Forth generation Spyderco Delica in ZDP-189

The review consists of the forth generation Spyderco Delica in ZDP-189:

Specifications : main

The forth generation Spyderco Delica in ZDP-189 has the same design as the VG-10 version, full specifications can be seen in its review of the forth generation VG-10 plain edge Spyderco Delica.The only significant difference, aside from the steel, is that the edge geometry is different, specifically this one is ground from 0.022-0.025" at the edge and sharpened at 12.7 (2) degrees per side.

Stock testing : main

The Delica had extreme initial sharpness, it shaved very smoothly and would push cut newsprint effortlessly. On thread it took 68.3 (4.0) grams to make a cut and 0.43 (5.6) centimeters to cut light cotton under a 100 gram load, on a 200 gram load the blade cut through the cotton instantly.

With the origional edge profile and new in box sharpness, the Delica cut 3/8 inch hemp with 8.0 (5) and 12.7 (9) lbs on a slice through two inches of blade and a push cut respectively..

The Delica tips tapers through 0.58" at an angle of 4.8 degrees. On a 50 lbs push it sinks to a depth of 188 (4) pages.

Food : main

As a paring knife, the Delica does notice a few issues compared to the Calypdo Jr. which has a thinner edge profile and thus will peel vegetables easiler. The Jess Horn is also more narrow and thus cuts around curves more efficiently and the more acute point handles coring and such tasks better. The Delica is however many times more efficient than more tactical folders like the X-Ray Vision. The lightweight nature of the FRN grips also is of benefit when compared to knives like the Meadowlark for extending light cutting as the extra weight in hand does little besides generate fatigue.

For many utility applications the general cutting ability is solid however the main drawback is just lack of length, especially when dicing or slicing larger vegetables. It also doesn't work well to a cutting board though it can still be effective by drawing on an angle through most vegetables which is however less efficient than direct slicing such as with a larger knife like the Rat Trap. The spine of the Delica does however make a nice scraper to transfer food into the pan/pot.

Working on meats, the initial sharpness is high enough for any cutting with no slipping and thus loss of control. The blade also readily cuts through the joints on some large chickens (8 lbs), easily going through the end caps as easily as the flesh and cuts through the backbone of some medium cod. There are some issues with the checkering as while it is secure it is a bit difficult to clean after such use.

Field : main

On light vegetation and grasses, the Delica readily pops off stalky weeds with a light chop holding onto the end of the handle. The initial sharpness easily allows cutting of very fine grasses and light vegetation easily. This type of cutting it more efficient with a longer blade, the Catcherman is much faster an the Manix solid on heavier vegetation.

On light woods, such as alders, the Delica readily pops through them with just wrist snaps with a grip around the back of the handle. The aggressive checkering is a positive aspect here offering high grip retention. This chopping ability continues to be effective up to those alders about the size of the opening hole at which point the Delica lacks the power to chop them efficiently. This wood does not burn well when dry, but seasons in just a few days and is very easy to split by hand, pulling them apart, which makes them dry much faster. They also work well to use as the frame and overlay for a debris shelter. They can also be used for a heavy type of cordage once the fibres are broken, Ray Mears demonstrates this on several occasions in his TV shows. It is also a very soft wood and thus easy to carve into spoons and such for the thicker pieces. On the larger versions of the same wood, chopping isn't effective as the Delica doesn't have the size. The Endura and Manix will still keep chopping much larger woods. The Delica however can still cut the woods by bending to put them under tension and slicing through them. This also allows the cutting of much harder woods like pine and spruce boughs which make for very rapid cover of a lean-to.

On barks , the Delica readily cuts around thick pitch bark and the tip is robust enough to pry it off directly, unlike blades like the Jess Horn for which indirect methods have to be used. With the bark separate from the wood the Delica is pulled down the tree, which usually requires heavy force, so much so two hands on a large knife is of benfit. The sap is very useful for making pitch glue and for firestarting as the bark will burn hot for an extended period of time. A few slabs are enough to burn even fresh birch when split into sticks about an inch thick. However the sap is very difficult to clean from the blade. Usually such work is done first so just using the knife tends to clean it off, getting it around the pivot would not be fun and would gum up the action of the knife harshly. For immediate tinder the thick pitch barks don't work well, loose birch bark is much easier to light. A knife doesn't tend to make gathering this easier as it is just peeled off with the fingers. However the sharp edge on the Delica is useful to scrape the birch bark to make it easier to light from a spark. The Delica also makes removing larger pieces of bark much easier. It easily makes a vertical slice and a two short horizontal cuts a the top and bottom and large sections will peel off naturally. These can be used to make containers and on large trees will quickly allow a shelter to be made as they can be used like canvas. They can also be used as writing paper.

