Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Kershaw OD-2 Review

What's the least amount of money you have paid for a knife? I am not talking about novelty commemorative knives from the Smokey Mountains or throw away, look-how-cheap-this-is purchases from Harbor Freight or Deal Exchange. What is the cheapest "real" knife you have ever bought?

For me, it is $15. I was at a knife show, mesmerized by the ZT350 and drooling over a Sebenza, but lacking funds for either, when I saw the Kershaw OD-2. It was a close out. The box had been opened and the knife was a display, but everything was in working order and the edge was quite keen. The show was ending in about an hour and I asked the guy for the price. He gave me a price that was silly. I told him, I'd give him $15 flat. He said no. I walked away and did another loop around the show. On the way passed his table he snagged me and asked if it was cash. I said yes, and he said deal. I had no real use for the knife, having just purchased the SOG Flash I, but the cam opening device was interesting. Eventually, the OD-2 booted the Flash I out of my carry rotation permanently.

The cam opening, and the entire knife in fact, was designed by J.L. "Lee" Williams, who, surprisingly, does not have a website. His designs are very highly prized by collectors, especially the Williams Rhino. All of his knives are rare items, with very few on the market, and those that do come up sell for four figures. Many of them use this cam opening system and I have to say, having used it now for a while, it is quite ingenious.

Here is more information about cams. They are on all sorts of devices, especially tools, because they allow you to hand tighten things quickly, securely, and easily (this like table saw fences for example).

Here the cam opening system works. The knife blade itself is attached to a small plate on one side. The plate is attached to a cam and at one end of the cam assembly there is a flipper, like on other flipper knives. When you press on the flipper you get a bit of tension as the plate and blade ride along the longest path around the cam and then finally it rolls over the long end of the cam and swings the blade into the locked position. It feels like an assisted opener, except if you stop applying pressure at any point, the blade will cease to move. There is no point along the opening arc the blade travels in where, absent a lot of initial pressure, where the blade will open on its own. Additionally, unlike a flipper, when the cam is fully depressed and the blade is in the lock position, the flipper attached to the cam disappears into the handle. This gives the knife a very sleek look when opened. I bother to explain this because: a) it is unique so far as I know among production knives to the OD series; b) it is really nice; c) is not a spring or torsion bar design at all so it should avoid the legislative furor over those designs (though this is not legal advice regarding those issues; local laws vary and it is your responsibility to know them); and d) this design impacts the rest of the knife.

The OD-2 is part of the OD series, which like many Kershaw offerings is a small and large version of essentially the same knife. Here is the product page for the OD-2. Here is the product page for the OD-1. They are essentially the same knife except for three differences: size (OD-1 is larger); 2) steel (OD-1 has a Sandvik steel); and 3) lock (OD-1 has a frame lock instead of a liner lock). Here is a good street price. Here is a good Youtube video from Nutnfancy on the OP series. Here are the Amazon reviews, which are actually quite good. It has a 4 1/2 star aggregate score on Amazon, which is a good indication of how good the knife is as a small EDC blade.

Here is my OD-2:


Design: 2

The cam opening is really sweet. It fires fast and looks nice. There is a good sized handle, give the overall size of the knife. The blade is very slim and small, tucking into your pack or clothing just about anywhere without notice. The handle is a bit wider than other small utility EDC knives, necessary to accommodate the cam opening. There is a bit of rattle when the knife is closed, nothing bad, about equal to that on the SOG Flash I. The blade:handle is .73, not too bad.

Fit and Finish: 2

Surprisingly on a blade this cheap, everything is centered well, lock up is decent, the handle scales are rounded over and the lock bar engages well. A testament to the Kershaw line's overall quality. The Buck Vantage could learn a thing or two about quality control in a small blade.

Grip: 0

The knife is small to begin with, but there is no functional jimping whatsoever and the flipper retracting into the handle, while cool, eliminates another potential method of hanging on to the blade. The handle scales are even a bit slick.

Carry: 2

A blade this small with a straightforward pocket clip is great. It just disappears in your pocket. Wonderful carry.

