Review: the Kershaw Clash is the perfect starter knife for your everyday carry
Entry-level isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
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Are you a knife aficionado? Do you feel a tingle down your spine when you see a picture of Damascus steel? Do tables showing the chemical compositions of various alloys keep you up at night? Maybe, but I’m guessing not.
Outside of knife collectors (of which there are many, and we welcome you), most people just want a pocket knife that can take care of business in their day-to-day lives. I’m guessing that the average person cares more about the price of their next blade than its carbon content. For them, the ideal knife might look suspiciously like the Kershaw Clash.
Kershaw’s range of knives spans from less than $10 for the Cinder to more than $100 for the Lucha. Toward the lower end of that spectrum is the Clash, with a sale price (at the time of writing) of $35.84. That price puts it in competition with entry-level knives from all kinds of manufacturers including well-known brands like SOG and newer manufacturers like Civivi. It also aims the Clash squarely at the knives you see in the checkout line at your local sporting goods store.
I can relate to buyers who don’t want to spend a lot but still need a serviceable piece of gear. To that end, I set out to figure out how the Kershaw Clash stacks up as a budget-friendly EDC knife.
How does a knife manufacturer go about making a folder that costs less than a case of trendy IPA from your local brewery? It starts with the materials.
The Kershaw Clash’s 3.1-inch blade is made from 8Cr13MoV. This relatively soft midrange steel is made in China, where manufacturing costs are about as low as they can get, and it doesn’t include a lot of expensive additives. There’s enough chromium and vanadium to provide some degree of corrosion resistance––but not enough to jack up the price. Its softness makes it harder to break and easier to sharpen than more brittle alloys. The tradeoff is edge retention, which is not spectacular. The Clash can be had with a plain or partially serrated edge.
The 4.25-inch-long handle uses glass-filled nylon to keep weight and cost down. It creates a functional feel, but it’ll do the trick. If there’s one knock on the handle it’s the relatively squared-off edge that makes it feel a bit boxy in the hand. That’s a subjective critique, though, and certainly not a reason to rule it out.
What stood out to me the most upon opening the Clash for the first time wasn’t any of that, though; it was the positively addicting opening mechanism. The blade snapped open with such authority that I was genuinely surprised by it. There are a lot of more expensive spring-assisted knives that don’t generate this kind of force. In fact, it was so satisfying that I kept opening and closing the Clash until my wife suggested that I was being annoying and needed to stop playing with knives. Talk about fun police.
How we tested the Kershaw Clash
Since the Clash is primarily going to be used by most buyers as an everyday knife, I made sure to throw plenty of everyday tasks at it. I cut apart cardboard boxes, whittled sticks, trimmed bushes, and stripped electrical wire. I was pleased with how well the knife handled all those tasks, but it did particularly well working with green wood. The kind of steel used in this blade is easy to sharpen, so you can keep it in this kind of shape without too much effort.
As with any potential EDC, I carried the Clash in my pocket for a few days to get a feel for it. Weight wasn’t a problem at 4.3 ounces, but the half-inch thickness and square handle edges prevented me from getting comfortable. Reaching past it to dig keys out of my pocket was more annoying than I liked, so the Clash is probably better suited to utility uniforms than street clothes. Forget about it if you want to wear anything more form-fitting than a pair of relaxed-fit jeans.
What we like about the Kershaw Clash
Price is the first consideration most buyers will take into account, so kudos to Kershaw for making a quality knife so affordable. I know it’s not fancy and it’s not going to grab your knife-collecting friends’ attention, but it can certainly do what you need it to do. Hell, I have more expensive folding knives and I appreciate having a good knock-around option for opening boxes and tossing in my center console as a backup.
The Clash’s opening mechanism has to be mentioned again. It’s just so damn satisfying. I also like the simplicity––no thumb studs, no ambidextrous side locks, no annoying nail nicks, just a plain old flipper tab that shoots the blade into place like a bolt carrier group. It’s not all good news (as you’ll soon see), but I did enjoy every opportunity to deploy the Clash’s blade.