As a wood splitter , the Delica is far too small and light to chop split even small clear pine lumber. On thin woods like clapboard it can basically slice off strips and even pry apart the wood to some extent, but on one inch board this ability is lost unless the board is fully clear and soft as it takes too much force and ideally at least a 3/16" thickness is required to keep the blade from being in danger of cracking. Torsional splitting can be used to some extent on thicker woods, but this is hard on the user. It can be used with a baton to split some deadfall if necessary to make it easier to burn. The splits through the alders on the right were made with about 10-20 impacts, very light, just wrist pops. A Temperance was used to split similar wood with just 1-2 hits, so larger and more robust blades are of significant advantage for such work. Similar techniques can be used to cut wood to length. In the picture showing the batoning on the alders the stick on the left was cut in half by batoning on the end of the handle of the Delica to drive the point 3/8" into the wood and rocking it to widen the cuts. With a half a dozen such cuts made on one side of the wood it was easily snapped.

On miscellaneous applications, it readily handles some work as a scraper, efficiently cutting off some paint.It does this much better than an actual pain scraper, especially on concrete. This use does tend to wear on the blade escessively however and require a couple of minutes on an x-coarse stone to reset the edge clean.

For fire starting, the many abilities of the Delica described in the above are a significant enhancement over barehanded fire starting. It much more effectively gathers tinders of many sources and prepares wood for burning. Gathering small diameter woods directly and aiding in cutting longer sections to length. It can also split thicker woods if necessary and cut green boughs for smoke for signaling or to drive away insects.In general, in many cases most material can be just gathered by hand, but after extensive rain the ability cut and separate woods is very valuable. For most work of this type a larger knife like a Manix or better yet a larger fixed blade like the Ratweiler is more effective if of course they are practical to carry. The very bright flame in the top picture on the left is a section of thick pitch bark which was lit from a small handful of birch bark placed underneath it.

Edge_retention : main

The initial sharpness of the Delica was retained through the stock cutting on ropes and hardwood and the knife still easily slice up previously cooked chicken with no slipping. After carving a section of 1x2 into shavings and split some spruce slabs into splits for firestarting the Delica finally lost the fine shaving ability which was readily restored with some light honing on 0.5 micron chromium/aluminum oxide on leather. It was also compared to several other blades in quantitative manners to benchmark the performance of the steel.

On 1/8" cardboard stock, five runs were made with the reprofiled Delica. Random sampling was used through a collection of a dozen boxes of similar stock. Before each run the edge was cut off with 10 passes directly into a 800 grit waterstone to remove all weakened metal which was then used to rehone the primary bevel back to the ability to slice newsprint cleanly which also also removed all evidence of any secondary bevel. The edge was refined on a fine natural chinese waterstone up to shaving finish with no secondary bevel. Finally a 0.1-0.2 mm wide microbevel was ground freehand at 15 degrees per side on a 600 DMT pad which was cleaned on plain leather, 5 passes per side. The median performance which uses a VG-10 Delica with the same geometry as a benchmark :

Edge retention on a slice through 1/8" cardboard with a VG-10 and ZDP-189 Delica
Cardboard ZDP-189 VG-10 Cardboard ZDP-189 VG-10
  0.0  30 (  2)  25 (2) 17.9 118 (12) 148 (8)
  0.8  43 (  3)  43 (2) 30.4 125 (14) 193 (4)
  2.3  50 (  3)  55 (4) 39.8   200 (6)
  5.4  70 (  4)  83 (3) 49.3 210 (14) 225 (6)
  8.7  118 (6) 61.8 240 (14) 270 (6)
11.7   88 (10) 125 (6) 74.2 275 (16) 295 (6)

In graphical form :

At the end of the runs the knives could still slice newsprint but could not continue a push cut even at an angle. The knives were also steeled to check the effect of deformation/wear, five passes per side on a smooth steel from Razor's Edge. The responce was to increase the sharpness from 275 (16) to 133 (9) on the ZDP-189 and from 295 (6) to 138 (10) on the VG-10 Delica. The blades would slice shave after steeling (on one side) but not push cut newsprint. The VG-10 Delica had additional points at 8.5 and 40 m to allow for a better performance estimate.

