History of Kershaw: Building Products that Last a Lifetime (1980–1989)

Kershaw’s flagship models were known for their lifetime quality.

Today, many look back at 80s culture with a nostalgic lens. MTV, Super Mario, and yes, Kershaw were expanding at a rapid rate. To kick off the decade, Kai Cutlery introduced a new base in Solingen, Germany. This meant that Kershaws were now distributed internationally.

Back at home, it was also time to move away from the old cement factory. In 1985, U.S. operations moved to Wilsonville, Oregon, a building that Kershaw would call home for over a decade.

Throughout the 80s, Kershaws were still being made in Japan. While Kershaw had already introduced hefty hunting knives, the company also prioritized light folders. The D.W.O. stood out in this category.

D.W.O. Classic 3000

D.W.O. is short for Delley Wade Officer, a close friend to Pete Kershaw. Tragically, Officer was killed in a 1984 hunting accident.

The following year, the D.W.O series was dedicated to his memory and for the encouragement of hunting safety. A portion of each sale went to the Officer family. The knife itself featured a variety of safety features, including a locking blade and a no-slip, co-polymer grip.

The 80s also saw the introduction of Blade Traders, which were Kershaw best sellers. Users could easily switch out different blades that were each fit for different activities, such as hunting, fishing, and camping. These included the cook’s blade, the carving blade, and the saw blade. A locking mechanism secured each blade when you switched them out.

Deluxe Blade Trader 1098DBT

These multi-function tools proved to be popular outdoor items for many years. The last Blade Trader set was finally discontinued in 2014. 

Kershaw’s classic products weren’t just limited to knives. Shears work better for some cutting tasks, and the Taskmaster Shears filled in that need. Released in 1987, the tool is still being produced today. Use it in the kitchen, garden, or anywhere that’s handy. If it needs cleaning, the shears can easily be taken apart and locked back together.

TaskMaster Shears 1120

Whatever Kershaw product you chose, it was covered under a Limited Lifetime Warranty. In fact, if you still have that Kershaw, you can send it to warranty today. Even if the product is discontinued, you’re still eligible for top-quality service.

That said, many Kershaw fans haven’t yet found the need to send in their knife. Take Adam, for example. When this UK military veteran wrote in, he had used his Black Gulch for over 22 years.

Black Gulch 3120

“It still has a razor-sharp edge, slightly thinner, due to sharpening,” he said. “The lock is still firm, and the characteristic click is as clean as the first time I opened it.”

These stories are common in the Kershaw community. What’s the oldest Kershaw you have? Let us know in the comments below.

We’ll dive into the 1990s for our next installment of the History of Kershaw. Soon, Kershaw would see drastic changes in its products and business.

Read More Kershaw History

Part I (1974–1979)

Part 3 (1990-1997)

Part 4 (1997-2010)

Part 5 (2010-Now)

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