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Since 1976, Sal and Gail Glesser have been selling products under the Spyderco name. Initially, their (still popular today) Tri Angle Sharpmaker was sold as their first product. “First we made things sharp, then we made sharp things”, as Sal likes to remind us as to how the company first got it’s traction. Fast forward to 2023, and they’re still going strong, as the only major knife production company still running on the cutting edge of steel and technology. Who else out there makes production knives in Maxamet, K390, ZDP189, or even Cruwear? Very few, if any.
Their lightweight lineup of folders has been one of their longest made styles, and continues today with many of their offerings. This segment of their catalog is filled with cost effective pocket knives, that carry many of their early offerings, but continue to evolve with under-the-hood improvements, steel types, and collaborations. One of their most recent design changes to the Stretch model brings the Stretch 2 to the table, and has more than meets the eye when taking a deeper look.
Key Specs: Spyderco Stretch 2
Spyderco’s latest refresh of the Stretch 2 utilizes a straight spine design on it’s blade. The (still available) VG10 variant carries with it Spyderco’s oddly great blade shape that’s a little drop point, a little sheepstfoot, and very strange looking. It has a very Gayle Bradley – esque style to it. But, some of the newer variants of the Stretch 2, including today’s review unit, have a more Paramilitary 2 style, with a standard drop point belly and straight spine. And, my favorite aspect of this knife, the Bohler K390 steel composition. Without getting too deep in the weeds on the details, K390 tends to have edge retention rivaling Maxamet, with edge stability exceeding CPM-M4. It’s far from stainless, but otherwise carries likely the best of both worlds in the other two categories mentioned.
The Stretch 2 blade stock thickness, coming in at .12”, is right about the Goldilocks zone for an EDC folder of this caliber. Thick enough for work related tasks, but thin enough that it’s not a hinderance in cutting materials that cause binding. With 3.4” of K390 steel, an oversized opening hole, and some common Spyderco text, this blade is the epitome of a no-nonsense, use-it-for-everything type blade with no glaring issues. Fairly fine, yet very helpful jimping on the spine helps keep the thumb in place, but without being overly aggressive. Similar to the Shaman, this particular specimen of the Spyderco lineup was designed solely by Mr. Sal Glesser, but the Stretch 2 was designed as an all-purpose folder that leaves the tactical styling at the door.
Deployment / Lockup
Who doesn’t love a classic lockback folder? Well, according to most internet keyboard warriors, only us gray-bearded, denim shorts wearing, oversized New Balance white shoe dads carry lockbacks. And that may be partly true, but it’s still a great design that works without a hitch, albeit less “fidgety” and lacks the “drop shut” cool factor. It’s kind of like a work truck with roll-up windows and a manual button radio. It works fine, just doesn’t have any flash. And sometimes, that’s all you need.
The Stretch 2 is surprisingly smooth in deployment for it’s feature set and price point. Our test unit is of course the K390 steel variant (which is standard production now, not a sprint run or exclusive), which adds about $45 to the price tag. The VG10 model, which is the same in every way except handle scale color and steel type, is about $105, and the K390 version comes in at $150. I personally think the upgrade in steel in this instance is worth the upcharge, but if you disagree, the VG10 variant is plenty sufficient for common use. But in either case, the deployment is quite smooth, even with it’s deliberate style movement and lockback resistance when opening the blade.
Unlocking the Stretch 2 is easy, of course, as a common back lock. But there are many knife companies that leave the locking mechanism flat, and Spyderco commonly uses the Boye Detent, which is basically just an indent in the lock bar. It helps quite a lot when pushing down on the lock to release the blade, allowing for a seamless finish to using the knife. The lockup is great as well, with little side to side movement when locked open, even with the FRN handle scales.
Features, Fit and Finish
The feature set on the K390 Stretch 2 is somewhat hidden from the naked eye. Not that all the features are on the inside of the knife, but rather that they may not be immediately obvious to the casual viewer. As Spyderco moved away from their old style pinned together construction, they moved on to screwed together scales and pivot assembly, found here on the Stretch. This is probably not a knife that most users will feel the need to disassemble on a regular basis for maintenance, but it’s nice to know that if you’d like to get under the hood and clean it out after a hunt, or muddy adventure, it can be done with a common set of Torx bit screwdrivers.
The bright blue FRN textured handle scales are definitely not my personal favorite color, but following with the theme of the basic, work knife styling, it’s an EDC tool with functionality over form. And being able to position the pocket clip in any of the 4 orientations, the Stretch 2 completes it’s potential to be a completely ambidextrous knife in every possible way. Another small yet thoughtful aspect of the handle scales and clip, is that Spyderco puts a flat section in the middle of the handle without texturing. What this does for the user, is allows the pocket clip, in any of the 4 possible positions, to land over this flat, smooth section, and allow the knife to easily go in and out of the pocket without shredding the material on it’s way.
Under the hood of the Stretch 2, similar to most other Spyderco lightweight models, are a pair of skeletonized liners that run the full length of the handle. This provides excellent rigidity in the handle without adding too much unnecessary bulk and weight to the knife. A lanyard hole at the base of the handle obviously allows a lanyard to be installed if you’re someone who likes to go that route. Up at the pivot of the Stretch 2 is the always appreciated phosphor bronze washers. They’re quite corrosion resistant, very smooth after some break-in, and typically will outlast the rest of the knife. And, just like the skeletonized liners, they add some rigidity to the pivot area of the knife. Not that a plastic-handled folder with a blade steel with 65HRC is a good pry tool, but it keeps things in place in the event that you’re pushing down hard on some hard-to-cut materials.