Note the deviations seen with the VG-10 data are much smaller. Mainly as two of the ZDP-189 runs suffered premature blunting, at 12/50 m where it surpassed the blunting at 75 m on the other runs. These are possibly due to carbide stability issues. The edge tends to suddenly go dull in large sections 1-2 cm long and readily reflect light. While the the VG-10 blade blunts faster early, both in the rate and extent, the laste stage blunting is similar for both blades. By the time they hit 75 m they are very similar and after steeling they are near identical.

Similar work was repeated slicing 1/4" double ridged cardboard through 4 cm of edge with the middle 3 cm tested for sharpness. The edges were set at 8/15, primary/secondary. This means a complete regrind flat to the primary bevel with a 0.1-0.2 mm wide microbevel freehand at 15 degrees per side. Five runs were used for the ZDP-189 Delica and six for the VG-10 Delica.

Edge retention on a slice through 1/4" double ridged cardboard with a VG-10 and ZDP-189 Delica
Cardboard ZDP-189 VG-10 Cardboard ZDP-189 VG-10
  0.0  25 (  1)  25 (1) 2.3   90 (4)125 (  4)
  0.4  40 (  1)  45 (3) 3.5 120 (5)133 (  5)
  0.8  53 (  3)  75 (3) 5.8 138 (8)183 (  7)
  1.6  75 (  3)  90 (4) 9.3 185 (8)260 (15)

In graphical form :

1/4 cardboard

The VG-10 Delica blunts faster initially again and shows more blunting in the long run. Note the difference in the x-axis of the two graphs. Though comparing different card stocks is always problematic this gives you a rough idea of the difference in cutting power between 600/1200 DMT. More points in the latter stages would reduce the tendancy for radical drift behavior in the last point.The last VG-10 point in particular is on the high end of the actual behavior from looking at the raw data in detail.Note the advantage of the ZDP-189 blade is higher here which would make sense as the larger micro-teeth of the last run will lower any contribution from inherent aggression of primary carbides. The performance of ZDP-189 was much more stable this time, note the very low variance. There was in fact no premature bluntnig as was seen in the runs at 600 DMT. However half of the six VG-10 runs did see such behavior meaning a run for each of the last three points for which the blunting was at least double what the median would predict.

Sharpening : main

After the initial stock work and some weeks of carry, the primary grind of the Delica was cut back to full by just a few minutes on an x-coarse DMT stone and 200 grit silicon carbide waterstone. While ZDP-189 has a fairly low ease of grinding due to the large amount of primary carbides those very coarse stones pretty much ignore that for minor reshaping.

During the 600 DMT edge retention work on cardboard, on four out of the five sharpenings the edge required deburring to remove the secondary deformation burr. Very short passes, less than one centimeter, were used without elevating the angle, altering each pass. On the fifth run the edge formed clean at fifteen degrees with no deburring. It took about 200-300 passes on the 800 grit waterstone to reset the primary grind on the ZDP-189 and 100-200 on the VG-10 Delica after each run. Time on the DMT was only 10 passes with both blades, micro-beveling tends to ignore grindability. The VG-10 Delica also had consistently slightly higher initial sharpness, both by feel when shaving and measured on the cord. It also had less issues with burr removal forming the edge clean in two out of the three trial runs.

However on the 1200 DMT cardboard work, all ZDP-189 sharpenings formed clean, no burrs while three out of six VG-10 runs needed deburring. This element is very critical to force on the stone and it is tricky to sharpen such different steels side by side and get both of them perfect. On an interesting note, a x-coarse DMT pad is actually slick on the ZDP-189 though chews through the VG-10. A 200 silicon carbide waterstone chews through both like using a wood rasp on balsa.

Lock : main

The lock back of the Delica was stable under spine impacts, torques and white knuckling. The only issue noted with the lock was that after extensive work which included light chopping and batoning there was some vertical play induced to the extent the point would shift by about a millimeter during heavy cutting.

Overview : main

The Delica is a more robust pattern than for example the Calpyso Jr. and thus works well where some pure cutting ability can be traded for general robustness. To clarify, the Delica still cuts very well put isn't the focused cutting tool which is the Calpyso Jr.. The handle is well shaped and nicely bi-derectionally textured, the clip well designed and contoured to to print minimally in hand, overall ergonomics and grip security are high as noted in the Forth generation Delica VG-10 review.

Comments and references : main

Comments can be emailed to cliffstamp[REMOVE] or posted to :

More information can be obtained at the Spyderco website. The above pictures are mainly from the Delica ZDP photo album on PhotoBucket.

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