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It has been a while since I have visited Kershaw’s value offerings. The Injection 3.0, the Emerson Collabs, and the Strobe are nice knives for the money, but I think each model left the reviewer asking for a little more.
Buy the Kershaw Link at BladeHQ
Admittedly, these knives are all in the $20-30 range. It’s hard to get too excited at that price point as there will almost always be significant compromises. Most of the time those compromises center around the materials selected, or the company trying to do “too much” with a budget knife. At best the end result is a good, but not great, product. Rarely do you get something truly excellent although there are notable exceptions like the ESEE Zancudo or the Victorinox Cadet.
The Link was a 2015 release and is a Kershaw in house design. As I noted in my review of the ZT 0888MAX, an in house design from KAI is not a bad thing. It may not grab eyeballs like the latest Hinderer collab, but Kershaw has talented in-house designers who have hit home runs in the past including the Skyline, 888, and Knockout.
The Link is a USA made knife, and Kershaw describes this as the missing “link” between USA manufactured quality and reasonable price (get it?). They assigned the Link model number “1776” to drive the point home even further. While the in house design team may have things down, I think the marketing team may benefit from a fresh pot of coffee.
General Dimensions and Blade Details
The Link has an overall length of 7.6″, a 3.25″ blade, weighs 4.8 ounces, and is made in the USA. Although the knife weighs nearly 5 ounces, it feels lighter in hand. This isn’t a bad choice for an EDC or utility knife. It is on the larger side and may be too big for some to seriously consider as a daily carry. The Link has an almost dystopian look to it with it’s blackwashed blade and matte grey handles. It’s a nice looking medium sized folding knife.
This knife comes with either a FRN (fiberglass reinforced nylon) handle or the aluminum handle shown here. The aluminum version currently retails for around $40 while the FRN version is more at the $30 price point. Personally, the extra $10 for aluminum was a no brainer. I don’t care for the pattern on the FRN version and think it looks cheap. The dark gray aluminum handles play nicely with the black hardware and “blackwash” finished blade.
The blade of the Link is long and non-traditional, with an upswept tip and decorative swedge. It also features a perfectly executed sharpening choil. I like how the blade is ground from thin stock, and that Kershaw went with a high flat grind. The end result is an excellent slicer. I used the Link to assist with some tree trimming that needed to get done after a tropical storm. The knife was fine for pruning as well as slicing rope and twine. I have also used the knife extensively on cardboard and has always done a good job.
As an aside, Kershaw also offers the Link with a tanto blade. I think it spoils the lines of the knife, and I am not a fan of tantos for a utility knife. But it’s an option if you want it.
I think the excellent blade geometry is especially important in light of the fact that the blade steel is 420HC. I have never been a huge fan of 420HC. I don’t care if the smiths of Valeria heat treat this stuff, I have always associated 420HC with bargain bin knives. That said, the 420HC on this knife isn’t that bad. I was expecting it to crumble under cardboard, but it has held its own. Again I think the excellent blade geometry has a lot to do with this.
One benefit to a mild steel like 420HC that it is easy to sharpen. A couple passes on my fine Spyderco Sharpmaker rod and we are back in business. I’d say the 420HC on this knife is almost as good as Aus8 or 8Cr13MoV. However, I would definitely prefer some 14C28N like on the Skyline.
As Grayson points out in the comments section, it is worth noting that Kershaw has also released the Link in S35VN as an exclusive for HouseofBlades with red or blue anodized aluminum handles. It clocks in at $80, and may be worth the premium in price of you like the design. Here’s to hoping Kershaw will continue to offer the Link in different steels. I think that if the S35VN version wasn’t a dealer exclusive then it would probably retail for closer to $60. That would be a great deal.
BladeHQ also offers a damascus version of the Link. It’s not clear what kind of steel the damascus is made out of, but if you like damascus then this could be an option.
Handle, Ergonomics, and Pocket Clip
As I have previously mentioned, this is an anodized aluminum handle over stainless steel liners. There is a black ribbed backspacer that runs 3/4 the length of the handle. The fit and finish on this knife is excellent. It is far superior to the Chinese Kershaws I have previously reviewed. While not 3-D contoured, the handle has been chamferred twice for comfort and visual interest. The parts line up perfectly, the screws are all set the same depth in the handle, and there are no machining marks. Even the lanyard hole has been thoughtfully executed: it is oversized and inset into the pommel rather than simply drilled through the handle. Nicely done, Kershaw.
The Link is a comfortable knife to work with. It’s thick without being chunky, and there is a great natural thumb rest on the back of the handle. If you need to you can choke up further on the spine of the blade, but there is no jimping. The anodized aluminum isn’t what I would call “high traction”, but it’s not slippery either. There is plenty of room for a full grip, the flipper forms a nice forward guard, and there are no sharp corners to speak of. Kershaw managed to do a lot here with a modest budget. I think most people will be pleased with how the Link feels in hand.