Steel: 1

8CR13MoV is a cheap steel. It can be sharpened to a nice edge, but the edge doesn't last long. For whatever reason, Kershaw's version of the steel on my OD-2 has much better rust resistance than the same steel on my Tenacious. I have no idea why, especially because the OD-2 blade is bead blasted which should make rusting easier.

Blade Shape: 2

Here is a shot of the blade:


Nothing crazy, just a straightforward drop point blade. Good belly for a knife this narrow and slim. It works well in the kind of cutting tasks your likely to use it for, things like cutting packages open, cutting paper, or slicing string or twine. It has a very sharp and precise tip, which is nice in that it allows for fine detail work, but it is easily dinged. The blade shape is a joy to sharpen as well, but take care not to run the tip over and put a burr on it.

Grind: 2

Again, I am surprised that the grind is this nice on a super cheap knife. It is very even, a 3/4 flat grind with a nice wide, easy to sharpen secondary grind. Even the secondary grind is even and well done.

Deployment Method: 2

This is the whole gimmick this is blade and I love it. It flicks out with both tactile and audible feedback. I love how fast it comes out as well. It is everything you need and want, just short of an automatic or an assisted opener. It is also no where near as fiddly as the SOG Flash I's thumb stud.


Retention Method: 2

The pocket clip on the OD-2 is just about perfect for a blade this size. It is small, discrete (though a blackened or dark gray finish would be even nicer), and well designed. It holds tight without being a pocket shredder. Knife makers take note: this is how you do a pocket clip on a tiny knife.

Lock: 2

A nice liner lock with lock up about halfway through the tang of the blade. See:


Overall Score: 17 out of 20

This is the knife everyone THINKS the SOG Flash I is: small, fast, well-made, and convenient. It also happens to be about 1/2 to 1/3 the price of the SOG Flash I. For a tiny, discrete carry utility blade it is hard to do better than this. I like the Dragonfly 2 design better, but it is substantially more money and not quite as slim of a carry knife. I challenge you to find a better knife for $15.


  1. Love my OD-2, glad to see you review it! I have to say I've had a good experience with 8Cr13MoV in multiple knives, though I don't use it very heavily. I have a Sanrenmu 710 (a knife I recommend as a good value if you're not bothered by the fact that it's inspired by the Sebenza) that I carry inside the waistband and have not been very careful about drying when I use it in wet environments and I haven't had any problems with rust. I've also found that it holds its edge well enough for my uses, though I'm not a hard user and I don't have much better steel to compare it to. In any case, I enjoy your recommendations and reviews a lot! Thanks!

  2. Nice review Tony. I think Kershaw does little EDC knives very well. I've been very pleased with the Skyline, Leek, etc.

    I am not a big fan of SOG (folding) knives in general so I haven't spent the money to really "feel" what they are all about, but from a consumer reports standpoint I think it's time to buy a couple and really see what the deal is.

  3. I never had a knife I liked to carry till I got a Kershaw Skyline. It is a little big, but it feels good in my hand, cuts gracefully, and is thin enough to be unobtrusive. I bought an extra for insurance. I don't want to be without.

  4. Great review. At the risk of sounding digressive, why not just review American made Kershaw products? Like I said, I'm aware it's not your bailiwick to endorse where a product is made, but it seems to me, especially when it comes to Kershaw, that we should promote the American Made products wherever possible to ensure they continute to be American Made. It's also a heck of a lot easier to feel confident about the production process of an American made knife because I can verify its origin much more easily than a foregin made knife. I've read some horrifying things about Chinese made blades and the Chinese production philosophy. Not only is it socially frightening (low wages, horrific working conditions) but it's frightening from a quality control standpoint as well (inconsistent monitoring of the production process, little to no product inspecting in some cases, questionable assembly methods, steel making processes, etc.). So, reviewing the Skyline which IS made in America would make a lot more sense. You could even incorporate a second criteria in your scoring formula for being domestic made AND quality versus foreign made and questionable quality.

  5. I endorse this review in toto.

    This is a small, non-intimidating, modernized pen knife. The cam opener works like a charm. The 8Cr13MoV edge sharpens well.

    I paid the princely sum of $17 for my OD-2. A best buy.

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