After several months of ownership, we decided we had to share our views on the Brian Nadeau Mini Typhoon. Brian makes knives under his company name Sharp By Design and has built quite a reputation in recent years. With all the buzz we just had to check out the Mini Typhoon an boy was it worth the wait.
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But why are we reviewing a custom knife when our focus is typically production knives? Well, at roughly 550 bucks for our custom knife, it’s in the same ballpark as many of the high-end production knives under our coverage. Also, Brian has established a very good name for himself in the folding custom knife world with a reputation for realistic build dates that seldom take longer than the ETA posted on the tin. In our case, we pre-ordered from Brian’s website directly during his first batch order offering, and received it on-time roughly 3 months later.
For those unaware of Sharp By Design and Brian Nadeau, he designs and builds his knives out of his home shop. He makes everything other than the screws and bearings. Brian designs, programs, machines, finishes, and assembles each custom knife – built to order. His website allows custom selections, with additional options to upgrade the knife if you desire. The customization is very detailed, allowing you to select the exact anodization color tone to the specific electromagnetic frequency.
Brian Nadaeu is an extremely talented and decorated knife maker who has won several awards for his folding knives, including the coveted 2015 tactical knife of the year award by Blade magazine for his full-sized version of the knife we are going to discuss today.
The Mini Typhoon is custom knife that truly lives up to the legacy of its larger big brother, the “Typhoon” released in late 2014 (we have one of these too and love it by the way.) We customized our Mini Typhoon, the smaller brother with big shoes to fill by going online and selected our options in advance.
Given that this knife is a custom, and because of all the different Mini Typhoon configurations available, weight will vary depending on the style you select, along with whether you opt for the optional internally milled titanium handles. As it stands, our version of the Mini Typhoon weighs in at about 4.4 ounces.
The following generic specification details have been taken directly from Brian’s website:
- Blade Length: 3.5″
- Overall Length: 8.0″
- Weight: 4.4 oz
- Blade Material: CPM-S90V
- Handle Material: 6Al4V Titanium
- Locking Mechanism: Frame Lock
- Deployment Mechanism: Flipper
- Country of Origin: USA
- Price Range: About $550 and up
We received our Mini Typhoon from Brian Nadeau packaged in a mock-pelican like mini case. It is made of plastic and looks black with “Sharp By Design” in bold green on the top of this hard case. It is a classy and safe way to receive the knife.
As we opened the case we saw our version of the Mini Typhoon and it appeared exactly as we had optioned it. Stonewashed handles with several hole cutouts throughout the both sides of the handle scales. We also had the pocket clip made to match the scales. The blade is made of CPM-S90V, the good stuff I’m sure you’re familiar with (and if not check this out). We had Brian blast and tumble the 3.5-inch blade which also has a fully running within the traditional tanto style blade. This knife looked very utilitarian, just as we wanted it. It had a slightly tactical look to it, but in a good way. Note that blade finishes and styles of blade can be customized.
As we held the knife for the first time we loved the feel. It was a perfectly well suited size for us as about 8 inches in total open length. The flipper tab is well situated, and is easy to engage. Our Mini Typhoon is a very attractive and understated knife.
Oh and by the way, Brian has confirmed that there’s a Micro-Typhoon with 3-inch blade in the works!
Feel in Hand
The knife is essentially the smaller version of the Typhoon full sized model. This Mini Typhoon has been made smaller to allow for an easier overall EDC experience. It also makes it a bit more tolerable by states that have sub 3.6-inch blade prohibitive carry laws.
The feel in hand is wonderful. It feels comfortable and everything is rounded and finished perfectly. Overall, the knife feels light and yet still very firm. A very solid full fingered grip allows for assurance and connection to the handle and thus the blade when in the open position.
One of the trademarks of Brian’s design is in the feel of the flipper as well as the detent nub for his frame lock when disengaging the knife. It is worth highlighting that the detent is a bit different than most other flipper folding knives. It has no actual detent ball. Instead Brian starts with thicker material for the lockbar insert which he then machines away to leave the detent nub. The feel is very smooth and buttery as a result. It is also rather quick, if not utterly fast and feels almost buttery when it opens or closes.
