Knife Review: Spyderco Tenacious

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In my continuing quest to find my favorite budget folding knife – which for my purposes I am defining as anything costing less than $50 – I decided to pick up a Spyderco Tenacious on a Black Friday special. It is one of those knives that I have always heard good things about, but never had the opportunity to use for myself. Throughout my testing, what I found was a knife that challenges preconceptions, and may force some people to face hard truths.


Detailed Specs
Manufacturer: Spyderco
Blade: Leaf Point, 8Cr13MoV Steel, Full Flat Grind, Satin Finish
Rockwell Hardness: 57-59 HRC
Scales: G10
Pivot: Adjustable
Locking mechanism: Liner Lock
Opening method: ambidextrous thumbhole
Clip: 4-Position – Right or Left Hand, Tip-Up or Tip-Down
Country of Origin: China
MSRP/Street Price: $69.95 / $42

Dimensions (measured on this test sample)
Overall Length: 7.79”
Handle Length: 4.4”
Handle Thickness: 0.455″ (not including clip)
Blade Length (tip to scale): 3.39″
Sharpened Length: 3.4”
Blade Thickness: 0.12”
Weight:  4.15 oz


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Overview

If you look at the specs for this knife, the steel is the only clue that you are not holding something that costs twice the $40 that the Tenacious typically sells for. The 8Cr13MoV won’t light any fires for the steel junkie, but it is perfectly serviceable and offers very similar performance to my favorite entry level metal, AUS8.

spyderco-tenacious-openback

Moving on from the steel, you get a nicely textured set of G10 handle scales that add just enough grip to inspire confidence, and an open-backed construction that makes cleaning a breeze and leaves little space for pocket lint to collect. The liner lock engages nicely and is also easy to disengage, thanks to the generous cutout on the presentation side.

The polished pocket clip sports a laser engraved Spyder logo. It looks great and you won’t have to worry about any paint chipping off over time which will keep it looking fresh. The flip side is the clip is less discrete than typical black variations. Retention is good though, and four sets of screw holes ensure that any carry preference is accommodated.

That’s all of the “spec-sheet” info out of the way, so lets take a minute to admire how nice some of the design elements are.

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Aesthetically the knife is pleasing to my eye. Like many knives in the Spyderco lineup, the thumb ramp lines up nicely with the scales in a closed position as well as when open. The lanyard hole is framed perfectly by the pocket clip and has a hollow tube running through both sides to protect your lanyard from the sharp edge. Nice, attentive design all around.

spyderco-tenacious-lanyard-hole

I’m glad to see there is no bead-blasted metal anywhere to be found, and all the steel has a bright satin finish. This contrasts nicely with the black G10, and I daresay the knife has an almost classy streak.

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But by far, my favorite thing about the design is the short distance between the handle and the start of the blade edge. Because of the mechanical limitations that go along with most folding knives, the edge often starts a little distance away from the pivot… sometimes far away (see Ontario RAT-1). But thanks to the angled plunge line on the Tenacious, the edge is able to make it all the way back to the grips, and the handle design allows you to choke right up on the blade as well. The curve of the edge even picks up the curve of the liner lock. Have I mentioned that this knife is very smartly designed?

Fit & Finish

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“Quality” is a hard thing to quantify, but the amount of quality that you get for the price is astonishing. The construction of the Tenacious is as good as just about anything I have seen from Spyderco. If the blade were marked S30V and you told me it was made in the US, I would believe you. Seriously, I can’t find anything to fault on the build of this knife.

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The G10 scales are solidly attached and perfectly aligned. The blade is centered when closed and the liner lock keeps it rock solid when open.

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I am used to feeling a little bit of blade play on any folder, but there was none on the Tenacious.

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The initial edge on the Tenacious was also good. I was able to whittle fine curls of magazine paper with no trouble at all.

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The microscope reveals and edge that is slightly rough, but better than many I have seen in higher price ranges.

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That little bit of toothiness helped when I tested the edge on ¾” manilla rope. The blade pushed through a taut section fairly easily and the scales did not dig into my hand too much with a single cut. However, gloves would be appreciated if doing a lot of rope cutting.

Ergonomics

In hand comfort is good, but not overly hand filling regarding its width. The edges of the G10 are chamfered so nothing digs into your skin, but the general thinness of the handles would make long whittling sessions uncomfortable if not wearing gloves.

The dual skeletonized liners impart just enough weight to the handle without feeling like a boat anchor. Balance is decent as well, thanks to the skeletonization.

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Because of the integral thumb ramp the Tenacious, like most Spydercos, feels very natural in a saber grip. The jimping on the ramp skillfully bridges the gap between large and small – the grooves are deep enough to work while wearing gloves without being too sharp or large for barehand work.

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The knife doesn’t have a finger guard per se, but there is an offset between the end of the handle and the start of the edge. The jimping on the liner-lock release also provides some traction to keep your fingers secure.

