Spyderco Delica : fourth generation

The review of the fourth generation Spyderco Delica consists of :

Specifications : main

The fourth generation Delica features a redesigned handle, different contours and checkering pattern, a more ergonomic clip, with a VG-10 stainless steel blade, and the grip has dual steel liners and torx screw construction. From the Spyderco webpage on the Delica :

In 1990 Spyderco shook things up by introducing two knives, the Delica and Endura. First of their kind on the market, both folders opened up the knife market to lightweight performance, one-hand open pocketknives that just about everyone could afford. They settled as Spyderco’s top two bestsellers and their improvement hasn’t slowed since. Refinement has been so ongoing and continual Spyderco tagged the updating/upgrading process with the term CQI- Constant Quality Improvement. During the Endura and Delica’s CQI journey Spyderco tweaked ergonomics, refined blade steels and fine-tuned their performance countless times. They are an evolutionary work in progress and the next level is here with the new Endura4 and Delica4. Both models now have screw construction making cleaning and adjusting easier. The fiberglass reinforced nylon handles come molded with Bi-Directional Texturing® for preferred traction and improved ergonomics. Inside the handle dual skeletonized stainless steel liners make the knife stronger without adding weight and make an anchor for all external and internal components to attach through adding sturdiness and rigidity. Their VG-10 blades are flat saber-ground with a stronger tip and larger 13mm opening hole. Added to the blade’s spine is slip resistant jimping. Phosphor bronze bushings smooth out the open/close action and the clip is upgraded to a four-way tip-up, tip-down, left- or right-handed clip.

The Delica has an overal length of 7" with a blade length of 3" and a cutting edge length of 2 11/16". When closed it is 4" long. It weighs 2.5 oz and is made from 3/32" thick VG-10 stainless steel and has a FRN grip. The primary grind is sabre-flat which tapers to an edge from 0.014-0.018" thick and ground at 15.1 (6) degrees per side. The tip is fairly robust being 0.4" wide with a 0.56" long taper.

Stock testing: main

The new in box sharpness was high even for Spyderco, the Delica readily push shaved, push cut newsprint straight down. On light thread only took 88 +/- 11 grams to make a push cut and on light cotton it made a slice with 0.20 (4) inches under 200 grams of tension and 2.3 (2) centimeters under 100 grams of tension. This was easily enough slicing aggression to cut a roll of thin cotton sheeting, though there was some travel.

Push cutting 3/8" hemp required 24 (2) lbs, with 13 (1) lbs on a two inch draw, high aggression alongwith the strong push cutting ability and thus a complete sharpness profile.

On birch hardwood with heavy exertion, the Delica took 23 (2) slices to make a point on a 1x5=5.5 cm section.

The point on the Delica is fairly robust due to the sabre primary grind and lack of distal taper, with a 50 lbs push it still sank 185 +/- 6 pages into a phone book and with a hard vertical stab achieved 604 +/- 34 pages. It is also slim and sharp enough for emergency assistance for costume construction when suitable sissors are not available and Spyderco saves the day for a very appreciative godchild.


The Delica is easily sharp enough NIB to make smooth cuts through meats and animal skins including pork rind which requires a decently sharp blade :

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It works well as a small paring knife peeling potatos, the hump is a bit of an ergonomic issue, but outside of preparing a bucket of potatoes for thanksgiving dinner for the inlaws, this really isn't a problem :

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It also easily cuts up onions finely :

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dices celery :

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and slices up carrots with no fracture problems even on thin slices

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The Delica is also able to handle harder kitchen tasks, usually more a requirement for a trip outside, opening up a can is no problem :

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In general, a finer point such as found on the UK Pen would be of benefit for some coring work, as well as the straighter spine on the Paramilitary also has its uses for scraping foods from a cutting board.

The grip is secure, even when lubricated, and the steel showed no sign of corrosion even when left wet during the food preperation.

wood work

The Delica easily cuts light grasses as will any sharp blade. The initial sharpness is high enough so that it readily slices through the finest vegetation with no hesitation or slipping. A longer knife would be more efficient as would something with a hook, however the Delica is however a lot better than just yanking them up by hand. This is especially of benefit after snow or rain where the tops can dry in the wind long before the bottoms.

For wood shaping, the Delica worked well though behind more cutting optomized blades like the Calypso Jr. with an Opinel being pretty much the optimal profile for such work. While experimenting with shapes for digging sticks, the Delica was used to both make a scoop and a large flat prying wedge for working on rocky solid ground. The scoop could also be used as a bowl or fairly large spoon. As a shovel it wasn't any more productive than just scooping out the material by hand however the same method used on a much larger piece of wood should be of benefit. To carve the hole in the wood the Delica was used as a chisel by tapping on the end of the handle to drive the point about half an inch into the wood at about a 45 degree angle and thus cut out sections. The same can be achieved by cross hatching the wood to weaken it and then pry it out. It can also be burned out using a coal and blowing on it, but this takes a long time.

