Thursday, July 10, 2014

Kershaw Cryo G10 Review

"Le bon Dieu est dans le détail"
--Gustave Flaubert

Indeed it is.

In the original Cryo review I wrote:

The bones of a great knife are here.  Kershaw, here is how you fix it:

1.  Bring production to the US

This allows for better steel, like the 14c28n on the Skyline, or even better S30V.  It also allows for an upgrade in the fit and finish, which will get rid of the centering issues.

2.  Make the frame lock easier to disengage

3.  Get rid of or slim down the thumbstuds

4.  Use titanium or Ti/G10 on the handle scales with matte finish on the Ti.

This is will make the knife lighter and grippier.

This new blade would be much more expensive, probably around $100, but it would be a great knife and fill a hole in the Kershaw line up.  They have very few mid priced knives, going from the $30 blade to the $300 Tilt with little in between. 

I am not sure if Kershaw took that to heart, but I meant it.  The Cryo is a knife that can be great.  The G10 Cryo is a vast improvement over the original.  Because the knife is so substantially different, I have opted to review the G10 version.  I know this knife has received a lot of attention on this blog, but the Cryo deserves it, Kershaw deserves it, and frankly, folks looking for a good EDC deserve it.  As someone that reviews gear, as a critic of sorts, its important to acknowledge when a company takes steps to fix a problem.  Otherwise I run the risk of just being a snarky a-hole (I AM a snarky a-hole, but I want to be other things as well).

Here is the product page. There are quite a few versions of the Cryo: the original all stainless steel handled model, that model in blackwash, a tanto/recurve in blackwash, and the G10 version that is the subject of this review.  There is also the larger Cryo II that comes in the same variations, though I don't think the G10 model is out yet.  The Cryo costs $36.95. I wrote two prior Cryo reviews looking at the original stainless steel handled model: here and here. There are no written reviews of the G10 model yet. Here is a video review. Here is a link to Blade HQ, where you can find the Cryo G10, and all proceeds benefit the site when you purchase things through this link:

Blade HQ

Here is my review sample (purchased with my own money, for me to keep, yay!):


Twitter Summary: The Cryo we have all been waiting for; this is the one to buy.

Warranty Report

Just like when I review items made by custom makers, I want to give you information about the processing of my Cryo for a warranty repair.  Why did it need a repair?  I am a moron, that's why.  Talking to Dan and Andrew, I was convinced that I should try to de-assist my Cryo and so one day I laid out some paper and a magnetic parts dish and went to town.  It got everything apart and took out the torsion bar (brilliant design by the way, so simple yet so effective).  Then I dutifully put everything back together.  And it didn't work.  It wouldn't open at all.  Rummaging around I noticed a pin still in the parts tray and I remembered where it went.  It took the whole thing apart again and put it back together.  This time the thing flopped open.  I played around with it some more and got it a little better, but even when the torsion bar back in, it still wasn't really working right.  The lock bar was all screwed up.  I decided that I would just take it on the chin and send the whole thing back to Kershaw.  I am sure I could have got it working again, but I didn't want to evaluate the knife without giving it the benefit of "factory" tolerances and fit and finish.  That wouldn't be fair.  So I sent it back with credit card info in tow, to pay for the repair.  It was, after all, totally my fault (and I noted that in the warranty claim form).

Two weeks later the Cryo came back and was as good as new.  And there was no charge.  TuffThumbz referenced this when he was on GGL and my prior experience with them in my "real life" tells me this is a company that stands by its customers and stands behind its products.  The speed of the repairs and their cost (zero) is just impressive.  Kershaw is really killing it right now; no one can match them at the bottom end of the market, at the top end of the market, in the quality of collaborators, the performance, the value, and the service they provide.  It is a highly competitive market right now and Kershaw is doing amazing stuff.  

