A Better Shop Knife

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I lost my shop knife while we were unpacking at Handworks this spring, and I have been on a quest since then to find its replacement. (The company that made my now-lost knife no longer exists.)

I am dang picky about knives. I’ve carried one every day since elementary school. So it is no small thing when I say this: I am glad I lost my favorite knife at Handworks because now I have a Kershaw Link drop-point knife in gray aluminum blackwash.

Here’s what I need in a knife:

  • One-handed operation – I need to be able to quickly close and open the knife with zero fuss.
  • The blade has to lock in the open position for safety.
  • It has to be lightweight and compact.
  • It has to have a belt clip.
  • All the components need to be incredibly rugged. I hate flimsy knives.
  • Oh, I also dislike flashy materials or things that look like a Klingon’s wet dream.

That is a tall order, and I rejected a lot of knives until I found the Kershaw Link. What makes the knife even more extraordinary is it is made in the U.S. and can be found for about $40 retail. (I bought mine on sale for $31.)

The blade is stainless steel, but it takes a good edge and is plenty durable when cutting wood, wire and whatever shop material is asking for a stabbing or a slashing. Totally recommended.

— Christopher Schwarz, editor, Lost Art Press
Personal site: christophermschwarz.com

P.S. This is not a sponsored post. We don’t believe in that crap and buy all our products at  retail.

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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52 Responses to A Better Shop Knife

  1. Kansas John says:

    I’ve carried the Milwaukee folding knife for about three years now. Its extremely tough and well built with a very thick blade. At around $10.00 its tough to beat.

  2. tombuhl says:

    I am not a fan of belt clips, though I probably spend more time scanning horizontal surfaces in my shop looking for tools if I were more open them.

  3. Will Truax says:

    I have like requisites in my list in what makes a knife the right pick, though I also want something less than lumpy in the pocket – How thick is that handle?

    • Lee Pickart says:

      “I that your pocket knife, or are you happy to see me”

    • Jim O. says:

      Kershaw has many knives that are pretty low profile. You really can’t go wrong with any of the Onion series like the Leek, Scallion, or Shallot. I have the Shallot and I rarely feel it in my pocket but it’s still a great size knife. I love the shape too. I really like the shape of the Leek as well. The Link as reviewed above look pretty good as far as bull goes but it look a little thicker. Its hard to tell without holding them side by side.

  4. Kershaw makes damned fine knives.

    For some reason, my older brother’s brother-in-law gave him a dive knife many, many years ago. When I started SCUBA diving, I found my own Kershaw dive knife. It was awesome.

    Several years later, my dad was at an MFA and saw a bunch of pocket knives for sale on the counter by the register. Most of them were Old Timers (meh…), but three of them were Kershaw two-blade knives marked $10/ea.

    He remembered our dive knives were Kershaw and good knives, so bought all three (apparently they didn’t sell well at the MFA, which is why they were marked so low?) and gave me one.

    Both blades are still razor sharp after several years of use.

  5. My tool knife (as a carpenter the 1980/90s) was a Stanley 209 fixed blade knife. I just found reaching for bandages not worth the effort to use a folder. Having tried a Leathermen Wave which I gave to my son and numerous other folders, the only knife I carry regularly is the one on my Leathermen Micra (somewhere between 1 1/4″ and 1 1/2″).

  6. tesla77 says:

    I’d be interested in a freehand sharpening video for pocket knives using oil stones, or water stones. Or perhaps you can suggest a proper video on the interwebs?

  7. I carried a slightly higher end Kershaw daily for years but I’ve totally fallen in love with the Benchmade Griptilian since. Id defy anyone to pick one up and not be impressed by their “Axis” mechanism…it opens like butter out of the box, and it doesn’t just turn to slop after a couple months like most knives ( after reading about the quest for an ever-snug divider with Crucible I know the LAP folks would appreciate that bit ). The first time I handed the knife to my wife to open a box she even commented on how “fancy” it felt, and the satisfying click of the locking mechanism. You’ll pay 2 or 3 times as much but it’s definitely an object that oozes a quality. Great weight and balance, looks even less like alien technology than the kershaw, compact but big enough to get a good hold and hack into something hefty if you need to, super grippy, takes a wicked edge, multiple blade options, made in the USA, and stamped with a lifetime warranty.

  8. Mitch Wilson says:

    Would you believe maybe $70 retail?

