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.
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.
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.