Way back when I first picked up the Kershaw Link, I had it placed in my Amazon cart as an afterthought, and a part of a (much) larger order of folding knives and other gear. While the price makes the Link the kind of knife you can just throw into a cart for the next time you check out, I find it interesting that after several months of ownership, it feels like the Link has become the reason to finally hit “buy” on that large order.
You’d think the pricier gear would stand out as what I purchased that day, but I honestly can’t even remember what other knives came in the box shipped with the Link. It’s shocking how the real winners (for me at least!) are often the slabs of steel that cruise under the radar with no hype or widespread recognition on the net. Well folks, we’ve got ourselves a real winner here, certainly, as this knife has quickly made it’s place to one of my top spots as a favourite knife to EDC over the past few months, and I hope this little review finally does it some justice – as something needs to give to rectify the situation.
The Link should 100% be a bestseller. And out of all the 2015 knives, I think it’s the folder that surprised me the most.
When discussing the Kershaw Link, I will be talking, in particular, about the version that I have – the one with the aluminium handles. The Link also comes in a cheaper (in all senses of the word) glass-filled nylon alternative, but for 10 bucks more, I would seriously recommend going with the one I have.
For the sake of being thorough, I should mention that the cheaper/plastic version of the Kershaw Link does have a number of differences with my own version. First off, the handles are obviously lighter due to them being made of plastic – and it definitely feels like plastic in a hollow, unsatisfying sense of a way, but the contouring is more generous so for some, the ergonomics may feel better on the cheaper model. In my opinion, the ergonomics are fantastic either way, and the benefits of a blackwash finish and superior feeling handles make up for the lack of texturing on the aluminium scales and the more blocky design of the gray aluminum blackwash Link.
Your mileage may vary based on your own priorities and likes, but frankly the difference in price is a mere 10 bucks, as I have already mentioned, and you definitely get more than 10 dollars worth of improvements, at least in terms of feel.
In-hand, the Kershaw Link reminds me a lot of the Cryo II in terms of general size (albeit not weight). It’s definitely a decent sized EDC and not a little big knife. 4.4 inches (11.18 cm) closed is a good compromise as far as I am concerned between having a pocket anchor and a blade that’s too diminutive to perform the tasks you may need.
Kershaw opted for 420HC as the blade steel. In my youth I may have balked over what is widely perceived as an older/less than optimal cutlery steel, but after owning hundreds of knives with varying steels, I find myself wholly unconcerned. The blade is flawlessly ground to a superb (lean) edge, and I don’t find myself needing to re-sharpen the Link more than any other mainstream steel.
Blade geometry, heat treat, and ergonomics are the defining characteristics of a good blade – not which alphabet steel was used.
Stylistically, the Kershaw Link’s lines are industrial and frankly gorgeous. Rarely has a knife ticked as many boxes in the aesthetic department for me as this one. A stunner for sure.
Eyeballing the width (since I lent my calipers to a forgetful friend), the blade looks to be around 2 mm thick, which is perfect for a 3.25 inch long blade. The Link features an interesting swedge in that modified leaf blade, which gives it a similar tip to the Cold Steel Talwar that I recently reviewed. It’s aesthetically very pleasing, and the tip, whilst not a needle, is definitely very pointy in all the right ways.
The lock is a well implemented liner lock. Unfortunately, the liner is not nested, which throws the balance off somewhat (nothing too extreme though). Engagement is super solid and access to the liner when disengaging is natural due to the liner sticking out a touch from the scales. A nice design thought that works well in practice.
As I mentioned before, the blade is ground super nicely to a very, very lean edge. One advantage to having a leaf-like blade with a lot of belly is that the spine-to-edge transition can be extremely gradual to a very acute thickness. One of the thinnest (behind the edge) knives that I own; makes it a high performance slicer. I just pulled out an Opinel for this review, and I’ve gotta say – the Link is not much (if at all) thicker than an Opinel No. 8 behind the edge. Colour me impressed, Kershaw.
Fit and finish is generally of a very high standard. The Link is made in the U.S.A. (a remarkable feat taking into account its price point), in Kershaw’s own Tualatin, Oregon factory. Centering is dead on centered, and the finish on the anodized aluminium scales is pretty perfect. Needless to say Kershaw’s blackwash finish will hide most machining marks off the blade, but overall I think the quality exceeds the price point. Especially taking into account country of origin.
