My New Victim: Kershaw Axle BlackWash

While my wife was looking at hats and boots at Tractor Supply, I went plundering through the tool bins looking for… well, looking for anything that wasn’t hats and boots. It’s been a while since I chose my own pocketknife, as I get at least one new one every Christmas. It’s meant to let me help my wife and kids open gifts, so my mother hands me the gift knife to open promptly in the middle of the gift opening mass confusion. It isn’t that I don’t appreciate gift knives. I really do. But sometimes you want to pick out your own. And this Kershaw kind of jumped out to me.

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I gave myself a budget of 20$, tax inclusive, and set about looking for my new victim. Yes, victim. My pocketknives are shown no love and very little respect. These are used for everything from breaking down boxes to trimming my toenails. Cutting wire to digging stuck cases from a grabby chamber. This is a tool; I’m not going to treat it like a work of art. I’m also not about to pay work of art prices for something that I may end up using to scrape dog crap out of my boot. And my new victim is the Kershaw Axle BlackWash.

Never heard of it? Well, not much of a surprise, I mean not even the most stalwart of knife guys can remember every knife, every design, every model from every maker. But even Kershaw fans may have missed this one. From what I understand, this knife is a Tractor Supply in-store exclusive. If you don’t have a TSC nearby, you can also find these on Ebay, being sold by enterprising knife-scalpers. In the store, they cost fifteen dollars, and on Ebay I see them going for forty or more. Plus shipping. Savages.

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Now, on to the details. I’ll go ahead and get this out of the way, it’s made in China. This doesn’t bother me on this kind of product, but I know it bothers some folks. The blade is 3CR13 steel. This could be handy information, but what does this mean? Well, it’s metallurgical profile is similar to Japanese AUS-8 or domestic 420J2. Still lost? What this means is that the steel will perform similar to blades that cost more, but the knife itself will cost less. The blade will need sharpened more often, but it will also take a bit more flex abuse. I don’t find this to be a mark against it at all. I pry with my pocketknife often enough for it to be a consideration.

The blade is three and a quarter inches, and folds to four and a half inches, closed. So depending on your local laws and regulations, it could be too big for you to carry. What it means for me, is happy hands. I like larger gripping surface, to be able to really get my hands locked around it. I’ve carried smaller knives, but I always come back to this general size for the grip surface. It’s just more stable.

The blade is also plain. I know that sounds boring, but I prefer plain edges on a pocket or shop knife. I don’t need anything special to touch up the edge, a couple swipes on steel can true the edge enough to work through a project. Simplicity in sharpening is important to me on a knife like this as well. And I can do a spear point plain edge with ease using whetstones, ceramic rods, rounded files, or a tea saucer. You just can’t get that kind of ease with a serrated edge.

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The finish is a decorative black oxide. I say decorative because it’s no G10. There is good reason for this finish as well. It’s inexpensive. The finish is one of the things that caught my eye. It’s different. It looks like a tool. It looks like I don’t have to baby it. It looks industrial, and does a wonderful job of hiding that the frame and blade are different materials. The blade is stainless, and the grip is… who the hell knows? Some Chinese steel. But it doesn’t matter much, since it all looks the same. It is not an art knife, so I appreciate the more reserved look and lower cost of the finish.

Opening is actuated by use of either the thumb stud, or the flipper. The thumb stud is one area that I feel the knife fails a bit. It just does not engage positively on my thumb. Thankfully, this is more than made up for with the generous flipper protruding from the back side. The flipper requires just enough motion to engage the spring assist, and the blade pops right out. It has a smooth, easy action that doesn’t simply pop open like an automatic whenever it is touched either. The flipper and spring assist are mated well, and work exactly as they should.

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Now, I picked this knife up early this afternoon, so I have not actually tested it beyond cutting some paper with the tip of the factory edge. So what I’m going to do, is beat the hell out of it for the next month. Kershaw gives a limited lifetime warranty, which is nice. But I won’t be needing it. Seriously, I’m going to abuse this knife. Look for the results come the first week of October.

Kershaw does have a few other knives that are similar. Such as the Blur, Cryo, Spline, and Scrambler, which of course are all different, and run the entire range or prices Kershaw has. This means, of course, that these knives also run the entire range of quality and durability and other attributes that make knives different. I’m sure you can find something you like.

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