Kershaw Model 1776 Link Knife
By Gary Zinn
Image courtesy of knivesplus.com.
Kershaw Knives recently introduced a pattern that they call the Model 1776 Link. There is nothing earthshaking about this knife at first glance. It is a medium-large folding knife with assisted opening and a blade lock. There are many similar knives on the market.
A closer look, though, suggests that the Link may occupy a unique market niche. It is made in the USA, but is marketed at a MSRP that is comparable with good quality imports of the same type. In fact, Kershaw chose the name because, they claim, this knife is, "The missing link between a quality, made-in-the-USA knife and a price most consumers can afford."
I bought one of the four sub-models of the knife, to draw my own conclusions about its merits. My knife is conventional and basic, with a drop point blade and glass-filled nylon handle.
I will begin an end-to-end tour of the Link with the blade. The knife can be had with either a drop point or tanto blade; I chose the drop point. The blade steel is 420HC. I did not find a specification of the hardness to which it is tempered. The norm is to temper 420HC to Rc 56-59 for blades, so I assume Kershaw is working in that range.
The blade has a high, shallow hollow grind, a continuously curved cutting edge and a sharp point. The blade finish is "stonewashed" (a Kershaw term), which means that it has a low reflective, almost matte finish. The factory edge was quite good, enough so that I did not feel a need to touch it up before beginning to use the knife.
Dimensionally, the stated 3.25-inch blade length is a true working length (linear measurement of sharpened edge). Maximum width of the blade is 1-1/8 inches. The blade spine is 3mm thick at the base. However, over half of the blade spine is swaged, so that it is only about 1.5mm thick at the midpoint, but then thickens again to 2mm near the tip, before tapering to the point. I see no functional reason for this unusual swaging pattern. It gives the blade an interesting visual effect, but I would not miss it if it were not there.
The next topic is how the blade is deployed and locked. The SpeedSafe system, used in Kershaw assisted opening knives, is activated by either a thumb stud or a flipper. The Link uses a flipper, an extension of the tang that protrudes slightly from the handle when the blade is folded. With the blade closed, applying rotational pressure to the flipper will snap the blade open and lock it securely.
I prefer flippers to the more common thumb studs. I cannot get the knack of manipulating a thumb stud smoothly, but I find flippers easy. That the Link uses a flipper to initiate opening the blade is a plus on my scorecard.
The blade pivot was quite stiff at first. I put a small drop of fishing reel oil on each side of the pivot pin and then cycled the blade a couple dozen times. This tuned the opening function nicely. Still, it takes significant pressure to start the blade moving, so it is unlikely that it will open accidentally. This is a good thing.
The majority of Kershaw locking knives, including the Link, use liner locks. I have had experience with three other Kershaw models and can vouch that their liner locks work quite well. The lock spring on the Link engages and releases smoothly and fits solidly against a shelf on the blade tang. There is no play whatever when the blade is deployed and the lock engaged.
The working end of the lock spring fits flush with the right side handle scale, while the front of the left side scale and liner is routed out slightly to allow access to disengage the lock. Some users might prefer a spring end that is more exposed for easier access. I like it the way it is, though, because the lock spring does not protrude, so it does not dig into the index finger when the knife is held in a normal position.
A cross pin located above the blade pivot indexes the blade position, both open and closed. When the blade is opened, a circular notch between the tang and the end of the blade spine engages against the pin. This, along with the liner lock spring, holds the blade firmly in battery. When the blade is closed, a notch in the shoulder of the flipper engages the opposite side of the cross pin to park the blade.
The handle is built around a pair of stainless steel liners. The blade lock spring is in the lower front of the right side liner. A glass-filled nylon wedge serves as a spacer between the liners and the molded handle scales are also glass-filled nylon, with a matte surface texture. Everything is held together by Torx head cross bolts and the blade pivot pin.
