The Bottom Line, Up Front
Simply put, the TOPS Mini Scandi Folder 4.0 is a great knife for everyday carry (EDC). It is compact, sharp, easy to open, easy to grip, and durable.
For the more technically inclined, the TOPS Mini Scandi Folder is a flipper-style folding knife with a 3.25 inch full Scandi grind blade made of N690Co steel. It has a stainless steel liner-lock frame with a 4.25 inch tan canvas Micarta handle. It uses ball bearing washers on the pivot point for smooth opening, and features a reversible pocket clip.
I would like to zoom in on a few of those technical details.
Flipper-style knives are opened by manipulating a tab on the blade. On the Mini Scandi Folder, this tab protrudes through the frame of the knife opposite the side into which the blade nests. Flipping the tab rotates the blade around the pivot point into the open position. This makes the knife deploy quickly and easily, much like a switchblade, but without the legal restrictions that switchblades face in many jurisdictions.
I found the flipper to function very smoothly and consistently during my testing. I also found manipulating the flipper to be oddly satisfying, somewhat like the sensation of opening and closing a Zippo lighter.
“Grind” refers to the various styles with which the blade is shaped to create a cutting edge. The bevel is the portion of the blade that is ground down to create the edge. The “Scandi grind” refers to a style in which the bevel begins relatively close to the cutting edge, and thus takes up a relatively small portion of the blade. If the bevel begins roughly halfway between the edge and the back of the blade, it is often referred to as a “saber grind”. If the bevel extends all the way to the back of the blade, it is often referred to as a “full grind.” There are a number of other types of grinds as well.
As its name suggests, the Scandi Grind is typical of historic Scandinavian knife designs.
Since a larger portion of the blade is left thicker with the Scandi grind than with most other grinds, Scandi ground blades tend to be stronger than similar blades ground in most other ways. A disadvantage of the Scandi Grind is that it provides a less agile blade than most other grinds.
Since I tend to be somewhat rough on my knives, the more durable Scandi grind should be a good choice for me. But as I have tested the TOPS Mini Scandi Folder, I have come to the conclusion that I prefer the greater precision and cutting control typical of full grind blades.
N690Co steel is produced by the Bohler Company, which was founded in Vienna in 1870. The steel consists of 1.07% carbon to increase hardness and edge retention, 17.30% chromium to increase tensile strength, edge retention, and corrosion resistance, 1.1% molybdenum to increase machinability and strength, 0.4% manganese to increase hardness, 0.4% silicon to increase strength, 0.1% vanadium to improve wear resistance and hardenability, and 1.65% cobalt to enhance of benefits of a number of the other ingredients.
With a Rockwell hardness of up to 61, N690Co is a “very stain resistant steel that holds an edge well and is fairly easy to resharpen” according to TOPS.
I found the performance of the steel to be quite satisfactory during my testing.
N690Co is a premium steel with a price to match. This is reflected in the price of the Mini Scandi Folder, which was $180 at the time of this writing. For a somewhat frugal person like me, that is a lot to pay for a knife. I must admit, however, that the Mini Scandi Folder displays a noticeably high quality to match its somewhat (for me) high price.
The Liner Lock
Folders can employ quite a number of different locking mechanisms including the lock back, the frame lock, and the liner lock. The liner lock functions by allowing a spring tab on the side of the liner to snap into place behind the blade when it is fully opened, thus locking the blade into place. The liner lock can be pushed aside by the thumb of the hand holding the knife in order to allow one-handed closing.
The liner and lock on the Mini Scandi Folder are made of heavy duty stainless steel, and are more robust than most liners and locks that I have tested. They are also exceptionally well machined.
The Canvas Micarta Handle
Micarta is a brand name for composites of various fabrics integrated with a thermosetting plastic. It was developed by George Westinghouse more than 100 years ago. This was my first experience with Micarta as a knife handle, and I was quite impressed. The canvas Micarta is attractive looking, pleasant to hold, and provides an excellent grip under a variety of weather conditions.
