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Kershaw Ken Onion Shallot (model 1840110V) CPM S110V
Folding Knife Review

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Kershaw Shallot, model 1840110VCPM S110V steel

I got two Kershaw folders in 2009. That was a double by and it's been a very long time since I have bought the last and the first Kershaw knife. I got the Ken Onion Shallot folders in CPM S110V and ZDP-189 steels. The only other folder I've had from them before was Kershaw Ken Onion Boa. I wrote about all that in a little greater detail in the ZDP-189 Shallot review. So, I'll skip the common stuff for the both reviews. Just for the statistics, those folders were part of the limited run, 1493 ZDP-189 knives, and 948 CPM S110V knives(598 plain edge blades and 350 partially serrated). In other words, those got picked out real fast and if you plant on getting one of those, ebay or knife exchange forums either on knifeforums.com or bladeforums.com are the best ways.

General

- Ken Onion Shallot is a lightweight, relatively think folding knife. Actually it is quite thin for its size. Very nice for urban carry. Well, it is absolutely the same style and type as the ZDP-189 folder. The only difference being the blade construction and material. Details in the blade section obviously :) This shallot came in the box, like the other one. Just the sticker was different, indicating CPM S110V steel. Fit and finish were very good on this knife too, and in general I respect Kershaw very much for making such high quality blades, especially in those exotic steels for such an affordable price. As for the other characteristics out of the box, you'd have to check out the ZDP-189 Kershaw Shallot review.

The thing is, as you might know, if you were following my blog or stumbled upon one of the threads on BF or KF about rehardened blades from me, I've never used this knife out of the box. I knew Kershaw was hardening ZDP-189 blades to 63-64HRC, and CPM S110V blades to 58-60HRC. While 63-64HRC is ok with me for ZDP-189, although I'd prefer 66 or even 67HRC in a folder blade, the composite construction of the ZDP-189 blades makes it impossible or close to that to reharden them. On the other hand, CPM S110V steel as I already knew from Phil Wilson and my upcoming Meadows Skinner, could be taken to 64HRC. If it was ok for almost 5" long fixed blade, then it was even more appropriate for 89.00mm(3.5") folding knife. Given all that I've removed the blade from the handle and sent it to Phil Wilson for rehardening. Considering that the whole story is rather long, I'll refer you to the complete article - The Importance Of The Knife Blade Hardness. Very short summary would be that the blade was rehardened to 64HRC, then I had to send it to one maker to clean it up and polish it, then to another, Tom Krein in particular to get the regrind done. It is flat ground blade out of the box and I wanted to optimize it for light cutting performance as much as possible given all the troubles I've had to go through. Therefore I've chosen hollow grind. Since it was my first experience with all those things, it took a lot longer to get things done had I have any previous experience.

Rehardened Benchmade 710HSSR and Kershaw Shallot CPM S110V

Well, since we are on this topic, I'll give you few heads ups if you ever decide to go down that road. For one, keep in mind, rehardening means heating the blade up to very high temperatures, for high alloy blades it could be well over 2000F. It means the blade surface will be burnt and blackened real bad. On the photo attached here you can see the blades right after rehardening and as you can see they don't look pretty. The CPM 110V blade is on the top. Second thing to remember is that coated blades have really rough surfaces underneath the coating and that's because it helps the coating to adhere better to the steel, but after rehardening the coating burns off and you're left with really messed up blade. The only solution is to resurface the blade. In other words polish it. That is much easier before rehardening. All of that is kind of obvious, but I had no idea and I got rehardened blades, with rough surfaces. I've spent 8 hours myself trying to clean up M2 blade at 64.5HRC and it wasn't very successful operation :) CPM S110V blade was considerably harder to clean and smooth, but I wasn't the one doing it. So, good luck with all that. Ideally you need someone who can do the whole shebang for you. Later, I figure out Phil Wilson does the complete set, well he started doing regrinds himself and took care of bead blasting too. That was a lot faster second time with two Nimravi.

