Kershaw 5520 Malt Assist Knife Review

Kershaw was established in 1974 and has been designing and creating fantastic knives ever since. When they founded the company, they had the drive to create and manufacture tools that knife users would be proud to own, carry, and use. To satisfy their drive, Kershaw is sure to use appropriate, high quality materials and they are dedicated to intensive craftsmanship. Something that Kershaw has accomplished is that when you purchase one of their knives or tools, you will be able to own that product for a lifetime, because Kershaw products last decades.

One of Kershaw’s goals is a commitment to innovation. Kershaw has actually pioneered many of the technologies and advanced materials that are now the standard in the knife community. Some of these innovative technologies include the SpeedSafe assisted opening knives, the knives that have interchangeable blades because of their Blade Traders, and one of their newer technologies is the Composite Blade Technology. This last one is where they combine two different steel types to give you the best of both worlds. Kershaw explains that they can use a steel known for edge retention on the edge, but then use a steel known for strength on the spine of the knife. This way, you don’t have to compromise with strength or with edge retention on your blade.

Kershaw is actually a sub brand of Kai USA Ltd. Kai is also strongly committed to innovation while designing, creating, and manufacturing their knives. For more than 100 years, Kai has even been Japan’s leading blade producer.

Kershaw knows that if this is the first of their knives that you have purchased, you will be back. And if this is not your first, you already understand how quality, durable, and innovative their knives are. One of Kershaw’s newest releases is called the Malt.

Kershaw Malt
Kershaw Malt

The Blade:

The blade on the Malt is made out of 8Cr13MoV steel. This is a Chinese produced steel that actually comes from a series of steels. All of the steels in this series are known as Cr steels. The best in the series is the 9Cr steel, with 8Cr falling close behind. There are Cr steels less than 8, but it would be a waste of money and your time. 8Cr steel is comparable to AUS 8 steel. However, it is more prone to rusting or corroding than AUS 8 steel is. The 8Cr steel is also softer than AUS 8 steel. Because it is a softer steel, this steel is easily sharpened. Almost any beginner sharpener would be excellent at sharpening the 8Cr steel. It is a good thing that this steel is easily sharpened, because 8Cr steel does not retain its edge as well as a high quality steel would. One of the biggest advantages to having your blade made out of 8Cr13MoV steel is that it is an extremely inexpensive steel, which helps to keep the cost of the overall knife lower. While this steel is not the best steel that you can find, it does make a great option if you are on a tight budget. And, the better that the steel is heat treated, the higher quality this type of steel will be.

The steel on this knife is finished with a PVD coating. This is a Physical Vapor Deposition. This process is done by introducing the steel to a material vapor that can be reacted with different gases to form a thin coating. This process is completed in a vacuum environment. Some of the advantages to this type of coating is that because of how it is applied, you won’t get a buildup of your coating around the corners or edges, like some of the other types of coatings. Because the coating provides a barrier between the steel and the environment and air, this type of finish with prolong the life of the blade by preventing corrosion and rust. The higher the quality of the coating (PVD is a high quality coating) the more expensive it will be. However, the higher the quality of the coating, the more corrosion resistant the blade will be and it will have a better chance at lowering reflection. Because of this coating, maintenance type will be significantly cut down. The coating on the Malt creates a dark grey color. The blade is actually two toned, with part of it being dark grey and another part looking much more reflective and silver. The two tone look creates a very distinctive look to the Malt.

The steel on this knife has been carved into a modified tanto blade shape. The tanto blade shape has no curves and is instead made up of straight lines and sharp angles. Tanto’s aren’t meant to be used for everyday knives, but this modified tanto is going to be able to get the job done. Because the tip is thicker and carries more steel towards the tip, the point is very strong. It can dig, pry, and hammer while also being able to cut. Tanto’s also excel at piercing, even through some of the hardest materials. There are a couple of drawbacks to the tanto shape, one is that the tip is hard to control, so you aren’t going to want to perform detail work with this blade. Another drawback is that there is a lack of belly, making slicing a little bit trickier. However, on this modified tanto, while there is no curved belly, the angle towards the tip starts further back and will allow you to slice enough. The Malt has been designed as a great everyday knife and the modified tanto blade shape will help you get all your daily tasks done.


The Handle:

The handle on the Malt is made out of steel. This is a durable material that has great corrosion resistant properties. However, it is one of the heavier knife handle materials, and it will weigh the knife down considerably. A steel blade is also known for being pretty slick, so Kershaw had to get creative with how they added texture. The handle of this knife is also two toned, with the silver part being raised above the dark grey part. Because of this, you get more grip than you would have. The silver part also has grooves going down the length of the handle, which also work to add grip. There is light jimping on the bottom edge of the handle towards the butt. Kershaw has also added a deep finger groove into the handle, to provide you with a solid grip during harder tasks.

