EDC Pocket Knives, Kitchen Cutlery, Knife Philosophy and College Football
In an industry that seems to sprout a new innovator every day, it’s surprising how Yue Dong (also known as Dr. EDC) manages to stand out in all the noise. His company, Vosteed, has only been up and running for about a year, but it still managed to produce some of the smoothest and most unique designs of just about anything new we handled. Everything from the Shilin cutter-inspired Nightshade to the hyper-fidgety Thunderbird has felt like a clean shot straight to our flipper tab addiction, to say nothing of their prolific break into kitchen cutlery.
We got the chance to talk with Yue for a while about his background, how (and why) he started Vosteed, some of his thinking behind the designs, knife philosophy and college football.
NBK – Have you been surprised by the popularity of the brand this year?
Dr. EDC – Yes to be honest, I am surprised. I used all my savings to start this brand with my collogues, so I feel very grateful to my customers. Without their help, I wouldn’t be here. We don’t have a big budget. we have to calculate everything (from a manufacturing standpoint) very well.
NBK – It is a nice problem to have. It makes us feel pretty smart here at NBK, because we predicted Vosteed would be the next big brand, but even we were surprised by the response to the Thunderbird. (It sold out in about ten days)
Dr. EDC – I was kind of scared when we released the Thunderbird. It is made of S35V, and the costs were very high. My colleagues and myself were very nervous, because if we could not sell that knife it would have a negative impact on future projects. But the most popular knife we have made was the Racoon. It sold out even faster than the Thunderbird.
NBK – Yea both knives are great designs that check a lot of boxes for knife fans. Will they be available again soon?
Dr. EDC – Yes. Both should be available in January.
NBK – Right on. I am curious about your design background before Kizer. Have you designed for any brands other than Kizer & Vosteed?
Dr. EDC – Yes I did some OEM work for different brands.
NBK – Your design influences are eclectic, and I appreciate you including them on the Vosteed site. What about your design process. What does that look like?
Dr. EDC – What makes Vosteed different than other brands is that before I launch a new project, I usually do a sketch of a concept knife, and then I will post the drawings of the knife in our Facebook group and ask the members what types of changes they would like to see for the production version. I ask questions like what kind of steel do they want me to use, what type of handle material do they prefer and what is their favorite preferred price range of the knife. Sometimes I will also ask what type of lock they want to see and what kind of blade shape they want to see. So I modify choices based on their feedback, and I adjust the price according to their preference.
NBK – That makes sense, and it does set Vosteed apart from bigger brands. You have a diverse background. With your varied interests and skill you could have gone many other directions. What made you pick the knife world?
Dr. EDC – My father was a wildlife conservation specialist. He always had knives with him. I would say he was a big influence on me. Another thing is that when I was doing my PhD dissertation I always felt a lot of stress, and I always tried to be fidgeting with something. I thought it seemed kind of stupid, because I am a grown man, so I began fidgeting with a knife. It is like meditation for me. Also a knife is very useful. I would say a knife, a cell phone and a flashlight are probably the three items I use the most. A knife is a physical touch point. It is an object that brings me a lot of peace. It calms me down. I mean, seriously, I am fidgeting with my knife right now. (laughs) Me and my knife, we are connecting on a spiritual level.
There is also the collecting aspect. Different people collect different stuff. Some people collect stamps. Some people collect action figures. I like to collect knives. It is difficult to explain. I don’t think an economist or a psychologist can explain why a person chooses one career over another career.
NBK – That describes what a lot of us knife fanatics feel. You received your PhD from OSU. Were your undergraduate studies there too?
Dr. EDC – OU not OSU. I am a Sooner, not a Cowboy. We kick their ass. I did my undergraduate in China.
NBK – Ha ha. That’s right.
[From here the conversations jumped into the world of college football for a bit which is great for me, and the fact that Yue loves college football adds an interesting facet to one of the knife world’s most eclectic characters, but isn’t super relevant to knives. Eventually we got back on track.]
NBK – Starting a new company is really stressful. Has Vosteed’s initial success allowed you to relax a little?
Dr. EDC – Yes and no. I am relieved that I haven’t disappointed my customers, but I am also kinda nervous about how to fulfill their expectations. Several Facebook group members have asked me to design a flashlight, and that has made me excited and somewhat stressed out.
NBK – That would be really cool. I would be curious to see what you designed
Dr. EDC – My friend, Rey, has a small flashlight brand called Reylight, I worked with him on the flashlight collaboration. I designed the shape and he takes care of the electronics.
NBK – Knives and flashlights are a good combo. Even Olight has started making knives.
Dr. EDC – The Splint and Driver.
NBK – I guess that makes sense with the Kizer connection. We are reviewing the Olight Beagle right now.
Dr. EDC – That was designed by my former colleague, Azo.
NBK – Yea, you and Azo are responsible for a lot of great knife designs. I think I have enough for the initial interview. Have a great evening/ morning. Thanks for staying up to talk to me.
This is the first in our series of interviews with knife designers, custom makers and knife company founders. We plan to do one or two a month moving forward.
Yue Dong is a great subject for our first interview. He is a talented guy with a diverse background ranging from health and nutrition to data analytics. He probably could have made a lot more money in a different industry, but he risked it all to start his own knife brand. He may have gone to OU and not OSU, but he is still a bit of a cowboy, and the knife world is better off for it.