Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Folding Knife Review: The Spyderco Stretch

For two years in the late 90s, I worked in a knife shop. It was one of the best jobs I have had and I got to try dozens of customs and production models of folders and fixed blades. Personally, I am more of a fixed blade guy but, alas, they are far too dangerous to be allowed in public. So for everyone’s safety, I carry a 3.5” folder. Jokes aside, I have been carrying a folder since the early 80s. Luckily, I grew up in an era where knives were not seen as evil. Except for the dreaded switchblade. But I digress.

Prior to my time at the knife shop, my EDC was the Benchmade AFCK. It had the Spydie hole but it also had G10 with liners; which added a bit of heft. When I started working at a knife shop I was able to try out other folders from designers and companies like, Chris Reeves, Spyderco, SOG, and Buck, etc. I soon fell in love with the Spyderco FRN folders and I bought a plain edge, Endura 2 and a Delica 2 in ATS-55, without the Boyle Dent. They were strong, took little maintenance and, in my experience had zero malfunctions. They were my EDC’s for 11 years. They had been to India, Thailand, Spain, numerous US cities and joined me on many hiking trips. I still have them, well the Delica 2 was “donated” to the TSA, my wife was carrying it and left in her purse. So I got a Delica 3, which I still have. In those 11 years, I had never had a failure or even a complaint. I did feel that the Endura 3 handle was not as comfortable as it could be.

Why Spyderco?
I have carried Spyderco folders for roughly 19 years, and other types of folders since the 80s, which means I have been carrying folders for over three decades. The Spyderco hole is by far my number one reason for sticking with Spyderco. I have had good folders from SOG, Cold Steel, Gerber and others with the thumb studs and I find the stud makes sharpening near the choil next to impossible, and it doesn't work as well for opening. My second reason for sticking to Spyderco is their integrity as a company and they have consistently high quality on their folders. I have had little problems with any of their knives. They make tough ass knives. Finally, I love the fact that Spyderco was one of the first to start experimenting with steels. I appreciate their desire to be innovative and that they continually come out with exciting new designs. I will add for balance, that I am not a fan of their fixed blades. I think other companies beat them to the punch time and time again.

What I bring to a knife review?
Besides having carried a folder daily for over 30 years, I live in Mississippi and I often go for bushcraft walks in the woods. A bushcraft walk is one where I do some bushcrafty activities like, build a shelter, identify wild plants or make cordage from plants, etc.. My in-laws own about a 100 acres and I wander around do bushcraft projects and my in-laws also take advantage of my passion for machetes. So I am kept pretty busy with lists of land clearing during our visits there. During my weekdays, I am an office worker so I do not use it much at work, except for lunch preparation and minor office tasks. It might be important to mention that I have had a wide variety of jobs prior to my current desk job. While reading this it would be a mistake to peg me strictly as an office worker. I was in art school in the 80s, I have carved large totems poles, worked as a mover, worked in a knife shop and I have trained in Kali and done a good bit of bushcraft and camping.  I also have some game prep and lots of home butchering and food prep hours in.

What is so good about the Stretch?
I purchased a Spyderco Stretch with ZDP 189 blade steel with blue FRN, sometime in 2009 or 2010 and have carried it everyday, except for the rare short plane trips I take without checked luggage. I have carved wood with it, prepared many meals, opened tons of boxes and letters, cut bunches of paracord, and other assorted daily tasks modern life requires.

The first thing standout thing worth mentioning is that ZDP 189 is sick, crazy good steel. I can’t remember if I have ever used a rough stone on it or not. To maintain its amazing edge, I usually use my kitchen honing steel about every two weeks, sometimes more depending on usage. I have used some fine grit Japanese water stone every couple of months. I can NOT say that about any other knife steels I have used. VG10, ATS 34 & 55, AUS8, 1095, D2, 440a &c, 420J, all needed, at some point quite a few passes on a coarse grit stone.  Another important aspect to ZDP 189 is that I have used it on all manner of wood and material and the blade has zero chips and has never needed a regrind. The only quality some might not like is its corrosion resistance. I jumped in a saltwater pool once with it in my pocket, (don’t ask) and in about an hour rust set in the lockback slot on the blade. It is still there in fact, that was about 3 years ago. I am not one of those clueless people who freak out at the sight of a tiny rust spot. Hell, this knife will be around for a very long time.

