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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: 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: Vosteed Corgi

You’ve likely noticed that I am on a bit of a Vosteed Cutlery kick lately. That is for good reason. One, I think they are offering some very compelling and unique knives at a variety of price points. Two, I think they are a brand that is worth watching because they are making some major moves. The Vosteed Corgi is a great example of that. This is a knife that has an incredible, eye-catching, stylish design while also offering great performance. When they offered to send one, I jumped.

Stats

Blade Length: 2.99″ | 75.98 mm

Overall Length: 7.17″ | 182.12 mm

Blade Width: 0.84″ | 21.31 mm

Blade Thickness: 0.118″ | 3.00 mm

Blade Material: 14C28N

Blade Grind: Flat

Blade Style: Drop Point

Blade Finish: Black Stonewash

Hardness: HRC 60±2 

Handle Length: 4.18″ | 106.14 mm

Handle Width: 0.92″ | 23.32 mm

Handle Thickness: 0.49″ | 12.33 mm

Handle Material: G10

Color: Jade

Weight: 3.50 oz | 99.22 g

Opener: Front Flipper | Back Flipper

Lock Type: Trek Lock

Pivot Assembly: Caged Ceramic Ball Bearing

Pocket Clip: Reversible | Stainless Steel

Carry Position: Tip-up

Knife Type: Manual Folding

Backspacer Material: G10

Backspacer Color: Jade

Button Material: Stainless Steel

The insert colors and materials vary by model. My Corgi review sample has silver titanium inserts but other options like brass and copper are also available.

Observations from Use

I want to go hard on the design of this knife so I am going to get the cutting performance out of the way up front. It cuts well – really well. Vosteed’s factory edges are great and this relatively thin 14C28N blade has great cutting geometry thanks to the full-height flat grind. The point is excellent thanks to a long swedge grind. It is almost like a scaled-up Swiss Army Knife blade – thin, flat, and slicey.

Now… that design. Oh my. What a great-looking series of knives. The Corgi gives a great first impression with its symmetry which is very stylishly executed. I don’t know of another production knife that is quite this symmetrical.

After you take in that satisfying symmetry, you notice the modern-traditional details that make this knife both futuristic and a throwback at the same time. The shape of the knife and the way the blade slips fully into the handle is a call back to the slim pen knives of yesteryear. The metal inserts around the pivot colors look super slick and hint strongly toward older, bolstered designs like barlow knives while still looking very modern. You have to admit, this is a great-looking knife.

The design isn’t just there for show. The symmetry means that the button lock is always under thumb… easy to find and ready to use. The slimness of the design means this knife slips easily into the corner of the pocket, out of the way, and unlikely to ever get in your way. The Corgi is VERY easy to carry.

The design also bakes in a lot of fun. If you like to fidget with your EDC knife, this one gives you a lot of options. You can depress the button lock and open it with just a flick of the wrist… a very small flick because it’s buttery smooth. You can front flip it, back flip it, slow roll it off the front flipper, or even reach over to snap it open with your index finger (knife guys call this the “reach around”).

The fit and finish are excellent. Vosteed does a lot of machined micro-textures on their handle scales and I don’t think enough people call this out when reviewing these knives. This texture provides great grip without shredding your pockets. It’s a nice touch that you might not notice until you have one in hand.

The Corgi in particular is Vosteed flexing on everyone with their fit and finish because the design doesn’t let them hide a thing. The way the blade nests flush with the handle and the fitting of the inserts around the pivot would make any kind of fitment issues painfully obvious. You won’t find them on my example. Everything is straight as an arrow and satisfyingly flush.

As thrilled as I am with the style of this knife, I do have a nit to pick. The detent is lighter than I would prefer. I suspect that this is on purpose to support all of the various opening methods that this knife offers. I am not saying this is going to open in your pocket. It’s not a dangerous detent. It just isn’t a strong detent like you might find on a liner/frame lock. It would be nice if it was just a bit stronger and the action might feel even snappier.

Finally, because I know the knife guys will be wondering. I spine whacked this knife multiple times and it passed every time. I spine-whacked it lightly at the tip and back at the base of the blade when I took it out of the box. I repeated this after a week of carrying/fidgeting with it and I have done it multiple times since. It never failed and, typical for button locks, the lock-up has actually improved with use. The knife now belongs to my daughter. I trust it.

