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I am sure a few people saw this review coming. When you consider my recommended EDC knives page, you can see that my general top 2 choices for someone is either the Spyderco Paramilitary 2, or the Sage 1.
Buy the Spyderco Sage 5 at BladeHQ
I arrived at this conclusion after handling and reviewing hundreds of knives. There are a ton of other great Every Day Carry (EDC) options out there, but if I had to just suggest 2 knives to any random person off the
street internet I’d say go with a Para 2 if you want a bigger knife with a 3.5″ blade, or go with a Sage 1 if you want something with a 3″ blade. Granted this assumes you are willing to spend $100+ on a pocket knife.
The Sage 5 takes the unassuming footprint of the Sage series, a product line designed to celebrate knife locks and their inventors, and matches it with the beloved compression lock. People have clamored for a smaller compression lock knife for years, and Spyderco has finally delivered with the Sage 5.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The Sage 5 has an overall length of 7.17″, a 3″ blade, weighs 3.1 ounces, and is made in Taiwan. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I like this size of knife for EDC. It’s not too big, and not too small. Compared with the Sage 1 this knife is a little lighter and thinner thanks to nested and heavily milled out stainless steel liners. The Sage 1 weighs 3.2 ounces, so only .1 of an ounce more, but it feels heavier in hand. I hate to use the “P” word these days, but I still think this may be the perfect size EDC knife for my purposes.
Like all the other knives in the Sage series, this knife features Spyderco’s leaf shaped blade. It’s simple and unassuming with its full flat grind and satin finish. The blade is ground from 3mm thick stock, and the end result is a blade that is thin and agile. It easily tackles cardboard, food prep, and mail. It will press into harder tasks if necessary. The tip is a reasonable balance of strength and precision. No surprises and no complaints with the blade.
Spyderco went with CPM S30V blade steel. This is the same steel they have used on the other Sages I’ve handled. I think CPM S30V is good, but these days I would prefer to see Spyderco upgrade this to S35V. S35VN is tougher and I find it a little easier to sharpen. S30V can be brittle, and it can be relatively tough to sharpen. The heat treat can make a difference, but all things equal I think S35VN is a nice little upgrade of over S30V.
That said, the S30V here is plenty good and I have a lot of experience with it. The blade is relatively easy to sharpen, exhibits good edge retention, and is decently tough. As always, for more information on blade steel I invite you to check out my page on knife steel or I suppose you could re-read this section on my Sage 1 or Sage 2 reviews. The blades and steel are all identical.
Handle, Ergonomics, and Pocket Clip
The handle design is where we begin to see the uniqueness of the Sage 5. To the untrained eye you may not think there is much different from the original Sage 1. Sure, they share a similar faux carbon fiber cladding, but beyond that there are key differences to note. Specifically, the Sage 5 has nested stainless steel liners, while the liners of the Sage 1 are not nested. As previously mentioned, this results in a thinner and lighter knife. The Sage 5 has only 2 stand offs while the Sage 1 has 3. However, the Sage 5 does come with a sleeved lanyard hole, something I could live without. Also, the color of the carbon fiber veneer is slightly different from the Sage 1.
As you would expect, the fit and finish of this knife is immaculate. The handle is put together with the same eerie precision of all the other Taiwanese Spydies. If it wasn’t for the fact that someone wrote on the inside of the handle scales with a pencil, I would have not have guessed that a human hand touched this knife.
Like a lot of Spyderco knives that share this profile, the ergonomics are great. Just like the Para 2 and Dragonfly 2, you have a forward 50/50 finger choil. You also get a pleasantly jimped thumb ramp. It provides traction without being overly aggressive. The main portion of the handle easily accommodates a full 4 finger grip, while that finger choil gives you some extra options.
The Sage 5 comes with Spyderco’s wire clip. Ah, the wire clip. This is a love it or hate it thing. Personally, I love the wire clip. Here it is a bright stainless steel. My preference is for the black chrome version found on the Sage 1, but I must admit that this satin version looks nice with the rest of the stainless steel hardware. It reminds me of the Chaparral.
This knife carries like a slimmer and lighter Sage 1. That is to say, it carries pretty damn good. This is a knife you could carry with a suit or slacks if you wanted to. The fold over wire clip buries deep, and most people will probably mistake it for a pen. The Sage 5 is a knife you will forget is in your pocket.
Deployment and Lockup
Of course like all the other Sages the blade is opened with a thumb hole. It’s easy to access and the blade moves on phosphor bronze washers. No complaints there. However, I did run into a problem when trying to close the knife. The action was very stiff from the factory. I didn’t mind at first as I knew that my Sage 1 required a break in period due to its tight tolerances, but I became concerned when the action didn’t improve after a couple weeks of carry and a healthy application of Tuf Glide.
So I decided to take my Sage 5 apart to take a closer look and try to resolve the issue with the stiff action. The problem was that the blade would not shut easily, and I actually needed 2 hands to close the knife. Not ideal, especially when compared with the easy action of my Para 2.
I found that Spyderco used an industrial strength version of Loctite on this knife. I am glad I had my new WiHa drivers as I am sure my Husky set would have stripped out. It required a lot of force to crack the pivot open, but with a little patience and elbow grease I was able to get the knife apart.
