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Kershaw Leek Review

A slender, svelte pocket knife with great materials and a reasonable value
Kershaw Leek
Photo: Kershaw
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $85 List | $71.45 at Amazon
Pros:  Beautifully constructed, assisted open, good value
Cons:  Slender handle makes it hard to apply even pressure, thin blade is fragile
Manufacturer:   Kershaw
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 13, 2021
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65
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 20
  • Blade and Edge Integrity - 30% 7
  • Ergonomics - 20% 6
  • Portability - 20% 8
  • Construction Quality - 20% 8
  • Other Features - 10% 0

Our Verdict

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 an award in consideration for its usefulness, durability, and reasonable price.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Kershaw Leek
This Product
Kershaw Leek
Awards Best Buy Award  Best Buy Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award 
Price $71.45 at Amazon$29.95 at Amazon$16.90 at Amazon$29.95 at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
$19.00 at Amazon
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Pros Beautifully constructed, assisted open, good valueCompact carry, familiar blade, bottle openerSharp looking and cutting, good materials, inexpensiveSerrated blade portion, carabiner carry option, lightweight, good blade steelTiny, lightweight, good sturdy blade
Cons Slender handle makes it hard to apply even pressure, thin blade is fragileSmall handle, not available with Leatherman's best blade steelLess-than-ideal pocket clip orientation, sharp stowed edges wear clothingRudimentary construction, primitive lockbackFlexible construction, tiny
Bottom Line A slender, svelte pocket knife with great materials and a reasonable valueA compact, lightweight, affordable pocket knife with a handle that is a little too small for robust tasksA budget knife that leads its price range in performance and downright impressive qualityThe best knife we have tested for rock, ice, and alpine climbingTiny knife with a simple, robust blade for backpacking, hiking, and other lightweight human-powered endeavors
Rating Categories Kershaw Leek Leatherman Skeletoo... Sanrenmu 7010 Petzl Spatha Gerber Ultralight LST
Blade And Edge Integrity (30%)
7.0
6.0
6.0
6.0
4.0
Ergonomics (20%)
6.0
4.0
5.0
5.0
2.0
Portability (20%)
8.0
9.0
7.0
8.0
10.0
Construction Quality (20%)
8.0
6.0
7.0
6.0
2.0
Other Features (10%)
0
1
0
0
0
Specs Kershaw Leek Leatherman Skeletoo... Sanrenmu 7010 Petzl Spatha Gerber Ultralight LST
Weight (ounces) 3.1 oz 1.3 oz 3.2 oz 1.5 oz 0.5 oz
Blade Style Drop point, straight Drop point, straight Straight Drop Point, hybrid straight/serrated Drop point, straight
Blade locks closed? Yes No No No No
Opening Style Assisted, ambidextrous thumb stud. And back-of-knife finger tab. Thumb hole Ambidextrous Thumb stud Ambidextrous thumb hole, ridged traction ring Finger pinch
Lock Mechanism Frame lock Liner lock Frame lock Lock back Lock back
Carry Style, in addition to loose in pocket Pocket Clip and lanyard hole Pocket clip and lanyard hole Pocket Clip and lanyard hole Carabiner hole Lanyard hole
Blade Material Sandvik 14C28N stainless steel 420HC stainless steel 8Cr13MoV stainless steel Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel 420HC stainless steel
Handle Material 410 stainless steel Steel Stainless Steel Nylon Plastic
Blade Length (inches) 2.9 in 2.3 in 2.7 in 2.7 in 1.6 in
Closed Length (inches) 4.0 in 3.4 in 3.7 in 4.2 in 2.6 in
Overall Length 7.0 in 5.9 in 6.5 in 7.0 in 4.5in
Thickness (w/o pocket clip) (inches) .3 in .3 in .4 in .5 in .3 in
Other Features or Functions None Bottle opener None None None

Our Analysis and Test Results

The 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. 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. 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.

Performance Comparison


The Kershaw Leek is a compact, affordable, high-end knife for many...
The Kershaw Leek is a compact, affordable, high-end knife for many different applications.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Blade and Edge Integrity


The blade of the 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 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.

Close examination reveals the section of "rolled" edge, near the...
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.
Photo: Jediah Porter

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 tender nature of that fine edge. If you know you'll tackle heavier tasks (home improvement, auto repair and maintenance, woodworking, etc) a sturdier blade is likely a better choice.

Ergonomics


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 for foods and textiles, this fine edge and slender blade are great.


As an everyday carry pocket knife, the thickness of the Leek handle is a little 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. 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 efficient liner lock.

Action series documenting the assisted opening function of the Leek...
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.
Photo: Jediah Porter

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.

The blade-closed lock of the Kershaw Leek. This simple plastic tab...
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.
Photo: Jediah Porter

The frame lock mechanism of the Kershaw Leek. Here, in the process...
The frame lock mechanism of the Kershaw Leek. Here, in the process of disengaging the lock to close the blade.
Photo: Jediah Porter

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 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 frame of the knife 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.

Construction Quality


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 US 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 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 of use.

Other Features


The Leek is a simple pocket knife with no extra features.


Value


The Leek is not inexpensive. In fact, it fits almost exactly at the median of our price range. However, given the assisted opening, a plethora of usability upgrades (locking open and closed, 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 one of our value award badges.

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. 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.

The Kershaw Leek, clipped and ready for whatever you need, provided...
The Kershaw Leek, clipped and ready for whatever you need, provided what you need does not require the most stout blade.
Photo: Jediah Porter

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.

Jediah Porter