I had been wanting to pick up a knife with more refinement since having a chance to play with the 2014 Knife of the Year: Ken Onion Hi-Jinx at Blade. It was on a recent trip to Smoky Mountain Knife Works where I fell in love with the BlackWash D2 composite Kershaw Leek. I could have chosen a more run-of-the-mill version of the Leek, but while nice, they lack the elegance of this one (plus I wanted to try a D2 folder). I have never owned an assisted flipper, and I was instantly hooked. I paid full retail ($80 at SMKW/$130 MSRP) with my own funds shortly thereafter.
One of the coolest blades I have owned. It is a composite of Sandvik steel in the spine, and D2 for the edge. The blade is 3″ in length, giving the knife an open length of 7″. Kershaw calls the Leek a “modified drop point”. I think it is so modified that I would have mistaken it for a wharncliffe blade, and in fact that is what I think of it as.
Regardless of what you chose to call the blade shape, it is excellent at fine detail work. Parents will understand this one: You can pierce a box and remove a “Box Top for Education” even faster than with a pair of scissors. (I know, a somewhat odd example, but if it made sense to you please drop me a comment. As you will see in the testing section, this knife is capable of much more than detail work. The D2 edge is really quite remarkable.
The knife came extremely sharp from Kershaw. In fact, I pricked myself with the tip the firs time I tried closing it. It is the “pointiest” knife I own, most other knives I use have a less prominent point to them. It seems easier to be careless with this knife, or at least it seems to remind me to pay attention more than most.
The Leek is an assisted opening flipper, made in the USA, featuring Kershaw’s SpeedSafe mechanism. It has both a flipping tab on the spine, as well as ambidextrous thumb studs to open the knife. It also has a sliding safety which blocks the knife’s tip to prevent accidental opening. I haven’t been using the lock, and in a month of carry cannot recall a situation where the knife fired accidentally.
The lock is a fairly typical framelock, and functions comfortably without sticking. There is a little stiffness from the spring when you begin to fold, but it feels appropriate. With practice, this knife can be easily closed one-handed.
The scales are BlackWash finished 440C. The finish is uniform across the Sandvik and the 440C. They are a little on the slick side, especially when the knife is wet, but the handle contours nicely in my hand, and I never found the grip to be unduly lacking.
On the other hand, this knife is considerably more friendly to your pocket seem than a more aggressively textured knife. There is plenty of tension to the pocket clip, and holds the knife firmly in most of my pants.
The clip comes from Kershaw set-up for tip-down carry. I am not used to this, as most of my folders are tip up. However, after swapping back and forth between tip-up and down, I think I like tip down for a flipper. I find my finger naturally hits the tab more reliably. The clip can also be removed entirely, and this knife would take up little pocket space as it is quite flat.
The knife is held together by a #8 torx pivot screw, and 3 #6’s on the dorsal margin of the handle.
The fit and finish are really nice, the blade alignment was good and there was no noticeable wobble. It qualifies as a gentleman’s folder, in my opinion. I love my MiniGrip for instance, but it would look silly in a pair of nicer pants, not to mention it has a tendency to scuff up even tough fabric. This knife would fit comfortably in the inside breast pocket of a suit, especially if you removed clip. You would certainly draw looks were you to slip it out in a board-room, but it wouldn’t be like a fart in church.
I carried this knife pretty much every day for the last month. It has broken down countless boxes (remember we have been cleaning out a house). It has been great as an EDC knife, excelling at pretty much every typical task that I face. Its needle-point is extremely good at detailed cutting. I did tweak the tip once when it was dropped and stuck in the floor, but careful plier work fixed it right up. It stayed straight throughout the remainder of testing – even the batoning.
I have been carrying and using this knife for a month. The edge did not really need to be sharpened, but I touched it up with the Sharpmaker for test standardization more than anything. Newsprint parted like ribbons, and I was even more impressed with the cardboard test.
While I did notice that I needed to up my effort at about the 65′ mark, there was little if any tearing. I kept going until 125′, at which point my hand gave out before the edge. It was still making clean cuts in the cardboard. The edge could still slice newsprint, though it took care to not rip the paper. A couple of more swipes on the Sharpmaker’s ceramic rods, and the knife was ready to enter action again.
Batoning and Fire Prep:
On one hand, you could say I went a bit overboard in this test. I have such a bushcraft bias due to my vocation, that I pushed the knife a bit beyond its capabilities. I understand that the Leek is not a bushcraft or survival style knife, but I believe an EDC ought to be able to help me make a fire in an emergency.