Design: 2

My two biggest criticisms of the original Cryo were its weight and its lack of grip.  Both complaints had the same origin--the slick and heavy stainless steel handles.  They were coated and made to look like titanium, but in the end, they were just colored stainless steel.  The original Cryo clocked in at 4.2 ounces, which is quite portly for a knife this size.  This model slims down by about 10% squeaking under the 4 ounce mark at 3.7 ounces.  That's still a lot for a blade this size (the Paramilitary 2 has a 3.44 inch blade and weighs 3.75 ounces, for example), but it is better. I'd love to see the G10 side be all G10, like on a Skyline or a Strider, but alas, that's not what Kershaw did.  Without the liner on the G10 side we might be looking at a 3 ounce knife. But still, I'll take 3.7 ounces.  Its not great, but its better.  The real improvement comes in the area of grip, but I will leave that for below.  

The performance ratios are good, but not great.  The blade:handle is .73.  The blade:weight is .74.  Here is a shot of the Cryo to demonstrate scale:


Overall the Cryo G10 fixes two of the original's biggest problems.  They aren't perfect fixes, but each is worth about a point, so the G10 gets a 2 while the stainless original gets a 0.  
Fit and Finish: 2 

Oh my...much better.  Before the warranty repair the fit and finish was superb.  After, it was still superb.  The blade traveled a bit because of the loose pivot, but that is something I expected upon return (I cracked the pivot to take it apart and I didn't expect them to Loc-tite it for me).  A dab of Loc-tite (Loc-tite Blue 242 is my preferred formula for this task) and the problem was gone, as you can see: 


The edges of the handle are nicely rounded over, the blade centering is dead on, lock up is good with no stick.  The detent on the torsion bar is perfect.  Frankly, I think they did some tweaking from the stainless version.   I have owned three Cryos now and handled another three or four and this one is, by a wide margin, the best I have seen. Huge upgrade, from 0 to 2.

Grip: 2 

Well, well, well...this is an easy upgrade.  G10 may not be exotic or pretty, but it is as functional as it gets.  It resists temperature changes, provides good grip when properly textured, and is very dimensionally stable.  The G10 here is grippy without being offensive--pretty standard issue Kershaw G10, very much like the Skyline's G10.  


This is a no-brainer upgrade and makes me wonder why this wasn't the standard issue set up (more on that below). 

Carry: 1 

This is still a heavy knife. The thumbstuds (which are 100% vestigal, as useful as your tailbone) still act as a snag hazard.  I just can't think of a reason why they need to have them.  These two things make this a less than perfect carry.  The knife is slim though and the pocket clip is placed well, but I can't say this is a great knife in the pocket.  Its probably average, or a smidge better than average now. 

Steel: 1 

I have come to hate bead blasting of all kinds.  It robs your stainless steel of its stainless character.  Why pay for a stainless steel and then bead blast it into something less?  At least 1095 has a good carbon content to offset its lack of stainlessness. The stonewashing is a big plus, both for looks and corrosion resistance.  I have also come to appreciate the utility of 8Cr13MoV.  I am not yet ready to give it a 2, but its perfectly average.  Together, the stonewashing and my greater familarity with the steel make me want to give it a higher score, but the scoring system isn't subtle enough to allow for a higher score here.  The steel on the G10 version is better because of the stonewashing, but not a point better. 

Blade Shape: 2 

I have no complaints with the blade shape.  I never have.  Its great.

Grind: 2 

Okay, this is one place where I think even in the re-review I was too harsh.  The grind here works.  Its not pretty, but it works.  The same flair out at the ricasso end of the grind that I had on the two stainless models exists here.  I prefer it not be there for ease of sharpening, but it is.  Also, the blade stock while thick, is nicely thinned out towards the cutting edge.  I have had more time with the knife and it cuts quite well.  This isn't "custom knife" nice, but the price is also not "custom knife" high.  For a budget blade its quite good (though not as good as the CRKT Drifter, a knife I appreciate more with each new knife I review).    

Deployment Method: 2

The thumb studs now work.  They aren't ideal and are totally redundant, but they at least work to deploy the knife.   The flipper is nice as it was before.  I am not sure if the detent on the torsion bar is different between the stainless model and this model, but I can reliably deploy the knife using the thumb studs.  

Retention Method: 2 

Once a great clip, always a great clip.  


The only limitation, it seems, to the clip is when it is used on very, very large knives.  Here, though, it works great.

Lock: 2 

As I mentioned in the re-review, I think I was overly harsh on the lock.  The lock, once you get used to it, is quite good and my model had no stickiness to it at all.  

