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Spyderco Endura 4 ZDP-189
Folding Knife Review

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Spyderco Endura 4 ZDP-189 steel

Of the Spyder Hole

 - As you probably already know, all Spyderco folders utilize quite large hole as means of opening the knife using one hand. Like all things Spyderco, the hole is also controversial. I don't have any strong feelings about it, neither good or bad. I myself, prefer a thumb stud, ideally dual thumbstuds for opening the folder. However, for sharpening, thumb hole is easier, nothing gets in the way at low angles, and with thumbstuds you either have to remove them, or go through some contortions with varying success, when you can't remove the studs without damaging them. In terms of purely opening convenience, I think studs work better, if they are well made, as in well placed, not too pointy, not too slippery, etc. I guess it is very personal, but I do open studded folders faster and easier. It feels that way, as far as actual time difference goes, it's not discernable, probably sub 0.1 second. There is another theoretical problem with the thumb hole, it is the simple fact that you have it in the blade, weakening is structurally. I do understand the theory, but in practice I really doubt it matters. At least, to me it is not worth considering, because like I said in this and many other reviews, folding knives, and light cutting knives in general are not meant for prying, or any significant lateral loads. After all, there are lots of skeletonized blade designs too, and they do just fine. For prying and chopping use kukri or Busse Battle Mistress FFFBM variant or something like that. As usual, there are long threads with battles over Spyder hole going on various knife related forums, I've seen quite a few. In the end, it all boils down to personal preferences and theoretical debates about how much the hole weakens the blade, which I don't really consider worth bothering with, it is the folding knife abuse issue, not functionality. Yes, I do know about one account when rehardened 64-65HRC Spyderco folder snapped at that hole, but it was the use or user problem, not the knife or the HT or the steel. Well, that's all I had to say about the Spyderco thumb hole, and I'll refer to this section from other Spyderco knives reviews. Even though, this is my first Spyderco folder(and Spyderco knife) review, I get questions about them a lot. No wonder, they are very popular and quite unusual knives too.

Handle

 - The handle material used in Spyderco Endura 4 is FRN, which is abbreviated Fiber Reinforced Nylon. Basically, an advanced form of plastic. The name is sort of strange, considering that Nylon itself is purely synthetic fiber. So, I figure, FRN refers to reinforced fibers, not nylon being reinforced by other fiber. Anyway, as far as the strength goes, the handle is quite sturdy. Doesn't really flex even when I try to squeeze it hard in the midsection, where it'd be the weakest. The slabs of the Endura 4 are connected with 4 screws, plus the pivot screw, total of 5 places. Interestingly enough, the handle slabs are not symmetrical, right one is wider on the back side. Just a detail. FRN has quite aggressive texturing, which is bi-directional. Front side has ridges pointing to back and vice versa. They do better than decent job in terms of providing grip security. May be too good, because the clip is also tight, so pulling the knife from the pocket, or as super tactical knife reviewers would say deploying the knife, does require more effort compared to any other folding knife I have or had. I suspect it will have devastating effect on my jeans pocket, which already suffer from more gentle on the pocket folders. On the other hand, you could definitely use extra secure clip/handle combo when you are hiking or hunting, etc. Definitely, there's almost zero possibility of loosing the knife accidentally. Handles on Spyderco knives are another point of debates. Some people just hate them, others se nothing wrong or love them. That's not to say they are all the same, just one of the complaints I hear/see more often. I myself, didn't couldn't get used to oversized handle on the Spyderco Military fluted titanium edition. Very nicely made knife, but the handle shape and proportions are just not there for me. As for the Endura 4, I think it's just about right, I mean the handle/blade ratio. Don't have any strong feelings abut the handle geometry. Solid handle, comfortable in straight, hammer and choke grips. I suspect, during prolonged cutting sessions those aggressively textured handles might be the source for serious skin irritation, but nothing disastrous happened in 2 hours of no stop cutting, although at the end, I could feel my right thumb getting irritated, which I was pressing against the handle slab rather hard. Locking bar is nicely polished and the lockup is rock solid, has a very solid click then opened.

The clip is black and it is attached to the handle slab with three screws. It's fully customizable, in that it is both, ambidextrous and tip up/down carry. Which means, there are 4 sets of holes on the handle allowing the placement of the clip according to your preferences. Some people do have a problem with this design, stating that so many holes ruin the looks of the handle, but I don't really consider that to be a problem. The beauty is in the eye of the beholder as they say. Besides, Spyderco Endura is a true workhorse knife, and it's not really a safe queen which you can marvel for hours. Although, truth be told, do like playing with it :)

Sharpening

 - I've sharpened ZDP-189 steel many times, from different manufacturers and at different stated RC values, from 64HRC to 67HRC. Obviously, it is harder to sharpen than average, butter soft western kitchen knife at 54-56 HRC, but that's pretty much one time difficulty, when(if) you have to grind primary bevel from the scratch. Otherwise, harder steel is easier to maintain, it keeps the edge longer, much longer than the soft steel, so in the end you end up with less maintenance. There's a detailed account of related cutting experiments in the article Super Hard vs. Soft Edges. So, back to Endura 4 sharpening. Primary bevel was there, not as good as I'd like, so I've decided to start with the Shapton 220 grit Glassstone, to even the bevel. Surprisingly, it did produce smoother edge finish. Makes me wonder, what was the grit on the belt used ot sharpen that knife at first place. After that, I've decided to skip Beston(Bester) 500 Grit Whetstone, and went straight with the Bester 700 grit whetstone, followed King 1200 grit whetstone, then by 2000-3000 grit Aoto Natural Whetstone, then Naniwa chosera 5000 grit whetstone, Naniwa chosera 10000 grit finishing superstone, and after that I've switched to strops and microabrasives. The sequence was - 0.5µm diamond crystal charged strop, 0.30µ Aluminum oxide film, 0.25µm diamond crystal loaded strop, and finally, stropping on plain leather strop. The edge took very high polish, super sharp edge. One might say this is overboard, but I think good knives with good steels do deserve equally good treatment. Besides, those extra 20 or 30 minutes I spend on sharpening the edge meticulously, step by step, do pay off later, when I use the knife. It is more durable, cuts better and as a result, wears down slower.

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Last updated - 01/17/12