I've been eyeing Henckels Miyabi knives for a while, but never actually purchased one. On one side, their MC line is made out of high carbon MC66 steel(ZDP-189), hardened to 66HRC, which in itself is very interesting to me in a kitchen knife, and then I did like some designs, but sadly implementation details literally prevented me from buying one. Despite of that I still had great interest in those knives, because it is pretty much the only western maker making typical, ok, more or less typical Japanese knives, in that the knives are not only shaped kindda like Japanese knives, but also sport ultra hard, high quality, exotic steel like ZDP-189, not your typical X50CrMoV15 or 440A. Then, in fall 2009, my wish was granted :) I got this Henckels Miyabi santoku knife (model 7000MC) for sharpening, and consequently, test drive too :) Frankly, if it was up to me I'd pick something else to test and play with. Specifically their "large", 240mm long blade gyuto(34583-241), and I got it in May 2010 :) On the other hand, I didn't have to spend few hundred dollars to get one for testing. Whatever knife it was, it was free tester, I have good experience with santoku knives, and sharpening, even of the highly wear resistant steel at 66HRCm is still part of the test anyway.
Three weeks after publishing the original review on Jan. 2010, I was contacted by Henckels Japan representative, Michael and he was kind enough to provide much wanted details about Miyabi origins and technical details. Obviously I've updated the review with the new data.
About Miyabi- For a while I thought Miyabi was a Japanese company making knives for Henckels, which is perhaps one of the worlds best known kitchen knife making company, not necessarily the best, but well known, and pretty much iconic with German kitchen knives. Henckels, which has quite complicated name as it is - Zwilling J.A. Henckels(simply Henckels further in the review) added Miyabi to indicate their Japanese knives line. So, the full name foe the line is Zwilling J.A. Henckels Miyabi. In short I was wrong about the company, Miyabi is just a brand name, or line name, for Henckels Japanese knives. A little more background about the Miyabi line, I guess it might be interesting to knife aficionados. Henckels acquired an OEM manufacturer of premium knives in Seki (called NIPPA) in 2004. The Miyabi knives are produced in this factory. Miyabi is a new brand created by us for the sake of selling Japanese knives, as Henckels believes Henckels/Zwilling brand is too closely associated with German knives for the consumer to believe they can make true Japanese knives. As to Miyabi knives, the idea was born in 2005. The line was first launched in Japan in January 2007 and exported from spring 2008. As far as I know, Miyabi in Japanese means elegant. I give them that, those knives are elegant, to my eyes at least. The designs were developed with collaboration of the famous Japanese iron chef - Rokusaburo Mihciba. Either way, I am very glad Henckels choose to go this way and introduce high performance Japanese knives to western world. Coming from the well known maker such as them hope is the Japanese kitchen knives gain more recognition and acceptance in the western world. it's 21st century after all and sticking to the steels ad designs form early or mid 20th century is hardly a good choice. There's 4 lines in Miyabi brand, 5000, 7000D, 7000Pro and 7000MC. Personally to me, only the 7000MC poses an interest because of the MC66 steel. CMV60 steel is very likely just another name for the good old VG-10 steel, which while being a very good steel, isn't really interesting anymore, unless someone makes it perform well at 64HRC in kitchen knives, I've seen and used VG-10 a lot in various knives to satisfy my curiosity. For the record, Henckel produced Twin Cermax line of the knives, also in Japan, made from the same materials, but with a different handle design. Twin Cermax exists since 2002, and was initially made for Japanese market, although later appeared in the western world as well.
General- Henckels Miyabi MC66 Santoku, or 7000MC series santoku, is pretty much your typical Japanese santoku knife. There is nothing western about it except for the bolster if you ask me. Thank God it is not a full bolster, just the blade/handle juncture is metal, no Japanese style wood handle with machi. Handle shape is quite Japanese though, it's a very traditional D shape handle, which isn't really my personal forte, but works really good. I can't comment on the packaging, since I got the used knife, nor about its initial state, but overall, when I got the knife it was in very good shape. Fit and finish are really top notch. There are no gaps between the hand and the bolster, grind lines are even, finish is very smooth and the edge bevels were ground also very even. Overall, absolutely no complaints in quality control department. Balance was quite even too. Not that it is very important to me, unless it's something really awkward, but it's still nice. Overall, the knife is quite light for its size, but not the lightest I have handled. still, 180.00mm(7.09") is a pretty good result for the knife with 320.00mm(12.6") total length. It's quite thin blade as well, and given its thin edge, it is a very good cutter.
