Folding knives are the portable, versatile, “have-your-back” tools of the knife world. The best ones are those that can handle numerous jobs with equal ability, transitioning from task to task without the user having to change much (or anything) on their end.
However, there is no “one approach” to designing a folder, and they vary quite a lot in size, durability, steel type, and reliability. For survivalists, preppers, and outdoorsmen, these type of variables can be summed up in one word: risk. To minimized risk, we want to identify the best possible folder for the jobs we need it to perform.
One such contender is the Spyderco Delica 4, an innovative, 2.8” blade that has been called one of the best EDC knives ever made. How well will it handle the challenges the world has to throw at it? Only a full, detailed examination will tell.
See below for our full Spyderco Delica 4 Review.
- Blade - 8.75/108.8/10
- Handle - 8.5/108.5/10
- Deployment and Lock Up Mechanism - 8.75/108.8/10
- Quality and Features - 8.5/108.5/10
At the end of the day, the Delica 4 is a reliable and ultra-versatile EDC knife that will shine in almost any situation. If you’re hunting for a reliable knife made out of quality components, this isn’t the best – but it’s undoubtedly one of them.
|4-way clip for multiple belt and pocket carry options.||Rather pricey for a folding knife.|
|Totally ambidextrous design.||Spyderco designs are unique-looking and not for everyone.|
|Thumb ramp with deep jimping for added control when slicing.||Rides a little higher in the pocket than some users will like.|
|Made in the USA (Steel manufactured in Japan)||Blade coating (optional) is easily removed or scratched off.|
|Extremely lightweight, easy to carry, and versatile.||It is frequently counterfeited due to the price point.|
|No play vertically or horizontally when deployed.|
Tips for Picking a Great Folding Knife
Identifying the folding knife that’s going to win “flipper of the year” depends a lot on what -each individual customer wants the knife to do, and what special circumstances apply to them because of where they live, how much they can afford, and what other tools they possess.
That being the case, in order to properly evaluate the Spyderco Delica 4, there are a few things each of us needs to think about first.
Things to Consider:
Overall Size – Folding knives are portable, for sure, but that doesn’t keep manufacturers from producing heavy, durable, models with cutting edges to rival any fixed blade knife. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something that will fit in your back pocket, smaller is definitely going to be better. Just be sure that the size you buy matches the jobs you require.
Geography – A fixed blade knife only has to worry about the steel in the blade. Flippers, on the other hand, have mechanisms that deploy and retract the knife, and they can be susceptible to cold, rust, and heat. This means you need to pay particular attention to where you live and what weather conditions you’re likely to face when shopping for a folding knife.
Deployment Mechanism – It’s always worth considering the possibility you may have to use any you own knife in a tactical situation. In this case, how fast a folding knife can be deployed is of the utmost importance. For day-to-day uses, however, you’ll still want a mechanism that is safe, easy to use, and won’t degrade over time.
Weight and Portability – What good is a great knife if you don’t have it on you? Folding knives are supposed to be the solution to EDC problems, not another challenge. Make sure you evaluate the knife’s weight and size – and what you can handle – before you make a purchase.
Your Budget – Folders use the same steel that fixed blade knives do, and they also have expensive locking and deployment mechanisms to consider. For this and other reasons, they can get expensive just as quickly as anything else out there. Be sure to consider your budgetary limits when shopping, and be sure to look for warranties and guarantees to protect your investment.
From a “first look” standpoint, the Spyderco Delica 4 seems well-suited to satisfy a wide range of needs. It’s ultra-light at just 2.5 oz., but at 7.1” in length (2.87” of which is blade), it’s large enough to perform most tasks that you could assign to it. From what we know of the materials, it seems to be a solidly-built and reliable knife from a trustworthy American brand.
To see how well the knife as a whole can hold up to scrutiny, we’re going to dissect the Delica 4 and evaluate it piece by piece.
Spyderco Delica 4 Specifications
Weight: 2.5 oz.
When the Delica 4 was introduced in the early 1990s, it redefined what knife enthusiasts thought they could expect from a flipper that weighs under 3 oz. With a handle that’s large enough to fit the majority of hands quite comfortably and a uniquely-designed, dramatic drop-point blade, the Delica will slice, carve, feather, and pierce remarkably well.
