Thursday, August 29, 2013

Kershaw Injection 3.0 Review

Todd Rexford's customs are among the finest modern knives in the world.  At the upper end, they start to merge with true art knives, given their fit, finish, materials and ornamentation.  The prices his knives achieve on the secondary market are breathtaking and his book is either closed or the wait is long.  So when KAI USA announced two Rexford collaborations this year at SHOT Show 2013, it was reason enough to get excited.  The first of those collaborations is the ZT 0801, another variation on the theme of bearing pivot Titanium Framelock Flippers.  It is a gorgeous knife and there is an even more limited edition version the ZT 0801 CF with the bronze anodized handle scales with carbon fiber inserts.  That is probably as close you will ever get to a Rexford custom without buying a Rexford custom.  But they also announced a budget Rexford, the Injection series.  As I wrote for a recent AllOutdoor.com piece, it is easy to make a cool $200 blade.  A cool $40 is much more difficult to pull off.

But credit to KAI USA and their Chinese OEM (this is a Chinese made knife), they did it.  They didn't just make a good knife, they made a good inexpensive knife, and one that carries over a few of the trademark Rexford touches, like the decorative pivot and the visually striking thumb stud.  This is a knife that warrants strong consideration in your next search for an EDC blade.  There is one drawback and it is an important one, but overall, this is a great $40 knife.    

Here is the product page. The Injection 3.0 costs around $35.  The larger Injection, the 3.5, runs about five bucks more.  Here is a written review. Here is a video overview by the Late Boy Scout. Here is a link to Blade HQ, where you can find the Injection, and all proceeds benefit the site when you purchase things through this link:

Blade HQ

Here is my review sample:

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Here is a very short video showing me opening the review sample using the "coin flip" method (no wrist flick required):


Twitter Review Summary: Mid-priced EDC Greatness

Design: 2

It is simply amazing how many of the little Rexford touches made it through the grueling conversion from custom to production knife.  The Cryo is example of how that process can go astray.  But here KAI stuck close to the simple, elegant original and we are all better off for it.  The thumb stud is cool, the pivot is a tiny bit of bling, but the blade shape and the handle are straight Rexford no-nonsense beauties.  Why mess around with complex blade shapes when simple one's do so well?  Why drop in tons of things that LOOK ergonomic, but aren't.  The handle is simple enough to afford many different grips, the pivot is thankfully, really thankfully, unassisted, and the milling the G10 didn't get filled with pocket lint.  Overall, a straight up design home run--simple elegance.  

The ratios are nice.  This has the "Golden Ratio" of folding knives for a perfect .75 blade:handle ration (3:4:7, three inch blade:four inch handle:seven inches open).  The blade:weight is .91 (3:3.3). It seems heavier than that, but I checked two different sites and my own scale.  I guess that means it feels "solid" for whatever that vague description is worth.  Here is a shot next the Zippo for size comparison:

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Fit and Finish: 2

Let's be frank, at the $40 price point you are still looking at a pretty basic knife.  The Skyline is a great blade, one of my favorites, but it is no one's idea of a fancy knife.  There just isn't the budget to mind the details beyond those that are purely functional.  But the Injection proves that is wrong. Check out the "floating" backspacer:

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That is a touch more often seen on customs and while the effect is not as cool as when the backspacer is filed, it still something KAI didn't have to do.  The G10 was smooth and nicely finished.  The blade centering was perfect.  The  lock up was early (emphasis on "was," see below).  The thumb stud was sufficiently catchy.  Everything was finished very nicely here.  Certainly nicer than a $40 price tag would lead you to believe. 

Grip: 2 

After getting through about 1/3 of Donald Norman's Design of Everyday Things, which is great, I have a better way of thinking about things and one thing that has been borne out by the Injection's handle is that simple things allow the user to determine use, instead of the designer.  Here Rexford's simple, basic handle shape just falls on the fingers in about half dozen ways.  From cutting grapes (why do grapes need to be cut before going to daycare?  Are full grapes sinister but half grapes somehow beaten into submission?) to hacking limbs, the handles gave rise to few, if any hotspots, and I never lost traction.  I am coming to realize/believe that jimping is not necessary if the handle is properly designed.  Additionally the milled out grooves, while not aiding in traction, didn't collect all that much gunk.  Their visual flair is worth it, given it didn't detract from the handle's utility.

