I'd been interested in the Li'l Temperance 3 since it was revealed at Shot Show 2017, but one particular factor kept me from purchasing one once it became available at retail, and that was the price. It sold for around C$285 brand-new in-box at my local brick & mortar knife shop, far above what I was willing to pay for a production folding knife. I could have bought one for less online, but getting a compression lock folding knife shipped from overseas is always a dicey proposition for me given the CBSA's inconsistent interpretation of Canadian knife laws (and besides, I like to support my local knife retailers).
Prices for the LT3 have dropped since it was discontinued in 2019 however, and recently I was able to purchase a new one for about the same price as a standard Para Military 2.
I started using the LT3 as my work knife as soon as I received it.
Those of you familiar with my previous posts know that I cut a lot of heavy-duty cordage at my job, and that serrations are something I look for in a work knife. That is no longer the case as I have since changed jobs, although my current job still has me using a knife as my primary hand tool, mostly for cutting cardboard of varying thicknesses. Even more significant for the context of this review is the fact that I now spend a significant portion of my workday wearing thick gloves while working in subzero temperatures and that has important implications regarding knife ergonomics and ease of deployment.
Sal Glesser, who designed the LT3, described the knife in a 2018 forum post
as "pure in spirit for the purpose-built design" as a defensive tool conceived with Michael Janich's Martial Blade Concept principles in mind, albeit one with a lot of everyday work utility as well. I can't personally speak to the LT3's merits as a defensive tool although in hand, it does remind me very much of Janich's Yojimbo 2 (the MBC standard, as far as folding knives go).
What I can comment on, however, is the LT3's characteristics as a work cutting tool. It is very compact and does not particularly attract unwanted attention when deployed (an important feature in a workplace setting). At 4 oz., it is somewhat heavy relative to its overall deployed length of 7.3" but it is well balanced and carries well both in pocket and in hand. The CPM-S30V blade is a thick 0.16" in width near the base of the spine (by comparison, the PM2's stock thickness is 0.14" and the G-10 Manix 2's is 0.12"). Still, the blade being very tall with a full flat grind means that it comes down to a very thin and slicey edge. I don't know what the LT3's behind-the-edge thickness is, but from several days of use I can say that it cuts cardboard about as well as (if not better than) the PM2 and Manix 2.
The LT3's blade is 2.9" long, shorter than the 3" blade of my go-to work knife, the Native 5 Lightweight. But because the LT3 has no finger choil and a very minimal ricasso, it actually has almost half an inch more cutting edge than the Native 5 Lightweight and has roughly the same edge length as the Manix 2, which is a significantly larger knife overall.
The LT3 has a tall (though not especially thick) handle to go with its tall blade and the extra surface area makes for a very comfortable and secure grip, not unlike that which can be experienced on the Manix 2 and Yojimbo 2. The handle is long enough to accomodate a full four-finger grip for my small/medium-sized hands and it looks like it can provide a four-finger grip for those who have large-sized hands as well (those with extra-large hands may find their pinky partially hanging off the handle). Both the Trademark Round Hole and the compression lock tab are easily accessed even when wearing cold-weather work gloves. It is also very easy to index the blade because of the additional tactile cue provided by the divot in the handle. Indeed, it has quickly become one of my favourite folding knives in terms of handle ergonomics.
The LT3 isn't perfect, however. There is a minor but noticeable degree of lock-stick in my specimen. And while the detent feels perfectly dialed-in, the action on opening and closing the knife can only be described as "muddy". I found it easy enough to "Spydie-flick" the knife open with my middle finger and of course there is no issue at all with "slow-rolling" it open with my thumb, but it takes a rather exaggerated movement to swing the blade open and closed with the lock disengaged, which is my favourite (if not a particularly safe) method for opening and closing compression lock and ball-bearing lock-based folders. The action is a far cry from that of the PM2 or the Yojimbo 2—an observation I have seen echoed by other LT3 owners in old forum posts—and it is by far the most disappointing aspect of the knife. I am not overstating things at all when I say that my Native 5 Lightweight, which is a mid-backlock that has no liners or washers whatsoever (the blade rotates directly on naked FRN scales) has a better action than the LT3 did out of the box, although I suppose this is as much due to the Native 5 Lightweight's excellent construction as it is to the LT3's flaws.
It is possible to adjust the LT3's pivot so that the blade drops shut, of course, but doing so also introduces significant side-to-side blade play, a no-go compromise for me.
The action was so muddy & sluggish that I took the knife apart to check for any grit in the pivot area and to clean and re-lubricate the moving surfaces. I also wanted to see if there were any issues with the phosphor-bronze washers and to confirm that the washers were indeed phosphor-bronze—the action was such that I wouldn't have been surprised if they were Teflon or that there were no washers at all. (As can be seen in the picture below, the washers are phosphor-bronze)
After a quick disassembly, cleaning, lubing, pivot tuning, and reassembly, the action was slightly better but still muddy and the minor lock-stick was still present. In the larger scheme of things however, these don't really affect the functionality of the knife, although I suppose the lock-stick can potentially lead to instances of blade deployment lock-up failure.
Overall thoughts: As a "user", the LT3 is perfectly fine. Its ergonomics rank among the best I've experienced in the Spyderco line-up and the very robust design is confidence-inspiring. Think of it as a hybrid of the Yojimbo 2 and the Manix 2: a defensive tool tweaked and tuned to be able to serve as a full-time "very hard use" work folder. If you see one at a good price and you don't mind the fit-and-finish flaws outlined in this review, go for it.
NOTE: original post edited for formatting