  9. Jim O. says:

    I love my Kershaw Shallot. I also love that the company warrants their knife for life and will sharpen them for free as long as you ship it to them. If you ever need a replacement part just tell them and they send it for free and sometimes throw in a spare just in case. When I was looking for a knife I too wanted a great quality knife without all the extra crap like a safety, tactical grip, flash light, or built in water fountain. I just wanted a good reliable knife that would hold an edge. I made a great choice. I love the Onion series of knives.

  10. Nathan Roper says:

    Is it possible to sharpen a knife like that without messing up the black coating adjacent to the edge? I’ve got a bunch of knives but until recently haven’t ever had stones (I’ve got shaptons now) and had always wondered how that would be done.

    First time commenter but love the blog and appreciate the work you and the team put into it. Thanks.

  11. Neal M says:

    Most Kershaw folders are very nice knives but I am taken by the Griptilian as well — silly things began to “trend” a couple of years ago and are a bit pricey right now but still nice knives. I have a very old Case “Stockmen” with the a far thinner spear point blade than it had fifty years of sharpening ago that lives in my pocket, but like Mr. Schwartz I need a one-handed knife for use when in the shop or up a ladder.

  12. bloksav says:

    Count yourself lucky that you don’t live in Denmark.
    Knives that can be opened with one hand are illegal.
    Pocket knives that can have the blade locked in open position are also illegal.
    Pocket knives longer than 7 cm blade (2.75″) are illegal.
    Carrying any of those if you are stopped by the police will send you straight to jail for 14 days.
    This was part of a non tolerance against knife inflicted violence that one of our useless governments pressed through a couple of years ago.
    The funny thing is that the criminals don’t seem to care..
    But for ordinary people it has caused a lot of grief.

    That aside, your knife looks really fine.
    Brgds
    Jonas

  13. Nice ride. I’ve got a Gerber I’ve never fully reckoned with.

  14. sugardoc says:

    Keyshaw is a great value. CRKT also has many knives meeting your criteria and can be found for similar prices.

  15. rons54 says:

    Nice knife, especially the practical blade design; nice sweep but a usable point.

    Not like a woodworker would ever need to pick a splinter or anything.

  16. Your punch list is pretty much the same as mine. I carry a Buck 345 every day. Very similar to the Kershaw without the black blade. Same one handed open and close. Same slim profile that you don’t even know is in your pocket. Same belt clip and also made in USA and inexpensive. I’m just not crazy about the black blades. I’m just too old fashioned I guess.

  17. beshriver says:

    i always have a leatherman on me…usually a wave…a skeletool when i’m feeling sleek and sexy. And my go to folder is a kabar dozer.

  18. colfaxmingo says:

    SOG Twitch fits that list pretty well. Can be had for about $40, made in USA, belt clip, one handed opening. Doesn’t look something a mall ninja would want.

  19. jayedcoins says:

    I have a chive and would highly second a recommendation on any Kershaw products. That said, I stopped daily carrying mine simply due to lack of need (writing software is my day job). In the shop, I have a decent sloyd type of knife that is vastly superior for any trimming work, and I love the LV marking knife for layout.

  20. Aaron Linn says:

    Carry a Kershaw Cyro everyday in my back pocket everyday. I bury them in planters when I have to go in federal buildings. I am an outlaw, it is illegal in NYC. It comes in handy on all types of situations. I work in construction and on suspended scaffold, so easy open is a great benefit and have used it to remove duct tape off of my safety line so my rope grabber can move up 40 stories in the air. Glad to know they have a knife made in the USA.

  21. Dumont69 says:

    The Kershaw Cryo was my EDC for a very long time. Then I switched to a Boker Plus by Chad Los Banos, I carried that until I wore it out. Super slim thickness but a deep blade profile. Very tough. Recently just for fun I’m trying a Opinel #6 full carbon. It doesn’t meet most of your needs (not usre mine either, I beat my knives pretty hard, time will tell.) but it’s kind of neat to have a full carbon blade that sharpens to a razor in 5 seconds and only cost $10. Practically disposable.

  22. John Sanford says:

    I’m going to add another vote for the Benchmade Griptilian, and it’s little brother, the Mini-Griptilian. I alternate between three different knives for pocket carry. A Griptilian, a Mini-Griptilian, and a Spyderco Delica. Love all three, but if I could only have one it would be one of the Benchmades. The Axis lock is out.frickin.standing. Those folks who prefer minimalist pocket impact will likely prefer the Spyderco. Spyderco’s thumbhole just, for me at least, totally blows thumbstuds and skinny thumbholes away for opening.

