As a fan and frequent user of pocket knives, I’ll admit that I’ve become a bit of a knife-snob over the years. It’s not that a lower-cost knife won’t do, but it becomes more of an issue surrounding the knife’s design, function, and quality that will make or break the deal for me. So, when the PTR staff tossed me the Kershaw Atmos, which almost feels weightless and takes up a minimal amount of space in my hand, I found myself a little skeptical that this knife would hold up to any real work. But, it seemed a little premature to write this little knife off without really using it, so for the following three weeks, I made it my every day carry knife. Here’s what I’ve learned so far…
The Kershaw Atmos is the collaborative brainchild of the manufacturer and Belarusian custom knife maker Dmitry Sinkevich. Sinkevich’s designs typically employ refined and practical details that set them apart from other knives. The Atmos looks to carry on that tradition as well, as it has a few features and details that not only stand out, but that also have a real practical purpose.
Refined, Yet Practical
The first thing that you’ll notice about the Kershaw Atmos revolves around its weight. This feather-light knife weighs in at 1.9 oz. How did Kershaw manage this?
They use CNC machine sculpted scales for the frame of the knife, with a thin stainless steel internal insert for a liner lock. On top of the scales, Kershaw has included a layer of laminated carbon fiber to give the casing a bit of dimension and character.
I appreciate the forward-thinking design here. The frame and handle use no metal, aside from the insert liner lock. Instead, the G10 material is made by stacking multiple layers of fiberglass cloth, which has been soaked in epoxy resin and compressed under heat. This makes for a super stable, lightweight material that handles a good deal of stress.
I was curious to see how much lateral movement I’d see from the blade when extended. In the open position, the blade doesn’t display a significant amount of lateral movement. In the closed position, the blade centers perfectly between the two frame halves every time I close it. I also don’t experience any movement between the two halves when I squeeze the frame. For something that looks and feels like plastic to the casual observer, that’s pretty impressive strength.
The next thing that caught my attention was the blade itself. The Kershaw Atmos features a drop point blade, which I prefer for its versatility. As far as the actual steel goes, Kershaw uses 8cr13moV steel, a Chinese-produced steel alloy that has a composition similar to AUS-8. Its solid mid-grade steel sharpened up to a razor edge pretty easily, though it does lack some edge retention when used extensively.
To be fair, however, Kershaw did not design the Atmos as a survival knife. They designed it more for simple, random tasks like opening packages, sharpening pencils, and trimming things. This grade of steel is certainly adequate for all these types of tasks. At any rate, when I went to hone the blade, recovering that razor edge was easy enough.
The blade has a slight hollow grind to it, and Kershaw has ground the flats to a satin finish. The jimping on the spine feels adequate, and the flipper assist has ridges to give a little traction for your finger when opening the Atmos.
Speaking of opening the knife, I expected the company’s Speed-safe opening system. But, instead, the Kershaw Atmos uses an updated flipper style that, with the Kershaw KVT ball-bearing opening system, facilitates lightning-fast opening action. In doing a bit of research, I found that the ball-bearings used in the Atmos are secured within a ring that surrounds the pivot, which helps keep lint and dirt out. After three weeks of use, the Kershaw Atmos opens just as quickly and smoothly as it did the first time I opened it.
Too often, I’ll find a fantastic knife that uses a garbage clip. In this case, the Kershaw Atmos uses a well-executed clip that accommodates deep carry. It almost goes undetectable when you slide it into your pocket or waistband.
The Kershaw Atmos clip can be repositioned on either side of the handle in a tip-up position only. When closed, it only takes up 4″ worth of space. Because the Atmos is so light and thin, you’ll find that you almost forget that you’re wearing it.
I have been carrying a Kershaw Blackwash Leek on and off for a few years now, and I find that the Atmos has nearly the same footprint, though there are differences in weight and blade style. Switching over to the Atmos was easy, owing to its use of modern materials and slick manual opening feature.
I like the small size because I spend most of my time working in an office environment these days. When I pull out a small knife to handle a task, no one feels the need to duck behind their desk for fear of their life.
The danger is this design, similar to the Kershaw Fraxion, is the perception that lightweight also means cheaply built. That’s not the case with either the Fraxion or the Atmos, but it’s something that EDC carriers will need to get used to before fully coming onboard.
Overall, the Kershaw Atmos is a fantastic, lightweight manual folder with good looks, decent blade, and modern handle materials. Ultimately, I think that the Atmos makes for an ideal, smaller-sized EDC that can tackle most day-to-day, simple tasks.
Kershaw Atmos Specs
- Model Number: 4037
- Steel: 8cr13moV
- Blade Style: Slight Hollow Grind Drop Point With Satin Finish
- Blade Pivot: KVT Ball-Bearing
- Handle: G10 With Carbon Fiber Overlay
- Type: Manual Flipper
- Lock: Insert Liner Lock
- Clip: Reversible, Deep-Carry Style (Right/Left, Tip-Up)
- Blade Length: 3″
- Closed Length: 4″
- Overall Length: 6.9″
- Weight: 1.9 Oz.
- Manufactured In China
- MSRP: $49.99 retail, $34.99 (Amazon)