Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Revisiting Visiting Spyderco

After my wife lost her beloved Lava, and the local shop didn't have one (discontinued), I had to wander Spyderco's lineup to find the previously unknown name so we could order it.

I'm not a fan of Spyderco. There are a few I like; the native 2 and 3, the ladybug, the cricket, but I just don't like the look and feel of Spyderco's look and feel. The FRN grips feels cheap, the stainless steel grips are heavy and slick, the grip designs are thin and small, the eye-hole is an eye-sore, and the clips were either too strong or two weak and flared out too much at the end, and the blade shape is exactly the fucking same thing, except squished or stretched in some direction. Sure, they've come out of their mold recently, with a series of "interesting" models, and some of it has stuck (native series), but for the most part, you're just left wondering wtf was going on over there. I mean, did it really take until the Native III for one of their designers to open a dictionary and look up the word "ergonomics?"

While I was going through their line, I read this in the description for the Delica;
In 1990 Spyderco shook things up by introducing two knives, the Delica and Endura. First of their kind on the market, both folders opened up the knife market to lightweight performance, one-hand open pocketknives that just about everyone could afford.

Afford, was the key word for me. They were making quality knives that were affordable. It was only because they happened to settle on a primary design that I didn't care for, that I didn't consider them. Truthfully, other manufacturers have or had a "wtf line," Benchmade included, but I chose to ignore them because the main line was diverse and strong. Spyderco's main line may not be diverse, but there is no argument that it is strong. I was just ignoring it because I didn't like the design, and thought they felt cheap. But I was just realizing that "cheap" was actually a selling point.

I know that I'm a knife snob, and I know that when you try to tell people to EDC a quality knife, it's harder to get them to pick up a $150 Benchmade 940 than a $50 Spyderco Endura or Delica, but I have been doing a disservice to those who follow my advise by refusing to try them simply because I didn't like them. My EDC knife post is the most consistently hit post on this blog, and it deserves to be as complete as possible.

So, I've ordered a Spyderco Endura 4, and will be carrying it for a few months to get a feel for the utility of the knife. Who knows, maybe the lack of ergonomics will begin to grow on me.


Tony said...

I actually prefer the Delica over the Endura - especially the waved version! Yeah, it's kind of small, but also very maneuverable. The handle may seem very small, but you can get a good grip on it nonetheless. (I use size 8 gloves - depending on hand size, your experience may vary.) For an every day pocket knife that can also do double duty as a defensive instrument (as well as any pocket knife can), one could to a lot worse than either factory waved or modified Delica. (The Endura, on the other hand, can be a little clumsy, especially as a waved knife.) And yeah - that blade shape you dislike is one big reason a lot of defensive pocket knife fans like Spydercos so much - easy to cut a wave into the knife when it's almost there to begin with. :) (It is also a very good shape of just all around general use.) In fact, a lot of the blade features kind of "click together" when you think about them - like that locking mechanism. It may seem old-fashioned, but it won't fail as easily as a liner lock... And the choil in the blade allows one-handed closing very easily, something that not all lock-back knives can do.

While a Spyderco may not be the prettiest knife out there, once you start to use them you realize that they are very well designed and a whole lot of knife for the buck! (I'm with you on the stainless steel grips though - what's up with that? Yeah, one could use grip tape, but come on now.) The company is also very eager to listen to its customers, which doesn't hurt at all.

ErnestThing said...

I only picked the Endura because I prefer larger knives. I think as a utility knife, smaller knives are better (I'll probably pick up a Delica and test it out too), but if you want your knife to sub as a SD implement, quantity is a quality of its own.

I've been considering carrying a knife more suited for SD (not that I'd ever use my knife as a weapon, IANAL, I do not recall at this time, senator), and another shorter utility knife. Since we're on the topic, I really like the Police 3.

I haven't decided how I feel about the emerson wave, or "waving" your EDC. I can see the function on a knife that is tip down in use (like a kerambit), so you can draw it up and into tip down grip, but for knives used tip up, I see far too many people flicking their wrists backward to get a good open on the blade, which causes the exposed blade to flail behind them. This seems more pronounced for longer blades since more force is required to get it opening on its own. My 940 opens with a thought, so I never had reason to want a faster opening knife. I guess I'll see how it goes with the Endura. I may even try out the ghetto wave for a week to get a better feel for it.

Tony said...

