If you work in a warehouse, do a ton of shipping, or just like a nice straight blade, it’s going to be very difficult to resist the attraction of the Ken Onion-designed Kershaw Needs Work 1820. While Kershaw doesn’t describe it as such, this is a pretty decent box-cutter replacement that is much cooler, and just as useful, as any razor knife I’ve yet used. This new Speedsafe folding knife features a straight wharncliffe stainless steel blade and an unusually sculpted glass-filled nylon handle.
When your eyes take in the Needs Work, it’s not apparent at first what you’re going to get. The design reminds me of something I’d expect to see in a science-fiction movie. Four retreating circles emanate from the hinge of the knife and give the handle the appearance of having a bit more curve to it than it actually does (in that respect, it’s fairly traditional). The handle is short, made for three of my fingers, though it doesn’t look it at first glance. The liner on this knife is a tad thinner than some other Kershaw products we’ve reviewed this year, but the glass-filled nylon handle is also a bit thicker.
Like the Kershaw Clash 1605 we reviewed earlier, the Needs Work has a ginormous carry clip. Unlike the Clash, you can’t move this one to the opposite side or reverse it, so the knife remains a right-handed model with the tip down. It was certainly usable, but we’re not sure where the fascination with high-riding, giant clip knives came from.
While the outside left us with visions of this knife showing up on the next episode of Fringe, flipping it open revealed a flat edge that snapped-to harder than a cadet in basic training. This is a knife you’ll want to open, just to hear it crack. Satisfying doesn’t begin to describe it – the Speedsafe mechanism on this knife is honed better than the blade. Speaking of the blade, the one on the Needs Work is made from Sandvik 14C28N stainless steel and has a slight matte finish. What’s really interesting, however, is the angle and shape. This is a straight wharncliffe blade that very much reminds you of a razor. And honestly, this knife will absolutely trounce any boxcutter or razor knife on the market today – at least in terms of satisfaction of use.
Testing and Use
We used this knife to open boxes, sharpen about 1/2 dozen carpenters pencils, and even participate in a school project involving construction paper. At one point, we took the Needs Work and held up a section of the Sunday paper with coupons. Holding the sheet in our left hand, with our right we sliced a perfect square – perfectly clipping the coupon without bending the paper or causing it to push away from the knife. This blade has an incredibly sharp edge and it’s every bit as effective as a razor blade – only about 10x stronger.
Coming from a person who’s snapped countless blades by using them on difficult applications, the Kershaw Needs Work is definitely something I’d consider as a boxcutter replacement tool. Instead of replacing the countless razor blades I go through each week, I’d use the Lansky Deluxe Knife Sharpening Kit and simply resharpen the edge at-will. Kershaw also offers their limited lifetime warranty where the blade is guaranteed against manufacturing defects. If you send the knife in, Kershaw will even sharpen it for free. All you do is cover shipping the knife to them.
Life is full of choices. If I used a boxcutter or razor knife as part of my job, I’d replace it in a heartbeat with the Kershaw Needs Work, especially if you have a sharpening kit handy. The 1820 is a nice size knife and, apart from the limited clip options, has very few negatives. The blade is thick and strong, and the flipper-activated Speedsafe function is among the best we’ve used – and certainly the most satisfying to activate. This is an unusual knife, but I believe that plays to its advantages. This is a great tool, and one that we think you should consider picking up. For less than $35, how can you pass it by?