Wrap Up

This knife is a great cutter. It’s super fun to play with. It carries like a dream thanks to a very slim design. And, as much as I want to say form follows function and looks don’t matter… this knife looks so good, it turns that whole sentiment on its ear. Style is subjective but, to my eye, this is the one to beat.

Learn more at Vosteed.com. Vosteed often has increased inventory and frequent sales at Amazon. The Corgi is 15% off right now for Valentine’s Day: Vosteed Corgi at Amazon.com.

Review: Vosteed Raccoon Crossbar Lock with Aluminum Scales

The Vosteed Raccoon Crossbar Lock is one of my favorite EDC knives in recent history. Vosteed recently allowed me to check out one of the latest versions of Raccoon, one with a different steel and some great looking aluminum scale options. I jumped at the chance in large part because I was interested to try Vosteed’s texture treatment of the aluminum scales on these new versions and to try their Nitro-V blade steel in a knife I already know I like.

Stats

Blade Length: 3.25″ | 82.55 mm

Overall Length: 7.60″ | 193.12 mm

Blade Width: 1.07″ | 27.27 mm

Blade Thickness: 0.118″ | 3.00 mm

Blade Material: Nitro-V

Blade Grind: Flat

Blade Style: Drop Point

Blade Finish: Satin

Hardness: HRC 60±2

Handle Length: 4.36″ | 110.75 mm

Handle Width: 1.10″ | 27.95 mm

Handle Thickness: 0.49″ | 12.40 mm

Handle Material: Aluminum

Color: Orange

Weight: 3.66 oz | 103.80 g

Opener: Thumb Stud

Lock Type: Crossbar Lock

Pivot Assembly: Caged Ceramic Ball Bearing

Pocket Clip: Reversible | Stainless Steel

Carry Position: Tip-up

Observations from Use

This is a new version of a knife that I already like very much and a lot of my interest in reviewing it will lies in the comparison to the Raccoon with micarta scales that I have already used extensively. The size and shape are identical but scale material and blade steels differ.

There is a lot to be said for how Vosteed treated the aluminum scales on these knives. Aluminum scales can lend a rigidity and weight to a knife that is very satisfying but they can also be cold and slick. Vosteed used a matte powder coat on these scales that seems durable and feels textured in hand which I appreciate. They also milled an attractive texture pattern into the scale. This is the grippiest and most comfortable aluminum-handled knife I own.

I should note that these really are aluminum scales. They are still screwed to the same stainless steel chassis found on other versions of the Raccoon. The result is a knife that feels even beefier than previous versions of the knife and makes a lot of very satisfying sounds when you flick it like only an all-metal knife can.

Vosteed used Nitro-V steel on this version and I was keen to try this considering all the time I have with their 14C28N. On paper, Nitro-V is very similar to 14C28N and I found that to be true in day to day use. It feels similar on sharpening stones and responds similarly on a strop. Edge holding also seemed very similar. Like the Vosteed’s 14C28N, this Nitro-V steel seems to be an excellent, fine-grained, and tough stainless steel that makes a fine choice for an EDC knife that will be pressed into varied tasks.

During my time with this knife, I tried to figure out what I could tell you about how to choose a Raccoon variant for yourself… then a record cold snap hit my area and it became obvious. If you don’t have to deal with cold temperatures regularly, I actually really like the feel and sounds of the aluminum-scaled version of the Raccoon. If you do have cold temps on the regular, the micarta versions will likely feel warmer in hand. It is nice to have options and I hope that one day Vosteed may even offer accessory scales to their customers as it would be very nice to be able to swap them.

In the end, this is just another option for an already great design. It has the same useful blade size and shape. You get the same great handle design that splits the difference so well between being slim in the pocket but hand filling. It is the same just-right EDC knife with a new scale and steel option.

Wrap Up

I own a number of aluminum-handled knives and found this one to be very comfortable and very grippy. The scale treatment provides both a soft, textured feel and plenty of grip. It also happens to look great in my opinion. The Raccoon Crossbar Lock Knives already feel very stout but these new aluminum versions seem to lean even harder into that impression.

Available from Vosteed.com or at the Vosteed Storefront on Amazon.com: Vosteed Raccoon on Amazon.com.

See our previous review of the micarta version of this knife here.