The "proper" size of a blade really depends a lot on what kind of use it will be put to. Sometimes a bigger blade is better, sometimes a smaller one. But looking at things from the self-protection side, if you think about it, fights tend to be up close and personal, not the sort of ranged dueling a lot of people teach. And in that up close and personal type of fighting, maneuvering a too large blade may in fact be more difficult. Some trainers who have really looked at using a knife in a fight in a realistic manner actually prefer a smaller blade length just for this reason - when you're rolling on the floor grappling with your opponent, a smaller blade will be easier to use than a larger one.

(My issue with the Endura, however, was more in the draw - never actually owned one myself, but playing with an acquaintances waved Endura, I managed to mess up several draw strokes when a slightly shorter blade would have deployed without a hitch. The difference in feel between an Endura and a Delica - or my personal favorite, a waved Benchmade Griptilian - was big enough to make me dislike the Endura somewhat.)

When you talk about waving knives and flicking them, I'm afraid you lost me. The whole point of the wave is that the knife is opened as part of the draw stroke, removing the need to push a thumb stud, flick the knife, or do anything else like that. It's just yank it out and strike. I prefer to run my blade reverse-grip, edge in, and for this the draw stroke runs up my center line and shoots out into the opponent - very fast. For a forward grip, yeah, you have to pull your arm a bit rearwards to deploy the blade, but it's still yank-and-poke, no flicking or such involved.

The whole accessing a folding knife in a fight thing is somewhat iffy, especially if the fight has already started, which makes me much prefer a fixed blade for defensive use. But if one is going to run a folder (and there are limits to how much junk a person can get away with carrying), I feel the wave is far superior method to deploying it than thumb disks, studs, holes, flicking the knife, etc. - in other words, much more likely to succeed.

ErnestThing said...

We both agree that "knife fighting" should not be what it is depicted in movies, with opponents squaring off and issuing glancing blows until one is dead and the other is soon to be dead. Up close and personal, and usually while grappling is something I agree with too.

The problem is, while grappling you're usually chest to chest, with your opponent well within your reach. Now, is it easier to issue strong blows to someone in hugging range with the tip of your knife up (thumb side) or down (pinky side)? Up, obviously. You have much more strength and maneuverability in the most natural position, not cranking your wrist around to get to the vital areas while your rolling on the ground.

Since your opponent is unlikely to give you an easy shot at his carotid, or brachial, you need a longer knife. Not because you are going to square off, and dance around, but because you want to open up striking opportunity to your opponent's chest. A shorter knife is less likely to reach through the skin, muscle, and tissue to make it to the vital organs in the chest cavity. A longer knife opens up the chest to effectual attack, the same chest that will be easily accessible when grappling. When you start to think of your knife as a stabbing tool, you realize the problem with the wave for self defense; it functions as a quillon, effectively shortening your blade's penetration distance. Stabbing through cardboard is easy, with a little bit of pressure, the rounded end of the wave pushes right through. But try to get that rounded edge through skin and muscle, and you'll see what I mean. I suppose you could do something like sharpen the point of the wave, and sharpen the concave of the hook, but I don't think you've done that because instead of catching on your pocket, it would just cut right through. An unofficial wave, cut by the owner, might work better because it's a little further back than a factory wave, but it's still a huge hook. You'd be better off grinding the whole spine down and leaving a small, quarter inch hook in front of the eyehole. Like a tiny factory wave. A smaller one would be less likely to catch. You could also grind an edge into the other side of the blade to make an opening for the hook, but that would probably be more trouble than it was worth.

Now to wave function, I've said I didn't have a problem if you want to pull the knife into a tip down (pinky side) grip, because the motion is a simple upward pull. But if you're on the ground, and you have to reach for your knife, it's pretty likely you're on in the defensive position, on the bottom. I've already explained why you should use a tip up (thumb side) grip in this position, but drawing that wave reliably requires pulling your arm a bit rearwards, which might be difficult if you're on the ground. I just think you're better off opening with a thumb flick. I also see a problem with yanking your wave knife out of your pocket while rolling on the ground, if you screw it up, you've got a half deployed knife that you're rolling around on top of. I just think it'd be easier to remove your knife from your pocket, get a clear area to deploy, and deploy quickly. But not on the ground? Yeah, I have no problem drawing your SD knife with a wave, tip up or down. I just have a problem with that rearward move in a utility knife. I've seen people bend over to open a box, then draw, and basically swipe their knife behind them at chest height without looking. That bugged the hell out of me. Wave deployment on a utility knife is unnecessary if you're willing to practice fast deployment via thumb flick. I also like being able to take a folded utility knife from it's spot, move it to the object I want to cut, then open it. (cont)

ErnestThing said...

