Author Archive | Matt

Review: Sub $30 Civivi Mini Praxis

It wasn’t that long ago that multiple solid knives were available for less than $30. These days, many of those knives like the Ontario RAT 2, have moved up market to closer to $40 or even more in some cases. So, when someone recently asked what I would recommend for an EDC or work knife for less than $30, I couldn’t fall back on my old recommendations. That’s why I purchased a Civivi Mini Praxis to see what $30 buys you these days.

Specs

  • Overall Length: 6.79″ / 172.5mm
  • Width: 1.27″ / 32.3mm
  • Overall Height(Include Clip): 0.62″ / 15.7mm
  • Blade Length: 2.98″ / 75.6mm
  • Closed Length: 3.81″ / 96.9mm
  • Blade Thickness: 0.1″ / 2.5mm
  • Handle Thickness: 0.45″ / 11.5mm
  • Knife Weight: 2.77oz / 78.5g
  • Blade Material: D2
  • Blade Hardness: 59-61HRC
  • Blade Grind: Flat
  • Blade Type: Drop Point
  • Handle Material: G10
  • Liner Material: Stainless Steel
  • Pocket Clip: Tip-Up, Right Carry
  • Clip Material: Stainless Steel
  • Screws Material: Stainless Steel
  • Pivot Assembly: Caged Ceramic Ball Bearing
  • Locking Mechanism: Liner Lock

Observations from Use

The Mini Praxis is essentially just a down-sized version of the Civivi’s well-known Praxis. It is very impressive how gracefully that design, known for being a large work/tactical knife, scaled down to a surprisingly refined EDC-oriented knife that just about disappears in your pocket thanks to a true deep carry clip. I think this is due, in large part, to the finger choil. On the larger Praxis, the choil allows the user to choke up on what is a fairly large knife but on the Mini Praxis, it allows a very svelte and compact knife to feel much larger.

This knife cuts aggressively. Civivi generally does a very nice job with their D2. The cutting geometry on this little laser beam also helps. The spear point blade is thin, with a very high flat grind that thins out the edge very nicely. The long swedge grind provides an acute but relatively strong tip.

The flipping action is what you would expect from Civivi which is to say it is very good. The detent is crisp and the action is smooth so the blade rockets out when you use the back flipper. That’s a good thing because that is the only method for opening the Mini Praxis that is provided by the design. This design is classy enough to serve as an office carry so it would have been nice to have a method of opening that is more suited to slower opening but the design is true to the original Praxis which also only had a back flipper.

Civivi did a great job of taking weight out of this design. The blade is very broad compared to many folders of this size so you might expect it to be heavy but the liners are aggressively skeletonized. The 2.77 ounce weight puts this firmly into ultralight range.

It would have been nice if Civivi didn’t scale down the design quite so literally as I wish the jimping on the spine extended out a little bit more. It also would be nice if the G-10 slabs had a bit more thickness and contour. However, those are relatively small nitpicks at this price. I think people would buy this knife at $45-50 and feel it is was a solid buy. 10 years ago, you would expect to pay $80-100 for something like this… maybe more. In today’s market it is impressive to see it at a sub-$30 price point. That isn’t a sale price either. That is the everyday price.

Wrap Up

The Mini Praxis proves that the Praxis design was more versatile than any of us realized – able to go from rugged work knife to classy EDC just by scaling it down in size. This knife has great cutting performance, solid ergonomics, and it is easy to carry. It’s a well-designed EDC option that impresses at under $30. It seems like a worthy and very recommendable alternative to something like the RAT 2 at this price point.

I purchased my Civivi on Amazon for even less by taking advantage of their occasional used knife offers (returns): Civivi Mini Praxis with satin blade and black G-10 or the Mini Praxis blackwash blade with green G-10 on Amazon.com

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Review: Vosteed Mini Labrador

The Vosteed Mini Labrador might be a lot of things. It might be Vosteed’s best value for money to date. It might be their best fifth-pocket knife to date. It might be their best gentleman’s knife to date. Let’s take a look at the newest offering provided by Vosteed for this review.

Specs

  • Blade Length: 2.73″ | 69.30 mm
  • Overall Length: 6.23″ | 158.20 mm
  • Blade Width: 0.72″ | 18.40 mm
  • Blade Thickness: 0.098″ | 2.50 mm
  • Blade Material: 14C28N
  • Blade Grind: Flat
  • Blade Style: Drop Point
  • Blade Finish: Black Stonewash
  • Hardness: HRC 60±2
  • Handle Length: 3.50″ | 88.90 mm
  • Handle Width: 0.72″ | 18.30 mm
  • Handle Thickness: 0.374″ | 9.50 mm
  • Handle Material: Titanium
  • Color: Black
  • Weight: 1.93 oz | 54.80 g
  • Opener: Back Flipper
  • Lock Type: Frame Lock
  • Pivot Assembly: Caged Ceramic Ball Bearing
  • Pocket Clip: Non-reversible | Titanium
  • Carry Position: Tip-up
  • Knife Type: Manual Folding
  • Backspacer Material: Titanium
  • Designer: Yue

Observations from Use

The specs above don’t tell the whole story of the value that this knife offers. The handle has full titanium construction including the milled pocket clip (which is great by the way) and backspacer. The blade is 14C28N which is as good as it gets for value steels. The lack bar features a steel insert that also includes an integral overtravel tab. These are materials and construction that is normally reserved for knives well above the $69 price point of the Mini Labrador.

