New West KnifeWorks Saddleback Glory Pocket Knife review

NewWest Saddlebck 1

REVIEW – Not all pocket knives are created equal.  Some cut corners to keep the price down.  Other are a nice blend of features and price, and tend to make the best EDC knives.  Still others look to rise above the field and be a better knife.  In this review, I’ll be looking at the latest version of the Saddleback Glory, a folding knife from New West KnifeWorks, to see if it has what it takes to be amazing.

What is it?

The Saddleback Glory is a pocket knife with a back flipper opener and a liner lock.  It features a modified drop point blade known as a saddleback made of S35VM steel with a satin finish.  New West KnifeWorks is based in Idaho and specializes in chef knives, which they’ve been making for over 25 years.

What’s included?

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The following items are included:

  • Knife
  • Felt case
  • Band-Aid
  • Care and warranty card
  • Advertisement postcard

Tech Specs

  • Weight: 3 oz
  • Total Length: 7 1/8 in
  • Blade Length: 2 3/4 in
  • Blade Material: CPM S35VN
  • Blade Style: Modified drop point
  • Blade Grind: Flat
  • Blade Finish: Satin
  • Blade Hardness: 58-60 HRC
  • Handle Material: G10
  • Handle Color: Huckleberry
  • Frame Material: Titanium
  • Pocket Clip: Not reversible, titanium
  • Carry Position: Tip up

Design and features

New West advertises their Saddleback knives as having “the bones to be put to hard use when things get ‘western’” whether “cutting baling twine, stripping wire or opening boxes.”  It describes the frame and clip as “bombproof.”  With an intro like this, I would expect a knife that is large and in charge with a rough-and-tumble design that any cowboy would be happy to carry out onto the range for a day of hard work.  But that’s not what this knife is at all.  It’s a gentleman’s knife.

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A gentleman’s knife is sleeker and lighter than the typical EDC pocket knife.  It’s made of finer materials, meant to be discreet, and yet exudes a taste of class.  That’s a better description of what the Saddleback is, and on their “about page” they describe the knife as a “Gentleman’s Flipper folder.”  The handle has a beautiful, multi-colored design and tapers off gracefully at the back. The blade likewise is slim and tapers off to the point.  It’s a light, sleek, and elegant-looking knife, one that I’m far more likely to slip into a suit pocket when heading out to a night on the town than I am to take outside to help with yard work.

Assembly, installation, and setup

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The knife came wrapped in a newspaper paper that provided articles about other knives sold by new West, an interesting and thoughtful way to package it.  The knife was protected in a very simple, thick, felt knife pouch, suitable for protecting it when I toss it into a drawer with a bunch of other items.

NewWest Saddlebck 5

The handle has a tricolor pattern that flows from brown to blue to purple and then back.  While the purple and blue look good together, I don’t think the brown quite fits.  As the name of the pattern is Huckleberry, I suppose that the purple and blue represent the fruit while the brown the branches.  If this isn’t your favorite color, the Saddleback comes in a variety of other colors and materials, and one is sure to catch your eye.  The G10 handle material is fairly smooth, but each side has six oval-shaped indents that give extra grip, a welcome feature.  G10 is a very durable material that should withstand any amount of punishment.  When holding the handle tightly, I didn’t find any significant hotspots, only a little from the clip.

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The pocket clip is made of titanium, and it is not very deep.  I personally prefer a much deeper clip, as I do not like to show off the fact that I am carrying a pocket knife when I am out and about.  It may be that New West assumes owners will want to show off their beautiful knife.  The clip is not reversible.

NewWest Saddlebck 7

The frame of the knife, like the clip, is made of titanium, and is thus both very light and very strong.  At 3 oz, the Saddleback is certainly a very light knife.  In comparison, the Vosteed Nightshade is 3.7, the Tekto F3 Charlie is 4.6, and the Vosteed Ankylo is 4.9.

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The lock is a liner lock. There is no play at all in the knife when it is in the locked position. There is a small groove in the liner that gives a little extra room to help your finger or thumb push the liner back out of the way.  It works great.

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The blade is made of S35VN steel.  This is a high-end steel known for edge retention, toughness, and corrosion resistance.  The downside is that it is challenging to sharpen.  The blade is only 2 3/4 inches long, in keeping with the sleek design of the blade.

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I tested the knife around the house by opening boxes and peeling apples, and after a successful day of fishing in the Gulf Stream, my father tested the knife by filleting some yellow fin tuna steaks.  (Yes, I know, a pocket knife isn’t the right tool for this job; it was just a target of opportunity.  My father used a fillet knife for most of this work.)  In all cases, the knife cut smoothly and evenly.

