holder was. The frogs front legs and feet held onto the top of your pocket with the frogs head peeping out. The keys were always readily available, not lost among the rest of your pockets contents. This inspired Sal to design a dedicated carry clip on his knife design.

Eventually, larger premises were needed to house the factory and mail-order business. In 1978, Spyderco moved to its current location on the outskirts of Golden, Colorado. High performance was, and still is, the trademark of any Spyderco product. As one Spyderco brochure put it: “Our success rests on the simple theory that consumers will always gravitate towards the better performing product. Since 1981, Spyderco has been developing pocket cutlery with original features that have become industry standards worldwide, and each represents the performance, simplicity and longevity that you can expect from each knife in the Spyderco Clipit line.”

The Clipit featured the patented hole in the blade for single hand opening; a razor sharp edge; a clip for use on the belt, waistband, boot or even bra and a locking blade.& nbsp; What a combination! Spyderco wanted to make the ultimate “using” knife. To provide every day carry knives to people whose jobs or circumstances required a no-nonsense highly effective cutting tool. They certainly succeeded!

More information

For those further interested in Spyderco inc. and Spyderco knives, we suggest the book: "The Spyderco story:the new shape of sharp" by Kenneth T. Delavigne.

Hardcover: 312 pages

Publisher: Paladin Press (January 1, 2000)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1581600607

ISBN-13: 978-1581600605

Link to this book on Amazon.com here


Spyderco has a notable presence on the internet:

- Spyderco website

- Spyderco Facebook

- Spyderco Instagram

- Spyderco Pinterest

- Spyderco Tumblr

- Spyderco Twitter

- Spyderco YouTube

- Spyderco discussion forum

- Spyderco discussion forum at Bladeforums.com

- Spyderco discussion forum at UsualSuspect.net

- Spyderco discussion forum at AustralianBladeForums.com

- BaliYo by Spyderco website, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, YouTube

Related Articles

C01 Worker

Al Mar


Sal Glesser

Gail Glesser


  1. See images and more info on the Portable Hand in the Spyderco.com discussion forum thread 'Finally!! The Portable Hand!'
  2. Sal shares the history of the Portable Hand's development in this post in the Spyderco.com discussion forum thread | 'Finally!! The Portable Hand!'