Fit and finish of Spyderco’s FRN knives have never been great. That’s not to say that it’s an inherently bad build style, just that some areas are glaringly rough. The back of the handle where the 2 scales meet has uneven areas, there’s no chamfering on the inner edge of the scales, leaving sharp sections throughout the handle, and the blade centering is never quite perfect. It passes for “good enough” for the price point, and keeps the focus on the steel and EDC nature of the knife, but don’t expect aerospace level tolerances or perfect symmetry in this type of knife. It’s like having a Shelby Cobra motor in a pinewood derby racer. Well, maybe that’s a Stretch….
Screwed together construction, blue FRN handles, full skeletonized liners, phosphor bronze washers, Seki City japan manufacturing, 4 way positionable clip, 3.7oz, 8.14 overall length, 2.9” cutting edge, .42” thick handle,
To quote Spyderco’s founder and owner Sal Glesser, “Letting it die in the box is to lose 75% of what we put into it”. So, lets use it. I personally never understood why someone would buy stacks of knives in boxes and put them in a safe and never look at them again. But I digress, and using the Stretch is just what Mr. Glesser ordered. Defining comfort in a fiberglass reinforced nylon flat handle scale with heavy injection molded texturing is difficult to do. But somehow, it’s still mostly present on the Stretch 2. The curves of the handle, the smooth areas near the forward choil, and the overall design of the Stretch’s handle allows it to pass as comfortable in use even with a plastic construction.
Carrying the Stretch 2 is great. As we talked about before, the clip and handle mating allows for quick and easy in-and-out of the pocket, a quick deployment, and unlocking completes the cycle of use with either hand, with or without gloves. Sticking with the no-nonsense theme, this blade is a powerhouse. The blade grind has been a topic of discussion for knife enthusiasts when talking about Spyderco as of late, and this model is no exception. The edge is obviously thinner on one side when compared to the other. This can easily be fixed if you’ve got some savvy sharpening experience, and doesn’t affect the performance of the knife at all, but is a consideration when looking at all the details.
And speaking of using the knife, it’s just plain great. The blade glides through cardboard sections, even when doubled or tripled in a stack. The full flat grind excels in cutting sisal rope on the work bench, a task that proves difficult or near impossible with a factory edge on many big name knife companies blades (Chris Reeve Knives, I’m looking at you, with your convex, over polished edge). And, even with the factory edge, I had no minor chips or rolls in the apex after some light garage cutting tasks.
Cutting sections out of an apple, some bell peppers, and a steak, the Stretch again proves itself to be an incredible EDC knife with the capability to perform in anything a knife would commonly be used for. There were no splitting of the apple sections (which happens frequently in folders with thicker blade stock), no binding in the cuts, but don’t forget to wipe the blade down and even clean it well if you’re picky about patina. Corrosion is different, in terms of steel, as in rust or pitting. That’s not typically what you’ll see out of a pocket knife in a steel like K390, rather it’ll get some discoloration and maybe a bit of gray or rainbow effect after food prep use (as you’ll see in our pictures of the Stretch 2). A little light stropping and a quick wipe down of the blade, and it’s ready to throw back in the pocket for it’s next chore.
All these knives available at BladeHQ.Spyderco has been making their lightweight models for decades. They’re inexpensive, light, and serve their purpose. And to compare the Stretch 2 to another lightweight classic only seems fitting. The evergreen Spyderco Endura is a great alternative to the Stretch 2. The Endura does have a longer blade and handle (3.75” vs the Stretch’s 3.4”), a longer handle (5” vs the Stretch’s 4.7”), and an identical weight of 3.7 ounces. There is no forward choil on the Endura, and it has a longer, more slender overall footprint. The Endura 4 (most recent iteration) also has been through countless steel types, handle scale colors, trainers, and Emerson Wave featured examples. But the K390 standard production variant is very, very similar to the Stretch 2, and is within a $5 difference in price.
Unfortunately the Paramilitary 2 does not come in a production variant of the K390 steel, but did have an exclusive that was available for a short time. Aside from that, the PM2 and Stretch 2 do have some comparable features that allow them to compete here as alternatives. At first glance, they have quite different looks, but their blades are very similar. The blade shapes are not identical; the Stretch 2 has a wider blade, while still being thinner than the PM2. But their blade lengths are basically identical, both just under 3.5”. The PM2 construction is different as well, with G10 scales and a compression lock over the lockback, but both have skeletonized full length liners, phosphor bronze washers, and both weigh the same. I’ll admit the PM2 is hard to beat in just about every category, but it is priced at $180 in it’s stock form with CPM-S45VN steel, over the base model Stretch 2’s VG10 model at $105.
And if you’re looking to really cut the cost, Spyderco still makes their Chinese lightweight models, and the Tenacious is a very similar knife when compared to the Stretch 2. It’s the same weight, same blade length, same blade stock thickness, but uses a liner lock in place of the lockback, and a much lower end steel with 8cr13mov. It’s a knife you’ll commonly find at big box stores, and only costs about $50. So, if something like the Stretch 2 is appealing, but you’re in the mindset that pocket knives should never cost more than $100, this is a great, reliable offering for you as an alternative.
The Spyderco Stretch 2 is a great everyday carry knife, that ticks all the boxes for supersteel hungry users without the need for high end pricing and materials. There is no titanium, no drop shut action, no fancy angles to manipulate a saucy Instagram photo. But it embodies today’s Spyderco as a company, with the focus on use, reliability, and cost effectiveness. A production model of a huge quantity of styles of knives making a hot rod knife with a budget handle makes sense to someone who understands what Spyderco intends on doing; making cutting tools that will last, and will perform under just about any circumstance.