Spyderco Endura 4 ZDP-189
Folding Knife Review

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Spyderco Endura 4 ZDP-189 steel


 - Spyderco Endura made into my EDC rotation list. I liked it enough to carry daily, well whenever its turn comes. Before that happened, there was a mandatory set of cutting tests that I had to perform. Not that I expect to end up in survival situation in the middle of the SF Bay area and have to depend on Endura to save lives, after all I have at least one more knife on me at all times, should one fail, or to cu different things with more appropriate knives. Anyway, I test all the knives no matter what, except for the showpieces, in which case testing is rather pointless and most likely to fail anyway. Standard #1 test is cardboard, and I want through about 600 inches of it. Lucky me, I had bunch of boxes left after recent remodeling. Full flat ground blade does help with cardboard cutting, and Endura performed very well. Cutting ability, especially after putting screaming sharp edge on it was very high. Sharpness was retained to the very end of the test. Obviously the edge degraded, but even after all that cutting, it could still shave easily in both directions. Next was the rubber foam, which is fairly easy to cut, if it wasn't so prone to sticking to the blade. I've discussed this aspect in other reviews and articles, but short recap is that things that stick to the blade are really hard on edge, because they cause excessive lateral loads on it, which is a killer. High hardness does help there, although to a certain extent, you can always overpower the edge, it's very thin as you know. Still, with enough caution, it's is perfectly manageable task, without ruining the edge, and Endura 4 came through.

One more test that I constantly do last few years is wire cutting. I have chipped knives before doing that, but since then I've learned a lot more, about the knives, steels and cutting. It's a good test in my opinion, to measure edge strength and steel properties, purely from the user view point, without going into complicated metallurgy and physics. As usual I use push cutting method, first on the copper wire, or CAT6 cable, both are relatively soft, and if that works well, without chipping or bending the edge, then I move to RG6 coaxial cable, which has rather complicated composition, and it's thicker that the previous two. Endura did fine, or I did fine with Endura 4, since in this test a lot depends on the user too. Anyway, cables were cut, 3 cuts on each type, then I've examined the edge under the microscope. No chipping or visible edge deformation was detected. All in all, very good result, exactly in line with my expectations given the steel/hardness/edge angle combination. Again, if you do this, be careful not to twist the knife, or use saw motion, that will surely kill the edge, although that in itself can be a test objective, may be. Anyway, I'm always against unnecessary knife abuse, including prying. One last test is also designed to measure edge strength, which I've learned from renowned knifemaker Phil Wilson, I have quite a few custom knives from Phil Wilson, and one distinct feature of those knives is that they are all high hardness, highly optimized knives for light cutting. Although, they also do exceptionally well in medium harsh cutting jobs as well. While Endura 4 isn't as efficient of a cuter as Phil Wilson knives are, it's not really built that way, it's a production folder, which has to withstand a lot more than what a knife aficionado would to his toys. The test is pretty much wood whittling, stick the blade about 1-2mm into the wood and twist it. If all is well, the edge survives undamaged. At 64+ HRC there's two possibilities, the edge will remain intact, which is desired and expected result, or it'll chip. Expected means, expected for the right alloy by the way. If you have overhardened or improperly hardened steel, the result will be chipping. Endura 4 went through about 20 minutes of whittling and twisting just fine. At the end, it was still shaving stubbornly :)

Like I said above, the test lasted about 2 hours total. Various materials were cut, and the only short break I've had was to examine the edge after wire cutting, which was about 5 minutes total, I had the microscope on the ready in the office room. The aggressive texture of the handle slabs did make difference, in that my right thumb started feeling a little sore. Grip security was very high, that goes without saying. If it was up to me, I'd have those ridges toned down a little, but may be average knife users don't cut for hours straight, and for outdoorsman, having the knife super secure in the pocket or rucksack or on the vest is more important. FRN as a handle material seems to be ok. I know nylon is highly resilient to abrasion, what I am not so sure is the exposure to elements and chemicals, but at any rate, the steel will be more susceptible to damage should those conditions persist for prolonged time. Although, I've seen reports about Zytel deteriorating under sunlight, and that trait is fairly common for many types of synthetic materials. Although, Nylon does have good resistance to UV radiation as well. Still, as far as the feel goes, I'd prefer Aluminum or micarta. We'll see, may be I will get the replacement handle slabs down the road. In the end, it's a good handle, even for 2 hour, non stop hard cutting.


 - For me the conclusion is clear, it is a good knife, very good fit and finish, save for the out of the box edge problems, and a very solid performer. I can't say it is a perfect knife, since I have my reservations about the use of the lockback for the locking mechanism, and the FRN as a handle material isn't ideal IMHO. Still, for the price, which is sub 100$, you get a rock solid folding knife, made out of the top notch steel, with very good heat treatment, which as they say is the soul of the steel. Blade geometry is optimized for cutting efficiently, and I already said above, and many times elsewhere, initial edge doesn't really matter, it'll be worn anyway. As for those who seek an advise, whether or not to buy this knife, well there's few things to consider. One, is the design. Like I said, Spyderco as a knife company is a top notch, pretty much the best you could wish for a knife company, but their designs are so unusual that I can't in all honesty make the decision for anyone. So, first thing you have to decide is the design, whether or not you like it. Next, ZDP-189 steel, which is not an average alloy. It does require at least average sharpening skills to maintain it and achieve its pick performance. Don't expect that from the factory edge, aside from usual sharpening problems, factory knives are geared towards unknown, faceless average knife user, which from what I can deduce tends to be rather an abusive one at that. Having ZDP-189 class steel in the knife doesn't automatically guarantee top cutting performance. You have to sharpen it, thin the edge, and then the cutting ability increases multiple times, which is where those alloys truly shine. Having 40° total edge gives you very little return for your investment, yes the edge lasts very long time that way, but not proportionally long, as you have to use more force with thicker edges to make the same cut. Simply put, if you are not sure you will use full potential of super hard alloy, then perhaps it's better to save your money and buy more conventional steel. The edges are thick. Last aspect is the price. If #1 and #2 are ok with you, then the price is very reasonable in my opinion. Very often I hear that even 100$ for a folding knife is way too much, why bother when one can buy another folder for 10 times less price. That is true, but 10x cheaper knife will be nowhere near in terms of durability or performance. So, if you want those qualities, then I'd say go for it.


  • Blade - 96.00mm(3.78")
  • Thickness - 2.96mm
  • Width - 31.10mm
  • OAL - 220.00mm(8.66")
  • Steel - ZDP-189 steel at 64HRC
  • Handle - FRN
  • Weight - 93.20g(3.15oz)
  • Acquired - 06/2011 Price - 94.00$

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Last updated - 05/19/19