Overall Score: 18 out of 20 

There is no question this is a great budget knife.  In fact, if you wanted to you could go back and take out the word "budget" in that sentence.  This is just a great knife.  And the really amazing thing is that Kershaw made a bunch of improvements but the price didn't change all that much.  One thing that I am afraid of is that Kershaw, getting a bunch of push back from the Internet because of their 2012 line up and the heavy use of black G10 and bead blasting, put out the stainless version instead of a G10 version.  I hope that's not true in one sense, because it means we had to wait to get the "real" version of the Cryo.  On the other hand, if it is true it shows why Kershaw is at the top of the game right now--a willingness to listen to its customers.  Even if it is not true, the G10 version of the Cryo shows a willingness to listen as well.  For all of the flack I got over the first two Cryo reviews, I am perfectly happy with this new version of the knife.  Its a very good EDC.  Its not perfect, but its darn good.  Talking to Chris from Knife Thursday, he summed up the Cryo G10 best when he said: "This is the knife as it was meant to be." 

The Competition

Compared to the equally widely available SOG Mini Aegis, the Cryo probably comes out a bit ahead.  Its a thinner knife with a better pocket clip and a hardier grind and blade shape.  I also prefer a flipper to a thumbstud, but this is not a total trouncing.  The Mini Aegis still has better steel (though marginally so), and it is significantly lighter.  Both are overseas produced, so that's not an issue.  The real issue comes when you look at price.  The Cryo is a sub $40 dollar knife.  The Mini Aegis is $10-$20 more.  Its not that much better of a product, if at all.  It might be time to change the Readily Available Benchmark.   


  1. For some reason we already have the Cryo G10 available here in Canada. I have no idea why we got it so far in advance. I will probably take a gander at one this Friday.

    The article has piqued my interest again for the CRKT Drifter in G10. I like the Drifter in stainless but found it a bit heavy and too slick for the handle slabs despite the stronger lock up on the frame lock. I try to avoid liner lock whenever possible especially when the stainless model was discounted almost $10 from MSRP.

    The G10 Drifter is cheaper than the G10 Cryo by $10 so a handling of both for comparison will be worth it before the final purchase. Regardless I would probably end up getting the G10 Cryo anyways since I do not have a Hinderer model knife in my rotation. Oh well. *shrug*

    Thanks for the review.

  2. Since you have now reviewed the Hinderer XM-18; the ZT 560; and the Kershaw Cryo G-10, I would really like to hear your thoughts (possibly in a review) on the ZT 566.

  3. I'm glad Kershaw has improved the knife. Even people who liked (or idolised by the sound of the feedback you got on your review) the original must see that this is an improvement. In weight and grip if nothing else. Though I found it VERY enlightening hearing Thomas from Kai on your podcast say that heavy knives sell better.

    I'm also encouraged that Kershaw have such good customer service. I've had to send TWO Kershaw/Emerson CQC 7Ks back. One with a busted lock (which the retailer replaced) and the second because while they say it's a reversible clip the screws they provide aren't long enough for left hand carry >:( So I hope they can sort it out. I have bad luck with Kershaw. I've bought three of their knives, and each has had an issue.

  4. Thanks for another thorough review and an affordable knife I probably have to get now.
    If you wanted to initially review the knife with factory setup why were you trying to de assist it to begin with?

    1. I was trying to deassist it because I am a hopeless tinkerer. I should have left it alone, done the review, then de-assisted it. Oh well, live and learn.

  5. Why the capitulations regarding design, grind, and deployment method? The way the review reads, they only merit a "1" at best. Other knives are referenced as being better in these areas, which implies they actually deserve a "2." Cryo features are described as: good, not great; not ideal; redundant; etc. Not a criticism, just curious. This knife doesn't appear to warrant such a high score.

    1. Probably because it is a Hinderer production knife, and is an important exclusive for Kershaw, that capitulation may have been necessary. However, it looks like Hinderer may get a run for his money now that Emerson has entered into the fray. The only thing that I give the Hinderer over the Kershaw Emersons is the frame lock bar stabilizer. Other than that the Emerson Wave is a still a significant advantage for one hand deployment over the Hinderer.