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The shape of the blade is similar to the very common drop point.  New West calls this a saddleback design, due to the presence of the small ridge where the thumb is held on the top of the knife. This improves the grip, though I would prefer some grippy jimping here instead.  For a gentleman’s knife, the lack of jimping is ok.  There is a generous sharpening choil on the base of the blade that will allow it to be sharpened several times.  The sharp point of the blade makes it good for piercing, and the curved, tapered belly makes it equally good for slicing.

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New West states on their website that “one-handed opening and closing and a clip are essentials for an everyday use pocket knife.”  The Saddleback is opened with a back flipper, my favorite type of opener. Unfortunately, the flipper is very small, perhaps in keeping with being a gentleman’s knife.  While it does have jumping on it, it is small, smooth, and ineffective; I cannot even feel it as I rub my finger over it.

When I use the flipper to deploy the blade, it only opens about half of the way.  In order to completely deploy the knife, I must give my wrist a strong flick while flipping it.  The tension of the detent ball on the liner lock is too strong.  Similarly, when the liner lock is disengaged, the tension prevents the blade from closing on its own, even when gently shaking it.  I have to use my finger to close the knife.  While the deployment of the blade is smooth, but it is not silky smooth like the Vosteed Nightshade or the Kansept Shikari, both of which can be completely deployed with a simple flick of their back flippers. It is possible that adding a little oil to the Saddleback will loosen this up or that it will just loosen up on its own over time, but out of the box, it is not as smooth as a good knife should be.

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While this knife looks good and is well-made, it has a serious flaw.  When the knife is closed, the tip of the blade is right at the surface of the liner.  Every other pocket knife that I own has the tip of the blade set slightly below the surface of the liner.

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The location of the tip of Saddleback is a safety hazard, because it is possible to rub one’s finger along the edge of the liner and have it catch on the tip of the blade.  (I can actually pull the knife out this way.)  If the knife is clipped to my pants pocket, which is in the tip up position, it is possible for me to catch my finger on the knife when reaching in to pick it up; if this happened, I could easily slice my finger open on the sharp blade.  With this design, I would never feel safe carrying this knife in my pocket.  This problem is often found on older knives that have accumulated dirt or debris around the pivot that prevents the knife from closing all the way.  I believe that I might be able to disassemble the knife and slightly sand down the part of the blade that catches on the stop, thus allowing it to close further into a safe position.  I believe that this part of the Saddleback’s design is an oversight that a more experienced pocket knife designer would not make.  New West’s background is making kitchen knives that are equal parts beauty and functionality, and the Saddleback is the only pocket knife that they make.

Finally, let me address the elephant in the room:  Why is this knife so expensive?  What makes it cost nearly $500, when there are many good knives out there that are a third to a fourth of its cost?  Broadly speaking, there are several factors that can make a knife more expensive:

  • Quality materials – The Saddleback uses a premium steel for the blade and titanium for the frame, lock and clip, and bronze for the washer in the pivot.
  • Careful craftsmanship, higher tolerances, unique design features – The Saddleback has a distinguished design and “takes four hours of hand work to create a precision fit and finish.”
  • Made in the USA – The Saddleback is assembled and tuned in Idaho.

There can also be other factors that make a knife expensive, like size, warranty, and brand recognition (think Benchmade).

Is this knife worth the cost?  Personally, I don’t think so.  While it’s made of great materials, a knife at this price point should not have any flaws or issues.

What I like about the New West Saddeback knife

  • Sleek design
  • Premium materials
  • Made in the USA

What needs to be improved

  • Redesign to remove the fatal flaw of the blade tip location
  • Adjust the detent strength so that knife deploys smoothly without flicking
  • Alter the clip to be deep carry

Final thoughts

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The New West Saddleback Glory is a gentleman’s pocket knife that has a modified drop point blade, a back flipper, and a liner lock.  It’s made of high-quality materials, like G10 for the handle, S35VN for the blade, and titanium for the frame and lock.  The knife was sharp out of the box and performed well with every task I gave it.  The knife does, however, have a flaw where it’s possible to catch my finger on the tip of the blade when I reach into my pocket for the knife.  I cannot endorse any gadget that might hurt someone, so I can’t recommend that you purchase this knife.

Price: $470
Where to buyNew West’s online store
Source: The sample for this review was provided free of charge by New West.  New West did not have a final say on the review and did not preview the review before it was published.

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