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Kershaw’s slew of new releases is always some of the biggest news out of SHOT Show. Each year the company unveils more than a dozen designs, including high-profile collaborations as well as compelling offerings from the talented in-house crew. Everything they make is accessible, with even the most lavish releases rarely going over $100. There’s bound to be something that appeals to your taste and budget in Kershaw’s yearly SHOT barrage.
Buy the Kershaw Dividend at BladeHQ
For me, that something this year was the Dividend. In fact, it stuck in my mind as one of the most exciting knives of SHOT, full stop. Ostensibly a shorter and slimmer version of the Link, to me the Dividend seemed much more closely related to the Leek: a slim, small, lightweight, US-made SpeedSafe EDC knife with an accessible price point. Before I even had one of my own I was sure I loved it.
But then I got my own Dividend in hand and – well, I didn’t hate it, but it did, strangely, seem like a different knife than the one I handled earlier this year. Not a terrible knife, just a much less inspiring one.
The news isn’t bad so much as complicated. There’s a lot to think about with the Dividend if you’re considering picking one up, so let’s take a look.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The Dividend has a cutting edge of 3” and a blade length of 3-3/16”-ish depending on where you measure from. It has a handle length of 4 3/16”, an overall length of 7-1/4”, and weighs 2.94 oz. It is made in the USA.
We say a blade shape is “modified” when it deviates so much from one of the standards that we’re not really sure what to call it. So the Dividend’s hollow-ground blade is a modified wharncliffe or drop point, depending on how you look at it. It’s a good blade, basically one continuous, gently curved edge. I generally like a mix of straight edge and belly, but the curve here is so gradual in places that, functionally, it’s straight. Cutting threads, breaking down boxes, slicing up an apple – these are the kind of things you’re going to want to use the Dividend for, and in these tasks it will do just fine.
Blade steel is 420HC – bad stuff. This isn’t an entry-level steel, it’s an outdated one. The blade geometry makes for an effective cutter, but after working through just a little cardboard the edge was drastically reduced. Not impressive. It doesn’t even have the good grace to maintain a clean edge; after that initial cut test it became really toothy. The more I use knives the more I like accessible, easy sharpen steels. 420HC is definitely easy to sharpen, but there’s a baseline for edge retention that it failed to clear as implemented on the Dividend.
The obvious response to this criticism is the price: the Dividend is designed as an affordable knife, and costs needs to be kept down with affordable steel. But the Dividend isn’t that cheap. I paid north of $40 for mine. Everyone’s value scale is calibrated differently, but a $40 purchase is not one I personally make lightly. At the consumer’s end of the equation, it’s hard to say for sure why a certain decision was made on a knife. But whatever the reason, it’s unfortunate that Kershaw chose to go with 420HC steel on the Divdend.
Handle, Ergonomics, and Pocket Clip
There’s this one handle shape that KAI’s in-house designers return to over and over again. We’ve seen it on the Link, the Rove, the ZT 0095BW, 0770, and of course the Tilt and 0777. It’s a good shape: simple, slightly hump-backed, grip neutral. It’s back again on the Dividend, available in two different material choices: a GRN configuration that is slightly cheaper but makes the knife more rotund, or the slim, sleek, Leek-like aluminum that I opted for. There is a decorative GRN backspacer as well – not really a pro or a con, I guess, unless the idea of lint getting caught in there really gets to you.
I’ve already posited that the Dividend is a secret sequel to the Leek (a Leekquel, if you will) and that really comes through in the aluminum model. The Leek managed to be very thin without feeling overly narrow, and Kershaw pulled off the same trick with the Dividend. It is a rare flipper knife that doesn’t butt your knuckle right up against the tab, too, so that’s all to the good.
Remember when Kershaw had some of the worst clips in the biz? Go look at the nightmare clown clip on the Zing or the Tyrade. Those days seem to be behind us. The clips they’ve been using in recent years are so much better. On the Dividend we see that same standard, almost nondescript clip that has appeared on the Link and some ZTs. I like it. My one worry is that the vertical screw orientation will be prone to wiggle over time. That being said I’ve had no problems with it so far with the Dividend. It has remained secure, doesn’t interfere with any grip, and is adequately deep.
