I got to flip a Jani-Song at SHOT Show 2014! Okay, let’s all just take a moment here. I was at the smaller of the two Spyderco booths talking to knifemaker Howard Viele’s son Gene, who was manning the space. There was a case of prototype knives which, like at the main booth, was strictly verboten to photograph. I swear one of my retinas nearly detached as my face accelerated toward the glass then abruptly stopped. “Is that a…Jani-Song?” I asked quietly. Mr. Viele said, “Yes, would you like to see it?” Uh-huhhh.
The elusive Jani-Song is Michael Janich’s practical re-design of the traditional balisong, or butterfly knife, from the Philippines. Said Mr. Janich in August of 2010, “The Jani-Song was patented while I was employed by BlackHawk. When my employment with them was terminated, I bought the patent rights from them. When Spyderco hired me, they purchased those rights, so the Jani-Song now belongs to them.”
I had spoken to Mr. Janich at the 2013 SHOT Show about the Jani-Song, but he asked for our conversation to be off the record. I honored that. Since the cat’s out, I will say that the Jani-Song was patiently waiting for further development, since Spyderco has many great designs and designers to consider when choosing which knives to put into production.
I asked Mr. Viele, a retired USAF senior master sergeant, to give me a ground school on the Jani-Song. He showed me the ambidextrous sliding lock switches, which secure the blade opened and closed. Next, he demonstrated its similarity to a balisong, in that it swings on a pivot to expose the blade and has a safe handle.
The main outer handle is the safe one to grip. The bite handle, or one where the blade’s edge says hello to your flesh, is more of a steel insert or inside handle. Holding the G-10-scaled outer handle allows you to spin the blade open without undue injury. Arggghh, I wish I could have taken stills and video!
I would guess the Jani-Song’s plain edged blade was about 3 1/2 inches in length. In my hand, I estimated that the knife weighed around 4+ ounces. These are just generalizations, but it gives you some idea of its dimensions.
The Jani-Song’s grip reminded me of a coffin-handle Bowie. It tapers slightly then flares toward the butt and was squared off. The black G-10 scales are textured. Because of the rectangular cross-section of the handle, it does not manipulate intuitively like a traditional balisong.
After receiving Viele’s permission, and checking my six to make sure it was safe, I took a few minutes to adjust my Filipino broken-horn stylings to get used to the extra width of the Jani-Song handle. With some practice, I was flipping the knife satisfactorily. Because of the crowd, I kept my maneuvers down to very simple and discreet openings and closings. Hey, Gene, check out this behind-the-back aerial! Kidding.
The proto had a spearpoint blade. There was the obligatory small Spydiehole in the upper rear of the blade that was for branding, but not function. The tang was marked CTS-XHP, a Carpenter Steel that Mr. Glesser has said is equivalent to D2. Since this is a prototype, it may not be the steel in the actual production version.
The stainless steel bite handle was skeletonized with large round holes. It looked like the bottom had four small stand offs which served as structure and to give the insert some added weight for smoother flipping. A tip up, deep carry pocket clip could be mounted on the right or left side of the knife. I saw some other holes drilled by the pivot, but I could not tell if they were tapped for the clip screws.
The sliding lock switch is well-placed for easy locking and unlocking. It has a nice positive clicking detent in both directions that lets you know you’ve changed its status. Since you need to secure the blade for pocket carry, an easily located switch is a must for getting the knife into action upon a draw. The Jani-Song’s design accomplishes this.
I am sorry I did not get to talk further to Mr. Janich about his knife, but he was doing business with clients. With twelve and a half miles to cover on the Show floor, I never did make it back to the booth. Mr. Viele was a fantastic host and a pleasure with whom to speak.
I am excited at the prospect of the prototype of a Spyderco Jani-Song being on display at SHOT Show. I definitely felt lucky to have played with it. I have no idea if or when the Jani-Song will be a viable SKU for Spyderco. I can only wish for it to be soon.
Update: See Mr. Janich explain and manipulate a Jani-Song at the 2015 IWA Show in Germany: Jani-Song Video here.