After purchasing both Spyderco’s Sage 1 and Sage 2, I decided to add the Sage 3 to my collection. While I am positively enamoured by certain aspects of the Sage 3, I can’t say I would buy it again due to the many issues I’ve encountered with it, which will all be discussed later in this review.
The Sage series was conceived as a way for Sal Glesser, who is the CEO of Spyderco, to celebrate all the unique lock designs that knife designers have come up with throughout the years. In this series, every new model has an almost identical look in terms of proportions and the shape of the blade, but every one has a different lock and scale material.
The Sage 3 celebrates the “bolt action lock,” invented by Blackie Collins. Conceptually, it is a very cool lock, but unfortunately, at least with this knife, the lock has some pretty serious downsides.
But before touching on the negatives, I want to first mention the greatest benefit that the Sage 3 has over its siblings. What really makes it stand out, even amongst Spydercos outside of the Sage collection, are its fantastic blue G-10 scales. Out of all the Sage series, the Sage 3 is the most inoffensive and non-threatening scale color. Bright blue just doesn’t scream tactical to most.
And this non-abrasive look is why it’s my preferred EDC when walking around sheeple dominated areas like downtown Toronto. Even if someone did recognize this object as a knife, which is unlikely to begin with because of it’s colour and discreet clip, they would likely not perceive the knife as alarming or intimidating, but instead as a simple tool or a curious accessory. Some of my friends and relatives who have never carried a knife before have mentioned how interesting and fun this knife looks to them: this from people who admit they think it’s a little strange that I carry around a knife everywhere!
That’s not to say that the Sage 3 is not a good looking knife in its own right, regardless of the color of its scales. It’s got good proportions and is a very well balanced knife, like all the other knives in the Sage series.
Unfortunately, however, after playing with it for some time, I noticed that the action had become quite gritty, to the point where I was unable to easily close it. After inspecting it, I noticed that there was actually a blemish, caused by rust on the bolt.
The blade looked flawless from every other angle, but I was not happy with the blemish, so I decided to take it apart.
In my opinion, the Sage 3 looks surprisingly cool without its scales attached. The blue backspacer with stainless liners makes it look very slim and futuristic. I dig it. Unfortunately it is VERY difficult to strip down completely (I’m not exaggerating here; I’ve opened up and put back together hundreds of knives). The tolerances are extremely tight, which is great, but this makes removing everything very difficult. Some of the pins are friction fit, but others, like the studs on the lock, are very difficult to remove as they are threaded and screwed together. After some careful examination, I decided to not even bother trying and to see if I could fix the problem internally. I moved on to inspecting knife while it was still assembled.
The bolt lock is just what it sounds like, a bolt that lodges itself over the blade tang. By pulling back the bolt, a bar goes through, connecting to the outside with two studs. As you can see for yourself in the picture below, one of the truly problematic downsides of this knife is that the design lends itself to gathering spots of humidity, which then lead to rust. This is the only fully enclosed/non-open design folder I own, and as I look at this rust I am painfully reminded about why I have always made a point to steer clear of them.
The tolerances really are great, but this makes the rust even more apparent, as the result is a gritty roughness around the lock mechanism and pivot.
Deciding I should fix this, I took out my handy de-rusting tools: a Q-Tip and a 100% synthetic lubricant.
100% Synthetic Lubricant – Amazon
I then applied the lubricant and continued to rub, as many times as I needed to get all the rust off.
This worked perfectly on the bolt.
After the rust was removed, without even reassembling it, I noticed that the smoothness had dramatically improved, even to the extent of being better than the original factory smoothness.
The machining marks may make you think the tolerances are not tight but I assure you they are incredibly tight. Obviously Spyderco knew how/where to save on labor costs in order to provide this knife at a more attractive price point (around $110-115). Kudos to them for that.
As you can see, much to my annoyance, I was not unable to assemble it perfectly right off the bat. After my first attempt at piecing the Sage 3 back together, the back spacer and scale were not flush.
I discovered that the culprit in my case was the cut out for the lock release. To avoid my mistake, when reassembling this knife, always make sure the cut outs are properly aligned.
Finally, I got it to be perfectly flush. This reminds me of another benefit I find this knife to have. The lack of metal touching your hands is extremely nice during the cold winter seasons, especially in the Canadian winter. Cold skin + cold steel never ends well. With this knife: problem solved.
While it may make sense that the only screw that’s different would fit in the pivot, for the Sage 3, that is not the case. The single long screw is actually used to affix the wire clip. Be sure to make note of this if you’re taking your knife apart, otherwise putting it back together will leave it looking not quite the same as before.
Screwing in the clip can be a bit tricky for some, as the screw for the clip may be difficult to get to stay in place. The best technique for this is to place the screw within the clip in the air, pinching the screw with the clip, then taking the screw to the appropriate hole. This method allows for trouble-free installation with no further adjustments required.
Once I finished, the knife was better than it had ever been before.
But of course, the problem is that while the Sage 3 has many benefits over other EDC knives, like it’s unique color, standard torx screw size (T8), and very tight tolerances, I can’t help but feel that all it takes to render this knife unusable is a little bit of rust on the inside.
This may be okay in environments that aren’t very humid on the whole, but it would be incredibly agitating in areas with high humidity, and in coastal environments, where rust would gather even more quickly than Canada. When rust sets on the bolt, which I assure you it’s hard to avoid on this knife, closing the knife becomes neigh impossible. When there was still rust on this knife, I had to use a screw driver for pressure to get it to finally close.
As a pre-emptive measure I am being very liberal in my application of lubricant and I hope that this will suffice. If you live in a dry environment and want a good EDC knife with a unique lock and great sheeple friendly looks then go for it! But if you live somewhere that gets up to 80%+ humidity at times, I would strongly suggest opting for the Spyderco Sage 2 instead, as it comes with a frame lock, open construction design, and titanium scales. The Sage 2 offers much simpler maintenance, and far less chance of aquiring rust.