(cont) I was kind of surprised to hear that you'd run your SD knife tip down. Tip down is really only good for the icepick stab, and you want a longer blade for that. The only other somewhat viable attack you get is the Hollywood outside swipe (tip out). It takes too much body movement to get any strength into it, leaves your entire side and brachial artery (!) exposed, AND has no follow up strikes except a stab across the where you just swiped. I won't even dignify the Hollywood inside swipe. The only other thing you can do is put the pommel against your chest and wait for an opportunity to stab forward, which effectively takes your knife arm out of the fight. If someone pulls a knife on you and the blade is down? Smile. You already know the only attacks he can do, and you know he's going to leave vitals exposed as soon as does one of them. A tip forward, thumb along the spine affords you much more versatility in strike direction and strike strength.

Tony said...

On the topic of access, your point on difficulties when drawing to edge forward position while laying on the ground or against a wall is valid. On the other hand, like with any other in-fight weapon access, you must first create the time and space in which to draw - and moving your hips so you're not squarely back against the obstruction ought to take care of itself during this process. (That said, like I said I do prefer the out-and-forward draw into reverse grip myself. I'm just not convinced this is a deal breaker though. Most carry guns in a manner which necessitates that the elbow moves back during draw, no?)

Your point on the wave limiting blade penetration is interesting, but even conceding the point for now, you seem to be treating the positive and negative as equal value, which in my mind they are not. The wave feature is a BIG help in getting the blade out in the first place, while the wave hooks limiting of impact depth is a minor drawback. Getting the blade out in the first case is a much higher priority than having the exact optimal blade shape for the most penetration.

I must disagree with your targeting, too. Trying to strike through bone is not the easiest thing to do with a little pocket knife. "Soft seeks soft, hard seeks hard" is one old martial arts maxim that applies here. Better to target fleshy (and veiny) regions than deliberately try to drill through bone. Interestingly, the issue of grip comes to play here too - when throwing full-power blows with an object, having a good, solid grip on it is a good thing to have. Thus, the saber grip you mentioned earlier, I'm not so much a fan of that either. I used to use it in martial arts class for rubber knife tag, but for full power blows that may strike bone, grappling with someone who may try to strike your knife away, etc. I feel it is way too weak a grip. A hammer grip or possibly, if in reverse grip, thumbcapping the butt, is much more secure.

This also relates to the whole wound depth issue - soft tissue compresses. Thus, a blade can make a wound channel actually longer than itself. And when you use reverse-edge methodology and rip that blade out, you create a big, nasty wound with even a smallish blade.

As for which grip - forward or reverse - is better, the matter really isn't as clear cut as you claim. First, let us remember that a knife is an impact weapon, not a light saber (รก la the rubber knife tag type of "knife fighting") - so the strikes should be powerful ones. Throwing hammerfists is both powerful and instinctive - and with proper training, you're not as limited as you seem to think. (I'm afraid I don't have any handy links ready, but using search phrases "shivworks" and "southnarc" should result in some video clips at YouTube that may show a little bit of the kind of blade use I am talking about. ShivWorks web site also may have some material on the topic, if you are not already familiar with the system they teach.) I think you're also overstating the need for versatility. In a sports fight, this may be more true, as your opponent has had the opportunity to study your previous fights, look for weaknesses, etc. (Although even in the ring, who is that Russian MMA fighter who always knocks his opponents out with a rear-leg turning kick? Having a "signature move" doesn't seem to be a weakness to him.) But in a "street" situation, you're an unknown - even if you always train to stab out the same way, it doesn't really matter since the guy attacking you doesn't know that. A few simple move done really well carries the day surprisingly far!

Bah humbug, I've reached maximum comment lenght. To be continued shortly...

Tony said...

As for your issue of using the wave to pop open a knife in utility situations and swinging it around, that to me is just a dick move to do. PEBKAC, not the knives fault. When I draw my pocket knife for utility use, I never use the wave feature if there is anyone close to me. If someone is in the same room, I often use a slow, two-handed opening just to avoid freaking out the sheep. Nothing in the wave feature dictates that you must use it - just twist the blade in a way that the wave hook will not catch the pocket edge and draw the knife out, closed.

