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When it comes to avant-garde and high-quality knives, Kershaw seems to promise to get better without relenting. This versatile brand originally started its journey in Oregon in 1974.
It was started by Pete Kershaw, who had been working as a salesman for Gerber Blades but wanted to run his own brand to provide his own models. So, does this mean that Kershaw knives are made only in Oregon? Truly, NO!
The FAQ section at the company’s official site has a question as to where Kershaw knives are made. To this question, the answer is Kershaw knives are made in Japan and China apart from the United States of America. So, let’s dive a bit deeper into how the brand managed to establish its presence in these two countries as well.
From America to China: The International Journey of Expansion
After setting up the first production facility at a cement plant in Oregon’s Lake Oswego for making hunting knives, Pete Kershaw looked for a chief supplier for making his designs.
He did so because he knew the significance of guaranteed quality. This finally resulted in a great partnership with an esteemed eastern brand.
On the other side of the globe, KAI in Japan was known for making quality bladed tools for more than 60 years. It was admired for its creative approach to development as per the research and development and marketing functions.
Saijiro Endo II, the then president, was interested in exporting KAI items, including to the U.S.A. Their paths converged into a yet thriving partnership. During its early days, Kershaw knives were mostly manufactured in Japan. Thus, Kershaw became the fully owned KAI subsidiary in 1977.
Koji Endo, the KAI CEO, trusted that Kershaw had more ability to grow. Thus, in 1996, he invested in a production house at Wilsonville base of KAI USA. He was of the opinion that this would assist Kershaw in growing by leaps and bounds. Soon, KAI USA hired a new team for production.
In 1997, Wilsonville in Oregon witnessed the opening of another production facility. However, in 2003, because of the expanding market, the production house moved to a bigger site in Tualatin (south of Portland), Oregon.
The current manufacturing factory of KAI USA is at Tualatin, Oregon. Along with the models designed in Oregon, a few Kershaw knives are yet made in Japan, and some are made in China. Today, KAI USA is admired for its Zero Tolerance collection of premium and professional knives and handcrafted Japanese Shun cutlery.
While several Kershaw knives are designed in Tualatin, they also attract KAI’s resources to ensure the best quality to the customers. In short, the premium Kershaw knives are made in Tualatin, the Shun ones are made in Japan, and only a handful are made in China.
Which Kershaw Knives Are Made Where?
KAI USA manufactures high-quality Kershaw models lines such as the Blur, Leek, Launch, Chive, Scallion, and Whirlwind. They are made using top-quality American-made materials such as S30V and 420HC steels. Kershaw Clash and Kershaw Cryo are the two most famous models known to be made in China.
What Kershaw Says about its Chinese Models?
Every Kershaw knife begins its journey from American innovation and American engineering and becomes a reality either in Tualatin or in one of the overseas manufacturing facilities. This means that a Kershaw knife made in China or Japan has an American base to it.
Each knife part is designed on the computer, and the materials are chosen accordingly for making that knife. The design is finally prototyped and refined to make it ready for production.
Then, each knife part and fixture are translated into program data for the production machinery. This data then reaches the production team, which can be in Oregon, Japan, or China. Production then begins using the assembled and manufactured parts.
Along the way, quality control exists, right from inspecting the parts to the final product before shipping. The China-made products get an extra quality control check prior to reaching Oregon.
So, Are Kershaw Chinese Knives Reliable?
Certainly yes! This is the answer from all those who know how Kershaw manufactures all its knives with quality and precision. Now all Chinese knives are junk.
Today, many esteemed knife companies have their production facilities in China apart from the United States. Indeed, a long list of reliable Chinese-made knives can be made.
Still, many of us do not like that premium and respected companies such as Kershaw, although established well in the U.S.A., have knives made in China. Well, these models are as well-built as their American-made counterparts.
It is good to be suspicious in the beginning, as there are many cheap, awful China-made knives available in the market. Brands such as Kershaw and KA-BAR have quality checks on their imported knives, which means there is no reason to remain suspicious throughout your life.
Hi, I am Jay. I am the creator of Knife Guides, your one-stop site for everything related to knives. I am a computer engineer by profession, knife aficionado by passion. Here I work with a group of people who’ve always had a passion for knives and blades. Over the years we’ve kind of become experts and decided to share our knowledge and ideas. I am also an avid hiker and enjoy offshore gamefishing.