Review: the Spyderco Delica 4 Lightweight is a noteworthy knife with a contradictory name
Lightweight? Absolutely. Delicate? Not on your life.
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For years, I’ve heard of Spyderco knives, and when I got my first glimpse of them roughly 10 years ago, I hated them. I knew nothing of their quality or performance, but I hated the gaping hole prominently drilled through each blade. As time went on, I started hearing more and more about how well Spyderco’s blades performed, and I slowly developed an interest. Very slowly.
Earlier this summer, my editor asked me if there was any particular blade I wanted to try out. By then, I’d developed a curiosity in the Delica 4 series of knives, and the Lightweight model piqued my interest, thanks to a combination of its various color options and my ignorance of the subtleties of the Spyderco lineup. Still, I was curious, and I added it to my list. When I found out I had one heading my way, my excitement mounted, until finally, it came.
Editor’s note: the Spyderco Delica 4 also made Task & Purpose’s roundup of the best EDC knives of the year.
Everyday carry knives come in all shapes, sizes, and degrees of quality. Some no-name blades cost a mere 10 bucks and have the quality to match, while others will set you back a couple hundred smackers and leave you marveling at both the blade and the price. That said, there is a middle ground, and at a $120 price point, the Spyderco Delica 4 Lightweight may just provide the best of both worlds.
Due to my heavy exposure to lower-end blades over the years, Spyderco’s packaging for the Delica 4 Lightweight caught me a little off guard. The knife’s package consisted of a red slide-out tray with an eye-catching black and red sheath, both made with paperboard. While the outside was only slightly noteworthy, the packaging inside caught my attention. The knife itself came in a sealed-seam, open-top bubble wrap pouch sitting on top of a quarter-inch foam pad, neatly sandwiching the information and warranty guide between the two protective layers. These may seem like little things, but attention to detail in packaging implies (but doesn’t guarantee) a higher-quality product.
Upon removing this variation of the Delica 4, I was immediately blown away by just how lightweight the thing is! (Turns out this featherweight weighs a mere 2.4 ounces.) The blade, skeletonized liners, back lock, pocket clip, and fasteners are all metal parts, but the knife’s “unibody” body and scales consist of three shaped slabs of a tough-feeling, lightweight fiberglass-reinforced nylon, or FRN, in black. Usually, I am wary of anything made with any sort of plastic, but the knife’s body gave off the feel of a higher stippled Magpul PMAG, which pushed my doubts about durability and toughness (mostly) out the door.
The Delica 4 Lightweight felt amazing in my hand, almost like it was custom-fit to my own hand. It provided a comfortable, solid-feeling grip, and the pocket clip virtually disappeared into my grip once the blade was deployed. The knife uses a back lock which makes it physically impossible to accidentally unlock the blade while in use, and the jimping on the spine combined with the large hump created by the thumb hole in the blade provided an excellent place for my thumb to rest. The thumb hole, a Spyderco hallmark, made the blade smooth, comfortable, and easy to use when either deploying or closing the blade. That said, single-handed closing took a little practice to accomplish with any proficiency.
This Japanese-built knife features a 2.9-inch leaf blade which consists of VG-10 steel and features a full flat grind. The knife measures 4.25 inches long when closed (it feels even smaller due to its minimal weight), and the included pocket clip can be removed and installed in one of four positions, allowing for both lefties and righties to position the knife in a comfortable storage position whether that be tip-up or tip-down.
How we tested the Spyderco Delica 4 Lightweight
For years, I’ve heard about the superiority of Spyderco knives, so naturally, I wanted to see if these blades really live up to the hype. Naturally, I’d start with a simple paper test, comparing it to my just-past-factory sharp Buck 110. I cut a single piece of printer paper straight down using the Delica’s full edge and an equivalent length of the 110’s edge to create an apples-to-apples comparison. The results blew my expectations out of the water. Despite applying slightly more pressure with the heavier Buck 110, the featherweight Delica 4 sliced through 2.75 inches of paper compared to the 110’s two-inch cut. This makes the Delica 4 Lightweight by far the knife with the best factory edge I’ve handled over the past couple decades.
With the paper test raising the bar, I figured to up the ante and see how well this Delica 4 variant could keep an edge. It cleaned the blade, then proceeded to slice through six pounds of raw, slightly frozen chicken breasts. While the blade is a little short to earn this Spyderco a spot in the kitchen, it went through the meat like a hot knife through butter, and that’s no exaggeration. By the time I finished processing the poultry, the edge had slowed down a little, indicating slight dulling. Still, after cleaning the knife, it still had quite an impressive edge, so I threw it straight into my EDC rotation for a couple of weeks.
Next, I decided to see how this Delica 4 handles basic woodworking. I grabbed a couple of dry sticks I had lying around, apple and aspen, and proceeded to whittle away without resharpening the blade first. After a good 30-45 minutes of turning stubs into sharp stakes and back again, I discovered that this member of Spyderco’s Delica line held its own and its edge impressively well. The blade easily removed larger chunks of wood while also smoothly slicing slivers away and doubling as a right-angle scraping tool. During this test, I primarily used the part of the blade closest to the grip to maximize control — and boy, did she deliver! While not quite as good for more detailed woodworking as the Buck Cadet I recently tested, the Delica 4 Lightweight performed extremely well despite its larger blade and left my support hand thumb much happier than the Cadet.
Despite the variety of use my Delica 4 endured, it barely dulled enough to warrant a sharpening session. That said, I did give it a handful of medium and light strokes with my Smith’s DRET, primarily at the base of the blade where I did most of my wood cutting. While I did not attain a factory edge (time and the DRET have their limitations), it took the edge I gave it quite easily, an edge on par with my 110.
