Friday, May 20, 2011

Spyderco Tenacious Review

Here it comes. I have put on my asbestos suit.

The Spyderco Tenacious is one of the best selling knives of the past two years. Amazon and other major online retailers sell out of this knife every once in a while, which says a lot, given their massive buying power. And just a quick look at the knife will tell you why: good size, G10 handle, smooth opening, nice blade shape, and oh my god...that price.

It seems like a refrain of the innumerable YouTube reviews that this knife should cost more money or that it is worth more than what it costs. This, of course, is silly, as Spyderco, as a business, is not about to sell things for any more or less than the market will tolerate, and they are certainly not going to sell things for less than what they cost. But the knife is a good value, there is no taking that away. I am just not sure if it is the best value out there (or if it ever was). Here is mine:

IMG_0203

Here is the product page. Here is a good street price. Here is Nutnfancy's review. There are, of course, smaller and larger versions of the Tenacious, what Spyderco calls its Value Line of folders. The largest is a Cold Steel-sized knife called the Resilience. The knife just slightly smaller than the Tenacious is the Persistence. And finally, the runt of the litter is the Ambitious.

I bought my Tenacious when the knife first came out. I got it from yourcornerstore.com for around $28.00 shipped. Its a little more now. I carried the knife for around 2 or 3 months. Ultimately it was unseated from my pocket by a Delica 4, a superior blade in all respects, in my opinion. It would occasionally shuffle into my carry rotation every once in a while and then eventually I just stopped carrying it. I sold it about six months ago, having owned the knife for about a year.

Design: 1

If there are any failings of this knife it is first an issue of design and second the steel. For me, these are two most important parts of a knife. If the design stinks the rest of the knife will stink, no matter how good the fit and finish or materials. And if the blade stinks, well then, the knife fails at its most essential task--cutting. Here the Tenacious doesn't stink. It has many good features--the jimping, the thumb hole opener, the clip, and the full flat grind. My big issue is that the design is really quite bland. It is like the knife equivalent of the Pontiac Solstice: at first glance you think "Wow this is a sweet looking car (or knife)" but upon closer inspection you realize that it just makes a good first impression.

The blade to handle ratio is a very respectable .76. But the handle is a bit beefy. The place where your index finger and thumb are positioned, the most important part of a knife handle, seems wide and flabby. It lacks the thin, responsiveness of the Delica's handle and the choil of a more refined design, like the Caly 3 or Dragonfly. This is, in other words, a Spyderco knife as if it were designed by CRKT. It lacks the ergonomics that are the hallmark of a Spyderco.

It is not a bad design, its just not up to par with the normal Spyderco lineup.

Fit and Finish: 2

Surprisingly, given the knife's price tag, everything on my particular model was fine. The blade is centered (which is rare on budget liner locks, as the lock bar can push the blade out of alignment). The jumping is cut well, the G10 had a nice, even grippy, pattern.

Grip: 1

Without a choil or a "pinch point" for your thumb and index finger, this knife lacks the precision and control I associate with Spyderco designs. It is wide and flat, nothing at all to aid in detail work. The G10 is grippy without being jagged, but over all the handle felt more like a bar of soap than a scalpel's grip.

Carry: 0

Again, the wide handle does not do anyone any favors. The thumb hole makes Spyderco's wide to begin with, but the slabby handle here made the knife even wider. Also the unnecessary steel liners made the knife heavy. There is absolutely no reason this knife should weigh 4 ounces. Even long Spydercos, like the Delica, still melt in to your pocket. This knife does not.

Steel: 0

Okay, usually you can trade of edge holding ability for rust resistance, but this steel, 8CR13MOV, provides you with very little of either. It did come sharp out of the box, but it does not hold an edge well. Additionally, this steel seems to rust almost immediately. I do not like this steel at all. It ranks about with 420HC in my book. And since this is a knife and the blade is the entire reason you own a knife, crappy steel is a big deal. I know why they used it--to save costs--but still, this is well below the average steel on the market and I am willing to pay for something better.

Blade Shape: 1

In general I like the blade shape. It has a bit of a belly and is sort of a drop point, but not really. More important than the name--it could cut and cut well. The only complaint I had was that the blade was a little bulky. It was just wide, for no real reason.

Grind: 1

One of the things that I have noticed is that the grind is the first thing to go when prices get low. Grinds are usually done by hand, which means that a person, like a real, live, and actual person has to do it. The longer it takes the more expensive the blade is to make. Thus the more expensive blades tend to have nicer grinds and the cheaper ones, lesser grinds. This knife is no exception. The main grind, a full flat grind, is nice, but the secondary bevel was not crisp or terribly straight. It did not effect performance too much, but it was noticeably crooked.

Deployment Method: 2

Thumb hole opener + smooth pivot (because of bronze bushings, I think)=great opening. As a liner lock there is no pressure on the blade when opening (like in a lock back and to a lesser degree, the Axis/Arc/Bolt lock designs) so the blade swings open quickly.

Retention Method: 2

The one place that the parts seem to be identical between the Tenacious and more expensive Spydercos is the Spyderco "spoon-style" clip. It is a great clip design.