Superb grinds on that blade, and the blackwash finish is fantastic. I love that Kershaw is bringing it to so many of their knives at all different price points.
Deployment is flipper only. Kershaw threw in their speedsafe assisted mechanism, and whilst (as you know) I have had my reservations over assisted knives in the past, I will say that the speedsafe system has always performed consistently with no hiccups or issues. One major advantage is that full deployment (blade mating with the lock) is almost guaranteed regardless of the situation when deploying the knife.
Under high stress, a manual flipper may not engage 100% due to human error from gross motor skills being impaired. And so, in a tactical knife, I think a consistent deployment system like a speedsafe assisted flipper is only a boon. Not that the Kersha Link is a tactical knife, per say; though you could retrofit it to be one, no problem.
According to the forums, the Link can be de-assisted should you wish. I haven’t done it to mine as I rather like it as is, but it is an option should you ever want.
As previously mentioned, balance is not quite perfect due to the scales being a touch too heavy compared to the blade. If the liners were nested or heavily skeletonized, this wouldn’t be an issue, but then again, extra machining steps means higher costs being passed on to the consumer – not sure when the trade off is worth it from a mainstream perspective, but for me, I personally would have preferred a perfectly balanced knife.
The weight on the aluminium model is 4.8 ounces, and on the glass filled nylon option it’s 4 ounces. It’s quite possible that the plastic handle version has perfect balance (I don’t remember), but to me the unsatisfying hollow plasticky feel is not worth the trade off. Something to think about, though.
The pocket clip of the Kershaw Link is reversible tip up only. Functionally, very nice with the pressure against the scales being strong, but due to the lack of texturing, very smooth to withdraw.
I love it. I do wish it came with a deep-carry option, however, as I usually prefer to be on the discreet side. That said, the anodized scales + blacked out clip does make it more incognito than the photographs would suggest.
Do note that awesome oversized lanyard hole.
By virtue of a flipper tab, should the liner lock fail, your digits may possibly be safe. I keep mentioning this in reviews, but frankly, I have never had a lock on a knife from a reputable manufacturer fail on me. Ever.
Ergonomics are superb in a traditional saber grip. The spine of the scales feature a very long back spacer (scroll up for pictures), and whilst its drenched in jimping, I find the grip to be almost pistol-like in nature with no real need for additional abrasive texture. In-hand I don’t feel the knife is going anywhere, even though the scales are very smooth.
You can’t choke up more than what you can see below, as the ricasso of the blade features a very sharp transition. The heel of the edge will bite and bite deep, so be warned; safety first and all that.
The spine of the blade has a very nice swedge, but it’s not anemic by any stretch of the imagination, and I didn’t find it uncomfortable when resting my thumb on it.
It tapers to 1 mm, so your mileage may vary. I would stick to a traditional saber grip, personally, as it’s obviously designed with that application in mind.
Reverse grip is almost natural, and I love it. I always prefer reverse grip when doing MBC drills, and the Link is a great choice. A lot of blade for its size as you can see below!
Pinch grip is surprisingly viable (for a flipper) and a decent option should you want to go foraging for mushrooms or shrubs in the woods. Obviously not designed as such, but the wide belly of the blade provides plenty of space to rest your thumb, and I didn’t find the flipper to adversely get in the way.
Some people wonder why I demonstrate the pinch grip, and it’s simply due to its advantages when slicing shrubs low to the ground, lots of precision with no risk of stabbing into dirt that may contain rocks and thus damage your edge – definitely a more bushcrafty option, but where I live, it’s risky to walk around with a fixed blade strapped to your waist – regardless of how good your intentions are.
The Kershaw Link doesn’t seem to have any aesthetic compromises. Nothing seems cheap on it, and yet the knife is very inexpensive (remember, U.S.-made). Frankly, I wouldn’t know the price of that blade if I hadn’t paid for it. It’s amazing how far technology has come for us knife fiends to be able to get something like this for under 50 dollars.
Some of the sexiest swoops and swedges out of all the knives that I have ever owned.
For 45 bucks you get a bonafide American-made slicer with great tolerances and a blade that oozes style. I can’t think of a better knife like the Kershaw Link at the sub $50 price point without going overseas, and frankly, I love that more is being made back home in North America without the sticker price or the quality suffering.
Keep it going, Kershaw.