Jess Horn ZDP Steel & FRN Burgundy Handle

I was still putting the ZDP Calypso jr. through its paces when the ZDP Delica 4 came out. I jumped at the Delica because I liked the model so much, it also offered a solid (non-laminated) blade and tip-up carry. The Delica 4 just decided it needed its first sharpening when the ZDP Jess Horn came out. I doubted, but not for long. I’m a sucker for colored handles, and somewhere in the back of my mind I really liked the lines of the knife. So I ordered it.

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The Horn is sleek, very thin and elegant. It weighs next to nothing, no I think it’s closer to nothing ;-). The handling is surprisingly good for such a narrow and light design. The handle, you see, is thicker than you’d expect. I can actually get a solid full hard-use grip on this knife. The texture may not appeal to all, but it works nicely. At arms’ length I don’t notice that it says ‘Jess Horn’ on the handle for like a 100 times. The texture is fine and smooth, but it is abrasive enough to not slip out your hand with a little pressure.

The grip is good, not slip free, but certainly more secure than SS. The rounded butt makes the handle rest against the palm of my hand when exerting pressure on the tip, just like the Li’l Temp actually. The hump is shallow and a bit removed from the pivot end of the handle. More so than with regular spydies. This gives the thumb plenty of purchase when pushing edge down. The Horn needs this feature because of the swedge. The Horn is no tactical in my book, but a heck of smooth and classy utility folder. I’ve worked with the knife for some time now and I can’t detect any sore spots. When the handle was covered in veggies and moist after some kitchen work, I noticed the handle getting just a little slippery though nothing serious happened.

The blade is very thin, and the hollow grind makes the ZDP edge hair thin. Makes me seriously wonder If one could perform eye surgery with it ;-). The Horn’s out-of-the-box edge was sharper than the ZDP Delica 4, certainly as sharp or maybe a little sharper than the ZDP Calypso jr.

The Horn is not just a knife, it’s a pair of tweezers and needle as well! The tip is really what makes the Horn special. It’s incredibly sharp, and it proved extremely useful. Slice out an article or photo and pick it up with the tip as well. I picked out a splinter with the Horn faster than with a pair of tweezers we had lying around. Naturally, the swedge makes this tip so sharp. The straight blade make the blade and tip easy to control. Again, makes me think the Horn would be a suitable surgical tool. Although the blade is thin, and the overall knife very light, it is still pretty sturdy. I broke down some heavy boxes –I’m always looking for those when it’s knife testing time- and with the twisting and turning the  blade didn’t bend or break. I was more afraid of the pivot twisting or buckling since there are no liners.

The swedge gives the Horn that incredible tip, and it looks very classy too. The swedge feels sharp(ened) too. I kept checking my fingers the first day, when they dragged against the swedge. It felt as if I cut myself. I can imagine you could cut or ‘divide’ some really weak materials with the swedge’s “edge”, but I kept using the edge in my daily cutting tasks. So for me, the swedge is limited to: sharp tip, looking cool, making the knife as light as a feather and looking cool.

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I now have used and carried three different models with ZDP steel. What do I think of the stuff? Well, it’s nice but I also realized what my favorite knife steel is. It’s not ZDP 189. ZDO 189 makes for an amazingly sharp edge; but only out-of-the-box. The edge I can put on it with my Sharpmaker is sharp, just not as sharp as the one from the box. I need less than the 30 degrees the Sharpmaker offers. Sharpening is just hard. S30V and VG-10 are much easier to sharpen. I can get the ZDP steel hair popping sharp, but not sharper than VG-10 or S30V.

The edge-holding is more than I could ever imagine. It’s great fun to see that kind edge-holding. ZDP gives you that shaving sharp edge for a long time, and then it levels off to a functional edge for probably longer. Someone who only uses a folder to open mail and cut an apple a day, could probably go a year without sharpening. I can’t imagine how the edge-holding would be in a serrated edge. In my urban environment I don’t ‘need’ this kind of edge-holding. It’s fun though. <br><br>

ZDP is very nice, but my favorite is VG-10. VG-10 holds its edge for a good period of time. It never chipped on me, unlike S30V –ZDP has not chipped though. And VG-10 is really easy to sharpen for me. It could be just my sharpening skills, or a lack of challenging cutting tasks in my life, but VG-10 is THE steel for me. Thanks to ZDP for making that clear. Nevertheless, steel will not be a deciding factor in my knife purchases –that would be ergonomics-. As long as I can sharpen it on my Sharpmaker, it’s good enough.

Visually the clip seems a little too big for this narrow handle. The black clip with the golden bug does look classy. Two scuffs developed on the clip after carry and the odd drop on the floor or two. Ergonomically, the clip blends nicely. There’s a little FRN ridge molded in the handle to prevent the clip from twisting sideways. Ed Schempp taught me at the IWA –when discussing a new (no photos allowed) concept model with only two screws on the clip- that you need two screws to determine the plane and three to create strength. With a lack of steel liners, I think this little FRN ridge is what gives a little extra strength. I don’t think it’s ise to screw the clip on and off. It’ll probably result in a wobbly clip over time, despite the little FRN ridge.

There a lot of little things in the Jess Horn that whisper ‘ingenious’, ‘refined’ and ‘experience’. The way the texture is minimal but still effective. Moving the hump a little closer to the tip, providing just enough room for a thumb or index finger while keeping plenty of space for a handsome and functional swedge. The little FRN ridge behind the clip, that holds the steel clip tight without having to use liners in the handle. The hole is smaller than I’d normally like, yet it works effortlessly in the total package. The opening action is smooth and reliable; no thumb slipping out of the hole in a speedy draw.

The handle has one finger ‘groove’ or ‘downward facing hump’ in the middle. It adds to the grip of the knife, without getting in the way of a grip change. And I really don’t like that design feature normally, but on the Horn it works well for me. A lot of little details that just whisper to me, that this knife was designed by a very experienced person (or team). Someone who knows how to make a knife ‘just right’ and keep it all minimal.

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The Jess Horn ZDP edition is a really nice and refined utility folder. Yet it does not make it to my carry rotation. Why? For starters, the clip is right-hand only. I understand it needs to be, because the texturing is on the other side. Putting the texturing on both sides would probably make the Horn too hard to draw. Carrying the Horn left-handed is too uncomfortable for me. Then there’s the ZDP, which is nice, but tough to sharpen for me. The last main thing that keeps me from carrying the ZDP regularly is its weight or lack thereof. I’ve come to realize I like a little more heft. Well, a guy who enjoys carrying two Mini Manixes at a time should have known that in advance right? The Horn is so light, it has no balance. It must be the FRN, I bet a custom version with steel liners and bone handles would just be perfection. Still, I really admire the Horn tremendously due to all those little features. A highlight in my collection for sure!


One Response to Jess Horn ZDP Steel & FRN Burgundy Handle

  1. […] makers for Spyderco, it has a blade made from VG-10. That’s no problem for me. As I noted in my ZDP Jess Horn review, VG-10 is my favorite blade steel. I’m happy to note that the Caly III upholds the Calypso jr’s […]

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