In our extensive testing of a select group of the world's best pocket knives, we found the Kershaw Leek to represent the cream of the crop at a reasonable price. Our test included less expensive knives, knives ready for more aggressive usage, and knives designed specifically for backpacking or climbing, but none struck the value balance as well as the Leek. We granted the Leek an award in consideration for its usefulness, durability, and reasonable price.Editor's Note: We updated this review for Kershaw Leek on August 25, 2022, with more information from our in-depth testing, an unbiased take on value, and a section highlighting other directly comparable products.
Kershaw Leek Review
Cons: Slender handle makes it hard to apply even pressure, thin blade is fragile
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Leek is a well-crafted, elegant knife. The blade of the Leek bears the brand of its designer. Well-respected pocket knife guru Ken Onion signs off on the overall blade design (hence the "Leek" moniker; many Kershaw models have onion-themed names.) The slender blade is made with excellent steel and careful attention to detail. You can deploy the assisted-opening feature with either your thumb or index finger. This versatility and ease of deployment alone stand out at any price. We tested the Leek many years back and then revisited it more recently. (We are thorough in our testing.) What we found years ago holds up now, even after testing a couple dozen more knives in the meantime. The Leek is great, in a seemingly timeless fashion.
Blade and Edge Integrity
Evaluating knife blades is a difficult task, especially when trying to apply objective terminology. Sharpness alone is difficult to assess in quantifiable terms. Considering the edge's wear resistance and ability to withstand traumatic deflection and degradation makes objective and comparative assessment virtually impossible. Thankfully, though, quality blades feel good when cutting. Even sharpening a quality blade is a pleasant experience. The most casual user will notice the intelligence and integrity of the Leek blade. It is a sophisticated tool, and the user's experience reflects that.
Now, the Leek blade isn't perfect. The edge withstood a great deal of routine use. However, at some point early in the first portion of a two-part testing process, a portion of the Leek blade "rolled" over. The thin leading edge of the blade bent over at a virtually microscopic level. The tester only noticed this well after the damaging event. The tester cannot put his finger on any single traumatic event, nor does he recall any specific heavy-duty cutting task. Generally speaking, this sort of edge wear is a function of a blade that has been ground to too acute of an angle. The aforementioned dulling event took place with the edge still in factory-delivered condition. Effective blade maintenance, in this case honing with standard kitchen steel, brought the knife back into visual and functional shape.
Our award-winning knives tend to have thicker blades. For "everyday carry" and usage, thicker blades seem more appropriate. For camping and kitchen use, the thin blade of the Leek is great. Elsewhere around the house and on your adventures, be mindful of the delicate nature of that fine edge. If you know you'll tackle heavier tasks (home improvement, auto repair, maintenance, woodworking, etc.), a sturdier blade is likely a better choice.
The Leek is thin and small. It is about the same length as both our Editors' Choice winners. The length is just right for everyday carry. A deeper and thicker blade might feel better in some circumstances, but this fine edge and slender blade are great for foods and textiles.
As an everyday carry pocket knife, the thickness of the Leek handle is slightly too slim. Extended usage and heavy cutting tire the hand with a knife of these dimensions. The blade can be opened much like the other knives in the test, with a thumb stud for either hand. The assisted opening spring can also be engaged with a not-so-standard index finger flick. Brilliant. The blade locks open with a simple and efficient liner lock.
Even more elegant is the mechanism that locks the blade closed. A simple slider blocks the tip of the blade in the handle. If one doesn't require the blade to lock closed, the slider can be left disengaged or removed entirely. Finally, you can switch the pocket clip for tip-up or tip-down carry. If the user carries the knife clipped to their right front pants pocket, the knife can be arranged to pull out and deploy in a seamless motion.
Portability and ergonomics are generally at odds. Sound ergonomic design, especially when the knife is used for extended periods or heavy cutting, requires a handle with a rounded profile in a radius large enough to fill a loosely clenched fist. On the other hand, carrying a knife in one's pocket is more comfortable when the knife is thin and flattened.
The Leek puts a mid-length blade in a thin handle. It virtually disappears in one's pocket. The pocket clip keeps it up out of the mess of change and keys. The knife's frame can be threaded with a lanyard for other carrying options. We were very pleased with the portability of the Leek.
Only the tiniest knives in our test are more portable than the Leek. For backpacking use, you might find something lighter and/or smaller to be better. Otherwise, given what day-to-day use usually entails, the Leek is optimally sized to balance function and portability.
At no point in either session of our routine usage, aside from the blade "edge rolling" mentioned above, did the Leek show even the slightest weakness in construction. We carried, cut with, and dropped the Leek all over the Mountain West. The assembly, weight, and materials inspired confidence and never let us down.
Since we pore over a vast market and select only the best knives available, we tend to get a review subset that is exceptionally well made. There are simply no highly regarded knives on the market that aren't well constructed. We had no significant problems with the construction quality of any of the knives we tested. That being said, some companies achieve robust construction with the sheer mass of materials, while others do so in a more sophisticated fashion. The Leek is in this latter category. It is thin, light, and smooth while holding up very well to all but the most rigorous use.
The Leek is a simple pocket knife with no extra features.
Should You Buy the Kershaw Leek?
The Kershaw Leek is a finely crafted interpretation of a common tool. It strikes a balance of form and function usually reserved for far more expensive equipment. You can undoubtedly find budget knives for tiny fractions of the cost of the Leek. However, none will come even close to the function and quality of the Leek. It is best to think of the Leek in the category of boutique knives, with budget "gas station" products in an entirely different realm. Compared to the boutique knives, the Leek is on par with the quality at half the price. As compared to budget knives, the quality difference is such that they may as well be different products entirely. Considering the balance of cost, durability, and usability, the Leek has earned one of our value award badges.
What Other Pocket Knives Should You Consider?
Although this blade earns our award for value, the Kershaw Leek is not inexpensive – it fits almost exactly at the median of our price range. As an everyday wearable knife, you may be better suited to a more price-point option like the CRKT Drifter. On the other hand, if you'd rather invest in a blade guaranteed to stand up to the test of time, you may find more value in spending the extra money on a model like the Benchmade Mini-Barrage 585.
— Jediah Porter
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