The handle has also been finished with a PVD coating. This is what has created the dark grey color to the handle. It also ensures that your handle will be a little more resistant to corroding or rusting, while also cutting down on the reflective properties that steel normally features.

Kershaw Malt, Back View
Kershaw Malt, Back View

The Pocket Clip:

The clip on the Malt is black, adding contrast against the two toned handle. There are pre-drilled holes in the handle that slows the user to reverse the pocket clip in four different directions. You can carry your knife tip up or tip down and also carry it left or right handed, helping to make this knife an ambidextrous option. This pocket clip is held in place by two small, black screws.


The Mechanism:

This is a flipper knife. The flipper is a protrusion on the back of the blade that the user can pull back on, which then flips the blade out of the handle in a quick and easy manner. The Malt features Kershaw’s classic SpeedSafe Assisted Opening mechanism. This mechanism allows you to open your knife quickly and safely. One of the many benefits of a flipper knife is that it keeps your fingers safe and out of the way during the entire process.

The Malt also sports a Frame Lock, which is a portion of the handle that moves behind the blade to lock it into position during use. This is a safety feature of the knife, because with it, you won’t have to worry about your knife folding shut, onto your hand, in the middle of use.


The Specs:

The blade on the Malt is 3 inches long. When this knife is opened, it measures sin at 7.1 inches long, with a closed length of 4.3 inches long. This knife weighs 4.6 ounces. This knife was designed by one of the most sought after custom knife makers: Gustavo Cecchini. He is known for his innovative knife technologies as well as the striking lines of his custom designs, which you can clearly see in the unique look of the Malt. The Malt features Gustavo’s classic sculpted style, but does sport a little something extra.


The Extras:

This knife actually doubles as a bottle opener. The flipper protrusion on this knife isn’t the typical sharks fin shape. It actually looks just like any bottle opener would. Because of this unique bottle opener shape, the flipper is able to open any bottle. Kershaw has said that this knife, “also has an interesting feature that (we admit) just may have been inspired by the fine brew we were sharing with Gus at the time”.


The Pros of the Kershaw Malt:

  • The steel chosen for this blade is extremely inexpensive, helping to make this knife affordable.
  • The steel on the blade is a breeze to sharpen.
  • The PVD coating helps to prevent rusting and corrosion.
  • The PVD coating helps to cut down on reflections and glares.
  • The PVD coating won’t build up around the corners and edges of your blade and handle, because of the unique way that it is applied to the steel.
  • The modified tanto blade shape provides you with a very durable and strong tip, that can also dig, pry, and hammer.
  • The modified tanto blade shape also provides you with a partial belly that isn’t normally found on a tanto blade.
  • The steel handle is durable and strong.
  • The handle is also very resistant to rusting and corroding.
  • The pocket clip is reversible in four different directions, helping to make this knife ambidextrous friendly.
  • The flipper mechanism is efficient while keeping your hand safe during opening.
  • The flipper mechanism allows you to open your knife with just one hand.
  • The Malt sports Kershaw’s SpeedSafe Assisted Opening mechanism
  • The Malt features a Frame Lock, which is a great safety feature.
  • The flipper “fin” is actually a bottle opener, so this knife not only can complete all of your daily tasks, but also help you celebrate with a cold one.


The Cons to the Kershaw Malt:

  • The steel chosen for the blade is not a high quality steel.
  • The steel is very soft, so it does not hold an edge for long periods of time.
  • The steel chosen for the blade is not super resistant to corrosion.
  • Because the finish on the blade and handle is a coating finish, it will eventually scratch off.
  • The modified tanto blade shape will allow you to slice some, but it is not going to excel at slicing like a drop or clip point shape would.
  • The steel handle will add significant weight to the Malt.
  • The steel handle is not super grip-y.



Kershaw has been known to break the mold and think outside of the box. They have thought up plenty of innovative ideas that have since become the classic standard in the knife world. Because of this, you know that when you purchase a Kershaw knife, you are getting the most modern ideas and your knife will be able to last a lifetime.

The Malt has been designed as a great everyday knife, with a great blade coating to add corrosion and rust resistant properties. You can get your Malt here. The modified tanto blade shape will help you get almost any job done, and as an extremely strong tip. The steel handle is strong and durable, not likely to rust or corrode any time soon. But one of the best aspects of the Malt is that the flipper “fin” actually doubles as a bottle opener. This knife is truly going to help you with almost any task.