Fit between the liners and handle scales was tight and even. The scales were smoothly and evenly molded, with no mold marks. When the blade is opened, it has a very slight rightward cast relative to the center line of the handle. However, I had to look hard to notice this.
My most frequent criticism of knife designs is poor handles; handles that are too short or narrow, not ergonomically shaped, etc. It seems that too often all of the design work is lavished on the blade and then a handle is slapped on as an afterthought.
Fortunately, the Link does not suffer from such shortcomings. The knife is 4.4 inches long closed, while the handle has an adequate working length of 3-1/2 inches, finger guard to butt. This is just long enough to grasp fully with my size ten hand. The spine of the handle is arched adequately to fit my palm nicely, while the belly of the handle is almost straight, which keeps the fingers comfortably aligned. Very good so far.
It has become very common for locking folders to carry flat handle scales. I suppose this is for comfortable pocket carry, but such handles are less than ideal when it comes time to use the knife. Handles that are somewhat oval in cross section are much more comfortable and secure in use than are slab-sided handles.
Thankfully, Kershaw paid some attention to this issue. The handle scales are molded so that the handle is 3/8-inch thick at the spine, broadens to a 9/16-inch maximum thickness and then tapers to 5/16-inch thick at the belly. The flat portions of the handle have molded-in checkering. All in all, I found this to be one of the best handle designs that I have encountered in knives of this type and price range.
The lower front of the liners and handle scales curve downward to form a quillon-type finger guard. When the blade is open, the flipper aligns with and extends slightly below the lower front of the handle, which makes the finger guard a bit longer.
Finally, one feature of the Link really surprised me. This is the IWB clip. I generally hate these, to the point where I usually remove and discard them. However, this is one I can live with. It has a length, shape and spring tension that makes it easy and effective to use and its profile and positioning is such that it does not dig into my hand when I grip the knife tightly. Well done, Kershaw.
The clip comes mounted for right side, tip up carry, but can be switched to the left side if one prefers (use a #6 Torx screw bit to make the switch). For me, the best carry is to clip the knife inside the corner of my right front jeans pocket. I truly forget that I am carrying the knife when I stow it this way.
There are three other variations of the Link. One has a machined aluminum handle with a drop point blade and the other two have tanto blades, one with the nylon handle and the other with aluminum. The aluminum handled models have a $10 higher MSRP. On line vendors are discounting all models about 35 percent from MSRP.
I already know what will be the most criticized features of the Link. Some people will not like that the blade is 420HC and others will turn thumbs down on the handle scales, especially the nylon ones. Critics will consider these components to be common, or even inferior, and will clamor for more sophisticated materials. Further, they will expect these upgrades at the same MSRP and discounts for which the knife currently sells.
Such expectations are unrealistic. To market a USA made knife at the price point of the Link, something had to give. Kershaw made a reasonable decision to use relatively inexpensive blade and handle materials in order to price the product competitively. The blade steel and handle materials chosen are of proven serviceability in general purpose working knives and it is clear the Link is intended to be just that.
I take my time when evaluating a new knife. Initially, I check its components, workmanship and function and do some routine test cutting of common materials. Then I carry the knife frequently, so that it is at hand to do cutting tasks as they arise.
I have been doing this with the Link for three months and I am satisfied that this knife is legit. It is a no-nonsense tool that can easily handle most day-to-day knife work that one is likely to encounter.
The keys to this are the well-coordinated blade and handle designs. The size and shape of the blade make it very versatile, while the adequately sized and properly shaped handle make for a comfortable, secure grip with common cutting holds. The Link is a worthy addition to the Kershaw line of assisted opening folders.
I recently discovered the Kershaw T-tool (a.k.a., Torx tool). It consists of a tubular handle that stows three small Torx bits, sizes T-6, -8, and -10. A socket at one end of the handle secures any of the bits in working position via a magnet. I got one, and it is just right for fiddling with any knife that has small Torx screws or bolts holding things together.
Copyright 2015 by Gary Zinn and/or chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.