Saturday, April 9, 2011

Spyderco Dragonfly I FRN Review

When folks ask in forums about the best EDC knife, I routinely recommend the Spyderco Dragonfly. Here is the Dragonfly product page. Here is Nutnfancy's review (which I disagree with on a few points, more below). Here is a good street price on the original Dragonfly. Here is a super sweet Santa Fe Stoneworks DF. The original came in a serrated and plain edge version (no combo edge presumably because the knife is so small).

The Dragonfly was the first Spyderco knife to have a finger choil. It is also one of the lightest knives in the Spyderco line up. It has been produced in many variations since 1994. Furthermore, a lot of the features of higher end Spydercos, including the much beloved Caly 3, were introduced or can be found on the Dragonfly--the aforementioned choil, the full flat grind, and the leaf-shaped blade. There was recently an update to the original design, the Dragonfly II. It added jimping to the thumb ramp and the choil and gave the knife an ambidextrous wire pocket clip. I haven't managed to lay my hands on one yet, so this is a review of my trusty DF I. My light&saber with the DF I:


Design: 2

The curve of the handle makes this knife feel much larger in the hand than it is in your pocket, which, in my opinion, is one of the best tricks a folding blade can have it is arsenal. The FRN handle makes this knife super light. The original DF, the 1994 version, positioned the thumb hole closer to the handle making for a slimmer knife, but one that is harder to open. The updated version, though still not the DF II, moved the thumb hole further from the handle to give you more leverage during opening. The choil, of course, is excellent and I like the chamfering done on the top of the blade, a nice little touch usually reserved for more expensive knives. This version is pin constructed if that is a problem, though the DF II is torx screwed together. The blade:handle ratio is: .71 (very nice for a production blade).

Nutnfancy didn't like the lack of jimping, and the new DFII has it, but for me, this is a small EDC knife, something that doesn't really NEED jimping. I guess it doesn't hurt, but really I think in a knife this small that is sort of gilding the lily a bit.

Fit and Finish: 2

I know some complain about the Spyderco lockback, but I like it. My is centered well without any blade play. Good thing, though because everything is pinned instead of user adjustable screws. The grind is smooth, the plastic seams aren't intrusive, and the edges are well-rounded.

Grip: 2

Almost a scimitar grip, the knife's narrow handle curves downward away from the plane of the cutting edge to make the knife feel bulkier in the hand. The DF has a traditional Spyderco volcano grip on the FRN to aid in grip. The choil helps as well, and even the molded pocket clip helps in grip. Overall, my favorite knife to handle of those that I have owned and used. GREAT grip, jimping not needed.

Carry: 2

Though the blade is a bit wide when closed, the overall size and shape of the knife is perfect. Additionally, it weighs next to nothing at 1.2 ounces. A great addition to your jeans coin pocket. See here:

Steel: 1

VG-10 is a decent steel, but I used this knife so much and so often that I really got a feel for how it performs. The DF lost its edge after about 3 or 4 months of light duty everyday use--package cutting, awl work in my workshop, and a few other things. My Sebenza's S30V (and the Leafstorm's for that matter) lasted much longer even facing heavier duty work. That said, the DF's edge came roaring back after a good session with the Sharpmaker. It also has never rusted, so good marks there. Still a little better edge retention would go a long way. The ZDP-189 version of the DFII could very well be one of the few perfect EDC knives for me.

Blade Shape: 2

Razor thin, pointy tip, and plenty of blade to move around with, though not a ton of belly. The leaf shape surprised me when I first started using it. I preferred a clip shape, like the Sebenza or Buck Vantage, but this little talon of a blade has done very, very well. As many of noted, the super pointy tip does well in detail work.

Grind: 2

Spyderco's grinds are very good, usually a straightforward grind without tons of facets or silly recurves. This is no exception. Beautiful grind.

Deployment Method: 2

As was mentioned above, the thumb hole has been moved away from the handle for increased leverage, and the result is a very easy to open one hand knife. That said, the handle is too light to do an effective Spyder drop.

Retention Method: 1

The molded clip was sure to go in the upgrade to DFII. It was fat, bulky, and not a great clip. It worked, but was not inspired. It also rides perfectly fine in the pocket. BUT the new wire clip is a godsend by comparison. I love the Spyderco wire clip and here is a good review from Spydercollector of the G-10 version as to why (all of Spydercollector's videos are great):

Lock: 2

The lockback works very well, and I have no complaints about vertical blade play as some have noticed in Spyderco knives.

Total Score: 18 out of 20

The DFII in VG-10 would be a 19, the ZDP-189 version is a 20. I can say this without handling them because the two issues they address--the clip in both and the steel in the ZDP-189 version, are the only complaints I have about the knife. This is a great option, even the DF I because it may be available cheaper as a clearance for the newer version. EXCELLENT blade, especially for the money.

1YL: 17 out of 20

I would subtract a further point from the Retention Method score, going from a 1 to a 0.  The reality is that these molded plastic clips are pretty terrible.  A Delrin clip, like on a LensLight, would be vastly superior, if you had to do a plastic clip, but the wire clip on the new DF models and the DF G10 is just light years better.  The plastic clip refused to stay tight and snug. 


  1. Glad I found your reviews. They are excellent! The Spyderco Dragonfly is my favorite out of the FRN lockback midrange Spydies :) I like it better than the Delica...

  2. Testify! I have fallen hard for the foliage green G10 Dragonfly. It may now be my favorite EDC knife. I even slightly prefer it to the FFG Delica 4, which is an all time great knife.

    The nice materials and the slightly increased weight from the steel liners (still a breezy 2 oz) give the knife a wonderful feel of build quality that even non-knife folks can perceive.

    I just got an H1 Dragonfly in sunny yellow FRN to keep my G10 company. The high hollow grind of the H1 blade is very attractive. I can't wait to take it to an aquatic environment to test the properties of the H1 steel.

  3. There is nothing better, in my opinion, for EDC chores than the DF2 ZDP-189. Perfect size, perfect design, best steel on the market. I am not sure why people think they need to carry a butcher's cleaver or bigger for EDC tasks.

  4. It's clearly just a matter of time before I bite on the ZDP Dragonfly.

    The more you think about it, it's precisely in a small, urbane EDC knife that you would want the super-hard properties of ZDP. You're not worried about easy field sharpenability, chopping, or other coarse tasks best done with a bigger knife. Instead you'll be cutting paper, cardboard, rope, cord and the like. Perhaps whittling wood.

    One thing I have observed about the H1 Dragonfly already is the factory edge was outrageously, crazily sharp, but it has since dulled to a good utility edge, so it's time to resharpen. Sal Glesser has compared H1 to AUS-6 or AUS-8 in sharpenability and edge retention properties. Rustproof AUS-8 is not a bad prospect.

    One more random observation: the lockup on the Dragonflies feels the best of any lockback knife I've handled. Especially the G10 Dragonfly, with its steel liners cradling the lock bar. Reassuring, "bank vault" feel. My Endura has just a smidge of give when you exert hard pressure on the thumb ramp jimping. Not the Dragonflies.