I ended up adding a little more Tuf Glide and then re-assembled the knife. Everything came back together without issue and now the blade moves freely. I can now easily open and close the knife with one hand. I think the pivot was adjusted a shade too tight at the factory. If you run into this problem there is no need to take the knife completely apart. Just carefully adjust the pivot.
The compression lock works great here, now that the blade moves freely. For the uninitiated, this is not a “liner lock on the back of the knife”. This is a totally different lock that sandwiches the locking leaf between the tang of the blade and a stop pin. You can get a better feel of this from the picture. Spyderco claims this makes for a stronger lock, but I think the most significant benefit is that you can close the blade with one hand, and without putting your fingers in the path of the blade, much like an axis lock.
I was concerned that the compression lock might be a little figety on the small profile of the Sage, but it works fine. The lock itself is easy to manipulate and lockup is tight. This is a nice locking mechanism worthy of a spot on the Sage lineup.
Sage 1 vs. Sage 5
I am sure at least a couple people will be curious to get my opinion on whether I like the Sage 1 or the Sage 5 more. This was actually a lot harder than I thought it would be. Before I took my Sage 5 apart I would have said the Sage 1. It was just too tough to manipulate with one hand. Now that the pivot is loosened slightly and the knife has broken in, I really like the thinner and lighter Sage 5. It is very easy to manipulate with one hand and it carries even better than the Sage 1. As much as I enjoy the Sage 1, I gotta “keep it real” – I think the Sage 5 is an improvement.
Still, the Sage 1 will always have special significance for me. It was one of the first higher end knives I bought for myself, and I love the simplicity of the knife. It’s solid and perfectly made. I also appreciate the familiarity of the liner lock. The compression lock is great, but there is something very simple and comfortable about a liner lock. The Sage 1 is a great pocket knife and you can’t go wrong with it. But I do think Spyderco managed to make some improvements with the Sage 5. Neither will be leaving my collection. I’ll update the review if my opinion changes.
Spyderco Sage 5 Review – Final Thoughts
I am not sure a review of this knife was entirely necessary. Combining the footprint of the Sage series with a compression lock is a no brainer, and Spyderco executed this knife near perfectly.
In a perfect world I’d like to see S35VN and the pivot perfectly adjusted out of the box, but these are small quibbles on an otherwise excellent knife. I’m sure some might want a different pocket clip, but I love the simplicity and elegance of the wire clip. Sorry wire clip haters.
The Sage 5 will likely be a “must buy” for Spyderco fans, and a serious contender for anyone seeking a 3″ EDC knife in the ~$100 range.
Looks like I’ll have to make some room on my best EDC knives page. We have a winner.
- High Performance - The Spyderco’s Sage Series is a unique family of knives showcasing the innovative lock mechanisms that have helped define modern folding knife technology.
- Designed to be Safe - The Sage 5 uses a compression Lock mechanism. This mechanism is substantially stronger than LinerLocks and its location allows the knife to be safely closed with only one hand without placing your fingers in the path of the edge.
- Dependable - Every Sage Series knife in the series features the same basic design parameters - a full-flat-ground, leaf-shaped CPM S30V blade, an ergonomic handle design with textured forefinger choil and thumb ramp, and wire clip.
- Versatile - The Sage 5 is an extremely capable all-purpose cutting tool with skeletonized stainless steel liners nested into textured carbon fiber/G-10 laminate scales.
- More to Love - The open-backed construction reduces the knife’s weight and allows easy cleaning, while a reversible deep-pocket wire clip provides convenient tip-up carry on either side of the body.
I recommend purchasing the Spyderco Sage 5 at Amazon or BladeHQ. Please consider that purchasing anything through any of the links on this website helps support BladeReviews.com, and keeps the site going. As always, any and all support is greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.
Great review! This knife instantly shot to #1 on my must-buy list. I was trying to decide between a Sage 1 and Sage 2 for my first Sage, and then they announced this and it turns out the answer is actually Sage 5. I like the lock, the nested liners, the matte and more-grippy CF laminate, and I like everything else about the Sage in general.
I’m also glad I got to read a review before I bought one, just in case there was some deal-breaking issue that I haven’t seen while handling it (hooray local store!) that I don’t have the experience to notice. I will say the one I handled was very, very smooth, comparable to the other Sages they have.
Thank you, Patrick!
It’s great to hear the knife you handled was smooth out of the box. I watched a video review where the guy also had a knife that was very stiff. Maybe there are some slight variances from knife to knife.
At any rate, I hope you enjoy your Sage 5 if you decide to pick one up. No deal breaking issues from what I can see!
Oh I’ll be getting it. I would’ve already, except I bought a Nirvana in July and I tapped out the knife budget, both in money and wife goodwill. Since this knife is a combination of one of Spyderco’s most popular platforms and the beloved compression lock, they’re going to sell a giant pile of them and I won’t have to worry about finding one when I’m ready.