The Delica has little chopping ability, specifically about 41 (4) % of the ability of the Mora 2000. The chopping ability can be enhanced with a baton, by directly just hitting the spine with a piece of wood, however this could damage the lock if done too heavily or just sloppy. A safer way is to make a first few light strikes with the lock engaged to work the blade into a cut and then disengage the lock and hit the spine to cut to make depth and then engage the lock and rotate the blade out. Repeat as necessary until the wood is severed or can be broken by hand. However this is only slightly faster than just using the knife directly to whittle a notch in a stick. Whittling the notch in the stick on the right took just under five minutes and though about twice as long as batoning is far likely to damage the lock or the blade if the knife twists during an impact. For this type of work one of the much heavier folders like the Manix or better yet a fixed blade like the Temperance is much more efficient.

If wood has to be split then the Delica is far too small to do this directly unless the wood splits naturally really easily like clear pine. For most woods wedges and a baton are a better option. Together these can readily split a piece of lumber with the the Delica used cut a notch in the face of the wood and then the wedge and baton cracked it open. A a round of actual cut wood is split just as readily by the same process. The round on the right it took about a half a dozen impacts to set the wedge after the Delica made the initial cut and then three very heavy hits split the round. Note this wasn't clear wood, there were several knots, the split was chosen so that the crack would run between them, there is no way to chisel split a knot with a wooden wedge as it can't actually cut the wood. The wedge was convex shaped with a fairly obtuse v-ground edge for strength.

The lack of chopping and splitting ability does reduce the effectiveness of the Delica for a lot of outdoor activities, however often just direct chopping isn't always the best approach. For example, for a fire often dry wood can often be obtained even after significant rain and snow fall with a little scouting for wood which has either cracked and fallen or has died for lack of light or poor soil. This wood is so dried it can actually light directly from a match even in pencil sized pieces though it is always a good idea to use lighter tinder such as grasses or shavings and scrapings. An armfull of such wood when gathered is only enough to keep a fire burning for amount an hour as it burns so fast. Until the fire gets going keep it stored on some boughs to keep them dry while the fire is prepared. A larger knife can be of benefit here of course but often paying attention to the enviroment can reduce the demands on the knife.

Green boughs are placed on the ground inside a rock circle to keep the flame off of the snow. The Delica readily cuts the boughs, light chops are more productive than slices. With the boughs bent to put them under strain they are cut with just a few chops as long as they are half an inch and under. The boughs are on top of the grasses and propped up with some of the dry wood to allow air to circulate. Some dry shavings are placed on the grasses to provide enough fuel to ignite the boughs. Once the boughs ignite they easily generate enough heat to burn the heavier gathered dry woods. These boughs flare up strongly and throw off a massive amount of embers, in windy conditions they are very dangerous to use if the area is fairly dry. The type of wood has a really short burn time. Even when it s 2-3" thick a large armful won't last a couple of hours, so it is very difficult to get any sleep or even keep a fire going while building a shelter. As the Delica isn't large enough to cut bigger wood well the best solution is too look for larger rotted wood. Deadfall is the ideal solution as heavily rotted trees can often just be broken by hand. Such wood also works well in rain as it tends to shelter the fire as the rain doesn't run off it but tends to soak into it and thus the fire can keep drying it out.

Similar issues arise when using the Delica to make small wood based shelters. As the direct chopping power is limited it is more efficient to work with wood which is dead and can be broken readily in hand. A small bough cave can be framed out in 10-15 minutes with woods gathered from the ground and broken off of some dead trees. The branches don't need to be trimmed as the goal isn't to produce a clean and ideal frame All that is required is something to allow insulation to be applied, so no large holes. The branches and stubs are in fact used to hook all the branches together which adds strength to the structure. The walls are then filled with ferns, moss or boughs. There is little of the first two available during the winter months however the Delica readily cuts boughs. The picture at the right on the bottom is after just fifteen minutes. This cave is just big enough to sit in and keep out of the snow and wind. To give a decent level of protection the boughs should be very thick. If they are thick enough it will also reduce rainfall but you generally need other materials to do this well, like large sheets of bark or a couple of large garbage bags work well in between the bough layers.


The Delica works well for general utility work, having a solid combination of cutting ability and durability for a small blade. It cuts through the direct center of a two litre pop bottle with 125 (5) lbs and moving just 1/4" to the side of the very thick center of the plastic, the Delica makes a cut with a much reduced 75 (2) lbs. It also easily slices up a pop can with no concerns about edge damage. Seat belts are also no problem nor is the insulation for the roof of a SUV and the rubber seal for the windows. It easily handles CAT-5 cable, making a rocking cut with 36 (2) lbs. After a dozen cuts the force started to increase due to the edge starting to blunt but there was no visible damage to the edge. On 1.5 mm copper wire, press cuts with 75 (3) lbs applied made enough of a notch to allow the wire to be cracked in half. It was much easier however to just hammer the knife through the wire. With a 500 g weight used as a light baton it only took 3-4 hits to cut the wire directly in half.

