Spyderco Delica 4 Lightweight FFG Review
By Matt, 19/11/2016
A modern classic of the knife world and one of Spyderco's perennial best sellers, the Delica really needs no introduction. Positioned as Spyderco's entry level working folder, the Delica has been made in a multitude of iterations and configurations over the years.
For a long time the Delica was available with only a sabre ground blade, the thinking being that the sabre grind offered the best compromise between cutting performance and blade durability. However, after the release of the G10 Delica model with a full flat grind (FFG) there was increasing demand from Spydy fans for the FFG blade to find its way to the lightweight versions of the Delica. Spyderco listened, and in 2010 the FFG Delica 4 Lightweight was added to the lineup.
Personally, I have had numerous versions of the Delica come and go from my collection and none ever really grabbed me as anything special. However, around five years ago I went through a process of selling off the majority of my collection (not sure what came over me if I'm honest!). The full flat grind (FFG) Delica wasn't the pick of my collection, not by a long shot... but, for some reason it survived the clear-out.
From that point onwards, when I needed a knife for work, or to take fishing, or to just beat on in the back yard 9 times out of 10 the Delica FFG was in my pocket. It was only after using it extensively that I really came to appreciate the knife.
- Overall Length: 181mm (7.125")
- Blade Length: 73mm (2.875")
- Closed Length: 108mm (4.25")
- Blade Thickness: 2.5mm
- Blade: VG10
- Handle: Fiberglass reinforced nylon (FRN)
- Lock: Mid-lock
- Pivot Hardware: Phosphor bronze washers
- Weight: 66g (2 1/4oz)
- Country of origin: Seki City Japan
Now it was a while ago, but, if my memory serves me correctly I wasn't overwhelmed with the Delica when it arrived. There was nothing wrong with it per sea, the fit and finish was impeccable, the action smooth and the lock up tight (as per every other Japanese Spyderco I've ever had), but, the Delica just didn't wow me and I ended up putting it away in the cupboard. If I'm honest, I think I just purchased it because I was in a 'collecting' mindset and believed that I 'needed' a FFG Delica in my collection.
The 2.5mm stock and the full flat grind combine to make the Delica's blade an all out slicing machine which glides through most material almost effortlessly. The drop point blade has a slight amount of belly which makes it pretty much spot on for EDC use.
This is not a blade that you want to pry with... not even a little. As one would expect, the tip gets pretty narrow, however, it has been rounded off some in order to merit it with some durability (it actually looks like a fix I would do if I had snapped off the tip!). That being said the blade has proved tough enough for every cutting task I threw at it. It ate up everything from timber to carpet to rubber sheeting, and it just laughed at cardboard. The Delica's blade performs so well that it is almost enough to make one question the worth of the current hard-use folders and their 4mm thick blades (they sure are fun though!).
There is no sharpening choil, which some guys will like and an equal amount of guys will hate. Personally, while I do appreciate a good sharpening choil when I take a knife to the stones. In use I find they often catch on stuff and I would rather not have it, especially on a shorter blade like the Delica.
The steel is tried and true VG10 which is a solid mid range stainless steel originally designed for use in grafting tools. While I'm not a gardener, if the Delica's VG10 is anything to go by, I suspect that grafting tools must need a damn sharp and damn fine edge! VG10 is one of the stainless steels I enjoy sharpening the most. It takes a very, very fine edge with little effort. On the flip side, it doesn't hold its edge as long as some other steels out there. The edge seems to roll quite easily when cutting harder stuff (at least it doesn't chip) and in my use I found it needed touch-ups about twice as often as something like S30V.
The blade is finished in a satin polish which looks great but does tend to pick up scratches pretty readily. I do like that Spyderco rounded off the sharp edges on the blade spine. One thing I did notice was that there appears to be fine ripples running perpendicular to the grind lines. I'm not really sure what these are, but whatever it is I sure haven't seen it on any other blade.
The only real hit is the poor blade to handle ratio. When looking at the blade when closed there appears to be room for at least another 1/2 cm of blade there.
I know many hate on plastic handles, but fibreglass reinforced nylon (FRN) really is a great material. It is tough, wear resistant, strong, lightweight and has low thermal conductivity (i.e. doesn't get cold or hot like a metal handled knife will). It also can be made in a wide variety of colours, including the nice shade of brown my Delica sports.
As an aside, I have noticed that the FRN used on the Japanese Spydercos seem to feel more premium and less plasticy than the FRN used on other knives including USA made Spydys like the Native 5 Lightweight and the UKPK. I can't really put my finger on why, maybe it is the embedded steel liners in the Delica that make it feel more solid?
Construction wise, everything is fit well with no gaps to be found. Skeletonised steel liners are neatly inset into the handle adding rigidity and strength without too much of a weight penalty. I like how the screws are slotted on the pile side only, resulting in a nice and clean mark side. The only flaw in the build is the visible mould lines on the back spacer, it would have been nice if this was flush.
