Kershaw - Ken Onion Avalanche - review

Nov 25, 1999
Kershaw - Ken Onion Avalanche, part 1 of 3


I received mine about two weeks ago and played with it practically non-stop. Two weeks is a bit too little time to know the new knife perfectly, usually I like to play with it at least during a month or more. But here is a special situation: we all are waiting the new Boa knife appearance any day and I'm afraid then nobody will want to read about "old" Avalanche
My own experience proves it: first time I saw the Avalanche at IWA'2000 gun show in Nuremberg (March'2000). But International Knife Award winner Boa somewhat absorbed my attention, so I looked onto this modest knife but almost didn't see it.

Now I have an opportunity to know it better. The Avalanche looks like refined and made of premium materials version of Kershaw - Ken Onion Black Out, dimensions and shape philosophy are quite similar.
I had the first surprise just opening knife's factory box. Inside the box the Avalanche was packed into foil with garish red sticker: "WARNING! The knife is extremely sharp and dangerous! etc." When I opened the foil and pooped the blade open I was surprised once again: the noticeable part of the edge was covered with plastic guard, which should be removed to use the knife! Is it exaggeration? I think - nope. Not all knife users are knife nuts; a lot of buyers are buying their first knife. Safety first! and this must be specially praised.

The next surprise for me was very coarse G-10 scales. I was somewhat prepared reading Misque's initial impressions but I found the scales much coarser than I expected. My wife assumed: "The grater for heels"


To test now this coarse handle "sticks" my palm I pumped a good deal of fluid soap onto the handle and palm and when I started to whittle the hard wood branch. My palm held the handle like if it really would be stuck! The grip was very secure and I found no problems with handle controlling and blade pointing holding the Avalanche in soaped hand. But is this coarse handle comfortable to hold? Yes, it is, for my not too gentle palm at least. Handle shape makes it very comfortable to hold during both precise and heavy work.

However I would have no objections if the blade tang or/and liners in thumb resting area would be reasonable checkered like it was done on Ricochet.

To be continued.

[This message has been edited by Sergiusz Mitin (edited 05-27-2000).]
Kershaw - Ken Onion Avalanche, part 2 of 3

The pocket clip is designed for tip-down carry and is plated with mat black coating.

Clip shape is very similar to Ricochet one, it affects gripping comfort practically unnoticeable.
Clip positions the knife pretty high in the pocket, near 1 inch of knife handle stays above pocket upper edge. Like all in this world it has two sides: knife carry is less discreet but knife draw is easier and more sure and comfortable, especially in high stress situation.

However the knife in this size range doesn't look particularly dangerous and aggressive, so it is somewhat less reasons to conceal it deeply.

To be continued
Kershaw - Ken Onion Avalanche, part 3 of 3

Knife handle is supported with double liners. Douglas Flagg (Kershaw Knives) explained me what the confusion occurred in this matter. The liners on Avalanche should be made of 410 steel how it is specified in catalog. Making first 1.000 knives Kershaw didn't have any this steel in stock so this run they made liners of titanium. First thing I did when I unpacked the Avalanche I tested the liners with a magnet. They didn't response, so my knife is from this first thousand. I'm glad because I'm getting it as some kind of limited edition
Frankly I like steel liners more because titanium ones sometimes are prone to "stick" to the blade tang making knife pretty difficult to unlock. Somewhat like "sticking" I could notice unlocking my Avalanche first times. However after knife was opened and closed some dozens times the liner "sticking" lost, I think the matching surfaces on blade tang and locking liner had some kind of "run-in" and now the knife unlocks without any difficulties.

I already wrote about Speed Safe opening assist mechanism reviewing the Ricochet here: so it is no sense to repeat. The lockup works very firmly and securely. Locking liner stops it's way on the firs half of blade tang thickness. All my spine hack tests Avalanche passed with flying colors.

The blade of CPM 440V stainless steel was scary sharp out of the factory box. I have no reservations as to bead blasted finish. Sometimes I like it more than satin and sometimes less, depending on mood. But bead blasted blades always look better at my photos than satin ones

The foremost reservation I have to the single-sided opening stud. What is the problem to make it ambidextrous?
The sharpening marks were clearly visible on the edge creating micro serration and one side of the very edge was "steeled" on very fine grit. This about 0,1-mm wide area was visible with 5-time magnification. Flawlessly performed hollow grind forms thin high performance edge. Resharpening my Avalanche after some edge retention tests back to shaving sharpness I remained the factory basic edge and just "steeled up" very edge using SPYDERCO Tri-Angle Sharpmaker with white rods.