I spent only about 5 minutes splitting first walnut, and then maple. While noticeably more difficult than the walnut, the maple still parted fairly easily. I decided to try some baton chopping.
I do this with fixed blades all the time. You lay the knife on the wood at an angle approximating an axe chop, and then baton the blade. Changing the position of the blade and repeating allows you to gradually hack your way through.
In an effort to not beat the crap out of the tip and bend t again, I let my baton blows wander towards the midline of the knife. I am certain that several blows landed above the pivot. I spent about 10 minutes on one side, before flipping the slat over to work on the other. In less than 5 minutes the wood was cleanly parted.
It wasn’t until I had finished that I discovered that the knife did not make it through unscathed. There was some pretty serious blade wobble. and the knife did not unlock properly. I took the knife apart, cleaned and lubed it, and reassembled. it still didn’t work perfectly. I noticed that I had buckled the cut-out portion of the scale where the frame lock bends in. I took the knife apart again and straightened the buckled portion.
The knife opens now and seems to be functioning mostly ok, but it is not perfect. There is much less wobble than before, but I no longer trust the lock. If I take the spine of the knife and whack it hard on the counter, the blade unlocks. I don’t feel comfortable carrying the knife at the moment, and my upcoming experience with Kershaw Warranty Department will be the subject of a future post.
I would call this test a “successful failure”. The knife succeeded in completing the assigned task, but it paid the price. Had this been an actual emergency, I would be happy with the performance. The knife did not fail. It simply suffered enough damage that it needs to be removed from the EDC rotation. In fact, the blade itself remained amazingly sharp.
I didn’t do as much food prep with this blade as I sometimes do. I mostly used it for those quick tasks where it was easier to grab the Leek from my pocket than to go across the kitchen and grab a knife from the block. In these simple tasks, like slicing an apple for Thing 2, the Leek performed flawlessly. Because of the transient nature of these activities, I don’t have much documentation on this.
I mentioned that the knife still sliced newsprint after batoning. That was just the beginning. Without sharpening the knife, or even touching up the blade, I wanted to demonstrate how sharp this knife still is.
Even post-batoning, he Leek’s D2 blade still cut steak like a laser. But that is not impressive as the results I got with a cherry tomato. I cut some of the thinnest slices of tomato that I ever have. Even cleaner than I can with a decent paring knife in a middling sharpened-state. Not to mention that it peeled translucent pieces of skin as well.
If I haven’t been able to impress upon you just how well the D2 steel holds its edge, please suggest the test that I missed. If that tomato didn’t do it for you, the ball is in your court.
Ratings (out of five stars)
Styling ***** (I’d give it a 6th if I could)
I love the look of this knife. As I said in an earlier post, it is like a gentleman’s folder that has already been your companion for a world of adventures. The scalloped boundary between the Sandvik and the D2 is distinctive and quite attractive IMHO. The wharncliffe blade looks like it is extremely sharp, and the knife doesn’t disappoint.
The composite blade hits a home run in terms of both form and function. It is beautiful, it is insanely sharp, and it is the most durable edge I have ever tested. Even after 20 minutes of abuse that far exceeded anything the knife was designed to take, the blade still sliced newsprint, steak, and even peeled tomatoes.
Not bad. It feels balanced in the hand, deploys easily, unlocks fairly-well, and is easy to fold (against the spring) with a little practice.
The comfortable shape and strategic jimping made up for the smoothness of the scales.
I carried this knife for a month, and never needed to even touch up the blade prior to the cardboard test. I am extremely impressed with D2 steel’s ability to hold an edge through punishing abuse.
The mechanism did break down. But that was after being subjected to abuse beyond design, and even then the knife did not fail. It did sustain damage beyond the point where I would want to carry it again without service. But if I were to be faced with a survival situation where the Leek was the only tool I had for fire prep or shelter construction, it is a tool I could make work for the task.
So a 70% grade for durability is awfully good for any folder by my standards. I don’t know of many that would crack 80%. A Will Woods Titan II perhaps. I would not subject a Mini Griptilian to that unless it was given to me for the purpose of destroying it or I was depending on it to survive. Definitely not a Native. While either of those will handle light batoning, enough to prepare some kindling, I think that they would struggle at shelter prep.
Overall Rating: ****
The Kershaw Leek is a really nice knife and my new primary EDC (contingent on a favorable experience with Kershaw Customer Service – stay tuned). It is a fun knife to deploy, and the edge is both incredibly sharp and durable. It combines this with above average overall construction and aesthetic touches that are far beyond your typical everyday folder.