Spyderco co-founder Sal Glesser is no stranger to the idea of carrying a knife as a personal-defense tool. Growing up in one of the poorer—and tougher—areas of Brooklyn, New York, he learned to appreciate the protective value of knives at an early age. Later in life, that streetwise attitude also led him to train in various martial arts, including disciplines that focused on edged-weapon skills. And while most of Sal’s knife designs have emphasized the utilitarian application of the edge, several of them have unapologetically embraced the spirit of what he calls “Martial Blade Craft.” These include the various expressions of the Lil’ Temperance folder and the latest member of that family, the Lil’ Temperance 3 Lightweight.
Lil’ Temperance Origins
Introduced in 2001, the original Lil’ Temperance was a powerhouse folding knife designed for both utilitarian and personal-defense use. It featured a stout leaf-shaped blade initially crafted from CPM 440V particle metallurgy stainless steel and later from CPM S30V. Full-flat ground from 4mm (0.157-inch) stock and produced in both PlainEdge and SpyderEdge variants, the blade was supported by Spyderco’s innovative Compression Lock mechanism, which gave the knife “MBC-rated” lock strength for extreme reliability.
The stainless steel liners that formed the foundation of the Compression Lock were nested within green G-10 handle scales that were meticulously machined to create an advanced ergonomic handle design. This three-dimensional design included three indexing “divots” in the obverse-side scale and a unique pocket clip with a matching series of holes. Designed only for right-side carry, the pocket clip could be configured for tip-up or tip-down orientation. In both positions, the clip’s holes aligned perfectly with the divots in the opposite scale to provide index points for martial arts grip-change tactics. Pinching one of the holes between the thumb and index or middle finger created a natural pivot axis that allowed the knife to be changed swiftly from standard grip to reverse grip and back. The presence of three pairs of holes and divots enabled users to choose the pivot point that best fit their hand size and manipulation technique.
Lil’ Temperance 2
In addition to the original version, Spyderco also produced a second variation of the Lil’ Temperance folder. It featured the exact same handle construction, but instead of a leaf-shaped blade, it had an upswept, trailing-point blade with a concave “clip” on the spine. Reminiscent of a classic Bowie knife shape, the concave clip also provided a more secure purchase when the knife was held in reverse grip and used to hook and redirect an attacker’s limb.
Like its sibling, the Lil’ Temperance 2’s blade was a stout 4mm thick and had a full-flat grind for optimal edge geometry. The grind bevels of both profiles also extended the full length of the blade, completely eliminating the ricasso (the unbeveled section of most blades between the shoulders of the grind bevels and the handle). This maximized edge length and allowed both knives to cut with authority far beyond the size of their compact blades. Early production of the Bowie-bladed Lil’ Temperance 2 also showcased CPM 440V blade steel but was later switched to CPM S30V. Although a fully serrated SpyderEdge version was referenced in the 2003 Spyderco product guide, the Lil’ Temperance 2 was only manufactured in the PlainEdge format.
Lil’ Temperance 3
The Lil’ Temperance and Lil’ Temperance 2 remained in the Spyderco product line from 2001 to about 2004. During that time, their distinctive clip design was refined several times to make it more pocket friendly, but ultimately both models were discontinued.
In 2017, Sal Glesser decided to resurrect the Lil’ Temperance, but in a leaner, simpler form. Christened the Lil’ Temperance 3, it featured a broad, leaf-shaped blade crafted from CPM S30V. Like the first-generation design, the blade was made from thick 4mm stock and full-flat ground for an exceptional balance of strength, edge geometry, and low-friction cutting performance. Although its ricasso was slightly more pronounced than the original, it still boasted a full-length edge for maximum cutting performance. It also added a strategically placed section of jimping (textured grooves) on the thumb ramp to provide a positive thumb purchase. Like its predecessors, its Trademark Round Hole was also fully accessible from both sides to support swift, ambidextrous, one-handed opening.
The most significant difference between the Lil’ Temperance 3 and the first-generation design was its handle. Instead of the 3-D-machined relief of the original, its scales were crafted from peel-ply G-10, which provided a non-slip texture in a simpler format. The handle profile was also streamlined to eliminate the intricate finger grooves near the butt end in favor of more flowing curves. True to form, however, it retained the high-strength Compression Lock and nested stainless steel liners of the classic design. To complement the handle’s easy-to-clean, open-backed design, the stainless steel liners were also skeletonized to further reduce weight.
In keeping with the design’s original spirit as a potential personal-defense tool, the Lil’ Temperance 3 included a single indexing “divot” in each handle scale and added the versatility of a four-position pocket clip. The broad-based clip could be mounted to support all possible carry positions, including left or right-side, tip-up or tip-down carry. Regardless of its configuration, the divots in the scales aligned precisely with the concave portion of the pocket clip to create a pivot axis for grip-change maneuvers.
Lil’ Temperance 3 Lightweight
In 2022, Spyderco took the evolution of the Lil’ Temperance concept a step further, replacing the G-10 scales of the Lil’ Temperance 3 with injection-molded fiberglass-reinforced-nylon (FRN) to create the Lil’ Temperance 3 Lightweight. Like all Spyderco “lightweight” knives, the term reflects the handle’s FRN construction, not necessarily a significant reduction in weight compared to other versions of the design. In the case of the Lil’ Temperance 3 Lightweight, the actual weight reduction is only 0.2 ounces (6 grams), or five percent.
The more important benefit of the FRN scales on this knife is that they allow a deeply molded Bi-Directional Texture pattern. Compared to the subtle texture of peel-ply G-10, this texture significantly enhances the handle’s grip security, especially in high-stress situations or challenging environmental conditions. Faithful to its predecessors, the exact center of both scales features a subtle divot that aligns perfectly with the concave area of the pocket clip to provide a defined pivot point for grip changes. Skeletonized stainless steel liners nested within the scales form the foundation of the knife’s high-strength Compression Lock mechanism. They also provide a solid anchor for its broad-based, four-position pocket clip, which is fully configurable for left or right-side, tip-up or tip-down carry. For those who like to use fobs or lanyards on their knives, the handle also includes a generously sized lanyard hole.
The stout, leaf-shaped blade of the Lil’ Temperance 3 Lightweight is full-flat ground from 4mm-thick VG-10 stainless steel and has a minimal ricasso to maximize its edge length. It includes a textured thumb ramp for enhanced control during use and is available in a choice of PlainEdge or fully serrated SpyderEdge formats.
Proudly continuing the legacy of a true Spyderco classic, the Lil’ Temperance 3 Lightweight faithfully honors the spirit of the original design while incorporating several significant refinements that make it even more functional and capable. Whether you are looking for a compact, heavy-duty utility knife or a trustworthy personal-defense tool, it is definitely up to the task.
Blade Length: 2.92″ (74 mm)
Closed Length: 4.37″ (111 mm)
Overall Length: 7.17″ (182 mm)
Cutting Edge: 2.82″ (72 mm)
Blade Thickness: 0.157″ (4.0 mm)
Blade Material: VG-10 Stainless Steel
Blade Style: Leaf-Shaped
Blade Grind: Full Flat
Blade Finish: Satin
Blade Edge: Serrated
Handle Material: FRN
Handle Color: Black
Locking Mechanism: Compression Lock
Pocket Clip: Tip-Down, Tip-Down, Left/Right Carry
Model Number: C69SBK3
Model Name: Lil’ Temperance 3 Lightweight
Designer: Sal Glesser
Weight: 3.81 oz. (108 g)
Made in Japan