What did I cut with this knife? In my opinion it is no sense to evaluate any knife doing something it is not designed for. So I never try to affirm how comfortable I can shave my face with slightly sharpened prybar named "survival knife"
or how efficiently I can pry or chop with small or medium-sized folder. During these two weeks I opened letters and cardboard boxes, cut some dozens of paper sheets along the ruler, sharpened pencils and did a lot of similar job. Edge retention of CPM 440V steel is very nice, in my opinion it outperforms both ATS-34 and M2 steels. To prove this I did the edge retention test slicking 1/2-inch hemp rope.

With factory sharpening blade lost shaving ability after 50 cuts but this result is not clear because I cut some things before this test. I "steeled up" the edge to shaving sharpness and tried again. This time the edge lost shaving ability after 90 cuts and it was just able to "catch" come hair even after 120 cuts through the rope. For comparison, ATS-34 blade on my BM Pinnacle lost shaving ability after 80 cuts, M2 blade on my BM Nimravus Cub lost shaving ability after 70 cuts through the same rope:

Assumming: Avalanche is modest but very useful general utility knife. It is not tiring to have always this handy tool within your grasp. It can make your work easier and more pleasant and (who knows?) maybe one day it can save your life cutting seat belts in burning car or being used to defend you in nasty situation on a dark street. Can it serve as defensive tool? Yes, certainly! It is fast enough, strong enough and fits a hand securely enough for this purpose. The rest is question of your determination, training, cool head and good deal of luck...

Sergiusz Mitin
Lodz, Poland

[This message has been edited by Sergiusz Mitin (edited 05-27-2000).]

[This message has been edited by Sergiusz Mitin (edited 05-29-2000).]
Thanks for a great review on a great knife. The Avalanche is by far the best speed safe knife that has Kershaw makes. It is an ideal high quality work knife. It is made of good materials but is plain and unpretentious. I love mine.
Great review, Serguisz!
I look forward to your reviews as they are well written, informative and have KNIFE PICTURES!!

I am growing fonder of my Avalanche every day. Just can't seem to stop playing with it and looking for things to cut.

I've started carrying it in my right back pocket which means now I'm carrying around three knives.
Jeez! I'm starting to feel like Dexter!

I'm gonna need more pockets if these companies don't ease up on the fantastic knives they are putting out these days!

The individualist without strategy who takes opponents lightly will inevitably become the captive of others.
Sun Tzu
Thanks for a GREAT review!! I really like your review 'style'...and always good pics too....Keep them coming!!!
Thanks again.......

A decent account of your initial impressions, but I have some questions and comments:

1. Liquid soap is one thing to test security of grip, but what about other materials such as fat or grease or oil? I am not convinced that just using liquid soap does an adequate job of testing grip security.

2. Did you notice any difference in opening the Avalanche with liquid soap in the mechanism? Was it as reliable when opened under dry conditions? What about use of other lubricants?

3. Edge retention testing - the only thing proven is that this knife had decent edge retention. No guarantee that another Avalanche would have the same performance.

4. From your account, the handle was ok in your medium sized hand. Did any others handle this knife, and if so, did they find it comfortable? How did it feel in a small hand or a large hand? Was the handle too thick or too thin? Could the handle be contoured for an even better grip?

5. "During these two weeks I opened letters and cardboard boxes, cut some dozens of paper sheets along the ruler, sharpened pencils and did a lot of similar job."

What about food preparation? How did it do when cutting, slashing, stabbing a cut of meat? This, to me, would give better indication of how the knife performs under self-defence conditions. Whether the user is competent enought to weld the knife properly is another matter.

6. Dissappointing that the Avalanche does not have a lanyard hole so that one could remove the clip and add a lanyard to it. I echo the comment by Tom Marshman on KnifeForums that it could have come with dual thumb studs. At least it could have had holes on the other side allowing for the pocket clip being moved to that side and the thumb stud removed and repositioned on the opposite side, making it a truly convertible amibidextrous knife

6. Physical dimensions of this knife, please? How much does it weigh?

7. How did the knife perform with twisting type cuts or stabs?

At the moment, it sounds like this knife might have some promise, but more objective testing is needed before I could be convinced to purchase one.


[This message has been edited by Kozak (edited 05-29-2000).]
I don't use liquid soap, just the regular kind and have also tried various oils. While they are not identical in behavior I have never seen a blade fail on one but yet pass on another.

As for the edge retention, well yes, but that is true for every other aspect of the blade as well. It would be nice to have a larger sample to work with, but you take what you can get.