The clip is a black parkerized steel clip. The handle is drilled for ambidextrous tip up carry. This isn’t a deep carry clip, but the Link is still discrete thanks to its dark handle and nondescript pocket clip. This is a heavier knife with a relatively smooth handle, so I was concerned about the knife moving around in my pocket. Thankfully, this clip provided plenty of retention and the Link remained in place. It’s hard to get too excited about a clip like this, but that is not a bad thing. Thankfully, Kershaw didn’t do anything weird here.
Deployment and Lockup
The Link makes use of Ken Onion’s SpeedSafe technology. I have the better part of a dozen SpeedSafe knives over the years and you can check all the SpeedSafe reviews out here. Suffice it to say, this is a long standing and proven assisted opening mechanism. My knife fires hard and fast thanks in part to a well placed and nicely jimped flipper tab and phosphor bronze washers. All things equal I almost always prefer a non-assisted manual action flipper, but given the price point I don’t mind this assisted opener. It works great.
Also, it is interesting to note that there is no rattle of the spring when the blade is open. Typically these SpeedSafe knives rattle a little, although you can always fix that by opening up the knife and applying a little lithium grease to the spring. My Link is dead quiet, so maybe Kershaw has found a way to address this issue at the factory.
The Link comes with a stainless steel liner lock. Lockup is solid and without play. I have always been a fan of liner locks, and the lock on this knife works well. The lock bar is easy enough to get at when you want to close the blade. Here is a shot of the Link next to my Skyline:
Blade centering is near perfect on my knife.
Kershaw Link Review – Final Thoughts
This is one of Kershaw’s better budget offerings in recent memory. It seems like historically their best stuff has been the USA made Kershaws, and the Link continues the path forged by knives like the Skyline, Blur, and Knockout. I’d say the Link is on par in terms of quality, but it remains to be seen if the knife will develop the following these other blades have. The Link is a little chunkier, but not bloated. It’s also kind of a funky design, but it works well in hand. For these reason I don’t think the Link will garner the same legacy these other knives have, but it’s still a very good knife.
Kershaw is also releasing limited editions of the Link, which demonstrate that it is popular with consumers, and adds an element of collectibility to the knife.
I think most people who are attracted to the Link on paper will like the knife. It’s a solid tool that you won’t mind dragging underneath a car, or up a ladder. The fit and finish is excellent. The materials are good, although I’d like to see an upgraded blade steel (addressed with the limited editions, but at double the price of the regular version). I understand that probably wasn’t possible given the price of the knife and the rest of the features.
On the subject of price, if you like the look of this knife but want something higher end, you may want consider the Zero Tolerance 0095BW. The 0095 shares the design language of the Link, but with a manual flipper, bearings, S35VN steel, and a titanium handle.
If you are interested in the Link then I think you will end up liking it. I recommend it to those seeking a solid work knife that is made in the USA and retailing for well under $50.
- Retractable steel blade has carbon and chromium for strength and corrosion resistance. BlackWash finish creates worn look that hides scratches and prints
- As Kershaw’s patriotic model number 1776, the Link is made to be the best collectible utility knife of its kind
- For accessibility and safety, Link has a reversible pocketclip, liner lock, SpeedSafe assisted opening and built-in flipper
- With closed length of 4.4 inches, Link is the go-to tool when scouting, hunting, fishing or working around the home or office
- Both sharp and sturdy, the Link is discrete with one-handed opening for personal defense or protection during lifesaving emergencies
I recommend purchasing the Kershaw Link 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
Great review! It’s always good to see the good review sites continuing to evaluate knives in the lower and middle tiers, instead of just customs and high-end production knives. Us enthusiasts still need knives that we can beat on and not worry about damaging or losing, or loaning out as needed. I’m carrying a Nirvana right now, but if I needed to do something abusive I would go grab my Oso Sweet or Skyline instead. Kershaw and CRKT seem to be the best bets for a great knife at $50 or less, with Byrds and the lower end of Spyderco’s range overlapping that a little bit.
Thank you, Patrick. I am still very interested in budget knives for the exact reasons you mention. While I own knives that are essentially collectibles, I still carry and use knives all the time. A good portion of my EDC rotation is made up of knives under $50. BladeReviews will continue to cover this segment of the market.
Grayson Parker says
I think it’s worth mentioning that (like the Skyline and Blur) Kershaw is releasing limited runs of the Link in different colors and steels. House of Blades has one in blue and S30v, I believe.
I also agree with Dan, re: Kershaw and middle tier USA made knives. The Chinese stuff (and even ZT, to an extent) distract from their real talent: making high value US made knives.
Grayson, You make an excellent point about the limited editions. I will update the review as that can get around the complaint that the steel is not particularly good. Thank you.
Chad S says
There is a version with upgraded materials. House of Blades has a model with S35VB blade (stonewash or blackwash) and red or blue aluminum handles for $80. How do you feel about that?
