Pros: Lightweight, high-tech bladesteel, Spyderco's holey design
Cons: No prying, please.
I bought my first Spyderco product at a flea-market about 10 years ago, a used Co-pilot stainless steel Clipit. The unusual shape of the little knife and the ingenious design of the humpbacked blade that featured a hole machined into the back of the blade caught my eye. The Clipit name is derived from the extremely handy pocket clip featured on the knife's scales. I've learned much more about the Spyderco product since then. I've also owned many more of their folding knives (I've also lost a couple).
Spyderco the Company: Spyderco began as a Colorado company that built tiny bench vises and flexible bench tools to hold small projects. These tools resembled spiders with their many holding arms. These tools are what gave the company its unusual name, but they weren't the reason the company is practically a household name. The Clipit pocket knife is the product that put Spyderco on the map.
The Hole Story: If this is the first time you've seen a Spyderco the first thing you may notice is the hole in the back of the blade. The hole may appear to be a styling cue, but it has an extremely practical purpose. The hole is used for deploying the blade from the scales with your thumb. You cradle the knife in cupped palm and use your thumb to rotate the blade out of the knife's scales. With a little practice you can have a Spyderco knife out of your pocket, open and ready to go to work in a fraction of a second. The hole is a great design, because with its continually curved circumference it offers less friction against the surface of the thumb giving it a smooth action, unlike angled openings or small studs. It is an ingenious design. Its the 21st century version of a "nail-nick", the small nick in pocket knives that you use to pull the blade out with a fingernail.
You may have seen other knives with a hole in the blade of similar design. Spyderco has a patent on the design, so at least for now, other knife makers pay a fee to use the hole. It smacks of irony that other companies pay to use "nothing" (a hole)! A notable maker who uses the hole is Benchmade (if you want a similar knife to the Spyderco product but made completely in the USA, try a Benchmade Ascent).
The Lightweight Line up: The lightweight collection are the plastic scaled Clipits that are made from the fiberglassed reinforced nylon (FRN) as opposed to some of Spyderco's other knives that are made with steel or carbon fiber scales and metal liners. The FRN scales are tough and impact resistant, but are simple and not reinforced with a liner. A person carrying a lightweight Clipit should think of the scales as a sheath, not an integral part of the knife because even though the scales are plenty tough, they will fail under heavy lateral prying. If the user just uses the knife for its intended purpose, cutting just about anything, they will never break the knife. Prying is not recommend (that is true with practically any knife, although some are tougher than others and you never know what kind of bind you can end up in).
Delica: The Delica fits in the lightweight Clipit line up right under the Endura, and may be the most practical knife in the lightweight collection. The Endura is very large when compared with the Delica and will definitely call attention when opened. The Delica is a bit smaller, and when brought out into the light of day looks like a non-threatening pocket knife, unlike the Endura which might be seen as more of a weapon by some. Yes, blade area means cutting power, but rest assured, the Delica is up to all but the most demanding cutting jobs. The blade lock is a spine mounted style that is easy to unlock one-handed and even with gloves. The clip can be mounted on either side of the knife to suit the user.
Build Quality: First rate build quality is apparent with each Spyderco you pick up. No loose or wobbly parts, smooth, solid opening and lock-up. A high level of fit-and-finish is built into each knife.
Ergonomics: The Delica is a great size for most people. The average hand will manipulate the Delica with ease. The unusual design of the Delica lends it qualities not associated with pocket knives. One quality of most of Spyderco's folders is that they are extremely flat making them a good choice for someone who has to carry one in their back pocket (someone mounted on horseback, for example). Front pocket carry is very discreet, but it will be easy to see you have the knife because part of the knife and its clip protrudes above the pocket. The FRN scales feature the company's Volcano texture to help with grip. The Volcano texture is especially helpful if your're in a wet environment. The Delica is very light weight, coming in at under two ounces. Amazing!
Tell us about the Blade: The bladesteel used by Spyderco is in a constant state of evolution, and they always use the latest and greatest steel. The knives are made in the Seki City area of Japan where many other makers are based as well. They benefit from the availability of excellent Japanese steel. Because the knives are made in Japan you wont find the latest American bladesteel like 154CM, but you find the latest in Japanese metallurgy, which is excellent. VG-10 is the current blade steel, Gin-1 was in use for a time, and I remember seeing AUS-8 on some older models. All of the steel is high-carbon, relatively hard and very easy to sharpen.
Spyderedge: The configuration of the blade can be had three ways: Combi-edge (half Spyderedge serrated, half plain), all plain or all Sypderedge serrated). In the store you're more likely to find all Spyderedge. If you want a plain-edged or combi-edged knife, you might try an online distributor. An online distributor might also offer different scale colors other than black (what you'll find at a store 99% of the time). The Spyderedge serrated blade offers some serious cutting power and will make quick work of thick cardboard or rope. The cutting power offered by the Spyderedge is the reason many first responders carry Spyderco products. A properly sharpened Spyderedge will cut through a seatbelt like a hot knife through butter (had to use a knife cliche, forgive me). If you're a hunter, you obviously would not want the Spyderedge for skinning/cleaning jobs, so the plain edge would work out very well. The plain edge can be whipped into a serious sharp fit but it lacks the brute cutting power of the Spyderedge.
As far as tactical (military) use, I would recommend a different product than a lightweight Clipit. The blades are high polished stainless, a "mirror in the night" if you will. Spyderco offers other, more tactically inclined products for GIs and SWAT members, knives with anodization and other low-vis coatings.
Maintenance: I recommend that everyone in the world buy a Spyderco Tri-edge Sharpmaker to keep ALL of their knifes sharp. This sharpening kit is the trick to keeping serrated edges hair-flinging sharp (scissors, too). Apart from sharpening, you don't have to do much to keep the knife looking great. I wash mine in the sink with the dishes. If the blade stains a little bit (possible with high-carbon steel), I use the miracle product Bar-keepers friend and a wet sponge. You don't really need to oil the set-up since the metal blade rotates in the FRN base.
Value: If you can get the knife for less than 35 dollars, you are getting a great value for the money. Resist the urge to buy one for more than that price, because you can find them from reputable online dealers.
Final Words: This is the knife line that started the high-tech knife revolution, and they are still state-of-the-art. There are now many, many more competitors on the market, and many very fine knives, but you can't go wrong with the tried-and-true Delica.
Length Blade 3" 77mm
Length Closed 4" 102mm
Length Cutting Edge 2 11/16" 68mm
Length Overall 7" 177mm
Weight 1.9oz 54g