Story and Photos by Jim Cobb
Back what seems like a lifetime or two ago, I worked as a bartender for a few years. The bar wasn’t a dive, nor was it a cocktail lounge – just a neighborhood tavern that was part of a bowling alley. All in all, it was a fun job, provided you didn’t take it too seriously.
One thing I learned early on was, if someone came in and ordered a boilermaker, they generally weren’t there to have a good time. Sinking a shot of whiskey into a mug of beer, then drinking it all in one long draw, isn’t for amateurs nor the faint of heart.
In other words, the boilermaker is a serious drink, just like the Kershaw Boilermaker is a serious knife. Now, truth be told, the knife isn’t named after the drink. Instead, it was inspired by the metalworkers who helped build this country. Which explains its somewhat industrial look.
I was introduced to the Kershaw Boilermaker at the 2019 SHOT Show and was impressed with it from the moment I picked it up. This model was officially released a couple of months ago and I’ve been carrying one for my EDC folding knife for the last several weeks.
The first thing I noticed about the Kershaw Boilermaker was the weight. It isn’t a boat anchor by any means, but it clocks in at 4.4 ounces, and that’s a little hefty for most pocket knives of this size. Personally, I like the solid feel the weight provides, it prevents it from feeling like a cheap knife that will fall apart easily.
The brown finish on the Boilermaker is due to the PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) coating that’s been applied to both handle and blade. This serves to increase the resistance to corrosion and normal wear, in addition to providing for a very handsome appearance – especially due to the stonewash finish.
Hover over the photos below for captions, click on an image to open a full size slideshow.
The Boilermaker is equipped with Kershaw’s SpeedSafe assisted open technology. I own several Kershaws like this and each of them – this one included – opens very fast, with just a tug on the flipper. A frame lock keeps it in place until the user is ready to close the knife. The lockup is tight, with absolutely no wiggle at all. Closed, the blade rests in the exact middle of the channel.
The modified drop point blade profile is constructed from 8Cr13MoV stainless steel, with a cutting edge of 3.3 inches. The handle is stainless steel and is 4.25 inches long, giving it an overall length of 7.6 inches. There is a bit of jimping on the spine, with just enough texture to notice.
The handle has some cutouts that are functional as well as aesthetic. Initially, they reduce the overall weight of the knife, naturally. In addition, the texturing from the cutouts provides a grippy surface while using the knife. What’s really nice is that the surface isn’t rough at all, so there are no hot spots. But, in any grip position you can feel that it is there – albeit slightly less so with a reverse grip edge out (RGEO) – and it gives you confidence.
The pocket clip is fairly standard and is in a fixed, right-hand tip-up position, though it is removable if desired.
My typical routine with a knife I’m reviewing is to carry it for a period of time, usually at least a few weeks, and use it as I would any other knife. This gives me a solid basis to determine how the knife carries and handles. Only after that do I engage in any formal tests. I’m not a torture test sort of guy, either. While some of that stuff can be fun and interesting, I feel many of those theatrics don’t truly give a sense of how a knife will perform in the real world.
One last note – I avoid sharpening or even touching up the blade from the time I take out of the box until all testing is complete. I want to get a good idea of how long the edge will last.
Test #1 – Box Cutting
Let’s be realistic. For many of us, one of the most common chores we turn to our knives for is gutting and processing cardboard boxes. Many non-knife people don’t realize just how abrasive corrugated cardboard is on a blade. The glue used when they make cardboard dries very hard. Often, there is also dirt, grit, and other detritus mixed in – all of which combines to be almost like sandpaper against the knife’s edge.
I keep a stack of old boxes sitting in a closet, specifically reserved for knife testing. I grabbed one of them and went to work. Long, dragging cuts along with short, quick slices and the box was quickly reduced to scraps. The knife performed admirably, though it did catch in a couple of spots toward the end of the testing.
Overall, I’d score it 8.5 out of 10.
Test #2 – Cordage
Another common knife task for many of us is cutting cordage. I pulled a hank of paracord from my desk and went to town. I started with pull cuts, reducing the paracord to several small segments. From there, I did some dragging slices across the cordage to cut it. Finally, I tried a few push cuts, just using pressure to drive the blade through the cord from the top down.
The Boilermaker did okay with this test, but a few minutes on a strop probably would have made a world of difference. After using it for a few weeks, then cutting up a bunch of cardboard, the edge was starting to show some wear from a performance standpoint.
The knife did fine with the pull cuts, acceptably with the slices, but it failed with the push cuts. This wasn’t truly a surprise as, while it isn’t a bad steel at all, 8Cr13MoV steel isn’t meant for long-term use between maintenance. However, it does take an edge fairly easily, all things considered.
Score for this test is 7 out of 10.
Test #3 – Food Prep
One of the reasons my family likes when I’m doing knife reviews is that we end up with plenty of raw vegetables in the fridge, that are cut up and ready to go. For this test, I peeled a couple of carrots and proceeded to slice them up.
The Boilermaker is an EDC sort of knife, so it makes sense to see how it would do with impromptu food prep. How many times have we brought lunch to work, only to realize we forgot to pack a knife to cut up veggies or other food items? The knife performed just fine with the carrots, though the blade is a bit short to work truly well with processing vegetables. It would never replace my kitchen utility knife, but it wouldn’t ruin my day if I had to rely on it to use with my lunch.
For this test, we’ll score it 9 out of 10.
Add the scores together and the Boilermaker hits 24.5 out of 30. Not bad at all.
All in all, I really like the Kershaw Boilermaker. It is a solid choice for an EDC folding knife. The open action is fast, lockup is tight, and with just a little attention the blade keeps a good edge.
I also have to say that the Boilermaker is just a really great looking knife. With the cutouts on the handle, the PVD stonewash finish, and the modified drop point blade profile, it is certainly a unique knife that stands out from the crowd. And it is definitely a great knife for the price.
Kudos to Kershaw for pulling off another winner.
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Blade Material: 8Cr13MoVBlade Length: 3.3 inchesOverall Length: 7.6 inchesClosed Length: 4.25 inchesBlade Finish: Brown PVD coating, stonewashed finishBlade Width: 1 inchBlade Thickness: 0.11 inchWeight: 4.4 ouncesHandle Material: Stainless steel, brown PVD coating, stonewashed finishLock: Frame lockGrind: FlatMSRP: $65.99
Kai USA LTD.(503) 682-1966Kershaw.kaiusaltd.com
Kai USA LTDBlade HQKnife CenterSmoky Mountain Knife Works
This is a Chinese stainless steel, similar to AUS-8. Like any knife steel, it has good points and not so good points. On the plus side of the equation, it performs very well – some might say it punches above its weight class. It is an inexpensive steel, as these things go, but performs better than perhaps it should at its price level. This means you can get a pretty good knife at somewhat of a bargain price.
That said, it doesn’t hold an edge forever. A dull knife is far more dangerous than a sharp one. With a dull edge, you’ll find you need to use more pressure to make a cut, which increases the chance that you’ll slip and hurt yourself or someone else. Use a strop regularly to keep the edge ready to work.
Jim Cobb is a recognized authority on disaster readiness. He has written several books and is also the Editor in Chief for Prepper Survival Guide magazine. He is a longtime collector of knives, EDC gear, and defense weapons. Jim lives in the upper Midwest with his wife, kids, and a motley crew of dogs and cats.
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