Knife Review

Knife Review: Kershaw Skyline

Image: Chris DummKershaw’s flick-opening Skyline has been a pretty big hit for the Oregon-based knifemaker. With a wicked-sharp Sandvik blade, a host of EDC-friendly features and a street price in the $40s, it’s easy to see why. I’ve had one in my pocket for a few weeks now; here’s what I’ve discovered…

The Skyline is a manual folding knife with a flipper action and a liner lock. It was designed by Tommie Lucas, and is made here in the U.S.A. It wears textured G10 grips and a 3″ blade of Sandvik 14C28N. (Kershaw says it’s 3.125″ but it’s 3″ the way I measured it.) The slender blade is only .09″ thick. Various models are sold with bead-blasted, Damascus, and black DLC blade treatments and in various grip colors.

Image courtesy KAI/Kershaw USA

This is what most Skylines look like, but my sample has a black DLC blade and coyote tan G10 grips. The blade is described as a drop point, but the reverse edge is beveled and the tip is relatively delicate. The reverse bevel isn’t sharpened, however, so it won’t count as a ‘double-edged’ knife in states that care about that sort of thing.

Image courtesy KAI/Kershaw USA

The studs on the blade can be pressed into service as thumb studs, but when the knife is folded they sit too deep in the choil to really work well for that. They’re primarily blade stops, to keep it from hyperextending when open.

The knife has an overall length of 4.75″ closed and 7.125″ opened, and weighs a tidy 2.5 ounces.

Construction/Durability

Image: Chris DummThe Skyline is a pretty simple design: basically just a blade, a liner and a pair of grips held together with tiny Torx screws. You can take the whole thing down to its components in about a minute because it’s only got 14 parts, including the screws. The single liner lets the knife be very slim (7/16″ thick excluding the pocket clip) and keeps the weight down to 2.5 ounces.

The main Torx screw that goes through the blade had a habit of working itself slightly loose. It never got so loose as to fall out, but it made the blade slightly wobbly until I secured it with a spot of blue Locktite. This isn’t my only Kershaw that behaves this way.

Image: Chris Dumm

The butt of the grip has a lanyard hole, and the pocket clip is reversible for tip-down or tip-up carry. However you rig it, this knife always rides a little high in your pocket. I reversed the clip for tip-up carry because I find it more convenient to open that way, but the butt of the grip stands even taller in this configuration. A deeper pocket clip would be a welcome modification, and if Kershaw sold a deep clip accessory I would have bought one already.

There’s one other issue with the pocket clip: because it screws into the liner, you can’t switch it for left-side carry. Strong-Side Carry vs. Weak-Side Carry is a discussion for another day, but if you like to carry an EDC knife on your left side, the Skyline is not the knife for that.

Image: Chris Dumm

The liner lock has a hardened steel ball pressed into it, which catches in a small detent in the blade to keep it folded closed. The blade is sandwiched between two very thin brass washers, for a smoother action.

The brown grips on my test knife have a habit of picking up dirt and grease and showing it. If they ever get unbearably filthy I could disassemble it and scrub the grips with dish soap. The whole knife is either stainless steel or polymer or brass, so you could even run it through the dishwasher. Not that I would.

Comfort/Ergonomics

The Skyline’s flipper mechanism is elegant and instinctive. Push the flipper into the grip, flick your wrist a little, and voila! The blade opens and the flipper turns into a handguard. If you open it with the tip falling downwards, the gravity assist means you don’t have to flick your wrist at all. Opening with the blade up takes a little extra flick.

The flipper seemed to work more easily with my left hand than my right, and I don’t know if this is an artifact of the design or caused by some difference in my technique. Either way, it won’t come in very handy because the Skyline doesn’t carry well on the left side and it’s a royal bee-yotch to close left-handed.

The Skyline is a very comfortable knife to hold and use, at least in my average-sized hands. The handle is exceptionally thin (just 7/16″ excluding the belt clip) but the textured G10 grips and deep finger choil give an extremely solid grasp. The liner lock is gently serrated, but there’s no jimping on the back of the blade. This has drawn criticism from many, but I don’t have an opinion about it one way or the other.  

Sharpening

Just like every other Kershaw I’ve ever handled, the Skyline had a good edge on it right out of the box. I played with it for a while, and then used my Smith’s 3-in-1 sharpener to give it the best edge I could. I didn’t use the carbide cutters (the horror!) but I massaged it on the 750-grit diamond steel and smoothed it out with ceramic sticks, trying for an angle slightly less than 20 degrees. After that I gave it a few strops on an old leather belt until the edge was almost mirror-polished.

When the blade dulled after the cardboard test, it only took a few minutes to restore its edge.

Disclaimer: I’m not a master knife sharpener, and I wasn’t trying to turn this knife into a straight razor.

Blade Testing

This is TTAK’s first review using the knife-test protocol suggested by our knifemaker-in-residence, Will Woods. Since it’s the first with this format, I don’t have any other knives to formally compare it to.

Unsupported Newsprint:
For this test of sharpness, I held a sheet of newsprint hanging from my left hand, and I tried to slice downward though it. With a slight sawing technique, the edge of the newsprint sometimes caught on the blade, and the resulting ‘cut’ was more of a tear. With a careful slicing ‘draw’ stroke, the Skyline sliced neatly through the newsprint. Most of the time, anyway.

When I tried the same test with normal copier paper, the Skyline easily Julienned it regardless of which stroke I used.

Grade: a totally subjective B+. (This may also be a grade of my own sharpening skill; time will tell.)

