There was a time not all that long ago that I couldn’t afford an American-made Spyderco. The price tag on these jokers is almost always over $100, and sometimes much more. Even when these designs are perfectly rendered, as I feel this Wharncliffe rescue model is, a Spyderco can be an investment.
25 years ago, my older sister was getting hitched. Her new husband, a man who proved to be much more of a tool than anything produced by Spyderco, was supposedly an avid outdoorsman and kayaker. It was the one thing we had in common, it seemed, so formed the basis of much of our conversation.
When it came time to satisfy social conventions with the material exchange of goods, I went looking for a wedding gift that he could use—that he’d keep and remember forever. At the time, I was working four scattered part-time jobs, but I knew what I wanted to give him: a Spyderco Rescue.
So I saved up. I bought him the knife I wanted. He put it in a desk drawer and it never again saw the light of day.
I wish I could tell you that this section is called Spyderco Rescue because I went and rescued the knife. Not so. I’ve thought more about my former brother-in-law here, in the writing of this introduction, than I have in years.
No, the Rescue is the family model name of a line of Spyderco knives that has evolved over 30 years. They are all similar in appearance. They are defined by the Wharncliffe blade shape, first and foremost.
The blade lacks a pointy point on purpose, of course. If you need to get this blade under a seat belt to cut someone out of a burning car, you don’t want to cut the person. The flat-nosed blade can be slid between cloth and skin, even when you’re dumping adrenaline, and you are far less likely to stab the person you’re trying to extricate from whatever has necessitated a legit rescue.
Another defining feature of the blade can be seen along the cutting edge. Spyderco didn’t invent the serrated blade, but they certainly championed it. And these teeth are very sharp.
Serrations on a knife blade are, like treads on a boot, an often misunderstood addition. A serrated blade, many assume, is meant to work like a saw. There’s some truth to that, though a saw blade’s teeth are offset—which allows the channel they cut to be wider than the blade (which keeps the blade from binding).
The serrations on a knife provide more cutting area. If you were to trace the line of the cutting edge, then (magically, maybe) be able to pull that line straight, you’d find that a 3-inch serrated blade may have closer to 4 or 5 inches of cutting edge.
And that cutting edge bites like boot treads bite into dirt, allowing more surface area to come into contact with the blade.
For harder materials—things that might dull the blade—the teeth of the serrations act to protect that cutting edge in the concave recesses.
Maintenance for a Spyderco Rescue
This Spyderco Rescue is one of the earlier models. I’m not a Spyderco historian, per se, but I’ve had it for more than 20 years. I never got over the fate of the first one I bought and so picked up one for myself as soon as had that cash again.
I’ve never sharpened this knife. While serrations can be (and sometimes need to be) resharpened, it is a pain in the ass to do. You can buy round files or ceramic rods, or pick up diamond sharpeners that are profiled to fit the serrations.
The grind angle is steep and more like a Scandi grind than a traditional double-bevel. Simply place the stone or file against the steel, follow the angle, and push. Don’t overthink it and don’t use too much elbow grease. It isn’t complicated, just tedious.
And that brings us to the next idea…
The Spyderco FRN handle
Spyderco’s entry-level knives use FRN as a handle material. This nylon is easy to mold, holds up well, and is pretty much a no-frills go-to for much of the industry.
But it isn’t the strongest material. And some of these Rescue knives are riveted together. That’s not the strongest connector. The Spyderco Rescue design could be used to skin an elephant—so long as the major forces exerted on the knife are kept within the basic orientation of the cutting motion.
After 20 some odd years, though, there’s some play developing in the joint of this one. FRN has a bit more elasticity than you’d find in G10 or micarta. Even though the pivot pin and joint are still solid, the design flexes.
This knife is a staple for Spyderco, so there are as many variations as there are septuagenarians arguing about the inherent superiority of John Moses Browning’s single-stack. Some have finger grooves on the back of the blade so the closed knife can be used as a glass breaker. Others have handle-material upgrades and more corrosion-resistant steel.
Some of these same design concepts have been baked into countless Spyderco designs over the years. They’ve proven themselves well.
As for mine, it has seen its fair share of miles. If I’m driving anywhere long distance, this goes with me. I’ve used it as a true first responder in one crash—though I just happened to have been the first bystander on the scene.
It also fits nicely in a pocket on my PFD. If I’m doing anything on the water, or with ropes, this is my go-to pocket knife. I’m not worried about it getting wet. Or lost, honestly.
I don’t baby this knife, as you can see. I also don’t use it for anything other than its intended purpose (even if that just means carrying it, just in case, alongside another pocketknife).
This far out from my original purchase of this knife, I see it differently. Back then, this was a big purchase for me. Now, I understand that the design itself is incredibly useful. Even more than I’d originally thought. The knife itself isn’t precious by any means, but the tool (unlike my sister’s ex) is indispensable.
Prices start around $100 for an import variant. $126 for the shorter versions.