Blade

- Well, you already know it was a 89.00mm(3.5") long blade, flat ground, with a recurve, which looks very sexy, but is a pain in the neck to sharpen. I did regret later for not asking Tom Krein to remove the recurve. Anyway, the main difference from ZDP-189 version is that the blade is the single piece of CPM S110V steel and not the composite blade. Well, that was the original difference. By now, the blade is also hollow ground and rehardened. I've asked Phil to measure the out of the box hardness of the blade, and it came out 58HRC. Getting extra 6HRC on the knife blade is a very significant gain in terms of edge holding and wear resistance. I was extremely happy to learn that from Phil when he was rehardening. Reground blade is just 0.02" thick behind the edge. It's a cutting machine if you will. Because or despite of such high hardness I didn't have any problems with the blade chipping. Rolling and denting is pretty much ruled out for 64HRC steel. More about that in the usage section. Other than that there is nothing very specific to the blade, just another folder blade, although made from the super steel, and heat treated by one of the best makers and specialists with this steel - Phil Wilson.

Sharpening

- As I write this review, the blade was sharpened only once. So far I've getting lucky with CPM S110V blades :) No serious sharpening was required on my part. Tom Krein and Richard J. weren't so lucky on the other hand, having to grind and polish 64HRC metal, especially high Vanadium content steel like CPM S110V. It has a really thin bevel, and because of that there was no big deal to put a razor sharp edge on it. Main sharpening went with the 5000 grit Naniwa Chosera waterstone. Followed by probably good 20 minutes on 10000 grit Naniwa Chosera Super Finishing waterstone. And after that another half an hour or so of polishing with 0.5µm diamond crystal loaded leather strop and next with 0.25µm diamond crystal strop. Then stropping on the plain leather. The resulting edge was really well polished and super sharp, at least I was 100% satisfied with it. Well, I know my luck won't last forever, and sooner or later I will need to seriously sharpen this puppy, and it won't be to easy, just slightly more difficult that your average blade ;)

Handle

- It is the same stainless steel handle as on the ZDP-189 folder, and the details are there. Nothing extraordinary, just a frame lock. What I really like about the Shallot is the slim, and very slick design and that applies to the handle as well. Very convenient in the pocket and in hand too. Lock engagement and other details can be fond in the same ZDP-189 Kershaw Shallot review.

Usage

- My main EDC knives are Scott Cook Locsha and Benchmade 710 HSSR M2. They have been in my pockets for last several years. Since as usual I carry on me 2 medium folders, those two mentioned before, it is a bit of a problem to use one more folder on regular bases. The fact that I have 50+ other folders, doesn't make it any easier with consistent use. Anyway, I did substitute Locsha and 710 M2 once in a while with CPM S110V Shallot, and I had to do the same with ZDP-189 Shallot. At least those two had to be done at different times :) I carried ZDP-189 folder while CPM S110V one was on its long trip between the three knifemakers, for rehardening, regrinding and resurfacing. On top of that, for a while I did use it for pretty much 90% of home/backyard utility cutting with this folder. That included specific cutting tests, as you might already guess it was the cardboard, some rope and wood whittling. By the time I got this knife back, I already had Phil Wilson CPM S110V Meadows Skinner custom knife at home, which I've already run through its tests. Therefore, I already had a good idea what the steel would do at 64HRC, especially that the edge I had on it, 15° per side was the same as on the Meadows Skinner. Still, this folder had a different blade geometry, including shorter length, hollow grind, etc. So, besides the steel performance I was simply interested how would it work, especially compared to the used to be identical in terms of geometry ZDP-189 Shallot. As you can guess main goal was to assess original vs. hollow grind performance.

