Monday, June 13, 2011

Kershaw Scallion Review

After my Delica disappeared into the bowels of the Postal Service, I waited a long time before getting another knife to carry. Around 2005, about three years later, I purchased a Kershaw Scallion to live in my pocket and do urban living kind of tasks--opening packages, gutting clamshells, cutting paper and twine, nothing too heavy use. I had never heard of Kershaw at the time, but the Scallion was the right size and the right price. Plus I had seen a demo of the assisted opening device during a trip to a knife store in the Providence Place Mall.

The demo was at a store called On the Edge Cutlery and it was the only place to see knives in person. Unfortunately, the place was staffed by genuine assholes. I don't use that word lightly, this being the first time in my months writing this blog, but it fits. The woman that worked behind the counter treated me and my questions with a mix of superiority and disdain, a combination that would suit someone when addressing a developmentally delayed Nazi (though that is probably a bit of unnecessary redundancy). The man that worked there had an appearance typical of a person that was 14 years old and a fan of the terrible heavy metal bands like Slipknot: black concert t-shirt, black army boots, black cut off shorts made from cargo pants, a shaved head and a long pubic hair beard. He was, unfortunately, in his late 30s, early 40s. If I asked to see anything, after they yelled at me for a few minutes ("You bleed, you buy. Got it?") he would give me a humph if I asked to see anything other than a Sebenza or a Strider. When I asked to see the Scallion he plopped the knife on the counter and turned his back on me, rearranging a display shelf behind him. In addition to their stellar attitudes, their prices were insane. ABOVE MSRP. Seriously, check out their site, everything is at or ABOVE MSRP. Comparison shopping is just stunning to them, apparently. But when your options are this place or nothing....

They went out of business, so apparently lots of people had the same experience I did and voted "nothing".

The Kershaw Scallion is part of the Ken Onion designed line of knives for KAI USA. There are are four sized knives all with a name derived from members of the genus Allum: the tiny Chive, the just right size for EDC Scallion, the slender and beautiful Leek, and the beefy Shallot. I expect another knife with a MASSIVE blade and repugnant and offensive design named the Ramp (imagine a REALLY stinky onion with a barely tolerable taste).

Here is my Scallion, an all black version with a combo edge, aluminum handles and a liner lock:


Here is the product page. Here is a good street price on the Scallion. I am purposely not linking to the Nutnfancy review. He went off on an inappropriate and unnecessary tangent twice. It is an informative review, other than those two tangents, but a link is like an endorsement and I don't want to endorse his tangents in this video. Here is the Amazon reviews page, its has a score of 4.67 stars (with only three reviews though). There are tons of variation. First you can get the blade plain edge or combo edge (no fully serrated version). You can get the blade in a satin finish, a high polish finish, or blackened. You can pick between three handle styles--a plastic (FRN) handle, an aluminum liner lock, or an aluminum frame lock. Then you can pick just about any color there is, including a rainbow finish or a high polish black or aluminum. I think there were some limited runs using Damascus steel and S30V steel, but most come with 420HC steel. All are American made.

Design: 1

The size is just about right. The flipper does great double duty. The smooth handles look nice, and are light, given the materials. The assisted opener worked well and I had my Scallion for a long time. It did lose some of its kick over time, but nothing too bad. I think as an unassisted opener it would still work. The blade:handle ratio is a paltry .69, though, and I am not sure why. The handle did not seem overly large, so I don't get where the extra real estate is going.

Fit and Finish: 1

The finish on both the handle and the blade wore off and showed signs of wear almost instantly. Here is what I mean:


I really hate the blackened blade, especially after this experience, and I avoid it, if possible, on knives now. The liner lock was thin and didn't seem to cross all the way over as well. Finally the stupid little safety was a piece of cheap plastic. The blade itself was fine and the handles were scalloped, but for the price you'd expect something a little better.

Grip: 1

There is jimping, but the handle is so slick because of the aluminum scales that there is really no grip in high pressure situations. I once used the knife to cut cardboard boxes from a move and over time there were hotspots and when my hands got sweat the knife got slippy. Not too bad and never in the wrong direction (slipping forward), but enough to be annoying.

Carry: 0

The pocket clip is too big, see below, and the flipper was too large and the jimping too rough. The end result was that about half the time when you went to retrieve the knife it would poke you. Also the clip being so large meant that I banged into stuff more than I'd like to. It is surprising that in a knife this small the carry would be so poor.

