Kershaw Leek Review & Blade Testing

TL;DR: The Kershaw Leek is one of the sharpest knives I’ve tested to date. Despite its thin grind, it holds an edge better than most blades. The spring-assist is slick n’ quick. The action takes some wearing in to get smooth. The DLC coating holds up to its reputation. Very difficult to scratch. One helluva knife that punches above its ~$85 price.

Leek Blade Specs

  • Edge Length: 2.86″
  • Blade Width: 0.83″
  • Blade Length: 3.39″
  • Edge Thickness: 0.019″
  • Spine Thickness: 0.09″
  • Blade Shape: Modified Drop Point / Wharncliffe
  • Blade Steel: Sandvik 14C28N, DLC-coated
  • Edge Grind: High Hollow Grind

Additional Specs

  • Scales: 410 Stainless Steel, DLC-coated
  • Handle Length: 4.04″
  • Handle Width: 0.87″
  • Overall Length: 7.43″
  • Overall Width, Folded: 0.95″
  • Handle Thickness: 0.32″
  • Weight: 3.01 Oz.
  • Lock: Frame Lock
  • Opener: Spring-Assisted Flipper
  • Clip: Stainless Steel, DLC-coated
  • Country of Origin: USA
  • Model: KER-1660CKT

Kershaw Leek Review

The Leek gives me some sort of “Batman vibes.” It’s not trying to be tacticool, per se. But it definitely has a wicked, subdued look. It’s comfortable in the palm. I always have trepidation about the grip on steel scales and frames, but the Leek fits the hand just fine.

The spring assist on the action (Kershaw calls it “SpeedSafe”) has plenty of power. The bias toward closure is solid, and the spring’s pop on the open is great. The bearings come greased and overall, the action is smooth. But it took me about a day or two of fidgeting with the flipper to get the action to really feel buttery.

The placement and angle of the flipper is perfect: Once your index finger pops the tang into the frame lock, your hand naturally forms a grip for delicate cutting.

The Blade: A Closer Look

Kershaw calls the Leek’s blade profile a “modified drop point.” Let’s be honest, this is a Wharncliffe, and I like it. These talon-like blades are great for poking and slicing stuff all day long. They look great, too — a nice departure from the endless drop points and clip points in the land of sub-$100 knives.

The apex and grind on the Leek are machined well. Getting both flats and bevels symmetrical is critical for producing a reliable high hollow grind with good sharpness, and that’s what I found on the Leek’s blade. The apex on the Leek is consistent from tip to heel, with a high polish. I felt no burrs or nicks on the cutting edge.

Frame Lock and Spring

Getting the tang-to-lock fitment on a spring-assisted knife is important: The extra inertia imparted on the blade can cause binding and sticky lock-up. But again, the machining and tolerances on the Leek are dialed in.

Take a close look and you’ll find the bottom of the tang cut at an appropriate angle (just off 90 degrees vertical), with the head of the frame lock sitting just a bit proud. This allows the blade and lock to remain tightly fitted as the action wears in over years.

One small foible I found can be spied in the photo above: I noticed a blemish on the inside lip of the frame, just next to the lock. It’s minuscule to the naked eye, but I never like seeing any sort of cosmetic damage to a knife out of the box. Demerit against Kershaw’s quality control, there.

Blade Lock and Belt Clip

The Leek has a blade lock at the bottom of the frame. It’s a simple Torx-head bolt (pictured below, just above the lanyard loophole) that slides a small pin back and forth inside a recessed channel.

When engaged, that pin rests against the blade’s swedge, near the tip. It prevents the flipper from hooking on a pocket and accidentally popping the blade open as you’re drawing the knife off its clip.

This is unlikely to ever happen — the spring puts plenty of pressure on the action when closed — but it’s a nice safety feature that might stop a curious hand from hurting itself, should a layperson ever pick up your knife and start fidgeting with it.

The belt clip is fine. It’s solid, with plenty of spring, and it has a nice bevel that doesn’t cause any pinching or hot spots when gripped in the palm.

I’m happy to see the clip is reversible from tip-down to tip-up carry. I prefer the latter, since the tip-up draw naturally places your index finger over the flipper. The Torx-head bolts fastening the clip require a T6 bit.

The DLC Coating

The “Diamond-Like Carbon,” or DLC,” coating is one of my favorite finishes you can put on any piece of steel. I love that Kershaw applied it to both the handle and blade. It’s been used by GLOCK for years — they coat all their handgun slides in the stuff — and it’s even more durable than powdercoat.

It has a super smooth matte finish that dries quickly and doesn’t hold onto oil or residue. Even after gorilla-arming the Leek to my edge testing fixture with a C-clamp, it walked away with no visible scratches.

