Saturday, November 21, 2009

Miscellany: Kershaw Groove review

The knife industry is a pretty tight-knit group. The big knife producers have a long-standing tradition of collaborating with custom knifemakers, and this cross-pollination of ideas invariably leads to interesting knives. One such knife is the Kershaw Groove, a full-size folder designed with the help of RJ Martin.

The biggest compliment I can pay the Groove is that it's like a poor man's version of a real RJ Martin custom. You can see the design similarities between the Groove and the Devastator, the custom blade that won Blade Magazine's "Best Tactical Folder Award" for 2009. There are a ton of little differences, to be sure (RJ Martin uses high-end S30V steel, a custom heat treatment, titanium handles, and precision bearings), but the overall shape of the blade and the handle is basically the same.

The Groove's most immediately noticeable feature is the 3.5" grooved blade made of 13C26 Sandvik stainless steel. The machined grooves probably aren't for everyone, but I think they look pretty cool, and the functionality of the knife isn't harmed in any way. The drop point blade slopes downward from the handle and has a slight recurve. Because of the big belly created by this shape, the Groove is excellent at slashing and precise draw cuts.

The knife is a true flipper-only design (no thumbstuds at all). It has a beefy liner/frame-lock that engages smoothly. While it doesn't ride on the custom roller bearings Martin uses on his $500 knives, I suspect most people can live with standard phosphor bronze bushings on a $50 knife. As has been the case with all the Kershaws I've handled, the blade locks up solidly and has zero play in any direction.

There is a nominal thumbramp on the blade, but the stair-step style jimping and the acute ramp angle aren't good enough to stop your thumb from riding forward entirely. The flipper forms a prominent fingerguard, though, as it does in most of Kershaw's designs. The finger grooves on the handle are deep and well-placed for most medium-to-large size hands, further increasing your margin of safety should you ever have to put the knife to hard use.

Aside from the two thick steel liners, the knife handle is made of interestingly shaped G10 overlays that are aggressively textured. The wavy shape of the overlays is actually pretty functional, giving your fingertips a decent place to perch on when you grip the knife.

The back of the knife repeats the groove motif, and again, it's not just for looks. When held in a forward grip, the grooves press into your hand and fingers for extra traction. When you use a reverse grip with the Groove, you can plant your thumb on the ridges to anchor the knife in place. It's really a well thought-out design.

The pocket clip can be moved for tip-up or tip-down carry, but in typical Kershaw fashion, it doesn't support left side carry. Additionally, it's extremely stiff out of the box and will have to be bent out with pliers if you want to actually clip it to your pants. On the plus side, it rides at about the right level in the pocket and is absurdly over-built (with three (!) screws holding it down).

Overall, the Kershaw Groove is an excellent knife with just one problem - weight. The Groove tips the scales at about 5 ounces thanks to its non-skeletonized steel liners, so it'll probably overwhelm most pockets. It looks especially chunky compared to great EDC knives like the previously-reviewed Kershaw Skyline, which are so light that they can literally clip on to gym shorts. But, if you need a heavy-duty folding knife that won't let you down, the Kershaw Groove has a lot to recommend it.


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