Sergiusz Mitin, nice review and as mentioned above the pics are a pleasant addition.
I have the Random Task and glad to see that Kershaw is using the safety thing on the blade, as you mentioned not all are knife knuts and even the ones that are, the torsion assisted opening can catch you unaware the first time out!


"The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions!"
Take the time to read your Bible Now, don't be left behind...

G2 LeatherWorks
Kozak, how can anyone reviewing a mass produced knife guarrantee that every example will have the same edge holding or anything? A review of a knife produced by a company with decent quality control can only give a general idea as to the characteristics of the product. If any consumer finds a knife below acceptable standards, it is up to that person to return to the manufacturer.
I'm glad to answer your questions; a lot of questions usually means a lot of interest and understanding. No questions can mean two things only:
1. Complete lack of interest, this would be sorry.
2. All is clear but this last is rather impossible.


  • 1. No, I didn't test grip security with fat, grease, oil or another materials could cause grip slipping in the hand. I'm also not convinced that my tests are including all possible knife use situations but I even didn't make myself this task. Testing grip security with liquid soap I wanted only to emphasize that coarse Avalanche's handle is more slip-resistant than usual knife handle. Additionally I'm too lazy to wash my knife from fat or grease after test.
    2. No, I didn't notice a lot of difference opening soaped knife. The only difference was the soap drops I could feel on my face when the blade popped open. Speed Safe opening assist is ingeniously worked out but relatively simple mechanism. If a once of liquid soap would be enough to cause a failure it would be not too much worth. Yes, I tried lockup security applying also MILITECH gun oil in lock area. Douglas Flagg (Kershaw Knives) advised me to do not this, so I did it immediately and performed spin hack test - no failure occurred! I'm completely sure Cliff is right - lubricant can cause failure or not, it is the question of knife design and/or quality but not a question of lubricant.
    3. All I have wrote in this (and each other) review was written about my knife only. No warranty the other knives will behave the same way. You can believe that manufacturer makes all knives in one production run more or less equally or do not believe. Even if I would make edge retention test on 10 Avalanches it would mean the edge retention for these 10 knives only. Do you know the way how to test edge retention to be sure about each knife?
    4. I couldn't test how the handle fits small or large hand because my another hand has the same dimensions, sorry. After I read your questions I asked my wife to handle the Avalanche and tell me is the handle comfortable for her medium sized woman's hand. She said it is comfortable but I do not know how comfortable she feels the handle.
    BTW, all (or almost all) manufacturers are addressing their production knives to some kind of "average" man. A bit larger or a bit smaller hand doesn't make a lot of difference in handling comfort. However if someone has exceptionally large or small hands running far away from average dimensions he or she simply has to go with individually ordered handmades.
    5. No, I didn't test how the Avalanche works with food preparation. As I already wrote I always try to test each knife in conditions it is designed for. And believe me, if you would be forced to stab your knife into live human body it would be nothing worth for you to know how good (or bad) this knife is cutting ham or steak. However I honestly wish you never to be forced to do it, it is much less pleasant than you could assume watching action films.
    6. Sorry, but I can't imagine how "one could remove the clip and add a lanyard to it"
    Lanyard hole is useful in some conditions but not always. How many knife users use lanyard and how frequently? In my opinion the Avalanche is medium-sized (pocket-sized) knife for typically urban use and lanyard hole here is not a critical point. Of course better is to have something (even useless) than to do not have, especially for the same money. But money here is not all, to make a lanyard hole you must have where to make it. This could enlarge handle... Yes, I also do not understand what is the problem to make double sided thumb stud etc., but this is already written, no sense to repeat.
    7. Usually I'm avoiding to write in my reviews the info everyone can find in manufacturers catalog or web page, but if you like:
    blade length 82 mm (3 7/32")
    overall length 193 mm (7 5/8")
    length closed 112 mm (4 1/2")
    Now is early morning and I haven't enough precise scales in my home. I'll go to nearest food shop hour or so later and I'll weigh my Avalanche, then I'll update this info. OK?
    7. I didn't any tests in this matter, I also didn't perform any prying, chopping, etc., etc. tests. I just tried to test how good this knife can match my requirements. Another man can have quite another requirements. It is impossible to test a knife to simulate all situations it can be used or abused. However if we are talking about fight again - please believe me, stabbing or cutting your opponent you will have much more important problems than your knife's technical condition, even winning this fight.
As to purchasing, my advice would be - read also another reviews, maybe you will find more answers for your question. Try also to handle this knife at knife show or store, maybe this could make your decision easier.
Well, I'm just back from food shop where I weighted my knife. The Avalanche weights exactly 100 grams (3,53 oz.)