The polished stainless fasteners provide nice contrast against the black coating. For those of you who want something with a bit more bling, the Leek can be optioned with a bare stainless, copper tone, or colored handle (but, functionally, the DLC coating is by far the best choice).

The (Useless) Thumb Studs

Kershaw placed a tiny lil’ ambidextrous thumb stud just in front of the flipper. For their intended use, they’re pointless. Trying to grip these things is impossible, even with my skinny digits. Coupled with the ample spring pressure keeping the action closed, there just isn’t enough grip or leverage to use these studs to open the blade.

It’s OK that the studs don’t provide any leverage, the standard action works great. I simply didn’t understand their inclusion. But after carrying this knife for a week, I think I figured out why they’re here.

When the blade’s opened, both studs press neatly into convex cut-outs along the top of the handle. So, my best guess is they’re made to provide extra lock-up and stiffness for this relatively svelte blade. That at least justifies their existence, and it’s a smart (albeit unconventional) use of thumb studs.

Blade Sharpness & Edge Testing

Reviewing knives all the time means opening up a new blade can begin to feel a little dull. Pun intended. But in the case of the Kershaw Leek, testing its factory sharpness and ability to hold an edge is where things got exciting.

After two passes on the Edge-On-Up Tester, the Leek managed impressive numbers:

133 grams, and 132 grams. That’s not only incredibly sharp, but wildly consistent. In fact, I’ve never tested an edge close to being ground this consistently before. For reference, a blade measuring 133 grams is sharper than a brand-new box cutter or straight razor. This is approaching surgical sharpness, and we’re talking about a sub-$100 knife.

Things got even better after punishing this blade with my edge retention test:

The Leek absolutely chewed through my piece of ironwood during its 100 back-and-forth passes. That’s under five pounds of weight, which is brutal for such a delicately ground edge. The Leek dug further into this exotic hardwood than any other blade I’ve tested so far. And it walked away with only a tiny glint on the edge that can be fixed in minutes with a finishing whetstone.

Here, you can see how much sawdust the Leek picked up. After abusing the edge, I threw it back on the tester to see how much it dulled:

The Leek measured 188 grams and 196 grams, for an average of 192g. That is insane. That’s still sharper than almost half the blades I’ve measured when they’re new.

So, the Leek accomplished 69% edge retention, which places it 13th on the leaderboard at the time of this review, tied alongside the OKC Rat II and the CJRB Ria.

The Leek Wins Sharpness After Testing

Knife / ModelFactory SharpnessSharpness After TestEdge Retention
Spyderco Para 3 12026545%
Benchmade 940 EDC17529060%
SOG TWI8-CP Twitch II12520063%
S&W Extreme Ops SWA24S16526063%
Buck Knives 110 Folding Hunter14522066%
Spyderco Tenacious15022567%
Ontario Knife OKC Rat II SP18527069%
CIVIVI Elementum20127972%
Opinel No. 1228037073%
CIVIVI Praxis18323080%
Zero Tolerance 0450CF24029083%
KA-BAR Dozier Folder27532585%
Cold Steel AD-1018520590%
CRKT Endorser23025092%
CJRB Feldspar21522596%
Cold Steel Recon 1 Tanto17721582%
Kershaw Link CPM 20CV23226289%
CJRB Ria Folder (12C27)19628369%
Gerber Paraframe 1 (ATS-314)18622085%
CRKT CEO18320490%
Kershaw Leek13319269%
CRKT M16-10KS22833468%
CRKT Squid21537557%
Vosteed Corsair16317494%

Normally, I rate the quality of a knife’s blade based on its ability to hold an edge after cutting. But in this case, focusing on the percentage of edge retention is misleading:

The Leek officially takes first place on sharpness after testing, beating out the SOG TWI8-CP and the scalpel-like CRKT CEO that I reviewed last week.

The only reason the Leek appears to have “mediocre” edge retention is because its factory edge is so sharp. At the time of this publication, the little Leek is now the king of the leaderboard.

The Leek: Final Thoughts

Any knife that can dig into a piece of ironwood 100 times and come out as sharp as a box cutter is a top-tier knife, with some seriously good machining and heat treatment. Remember, the Leek’s blade is made of Sandvik 14C28N. This is a quality stainless alloy, sure. But it’s no super steel, like Elmax or M390 — yet it absolutely performed like one.

The Leek is my new EDC until something better comes in the mail. But it’s going to be tough to beat. This blade performs like a champion, because it is. The DLC coating is as tough as it gets. The spring action is fun and practical. The build quality is excellent, and it just looks wicked and slick.

All this for around $85. The Kershaw Leek’s one helluva knife.