My brother is really hard to shop for. I’ve given him a few cheaper knives, which he likes. But he wears them out quickly, even the more robust ones. So, I wanted to get him a decent quality made in USA model that he’d be hard pressed to wear out so quickly.
He doesn’t like my precious Spyderco knives because he says they are too light. Even the heavier G10 models tend to be weight conserving, which is diametrically opposed to my brother’s “it must be heavy” philosophy. This Kershaw Link is solid metal, so hopefully it will feel solid enough for him. Otherwise, well, when have I ever turned away a shiny, sharp object?
The Link is an assisted “flipper” which deploys the blade when you press a little lever a certain amount. This model features an black washed, saber ground blade made of 420HC and made in the USA, in Oregon. With a two way deep carry clip, liner lock and anodized aluminum scales, this is just a basic USA made flipper.
Official Specs (From Amazon)
|From Top: Spyderco Manix 2 Lightweight, Kershaw Link, Spyderco Native 5 FRN|
Before I opened the box, I could see the address on the box where it was made, and off the top of my head, it looks like about a 10 minute drive away from where we are in Hillsboro, Oregon now.
The first thing I noticed about the knife is that it didn’t have all the little fit and finish issues that I’ve seen on almost every one of my Kershaws. They make good knives which have good value, but botched edges, off-center blades, stripped screws–I’m used to immediately seeing something wrong with Kershaw’s lower end knives.
Maybe the Link finally reaches the point where you’re just out of that low end territory, because my sample looked pretty much perfect out the box. I wanted a perfect sample and was prepared to send it back with enough time to give my brother a perfect knife in time for the holidays.
So, the Link gave me a really good first impression. The blade is a little thin for the weight, but that’s fine. The lock doesn’t engage as much as I’d like it to, but I’m super picky about liner locks. But all in all, this is a well made knife at any price point.
I’ve never owned one of their high end Zero Tolerance models, but from what I’ve read and the photos I’ve seen, it’s believable that these are close cousins, which is awesome. Having similar models where the price mostly a function of the quality of the steel is a good philosophy. If I like the Link, then I know I will really like one with high end steel. But I can carry a lower end version just to see if I like it.
Normally even Kershaw’s lower end products have a decent build quality, but with this model, I can get a glimpse of what they are capable of. My only other USA made Kershaw was a Skyline, and while I liked it and still occasionally carry it, the fit and finish issues didn’t make me a big fan. It still rankles my OCD every time I see the broken off tip, which came that way from a USA made factory with no excuses to let it out the door like that.
While the Freefall, Swerve, Chill, Brawler, etc. were good enough to give to a non-enthusiast as a gift, this is the first model I’ve purchased where the build quality is good enough to where I personally would carry it, because I have some awesome pocket knives. A couple like the Freefall almost clicked with me, but it was just a little rough around the edges.
Fit and Finish
Overall, very good. The acid washing could be a little more uniform, but I understand that it’s supposed to look imperfect, like artisan bread or something, but eh, it could be a little better. The assisted deployment could be a little smoother for the price point. It deploys with about the same feel as the cheaper models. From looking at the photos, the lock looks like it engages in the 30% range, which could be better.
But a few minor gripes aside, this is closer to what I would normally expect for a higher end USA made knife. The machining, anodizing and blade centering are all perfect. The clip is even anodized. So, here is a 40 dollar knife with the fit and finish of a 120 dollar knife.
This model came with a hollow ground, drop point “saber grind” blade made from USA 420HC steel, which is a decent budget steel. But more important than the chemical composition of the steel is the heat treatment, and for whatever reason, the USA is second to none in that department, not that we don’t have competition from the Japanese and Swiss.
Just like with the first time I held my, Dragonfly, I have to overcome my instincts to say the blade is ground too thin and say it’s probably perfect for EDC. I would absolutely feel confident about putting this knife to hard use, but I wouldn’t consider it a hard use knife, if that makes sense.
The blade on my review sample is well executed: good machining, good edge and good centering on the blade. See, is that so hard? Extra points for the good job this model does on the acid wash. Extra points for a scary sharp edge.
This model features smooth, gray anodized aluminum scales. The scales on mine look perfectly uniform, and it’s an extremely clean look. However, without the clip, there’s probably no way to hold this thing if your hands are wet.
Kershaw really did a good job on the handle’s anodizing. The way they did the scales looks more like a high end knife. The smoothness is actually a plus for not wearing your pockets or scratching something it comes into contact with. It’s not a deal breaker, but I can’t help but thinking this knife would be sweet with custom, textured scales of some type.
The Link features a two way deep carry clip, which comes configured for right-handed tip-up carry and can be moved to the other side if you’re a lefty.
The clip is well done on my review sample. Just like with the overall build quality, I finally feel like I hit that magical price point in Kershaw’s catalog where they start getting everything right. A deep mounted hourglass clip that’s not too stiff, and even anodized. Thank you.
Liner locks aren’t my personal favorite, but they work just fine for my purposes when done right, and this one is done right. I wish the lock engaged a little more, but it seems within specs, and I appreciate that it’s not over-engineered. It’s a basic liner lock.
The deployment isn’t quite as smooth as I would like, but I’m probably being picky at this price point. I’ll put a couple drops of mineral oil on the pivot if it persists for my brother.
Overall though, my Link fires confidently and locks up tight. They kept it simple and did a good job, which is the philosophy I use for software design, the “KISS principle.”
I normally carry any knife I review for a week, but this one is going to be a gift, and I don’t want to wear the clip or scuff the blade or anything.
But I can easily tell that this is a usable knife. Decent steel with a good edge, and optimal blade geometry for an EDC.
My only real usability issue with this knife is the smooth scales. The clip gives it some good grip, otherwise you’d be hard pressed to use it with wet hands. But hey, this is what I would consider a gentleman’s flipper, so the grip will be passable under most conditions a gentleman would encounter.
The thin grind on the blade makes it a better slicer, and I personally like a knife with some belly on it, so other than the grip issue, I would consider this knife to be very usable for EDC and will carry one myself after the holidays, and after I decide if I’m just going to buy the ZT version.
Weights & Measures
It carries pretty light for a knife that weighs about a quarter pound.
This is a sweet knife that almost perfectly hits that sweet spot for price. A good quality USA made knife at this price point is a rare thing. In fact, most of the knives at this price point and similar quality are made in China, so it’s satisfying to give my brother a gift which was made a few miles away. The Chinese made Spyderco Tenacious is a few dollars more than the Link and is still a great value, so I personally think the Link is a fantastic value.
Holding this Link in my hand made me think of how awesome the high end ZT version of this knife with Elmax steel would be, with a smoother deployment. But I think I’m going to buy a Link for me first, and carry it a few weeks before I go spending the big bucks on the ZT.
It wouldn’t be terrible if my brother didn’t like this one, because this is one of the few Kershaws that have really clicked with me. This one might be too light for him. He’s a body builder and doesn’t like wimpy, lightweight cutlery, where I appreciate that the designers pulled their hair out shaving off a few grams here and there. So if this one is too light, then, darn, it’ll go back to me. I don’t mind a heavier knife if I’m wearing jeans.