In hand the Delica is light and nimble (as you would expect given it only weighs 66 grams) with the balance point siting right in the middle of the forward finger cut out. The spine of the handle follows the curvature of the hand and all edges are contoured smooth. The bi directional jimping on the sides of the handle is nice and sharp preventing the knife sliding around even when wet. The jimping on the top of the handle is pretty shallow, quite smooth and nearly useless. The jimping on the thumb ramp is spot on, not too sharp while still managing to bite into the thumb.
Unfortunately for me the ergonomics are a bit off for my hand. In a normal sabre grip the forward finger cut-out is too small for both of my first two fingers to fit comfortably. As a result my middle finger falls across the raised point of the second finger cut out. Most of the time this isn't a problem and I don't really notice any hot spots, however, during heavier cutting my middle finger joint does get a bit sore.
A poor blade-handle ratio seems to be apparent in several popular Spydys including the Delica and the venerable PM2. The logic goes that a smaller blade in a larger handle will give better blade control. This is certainly true in the case of the Delica. On the other hand, I have many knives the size of the Delica with longer blades (Al Mar falcon to name one I carry often) and when I am doing finer work I tend to lay my fore finger across the top of the blade and choke up on the handle somewhat negating the advantage a longer handle would give.
By their nature lock backs generally necessitate a closed back design. This combined with skeletonised liners and the bi directional jimping result in the Delica being hard to keep clean. Gunk just seems to gather in the bi directional jimping and is extremely annoying to get out. I think I may need to buy a toothbrush to keep it clean. Likewise lint and crud gather in the skeletonised holes drilled into the steel liners. This isn't so bad as at least with screw construction I can disassemble and clean the Delica 4 (unlike older generations of the Delica which were impossible to take apart due to their pinned construction).
Generally I don't use lanyards on my folders, but when I do I prefer them to be threaded through right at the back of the handle so they don't interfere when gripping the knife. On the Delica the lanyard hole is a fair way from the end of the handle which may be an issue if you are the lanyard using type.
Finally, an aesthetic complaint. I really don't like the how the oval Spyderco logo in the middle of the handle doesn't align with the bi directional jimping. Now I know that it provides a smooth surface for the pocket clip to slide around on and perhaps I'm being OCD (highly doubtful), but I find it jarring to my eye and wish they would have made it circular like they do on the Native 5.
The Spydy spoon clip on the Delica is a great clip, as you would expect from the company that invented the 'Clipit' knife.
Positionalble in all four corners, the tension is perfect. The Delica slides into the pocket with ease and is held securely in place with a couple of cm exposed. Grabbing onto the exposed section handle the knife draws smoothly, no complaints at all.
In the pocket the Delica rides well thanks to its slim profile and light weight. The black coated clip makes it less noticeable, however, the coating clip wears bloody quick. Personally I don't mind the worn look but some might.
With the clip in the tip down position it fits nicely into the contours of my hand. The rounded edges and flat tip are an example to other manufacturers how to get a clip right.
If I'm honest, despite all the claims of 'hard-use' frame locks, the humble lock back is the lock that I trust most not to fail on me. Here the Spyderco mid-lock version is well executed. Lock-up is tight with a minuscule amount of up-down movement (which seems to be typical of lock-backs).
The David Boye detent on the lock bar is meant to stop unintentional disengagement when gripping the knife hard. In my experience, unintentional disengagement has never been an issue so I guess it works. Ialso quite like how the detent helps my thumb locate the right spot to push on. Disengagement of the lock is light and smooth.
Riding on phosphor bronze washers, deployment using the 13mm Spydyhole is nice and smooth. Personally I really like the Spydyhole, it is easy to use and doesn't impede cutting performance like some other methods can.
Being a mid-lock the Delica is a little hard to flick open with just the thumb (or Spydyflick) tending to get stuck at around 3/4 open. However, if you are so inclined it will flick open just fine with a bit of wrist action.
When closing the Delica one handed I came to appreciate the unsharpened ricasso (which initially I thought was taking up valuable cutting edge). Upon depressing the lock-bar the blade falls freely, the ricasso hitting on your fore-finger. At this point you can relocate your hand to close the knife fully.
In the closed position the tension from the mid lock holds the blade securely. I have never had any issues with the Delica open unintentionally in the pocket.
All in all, there is a reason why the Delica is a classic. That reason being.... it is a damn good knife.
Spyderco have put out a great value, well designed, high quality working knife with great steel and top quality construction.
If you consider yourself a 'knife guy' you really need to experience a Delica, if only so you can use it as a size reference for my reviews (if you haven't noticed I use the Delica as the reference folder for my review size comparison pics. :p).
Subscribe below for email notification when a new review is posted: