Some people have a certain way about them. They can’t help but be part of something great. They can’t help but be part of something that is better than almost anyone, or anything else around. Perhaps Todd Begg and his team fit into this category. Admittedly, we had bias against a productionized Mini Bodega from the start. Taking an iconic knife that has catapulted in popularity and diluting it down to a production knife seems to diminish the purpose, or so we thought. We were flat out wrong.
Enter the Todd Begg SteelCraft Series of knives… Todd Begg’s answer to the consumers itching to get their hands on one of his designs, along with premium build quality in high quality production offering. The Todd Begg SteelCraft Mini Bodega is a smaller productionized version of his damn near custom (mid-tech) Bodega flipper, and the second model to be sold under the SteelCraft brand. The first was the larger and also popular Kwaiken, a folder that was originally a custom knife by Todd. This knife, like the Kwaiken before it, is produced and manufactured by David Deng of Reate Knives, a well-established knife maker in his own right working out of China.
Let’s just get the price point out of the way from the start. The Mini Bodega costs $445 smackers, and can be purchased from standard online retailers. At 3 inches in blade length with a finger choil, the Mini Bodega lives up to its name by being a smaller size Bodega in appearance, but still surprisingly comfortable to grip in-hand. The all Titanium Mini Bodega definitely resembles that of its larger cousin, the standard Bodega.
The Mini Bodega is currently offered in two finishes, with standard grey titanium and some bead blasting, or the darker blackwashed version, both with polished accents. Future versions slated to appear late April of 2016 will likely include anodization with blue and gold colors to name a few.
Key Specs: Mini Bodega
Some take-away features from the list of specs are:
- CPM-S35VN high hollow ground blade
- IKBS ceramic bearings pivot
- Ceramic detent ball
- Back spacer features partial raised jimping for reverse grip control and integrated lanyard hole
- Available only in right hand tip up carry
Just looking at the 3-inch CPM-S35VN blade brings a smile to our faces. It can be immediately recognized as a Todd Begg design. The fuller groove, the seven holes interchanging in size from large to small, and the sweeping drop point shape are just spot on. Both esthetically and functionally, the Mini Bodega with its drop point hollow blade is one of the nicest small folders we have seen to date.
With a stonewash finish, and polished finish on the flats, the blade seems impressive and bigger than a 3-inch knife. In almost an optical illusion type fashion, the blade just seems larger. The additional finger choil helps the overall blade shape design, and assists with excellent grip overall.
We’ve discussed CPM-S35VN steel many times before and the bottom line is this: it’s a superb premium steel, edging out the massively popular S30V in toughness and ease of sharpening. Arguably the pinnacle of today’s ‘mainstream’ premium knife steels.
The Mini Bodega vs the Mid-Tech (damn-near Custom) Bodegas
It would be a safe bet to assume that a production inspired version of a semi-custom knife design will have compromises. Some differences exist for certain, but not as many as you might think. Sure, the Mini Bodega is smaller by design, and adopts S35VN steel instead of Bohler N690 used on the original Bodegas. Also, the Mini Bodega is a frame-lock design, without the fancy replaceable lock-arm piece that most refer to as a sub-frame lock.
The pocket clip is very similar to the original, but for the built-to-handle scale machined risers that allow the Mini Bodega to have the clearance to affix the pocket clip to the handle. All in all, the differences are rather small when you consider that the original Bodegas are probably the most expensive semi-custom/mid-tech offerings you can buy. True, Todd Begg and company also offer a field grade version, but those have also risen in price to about 700 plus bucks for a basic version.
Fit and Finish
We want to tell you that the Production Mini Bodega is light years away from the original in terms of quality and build, but it is just not. Actually, it is dangerously close to the quality levels of the original versions, especially when compared to the Field grade variations of the mid-tech Bodega. That is not a knock on the semi-customs that Todd puts out, but rather high praise to the production facility that produced the Mini Bodega. Kudos David Deng!
Overall the quality, fit, and finishes these knives offer is simply at the highest level one can expect from a production knife offering. It is a testament to Todd Begg that he has successfully managed to work with an individual that can provide such high quality product as a production piece like David Deng of Reate Knives.
Everything on the Mini Bodega is rounded off where it should be, and finish and detailing are perfect. The cracked ice finishing details on the pocket clip, and inside the knife are so close to the original, it is almost unbelievable. Further details on the backspacer and jimping are executed to perfection. The finger groove in the blade is also perfectly contoured and rounded.
Further, our Mini Bodega had perfect centering of the blade, and opened and closed as well as any custom knife we have owned or tested. It is also important to note that this knife comes standard with ceramic IKBS bearings, a feature option that is only available as an upgrade on Todd’s custom and mid-tech Bodegas.
Feel in Hand
Unlike many smaller knives these days, the Mini Bodega allows for a full five finger grip if you have medium sizes hands. The added choil assists in getting a full purchase on the knife. The Mini Bodega feels snug and secure in hand, and allows for a strong feeling of confidence in both the forward and reverse grip positions. The textured titanium finish on the show side of the handle scale provides additional grip.
The pocket clip never feels like it is in the way of your hand, as it is blended and contoured perfectly with the design of the knife shape. Note that the clip is right side, tip up only… sorry lefties, but seems that no left handed options are available as yet.