Its Japanese-made VG-10 steel is both rust-resistant and holds a great edge, while the handle is made of respectable FRN (fiberglass reinforced nylon) and well-scaled to provide an excellent all-weather grip. With the patented “Spyder Hole” deployment and a back lock mechanism – all the ingredients seem to be in place to make the Delica 4 a real “show stopper.”
Next, we’ll take an even closer look so that we can rate the Delica’s individual components.
Blade Design and Steel
The blade of the Delica 4 is a dramatically modified drop-point that measures 2.875”. Now, on a 4.25” handle, it’s fair to say that the Delica’s blade seems a bit on the small size. However, thanks to the jimping and generous thumb ramp (as well as the superior ergonomics of the handle itself), the blade doesn’t feel small, and its size lends itself to more versatility than you’d expect.
The “Spyder Hole” is a huge highlight of all of Spyderco’s blades, and the Delica 4 is no different. The steel, VG-10, is a highly-regarded Japanese blend that was used initially for high-quality chef’s knives, and – if treated well – will hold a fine edge for quite a long time.
Now, complaints about the Delica 4’s blade have been few and far between, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve taking a closer look at the blade design and the steel.
The Delica 4’s blade design looks a lot like many of those that come out of Spyderco R&D. It’s technically a drop-point, but with a nice high thumb ramp to provide some extra control and grip. The blade is ultra thin as well, roughly .09”, but it can still pierce effectively thanks to the saber grind and generally snub-nosed design.
The “Spyder Hole” provides the manufacturer’s signature lighting-fast open, and works with all thumb sizes as well as gloved hands. As a heavy-duty utility knife, the Spyderco may leave a little bit to be desired, but it’s sure to make short work of cardboard, cords, and other man-made materials. It also has potential as a tactical weapon thanks to its quick deployment and easy-to-conceal size.
Overall, if you want a blade you can keep with you at all times, and use to solve 80% of situations you might encounter, the Delica 4 is an excellent choice.
VG-10 is a somewhat polarizing steel for many knife enthusiasts. In the case of the Delica 4, a Made in the USA knife, the simple fact that the blade comes from Japan can put some shoppers on edge. However, VG-10 is still considered the “gold standard” for stainless steel knives, with amazing rust resistance and a nice, reliable hardness.
Some users, however, feel that VG-10 is a little too hard, and may become brittle over time or if exposed to extreme climates. It is also expensive, and tends to drive up the price of a knife higher than many think it should. Last, VG-10’s edge retention is something of a debate, and seems to rely mainly on what sort of jobs the knife is asked to handle.
By all accounts, the fiberglass-reinforced nylon (FNR) handle of the Spyderco Delica 4 offers excellent ergonomics and a firm, reliable grip. It’s molded with bi-directional texturing for ultimate traction and has a screw construction to make cleaning, oiling, and adjusting as easy as possible.
There are certainly better materials out there, but in the interest of keeping the Delica 4 as light as possible while also retaining durability, FNR makes perfect sense. It’s sturdy, resists bending and stress regardless of what direction it’s coming from, resistant to abrasions and scuffing, and – more or less – practically indestructible. Best of all – since the steel is on the pricey side – it’s a smart move to balance the price with more inexpensive handle material.
Deployment and Lock Up Mechanism
The deployment mechanism is driven by the patented “Spyder Hole,” which is most often opened with a strong flick of the middle finger or thumb. While other opening techniques exist, this is one of the fastest, safest, and most reliable ways to deploy, which makes it the preferred one-handed method for tactical or emergency situations.
Most users rate the deployment mechanism quite highly, with some claiming it is as fast or even faster than many assisted-opening mechanisms. It is also quite durable by most accounts, which may have to do with the phosphor bronze washers that help smooth out each open and close action. In fact, in some knife circles, only the Emerson wave is considered a better opener.
The Delica 4 utilizes a back lock mechanism, but not just any back lock. Pioneered by knife designed David Boye, the “Boye Dent” is a scalloped recess in the center bar of the locking mechanism that prevents the lock from disengaging when the handle is tightly gripped.
As anyone who remembers the early days (the majority of the days, actually) of the back lock mechanism knows, this is not an unfounded concern. Accidents do happen, after all, and if you have dirty, gritty, or chubby hands and pick up an old back lock knife, they could happen to you.
Still, while it’s nice that this is the “best of the best” when it comes to back locks, it’s still not the best choice for a modern knife, especially when Spyderco manufactures models right next to the Delica 4 that feature far superior compression mechanisms.
