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Hands-on Gear Review

Kershaw Leek Review


Pocket Knife

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Best Buy Award
Price:   Varies from $41 - $75 online  —  Compare at 4 sellers
Pros:  Constructed like a work of art. Assisted opening.
Cons:  Slender and sharp edged handle doesn’t allow significant and extended application of pressure to blade.
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Kershaw

Overview

In our extensive testing of a select grouping 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 and knives ready for more aggressive usage, but none struck the value balance as well as the Leek. We granted the Leek our Best Buy award in consideration for its usefulness, durability and reasonable price. Testers liked the blade almost as much as the twice-as-expensive Benchmade Mini-Barrage 585 and found the Leek's overall shape to disappear in a pocket just as smoothly as the much smaller and lighter Gerber STL 2.0 Fine Edge. Aesthetically, the Leek was probably the most inspiring knife in our test. All who viewed it exclaimed at the smooth lines and form-meets-function brilliance.

RELATED: Our complete review of pocket knives

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Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings

Review by:
Jediah Porter
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Tuesday
September 20, 2016
The Kershaw Leek is a well-crafted, elegant knife. The slender blade is made with excellent steel and careful attention to detail. The assisted-opening feature can be deployed with either thumb or index finger.

Performance Comparison


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The same narrow profile blade that can roll under pressure serves to pull stitches in an improvised sewing repair.

Blade and Edge Integrity


Like the Benchmade Griptilian 551, the blade of the Kershaw Leek bears the brand of its designer. Well-respected pocket knife guru Ken Onion (Hence the Leek moniker… many Kershaw models have onion-themed names) signs off on the overall blade design. Evaluating knife blades is a difficult task, especially when trying to apply objective terminology. Sharpness alone is difficult to assess in quantifiable terms. Adding in consideration for the edge's wear resistance and ability to withstand traumatic deflection and degradation makes objective and comparative assessment virtually impossible. Thankfully, though, quality blades simply feel good when cutting. Even sharpening a quality blade is a pleasant experience. The most casual user will notice the intelligence and integrity behind the Leek blade. It is a sophisticated tool and the user's experience reflects that. Now, the Leek blade isn't perfect. Generally, the edge withstood a great deal of routine use. However, at some point in the 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 sharp an angle. However, the aforementioned dulling event took place with the edge still in factory-delivered condition. Effective blade maintenance, in this case honing with a standard kitchen steel, brought the knife back into visual and functional shape.
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Close examination reveals the section of "rolled" edge, near the tip. Blades inherently must strike a balance between thin and cutting easily, and thicker and more durable. The Leek uses high-end steel and a thin profile, but sometimes the edge will roll

Ergonomics


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Action series documenting the assisted opening function of the Leek. The blade of the Leek can be deployed as shown here: the user uses his or her index finger to get the blade started. The user only needs to get it moving, then quickly, as shown here, the blade opens the rest of the way with assistance from an inner spring mechanism.
The Kershaw Leek is thin and small. It is about the same length as Editors' Choice Benchmade Mini Barrage 585 and similar in thickness to Top Pick Victorinox Classic SD Swiss Army Knife. The length, as testified to in our Editors' Choice review, is just right for everyday carry. We awarded the Top Pick award to the Classic Swiss Army Knife because of its ability to virtually disappear on a set of keys. As an everyday carry pocket knife, the thickness of the Leek is a little too slim. Extended usage and heavy cutting tires 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. Additionally, the assisted opening spring can be engaged with a not-so-standard index finger flick. Brilliant. The blade locks open with a simple and effective 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, the pocket clip can be switched for either tip up or tip down carry. If the user carries the knife clipped to his or her right front pants pocket, this means that the knife can be arranged to pull out and deploy in a seamless motion, just like the Editors' Choice winner and the Benchmade Griptilian 551.
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The blade-closed lock of the Kershaw Leek. This simple plastic tab holds the blade closed until the user slides it out of the way.

Construction Quality


At no point in our routine usage 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.
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The blade-closed lock of the Kershaw Leek. This simple plastic tab holds the blade closed until the user slides it out of the way.

Portability


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 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 frame of the knife can be threaded with a lanyard for other carrying options. We were very pleased with the portability of the Kershaw Leek.

Other Features


None to note.

Best Application


The Leek is best put to use in everyday carry for the discerning user. Even if one pulls out the Kershaw Leek in more cosmopolitan company, the polished steel look won't turn anyone off.

Value


The Leek is not inexpensive. In fact, it fits almost exactly in the middle of our price range. However, given the plethora of usability upgrades (locking open and closed, assisted opening, reconfigurable pocket clip) and impeccable construction, this is a knife that will last and last while encouraging more-than-daily use. Considering the balance of cost, durability, and usability, the Leek has earned our Best Buy award. You can certainly 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 boutique knives, with budget "gas station" products in an entirely different realm. As 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.

Conclusion


The Kershaw Leek is a finely crafted interpretation of a common tool. It strikes a balance of form and function usually reserved for equipment far, far more expensive. The fact that it comes with a signature blade design and very durable construction merely sweetens the deal. Our testers have become firm converts to assisted opening style knives, in part due to the Leek's elegant variation on this theme.
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2016 OutdoorGearLab pocket knife award winners. From left to right: Benchmade Mini Barrage, SOG Trident, Kershaw Leek, and Victorinox Classic.

Other Versions and Accessories


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Shuffle Knife
  • Stubby blade style provides extra secure in hand feel
  • Flathead screwdriver at butt of knife
  • Secure K-Grip pattern
  • $25 - An excellent price

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Scrambler Knife
  • An improvement on the classic pocket knife shape
  • Coated blade for additional durability
  • Frame lock style opening mechanism
  • $60

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Leek with Serrated Edge
  • Same great multifunctional design as the Leek
  • Additional serrations at base of knife for enhanced cutting of rough material
  • Also available in several anodized colors
  • $80
Jediah Porter

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: September 20, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:     (0.0)
Rating Distribution
1 Total Ratings
5 star: 100%  (1)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)


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