The Delica and Endura have been part of Spyderco’s catalog since 1990. They have gone through a handful of changes over the years to the handle, clip, and blade steel but for the most part they are still recognizable as the Delica and Endura. The most recent changes are perhaps the most sweeping and they resulted in the generation 4 models which I believe are the best yet.
Not long before the release of the Delica4 and Endura4 knives, Spyderco licensed the Wave Opener feature from knife making royalty, Ernest Emerson, for use on a special edition of the Endura3. The model featured both the famous Spyderhole and Emerson Wave. This model sold briskly and has since become somewhat of a collectors item.
Shortly after the release of the Delica4 and Endura4 models, Spyderco announced that an Emerson Wave enhanced Endura4 would become a production model along with the introduction of a “waved” version of the Delica4. My love affair with these knives started as soon as these knives hit dealer shelves.
Emerson Opener (Wave)
The Emerson Opener or Wave is what really sets these knives apart. Without it, they would just be regular Delicas or Enduras (not that there is anything wrong with that). The Wave takes these models to a whole new level.
The Wave is a hooked protrusion from the top of the blade that allows the blade to catch on the pants pocket while it is being drawn. When the hook catches, it forces the blade open. It is extremely reliable and actually faster than an automatic because it is opening as the knife clears the pocket, not once the knife is produced.
Spyderco added the Wave in addition to their famous Spyderhole. The result is a knife that can be opened in a ton of different ways. The ease and speed at which these knives can be produced and opened is unbelievable.
The Wave is billed mainly as a self defense feature and it certainly makes sense as one. Being able to produce your folding knife and open it without extra thought or manipulation is certainly a great thing in a self defense scenario. Savvy users will also see the utility of this feature in an EDC or general use outdoors knife. Being able to open a knife quickly when your hands are cold and wet or when one hand is disabled is never a bad thing.
The only problem with the Wave is that you will eventually have a hard time accepting a folding knife that doesn’t have the feature. It will change what you expect from a folding knife to the point where it is hard to without. I really can’t over state how important the Emerson Opener has become to me.
Details and Observations
The Delica4 and Endura4 seem to be sized to comply with the most common knife laws. The Delica sports a sub 3” VG-10 steel blade that is legal in all but the most restrictive areas. The Endura and its sub 4” VG-10 steel blade can be carried where there are more permissive laws.
VG-10 is one of the only modern stainless steels that I like. S30V and others can hold a great edge but in actual use, I rarely see a difference other than the S30V being much more difficult to sharpen. VG-10 sharpens easily and holds a working edge for a long time. It also takes to the strop well. I don’t have to spend much time at all when the blade needs resharpening.
One of the biggest improvements that came with the gen 4 models was the inclusion of nested steel liners. The liners are heavily skeletonized so that their impact on the weight of the knives is minimal. These steel liners really step of the durability of the knife. These metal liners also give the pocket clip screws something solid to screw into which is an improvement over past models. The pocket clip is moveable for left and right hand, tip up or tip down carry.
The handles scales are made from plastic (FRN) and have multi-directional texturing. I love modern handle materials like carbon fiber, G-10, and micarta but the plastic handles on the Delica and Endura keep bringing me back. The plastic provides great grip without being harsh on your pockets. It doesn’t tear them up like other materials would and it doesn’t beat the tar out of items that you carry in the same pocket with your knife. It may not be the coolest, but it just works.
Spyderco, more than any other maker, knows how to design a handle that is both very thin and yet very ergonomic at the same time. Both the Delica4 and the thicker Endura4 are very thin and carry unobtrusively in your pocket.
The blade shapes are very versatile. They have a spear point profile with a fairly fine point. It doesn’t have a ton of belly but it has more than enough for most tasks. I have yet to find a cutting task that I felt hindered because of blade shape.
The Wave feature as Spyderco envisions it is larger and more rounded than you will typically find on an Emerson folder. I find it to be just as reliable without being so hard on your pockets.
Spyderco seems to have purposefully designed these knives to be deceiving in size when they are in your pocket. When you view the small portion of the knife that sticks up out of the pocket when stowed, the knives appear like they would be much smaller than they actually are. In fact, when clipped in your pocket, it is difficult to tell the difference between the Delica4 and the much larger Endura4. You can carry these without drawing a lot of attention to yourself.
The Delica4 and Endura4 might also be one of the best supported factory knives around in terms of parts and accessories. You can buy spare parts kits directly from the factory that will let you replace commonly lost or worn out parts. You can also buy realistic and fully functional training versions of these knives.
Not Quite Perfect
While none of these gripes have been even close to enough to displace these knives from my pocket for the last several years, they are not perfect.
They have a plastic backspacer in which the spring for the lockback is housed. This seems to prevent the knives from having a very crisp feel when closing. They just don’t always seem to snap closed like an all metal knife might. Closing feels a bit mushy.
The blades are saber ground which means that they have flat primary bevel that comes about halfway up the blade. I would prefer a full flat grind but this is just a personal preference and these knives cut very well just the way that they are.
The black paint on the pocket clip scratches fairly readily. The pocket clip will be looking worn and ragged in no time. I don’t mind this but a different coating or treatment might hold up better.
You can spend a lot more on a knife that will have more exotic design, blade steel, and handle materials but you won’t find a knife that is more functional or easy to carry than the Spyderco Delica4 and Endura4 with the Emerson Wave Opener. The Emerson Wave Opener takes these already classic knives to a whole new level.