Review: Vosteed Mini Nightshade Crossbar Lock Knife

I recently reviewed the Vosteed Cutlery Raccoon and, if you haven’t read that review, I liked it… a lot. In fact, that Raccoon is within reach as I type this even though this is a review about a different offering from Vosteed. The Nightshade, with it’s bold and unique blade shape, was the knife that put Vosteed on my radar. So, when they asked if I would like to try the Mini Nightshade, I jumped.

Specs

Blade Length: 2.60″ | 66.04mm

Overall Length: 6.31″ | 160.37mm

Blade Width: 1.13″ | 28.28mm

Blade Thickness: 0.098″ | 2.49mm

Blade Material: 14C28N

Blade Grind: Flat

Blade Style: Shilin Cutter

Blade Finish: Stonewash

Hardness: HRC 60±2

Handle Length: 3.71″ | 94.33mm

Handle Width: 0.89″ | 22.6

Handle Thickness: 0.42″ | 10.57

Weight: 1.80 oz | 51.00 g

Opener: Thumb Stud

Lock Type: Crossbar Lock

Pivot Assembly: Caged Ceramic Ball Bearing

Pocket Clip: Reversible | Stainless Steel

Carry Position: Tip-up

There are other finishes and handle materials available but my review sample has a stone-washed blade, black G-10 handles, and red accents.

Observations from Use

You are probably like me and the first thing you notice about any of the knives in the Vosteed Nightshade series is the blade. That blade is what really sets it apart visually and functionally. It is a very unique leaf shape with a continuous curved edge and a point that sits well below the center line of the handle. This isn’t just a design gimmick. I have found that this makes using the tip of the knife for cuts very easy. It also allows you to make use of the curved edge for drawing or scoring cuts without having cock your wrist as much. Both of these are nice for some very common utility tasks like processing cardboard or opening boxes.

Apart from the unique and useful shape, the blade also boasts 14C28N steel which is excellent. The blade features a very tall flat grind which, coupled with the 0.098″ stock, makes this knife a very slicey, very aggressive cutter. Vosteed does a particularly good job tapering the thickness of this knife down to a very acute point so it cuts extremely well from heel to tip.

You may have noticed that I marked one of the stats above in orange text. The weight, or lack there of, on this knife is impressive. This knife comes in under 2 ounces which puts it squarely in the ultralight category of EDC knives. This category is very competitive lately and the price, features, and uniqueness of the Mini Nightshade make it very compelling.

The handle on this knife is excellent. The G-10 slabs are nicely rounded and chamfered for comfort. They also feature a subtle machine texture that is grippy without being rough on your pockets. The blade assembly, bearings, and cross-bar lock all ride in steel inserts that are precisely inlet into the underside of these slabs and the pocket clip threads into brass inserts in the slabs. This setup is rigid but very lightweight.

All of the little details that I have come to expect from Vosteed are present and part of what makes this feel like a great value. The deep carry clip has plenty of clearance for thicker fabrics like denim. There are anodized aluminum elements like the backspacer and thumb studs that provide some color. The ergonomics are on point, providing a full four-finger grip in a compact package.

I also want to bring special attention to the action on this knife. It is up there with the best of any knife I have tried and certainly the best on a cross-bar locking knife. You can’t get a crispy detent on cross-bar locks since the lock itself is the detent so, often, these knives don’t feel quite as snappy as something like a well-tuned liner lock or similar lock. The Mini Nightshade is an exception to that rule. It absolutely flies open when you load your thumb into the thumb stud and yet it also glides smoothly without wanting to outrun your thumb when you slow roll it open.

There are two things I would change. The first is the clip. I was surprised to find that the clip is surface-mounted on this knife and some sort of flush mounting setup like other Vosteed offerings would be nice for something this refined. Second, I would like to see some jumping added to the spine of the knife. This knife offers such great control over the tip and that would really be enhanced with some jumping about midway down the spine.

Wrap Up

The Mini Nightshade manages to pack an ultra-useful blade shape into a knife that straddles the line between EDC and gentleman’s carry. Its incredibly lightweight and compact design make it home as a fifth pocket carry while it’s ergonomic shape and full four-finger grip make it at home in your hand getting stuff done.

You can see the whole Nightshade range at Vosteed.com.

Or, check out the Mini Nightshade Cross-Bar Lock (on sale for 10% off at the time of this writing) at Amazon.com.

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