Finally, I took a few moments to pass the Delica 4 Lightweight by the women in my life to see what they thought of this handy little knife, and I almost instantly questioned my judgment. For both of my sisters, it was love at first sight. Both ladies loved the weight and feel of the knife, and within a couple of minutes, I found myself guiding a hunting tour through the Amazon and Spyderco websites in search of a knife in the color of their choice. At the same time, I slipped the black Delica back into my pocket in order to eliminate an awkward conversation with my editor about not being able to complete this review due to the knife’s mysterious disappearance. I also ran it past my mom who said she might be interested in owning the Delica herself. Considering her passion for EDC knives almost rivals Obi Wan Kenobi’s love for blasters, I’d say Spyderco has a definite winner on their hands.
What we like about the Spyderco Delica 4 Lightweight
Let’s be honest, there’s so much to love, not like, about the Delica 4 Lightweight. First, it definitely lives up to its name. Despite its larger size, the thing is incredibly lightweight and virtually disappears into any pocket large enough to accommodate it. I also appreciate the variety of clip placement options, although I personally had no reason to reposition the clip on my Delica. These features alone would earn this Delica 4 variant on a list of best EDC knives.
This Delica 4’s blade and its edge further earned my respect. Prior to receiving this knife in the mail, I read up a little bit on the qualities of VG-10 steel, a “high end” steel according to Knife Informer. Indeed, the blade’s edge retention and ease of sharpening both proved themselves out, but Spyderco’s attention to detail and customer satisfaction really shone through with the incredible factory edge, the best I’ve yet encountered bar none.
I also loved the build and feel of the knife. After being dropped multiple times from about six feet above the garage floor, the Delica 4 Lightweight suffered only minor scuffing, although a couple of hits forced the blade to flip almost completely open. That said, under normal conditions, the blade always stays securely anchored into place with absolutely no play, thanks to the knife’s lock design. With the blade deployed, the knife fit very well in my hand. The jimping combined with the exaggerated hump on the blade’s spine provided plenty of grip for my thumb, and the deep-cut molding on the FRN body/scales locked the knife into my grip, even when wet. While it doesn’t accommodate super-fast deployments, the trademark Spyderco thumb hole is very easy to use and makes opening the knife easy and natural.
Finally, I love that this Delica 4 (and almost all the others) comes with a wide variety of color options. As much as I appreciate the low-viz nature of a black knife, I’m no operator. I like a little splash of color, and the Zome Green knife may be my favorite. I also appreciate the fact that there are a handful of “feminine” colors available as well.
What we don’t like about the Spyderco Delica 4 Lightweight
The biggest and most substantial knock against the Delica 4 Lightweight has to be the MSRP of $120. Thankfully, only Spyderco actually charges that amount, and virtually every other third party retailer sells it for a good bit less than $100. Beyond that, my only other complaints are minor quibbles.
Ironically, I’d like to see even more color options offered. I know, I know. I just talked about how I love that the Delica 4 comes in so many colors, but I guess I just can’t help it. Most of the “masculine” colors are a little dull for my taste, and the other options feel too “feminine.” Call me picky, but a few more bright and interesting options would be a welcome addition to the lineup. Some two-tone options would be even better, especially one to match my old Magpul iPhone Bump Case. (I’m still bitter, Magpul.)
Finally, I dislike the fact that the Delica 4 isn’t a fidget-friendly blade, at least not by my standards. Sure, you could play with it all day long and be happy enough, but the lack of thumb studs or a flipper means this blade wasn’t designed to be flicked open. I’m disappointed Spyderco has overlooked this critical feature in their knives, and for a company that has a reputation for high-quality blades, this is an extreme oversight. I mean, what self-respecting knife owner doesn’t like to play with their blades when they’re bored? It’s a whole lot healthier than spending all that time on your smartphone. (Maybe this is the problem with America today; too many phones, not enough knives. Think about it.)
I absolutely love this knife. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning when the Delica 4 Lightweight first arrived, and once I opened it, I couldn’t keep my eyes, hands, or mind off of it. The lack of weight and the razor factory edge both sold me on it and virtually every other knife Spyderco or my editor might choose to send my way. If I had the cash, I’d buy one for every single family member and friend. At least, once I’ve collected a few of my own to go in my pocket, my car, my EDC pack, my bug out bag, my … well, you get the idea.
FAQs about the Spyderco Delica 4 Lightweight
More questions? Here’s Task & Purpose’s additional brief.
Q. How much does the Spyderco Delica 4 Lightweight cost?
A. The Spyderco name earns great respect, and the manufacturer lists the Delica 4 Lightweight at $120 even. That said, many retailers list the same blade in the neighborhood of $85, a much more affordable price tag.
Q. Where is the Spyderco Delica 4 Lightweight made?
A. The Spyderco Delica 4 Lightweight comes to life at Spyderco’s Japanese factory in Seki, Gifu Prefecture.
Q. Is the Spyderco Delica 4 Lightweight a good knife?
A. Yes, go buy one (or two or three) right now.
Got questions? Comment below & talk with T&P’s editors
For over 25 years, Brian Smyth has been neighbors with the Air Force Academy and the U.S. Army’s Ivy Division. He loves the challenge of crafting words and has written for The Drive, Car Bibles, and other publications. Nothing gets him going quite like the roar of dual Pratt & Whitneys overhead, the smell of cordite, and the stories of the Greatest Generation.