We are happy with the speed of the knife. As for the tolerances, they are spot on. Everything is tight where it should be, and lined up perfectly center. We love to deploy the blade of this knife. We also thoroughly enjoy the frame lock design that allows for a very easy disengagement of this style design. It takes a few minutes to get used to in terms of looks, but the action and usage are just right. Brian’s execution makes the knife feel extremely smooth and consistent.
As for hand ergonomics, simply put they are good. This is not a knife with many sweeping contours for the grip, but closer to a candy bar style frame with a comfortable slight cutaway for the index finger area. It is comfortable.
The pocket clip sits low and very tight on the knife handle. It does not bother the hand. The implantation of this spring clip coming through the handle is also quite unique. The clip comes up from the inside of the handle scale and hides the screws for the knife on the inside. The appearance is entirely different than anything else we have seen from any other maker or production model knife. We love it aesthetically. It is one of the most comfortable and usable titanium spring clips we have ever felt on any knife in the hand.
It is also worth mentioning that the clip comes extremely tight, and will require some breaking in. Getting it in and out of the pocket the first few weeks was rough. It is so tight that two hands where needed to put in and out of pocket. After about 3 weeks it loosened up some, and after 7 weeks we noticed that it became perfect to get in and out of pocket. Note it is for right side, tip up carry, and is not a deep carry style clip, though it does sit reasonably deep in the pocket.
Real World Testing
Perhaps counter to the logic of many, our custom Mini Typhoon was purchased to be a EDC user knife. Sure, one may claim that it may be collectible, or perhaps costs too much money to use in that capacity. For those who are thinking such things I should remind you that a sub 600-dollar knife is now not exclusively for the custom knife market. We have tested and reviewed several more debatably exclusive and expensive knives from production companies. This knife is designed per our requirement, and is made by an incredible maker in Brian Nadeau by hand.
With that said, we have carried this knife on and off as a primary or secondary carry EDC for almost 3 months. We are pleased to tell you that this knife is a wonderful addition to our collection. The CPM-S90V stainless super steel is a wonderful thing. The sharpness level that we received the knife gives full marks to the company name ‘Sharp by Design”. What we really enjoy about this knife is the overall size. In the closed position, the knife is not too small, and not all that big. Depending on our mood, our clothing attire, and/or our destination we can use the Mini Typhoon as either a secondary carry to a larger knife, or our primary carry on our strong side. The versatility is a great thing. Most of the time, this knife has been used as a secondary carry.
We performed minor testing with the Mini Typhoon, but nothing all too formal. What that basically means is that we gave a few turns cutting at corrugated board, rope cutting, as well as all other standard EDC cutting tasks that came up when we carried it. As we tested other knives, we often performed quick A-B comparisons against it. We are completely happy with the knife as a cutter.
We are not big fans of the paper cutting test as we feel every knife we test should be able to perform this test pretty well because it is a freakin’ knife designed to cut things. Often those knives that perform poorly on such a test tend to simply have a poor edge which we can clean up and sharpen right quick. With few exceptions, most knives with proper sharpened/stropped edges will cut paper. A few knives such in the production world such as a Rockstead Higo, and Rockstead Shin, Shirogorov Hati, Shirogorov Neon, etc. perform this particular test extremely well. Our example of the Sharp By Design Mini Typhoon is a worthy addition to that list. It is sharp, and it can cut like know one’s business.
As for cutting rope, it certainly can do the job, but we prefer larger and heavier knives for such a task. We can’t really speak to performance in the kitchen, but we would advise against it. Also for those looking for defensive carry options, it might be a stretch to have the Mini Typhoon bulked in as a true tactical knife. It is just not large enough, though the full sized Typhoon could certainly cut the mustard assuming the grip was not slippery.