Carry: 2 

I am surprised by how little the knife weighs, as it is a solid thunk of metal and resin.  That is not to say that it carries poorly, but more to explain that this is not a completely cloaked pocket presence.  It does not sway or roll, but it is large enough and heavy enough to let you know it is there.  I like the nicely finished edges and the convex sculpted profile of the G10.

Steel: 1 

8Cr13MoV and it is less than stellar performance is the price we pay to get very well made Chinese knives on the cheap.  Corrosion resistance, especially with a bead blasted finished, is below par.  Testing the steel here was pretty instructive of 8Cr13MoV's weaknesses.  

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There were three major tasks, all of which posed different challenges to the 8Cr13MoV steel.  First, I did about two weeks of general utilty/EDC tasks--opening packages, whittling roasting sticks, cutting stray threads.  Of course it did fine here.  Then I decided to diversify my testing and did some food prep.  This included cutting green beans up from our CSA (which, by the way, I heartily recommend, yes I know blogger hipster...).  After that I did some slicing including sugary and acidic foods like grapes and tomatoes respectively.  Here the bead blasted steel picked up a consistent and distinct coloration.  I used various cleaners and lubricants to remove the staining but nothing worked.

After this I pressed the Injection into a hard use task, something I did not think it would survive.  In the middle of a 6 mile hike my three year old decided that he wanted a walking stick and so I made him one using only the Injection.  I hacked away at the fallen tree and removed a limb, then using counter angled chopping strokes I reduced the limb to size.  It was a long task and I basically used the Injection like a small hatchet, but it was fine in the role.  There was no chipping, as the steel is relatively soft, and  the edge while not GREAT is still a fairly useful utility edge.

Overall, this is probably the hardest I have used 8Cr13MoV and while the stain resistance is not good (and this is a known problem) I was pleasantly surprised at how well the edge held up during a beating and edge retention is probably more important, in the final analysis than corrosion resistance. After all, a sharp knife can look ugly and still cut.

Blade Shape: 2 

Unless you are true master, it is best to stick with simple blade shapes.  And if you are a true master, like Todd Rexford, sticking with simple blade shapes is not a bad idea either.  Here you get a classic drop point, fairly reminscent of a Strider drop point, and the shape does just about everything very well.  Overall, I liked it a lot. 

Grind: 2 

Lots and lots of people love full flat grinds and that is what you get here.  They are, generally speaking, easy to make than a hollow grind and there are some slicing benefits, but generally I don't think this choice matters as much as the quality of the grind.  Here you get a surprisingly well-ground blade.  The main grind is nice as is the cutting edge.  They are even and consistent throughout the blade.  They also performed well in slicing tasks. 

Deployment Method: 2 

This is a point of uncertainty.  The thumb stud, as you can see, is very aggressively profiled:

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This thing really grabs your thumb.  The pivot is also silky smooth so you can easily coin flip open this knife with no wrist flick.  I liked it a good deal.  But, because of the aggressiveness of the milling on the thumb stud, some might complain that it is too grippy.  I have no contest with those folks.  I prefer the coin flip method (where your fingernail is actually touching the thumb stud), but if you don't you might want to count this as a 1 instead of a 2.

Retention Method: 2

It is plain.  It not deep carry.  It is steel.  But it works.  The placement and most importantly, the shape:

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of the pocket clip keeps this knife tight against your pocket and in place, even on tough hikes on rough terrain.  It slides over the lip of your pocket with easy and pulls out with a swift, strong, but relatively easy tug. Please, production makers, keep these clips simple.  PLEASE.

Lock: 2 

Liner locks are wildly underrated.  This knife shows why.  After some serious hacking the only real change in the knife was that the liner moved to around the 40% mark on the blade tang, having started out around 25%.  It had no blade play when I got it or after I thumped on it.  The lock was easy to engaged and disengage.  There was no lock rock and you can access the locking liner easily. This is an excellent lock.