Testing was pretty much the same set of cutting that I did with Phil Wilson's CPM S110V Meadows Skinner and the test cut materials were the same. Still, it was quite surprising in the end :) In a positive way too. That surprise was the interesting fact that hollow grind edge, very thin edge at that did withstand push cutting the RG-6 coaxial cable. I thought it'd suffer damage, since the edge is really thin, but in the end it took the abuse just fine. I am not planning doing that again, it was just to test the limits of that edge and that's all to it. Needless to say the same edge had no qualms with wood whittling. I did the usual whittling, followed by twisting the blade in the wood. Insertion depth was about 1-2mm for several consecutive tests. In the end, like I said, the edge suffered no damage. The only time I have seen rolling of the edge above 63HRC was with Watanabe Kuro-Uchi Nakiri, which in itself is am amazing result. As usual, the edge chips instead of taking plastic deformation. Well, so far CPM S110V as neither chipped nor rolled in my tests. The other difference with Watanabe blade, besides it having Aogami I steel, is the edge angle. By now it's closer to 8°-9° per side, not 15° as the Shallot and Meadows Skinner. So... I can't make any definitive conclusions on that one. One(Aogami I) is the very pure, high carbon steel, not very alloyed either. The other(CPM S110V) is one of the highest alloyed, stainless steel on the planed :) My very limited guess is that CPM S110V is still more brittle, because of the much higher chromium content. On the other hand, it is hardly that simple, CPM S110V is one of the tougher steels amongst those high alloys. The simple tests I've conducted showed that quite clearly. Well, one way or the other, no chips, no dents, no rolls.

As for the pure edge retention tests, I just did cardboard cutting, which was about 400 inches, all that I had. That was not nearly enough to cause any significant edge degradation. The edge was still shaving real easy in both directions. For the record, cardboard was what I started with. And the edge initially was hair splitting, or hair whittling sharp. That hair splitting edge was gone somewhere between 100th and 200th inches of cardboard. Can't tell exactly when, I was testing sharpness between every 100 inches. Other than cardboard I did minor rope testing, which was minor because as usual when I started testing I was pretty much out of the test rope to cut and too lazy to get to hardware store or the supermarket to buy a new one. Whatever I had, was some leftovers of the nylon rope, about 1/4" thick. That thing isn't exactly peachy to cut, quite tough and slippery at that. You either need a very rough edge, 800 grit or so, to cut through it with relative ease, or a serrated blade. Or, alternatively you need a very sharp blade, other stuff, i.e. not so sharp rough or polished edges mostly slide over it. I already described the sharpening process of the edge in the sharpening section, so as you can guess it was very highly polished, super sharp edge initially. Except, by the time I got to the rope cutting, it had lost some of that sharpness already. I was just curious if it'd still cut with ease, or if I'd have to go back to sharpeners. Sadly, I never managed to get the suitable scales to measure the force required for the rope cutting. I keep promising myself I'll do that, but so far I've been bad. Anyway, whether I wanted or not I just had to do it the old way, gauging the force by hand or by me. I've tried to cut the rope which was laying on the wood using single forward motion cut. It worked, single slice, and as for me, I didn't have to apply excessive force, my guesstmate was light to medium :) Next few cuts I did both, forward and backwards, every time the blade went through the rope in a single slice. Well, that was it and I've decided to call it a day. There was no more cardboard or rope to cut anyway. Well, that was it for dedicated testing. Now, since it is a folder and CPM S110V performed superbly in both knives, I am going to thin down the edge on the Shallot to around 10° per side. I am quite confident, for light cutting it will be more than sufficient. As soon as I do that, I'll update the review.

    Specifications:
  • Model: Kershaw Ken Onion Shallot Model 1840110V;
  • Blade - 89.00mm(3.5")
  • Thickness - 2.25mm
  • OAL - 110.00mm(4.33")
  • OAL Closed: 110mm(4 3/8"
  • Steel - CPM S110V 58HRC Stock, 64HRC rehardened
  • Weight - 119.00g(4.02oz)
  • Handle: 410 Stainless Steel;
  • Acquired - 03/2009 Price - 90$
  • Lock Mechanism: Framelock;
  • Warranty: Limited Lifetime;

Last updated - 09/01/11