The point about the wave possibly failing is very true, and this is why fixed blades are much better for this sort of thing. But a couple of things: first, if this happens, you can just flick the blade the rest of the way open or (probably the better choice) hook the blade on some part of your opponent and pull it fully open there. (No, I am not claiming this is in any way simple or easy, but dealing with non-deployed blades is just one of the headaches of using a folder as a defensive weapon.) Second, I feel you are not quite evaluating the opening methods fairly - if you have the room and time to separately push the blade open with your thumb, surely you have time to open a half-way opened waved knife too, right? But on the other hand, a waved knife may be opened (if the wave doesn't fail...) even when the time window is too small for that separate flick of the thumb.

ErnestThing said...

Yes, most guns are carried in a manner which necessitates that the elbow moves back during draw, but if you are drawing your gun when you're on the ground, or with your opponent pushing you into a wall, you've already failed.

I can agree that opening the blade is more important than having length, but if you can't make it to vital areas, you're needlessly prolonging the fight. What happened to "quick and dirty?" Weren't you the one who was arguing in the push dagger post that flesh wounds won't disable an attacker?

I'm not sure why you think you'll be driving a blade through bone, with the ribcage you've got a 50/50 chance of hitting soft tissue, and making it all the way to vital organs when you strike the chest area unless you intentionally target the sternum. I will agree that you can do a lot of power moves with the blade in a hammer grip, but power means a recoil, and a forward motion, telegraphing your movement. Missing with a power stroke, such as a downward icepick stab leaves the safest part of your weapon pointed at your opponent. If your opponent grabs your wrist or rushes while the knife is pointed toward you, you are probably not going to get up. Especially if you opponent has a long knife, because he's going to get somewhere important. If he had a short knife, he might get some slashes in before you wrestle your knife free, and continue, bloodied.

You keep talking about knife tag, and I can't help but think you ARE talking about two opponents squaring off, and trading glancing blows until the loser dies, and the winner dies a little later from blood loss. If that's what you're talking about, then we can stop right now. My philosophy for a self defense EDC blade is to keep it hidden for as long as possible, then strike vital areas (carotid, subclavian, brachial, femoral, eyes, radial, or upper body organs) as quickly as possible, and get the fuck out of there. Nobody wins when two guys square off with pocket knives.

The other option you mention is simply grappling and fistfighting while you happen to be holding a knife, and use it when the opportunity arises. This gets back to the difference in type of fighting we're talking about. Can a boxer/grappler fight well? Yes. Can they fight better with a blade in their hand? Technically, yes. But that's treating the knife as a supplement to a skilled fighter. I think the knife should be used quickly and decisively for self defense, not brought into a "fair fight." When your life is on the line, be underhanded, throw sand, cheat and win. I get the feeling we're coming at this from two different directions.

I'm glad to hear you don't use your wave for utility purposes, dangerous EDC knife carriers turn off non EDC knife carriers. "Look how useful this knife is, *swing* *click* OHMYGODAREYOUOK?!"

Tony said...

"Soft seeks soft"... Gah. This is what happens when people keep interrupting someone writing a blog comment, folks. :p

My disagreement was mainly the method in which you were advocating the use of the push dagger, not the hardware. Like I wrote in my comments there, you can do a lot of damage with even a small blade, if you use it correctly. (That said, the knife in question does feel a bit uncomfortably short to me, but like I said that wasn't the main point.) As for striking vital areas, I've mentioned tissue compression a couple of times already. Outside of that, it's again an issue of a "good enough" tool that you can access and use versus a "perfect" tool that gets jammed in close range. (And if we're arguing the blade lengths of Delica versus Endura here, like I said, it's not the length itself but what it did to that knives deployment that was my issue. The difference between a Delica and an Endura isn't that great, after all.)

My bad on the targeting - for some reason sounded to me like you were talking about punching through the sternum.

Power is something you need in a knife stab! Disparaging a striking technique because it delivers power does not seem rational to me. As for telegraphing, well... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-p4YmUJ4PA Does that seem to you to be telegraphing, overextending, clumsy? (Not really the best possible video clip to demonstrate this as it's more slow-speed explaining the mechanics, but that's what I could find immediately.)

A knife IS something you use as a supplement to your other fighting skills! Fixating on the knife alone is not a good way of running it. It's a tool, not a magic talisman, and it's a fight, not a "knife fight".

As for what kind of fight we're talking about, this is actually puzzling me too - we seem to be discussing the same thing, but end up with very different conclusions. S' weird. A part of it might be my language skills - I am not the most effective communicator in any language, yet alone a foreign one. A lot of this might also be simply because some things are so much easier to show instead of explain in words.