Rope Cutting
This test evaluates how efficient the blade is at cutting through a tough, resilient medium. I couldn’t find Will’s recommended 1″ sisal test rope, so I made do with 3/4″ manila which was the largest natural-fiber rope I could find. I set the rope on a wooden cutting board and cut off 1-inch segments with different cutting strokes.

Using a sawing stroke and fairly gentle pressure, the Skyline cut the rope extremely neatly in three or four back-and-forth passes. I could sometimes part the rope in a single push stroke, but only with extreme effort. A draw stroke would reliably cut the rope if I pressed really hard.

The blade parted the fibers pretty easily, but short blades like this don’t have a very long cutting stroke to work with.

As a final test I made a small loop in the rope and tried to pull the knife through it. This is how most people cut rope, and the Skyline was just barely able to get the job done. It wasn’t easy.

Grade: B, also totally subjective. Pretty darn good for a non-serrated blade.

Box Cardboard

Image: Chris Dumm

I broke down some cardboard boxes a few weeks ago using a Gerber Reflex Mini, and as I reported back then it totally trashed the Gerber’s mystery-metal blade. Cardboard can be murder on knife blades, and breaking down just a single box put a huge divot in the ‘Stainless Steel’ garbage Gerber.

The Skyline had a far more durable edge. It carved up cardboard neatly and efficiently for a long time before even starting to lose its edge. It cut my bulk cardboard to ribbons, some little more than 1/4″ thick, with only moderate effort.

How long did the Sandvik 14C28N blade hold its edge? It brought the pain through almost fifty linear feet of 2-ply cardboard, cutting across the grain, before it even started to catch and tear the cardboard. After 56 feet of cutting it was catching and tearing pretty badly, and I could tell by feel (and by sight) that the blade had become fairly dull. The edge had turned or worn visibly in several places, and it didn’t feel ‘crispy’ sharp to the touch any longer. After this abuse, it re-sharpened quickly and easily.

Grade: B-.

Favorite Features

The Skyline packs a lot of quality and utility into its $40 price tag.

  • For a knife this affordable, the Skyline has a simply fantastic blade. Sandvik 14C28N has been described as a ‘budget-priced exotic steel’ and if you own one you’ll agree that it punches well above its weight.
  • The flipper opening is mechanically simple, but just as fast as an assisted opener.
  • The handle is excellent: grip-friendly and pocket-slender at the same time.

Least-Favorite Features

The best EDC knife will do a lot of things well for most of us, but it can’t be all things to all people. Here are the very few ‘cons’ I’ve noticed with the Skyline:

  • The liner lock and pocket clip make it a poor choice for left-side carry.
  • The blade tension is adjustable with the appropriate-size Torx bit, but it tends to work itself loose and wobbly until you Locktite it.
  • The belt clip holds the knife too tall in your pocket for optimum discreetness.
  • Some cutting jobs work best with a serrated edge, and Skylines only have plain edges.

RATINGS (Out Of Five Stars)

Styling: ****
Spare, simple and elegant. The black and satin version goes well with any attire.

Blade: ***1/2
Thin and wickedly sharp, but doesn’t have stellar edge-holding. What more can you ask for? Partial serrations.

Ergonomics: ****
Quick ambidextrous opening and a solid, firm grip.

Ruggedness/Durability ****
It should go the distance. Just don’t use that thin blade as a pry bar.

Overall Rating: ****1/2
An outstanding EDC knife for the cheapskate and collector alike. So popular they also make a fixed-blade version with the same good blade and ergonomics, and the strength and simplicity of a full tang.

Conclusion

This is a damned nice knife for all-purpose, everyday carry. It’s also a hell of a bargain for less than fifty bucks. It’s trim, lightweight, and comfortable to carry and use. It’s got a tough blade that takes a mean edge and holds it reasonably well through hard use.

The Kershaw Skyline is Highly Recomended. Now that I’ve got my hands on one, I’m keeping an eye out for the next Big 5 or Wal-Mart sale so I can pick up a few more.

 

Discussion

12 responses to ‘Knife Review: Kershaw Skyline

  1. Hi there 🙂
    I happen to be from India, i see that many people in the US carry flashlights,guns ,multi-tools and knives as their EDC systems which is great, i am totally with carrying a flashlight(carry one myself) as it comes in handy i those not so well lit areas in the suburbs , guns too for evil lurks everywhere (commie government here civilian ownership is almost impossible,worse than California), also a multitool for i have seen that in everyday tasks scissors , pliers,tweezers and screw drivers can be lifesavers at times (can’t find good multitools here to carry :'( ) but can anybody please tell me how a knife comes in handy in EDC? this has been a mystery to me so please enlighten me 🙂
    Thanks in advance

    • Personally I carry a knife for utility. I regularly open and break down boxes, sometimes cut cords and wires, and occasionally prepare food with mine. I find a knife works pretty well in most situations where a pair of scissors is called for, but the knife is easier to carry on my person and doesn’t get me strange looks when I pull it from my pocket. It also could function as a weapon of last resort, but I generally carry pepper spray and would prefer nonlethal means of defense whenever possible.

      • i see , now there are many blade shapes ranging from clip point ,wharncliff styles to tanto, which one do you think would function the best for opening those annoying clamshell packages? as in my life i find myself looking for a knife that can accomplish that task quite often, i know multitools have dedicated package openers these days buy still….

        • I once worked at a print shop with a multi-ton hydraulic paper-cutting press. If it didn’t weigh about 800 pounds it would be perfect for chopping open that infernal clamshell packaging. Whoever designed that packaging should fry in hell.

        • Tanto point for those evil sonically welded clamshell packages. Punch through, then cut.

  2. Looks awesome in Coyote Brown. Not surprising about the rope. The knife is a bit light for 3/4 inch rope. A serrated edge would make that task easier.

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