The second stand out thing about the Stretch is the parrot beak at the end of the handle. A parrot beak is something I have found over the years to be essential on a knife. In fact, I don’t think I even own a knife without one of those any more and I wouldn’t consider purchasing a knife if it didn’t have parrot beak. Additionally, regarding the handle, I have not had any failures, dents, screws loose, or clip issues to mention. Speaking of the handle, a word about FRN. At this point in my knife carry,  I can’t imagine trading FRN for G10 or carbon fiber or titanium or any other material. I know those other materials are way more beautiful and add some heft and value to a folder but...they just don’t hold up as well as FRN does. The Stretch has a lock back. Spyderco introduced it after the trend of the liner lock began to fade. I remember when knife fans dissed on lock backs and the liner was the gold standard. I jumped on that band wagon and purchased a few liner locks but I really didn’t like them and I returned to lock backs. The lockback on the stretch has had zero failures. I should mention that it does include the Boyle dent, which  decreases the chance of the hand depressing the lock during usage.    

Other aspects of the knife are, since Spyderco introduced the flat ground to their folders I am hooked. I do sometimes question their lateral strength but I use it for what it is designed to handle. A knife, and more so a folder, is not a pry bar. I have always preferred flat grinds on fixed blades. The Cold Steel Master Hunter, is a favorite fixed blade of mine that has an awesome flat grind on it. I find them to be far more efficient in a variety of cutting tasks like, peeling veggies cutting paracord and cleaning game. Lastly, I  love the Stretch’s blue color; black got really old for me.    

Knives for me are about function. I am not a collector. I am not a seller. I simply love to use knives. I don’t care if it is cutting food, paracord, or skinning a hog, I love to use my knives and I love them to work without issue. When you find something that works you should stick to it, plain and simple, and this Spyderco Stretch has not given me a reason to get another folding knife.      


  1. Thanks for the great review, really enjoyed reading it.
    I was lucky to purchase a used Stretch in VG 10 (at least in Europe they are hard to find) which will arrive in a few days.
    What do you think of the VG 10 Version? I own to Enduras (one FFG, one SG) and a Delica Combo Edge in that steel and quite like it.
    And, may I ask another question: Since I am not a native speaker, I am not sure what exactly you mean by "parrot beak". I understand it is the beak of that colorfull bird, but in a knife-handle? Do you mean the flare out at the end that the Endura has not or at least not that pronounced?

    Greetings from Salzburg/Austria/Europe! Gernot

    1. VG10 is an excellent steel. I want one in VG10 since it is cheaper. The one I wrote about and carry is no loner made. So I would be really unhappy if I lost it.

      Thanks for reading and good luck with your Stretch!


    2. And yes, the parrot beak is the end of the handle that flares out to aid in knife retention.

    3. Thanks a lot for your reply! My stretch will finally arrive tomorrow, got it for 30 Euros (which is like 32 Dollars), not brandnew but obviously in very good condition. Quite lucky,I guess...
      Best wishes and may you never loose your stretch! ;-)

  2. Congrats and let me know how you like. You must be lucky because I have never seen one for that price.

  3. Yes, sure I´ll let you know! The price is even more astonishing indeed, as in Europe Spydercos are generally way more expensive than in the US (regular price of an Endura e.g. always quite more than 100 Dollars).
    The guy who sold it said, he would have around 300 knifes anyway, most of them more expensive than the stretch and he would not care much about the money... Sometimes you´r lucky... ;-) Most times I bought my knifes for the regular price though