This tiny fifth-pocket knife is built like a lot of knives costing 2-3x as much… but tiny is the operative word. I think everyone I have shown it to has made the statement that it was smaller than they thought it would be (and that is important to know if you are considering buying one). The specs given by Vosteed are spot on but somehow the knife seems smaller than you are prepared for. I think that is part of the success of the design as a gentleman’s knife that can still do some real cutting as opposed to a jack-of-trades EDC knife or a work knife. This knife is visually smaller than you thought it would be and yet medium-sized hands can get a 3 or even 4-finger grip for real work. It’s voodoo.

This knife is SOOO slim and SOOO light (under 2 ounces!). Normally, I would say something like, “It’s a joy to carry.” But that would indicate that you are actually aware that you are carrying it which seems unlikely with this featherweight. It’s perfect for the fifth-pocket of jeans thanks to plenty of clearance under the clip or dress slacks where it won’t weigh down lighter or thinner fabrics.

The Mini Labrador is an aggressive cutter. The blade has a full-height flat grind, thin blade stock, and is very thin behind the edge. The point is very acute which I think is especially useful on a gentleman’s knife.

This knife has a single opening method, a back flipper. It works very well inspite of how tiny it is thanks to a perfect detent and very smooth action. My example started smooth and only became more smooth as it broke in. It is smooth enough that it will drop shut with some light shakes and that is noteworthy when you consider how lightweight the blade is.

Normally, I try to have some constructive criticism for these knives but I am struggling to come up with anything for the Mini Labrador. In terms of a gentlemen’s knife design, this is a great success. It is an actual tool first, slim, light, and easy to carry while also being classy and a great value. I would love to see Vosteed try more titanium frame-lock folders, maybe some that are larger with more opening methods.

Wrap Up

If you are looking for a high-value knife that is as easy to carry as possible or something to carry at the office, this is a great option. If you just want a fifth-pocket knife that is built like a tiny tank, this is a great option. Vosteed has made some great small knives like the Mini Nightshade and Chipmunk but if you want something that works hard but is truly small, this is what you are after.

The Mini Labrador is currently available at Amazon (sold out at Vosteed.com): Vosteed Chipmunk at Amazon.com

You can learn more about all Vosteed’s offerings at Vosteed.com.

These two images may help give a sense for how compact this knife is. The Mini Labrador is similar in blade length and overal length to the Chipmunk but it is signiificantly slimmer and lighter. The Chipmunk (top) seems more like an compact, jack-of-all-trades EDC while the Mini Labrador (bottom) comes across more as a svelte, compact, gentleman’s knife.
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Review: D&M Leather Mini Composition Book Cover

The affordable, simple, minimalist leather cover for mini composition books is probably my favorite EDC item purchased in 2023. D&M Leather sells these on Amazon, claiming them to be hand-sewn with a saddle stitch. I was skeptical but took a chance based on the customer pictures. I’m glad I did.

I often carry a standard mini composition book in a back pocket to log workouts, take notes in church, log range data, remind myself of appointments, or anything else I would like to track on actual paper. These notebooks can be surprisingly durable if you buy the type that is stitched and then taped on the binding. However, the basic cardboard or craft paper covers will eventually degrade faster than I can fill one with notes. This is where the leather cover comes in…

The cover does a great job of preventing the notebook from breaking down which allows these dirt-cheap composition books (3 for a $1 at your local Wal-Mart) to last long after you fill it with notes. Not only that, but it looks great and it is actually real saddle-stitched leather. I am blown away with the quality for the price.

You can spend more than the cost of this cover for just one notebook that will stand up to the rigors of pocket carry but you don’t have to. This affordable leather cover adds class and style to your EDC while allowing you to reuse it over and over again on affordable, readily available mini composition books. It is one of those things that is does just one thing and does it satisfyingly well.

D&M Leather Mini Composition Book on Amazon.com

Notes on mini composition books: Look for books with bindings that are stitched and taped. The ones that are glued or stapled will never hold up. Also, this cover comes with a 50 page book but it will easily fit the standard 80 page mini composition books.

Review: Vosteed Chipmunk

The Vosteed Chipmunk is small in size but big on fidget-factor. It also happens to be a useful, fifth-pocket knife option that won’t break the bank. It fits squarely in the “small but mighty” folding knife carry that I like so much.