Steel- Officially, Henckel states MC66 steel for their 7000MC line. However, as far as I can tell Henckels is in habit of renaming existing steels, I wasn't not sure why though. As Michael explained, there's a business reason behind it, which allows switching the steel without changing the business strategy. E.g. ZDP-189 can be replaced with similar Cowry-X, but Miyabi designation will remain the same, MC66. I've heard of this before, it's not an uncommon practice, although I can't say I, or many knife enthusiasts are too happy about that without knowing exactly what it is they're buying. General public will be fine I guess. However, high performance Japanese knives like Miyabis are more likely to end up in knife aficionados hands. As for the MC66, Henckels openly stated that the MC66 steel contained 3% Carbon and 20% Chromium. Considering that there are only two steels in the world with that composition ZDP-189 and Cowry-X. One is from Hitachi, the other from Daido, and given the likelihood of developing another steel like that in secret, just for Henckels is close to zero, it has to be one of those two. So far Cowry-X was mainly used by Hattori, while ZDP-189 was used by several other makers, and later Henckels representative did confirm it was ZDP-189 in Tokyo, on the knife show. Finally, Michael did confirm that currently MC66 is Hitachi ZDP-189 steel. So, MC66 mystery, if it ever was a mystery, is solved. For the record, CMV60 by description sounds suspiciously like VG-10, so that's why I said, Henckels has a habit of renaming steels, for the reasons explained above. Well, ZDP-189 knife steel is a very good steel, and 66HRC(65-76HRC range to be precise) is just perfect for it, at least for the kitchen knives, save for the meat cleaver.
Blade- Miyabi Santoku blade is just that, typical santoku. I've owned and reviewed quite a bit of them here. Westernized it may be, but the blade is definitely not westernized much. As you'd expect in a Japanese knife the blade is quite thin, just a little thicker than 2mm. I have to note, this is one of the thinnest santokus I have seen, so far I have total of 8 santoku knife reviews on my site, and Miyabi with its 2mm thick blade is same as Shun Classic Santoku, everything else was thicker, and it does make difference for vegetables, and kitchen cutting in general. Plus, Miyabi has much better and harder steel than VG-10 used in Shun. Width is quite common 48.5mm for the knives of that size. So, nothing really unusual in the blade geometry. Bevel grinds were very even and as far as I could tell on the used knife, its initial sharpening job of its asymmetrical grind edge was really good. I can't tell how much of a mirror polish the edge would've had out of the box, but when I got it, it didn't have much of the polish left on it, which is expected with regular use, mainly due to oxidization by the way, not because particles wear out. My guesstimate and measured result for the original edge sharpening angle was about 15° per side, which gives 30° total. As per Michael, the target, or spec edge angle for the Miyabis is 12° per side, 24° total. Although, some deviations can probably occur. So, given the error margin in my measurements and probable deviation in the stock angle, that would explain 3° difference. It's not very precise to measure edges at home. In the end, 12° is the specification and I'll go from there. That is a thin edge and it definitely requires really hard and wear resistant steel to hold it under the kitchen use. If it was my own knife I'd thin down the edge immediately, because I am familiar with the ZDP-189 steel, based on my Sanetsu ZDP-189 Gyuto and Kershaw 1840CBZDP Shallot. One is a 270mm long gyuto and another is small folder, so I did get a good idea what this steel can do and what not. For the santoku of that size, I'd take the edge down to 10°-12° per side, it'd gain cutting ability significantly without compromising edge stability for its designed use which is soft food and vegetables. However, since the knife wasn't mine, I had to consider the owner's knife use habits and knowing them I wasn't really counting on extra careful use :) The blade already had couple chips at its original angle, so thinning it down wasn't really an option. All things fair, this Henckel Miyabi santoku was in much better shape than bunch of other knives I've sharpened for the same person. I've attached two micrographs to this section, both showing the original edge before sharpening. Minor chips like I said. There are more photos of the Miyabi Santoku chipping and other knives in the Damaged Knife Edge Macro Photo Gallery. Anyway, given all that I've opted to raise the angle a little. The result was about 16°-17° per side and more convexed edge than the original. That should've strengthened the edge for the future troubles I hope. We'll see when(if) I get it back next time for sharpening. Update - I did get it back about 7 months later, see below comparison with Tojiro Flash santoku.
