Kershaw Knives was founded in 1974 in Portland, Oregon when knife salesman Pete Kershaw started a cutlery company that would make knives from his designs. Those designs were manufactured by Japanese based KAI Cutlery. In 1978, KAI Cutlery purchased Kershaw Knives and the company, renamed KAI USA Ltd., continues today with three product lines; including the original Kershaw Knives and Shun Cutlery which primarily markets kitchen cutlery.
Over the years, Kershaw Knives has worked with several custom knifemakers. Cutlery Hall of Famer Ken Onion, a custom knife maker and inventor of the “SpeedSafe” assisted opening mechanism, is the premier knife designer for Kershaw Knives. Kershaw has also collaborated with custom knifemakers Grant and Gavin Hawk, Frank Centofante, and Ernest Emerson. Kershaw has released models that were developed in collaboration with National Geographic, Jeep, Orange County Choppers, the American Professional Rodeo Association, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.