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Ken Onion's Speed Safe

Jun 26, 1999
Any opinions on Ken Onion's Speed Safe (Kershaw) knives? I was thinking about getting one and wanted to see if anyone had one and what they though.

I had a Random Task on backorder in April. It never arrived and I cancelled after several weeks; Cutlery Shoppe said they were delayed while adjustments were being made to the handles.

I later got to play with one of these knives and was glad I'd put the money towards a Military instead (that's more praise for the Military than a criticism of the task). The fit-and finish were good, and it was a treat to see a somewhat contoured, polished handle in a production knife, but I did not care for the Speed-Safe feature at all. It required much more force to release the blade than I expected, which I considered uncomfortable and dangerous.

It was dangerous because I found my thumb "chasing" the blade when it did release, coming close to hitting the edge because I could not stop my thumb immediately after applying such force. My girlfriend is also a knife knut and had the same feeling - she quickly refused to open the Task any more. I will say that my first experiences "flicking" liner-locks were similarly perilous and I learned to adapt to that so that it is quite natural; perhaps my experience with the Task would have been similar.

I guess I'd say that these are well-made and attractive knives now that they've worked the kinks out, but I definitely wouldn't buy one until you have had the chance to play with a Speed-Safe knife and form your own impressions.


(Why else would a bear want a pocket?)

As far as I am concern:
I really HATE that speed sfae .
Let say WE (Fred and company) all hate that system. It's dangerous !
You lose control and you can cut your thumb.

Also the hardness of the random task is so high you cannot sharp the knife with ceramic.

My two cents.


I used to have the older Tasks, and yes they required some force to release the blade. I had to adjust the pivot screws so that they would flick open with less force. When I upgraded the knives with the newer model (flat thumbstud and bronze washers), the default was set at a much less force input. I didn't like this at all, so I tightened the pivot screws (go figure). I suspect it was caused by the new bronze washers which made the speedsafe mechanism to open more smoothly.

About your thumb chasing the blade (well actually the thumbstud), it is somewhat normal and expected. It always happened when I showed the Tasks to my buddies. Actually I cut myself too when I first got them. They look and feel like linerlocks, but all that's required is a little force to defeat the safety detent (whatever it is). Five minutes was all it took to get me accustomed to the speedsafe mechanism (at least for me).


If you really want to buy a Random Task or any Kershaw with Speedsafe, please try it personally. Visit your nearest dealer, and ask someone there to show you how to open it. If anything goes wrong, at least it's not gonna be your thumb that needs a bandage

Take care,

I can not see the Speed Safe's opening as being dangerous. It's not. I found no tendency to cut my thumb.

Quality problems now have been addressed.

As far as I can see the only issue is whether they are automatics. Since they sell them at the Remington Store at the local mall, I guess not but it sure does feel like one.
I have a Random Task in both versions[Lg and Sm] and bought a new Ricochet last week.Nice stuff.Solid lock up,no blade wobble nice blade profile.Can't see how to cut your thumb while opening.Like the system and also like Cudas.Inovation IT'S NEAT!!!!!
I have one of Ken's custom Speed Safes, and have no problems at all with the thumb following the blade. It just never happened. So I thought you guys were just being dim when you talked about getting your thumb bitten on the Kershaw speed safes. But sure enough, when I opened the Kershaw, I came real close to getting my thumb bit. Something about the opening or ergonomics on the original Kershaw speeds safes seems to lead one to getting bit, whereas on the customs that didn't happen.

Have heard since then they re-worked some stuff and the newer speed-safes don't have the thumb-biting tendency. Hoping to handle one soon to find out.

I had a Random Task which had a problem one time with the liner lock. I traded it for another knife and the new owner sent it back to Kershaw to be fixed. A couple of weeks ago, I handled a Kerhsaw Wirlwind at a knife shop and was much more impressed with it than the previous Random Task. I won a Wirlwind on Blade Auction and am waiting on it now. I hope to have better luck with the Wirlwind Kershaw which seems to be much smoother and quicker in opening.
I was with a friend over the weekend and he bought a full size Random Task. I was able to play with it through-out the day.

No problems with safety, and the quality was excellent.

Moving the thumb on the stud only about 1/2" and then the spring tension took over and smartly snaped the blade fully open and lock solid.

You can't use a conventional rotation method to open it, i.e. like on a Spyderco or regular stud one-hand opener. You simply get it started and it opens from there. Different but easy to get used to. I had heard that you needed to be careful on closing, as that direction was spring loaded too, and the blade could snap shut. Not so. Closing seemed like a regular lockback.

One major disapointment was the edge! Dull out of the box. A Buck Crosslock (2 bladed) was bought the same day and it would slice paper and shave hair. The Kershaw, that cost over 3x as much would'nt.

We learned that 440v is as hard to sharpen as rumored! With no success on the Sharpmaker we reverted to the Lansky system and used a course diamond stone at a 25 degreee bevel. Finished with medium and then fine. Took 2 hours on and off, but it is shaving sharp now!