    • John Sanford says:

      oh, and all three of the above are American made. If one wants a much less expensive option, and very light, the Buck Bantam line is great, also made in USA. Not, as a practical matter, one handed opening, nor do they have pocket clips, but nice sharps.

  23. Robert Hicks says:

    What about Swann Morton scalpels? I use a retractable version. Cheap. Easy to replace the blade. And very, very sharp.

  24. Brian says:

    I’ve been carrying a Leatherman skeletool for about a year now. It’s small enough to go in the pocket. Has a screw driver and a needle nose pliers. It has a good belt clip but I took it off. I’ve never gotten along with a belt clip. The blade holds an edge well and I use it daily. It’s worth looking at if that Kershaw ever gets misplaced.

  25. Matthew Hutchinson says:

    Given your penchant for the finest of tools, have you looked at Benchmade? Why not spring the money for something nicer than a $40 Kershaw?
    They may not be much more functional but I’d venture to say something like a Benchmade is a notch above in terms of aesthetics and design.

  26. I’ve managed to lose every knife I’ve had that had a belt clip, but still have the F&F pocket knife without a clip going on 2 years now.

  27. Matt Colby says:

    The web site is selling them for 69.95.

  28. rwyoung says:

    How’s the grip in a wet (too early for you to evaluate a cold) hand?

    • It’s mostly smooth, so I would guess “marginal.”

      • rwyoung says:

        Looking at options, there is a “glass fiber filled” handle version with texture. Cheap at about $30, right around the “just give it a try and re-gift to some sucker later” price point. More interested in use with wet and/or gloved hands. Lanyard loop point is a plus.

        • rwyoung says:

          Took delivery of the glass fiber filled handle version $30. It does have a helpful grip texture. It seems decent with a wet hand (warm, yet to test cold) and was reasonably easy to use with a thickly gloved hand. Closing with a gloved hand was the only difficulty but it can be done without slicing the glove open. The belt clip can be removed and one can rely on a lanyard loop in cold and wet conditions. Nice thick blade too.

  29. Erik Pearson says:

    Be warned, Kershaw blades are wicked sharp. I have a Kershaw Blur ($80 at Bass Pro) and nearly amputated the first joint on my right index finger when the knife slipped out of my left hand while cutting zip ties. Thankfully a good surgeon restored all mobility and most nerve sensation. Good call on the coated blade.

  30. Stefan Rusek says:

    I have been carrying a CRKT GSD for a bit over a year now, and it is great. It is similarly priced and looks to be VERY similar to the link. The one thing that I notice immediately about the link is that the bit runs all the way to the end, while the GSD stops about 1/8 of an inch before the end. this results in about a 1/2 inch of area where there is not cutting edge, and the last inch or so is a pain to sharpen. I’ve often thought of taking it to the grinder and fixing the problem, but the link looks like it doesn’t have that problem.

  31. i don’t, generally , carry a knife. so when i do, i like that it’s small. this has been a good value.

    http://www.duluthtrading.com/store/product/little-stubby-pocketknife-23287.aspx

  32. Alex A. says:

    Just got mine and so far I like it. My only complaint is the locking spring assists opening the knife but that makes closing it one handed a bit harder than I would like.

    Thanks for the recommendation, it came just as I decided I needed a new pocket knife.

  33. Wow all this talk about knife brands and the pros and cons of this knife or that knife, but I think what’s missing here is some good stabbing stories! I’ll start off: I couldn’t believe this happened to me, but onc time I stabbed my best friend in the knee cap with a Damascus knife. The end.

  34. Steve Sheldon says:

    I have a Gerber Ultralight. It’s a tiny little knife, maybe 2″ inches long. It’s tough for me to lose as I have it on my keychain. I bought my first one in 1986. Bought a second this past year. They’re good for cutting things, but not real strong for wood carving.

  35. Steve Sheldon says:

    I have a Gerber Ultralight. It’s a tiny little knife, maybe 2″ inches long. It’s tough for me to lose as I have it on my keychain. I bought my first one in 1986. Bought a second this past year. They’re good for cutting things, but not real strong for wood carving.

  36. Nate Thomas says:

    Mine just came in the mail today, damn nice knife. For all the people where they’re illegal; yes it is a nice day in Texas, thank you for asking.

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