Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Dragonfly 2 ZDP-189 Review

In the world of gear the word "perfect" is taboo. It's like being an art critic and saying something is the best painting ever. You just don't do it. Nothing can ever be perfect because everyone has such different needs and there are so many different tasks, so the collective wisdom goes. Well, so much for collected wisdom.

The Dragonfly 2 in ZDP-189 (DF2 ZDP-189) is perfect. It does everything not just well, but with ease. I have been using and carrying this knife almost exclusively since I got it in May and it is awesome. Light, laser sharp, and made to fit your hand, there is nothing that I would do differently in designing this knife. Spyderco and Sal Glesser outdid themselves. And while $70-80 is not a cheap knife, it is a bargain at that price. When released it was the the lightest and cheapest knife in the production world to use ZDP-189. It has been displaced by another Spyderco knife, the Ladybug. Here is my DF2 ZDP-189:


Here is the product page for the DF2 ZDP-189. Here is a good street price for the knife. There are no customer reviews for the ZDP-189 version on Amazon.

Design: 2

The Dragonfly design has been around since 1994. There was a subtle change in the late 90s, moving the hole further away from the handle, widening the knife. Then last year, real upgrades came--the molded clip was retired in favor of a wire clip, the bodies soft edges were tightened up a little making the sides more crisply angled, and finally jimping was added to the choil and thumb ramp.

Fit and Finish: 2

Things are bit tighter on the DR2 ZDP-189. The wire clip, for instance, seems significantly stiffer than the wire clip on the Caly3. The blade on mine came perfectly tarnish free, which is not always the case with ZDP-189, which has a tendency to tarnish because of the uber-high carbon content. Also, the knife was more than razor sharp, it was insane, really.

Grip: 2

With the addition of the jimping on the blade, the knife, which had a fine grip before, is now outstanding. If I could, I'd give it a 3, but doing so would ruin the scale, so 2 it is.

Carry: 2

The DF2 ZDP-189 is still a wide knife, but it also kept is slim figure, tipping the scales at 1.2 ounces. The crisper edges have no impact on retrieval nor do they make the knife hard to carry.

Steel: 2

ZDP-189 is really in a class all by itself in terms of steel. It has, by far, the most carbon (3%) of any regularly used steel on the market. It also has a huge wallop of chromium, 20%, to fight off rust that may be attracted to all that carbon. The steel is leaps and bounds better than S30V in terms of edge retention. I had to break my sharpening=review rule because more than a month of use after I wrote that article, the blade still pushes paper. It is probably going to be a bitch to sharpen, but if I only have to do it once a year, its worth it. Also, I have not babied this blade. I cut massively thick cardboard to make my son a fort from our grill box. I cut rope and twine. I cut extra thick rubber. Nothing stops this steel. It is simply the best I have ever used by a huge margin. Again, I'd give this a 3, but...

Blade Shape: 2

Same great shape, with maybe a slightly more acute angle from the handle. Great.

Grind: 2

Perhaps the neatest and cleanest grind I have ever seen in a Spyderco knife. Excellent.

Deployment Method: 2

The crisp edges to the FRN handle make deployment even easier than before, not that it was a chore. The adjustable pivot is also nice, but I didn't need to use it. The pivot does seem a bit smoother or looser, but nothing that causes blade play.

Retention Method: 2

I love the wire clip. It is my second favorite clip design, after the Sebenza's double dip clip. It is perfect and aids in holding the knife.

Lock: 2

Again, the lock seems a bit looser, but nothing that causes the blade to wiggle. Easy to use, basic, and simple. Great lock.

Total Score: 20 out of 20 (Perfect Score)

This is really a no-brainer. If the DFI with its molded handle and VG-10 steel is an 18, there is no way this knife, with its better clip, jimping, and truly superior steel is not a 20. The size of the DF is what makes it so appeal. It is non-threatening, easy to carry, and yet cuts like a lightsaber handling chores that seem appropriate only for much larger knives. I love this knife and all of the improvements made it...perfect.


  1. So many Spydercos, so little time. Excellent review as always Tony - looks like I'm going to have to get a Dragonfly now. :)

  2. Dan, I am telling you, this knife is amazing. I am still trying to find ways to dull the blade without doing something clearly abusive, like cutting asphalt shingles. The cardboard I cut to make my son's fort is about 3/8 of an inch thick and it chewed it up.

  3. Tony, I blame you. I just had to order me one last night.


  4. Based on your review, I bought this as my first EDC knife. This is the sharpest instrument I have every come across in my life so far, and it is amazingly light.

    It's just a fantastic piece of engineering.

    Thank you for the great site, keep it up.

  5. Still my most frequently used EDC knife.

  6. I'm thinking about getting one (there's a rather nice sale I found) but I'm a little OFF about blade play. Have you seen much, if any, of this, vertical or horizontal?

  7. On mine I have seen none,either way.

  8. Finally sprung for one of these and I love it. Super sharp, super light, and disappears in my pocket. I thought it would be too wide, but it only looks wide in photos. This is an extremely sweet knife. Thanks for the constant raving about it!

  9. Quick question, Tony: On most sites they list this knife as having "green FRN" scales, see GPKnives for example: However, in the pictures most of them appear to be black. Do the scales on your handle seem more green or black?