The handle shape is very confortable (all the sharpening done on the Sharpmaker tested that) with great ergonomics. Nice rounded edges, but the knife is still trim.

I have no doubt Kershaw would have made the edge right with an apology. From past experiance with them, they are second to none in the warranty dept.!

Overall, nice product with a very effective and neat opening system.
I've been playing with one, and it's great. Mine came as sharp as any knive I've ever bought(Spyde level) and hasn't even needed a touch-up. If you don't try to open it like a regular folder, but just slide your thumb between the stud and handle, it opens quickly and easily with no chance on injury. Good lockup too!

Don't forget to pay your taxes...they eventually become my knives:)

The newer version is definitely the way to go, I had one and it was very fine! The edge was very sharp and held it well. The opening was also quick and took a little getting used to, but not very long.

I also noticed that if I opened it with my left hand, using my index finger to push the thumb stud out, there was very little chance of getting cut by following the blade, the index finger naturally extends straight out and the blade opens fast.

G2, my .00002

It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me,
it is the parts that I do understand.
Mark Twain


Hey guys.. thanks for all the input ! Sorry I have not replied since.. been out of town with business all week and about to leave tomorrow for a much needed vacation!

My first thought is .. I'm gonna cut my finger off! I took a look at the Whirlwind at a knife store and surprisingly didnt have too much trouble handling it. I ordered one and am awaiting it now. Will let you all know how many fingers I lose the first week!

Thanks again for the excellent info from all.
I bought a Whirlwind as soon as they hit the local cutlery shop. The problem IMHO is that all of us who are accustomed to flicking a knife open with a thumbstud or spdyhole use a certain amount of force with a little followthru to accomplish the opening of the blade. On the Speedsafe this is overkill as once the thumbstud is moved a fraction of an inch the torsion bar takes over and pulls the blade open faster than we are used to. The first time I opened the knife it nearly bit me because I was not expecting the blade to jump out faster than the speed + force that I normally use to open a one hander. My thumb was in the act of follwing thru and suddenly there was no thumbstud under me thumb anymore and the thumb fell immediately almost catching that extremely sharp blade that was on it's way to the open position at a fairly high velocity I might add.
Just a little practice with that plastic blade guard in place and you get used to it. The knife really is great fun and I drive my wife(the knife-widow) crazy sitting in front of the idiot box opening and closing it about 300 times a night.

[This message has been edited by misque (edited 11 July 1999).]
I picked up a Wirlwind curtesy of the Blade auction for $46.00 plus shipping. I couldnt pass up that price. And I find the knife operates great so far and no nicks yet! I had a problem with a new Random Task which had a liner lock problem. This Wirlwind seems not to have the problems of the Random Task and i like the blade style better .
imho the speedsafe is tres cool! i saw one today at the nashville gun show but it was the vendors personal knife and it wasn't for sale. i got to play with it and it opened as smooth as silk and closed just as nicely. i am calling to order one tomorrow morning from bayou lafourche. i can't wait
I have the Mini Task (1500) I love the little guy. The speed safe works excellent, IMO. The point is a great splinter-picker, too!!
I played with a kershaw 1560 today (I hate numbers for knives). The knife has very close geometry to the BM Mel Pardue axis, The blade is the same shape and the length also at 3.2". The handle is also very similar to the pardue except on the pommel slopes down instead of the greater angle of the Pardue. The slight index on the bottom end feels the same.

It's a darn interesting knive. Just push the stud a little and the blade shoots out fast and smooth. Did it for about 15 minutes. No problem with "bite". Not sure how that would happen. I do think this a borderline automatic. Initially I worried about an accidental opening in the pocket. On second thought, the fear dissipated. It's a tip down carry so if it opens on deployment, the chance of getting cut is less I think.

I wavered a bit on my pledge to not get another linerlock.

Got the Kershaw Whirlwind in today.. and I have to say .. it is GREAT!!! So far all I have done is played with it alot.. it is really quite easy.. hit the thumbstud.. and bang.. it is open. I do agree.. it is borderline automatic. A friend has a Paragon automatic.. we compared the opening speed of each.. and they are about the same. I didnt have the problem of a dull edge.. it was razor sharp out of the box.. very comparable to the Talon in sharpness. Thanks all for the great advice and tips!
I just received a "blackout" from Knifecenter, and it's way cool...very sharp, excellent quality, and a really nice blade design...I also really like Kershaws new pocket clips, as it's secure, yet doesn't bind in the pocket...

I've played with a few of the Kershaw Random and mini-Tasks, and have found the mini seems to have a nicer opening. I never had a problem even coming close to being cut, but that partly because I'm used to my Kershaw Liner Action which, although not a Speed-Safe, requires that you put a quick, little push, then let it go. The blade will snap the rest of the way by itself. If you try to push it all the way, you will at best be jerky, at worst, as said above, chase it with your thumb and get a nice cut.
In fact, though I'm not at the moment planning on buying one of the "Task" series, I think the Speed-Safe system is a great innovation and nicer (and legal) than an automatic.