Imagine if you went to Rolls Royce and asked them to produce a $14,000 car. We imagine them saying “No” in a snooty British accent.
Well, KAI USA, the parent company of both Kershaw and Zero Tolerance, did the knife equivalent by going to one of the finest knife makers in the world and asking him to make an ultra budget knife.
In fact, renowned knife maker RJ Martin has done this quite a few times for KAI, but no design is as inexpensive (note that I did not use “cheap”) as the Kershaw Chill.
- Street Price: $19.95
- Steel: 8Cr13MoV
- Blade Length: 3.125 inches
- Overall Length: 3.9 inches
- Weight: 2 ounces
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Martin is known in the high end knife world for his incredible flippers, knives that deploy using a tab and detent (see here for more on “flippers” in the Blade Boot Camp article on Folding Knives). Using incredible materials and aerospace tolerances (.0001 inch), Martin’s handmade knives are truly unique. They fire fast, lock up hard, and look amazing. There is nothing in hand like a real Martin.
Scaling all of that down to a budget mass-produced blade is a daunting challenge, but with the Chill, Martin and KAI USA succeeded.
I am not going to tell you that the Chill is the equal of a handmade RJ Martin. It’s not and very few knives are. But it is an exceptional knife interpolated into budget form.
The snappy fire of the blade is somehow both different and better than non-Martin-designed flippers. The shape of the blade is quite useful. And the feel in hand is very good.
The materials are ho-hum — black G10 and a bead blasted 8Cr13MoV steel — but that can be said for a lot of knives. The thing that sets the Chill apart, in addition to its Martin heritage, is its size and weight.
This is a 3-plus-inch blade in a handle under 4 inches all weighing 2 ounces. That is a ton of performance squeezed into a petite frame. Few knives can match the Chill’s superior blade:handle ratio or its blade:weight ratio. No need for carbon fiber or some other fancy handle material, the Chill gets its superior ratios from superior design.
I wouldn’t hack down a tree with the Chill, but for general use tasks, food prep, and some light duty fire building, the Chill is a definite winner. And for a street price of $20 you’ll be stunned at what you get.
–Anthony Sculimbrene is a writer, knife junkie, and the founder of EverydayCommentary.com. He writes ‘Select Cuts’ as a weekly column focusing on a single knife and why you should consider buying it.