Deployment and Lockup
Ah, SpeedSafe: the 8Cr13MoV of deployment methods: on so many knives, what is there left to say about it? The Dividend debuted alongside a few manual knives and I would have liked that setup here as well, but there is no denying the SpeedSafe deployment works great. Also, there’s a definite synergy between flippers and SpeedSafe, because they eliminate the possibility of misfires. The Dividend will deploy safely and surely every single time (unless the spring breaks or wears out, at least).
Worth noting is that, compared to the Link as well as other SpeedSafe knives I’ve owned, the Dividend seems less snappy. There’s a kind of softness to its deployment. It might be imperceptibly slower than other SpeedSafe knives but it also circumvents that problem of too much kick: you won’t have any problem holding on to the Dividend when you open it.
The liner lock on the Dividend is so squared away and familiar I have qualms about wasting more than a sentence or two discussing it. Rock solid, and exceedingly strong for all reasonable use of this EDC knife. Kershaw left just enough of it exposed to make sure you get good purchase on it for disengagement. Good stuff.
Dividend or Link (or Leek?)
The Dividend is positioned by Kershaw as the smaller follow-up to the Link. The relationship is certainly valid: the knives have material, mechanics, and that KAI handle shape in common. But they feel very different in use: the Link is much thicker, it fills the hand and feels like it’s meant to be used hard. The Dividend, while undeniably durable, is slender and elegant, keyed into a more EDC centric philosophy.
I bounced off the Link. I wasn’t interested in it when it was announced and have never been tempted to pick one up since. Dan sent me his to compare in this review, and some hands-on time confirmed what I already suspected: I prefer the Dividend in every way. The Dividend is much slimmer, with a better blade shape, and weighs nearly two ounces less. The size difference isn’t so pronounced that there are tasks the Link can do that the Dividend can’t. It is just a better knife.
The real competition in the Kershaw catalog, of course, comes from the Leek. And how does the Dividend compare to the Kershaw’s most iconic knife? Pretty favorably. I like the Dividend’s larger handle and less doofy pocket clip much better. Its blade shape has some of the sinuous character of the Leek without the fragility. It would be a straight upgrade were it not for the steel. 420HC is bad, there’s no two ways around it. Ultimately, I’d probably still give the nod to the Dividend, but until we see one with better steel (and I suspect we will) this matchup isn’t cut and dry as it otherwise would be.
Kershaw Dividend Review – Final Thoughts
In the intro I alluded to my disenchantment with the Dividend. There’s a lot of good to be found here: I like the slim profile, blade shape, weight, and pocket clip very much. I can even get behind the SpeedSafe mechanism. But I keep stopping just short of enthusiasm. Why is that?
The overall design is deeply competent, but also fails to stand out compared to classic in-house Kershaws like the Skyline and Knockout, as well as their more characterful collaborations and competition outside the Kershaw family. And over time the price thing really got to me. The aluminum version of the Dividend will probably cost you just under $50 – not what I consider a value knife, and not offering much compared to other knives you can get for the same price or less.
But although my initial enthusiasm eroded away, the Dividend isn’t bad. Carrying it was never a chore, even if it was boring and the steel was not so good. Sometimes you get a knife in your head and you just want that knife, even if it’s not mathematically the best choice. If the Dividend is such a knife for you, I say go for it. Otherwise, grab a Skyline or a save up for a Delica instead.
- Premium quality 420HC stainless steel, elegant, drop-point blade with a stonewashed finish offers outstanding edge holding capability, strength, hardness and corrosion resistance; roughened, scuffed look hides scratches, dirt and fingerprints
- Anodized aluminum handle in matte grey curves gently to fit the hand comfortably
- 4-position pocketclip for all users, tip-up or tip-down carry
- Ideal, essential EDC—slicing, survival tool, cutting boxes, self-defense, tactical use, food preparation or the perfect gift edit
- High quality, general all-purpose knife great for EDC or use when camping, fishing, hunting, working, utility or outdoor activities
I recommend purchasing the Kershaw Dividend at Amazon or BladeHQ. Please consider that purchasing anything through any of the links on this website helps support BladeReviews.com, and keeps the site going. As always, any and all support is greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.
Patrick L says
At that price you can get the new Spyderco Efficient or CRKT Pilar, and while 8CR13MOV is not spectacular it’s definitely an upgrade. And I think they both have better ergonomics as well.
Good review though. This matches my impression of the Dividend after handling it. Better steel would definitely make this guy much more competitive.
