A Purpose Driven Pocket Knife That is Rugged Enough for the Woods and Refined Enough for the Board Room.
Rarely have I found a folder that feels as good in the hand as the Labrador. Vosteed has a track record of building solid working knives with a refined aesthetic, and the Labrador holds true to that precedent, but the ergonomics and versatility of the Labrador make it a stand-out even in Vosteed’s catalog.
This is a big EDC folder, one that’s both purpose-built and refined. When I say purpose-built, I mean it; the term is too often thrown about for designs that—try as you might—may not have much in the way of purpose (other than adding another knife to a companies catalog). But the Labrador—from its ergonomics to the blade grind, is designed to be used.
And the refined element is present in both the ergonomics and the aesthetics. From the sutble angles of the grip and the generous jimping to the glint of the copper washer offsetting the matte of the handle, this knife is an excellent example of the craft.
|Blade Length||3.74 inch | 95 mm|
|Blade Type||Straight Back, Flat Grind|
|Blade Steel||154CM HRC 60±2|
|Blade Thickness||0.118 inch| 3.0 mm|
|Overall Length||8.73 inch | 221.73 mm|
|Weight||3.44 oz | 97.4 g|
|Blase Width||1 inch |25.51 mm|
|Handle||4.99 inch | 126.73 mm Micarta (Black, Green)|
|Pocket Clip:||Right side tip-up|
|Lock Type||Liner Lock|
|Three ways to open|
|Built for true one-knife EDC|
|Open spine allows lint in|
|Only muted handle options—nothing colorful yet|
If it seems like I’m struggling to find something legitimate to put in the Cons section, I apologize. As we build these reviews for NBK, we keep an open mind to every design and try to present a complete picture of what the knife is, warts and all.
The Labrador, though, is hard to fault. This is one of those designs that I’m likely to own multiples of, eventually, and I’d love to see more color in the handle in addition to the muted tones of the micarta in use now. Blue lined ghost-green-jade G10, please. And then brass.
And I’d expect there have been conversations at Vosteed about downsizing the Labrador. Maybe to a Spaniel size, if we’re going to keep with the retriever metaphor. For me, the Labrador hits a sweet-spot many knife companies ignore. With a blade at almost four inches, and a handle that fits fully in my hand, I’m set—but I could see the appeal of a three-inch version, too.
Labrador, too, is a fitting name. I assume it is about the dog, not the region, but I could be wrong. A good Lab is a loyal working dog. There’s an air of pedigree and purpose to Labs, even when they’re not pure-bred. And they’re big dogs.
The Labrador is a fitting homage, and it’s a knife design that has a pedigree, too. The Labrador feels very much like a sophisticated, up-scale take on the no-frills OKC Rat knives. For years now, the Rat has been the knife I recommend to my Scouts (I’m a Scoutmaster) who are looking for a capable knife for around $20. The Labrador, though, fixes all of the issues I have with the Rat.
The Labrador’s Jimping?
In order to be a go-to for EDC, for me, a knife has to be easy to open and easy to close. The Labrador has jimping on the back of the blade that doubles as a place to secure a thumb when the knife is open and a place to grip the blade for front-flip grip. The front-flipper skill is one I’ve yet to master, but it is here.
There’s a standard flipper, too. And more jimping. This one is my go-to. But if you would rather have a traditional thumb stud, the Labrador has that, too.
The lock bar is jimped, too. These have been buffed down to allow them to provide texture for thumb access without the sharp edges that eat thumbnails. I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve nicked a nail on a liner-lock trying to close a blade.
The lock itself is robust, too, where most other designs skimp on material. The lock is more than half the thickness of the blade. And it holds secure.
The micarta—as much as I’d like to see a brass version or a G10 option—is ideal for a working knife. Micarta, in some applications, can be rough. It provides grip, but can be really aggressive. This is less so. It appears to be a linen micarta that is contoured, then buffed out.
And it is this contour that provides the tactile first impression of the knife. Follow me here. You see a knife and make up your mind. But when you take it in hand for the first time, there’s often a second set of first impressions. I have knives that look fantastic but feel, well, meh.
Not this one, though. I liked the way the knife looked, but when I picked it up—it melded into my hand perfectly. The handle is not slab-sided like so many pocketknives. Your hand isn’t slab-sided, either, and the Labrador locks in to the negative space of my hand. It extends the full length of my palm.
The Labrador’s Blade
There are many rock-solid blade steel options. I’m a traditionalist, though, and don’t mind providing the love and care needed to keep a carbon steel blade at peak condition. Yet I understand the appeal of a stainless blade, especially on an EDC knife.
The Labrador has a 154CM blade. Stainless, thanks to the mollybendium, but still high in carbon. This allows the blade to be easily maintained while also providing the hardening qualities that allow Vosteed to get this above 60 on the Rockwell scale.
The factory edge on the flat ground blade has proved exceptional and I’ve not yet felt the need to hone, much less resharpen.
The blade itself is strengthened in the handle by stainless lines. The action moves on ceramic bearings and is fluid and smooth.
This is a knife that I’d carry anywhere, confident in its abilities. From my work-from-home corporate existence, to my regular wilderness excursions, the Labrador is a fitting option. The tip of the drop point blade is fine enough for detail work, the long flat grind makes it solid slicer, and the width and length make it a formidable tool for the emergency necessities of active self-defense.
What About the Labrador’s Clip
Sorry lefties. The Labrador is set up for right-handed tip-up carry. I don’t like carrying flippers in the opposite configuration, as the blades can be bumped open in the pocket—so I wouldn’t recommend carrying this in a left front pocket.
The clip, though, is stainless and robust. Despite the ambidextrous thumb studs, the placement of the lock and the clip still reflect the minority status of southpaws.
Hopefully Vosteed will add a movable pocket clip to the Labrador in a future version. Many of Vosteed’s other models like the Thunderbird and Bellamy do ship with an ambidextrous pocket clip.
Vosteed is Killing It
This is my second Vosteed. As a life-long production knife junky, I see serious potential here. I had the privilege of handling a Labrador before I saw a price for it, and I’m not above saying I assumed the price would be higher—much higher—than it is.
There’s something special about the way every aspect of the Labrador seems to be intentional. The copper washer acts like subtle jewelry on the handles curves—it is just an accent. The back of the handle has a swell that hits the palm perfectly. There’s even a long lanyard hole in the micarta, for those that want more options for security or functionality.
This blade may become for me the answer I’ve been looking for when I’m asked what I’d recommend. The Labrador is exceptionally capable. This knife represents the very definition of value. It is both rugged enough for the woods and refined enough for the board room.
This ability to go anywhere or do anything—it isn’t common. That’s what makes the Labrador so unique.