No, the hard knives to turn down are the PM2 Cruwear or Military 52100 sprint run pieces that are still sitting at the store… taunting me…
I don’t see many popping up on the secondary market yet, but yeah if you give it time I am sure you will be able snag a good deal after production catches up to demand and more people start turning them over.
Congrats on the Nirvana. That is a serious piece of hardware. I feel like I should review that one, but I haven’t felt like plunking down the coin. Too many knives, too little time (and money!).
I collect Spyderco knives, and with an opportunity to buy a Nirvana, I felt like I couldn’t NOT buy it. It’s immaculately made, and a better user than I expected. It’s also fine in the pocket; like several Spydercos, it carries smaller than it is. I hope you and/or EveryDayCommentary have a chance to review it, because I’d be interested to see what you both think after using it.
I would not be opposed to checking out the Nirvana at some point. It’s definitely an interesting knife. I’d be curious to get Tony’s take on it as well.
Larry Barnett says
Interesting but not compelling since I already own a Sage 1 and 2. If I didn’t I would grab this is a second. I might still one day, but too many things have priority on my waiting list, and the free spending knife buying days are over, now that I have a kid.
For those who wonder, my digital scale says the Sage 1 weighs 3.21 oz.
If you already own a Sage 1 and 2 then I can see the reluctance unless you have the disposable income and desire to collect the entire series.
If you don’t already own a Sage (or Caly 3, Native, etc) then I’d give the Sage 5 a nod over the Sage 1 unless you have a strong preference for a particular locking mechanism.
And good point regarding the weight of the Sage 1. Spyderco says 3.2 so you are right on the money there. I will work that into the original review.
I’ve been waiting on this release since it was first announced. IMO nothing compares to the compression lock. Not sure if it will replace my PM 2 as my EDC but it’s making me think….
Thank you. I think what your saying holds true for a lot of Spyderco fans. The compression lock has an extremely loyal following thanks to the Para 2.
Personally, I like the smaller size of the Sage series for EDC. While this won’t replace my Para 2 entirely, it will likely get more pocket time given my preference for a slightly smaller EDC.
Just my .02 of course! Let me know what you think if you decide to pick one up.
Thanks for another fine review!
There’s something about a good 3-inch folder that just feels more comfortable for pocket-carry. Even a 3.25-inch model can feel like a bit too much when weight, size and discretion matter.
The Sage 5 feels great in the hand and the pocket. It joins the Sage 1 and 2 in going to the top of my pile.
My pleasure as always!
And I totally agree with you regarding the merits of a 3″ folder. There are great knives that are bigger and smaller, but something about the 3″ blade size really works for me. It’s big enough to get most any job done, but it isn’t so big as to alarm anyone or get in the way during carry. It’s an ideal size for me.
Thanks for another great review. I’m more of a big-knife guy, but you’ve got me wanting a Sage. I might have to take the plunge.
My pleasure as always. Thanks for taking the time to check out the review. If you ever decide to dabble in the realm of 3″ blades, the Sage series is probably the best I have handled.
Jacob Vandenberg says
Wow, this knife is really impressive on the inside. Certainly a lot more going on than the Sage 1. I’m glad I got to see that in your review. I’m still not sure I will buy it, as I already have the Sage 1, but It’s exciting to see Spyderco going forward with a lot of compression lock designs. I will definitely get the Rhino and I’ve been considering the Ouroboros.
Thanks for stopping by. It’s a nice knife for sure. Spyderco did a great job with it, and it’s nice to see what a compression lock folder looks like coming from their Taichung factory.
Unless you are a big fan of the compression lock or the Sage series, then I think the Sage 1 will serve you very well. This is especially true if you are considering a Rhino or Ouroboros. It’s nice to see Spyderco roll out a few smaller options with the compression lock.
Great review about Spyderco Sage 5 Compression Lock C123CFCL.
Keep sharing 🙂
This is probably my next Spyderco. Love the compression lock on the Para2.
I am generally quite pro-liner lock as well. In particular I think they harmonize better with flippers than the ever popular frame lock. However, I will say that the Sage 1’s liner lock kind of bugged me because the access cutout is very large. When I owned one I had a lurking fear that the lock would accidentally disengage if I gripped the knife very hard or gave it torque. So the Sage 5 has an obvious strong appeal!
Thanks, R.D. Good point regarding the cut out on the Sage 1. Although I have never had an issue with it, it’s larger than most liner lock knives.
I do agree about Spyderco’s S30V — I would rather see S35VN here. Or CTS-XHP, but then the resulting knife would be awfully similar to the (delightful) Spyderco Chaparral.
Wire clip pwns (except in the tiny Dragonfly rendition which lacks adequate retention).
It is such a discreet clip design.
Patrick L says
Do you upgrade the steel, or keep the knife consistent with the previous Sage iterations? I’m not disagreeing with you, but irrespective of Spyderco’s predilection for using S30V out of Taichung these days, that consistency may have been important to them. And you’re right about being similar to the Chaparral, but I don’t know that too many people that would complain about that…
Also, that sucks about your DF clips. Neither of mine have ever given me retention problems, with the exception of one after I caught it on a doorframe and it was bent, and I couldn’t really get it back.
Upgrade them all! 🙂