A classic looking knife caught my eye while browsing online recently so I decided to pick it up and take it for a spin. The LionSteel Mini 8200 Carbon Fiber is an exclusive offering from high-end knife dealer KnifeArt (more about them later).
Ah, the classics. It wasn’t so long ago that we remember being given our first SAK from Dad; A true small EDC that seems to stand the test of time. Perhaps for you it was a Case, or maybe an unknown brand that still served its purpose well. It was a period when we didn’t look to an EDC as a function of self-defense or “coolness”, but rather a function of necessary utility. It was a time when a 2 inch blade was all that was needed to fill just about every standard task, all the while fitting diminutively in your pant or perhaps shirt pocket.
But times change, and styles and fads rule the day. We carry mostly larger folding knives, and look for one handed fast deployment methods with smooth actions… just because we can. Most of us are simply suburban commandos, prepared for the worst, but hoping for the best. So as a result, classic style knives have fallen a bit out of favor and fall under the radar of many EDC wielding knife enthusiasts. Let’s find out if the LionSteel 8200 and others like it can once again shift the fad back to smaller classic style knives.
- Blade length: 2.25″
- Overall length: 5.75″
- Closed length: 3.4″
- Weight: 2.3 oz.
- Blade material: D2
- Handle material: Carbon Fiber
- Locking mechanism: Liner Lock
- Country of origin: Italy
- Price range: About $110
“Everything old is new again” is in the lyrics of Peter Allen’s well known song by the same name. And it is true, time and time again we harken back to years past to find truth in what we need to move forward. The LionSteel Mini 8200,clad with premium carbon fiber accents with blasted titanium bolsters on 420 stainless steel lined scales and a 2.25” D2 steel blade is a modern take on a classic approach to EDC. This model comes as an exclusive from Arkansas based KnifeArt.com who specialize in higher-end knives from many of the top brands like Chris Reeve, Rick Hinderer and Zero Tolerance. I recommend you check out their site if you haven’t already.
Weighing in at only 2.3 ounces, the LionSteel 8200 makes effort to achieve a joining of old with new by offering a drop point style blade that’s a bit larger when compared to the classics of old, and yet still provides a more modern drop point style blade with a classic dual thumb stud; proven to be an effective opening method for modern folders of any size. Made in Maniago Italy, the 8200 “exemplifies the heart of Italian style knife making” or at least that is what LionSteel says on the press sheet. It is true, don’t get us wrong, but we like to think of this more along the lines of a well-crafted knife that contemporizes the classic knives of old, regardless of where they were made or used traditionally.
Something about this knife screams modern yet classic at the same time. Something about this knife makes us think of our father, and the first time he trusted us enough to give us the first pocket knife we ever really cared to carry. Like that first knife, we could not wait to carry the LionSteel Mini 8200 and see how it performs in everyday tasks.
Feel In Hand
The LionSteel Mini 8200 is not meant to fit like a glove, and as a result it just doesn’t. You can barely get a three finger grip on it, and it is not particularly rounded or sculpted, with its liner lock neither smoothed round nor chamfered. It is old school in nature. It is a true pocket knife wearing some really nice digs allowing it to fit in at the modern country club as easily at the bar. By the way, the Carbon Fiber does look great, as does the blasted titanium bolsters.
The tip-down satin finished pocket clip sits low to the scales, keeping the knife easy to grip, even though the clip extends down the majority of the knife when in the closed position. Happily the clip did not seem to bother us, and serves as a nice touch to once again provide modern utility to what might otherwise be considered a classic style knife design. The use of the clip in pocket performed as it is should, providing adequate clamping force yet still allowing for easy removal from the pocket. However, we chose to remove the pocket clip and keep the knife buried in the pocket. Quick deployment just didn’t seem to have a purpose for the utility of this knife. Either way, it is nice to have the option to clip it if desired.
Make no mistake; this is not a ‘traditional’ style knife, it’s classical. This knife is a thicker, wider knife and as a result fits bigger in hand when compared to the truly traditional two-hand nail-opening thin blade shapes of yesteryear. Even though this is a smaller knife, one handed opening and closing is comfortable and repeatable after only minutes of use.
The knife opens well with the use of the thumb-studs whether deployed left or right handed thanks to the dual studs on either side of the blade. The action is seemingly unimpressive, however performs flawlessly. Again, no real need to thumb-flick this type of knife open, so we would not consider this a negative in any way. Lockup is solid with zero side to side or up and down play. The liner lock engages at about 40% which is just fine for us. Additionally, we like the use of functional jimping on the spine, though we doubt such a knife would really necessitate it.
We also like the use of materials, though if we are to nitpick it is worth noting that the tolerance levels for this knife are not quite on par with those of higher priced knives as we can easily feel in parts where the carbon fiber ends and the titanium bolsters begin. A visible gap can be seen and felt as the transition between the materials are made. That said, we think the execution of the knife works very well with the design and price point. These imperfections also seem to add to the charm of the knife. It is pretty yet rustic looking, modern yet classic. I think the word we are reaching for is “charm” – that’s what the LionSteel 8200 has, pure charm. You can almost feel that charm in-hand as you hold it, and as you use it. It put a smile to our face.