What we don’t like about the Kershaw Clash
The style of lock Kershaw chose for the Clash has been used before, but I am not a fan. On the plus side, it’s stone simple and very reliable. The drawback is the fact that your thumb has to sit in the blade path when the blade starts to close, which is far from ideal. This mechanism can be used safely with two hands or one, but it’s not my favorite. I have to believe that a back lock approach would have been a lot safer without changing production costs too much.
Compared to harder steel alloys, 8Cr13MoV is relatively soft. That makes it easy to work with, but you’ll need to bust out the whetstone more often because edge retention is a major shortcoming. Kershaw offers free lifetime sharpening, so you can let the pros maintain your knife’s edge as long as you can do without it for a while. If you opt for the partially serrated blade, I highly recommend letting the factory handle sharpening.
While I tested the Kershaw Clash, I kept thinking about who it was made for. It was a little underwhelming compared to the other knives I’d tested recently. Then again, it was about a third of the price — less, in some cases.
There are two types of people who would enjoy this knife. The first is someone just getting into knives; a buyer who just needs a reliable EDC that won’t break the bank. The second is someone expanding their knife collection. I’m imagining someone who has a few high-end knives, but nothing they want to risk losing on a field exercise or fishing trip. In either case, I can’t think of a reason not to embrace the entry-level accessibility of the Clash.
It wasn’t long after receiving the Clash that I moved the clip to a tip-up orientation. The job was easy enough; all I needed was a T6 Torx bit. There must be enough people who prefer to carry their knives either tip-up or tip-down to warrant making the clip reversible––and both groups must be larger than the percentage of potential buyers who are left-handed. The pocket clip can only be mounted on the right side. I’m sure Kershaw doesn’t notice a hit on their bottom line for not catering to lefties, but there are plenty of brands who take the extra step to make their knives work for everyone.
FAQs about the Kershaw Clash
More questions? Here’s Task & Purpose’s additional brief.
Q. How much does the Kershaw Clash cost?
A. The Clash starts at $57.74, but I found it on sale for as little as $35.84 on Amazon. It would almost be irresponsible not to get one at that price, right?
Q. What kind of steel does the Kershaw Clash use?
A. Kershaw uses 8Cr13MoV steel for the Clash’s blade. This Chinese steel is widely regarded as a runner-up to the Japanese AUS8. It’s relatively soft, which makes the blade tough, but quick to wear. It’s also not especially resistant to corrosion. Head over to Knife Guides to learn more and compare 8Cr13MoV to other common types of steel used in knife making.
Q. Where are Kershaw knives made?
A. Kershaw is based in Oregon, where some of their higher-end knives are built. The Clash is built in China. If that’s something that factors into your buying decision, check out the American-made Kershaw Blur.
Q. Does Kershaw provide knife sharpening?
A. Yes, Kershaw owners can return their knives to the factory at any time for free sharpening. Kershaw’s website also provides tips on how to maintain knives at home for the DIY crowd. Plain edges are relatively straightforward to sharpen and have a recommended angle of 18-22 degrees. Serrated blades like the one on this particular Clash are best left to the pros.
Q. Is this the ideal budget EDC knife?
A. As an EDC knife, the Kershaw Clash is tough to argue against. It’s not particularly high quality, but that’s not always a bad thing if you’re someone who tends to be hard on gear and doesn’t mind maintaining or replacing it more often. The other consideration is shape. The Clash is fairly thick (more than half an inch), so I was always aware of its presence in my pocket any time I carried it. That’s not great in board shorts, but it shouldn’t be an issue in cammies.
Got questions? Comment below & talk with T&P’s editors
Scott Murdock is a Marine Corps veteran and contributor to Task & Purpose. He’s selflessly committed himself to experience the best gear, gadgets, stories, and alcoholic beverages in the service of you, the reader.