In the suburban setting, we have used the Mini Typhoon it could not have performed or served us better. Still no need to sharpen this thing by the way… the S90V steel holds a very solid edge.
Except for the Grimsmo Rask, we have never taken the time to perform a full-length review of a custom knife. Competition as a result is a bit hard to measure. What we can tell you is that this knife is great value in the custom arena, and also in comparison against the high end production and mid-tech markets. keep that in mind when we offer up a couple of competitors.
Shirogorov Neon (~$750) – The Neon straddles the line between production knife and something more. To us, it is certainly a mid-tech tier item that has all but the actual pure custom elements one might find in the Mini Typhoon. It is a very capable little knife, and is lightly smaller when compared to the Mini Typhoon. The Neon can be had with either M390 or S90V blade steel but is otherwise not customizable. We strongly endorse the Neon as a small EDC, and think it is a formidable competitor to any small or medium sized knife in the high-end production, or custom world. With all that in mind, the Rask is the custom knife. At about 675 bucks to start, the Rask is quite a deal. For comparison, at about 750 bucks the mid-tech version of the Neon is more expensive, and this if you can even get your hands on one. Secondary market pricing is actually higher, and can sell well over 800 bucks.
Grimsmo Rask (~$675) – We recently published a review of the Grimsmo Rask custom folding knife. It was given very high praise, as is the Mini-Typhoon in this review. The Rask is the second folding knife offering from Grimsmo knives, and departs from its Norseman stablemate by offering a smaller 3.4” traditional style drop-point blade. The blade size is just a hair small compared to the Mini Typhoon at 3.5 inches. They both feel great in hand, and perform very well as small primary EDC, or large secondary carry options. The execution of these knives is a bit different however.
The Typhoon is more semi-tactical inspired in appearance and overall design. The Rask is more of a utility EDC the way we tend to look at the aesthetics based purely on root design and intentions. Either knife would give you gobs of enjoyment and usability, and perhaps collectibility. Starting price of the Mini Typhoon comes in cheaper at about $550, whereas the Norseman is a bit north of that to start. However, optioned up, either knife can extend pretty high to about double the base price… so keep an eye on those options.
The Grimso Rask can be ordered direct from there website with wait and build times that are getting quicker and quicker. We recently heard from John Grimsmo who stated he hoped to get build times down to about 2 weeks once they have perfected the process. Brian Nadeau of Sharp By Design tends to produce is bursts. His first run of the Mini Typhoon has completed. All knives have been completed, and he is now getting ready to accept orders for another run of Mini Typhoons soon. He is very punctual about getting his knives out on time, and you can expect about 3 months wait from the time the run begins until when you get your Mini Typhoon. If you have the means, we would suggest snagging both great knives while you can.
Custom knives are not for everyone. They can be costly, and may take a while to get once you have placed your order. They can be collectible, or not depending on the number made, and who the maker is. We enjoy all types of folding knives, and feel that the Mini Typhoon is a wonderful example of the craftsmanship and design efforts of an extremely talented human in Brian Nadeau. In 2015 Brian won the Blade Show best tactical folder award for his full-sized Typhoon, and continued with his Hurricane model that is also a wonderful folder. This guy knows how to make very good knives, and he charges prices that are very reasonable relative to many other custom makers.
The Mini Typhoon is one of the best small to medium sized EDC tactical inspired knives we have ever used at this price range. The only criticism we can muster to write about is the pocket clip break in time. But that is the nature of some knives… a break in period may be required, and is often designed that way.
Given the ability to customize the knife to make it look and feel just the way you want it, we can’t endorse the Brian’s work, or this knife any greater. If you are looking for one knife that you can EDC that performs almost all types of duties, and will not cost that much more than a Sebenza, we think you owe it to yourself to check the Mini-Typhoon out for yourself.
The Good: Hand made to perfection, customizable as hell, great value
The Bad: Pocket clip needs break in
Bottom Line: Near the very pinnacle in every sense
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