Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Jens Anso's Response to the Spyderco Zulu Review

After we went off the design deep end in Episode 16 of GGL, I decided to email Jens Anso, the designer of the Spyderco Zulu.


I forwarded him a link to my review of the Zulu and a few questions that came up.  After some listener suggestions, I asked him if I could publish what he wrote and he agreed.  Here are my questions and Mr. Anso's answers:

Hey Anthony

Great review with a lot of interesting point...really in-depth for sure....

1.  Do you do most of your design work conceptually (sketching out designs on paper or on a computer) or through trial and error?

Everything starts out on paper but always end up in solid form at some point. I have, however, so many years of experience with designing that even a design only on paper is, to me, not considered conceptual...

2.  Was the Zulu designed over a period of time with lots of iterations or did it come to you basically fully formed?

Usually when I make a design, it evolves through several sketches, but then gets fully designed in one sitting ont he computer.

[Editor's Note: This confirmed what I said on the podcast; at some point the truly spectacular creative minds work in a way, that to others, appears to be magic.]

3.  Was the Persian influence a conscious or subconscious thing?

I never aim for a certain influence but AM influenced by everything from Japanese carpentry to architecture.  I try to find inspiration outside the knifeworld which makes it much eayser to stay orignal.

4.  Did you intend for the dip in the blade spine to be a place for the user's thumb to go in push cuts or was it for something else or was it for looks alone?

Ya that is one of my intentions of the shape of the blade but also to give the negative blade angle that I feel is very utilitarian (also as you comment in using the knife against a cutting board
5.  The blade shape works and sharpens a lot like a tanto.  Was that intentional?

No but I see the similarity...I always thought the tanto shape was silly except on...a tanto (japanese side arm where it makes alot of sence)

6.  I don't think the knife needs jimping, but would you add it in if you were doing the design over?

If by jimping you mean thumb grooves on the spine, no, I never really liked that on my knives...feel that while it gives a positive grip it also gives a potential sore spot in extended use.


[Editor's Note: This was Andrew's point exactly.]

7.  What changed specifically between the custom and the production version?

Mainly the Opening hole position...i generally design with less distance to the pivot where Spyderco usually goes for 27mm center to center.

8.  Were you happy with how the production version turned out fit and finish wise?

The Spyderco Zulu is among the top 2 of any knife design I have in production in regards to fit and finish. Also they really captured the design really well.

9.  Why no Anso asymmetrical grind?

I do not think they belong on a factory knife. Mainly because it overcomplicates the grinding process...

There you have it, answers from the man himself.  Jens Anso has been nothing but gracious in the dealings I have had with him.  His generosity with his time and the thoughtfulness of his answers match his skill at designing knives.  If the Museum of Modern Art asked for a representative of cutting edge knife design, I'd recommend an Anso (probably the Zulu or maybe the Pingo).  If Popular Mechanics called and asked for a great, kick ass knife, same thing.  And when I am not testing stuff for review (and sometimes even when I am), I'll happily reach for my Zulu.  This is such an interesting object and a great blade.  

Thanks Jens.


  1. Wish you would've asked if there are any plans for a Spyderco Zulu 2. I want a Zulu but the right hand only clip makes it a deal breaker for me.

  2. The answer about the lack of blade spine jimping makes total sense to me design wise. Excellent!