Benjamin Schwartz says
Agreed. Elsewhere the Dividend seems to be raking in the positive reviews despite being pretty non-competitive. Maybe the aura that being Made in the USA imbues it with is closing the gap and making it seem better than it is?
The better steel needs to happen without a big jump in cost, is the key. The increase in price that a steel upgrade brings would put the Dividend into even more contested territory. A carbon fiber version with CPM-154 like the new Leek would be quite cool, though.
Patrick L says
If they want to keep it “USA-Made”, why not CTS-BD1? That steel is inexpensive enough for Spyderco to export it to China. Why couldn’t Kershaw grab a batch for a knife like this? How much more could that add to the cost that would cost them more buyers than they’d gain with the upgrade?
Benjamin Schwartz says
Yeah that was my pick too. I think we’re going to see a lot of overseas-produced knives from all sorts of manufacturers with BD-1 in the near future, so it should theoretically be even more cost-efficient if the knife is built in the US. The Spyderco UKPKs are CTS-BD1, US-made, and just over $50, and they were that price even when the steel was newer.
Of course, there are probably logistic issues that affect how easy it is to buy and implement a new steel. Still, I would have waited for all of that to get sorted if it meant a better knife in the end.
Good call on BD-1. I’ve used it on the new Voyagers and it’s just fine.
I somewhat prefer 14C28N but that difference is dwarfed by the gap between BD-1 and the Dividend’s rendition of 420HC.
C’mon, KAI. You don’t have to have your marketing guy get “cute” with every single release. Just pitch ’em across the plate sometimes. It’s okay.
PS: I share Ben’s fear that they will whiff the steel upgrade by going all “Benchmade Gold Class” on us, doing an S35VN carbon fiber model that they’ll milk the enthusiasts for to the tune of $85 or something.
Great to read this and compare perspectives. This was an important release.
I agree with Ben in almost every way. I would go further and say the Dividend is exceptionally handsome. I love the blade shape, the “KAI handle shape” (this in-house design language is undervalued compared to the glitzy outside collabs) and the clean gray anodized finish.
Lots of praise for the lockup. The liner lock leaf is thin but has strong tension and perfect engagement (about 40%). I found it completely stable in spine whacks and lateral torquing. Couldn’t ask for better on a light EDC like this. On an assisted opener, liner locks beat framelocks 9 times out of 10, and this is no exception to the rule.
Basically they gave us every other feature of an outstanding budget offering, while keeping it in the USA (hooray!) … but compromised seriously on the steel. I wonder if companies would even try to offer 420HC today if it weren’t for Buck’s legitimation of the steel through its way above average treatment. Suffice to say that this was no Buck 420HC. Soft and gummy. (I got mild PTSD recalling the straight up trashy 3Cr13 KAI tried to foist off on us with its Starter series.)
Data point re: the steel — I engaged in some arguably abusive behavior, digging a divot with the Dividend in a stack of paper and cardboard. Good deal of lateral torque. I was being dumb: that slender tip is not up to such applications. But interestingly, the tip didn’t snap (as I bet a Sandvik Leek would’ve done), instad it took on a pronounced bend. Like I said, I doubt we are anywhere near the HRC of the Buck heat treat.
And yet the Dividend’s blade shape, ergos, looks and weight are all well above average. Honestly even with ordinary AUS-8 this would be an important budget knife.
In the end, the real question is how much will they try to charge us for the 14C28N upgrade. What do you guys think? I would definitely pay $49.95 for a Sandvik Dividend. (Sky blue anodized handles, please!) Probably $54.95 — that’s still less than a Delica, and I prefer 14C28N to VG10.
Beyond that, heavy burden on KAI to explain why it should cost over $15 to upgrade this small knife from a gummy embarrassing steel to a solid but not blingy modern one.
Benjamin Schwartz says
Astute as ever – when are we going to see more full-length reviews from you?
Good point about the looks. I think that when Kershaw tries to do fancy it comes across as tacky (things like the three GTC collabs come to mind), but these simple, honest-looking knives are always visually appealing if not inspiring.
I would happily pay $50 for a Dividend with a Sandvik steel. I think it would still have stiff competition from the not-much-more-expensive Delica, but at least it would be a legitimate competitor and not a compromised also-ran. I can almost guarantee we’ll see an upgraded Dividend, but I have a sinking feeling it will price itself out of relevance, kind of like the S35VN Link.