Chad, The anodized handles don’t do anything for me, but I think the S35VN gets around the complaints with 420HC. Not sure if it’s worth double the price. If Kershaw did this as a non-limited release and it retailed for closer to $60 then I think it would be a screaming deal. At $80 plus shipping I’d say buy it if you really like the design, but for close to $100 I’d probably save a little more and go for a Griptilian, Sage 1, or Para 2.
They did just release the dimascus version as well. Looks great paired with the grey handles.
That’s great. This is a nice design, so it sounds like Kershaw is going to run with it. I hope it sells well for them and we get a number of different versions.
I knew Kershaw was going to do more with this knife. I have both models in straight, tanto and serrated blades and I love them. I saw the blue limited edition model with the better steel but haven’t bought one yet, but will soon. I’m excited to hear about a Damascus model as well. I told my friends when this one was first released it would be the next knife that Kershaw would do something with to make them collectible a few years from now, much like the older Zing, OD-1, Ram, etc., etc.
Great review as always!!
Thank you, Rob. I am glad you enjoy your Links. It’s a solid design for sure. Congrats on acquiring the new Damascus version as well. I haven’t been following Kershaw’s value segment too closely, but offhand this looks like the best knife they have produced in a while. It could very well be the next Zing, OD-1, etc. The limited releases are certainly a step in the right direction.
Just bought a Link 1776GRYDAM at BladeHQ for 85.95.
Thanks for the heads up Jeremy.
I got the Damascus Link a couple weeks ago and thought I would make a comment about the lines in the Damascus which are more pronounced on this knife than any other Damascus I own.
If y’all like the Link you should check out the Damascus, you won’t be disappointed.
I picked up the FRN handle version today.
The scales do have kind of a cheap look and that plastic feel but it just felt grippier to me than the aluminum when I handled it.
Finely checkered G10 scales along the lines of a CRKT M21 -12G would be nice
The plastic handled version is probably more practical. I agree that G10 would be the best of both worlds here. I hope you enjoy your Link. Thanks for stopping by.
Matthew Rogers says
I bought my first and last kershaw knife a month ago ( the 1776 Link ) what a piece of junk sharpening it is a pain dulls cutting warm butter back to my antique high carbon blade
Loved the review, but know I’m a little late to the party. I’m looking for a solid knife to take into the woods with me. I don’t know about “heavy use”but intend to use this in all climates, streams and wetland, forests. Mostly cutting and slicing, and maybe, just maybe some work with wood to make tent stakes. Tempted by the Link with S35VN steel. But also considering the full size Benchmade Boost or Barrage or the Spyderco Shaman. All feel good in my hand. Like the materials in the Boost handle for grip in wet conditions. How does the Link compare to those and should there be something else on my list? Something from ZT without a recurve blade. So… many… questions… Thanks!
Dan Jackson says
Thanks for checking out the review and thanks for the question. The Link is a fine knife. The grind is thin and it should keep up with the Benchmade and Spyderco. It sounds like you have been able to handle all 3 which is great.
The Link is going to be a little heavier, but at approximately half the cost it may be a worthy compromise. Which do you like most in hand? What about in the pocket?
Thanks for the awesomely quick response! Let me begin by saying these are the models I’ve narrowed it down to ( but would look at ant model you would suggest like a ZT). They all meet my needs from an ergonomics and opening action perspective. I’m going with a folder because I will also use this for my job as a field biologist . I really don’t want to have a fixed blade strapped to my belt when I’m on the job.
I’m okay spending up to $200 for a knife, but hope to get it right the first time. I don’t want to spend $200, then realize this wasn’t the right knife for me, then have to drop another $200. With that in mind my first question is s35vn vs s30vn. I’m not a knife expert and I am looking for something that’s going to be easier to maintain for a novice. Will s35vn be demonstrably easier to keep sharp for someone like me? Also, I love the Shaman, but I just don’t understand the blade shape or geometry enough to know if that will suit my needs. I like the shape of the Benchmade blades but again I just don’t know which is going to be the best blade for the type of use I described. Any advice along those lines would be helpful. I know the ultimate call is mine, just looking for some help making the decision. Thanks
PS – I love, love love the Benchmade Vector, but that’s an emotional appeal rather than a practical appeal. It’s kinda big for an EDC, and not sure if it fits the bill as a field knife.
Dan Jackson says
Tom, Regarding S30V vs S35VN, it’s not a huge difference although it depends on the heat treat. If you want to be safe go with S35VN.
I’m probably not the guy to ask if you are looking for “the one” knife as I have had hundreds pass through my hands, but I think if you buy a nice Benchmade or Spyderco you will be in great shape. They make a lot of practical designs that will work well for the kind of work you are describing.
I haven’t handled the Shaman personally but have experience with a lot of their knives and if you like the way it feels in hand then it should cut just fine.