Overall Score: 19 out of 20

The Injection 3.0 is an excellent mid-priced knife with a decent, but not great steel.  That is the price you pay for a knife this nice and this cheap.  Overall, I'd ranked up there with some of the best mid-priced EDC knifes--the Skyline, the Delica, the Mini Grip.  It might fall a smidge behind on the steel, but in every other regard is at least these knives' equal.  The simple, elegant, and subtle Rexford style is beautifully translated into a budget blade here.  The only drawback of the Injection is that it might have you eye the ZT 0801 even more or, God and wallet forbid, a true Rexford custom.  If this blade starts you down that path, you have the right to blame me when your wife spots a $2800 charge on your credit card to a one "T. Rexford."  Just don't let her use the knife to stab me. 

The WINNER of the HF is SHARP.  Sharp please contact me at everydaycommentary at gmail dot com (in the usual format) and I will send out the HF and Body Tube.  

7 comments:

  1. Nice looking knife, but I don't know...

    I can't help but feel that Kershaw's greatest competitor for this blade is another Kershaw. The Skyline is about the same price, has the same clean aesthetic, marginally better steel, and the oh-so-popular-right-now flipper. Can the Injection stake it's own claim so close to the Skyline?

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  2. Interesting thought, Dajolaw. I would say there are a lot of aesthetic differences between the two blades. They project different personalities to me.

    The Injection 3.0 looks upscale and gentlemanly with its little cosmetic touches like the pivot, thumbstud, and cutouts. The Skyline is a great design that is PLAIN, unadorned and functional. That stunning blade shape on the Injection is much more attractive than the Skyline's spear point.

    The Injection is tip up carry only and the clip placement is proper for that. (I HATE carrying the Skyline tip up.) On the other hand, if it matters, the Skyline is an eyebrow-raising 1.0 oz, yes 30%, lighter than the Injection. Despite a larger blade!

    Skyline is American made.

    As with other 8Cr13 Kershaws I wish the Injection could come with 14C28N steel. (I disagree with Tony that 14C28 trumps VG-10 -- in my experience those steels are fungible -- but I do think either is preferable to 8Cr13 for a 3" EDC blade.)

    Overall the Injection seems like a fine entry from KAI. The best looking folder under $40? Great review.

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    Replies
    1. Good points, Anon R.D. Made me break out my Skyline and compare it to the review pics.

      Many of the design touches on the Injection (such as the milled out scales and the backspacer) don't really do anything for me; not that I don't like the look, mind you, it's just that it doesn't grab me as "special."

      The blade shape, though, that's another thing entirely. Glad I took a closer look at it. The Injection might be the prettiest (and most functional?) blade in the price range.

      Never liked the Skyline clip (especially with the abrasive scales underneath it). Hope the Injection's better in that regard.

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  3. Nice review. Frankly, I actually think this looks nicer than the Skyline (which I do like, except for the flipper). I don't even care about the not-great steel and that it's made in China. I'm definitely buying this one.

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  4. Just got mine last week on a gamble that it would be decent, and am pleased with it, though I think the thumbstud is a little too close to the pivot point. I may just need to spend time handling it. The esthetics are excellent, and the grippiness level of the scales is very nice. Tony is quite right about the versatility of grip this knife allows. And fit and finish are good. I got out my Buck small Vantage and compared by "feel" to see if they were equally kind to the hand along the edges. Same judgment. So far, I prefer the Buck to the Injection because the thumbstud fits my grip better. I have 2 Skylines, one a boxed keeper for the day the user leaves me. The ounce is noticeable when comparing, but in my pocket I can't feel it, so no blood no foul. Wonder if the Injection is tougher against sideways stress? But my use does not involve that, so again, it does not matter. I like this knife, and would have paid $10 more for better steel. Also for US made, just because. It is good to see such proof that a fine knife can be had around or under $50. I can't understand all the obviously trashy stuff that people buy for $10. It sure isn't "collecting" unless it is to go in a wall mount beside the black velvet rendition of a 4-wheeler slingin' mud. I inherited better taste from my grandmother, whose black velvet painting showed an Italianate villa with fountains, cypresses and lounging ladies.

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  5. Sorry to have confused the thumbstud on the Injection with the flipper on the Vantage in my previous comment. I do prefer the Vantage opening currently, but will see how the Injection grows on me in a month or so when I can carry it for a few weeks in a row. Carried the Skyline today, and it was just automatic in my hand, even better than the Vantage I played with after I got home. I do not regret having two, plus the "hunting" orange non-folder version, which I have not yet used at all. Camping trip coming up, though, in early October.

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