For heavier work, the Delica can chop up 3/8" plywood with no concerns about damage to the edge or lock. However it takes a long time due to the lightweight nature of the knife even with a grip around the end of the handle. It takes a 175 chops to cut through a thin strip, this would be near instantly chopped through with folder like the Manix. With the Delica it is much more efficient to just slice pieces out of the plywood, cutting at an angle, not directly across the top. This enables the same piece to be sectioned in just 25 slices which is far faster and easier.

The hump at the top of the blade also has various uses besides obviously being necessary for the large opening hole. It makes a fairly versatile prying tool and can easily fit under the lid of a paint can and pry it open. The tip can do this as well but the occasional metal contacts will blunt the edge and the hump does it easily and keeps the edge sharp. The tip is also easily robust enough to stab through ice very vigerously, much more so than a much more tapered clip like on the Jess Horn which would take much longer as the stabs would have to be kept lighter.

Edge retention : main

As a rough pass at edge retention, with the initial edge the Delica was used to cut strips through 1/8" ridged cardboard. Over 20 metres were cut (21.75m) and the knife was still functioning well, though the edges of the cardboard were starting to get a little ragged. The Delica was also compared extensively on cardboard to another Delica in ZDP-189 and the VG-10 was behind but not outclassed.

Ease of Sharpening : main

The Delica's acute edge is honed at a low enough angle so that it can be sharpened on the Sharpmaker directly. Just a couple of passes on the medium rods raises a tiny microbevel which creates a clean shaving edge. The machinability of VG-10 is high compared to steels like S30V and in general it gets consistent praise for ease of sharpening and ability to take a high sharpness in general.

Grip ergonomics / security : main

The handle on the Delica is one of the classic Spyderco shapes which compares well to the more indexed grip on knives like the UK Pen. The UK Pen is more optomized for sabre and hammer grips with the prominent index finger cutout which offers high security and comfort in such orientations. However it have some ergonomic issues with grips which place the apex of the index cutout towards the palm. In contrast the less aggressively shaped Delica grip does not index as strongly in hammer or sabre grips however has no issues with icepick grips. Also while it doesn't have the full integral index finger cutout as on the UK Pen, the choil region is still big enough for a finger for precision tip work.
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The grip of the Delica is also large enough to allow the knife to function even with a heavy rawhide glove or mitt. The grooves on the thum ramp are also an improvement over the ones on the UK Pen as they offer greater traction but are fine enough to not be abrasive. They basically form one large surface and grip well so they enhance security in sabre grips for hard thrusting as well as heavy point work in general. The checkering of the Delica FRN slabs are also more prominent than the pattern on the UK Pen's G10 grip and they are also bi-directional which not only give a nice visual aesthetic but also enhance security in both grip directions.

The clip on the Delica is also more rounded than the traditional one found on the Persian . The Delica clip swells in tapering towards the middle to flow out again at the contact point. Both of these increase ergonomics as clip contacts are usually one of the critical points in hot spotting with folding knives. With these improvements, the Delica has no issues with extended heavy cutting such as carving a bunch of shavings for tinder.

Action and Lock strength/security : main

The action on the Delica is stiffer than on liners/compression locks due to the tension of the lock bar. Specifically it takes 700 (5) grams directly perpendicular to the opening hole to draw the blade and this stays over 600 grams until the blades goes past 90 degrees. It takes just 50 (5) grams to close the blade once the lock is released which takes 6.5 (lbs). It takes similar force to draw the Paramilitary , however as soon as the blade is drawn the force falls off to under 200 grams so it swings much easier than the Delica.

In regards to security, there are no issues with spine whacks, it handles spine impacts easily head enough to put a one millimeter detent in the edge of birch flooring and put a dent under the lip of a pop can. A dozen jackhammer rapid impacts do nothing either. It is also stable under white knuckling, even in icepicks grips, the fingers don't engage the lock. This is due to a few factors such as the milled out recess, the shorter opening bar, which is only 0.64" wide compared to 0.80" on the Cara Cara, and the fact that the lock release is inline with the handle slabs.

As for ease of opening/closing with gloves, there was no difficulty with a thick rawhide glove and even a heavy winter mitt.

Note, work has been done with an Endura in regards to the stability of the lock in regards to contamination with dirt and debris : ref.

Carry : main

The clip on the Delica can be attached to either side of the blade and positioned for tip up or tip down carry. The folder is both small and light, and can even be clipped to the tip of a shirt without signficant problems. No problems were noted with security of attachment or ease of draw. The screws on the clip did loosen initially and had to be tightened.

Overview : main

The Delica is a small utility knife with high initial sharpness, solid cutting ability, quality ergonomics and grip security. This model is signifiantly upgraded from the introduction of the Delica by Spyderco and has a higher grade of steel, a more ergonomic clip and uses torx screws rather than a pinned construction.

Comments and references : main

Comments can be emailed to cliffstamp[REMOVE]@cutleryscience.com or by posting in the following thread :

More information can be obtained at the Spyderco website. There is also a passaround thread on the Delica which may be of interest :

Last updated : 01 : 10 : 2006
Originally written: 01 : 05 : 2006