Overall Quality and Features
There’s no escaping the fact that knife enthusiasts all over the world rave, and will continue to rave, about the Delica 4. It was called one of the best EDC designs ever when it came out, and the company continues to innovate and improve upon that initial design.
Still, while the blade design, handle, deployment, and ergonomics are all stellar, the steel and locking mechanism does show room for improvement. Would it increase the price of the knife to make these improvements happen? Probably. Whether or not that’s a deal breaker depends on the individual buyer.
Other Notable Points
- There is a combination edge version for those with different cutting needs.
- Ambidextrous design with fully-reversible pocket clip.
- One of the first, lightweight EDC knives of its type ever manufactured.
Some Spyderco Delica 4 Alternatives to Consider
There are alternatives to the Spyderco Delica 4 if you want to check out other options. Here is a look at some of the best ones.
#1 Gerber Hinderer Combat Life Saver Knife
The Gerber Hinderer is a unique-looking and extremely innovative knife that’s packed with more features than you’d expect in an 8.5” knife. Designed in collaboration with a firefighter, this blade and handle pack a partially-serrated blade, an extra-large thumb stud for quick one-handed opening, a safety hook cover, and a window punch.
The 440A blade is a decent 3.5”, which puts it in front of the Delica 4, but you’ll have to be OK with sharing your fine edge with some deep serrations. Overall, it’s rugged, reliable, and will handle everyday camping and hunting tasks, utility work, and survival situations with equal effectiveness.
Benefits / Features:
- Good for survival, tactical, industrial, and search and rescue applications.
- 3.5” 440A stainless steel blade with partial serrations.
- Window punch, safety hook cover, and lock inset in the handle.
- Designed by a firefighter.
- Thumb stud for easy, quick, and reliable one-handed open.
- Extensively field-tested like all Gerber products.
#2 SOG Folding Knife SJ33-CP
SOG managed to develop the world’s slimmest spring-assisted folding knife in the SJ33-CP. At only 2.4 oz., it’s weight makes it easy to carry and comparable to the Delica 4. The 2.18” AUS-8 stainless steel blade is naturally rust resistant and rather thick considering the rest of the knife, making it suitable for cutting, slashing, carving, and piercing.
All things considered, this is a reliable and rather attractive EDC knife. The stainless steel handle, while it does have lots of jimping, leaves a bit to be desired, however, as it may prove too slippery for wet conditions or outdoor survival situations. Still, as far as utility work and even self-defense go, the SJ33-CP will not disappoint.
Benefits / Features:
- Slimmest spring assisted knife ever designed.
- Very light at only 2.4 oz.
- Easy to open quickly with one hand.
- Stainless steel blade and stainless steel handle.
- Two safety locks (lockback and slide lock to keep it open or closed)
- Lots of jimping on the handle to assist grip.
# 3 Cold Steel Voyager XL Tanto Plain Edge
Cold Steel has forged quite a reputation over the years for its reasonably-priced, well-designed knives and the Voyager XL Tanto is just one of the models that has helped put the company on the map. Its name comes from the blade design, which is perfect for piercing and puncturing as well as slicing. Made of carpenters CTS BD1 alloy with a stonewashed finish, this steel is actually quite comparable to the Delica 4’s VG-10, and should hold a fine edge and resist wear and corrosion.
The major difference between the Voyager XL and the Delica 4, however, is the size. The “XL,” it would seem, is not just some random model letters. The knife is a full foot long when deployed, and only folds up to 6.75”. This will dramatically reduce its EDC potential, and make it quite hard to conceal unless you have some very deep pockets.
Benefits / Features:
- 0.15” thick tanto blade for supported piercing and puncturing.
- Griv-ex handle (6.75”)
- Carpenters CTS BD1 allow with a stonewashed finish
- Ambidextrous pocket/belt clip
- Extremely strong and durable folder
- “Tri-Ad” lock mechanism
Whether it folds or not is not the point –carrying a knife is about being prepared for whatever the world might throw at you. Therefore, a knife that you carry every day should be a “problem solver,” first and foremost.
With its reliable build, innovative features, and lightning-fast deployment, the Spyderco Delica 4 can do a lot for the person who carries it. It has it’s flaws, yes, but even a thorough analysis of all its component fails to reveal any issues that would keep me from recommending this knife as a great EDC option.
For more details on the Spyderco Delica 4, click the link below.