Kershaw knives have been around for a long time, but somehow I was never into their products. In my long knife collecting career I've had only one Kershaw knife, you can read Kershaw Boa Review for details, if you are interested. It's discontinued now. While I did like fit and finish of that knife the CPM S60V steel(440V) used in it wasn't very successful for knife industry and perhaps that was a reason I've given up on that steel and Kershaw knives with that. Anyway, in 2009 Kershaws caught my attention again because they've started using two of the steels that I was really interested in - CPM-S110V and ZDP-189. Both are modern, very high alloy steels with just fantastic edge holding properties. Both can attain very high Rockwell Hardness, 64-65HRC for S110V and 67HRC for ZDP-189. Obviously at that hardness neither one is good as a heavy duty blade, but for light cutting and in general applications that require very high edge wear resistance those two are pretty much on top of the list.
Like I said, Kershaw produced knives in both steels. In general there isn't much of a choice for the knives made out of either CPM S110V or ZDP-189, and Kershaw doesn't have large variety of those knives either. Still, I liked Ken Onion's Shallot design a lot, and it is produced in several versions, including CPM S110V and ZDP-189. So, I went ahead and picked up both of them. I already had two knives made of ZDP-189 steel, you can check out Sanetsu 270mm Gyuto review and William Henry Spearpoint folder review. For the record, this was a limited production run of 1483 ZDP-189 steel blades, and for the CPM S110V the breakdown was 598 plain edge blades and 350 combo edges. So, if you want to buy one, and it's still 2009, hurry up, or may be you're already late. Then it's sad, ZDP-189 shallot is a bargain and a terrific knife from top end steel.
Overall, I was very happy with that steel and I figured I'd give it a shot with the folder that I liked. Obviously, mainstream production knives are never hardened to their maximal potential. For one, that requires very high furnace temperatures, wearing them faster and making the process more expensive, second it makes grinding more time and resource consuming, thus more expenses. Thus you get some compromise, or in other words lower hardness. This is why ZDP-189 in this knife is hardened to 63-64 HRC. Although, one of the reasons is the consumer himself. 90% of knife buyers don't really know how to sharpen and a lot of people have problems with high hardness blades. Either way, this knife is not very mass market despite its rather low price for what it is. 75$ (as of 2009) is pretty cheap for a top end steel folder.
General- Kershaw Ken Onion Shallot is a 89.00mm(3.5") stainless steel handled folder. The knife comes packed in a box. Nothing really fancy, but at least it is a respectable packaging, not just a knife in a zip lock. Initial inspection ended with surprisingly good results. Honestly, I was not expecting that level of fit and finish form less than 75$ knife. Grind lines are very even, finish and coating on the blade is very well done. Handle is also very well made. Stainless steel has nice finish, not scratches or uneven, sharp edges. Backspacer is pretty much perfectly fitted as well. In short the only complaint I could have was the edge sharpening, which was the usual factory 40°-50° quite rough edge. However, in a good conscience, I can't complain about that, considering that virtually all factory knives come with that kind of edge and other, much more knives have inferior steel, fit and finish. So, as it is, I give all the kudos to Kershaw for making this knife and CPM S110V version of it as well.
As majority of the folders today Kershaw Shallot comes with the pocket clip. Clip isn't reversible, i.e. attaches only from the right side, however it can be installed either for tip up or tip down carry position. Clip attachment screw holes can be seen here. The other set of identical holes is on the opposite end of the handle obviously. One complaint or not so well designed detail is completely round pivot. It's nothing too complicated, but when unscrewing pivot screw the whole assembly rotates and you have to push the pivot pin pretty hard to keep it from rotating.
Speed Safe- Shallot features the same speed safe opening mechanism that was on Boa. Or I think it's the same :) Although, unlike the boa it is not equipped with the lock to prevent it from opening. So, I assume Kershaw somehow modified the mechanism to make it more safe and prevent unintentional opening in the pocket. In general, if you are not familiar with the Speed Safe it allows to open the knife faster. Basically you push the flipper on the blade and after the blade is out about 45° it will open and lock itself. You can see the details of this mechanism on the photo attached to this paragraph. Well, the mechanism consists of a single spring or a bar plus two holes for each end. As usual, because the opening is assisted the questions about its legality are asked. It is perfectly legal under California Knife Laws. However, as usual check your local county or city laws, it might be restricted.