    2. The fact that the knife is a Hinderer production knife holds ZERO sway with me. If that was the reason to give it a high score, the original would have scored better.

      I would like to review one of the Kershaw Emersons and I probably will in the near future.

    3. Anthony if you do review one of the Kershaw Emersons (particularly the CQC 6 & 7K) be sure, when assessing carry, to actually try and swap the clip to left hand carry. I, and other people too, have had problems with that since Kershaw didn't provide long enough screws. I had to get a refund on mine :(

  6. There is no capitulation here. As I have stated before, I do this site for fun, not profit, so I don't need to curry favor with anyone. Specifically, I don't get review samples from KAI and Thomas already did the podcast, so there is not much I actually need from them. I like have a good working relationship with every company, but I am not capitulating. The Cryo G10 is a significantly better knife.

    Here is the issue: the 20 point scale is very functional, but in some instances, like here, it lacks the refinement to fully express a given aspect of the knife's performance. A 50 or 100 point scale might work better for a few reviews, but that much refinement renders differences in scores difficult to interpret. How much better is a 47 out of 100 compared to a 51 out of 100? So, overall the 20 point scale works the best, but in a few instances I wish it were more refined.

    Specifically the design category is one in which the score of 2 represents a compromise. The knife is clearly 1 point better, with less weight and better grip, but I am not sure if it is a full two points better. I think the weight loss is significant, but I wish it were more. The G10 scales, however, are a big deal, so the upgrade is more like 1.75 points. The scale is not refined enough to express that, so it got a 2.

    The grind is similar. It is about .75 points better. I still don't like the bulge near the ricasso, but the cutting bevel is more consistent (or perhaps appears more consistent as there is less contrast between the cutting bevel and the main grind without the coating to set it off). And the bulge, while ugly, has zero impact on performance.

    The deployment method is a full point better. For whatever reason the Cryo G10 is the first Cryo I have handled (out of the 2 I owned and the three or four I handled elsewhere) that actually deployed using the thumbstuds. I wish they weren't there, but if they are on the knife, they should at least work and now they do. That's worth a point.

    The score is such a big jump because the knife made medium sized to large improvements in almost every category, so while it doesn't crush the stainless version in most categories, adding up the incremental improvements everywhere yields a significantly higher score.

  7. Got my hands on it today to fiddle with. I somewhat agree with the review. The thumb studs are still redundant. Get rid of them. The knife needs better steel like 154CM, Sandvik, or at least 440C. Blade grind was adequate QC and QA. The blade assist is a take it or leave it but the phosphor bronze washer is still a nice touch. The stonewash does make the steel look more tactically appealing. I would still rate it a mediocre middle of the line 15 out of 20 just because of the liabilities. Bump the knife up $20 with the mentioned improvements. I would say it would exceed Skyline quality, as well as the rest of their lineup, to the level of faux Zero Tolerance with the hop ups. Oh yeah - throw a complimentary lanyard onto the knife. It would deserve the accoutrement.

  8. This really is a decent little knife. I got mine for about $25 on sale and at that price am totally pleased.

    There are some surprising, well executed details like the square-cut spine jimping; it looks cohesive with the design, and strikes a balance between aggressiveness and comfort in use.

    The grind was outstanding with one blip: I do have that beard or flare right next to the ricasso. Otherwise noticeably good for the price. Even the tricky swedges are neat and symmetrical.

    I didn't like the Grip as well as Tony; this is one of those 3-finger knives that, due to its thickness, makes you keep wanting to choke up on it to find a way to fit that last finger on. Also, my thumbstuds don't work. They should have been ditched.

    On the other hand I think the knife carries very well. The weight on the G10 version has gotten down to a point where it doesn't bother me.

    Overall I would probably come in within a point or two of the score awarded here. A lot more care seems to have been taken here than with some of Kershaw's other Chinese production.

    Playing with the Cryo G10, you grasp why KAI has NOT made a bigger, Cryo II version of the G10 with a 3.25" blade and a full sized 4-finger handle.

    That would be such a strong offering that it would begin to cannibalize ZT sales. In particular it would drop the marketing equivalent of a tactical nuke on the ZT0566.