I felt that the Mini Scandi Folder displayed an unusually good design that would also lend itself well to being scaled up into a slightly larger knife with a 3.5- to 3.75-inch blade.
The knife came out of the box razor sharp, easily able to pass the shaving test on my left forearm. The finish on the blade is attractive, and the pocket clip does its job well.
The size and shape of the knife are very unobtrusive. The knife nestles into the back edge of my left front pocket, and does not get in the way when I reach into the pocket for something else.
During the testing period, I was able to use the knife for a variety of random tasks. I shaved off the plastic filaments that were left on a cutting board after I had trimmed it down for my wife, “Kari”. I used it to help kids with craft projects at a summer Art Camp sponsored by our church. I used it to cut branches and woody stems while weedwhacking along my driveway. I used it to open packages, and I used it to cut open a bag of dog food. It performed well in these and other typical EDC knife tasks.
I must note that I prefer multi-tools for everyday carry, and that this knife is not a multi-tool. For example, I was visiting a friend from our church who was recently discharged from the hospital. He had been in a serious car accident, and will need to utilize a wheelchair for a number of months until he can heal up well enough to walk again.
In order to make his home more wheelchair accessible, carpet was torn up in one room, and the hardwood flooring under the carpeting was refinished. The man’s wife mentioned that she had recently found a sharp object sticking up from the refinished floor. I offered to remove it for her.
I found the object to be a staple that had previously helped to secure the carpet padding. I reached into my pocket for my Leatherman Skeletool, and came up with the Mini Scandi Folder instead. The Mini Scandi Folder is a great knife, but a lousy pair of pliers. I thought I would need to go out to my truck to get a pair of pliers from the toolbox, but the man’s wife found a multi-tool in the junk drawer in their kitchen instead.
It is not fair to blame a knife for not being a multi-tool. But if you have never tried a multi-tool for everyday carry, I recommend that you consider this option. My favorite multi-tool for everyday carry is the Leatherman Skeletool.
The TOPS Company
TOPS Knives, Inc. was established in 1998. The way I heard the story, some Vietnam vets were complaining to each other about the lousy knives that they were issued during that war. They decided that American soldiers in future conflicts deserved something better, and TOPS Knives, Inc. was born.
The company is located in Idaho, and most of their knives are made in these United States. The vast majority of their knives are fixed blade designs. They are marketed as: “Tools for Professional Military, Law Enforcement and Survival Experts.”
The Mini Scandi Folder is one of the very few folding knives marketed by TOPS. It was designed by company President Leo Espinoza, and is manufactured by Maserin Knives in Italy.
Often when I am evaluating a knife, I will loan it to my friend “Ehud” for a week or two so he can try it out. I have nicknamed Ehud in honor of the knife-making and knife-wielding hero of Judges 3:12-30. Ehud had five major observations about the Mini Scandi Folder.
First, he commented on the excellent edge retention of the blade. He put it to hard use, and it remained impressively sharp.
Second, he liked the Micarta handle. He found it comfortable, attractive, and easy to grip.
Third, he felt that the pocket clip was well-designed. It held the knife in place effectively.
Fourth, he was impressed with the flipper. He found it to function smoothly and consistently.
Finally, he admired the sturdy construction. There was not a whole lot of rattle and flex in the way the various parts fit together.
All in all, his evaluation of the knife was wholly positive.
The TOPS Mini Scandi Folder 4.0 is a good, solid choice for EDC. It has a sharp and durable blade made of high quality steel. It deploys rapidly and smoothly. The handle is attractive and easy to grip under a variety of conditions. The craftsmanship and quality of the materials are well above average.
TOPS Knives, LLC was kind enough to provide me with a sample Mini Scandi Folder for testing. I tried not to allow their kindness to interfere with my objectivity, and believe that I have succeeded. I did not receive any other financial or other inducements to mention any vendor, product, or service in this article.