Specs

Blade Length: 2.64″ | 67.10 mm

Overall Length: 6.15″ | 156.20 mm

Blade Width: 0.88″ | 22.40 mm

Blade Thickness: 0.118″ | 3.00 mm

Blade Material: 14C28N

Blade Grind: Flat

Blade Style: Modified Drop Point

Blade Finish:  Black Stonewash

Hardness: HRC 60±2

Handle Length: 3.51″ | 89.10 mm

Handle Width: 0.82″ | 20.90 mm

Handle Thickness: 0.488″ | 12.40 mm

Handle Material: G10

Weight: 2.53 oz | 71.70 g

Opener: Front Flipper | Back Flipper | Thumb Stud

Lock Type: Liner Lock

Pivot Assembly: Caged Ceramic Ball Bearing

Pocket Clip: Reversible | Stainless Steel

Carry Position: Tip-up

Observations from Use

The Chipmunk is a fidgeter’s dream but before we get to that, I want to make it clear that this is an actual, useful knife. The Chipmunk has a useful blade shape that gets a lot done. It came with one of the most refined edges I have seen on a Vosteed to date. And, it is much more hand-filling than its small size would lead you to believe thanks to thick, micro-textured G10 scales. This knife is clearly designed to be used as much as it is designed to be fidgeted with while you are stuck on endless Zoom calls at work.

The Chipmunk combines very smooth action with a great detent and basically every type of opening device known to man. It can be front flipped, top flipped, back flipped, slow rolled, thumb flicked, middle finger flicked, and probably other opening techniques that I am not skilled enough to execute. The detent is tuned such that all of these work well but I find it particularly satisfying to middle finger flick as Vosteed designed this with large comfortable thumb studs with great access from either side.

I also want to call out the back flipper on this knife. It projects up above the pivot rather than out the back. This means there is nothing sticking out the back of the knife knocking into the other items in your pocket when it is folded. There is also nothing to get in the way of choking up on the knife when it is open. In fact, this design allows me to get a full, four-finger grip on this very compact knife. I would like to see Vosteed explore this style of flipper on more knives!

The Chipmunk seems like a knife that Vosteed can really riff on. A little-big knife like this has all kinds of potential for new blade shapes like a wharncliffe or some kind of modified sheepsfoot. These are blade shapes Vosteed also does well on models like the Raccoon and Valkeryie.

There are a couple of changes I would suggest. First, it would be nice if the point was dropped just a bit more on a knife this small. This would make it easier to use the point for cutting which is useful in such a compact design that is so well suited to EDC tasks. Second, it would be nice to see a hollow grind on this design. As I mentioned, the edge came very sharp and very well refined to almost a mirror polish. However, it is a little thick behind the edge thanks to the very short blade height. It cuts very well but this design would be even more laser-like with a hollow grind.

Wrap Up

I have mentioned how much I like this little-big knife/companion knife genre countless times before as someone who carries a fixed-blade knife basically daily. This one is near the top of my list right now. It is a ton of fun thanks to all the fidget potential but it is also just a solid user that offers a surprising amount of grip in such a compact package.

The Chipmunk is currently on sale for up to 15% off for Valentine’s Day at Amazon: Vosteed Chipmunk at Amazon.com

You can learn more about all Vosteed’s offerings at Vosteed.com.

Review: ThermoWorks ThermoDrop Zipper-Pull Thermometer

I picked up this ThermoDrop Zipper-Pull Thermometer to help fill in the temperature data gap in my favorite areas to explore in my area. The forecasts in my area come out of a city that is about 2 hours away by car and there are countless microclimates between here and there. There are mountain weather websites that do their best to make some algorithmic guesses about forecasts but they often miss the mark which leaves me guessing about how to gear up for trips into the mountains.

Last summer, I spent a night out on a mountain bench just below the tree line. According to forecasts for that elevation, I should have seen temperatures down around 32F. The actual temperature never went lower than 56F which was MUCH closer to the forecasted temps for the valley below. This will help inform future trips into this area.

There are a few specific attributes of the ThermoDrop that make it so useful. First, it is extremely compact and lightweight (smaller than the diameter of a US quarter and weighing in at half a gram). Second, it shows the current temp but also records the lowest and highest temp since it was activated which is the real game changer versus most cheap zipper-pull/keychain thermometers.

I have found no end to the usefulness of this little thermometer. I’ve used it to monitor the temperature inside a cooler during power outages, check temps in a crawl space during a cold snap, test my comfort level in various sleeping bags and insulation layers, and even check temps on training runs/walks during hot summer days.

This is GREAT gear that has changed the way I hike and train. It is small enough that you’ll never leave home without it and useful enough that you won’t want to. I highly recommend it.

ThermoWorks.com

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