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March 29, 2009 Comments Off on Spyderco Native4 Review Blades & Tools

Spyderco Native4 Review

Spyderco claims the Native line of pocket knives to be the result of a hard look at ergonomic design.  The original Native incorporated engineered finger placement cutouts in both the FRN handle

Spyderco Native4

Spyderco Native4

and the choil at the base of the blade, just prior to the cutting edge.  The latest model in the Native’s evolution is the Native4.  Although the DNA of the original model is evident in the Native4, I felt the differences between it and the FRN, Zytel (Native 3D) handled versions were so significant that the N4 (my abbreviation for the name) should probably have been given a new model designation.  I won’t be delving into the fine details of the different models, but I will say that the N4 features major changes in liner construction, blade steel, and grind.  Unlike the other Native versions, the N4 has handle scales over a steel liner.  I have 20 or so folding knives that I rotate through for my day to day carry needs.  My usual work attire is the classic shirt and tie monkey suit.  For this reason, I have an affinity for the knives that are a bit on the fancy side.

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The black carbon scales make the Native4 an attractive companion.

I have found that there are a number of companies that build flashy folders that may be visually interesting, but when it comes to actual use, they don’t stand up. My primary occupation is police detective.  As such, I believe any knife I carry should be up to the task of being pressed into service as an emergency weapon or hard duty cutting tool.  My folding knives must have a strong lock and handle design.  Good steel is also important, as I don’t want to spend my days off sharpening knives that will not retain an edge.  That being said, when I unboxed the N4 my first impressions were – “This is a handsome knife.”  It had a hefty feel in the hand and appeared to have a stout blade design.  The ergonomic considerations were evident, as the knife settled naturally into place opened.  I am ambidextrous and this knife felt fine in either hand.

The Native4 incorporates a skeletonized steel liner with a mid-position back lock.  It is notably heavier than its Native FRN cousin.  This would be due to the steel liner, I am sure.  The pocket clip can be mounted for tip-up or tip-down carry on either side of the knife (four mounting positions).  The clip itself is nicely contoured and rounded, unlike the FRN version.  It doesn’t snag on things or gouge my wooden furniture.  The blade is flat ground, VG-10 steel, made in Seki-City, Japan. It’s 3 1/16th inches in length, with a 2 ½ inch cutting edge, and is a stout 1/8 inch thick. Open length is right around 7 inches.

The Native4's ergonomic design makes it fit well in the hand.

The Native4’s ergonomic design makes it fit well in the hand.

You’ve heard of VG-10 steel haven’t you?  This is good stuff.  The recipe for VG-10 is complex compared to a lot of knife steels.  It contains carbon, chromium, cobalt, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, silicon and vanadium.  This concoction is often put on the same quality level with S30V and 154CM steel.  S30V is said to have slightly better edge retention.  VG-10 is known to be easy to sharpen to a crazy sharp edge and buffs to a nice shine.  Corrosion resistance is outstanding.  Rockwell hardness range is 59-62.

The scales are a black, silk smooth carbon fiber.  Very attractive, but due to the smooth finish, they do not provide a confident gripping sensation.  This is somewhat countered by the well placed finger grooves and the grooves inside the choil at the base of the blade.  The MSRP for the N4 is $259.95.  It can be had via internet sources for around $166.  The Spyderco “fair, honest and proper warranty” provides for repair or replacement if manufacturing defect is determined to be the cause of any problem you might have.  As with most warranties, abuse, neglect improper sharpening would not be covered.

Upon initial examination of my test knife, I found that the locking mechanism was hanging up in a half lock/unlocked position.  This was right out of the box.  I applied a high grade lubricant and adjusted the screw tensions.  After working the lubricant into the knife, things fell into place nicely and I have not seen the lock hanging up since.  After a month of every day carry, the screws have maintained their tension/position and have not required additional attention.

After carrying this test knife for a month and using it for any cutting task that crossed my path, I’m impressed with the edge retention and feel.  After my first couple weeks with the knife, I touched up the edge with the Spyderco Sharpmaker.  It was indeed easy to sharpen.  I tested the edge on arm hair, and man, the hair sprung out of the way.  The VG-10 blade was now sharper than it came from the factory.  IMPRESSIVE.  A few weeks later, it still shaves hair.

My opinion of this knife is that it’s a keeper in my books. It’s a handsome design and I like the clip shape/design very much compared to other Spyderco clips. I also appreciated the VG-10 steel and its excellent edge retention.  Personally, I would prefer that it were lighter in weight (manufacturer specs show it at 3 1/8 oz), as it causes my dress pants pockets to sag.  It would be an even more attractive if the selling price were a little closer to the $100.00 level such as their own Sage model.  Still, if you are a fan of Spyderco’s Native series, and like the blade shape and style of that line, then the Native4 gives you a solid option for a higher end, classy EDC knife with the classic Native lineage.

Visit:  www.spyderco.com

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