Knife review : Mainstays Santoku

Knives :

This review consists of :


This is a very low cost kitchen knife, bought mainly to check the use of the non-stick coating. Ad copy :

Specifications :

As noted in the above is has an unknown stainless steel blade, synthetic and fairly soft handle, and a coated blade (advertized as food safe).

Initial Impressions

Initial impressions :

In short, this is an interesting blade, much more narrow than the Spyderco K08 as shown in the above picture so can be used for more utility type work. The immediate question is will the non-stick coating actually be non-stick and how will it wear in use. The over buffed edge is likely to have extremely low edge retention as power buffing/stropping is very prone to over heating the edge and damaging the steel.

Stock testing : main

The initial sharpness was low to moderate :

While the performance on the thread is decent, about 50% of optimal sharpness, the performance on the spinning thread is extremely low and shows essentially no slicing aggression. This is a common sign of over buffed edges common in power stropping/buffing. This also very likely damaged the edge due to heat and thus the initial edge retention is likely to be poor.

A quick check on cutting ability :

The performance on the hemp is quite low, mainly due to the low initial sharpness as the edge thickness/angles are not so high as to require that much force on the hemp if properly sharpened. Note that the force required on a draw is not that much reduced over the push cutting force again showing little aggression on a draw.

Initial Overview

This is a smaller utility style santoku vs the larger ones which are more for use as a Chef's knife such as the K08 from Spyderco. With that in mind it does not do nearly as well in chopping or dicing but it can peel and do similar utility work far easier that the larger and much wider santokus.

The coating on the blade does actually reduce sticking. While it does not completely prevent it and at times a very wet and high starch potato will still stick to the sides it does it a lot less than a knife without the coating which has a similar geometry which is very prone to sticking (flat sides with no taper).

The two main issues which came out after the initial three week use period (after which it had to be sharpened) were :

The lack of a continuous arc to the edge makes some cuts problematic as rocking cuts do not produce a clean shearing type cut so intead more chop/push cuts have to be made. The low initial sharpness and rapid edge degredation made precision work very quickly become impossible.

The point however was a refreshing change as many inexpensive knives have rounded tips to no point at all but on the Minstays Santoku there was a clean and sharp point formed which could easily do precision cuts and as well score and then cut open packages very easily.

Stock cutting round II

After sharpening the performance on 3/8" hemp was significantly improved, for comparison :

This was at the same edge angle, just at a much higher sharpness which not only also almost cut the force in half but also raised the slicing aggression significantly (the reduction in force when the blade is used on a draw).


Ergonomics : The grip is quite large (long) with 12 cm of functional grip length and it contoured both in thickness and in width so is well shaped to the hand. The spine while not fully rounded had the edges broken and the coating further rounds out the edges so they are decently comfortable with a thumb on spine grip or even using the heel to make heavy cuts. The only ergonomic issues are that the front of the handle and the heel are not well rounded and do not provide comfortable surfaces in forward pinch grips.

Security : The shape of the handle and the high friction surface in general leave no concerns about security even when working around fats or oils. However in extreme cases such as working on a lot of fish in a hurry then there would be a concern as there is no guard and the blade while dropped is only slightly so the index finger could ramp up on the blade.

Durability : The handle is a soft artifical material as is becoming more common with kitchen knives for comfort in extended use. As with most of these materials they are not very abrasion or cut resistant and once so damaged it is revealed that the blue handle is only surface as any scratch or cut show the darker natural color underneath. It is also not very heat resistant and immediate exposure to flame will have the handle immediately discolor and start to bubble and smoke.

Miscellaneous : The grip is easy to clean, has no texture or crevice to retain and debris and mainly just wipes clean. However where the blade joins into the handle there is a visble gap and water and other fluids can run down there so some care has to be taken when washing. These can of course be filled with a decent epoxy and syringe.

Edge Retention

As a basic check on edge retention in kitchen use the Santoku was put into use as the only knife in the kitchen starting on December 1, 2012. The edge retention as expected was very poor and the knife only lasted approximately three weeks before it has no slicing aggression and was unable to cut tomatos, bread, green onions, etc. .

To confirm it was just an issue with the initial edge and not a steel problem after sharpening to a coarse finish (150 grit / 100 microns) the Santoku was used to make 500 slices into pine with low to medium force (10-30 lbs) and throughout the cutting :

This is a rather low standard though and mainly will just point out if there is a fairly severe problem as wood in general is not very abrasive and it literally takes 1000's of cuts to induce significant blunting even on very simple steels.

Used for stock cutting on cardboard the performance was initially very low and only 1-2 m of cardboard could be cut on a slice before the sharpness was less than 10% of optimal. However with repeated sharpening the edge retention kept improving and stabilized at a decent level right in line with the other knives in that class. As shown in the image at the right there is no issue in being able to slice a very large pile of cardboard and retain a high enough sharpness to keep making clean cuts.

This again just shows how important it is to sharpen a knife a few times before any judgement is made on edge retention of durability as initial edges are often damaged by heat from over buffing/stropping. Until all of this weakened metal is removed then the performance of the can be not indicative of the steel but rather just shows the extent of damage from power sharpening.


As a first attempt at sharpening, a very basic and inexpensive benchstone was used to reset the edge bevel. The steel ground very easily however the edge angle was not consistent. Specifically the middle and tip of the blade were at a much higher angle, approaching 20 dps. A 100 grit waterstone was used to grind a consistent angle of approximately 15 dps along the entire edge, this only took 50 passes per side and the edge easily sliced phonebook paper.

To check the ease of sharpening and more specifically the forgiving nature of the steel to less than ideal methods/equipment, a huge jump in grit was taken moving all the way from a 100 grit waterstone up to a 3000 grit waterstone. The steel responded well and in just minutes the edge was quickly refined and was starting to push cut newsprint and cleanly shave arm hair. This behavior is to be expected as this is likely a very simple stainless steel with a very low carbide volume, 5Cr13 or similar.

Repeated sharpening showed the steel :

In general the ease of sharpening was so high in fact that it would often not even require the third step in the general three steps of sharpening.


Overview :

Comments and references

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Most of the pictures in the above are in the PhotoBucket album.

Last updated : 25/12/2012
Originally written: 02/12/2012