The LionSteel Mini 8200 is clad with 2.25 inch D2 blade steel – Another classic yet modern choice for this knife. Some have admonished D2 as steel that corrodes and can’t be used as a true EDC, but we’ve been carrying blades with D2 for plenty of years with nothing but fantastic results. Sure, it is not a true stainless steel, and as a result care must be taken. But to say that D2 is anything but great steel would be wrong. It holds a fine edge and, despite what some may say, is really not terribly difficult to sharpen. The cost is very reasonable, and if heat treated well like in the case of LionSteel with this Mini 8200 can be almost as anti-corrosive as VG-10 if you care for it properly. Yet still, those who fear the potential rust factor may want to seek other options.
The drop point blade is very nice looking for a knife of this size and configuration. Though it is nothing to really consider a highlight point, it serves its function as the business end of this smaller EDC tool well.
The LionSteel Mini 8200 is a folding pocket knife through and through. As such, it would be impractical to perform activities and tests beyond its scope. We challenged the 8200 with everyday tasks that a small pocket knife would be used for during the time we carried it. Specifically, we used it in the garden, in the garage, and in some cases to peel small fruits such as apples and pears.
The results of these common tasks were as expected, pretty good. The knife came relatively sharp, though we have seen D2 take a much keener edge than what was provided out of box. Because we used this knife as a secondary carry EDC, we saw no need to sharpen the knife from its original state.
We cut twine for use in the garden. Each cut felt relatively easy and did not require any sawing motion as it cut the twine rope cleanly. In the garage we attempted to cut down some boxes we had received from purchases made earlier in the week. Though the 8200 had no issue opening the boxes when they arrived initially, they struggled to comfortably cut the corrugated cardboard, or perhaps it was us who struggled to keep a comfortable hold on the knife when cutting. Either way, it was not an ideal match for this task. Cutting through the tape of closed packages was as one might expect an easy chore.
We especially enjoyed the ease of apple peeling. The blade shape and size allowed for ample confidence when performing measured cutting tasks such as this. Continuing on that topic, we also used it for fine cutting tasks while working on some model airplane building. There is something to be said for a smaller blade that can really get detailed cuts like the 8200 can.
All in all, the LionSteel Mini 8200 performed well overall. It can handle the day to day tasks of most users looking to have a small sharp tool available in their pocket at the ready.
It’s not easy to compare a knife like this to anything else. That statement in it of itself is meant to be positive in nature. The LionSteel Mini 8200 in Carbon fiber is something of an enigma in a landscape of tactical modern style folding knives. Keep in mind that this knife is an exclusive offering and seemingly limited in production through collaboration between LionSteel and KnifeArt. As a result, the Exclusive Mini 8200 Carbon Fiber folding knife may be considered by some a collectible piece (and availability is likely limited).
So with all that now mentioned we will try to do our best to present some reasonably competitive offerings and alternatives available.
LionSteel Exclusive Mini 8200D-FC – This sister model is the same knife as our 8200 Carbon Fiber version, only offers a Chad Nichols stainless Damascus steel blade with rain drop pattern. If collectibility is your primary objective, the Mini 8200D-FC version may be the tops. As an EDC user knife however, the value may still sit with the Mini 8200 Carbon Fiber with the D2 steel blade. Either way, the 8200D-FC is a very nice knife and if you fancy this type of design but with a bit more of an up-scale nature, it may be right up your alley.
Chris Reeve small Sebenza 21 Carbon Fiber KnifeArt Exclusive – KnifeArt seems to have done what others could not, which is to have convinced Chris Reeve (of CRK) that he should make a carbon fiber clad (single scale side) Sebenza. Though we have no idea how they got Chris to agree, these wonderful knives can be had directly from KnifeArt.com as an exclusive and perhaps limited offering. For those looking to get a taste of carbon fiber and titanium in a small package, this small CF Sebenza 21 is the real deal. Price of admission however is significantly steeper than our LionSteel 8200. Budget be damned with this small CF Sebenza as the cost to have your fill is 395 dollars, a cost some may say is actually a bargain for the quality and craftsmanship you are getting from this exclusive production offering.
DPx Gear Heat/F Shred – For those who fancy a smaller blade, but might be more on the tactical side of the fence, the DPx Gear Heat/F Shred folding knife offers a 2.26 blade with shredded carbon fiber and titanium handles. Designed by Robert Young Pelton and coincidentally made in Italy by LionSteel, this knife offers a frame lock construction with tactically and a “cool” factor meant to attract a younger, active and perhaps more modern styled audience. At 200 dollars, if you like the idea of a small but functional EDC, the DPx Gear Heat/F at 4 ounces provides a heavier yet nice option when compared to the LionSteel Mini 8200.
It can be hard to find something that fits … Something that both fit your personality and your needs. For us, this LionSteel 8200 fit our needs as a simple and useful small secondary duty EDC, and also pulled on our heart strings with charm and overall appeal.
This is the type of knife that we could see using as a secondary knife carry EDC for years, maybe even as a fancier carry dress knife as well. Or perhaps it is something that we might want to gift to our father, or perhaps even our son. It fits as a functional small knife, and yet may one day serve as an heirloom piece that can remind its user of a time gone by, or a person from the past.
The LionSteel Mini 8200 exclusive KnifeArt edition folder may not be all things to all people, and may not be the modern embodiment of tacticool – what it is can only be described as functional charm, and that is not something that ever gets old. Ah, a true classic made new again.
The Good: Classic styling, oozing with charm, solid lockup
The Bad: Average ergonomics, could be sharper out of the box
Bottom Line: Well made EDC that nicely blends both classic and modern styling