Though the feel is confidence inspiring, it does not overcome the obvious deficiency in general size. This knife is seven inches overall in length when open, and though it makes for a fantastic EDC, it is not suited for high stress work, or tactical defense in any way. As expected though, the Mini Bodega shines as an EDC carry. In fact, we struggled to put the knife away and pick something else from our rotation.
Everything is just so perfect. Yup, we said it again… we used the word perfect! The flipper smacks the blade open with a strong thwack that sounds as it should, with authority and control. The action is amazingly solid and quick, and the comfort level to close the blade from the open position is staggeringly effortless.
Real Word Testing
In an attempt to be completely transparent, we must tell you that no hard use or gratuitous testing simply for the sake of testing was performed. Instead, we felt it best to test the SteelCraft Mini Bodega in a manner most likely to be used by its’s potential buyers. Therefore, we EDC’ed the knife for two straight weeks, enjoying every last minute of it as we got our ‘suburban commando on’ in full effect.
Therefore, the Mini Bodega saw action in the garage, the back yard, the kitchen, at work, and at the hardware store. For its intended purpose, the knife cuts really well! The blade was sharp out of box, and we offer no complaints in that department at all. The CPM-S35VN steel is a great choice for this knife, offering outstanding wear and corrosion resistance that’s eclipsed by only a handful of superior steels in today’s market.
Our efforts to use the knife in every capacity that called for us to take the knife from our pocket proved positive that the pocket clip is very functional, and that the Mini Bodega can be successfully used for anything that the average guy or gal might need to use a pocket knife for on a daily basis.
The knife opened boxes with ease, and cut pieces of twine rope like it was string. Cutting of fruit such as apples worked well, a result likely of the blade and handle size, along with a choil that allowed for a proper choke-up when cutting. We also cut some plastic from security protected products, and found that the knife was also well suited for this. It is safe to say that this is an excellent all-around EDC user knife in every capacity. If you like smaller to medium size knives, the Mini Bodega hits the right marks in the ‘user’ category.
Competitive Offerings and Comparisons
All these knives available at BladeHQ.Though future Todd Begg customs and mid-techs that bare the Bodega name will likely include ‘mini’ versions in the future, we will focus on production comparisons available in the market today. The following options make for some excellent alternative options:
Chris Reeve Knives (CRK) Small Sebenza 21 ($350) – The small Sebenza is often regarded as the gold standard of small production knives. With a 2.94 inch CPM-S35VN blade, this thumb stud opener comes in both left and right handed opening options. For lefties and/or purists, this is the logical option. Coming in slightly more affordable, the small Sebenza 21 is the Cadillac of small production knives.
Chris Reeve Inkosi ($375) – Newer to the Chris Reeve line-up is the Inkosi. Often regarded as the small variant of the Sebenza 25 (though not exactly true), this knife also offers a slightly smaller 2.75 inch blade with CPM-S35VN steel. Contoured handle scales, a tweaked hollow-grind, and ball-bearing pivot make the Inkosi an altogether different knife when compared to that of the small Sebenza. This is an interesting option for those looking for thumb-stud opening and the Chris Reeve name on the tin.
Kizer Gemini ($170) – Previously reviewed on this site, the Gemini takes a classic Laconico design and nicely applies it to a production knife. At around 170 dollars from retail stores or online merchants, this knife is a high end production offering at a mid-level price point. It offers slightly longer reach at 3.125 inches in blade length, and also used CPM-S35VN stainless steel. Value shoppers should look closely at this as a suitable alternative option.
Spyderco Techno ($190) – The Techno has been around the block for a few years now. With an all titanium construction, and high quality CTS-XHP blade steel of about 2.55 inches in length, this offering is a bit smaller than the Mini Bodega. However, the design and style of the blade allow it to compete above its size class into the 3 inch category rather well. For a no holds barred, get stuff done EDC, this knife is hard to beat at the price point of about 190 bucks. Excellent fit and finish make this a rugged yet simple and attractive option.
Is the Todd Begg SteelCraft Mini Bodega something we should even try to compare to the original in away way? Is it fair to compare this to the semi-custom offerings we have come to love from Todd Begg? Or is this a knife that stands on its own to be compared purely against other production knives such as the alternatives we mentioned above in this review?
It’s hard to say, but it is clear that regardless of whether we should make such comparisons, the Mini Bodega production knife can hold its own against all other smaller production knives in the market today, and can also respectably stand toe-to-toe with the mid-techs Todd Begg creates in his shop. Is the Mini Bodega as good as a 1000 dollar Damn Near Custom Bodega, well no it is not. But it is not supposed to be. To say it is 85 percent that of the custom would be fairer. That is an amazing feat given we are not just talking about comparing a production knife to a mid-tech or custom, but we are comparing it to a Todd Begg mid-tech or custom.
We entered this review jaded at the possibility a production knife could dare attempt to replicate the iconic Bodega. Admittedly, we were incredibly wrong and off-base. A place does exist in the market for this knife, and at the level of quality that the Mini Bodega has been produced; we can say that at the time of this writing, the SteelCraft Mini Bodega is the best production 3-inch flipper style knife we’ve ever tested. Todd Begg just can‘t seem to stop himself from being part of something great. So with astonishment we say that if you want an all-purpose amazing small EDC, this is the crown-jewel of high quality production knives in this category.
- Precision workmanship, superb design and function, quality materials
- No love for lefties…tip up, right side carry only