Turning a $15 knife into …. well, a better $15 knife

Turning a $15 knife into …. well, a better $15 knife

October 2, 2020 0 By Mike Elek

The Kershaw Decoy, a front-flipper knife with a wharncliffe blade, caught my eye. For $15, I figured that it was worth a try.

There are some things that I like about the Kershaw Decoy. I like the wharncliffe blade with this knife. It’s just shy of 2 1/4 inches. The handle is 3 1/2 inches long, and I can grip the knife securely without my little finger hanging in the air with nothing to grasp.

The scales are made of glass filled nylon, and there is a rubber insert that makes the knife easier to hold. The shape of the knife allows you to hold it comfortably with your knife resting against the jimping on the spine of the blade.

However, there are three things that bothered me:

  1. The extended tang. Too long. Too sharp.
  2. The green backspacer. Too green. Too bright green.
  3. The pocket clip tension. Too tight against the side of the knife.
  4. Too much tension on the lock bar against the blade.
  5. Too difficult to push the lock bar out to close the knife.
  6. The pedestrian 3Cr13MoV blade steel.

So that’s six things.

Because it was only $15, I figured that I could do some modifications. At most, I would be out $15.


Kershaw Decoy

Disassembly requires T6 and T8 Torx drivers. Notice the use of both phosphor bronze and synthetic washers.

This was an easy knife to disassemble. After breaking the bond on the pivot screw, the others were simply to remove. You don’t have to remove the pocket clip to disassemble the knife.


First up was the pocket clip. This isn’t the only knife with a pocket clip that is pushed so tightly against the knife that it’s nearly impossibly to slip it into a pocket. What’s the deal with that?

The way to change the tension safely is to remove it from the knife, put it in a vice and tap it lightly with a hobby hammer. Wrap the clip in cloth so that you don’t mar it. No one likes tool marks on a knife.

I prefer it if the clip barely makes contact with the handle. I’m not involved with activities that might cause the knife to slip out of my pocket, so this is the right amount of tension for me.


The lockbar tension and getting to the lockbar required two separate things. I completely disassembled the knife, wrapped the liner in a small piece of paper, put it into a vice and again gently tapped the lockbar. I test it several times, until the tension and position of the lockbar seemed right.

If you do this at home, you want the lockbar to slip into a position that securely locks the knife.

The second problem was getting to the lockbar. The knife is thin at 1/2 inch, and access to the lockbar is almost vertical. The scallop on the scale opposite the lockbar isn’t deep enough to allow you to push with your thumb.

The solution: take the scale and liner, mark both with a silver Sharpie and use a grinder attachment on a drill press to remove just enough material so that your thumb can now push the lockbar to the left. The amount of material that was removed was about 1/16 of an inch. It’s imperceptible.

Obviously, this removed the paint from the edge of the liner, so I removed all paint from the edge of both liners. I might repaint the edges or possibly leave them silver.


Kershaw Decoy

Green backspacer of the Kershaw Decoy (top) and the repainted version.

To me, the goblin green backspacer is sort of garish. I have a small collection of spray paint for another project, so I selected blue metallic and repainted the backspacer. It’s a nice color that doesn’t steal attention from the knife.

While I had the knife apart, I removed the tweezers for good. They tore at my pocket while inserting the knife. Sometimes, the tweezers would push forward, resulting in the very sharp tips extending from the back of the knife, where you might grab it. When you grip the knife, the tweezers’ bar would push into your finger. Plus, the tweezers were difficult to extend and not really that useful. Gone!


Altering the knife tang took some thought. There are 10 serrations (jimping) on the tang, and I decided to remove four, which later became five. I didn’t want a flat chopped-off edge. I wanted it to have a rounded tip. The original tang was too long and had a tendency to poke me in the thigh. 

I took the blade, wrapped it in thin cardboard (not corrugated) and put it in a vice. Once again, I used a silver Sharpie to mark where and how I was going to cut the tang. I used a Dremel-type tool with a cut-off wheel, which took about two minutes. Then I went to the drill press with the grinding wheel to smooth the arc. After assembly, I realized the serration on the end was sharp, so I removed it with the grinding wheel.

One benefit of the shorter tang is that the knife now flips open much easier.

After smoothing the entire edge with several increasingly fine grits of sandpaper, I lightly painted it Canyon Black.

In all, this took me two days. Not 48 hours, but 15 to 20 minutes here and there and at lunch.

I like the results. Although it’s still a $15 knife, at least, it’s one that I like to carry and use.