Henckel specs their MC66 knives at 66HRC exactly. As Michael clarified, 66HRC is a median value and the target range is 65HRC-67HRC. That is still a very tight range to keep at and kudos to Henckels Miyabi factory if they manage to keep tolerances. In general knife makers tend to add one or two points here and there and, as usual it is the range that is given, not the precise number. If all the knives from any factory come out at exactly the same RC rating, all I can say, those guys are amazing and their fault tolerance and precision in heat treatment is super high. Michael provided additional information, which might be useful for those who are familiar with metallurgy and steel heat treatment procedures, I'm not ;) So, according to the info I have from him, heat treatment for Miyabi ZDP-189 steel is a unique procedure, developed specifically for Henckels Miyabi by one of the leading metallurgy institute. Primary hardening is done in a state of the art vacuum furnace, which is followed by cryogenic treatment, or ice hardening at -196°C. That allows Miyabis to minimize Rockwell hardness tolerances and keep within their target hardness range of 65-67HRC.
Sharpening- This time sharpening was fairly quick and easy. Since the edge wasn't damaged too bad, just a couple of minor chips, and besides I was thickening the edge, not thinning it down. So, the total time was just under an hour and most of that was spent on high grit stones and abrasives to make as good of a mirror polish as I could. I've started with 1200 grit King whetstone, then proceeded with 3000 grit synthetic (blue) aoto waterstone and, few strokes per side on the 5000 grit Naniwa Chosera waterstone. Followed by probably good 15 minutes on 10000 grit Naniwa Chosera Super Finishing waterstone. And after that while I was watching a movie, another half an hour or so of polishing with 0.5µm diamond crystal loaded leather strop and next with 0.25µm diamond crystal strop. Then stropping on the plain leather, for a while, just practicing. The resulting edge was really well polished and super sharp, albeit a tad thick for the knife of that class, but that's for me...
Handle- The handle on the Henckel Miyabi santoku is Japanese traditional D shape handle. Of the two main types of the Japanese kitchen knife handles I myself prefer octagonal handles, but a lot of people swear by D shape, and lots of makers make them as their only option, Shun for example, see that in Shun Kitchen Knife reviews. Well, octagonal handle is an upgrade for many makers. Anyway, even if I do not like D shaped handles a whole lot, Miyabi handles are pretty good. I like them. Have to note here, lots of Japanese kitchen knife enthusiasts dislike Miyabis exactly for their handles. So, you have to feel them to make your own decision I guess. As for the material, the handle is made of Micarta, but somehow the micarta in Miyabi handles is every well machined, has nice feel to it, smooth finish and feels very solid. Parts of the handle are covered with stainless steel including the bolster area. I am guessing it's 410 stainless steel. Can't say that steel on the handle is helping much with the grip security though. It's there mostly for visual cue. May be to make the handle stronger too, but it's a santuko knife, not a broadsword, so I doubt too much strength is really required.
Usage 16°-17° edge- As you can deduce from the above, all the testing and cutting was done with the highly polished, 16°-17° (per side) angle edge. Sanetsu gyuto I have is speced at 64HRC-66HRC, vs. Miyabi 65HRC-67HRC. Point is I was curious if I could tell the possible difference in Rockwell hardness between the Sanetsu gyuto and Henckels Miyabi santoku during my standard kitchen cutting chores. Running ahead I can say I couldn't. The variables, to be specific the difference in blade edge angles (~25° total for Sanetsu gyuto and ~35° total for Miyabi santoku) as well as the blade geometry differences did come into play and I couldn't come up with anything conclusive. Few times during test cutting, I've put aside Miyabi santoku, picked up Sanetsu gyuto and repeated the cuts. It was obviously Sanetsu was a better cuter. It had thinner edge, and less sticky flat surfaces compared to the Miyabi santoku. So, purely physical effort to make a cut was a little less for the Sanetsu gyuto. However, as far as the edge retention goes, I couldn't tell any difference between those two. Partly, and that's obvious, because the testing only lasted about 1.5 hours, which was my standard kitchen test procedure, involving about 20 different vegetables, all minced, shredded and chiffonaded for the salad. Total weight of the resulting mass is about 8 lbs. it is quite a bit of cutting though. More than enough to get the general feel of the knife, and form fairly objective opinion. Objective as in for my own self and use. Not universal :) Thinking back, I have to say, much better comparison would have been Tojiro Flash Santoku, review is linked below, although Tojiro is made form VG-10 steel, blade geometry and dimensions are a lot more similar, as it is a santoku knife too. Well, if I get that Miyabi santoku again, I'll run another series of tests, now against Tojiro santoku, which is the only santoku I have left in my kitchen knife arsenal. Update - That did happen and the comparison with other santokus is on the next page.
Last updated - 09/01/11