    I actually would like to have it in black (preferably lightly checkered G10, to be honest) so the less "green" it is, the better.

    1. It is VERY dark green. It is noticeably green in regular daylight.

    2. That's what I figured. Is it possible to swap the ZDP-189 blade into the scales for any of the other Dragonflys? Are the tolerances tight enough for this the work?

      Also, do you know anyone who would be able to do custom G10/aluminum/Ti scales for this? You have really sold me on the design and the blade steel, but I don't like FRN and green doesn't really work for me either (there is not a single green thing in my entire home or closet). Would love to have this blade with a different handle.

      Finally, I just want to let you know that as far as I'm concerned you are the most on-point EDC blogger anywhere on the web right now. I wholeheartedly agree with your views on gear and EDC philosophy, especially your recent posts on how much things should cost and appreciating "things". Your blog is to me what Nutnfancy is to most people- if you say it, I believe it. I bought the Quantum DD sight unseen based on your review alone (supremely satisfied), and I am about to do the same with this Spyderco despite the fact I have never owned a Spyderco and never wanted to until now. Wishing you and your blog the best of success now and for the future.

  10. Great review. My decision is now this or the Delica with the same steel. What do you like about this over the delica? Also, I have very large hands which is why I'm leaning towards the Delica.

    1. You'd be surprised at just how good the grip is on the DF2. If you can get to a store I'd recommend trying out both of them, but if you have big ole meat hooks, you might need to go with the Delica.

  11. Thanks. No dealers near me w those knives. Maybe I'll just go with DF since it's 20 bucks cheaper.

  12. I have the three smaller FRN Spydies with full flat ground ZDP-189 blades -- Ladybug, Dragonfly, Delica. Love em. Frequently EDC the Delica.

    I'm sold on high hardness steels for sub-3" blade folders, which will be used for cutting and slicing tasks on materials of various abrasiveness. (On a bigger blade like an Endura I start to prefer VG-10 for general resilience and ease of maintenance.)

    Interestingly, my ZDP Spydies all have super clean, symmetrical primary and secondary grinds. I wonder why that is? Extra care taken since ZDP is so expensive and known to be harder to grind?

    I have no problems keeping Spyderco ZDP sharp with a Sharpmaker. Japanese steels like to get keen, in my experience. I really enjoy them.

    Based on my experiences with the FRN knives, which have pure ZDP blades, I believe the laminated "420J2 sandwich" approach on the ZDP Calys is unnecessary.

  13. I just picked up a DF2 FRN ZFP based on your review. I bought it to compliment a manix 2 (non-lightweight version) also from your review. Now I can't stop thinking of the next one to buy. Please keep up the good work. That also includes your tips on dealing with the wife...

    I have one question about the DF2. My model is very stiff. If I loosen the pivot screw slightly it opens and closes very smoothly, but there seems to be considerable side to side blade play. Is this normal?

  14. How about that sweet Carbon Fiber ZDP 189 Dragonfly II? It's $50 more, but man, what a beauty...

  15. Hey Tony, I managed to find a way to dull my ZDP DF 2! I was cutting what I thought was a zip-tie (in low light, with gloves on), but was actually medium gauge coated wire. It resulted in a few tiny chips and a lip in one spot (I was really leaning into it). I felt like such an idiot. Spyderco, very graciously, repaired the damage under the "resharpening" fee - really fantastic customer service on their part. Unfortunately, the resharpening process didn't get the blade anywhere near as sharp as the original factory finish. It's still my go-to EDC, but I really miss carrying a laser edge in my pocket.

  16. A suggestion for anyone buying this knife:
    I recently got one with a pretty messy factory grind. Uneven bevels, one side significantly more obtuse than 30deg, and not "laser sharp" like everyone else here. If anyone else is in this situation, I STRONGLY recommend you send it back and get a new one. I decided to fix it myself as I got a good price and didn't want to send mine back. First tried the sharpmaker, then tried the sharpmaker with wet/dry sandpaper, then tried Edge pro with standard stones, then tried Edge Pro with silicone carbide stones from congress tools....

    Right now I have a very shiny, but very dull knife in my pocket. Going to try again this weekend, but it's not worth the effort if you can avoid it. If you get one with a bad grind, send it back, hope for one with a decent grind, and just touch it up eery week or so.

  17. Just got a Dragonfly and from the moment I opened it by the hole and it locked into a comfortable grip in my hand, seemingly with a mind of its own, I knew this was a perfectly engineered object. When I used it for its purpose, cutting something, I had the revelation that this was also an example of an object so perfect that the experience will be rarely encountered in a lifetime.
    Its so good I immediately ordered several more as this thing is too good not to share.

  18. I bought one of these based on your review and I love it. Your excellent reviews have partially contributed to my fledgling pocket knife addiction. Keep up the great work!

  19. I can hold this with a four fingered grip AND it fits in my coin pocket.

    I went with VG10 because the ZDP 189 seems intimidating to a newcomer. I kind of wish I'd gone with the ZDP because i probably could have kept the edge with stropping alone. I've had the blade for about one month and there's already a small chip in the edge that will probably require careful sharpening to get out :/