Lock: 1

Okay, so the liner lock itself is okay. It works, there is little if any blade play, and it is easy to engage. The problem is that behind the lock bar is a small space between bar and the G10 handle slab. This space is there to allow for flex outward of the lock bar and that is okay. The problem here is that the G10 is thin and the space is open to dirt and debris. If stuff got in there, like a pebble or dirt, it could very easily mess up the lock bar. I have never seen this space on any other liner lock and it leads me to believe that it, like the rest of the design, was a cost saving measure allowing for less strict tolerances on the lock bar itself. The reason why is speculation, but the fact remains this gap is a potential weak spot on the knife.

Total Score: 11 out of 20

This is a knife design and built by the dollar (or in this case the yuan, as the knife is made in China). They hit a list of bullet points for features, but in doing so I believe that Spyderco lost a bit of its design magic. The knife is perfectly adequate, but nothing more. I don't think it is the great value that everyone else does because for a little more you get a lot better. The Delica 4, it seems to me, is the sweet spot of value (price v features/performance). I know that a lot of people like this knife and I know that this opinion is a bit controversial, but I think anyone that would want this knife is better off saving up for something a little better.

I have thought about this review a lot and I recognize that it is a departure from some of the collected wisdom out there, but I honestly believe that people will eventually realize that this is merely an okay knife. It may take a while, as it did for me, but the bland design and the crappy steel just leave me with a case of the "mehs".

It is not a question--this is a great $28 dollar knife. But that is sort of like saying something is the best $1000 new car. The right question is: how good can a $28 knife be? And the answer, for me, especially when compared to only marginally more expensive knives is: not very good. If it cost $100 to get a good knife, I would see a purpose in getting a Tenacious. It does a lot decently. But for just a bit more you can step up to truly great performance. The Delica 4 can be had for $49 just about everywhere on the 'net. The S30V Buck Vantage is in the same boat. So for $22 bucks more you get two different, amazing knives. If you don't need the size, a Dragonfly 2 will run you $40. So will a Kershaw Leek which has better steel (actually all of the knives I have listed have better steel) and an elegant design.

Flamethrowing begin.

1YL (actually like 18 months later): 12 out of 20

 With more experience comes more insight.  8Cr13MoV in a satin finish, like here, is actually an adequate blade steel.  It is nothing to right home about, but it is fairly similar to AUS 8 performance-wise.  I am not sure why I had such a bad experience here, but I either was spoiled by other knives I had at the time or was wrong.  Two AG Russell knives with the same steel in the same finish have proved to me that 8Cr13MoV is good enough for most tasks. 

9 comments:

  1. I enjoyed reading this review Tony. In fact, I have enjoyed reading everything so far, but as you may recall I also wrote a review on this knife so it's interesting to see the difference in reviewing style and opinion. Definitely keep it real and continue to tell it like you see it.

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    1. I agree with Dan. Enjoy your reviews keep them coming.
      I am glad I went with this blade in comparison to some of the other knives I was looking at. The cost, for the "lower" end spyderco, but you get the high-end quality. Edge comes razor sharp, appears really clean, no wiggle or play in the blade to grip assembly and just a terrific clear finish. It's sound and certainly clear as to why this blade is SO popular among the wider public. Don't think twice and simply buy it now!

      I think you will enjoy more comments and reviews about the spyderco tenacious here

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  2. Again what was in your coffee!!!

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  3. My dad owned nothing but Case knives when we were growing up, and he would not have one that would not rust. These knives held an edge forever and lasted for years. Have a good day!

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  4. after CRKT chinese made knife
    i try to accept chinese made knife and order this
    once received tenacious , i feel disappointed.....

    but after use it a few days....
    i feel good........

    and it changed to my EDC now........

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  5. Interesting and honest review. Some of the things you dislike are things I consider positives, particularly in the ergos department.

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  6. Good review but one point that stuck out to me was when you said that the steel liner lock was not necessary. In my opinion it is necessary i like to know that i have something strong protecting my fingers from the blade. Another thing is when you said that the blade doesn't hold an edge well and it rusts easily. I've had this knife for almost 2 months and use it a lot not once have i had to sharpen the blade and its as sharp as the first day that i got it, and the blade has not rusted any. Keep in mind that the knife will rust in high humidity areas or exposed to lots of moisture.

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  7. Love this knife. Looks outstanding, heavier than my stretch and and easier to sharpen. With my lansky kit I can get this sucker scary sharp. This knife is a great bargain and nice addition to any collection. I am not too crazy about the liner lock as I prefer lock backs, but this one is pretty hefty and lock up is always positive. When this one wears out (heavy user) I will definately purchase another.

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  8. Purchased one of these for myself with B-day money and plan on taking it with me as a hunting knife. I've used the Tenacious occasionally over the last few weeks, but it feels sturdy enough to hold up for the long term. This was the first Syderco knife I bought and I have to say for the price it's an outstanding value. I loved it enough that I ordered the Native also. I like the native for daily carry as it's a little bit smaller. You can't go wrong with the Tenacious though.

    I also found some useful reviews here: http://spyderco-knives-for-sale.blogspot.com/

    Dave

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