It’s just not compelling. Nothing wrong with it other than the steel, but I own a Blur, a Leek, 3 variations of Skylines, a Camber, an OD-2, a CQC-5K, a Needs Work, and a few other Kershaws I can’t recall right now. They all seem better. I love it when I see something coming out that is exciting, like the Kizer Feist, but this knife seems like it’s been done already.
Benjamin Schwartz says
I can see what you mean – I’m kind of torn between thinking it’s a handsome design and thinking it’s kind of bland. For me, I think it comes down to this: the design is solid but some good steel alongside the good price would have made it exciting. It’s a tough one, and I’d have a hard time recommending it over the any of the knives you mention (other than the Needs Work, which I just don’t like).
While holding a lot of promise, the 420HC is going to be the primary failing of this product. Sitting at a price point that is competitive with offerings from other companies with better blade steel (RAT-1; Tenacious; Efficient; and frankly a bevy of KAI’s own offerings). Its a tough sell to give you a product at the same price point with less horsepower. With the design quality and the USA-made branding this really could have been a hit if it came in with BD1 or D2. A D2 version that is USA made with the handsome styling this knife exhibits that is priced around 50$ is a strong competitor. It would be priced under a Delica with a steel that many consider better than VG-10 at cutting and maintaining, it would be priced just above a Tenacious which is Chinease made and going for around 40$ now, it would be priced just around a RAT-1 in D2 and have better looks and the benefit of USA made. A home run. Instead what we will get it an upgrade in 6 months or so with S35VN that will price it out of the market for people looking at KAI products. If you pay for S35VN in a KAI knife, you just go to ZT. Its like pricing a Toyota up there to the point that it competes with your luxury brand in Lexus. Bad business.
I totally agree. 420HC is basically inexcusable for this knife. Needs to be offered in BD1, D2, 154CM, CTS-XHP, etc.
Great comment, Younggun. Nailed it.
The implied philosophy of “If you want to buy American and can’t pony up around $70, we’ll sell you a compromised knife” is pretty grating. This is a great design but the handle materials aren’t exotic.
Put BD-1 or D2 on this thing and street it at $50-$55. Boom.
J. Gates says
Kershaw’s burgeoning lineup has really left me cold for the past several years. A few of Kershaw’s designs are interesting, but their race to push out a bevy of meh Chinese-made blades at ~$30 have placed them one step above Gerber in my personal ranking of knife manufacturers.
Benjamin Schwartz says
While I wouldn’t put Kershaw quite that low I agree with your general point. I think the marketing strategy in recent years has been to release a bunch of entry-level knives, each with a single selling point – or in some cases a gimmick. While they manage to make some interesting blades in the category once in a while, and while the quality is reliably decent, this strategy doesn’t really make for knives that feel “complete” to me. They don’t feel particularly thought out and I find them hard to connect with.
Thanks for the comment!
Nice write up as usual. I was left uninterested by the Dividend…until they did the M390 sprint run. Now I am debating picking up a couple more. $70 for an M390 blade is unheard of. And I was going to disable the AO on the Dividend, but I actually like it on this knife. They did tweak it to make it better. All around a great knife, though I do find the handle of the Skyline more ergonomic than the similarly sized Dividend. Now if they would just release it with M390 and G-10 or CF scales…
Benjamin Schwartz says
Thanks, glad you enjoyed it!
That M390 run is crazy, and exactly the kind of thing I want to see more of. I knew variants were coming, but I never imagined we’d see such a huge upgrade for such a low price. Awesome.
Yeah, the Skyline is just straight-up a better design. It doesn’t look like it would be more comfortable in hand, but it definitely is. The Dividend is a good knife,and would be standout for a lot of catalogs. The fact that it isn’t just goes to show how hard it is to surpass the Skyline.
So true. My only complaint about the Skyline is the blade material. It isn’t the worst, but it isn’t wowing anyone.
On that topic, if you happen to know anyone looking to sell a Skyline 1760S30VCF…or if you have inside word Kershaw is doing another sprint run of the Skyline with a better blade, let me know!
Sonny S. Difuntorum says
Bought a Kershaw dividend in June 2017 and now it’s August 2018 is completely fallen apart.
Dan Jackson says
Sonny, What happened to it?