Steel: 0

See the Buck Vantage review for more on the lack of quality in 420 HC steel. It seems odd that for about the same money you can get a similarly sized knife also made in America with great steel--the Buck Vantage Small Pro is around $49.95. The knife needed very regular sharpening, so much so that, as you can see, it wore away the scalloped serrations a bit (see photo above). It is also surprising that for such a soft steel it would chip as much as it did. See:


Blade Shape: 1

The recurve is entirely aesthetic and it didn't really help much at all for cutting. The blade had a good deal of belly, but nothing exceptional. The tip was also very thin. The thin structure and chippy steel resulted in a less than ideal tip:


It is surprising that the tip was so weak, especially considering that the Dragonfly's tip is similar and still intact, even on my older DF I.

Grind: 2

The grind is nice. Everything is even and well done. The blade is a bit thick, but the high grind makes for a good slicer.

Deployment Method: 1

Okay, I don't like assisted opening knives. They just aren't necessary if the knife is designed correctly. This is an okay assisted opener, but I don't know why it is necessary, other than people seem to buy them quicker.

Retention Method: 0

This is my least favorite clip design ever. It is just WAY TOO BIG for the knife. It is almost exactly the same size as the handle scale itself. The clip does retain the knife well, but when it is in your pocket it bangs into EVERYTHING. It also gets hung up on things too. It is not four way positionable.

Lock: 1

Having a knife for a long, long time as your exclusive EDC blade will reveal all sorts of weaknesses that you won't find any other way. Over time the liner lock did weaken and didn't engage as solidly. There is a frame lock version out there, but I have not used it. I would imagine it would work well, but I am not sure how it will hold up.

Overall Score: 8 out of 20

This is the lowest knife score I have given and thinking back on it, it deserved it. For the price you are getting very little other than the cool assisted opening, which, for some reason, has transfixed knife makers and knife buyers (thank you for NOT making them Spyderco). Buy a Buck Vantage Pro Small. It is better in every way and has far superior materials (G10 and S30V). The clip is horrid. I just can't think of anything I liked about the knife. The Leek on the other hand, seems like a much better design. I think, in part, the failure of the Scallion comes from the fact that it was just a scaled down version of the Leek and to save money Kershaw batched out a bunch of parts for the entire line, like the clip. The end result is a knife with crappy steel, a terrible clip, and an unnecessary spring in its step.

Kershaw makes great products, they really do. The OD-2 is a great knife. I love my ZT350. This just isn't one of them. Your paying for an assisted open and a name and that is about it.


  1. That's really too bad. I don't think I've owned what I could consider a 'bad' Kershaw. I've had the Leek, Blackout, Skyline, Vapor and Vapor 2. The first three were solid, and the last two were at least passable. I never had problems loosing grip on the Leek or the Vapors. The Leek was an EDC blade for roughly a year and a half. I do prefer uncoated blades. Especially when they're stainless! I also prefer stainless pocket clips. Even my Benchmade 530's pocketclip wore very quickly.

  2. Very informative and interesting review, thanks for posting. I owned a Scallion a few years back, and it's definitely a light-duty only knife in my eyes. Lost its edge fast, and I was just whittling sticks.

    Also, +1 for not endorsing nutnfancy's homophobic comments (assuming that's what you meant by inappropriate and unnecessary tangents).

  3. So far I've owned the the rainbow pattern of the Leek and the Scallion of the Kershaw knives. To me they really aren't too bad quality, especially for the price I bought them for. I have used my leek for a year and a half cutting everything from tape to boxes to whittling sticks and mine never has really gotten dull. I did run the Leek through an electric stropping machine to clean the tape residue from the blade. However the knife was still as shaving sharp as it was when I first bought it. I think that there may be better quality metal used at different times and it also depends on who made the knife is why it might explain why people feel differently about their knives. Also I know that the Scallion I bought (at a different store) isn't near the quality of my Leek. It may be that the knives aren't handled properly right after they're made. The lock sticks and it's hard to close the knife. However with a little filing it's an easy fix. I ended up giving the Scallion to my nephew. I just thought I'd throw in my to cents and good luck with your knives.

  4. What I love best about your reviews is that they are honest! Thank you for being candid about your thoughts. I learn so much here.

    I received a scallion as a birthday gift 3 months ago and so far it hasn't really blown me away. I might give it away too.

  5. I remember that shop from 2009. Same horrible experience from the staff. Glad they went under...

  6. I think the scallion is an excellent EDC.

  7. I can't stop buying these knives. They suit my needs outstandingly. The best one I own (and I hate to say it after the 2 composites I have) is the rainbow leek. I guess because they have to spend so much time on it to get that finish looking 10/10 that the knife just turns out perfect. I am interested in 2015 to see if you revisit this knife and the new(er) apparently steel, 14C28N that is being used on these blades- or like 2 of mine,composite D2 on the cutting edge, and 14C28N on the rest of the blade.