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A pinch grip at the pivot also feels natural and allows for excellent control over the blade tip.

TESTING

Food Prep

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The Tenacious has a blade profile that works well in the kitchen. It is a great slicer and makes short work of potatoes, onions, and other vegetation. The curved edge even allows for good rocking motions provided the handle has enough clearance past the edge of your work surface.

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The blade is a little bit too pointy for tasks that require much belly, so hunters look elsewhere. As a tiny approximation of a chef knife however, it does a fine job, and the open backed construction is appreciated come cleanup time.

Cardboard

If there is one thing I’ve learned in my time as a TTAK reviewer, it is that a knife with average steel and a thin grind will outperform “better” steel with a thicker grind in our cardboard test. The Tenacious lived up to that trend.

Thanks to the edge coming all the way to the handle and the lack of any sharpening choil, I was able to start my slices by setting the edge on the end of the cardboard to make very controlled draw cuts. Handle comfort was good and the Spyder-hole was a good index point to hold my thumb.

As I was paring my way through just over 400 feet of the corrugated stuff, I decided to name this knife “Long Tall Sally” in honor of its high flat grind. The performance was fantastic and only starting to slow down by the time I reached that milestone. I checked the remaining edge on newspaper, and with care I could still make rough slices.

Good job Spyderco with the heat treat on this one!

Ease of Sharpening

Part of why these “inferior” steels test so well on cardboard comes down to how easy they are to sharpen. Before I do any cardboard I always run a blade through the medium and fine rods of a Spyderco Sharpmaker  and make sure that the edge is hair shaving sharp. This is about all I can do to attempt consistency between test results, but it is far from a perfect solution.

Fact of the matter is, less wear resistant steel will come out the other end keener than a higher end steel, and it definitely showed in the case of the Tenacious. The 8Cr13MoV is easy to keep at razor sharpness.

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I was initially worried that the handles would prevent the Sharpmaker from hitting the very back of the edge. It would have been a shame if such a good knife did not work well with their marquee sharpening system, but thankfully that was not the case. When on the pointy side of the triangle, the stone just barely clears the handle scales. I know I keep harping on the smart design of this knife, but it bears repeating.

Conclusions

The Tenacious has set a high bar for the sub-$50 folder category. It is going to be tough to beat going forward. Despite its low price, it doesn’t feel like there were any corners cut in its design or construction. The Tenacious is a knife that doesn’t need to make any excuses about itself or where it comes from.

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Because of the low cost and smart execution of this knife, it can appeal to a wide range of users. If you are into higher end knives and are looking for an inexpensive beater, the Tenacious is good enough to not dissapoint your sensibilities. If you are on a budget or just starting out and want something smartly designed and nicely constructed, it is also a fantastic option.

Photo by Patrik Ilijev

Photo by Patrik Ilijev

If you don’t like the blade size, the Tenacious has some sisters that should meet your needs. The Resilience is larger with a 4.25” blade, and the Ambitious and Persistence are smaller with 2.25” and 2.75” blades respectively. I’m going with factory specs on blade length so I can not guarantee those measurements are absolute. However, the length on this Tenacious is very close in length to the 3.375” listed as factory spec.

That hard truth I mentioned in the beginning? The days when “Chinese made knife” automatically mean “inferior” are over. The Tenacious can hang with the best of them. There is a reason this knife carries the Spyderco brand, rather than their byrd sub-line. It is, quite simply, that good.

comments

  1. PeterK says:

    I really need to pick one of these up at some point. If I don’t just spring for the delica.

  2. Sam L. says:

    “The Tenacious put paid to that notion.” I always thought that “put paid to” meant that whatever followed “to” was proven false. Perhaps I was mistaken.

    I prefer steel gray clips on the knives I clip to my khaki and light-colored pants–less contrast.

    1. PeterK says:

      I thought that, too. Apparently you can use it either way. Another one of those completely non-confusing phrases.

      1. I think you are correct Sam. I’ve tweaked the wording in that section. Thanks!

    2. simonVicAustralia says:

      Pops Custom Clips makes low ride clips for the Tenacious, I have one in black but there are other colours.

  3. stuartb says:

    My Black Friday spydie buy was the Cat, I chose it over the Tenacious for the more compact size, better steel and the wire clip. Agree with the comments on the quality of the knife and either have a really elegant blade profile. Nice to see reviews of more affordable knives.

    1. I love the Cat. Really sweet blade! It was the first Spyderco I reviewed here at TTAK (link)

  4. stuartb says:

    Your review was what swayed me to buy it, thanks!

    1. no higher compliment. Thanks.

    2. Thanks for the vote of confidence sir! Hope you are enjoying it 🙂

  5. Doc Blase' says:

    Nicely illustrated and written review, thank you.

  6. ken badgley says:

    I just picked one up 2 days ago. Great knefe for the price.

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Knife Review: Spyderco Tenacious

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