Blade- Kershaw Shallot sports 89.00mm(3.5") long, slender recurved blade. Flat ground blade is 2.25mm thick, which is average for the blade of that length, more on the thinner side. The blade is called composite by Kershaw. It is an interesting composition of two steels, and unlike traditional a san-mai blade, ultra hard ZDP-189 steel edge is connected to the 14C28N steel base with an interesting wavy line where edge and core bond together. I've seen the video of the procedure, its pretty cool actually. CNC machine cuts edge and base pieces fom different steels and then they're bonded. I am not sure this method is superior to san-may, but it's pretty much same as differential tampering, when the blade spine is left soft. As I mentioned above it is a recurved blade. Recurved blades have their pros and cons. Pros being longer cutting edge because of the curve, and the con being the problems with sharpening it. Basically, it's really difficult to sharpen the recurved blade on the stone. You have to use corners and other tricks to get the job done. I'll discuss that in a bit, under Sharpening section.
Handle- The handle on the Shallot is made of the stainless steel. Two slabs and a backspacer to be precise. Spacer is G-10. Like I said above, it's very nicely done, no sharp corners, all parts are fitted very well. Ergonomics are also very good in my opinion. Obviously ergonomics and comfort of the handle are very personal and subjective matter, so you may not like the handle, or like it even more than I do ;) Anyway, I think it's a good handle and so far whenever I've used the knife it worked just about perfect in all grips and cutting styles. The lock is the frame lock type. So, the handle is the lock itself. Initially the lock engaged about 60% of the blade width - here is the photo of the Kershaw Shallot lock engaged. many consider that too much, saying that about 30% is the norm, but I think it's fine. Although, after long time the problems may develop with lock engagement due to the wear. However, many makers adjust to that by incorporating wearable surfaces.
Sharpening- As usual factory knives come with the edges nowhere near what they should be. So, I have had to sharpen it before I've started carrying it. ZDP-189 steel is no candy to sharpen, even at 63-64HRC. Although, I don't want to give an impression that 63-64 HRC is soft by any standard. It is very hard steel, and it is hard to sharpen compared to 56-58HRC steels out there that majority knives are made of. Anyway, given the proper sharpening equipment it is not a big deal. After all I've sharpened 270mm of ZDP-189 steel at 64-66 HRC. More of a problem is the recurve and the handle shape. If you look at the picture you can see the protruding portion of the handle slabs over the blade. That protrusion is a pain in the butt when using the Edge-Pro Apex sharpening system. The stone keeps hitting the blade and I had to really keep close attention and awkward blade position not to hit that protrusion of the handle with the stone. Nevertheless, I still managed to hit it couple times, giving it a scratch. Luckily no biggie. using the painter's tape doesn't help a lot, because Edge-Pro is using water and water eventually loosens the tape. Anyway, after a while I was tired of the complicated sharpening process, so I gave that up and went with Sandpaper And Mousepad sharpening method. That went easier. I've started with 220 grit sandpaper and went gradually through 400, 1000, 2000 grits, then with finer microabrasives, 15µm, 5µm, 2µm abrasives, then 0.5µm and 0.25µm diamond crystal loaded strops and finished as usual with leather strops. I've ended up with approximately 30° included angle edge. Of course it was mirror polished and blazing sharp.
- Model: Kershaw Ken Onion Shallot ZDP-189;
- Blade - 89.00mm(3.5")
- Thickness - 2.25mm
- OAL - 110.00mm(4.33")
- OAL Closed: 110mm(4 3/8"
- Steel - ZDP-189 steel 63-64HRC
- Weight - 119.00g(4.02oz)
- Handle: 410 Stainless Steel;
- Acquired - 03/2009 Price - 74.25$
- Lock Mechanism: Framelock;
- Warranty: Limited Lifetime;
Last updated - 09/01/11