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The best reviews start off with questions, and with the Kansept Main Street they’re obvious: who is Kansept? Is it spelled that way on purpose? Why does it look like that? And, obviously: is it any good?
First, if you haven’t heard of Kansept, that’s because they’re a very recent startup out of Yangjiang, being founded in 2020 by Kim Ning after he parted ways with Kizer Cutlery. At Kizer, Kim was a production manager but also had design credit on several Kizer knives, like the Vigor, Bantam and Shoal. After leaving to start Kansept, the brand has flooded the market with funky and fresh designs, going for more creative and artistic knives than the utilitarian and minimalist options that seem to be popular today.
What does “Kansept” mean? Well, according to the website, “Kansept” is the re-formation of the meaning of “Concept”. The structure of knives and ways of making knives, are much of a muchness. What makes us stand out from the crowd is our ability to innovate. Just like the design of our logo, which derives from the image of UFOs that travel from space to space and leap into the future. This means Kansept will always keep pace with the times and constantly absorb fresh and innovative elements and finally put them into knife designs.” What does that… mean? I don’t know.
Key Specs: Kansept Main Street
Despite their extremely recent start, Kansept is in the epicenter of Chinese knifemaking, with Yangjiang being a vertically integrated industry town with everything you need to make cutlery, so this combined with Ning’s existing familiarity with the industry meant that Kansept hit the proverbial ground running, and in three years Kansept is up to almost 500 products in their catalog. They’ve also leaned heavily into designer collaborations, with collabs from Justin Lundquist, Koch Tools, Jarek, Karambitmaker (Greg Wegrzycki), Ostap Hel, Sparrow Knife Company, Dirk Pinkerton, and Max Tkachuk.
This knife, the Main Street, is a Dirk Pinkerton design collaboration. The Main Street design has 32 variations(!) listed on Kansept’s page, from $66 (for a G10 handled Little Main Street) to $355 (for a full-sized model with a 20CV blade and Timascus handles) with two lock types – liner lock or crossbar lock. The version we’re trying out falls somewhere in the middle, being the full-sized version with G10 damascus-pattern handles and a 154CM blade with an $82 MSRP.
All of the knives in the Main Street lineup feature the same funky reverse tanto blade shape, with a completely straight cutting edge. The spine features a run of jimping for thumb traction above the thumb stud, before curving downward toward the tip. A high flat grind runs parallel to the cutting edge, from a steep ricasso to the point where the spine turns down to the tip. At 0.12” thick at the spine, the Main Street’s blade is thin enough that the medium-height primary grind won’t be much of a hindrance to slicing performance, and on this version the blade has an attractive black stonewashed finish. The reverse-tanto (or modified wharncliffe, it just depends on who you ask) blade measures in at 3.4” long with a 3.25”cutting edge, that impressive ratio being due to an extremely abbreviated sharpening choil at the base of the blade. The geometry on that choil, by the way, is done well – it terminates cleanly leaving no “beard” at the back of the edge. At 1.25” at the widest point, the Main Street’s blade is quite blocky with a tall profile.
While pricier versions of the Main Street use CPM S35VN steel (or 20CV on the full Mokuti variant), the standard versions use 154CM. 154CM has been around for quite a long time (since 1959), being a modified version of the popular 440C stainless steel, but with the addition of molybdenum to the mixture to increase corrosion resistance and toughness. It’s a high-carbon stainless steel with 14% chromium and 1.05% carbon. While newer cutlery steels have benefitted from newer tech like powdered metallurgy and the addition of other elements like niobium and vanadium, 154CM has always been a reliable and balanced steel for an EDC knife, with decent edge retention, good corrosion resistance, and being relatively easy to sharpen. For the price range, 154CM is totally decent and a step up from D2 or VG10 you see frequently.
Deployment & Lockup
The Main Street opens via thumb stud deployment, with a set of symmetrical ambidextrous thumb studs with a stepped design for traction. The knife uses a crossbar lock – another name for the sliding bar lock made popular by Benchmade with their AXIS lock many years ago – in combination with a set of caged ball bearings in the pivot. Like most other sliding bar locks, the Kansept lock uses dual omega-shaped springs to force the lock bar over the tang of the blade in both the open and closed positions, in combination with an external stop pin that locates the blade when it’s open. It’s worth noting that the crossbar lock Main Street was the second version of the knife after the original liner lock, both of which are still available depending on your preference – although the liner lock has the same dimensions but is about a half ounce lighter.
The combination of a sliding bar lock and ball bearing pivot almost always makes for excellent action, and indeed the Main Street deploys very well – although the detent strength is light, the low-friction pivot and the heavy blade combine for snappy, effortless deployment. The knife also easily drops shut under its own weight, since opening the lock removes any friction from the tang of the blade. Just a little bit of tension on the thumb studs gets the blade popped open reliably, or you can pull back on the lock and flick the blade out with your wrist. I do think the shape of the handles would benefit from leaving more space for your thumb to access the thumb studs, like a scalloped relief seen on knives like the Kizer Drop Bear. The only hitch with lockup on this knife is some noticeable lock stick after flicking the blade out hard – with the crossbar lock making a soft “pop” when it’s released – due to either galling or poor machining on the tang of the blade, which did not go away after break-in. Still, once deployed, the blade doesn’t exhibit any vertical or horizontal blade play or lock rock.
Features, Fit & Finish
This entire line of knives is very flashy and feature-rich, designed to attract the eye, and that definitely starts with the scales. While there are quite a number of variations of the Main Street, this black and red handled G-Mascus (G10 Damascus) pops as soon as you slide it out of the bag, looking like a lava flow or the maybe the background texturing to a DOOM 2 Map. When combined with the black stonewashed blade, clip, and hardware, it certainly makes for an interesting looking knife. I can’t say that I’m a fan of the looks but I realize that it’s entirely subjective – and maybe my initial comment that the Main Street “fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on it’s way to the ground” was unkind. After all, my wife likes it, and she actually has good taste.
Those G10 G-Mascus scales sit atop skeletonized stainless liners, which are also black coated to match. They’re not nested in the liners, which pushes the handle thickness up to 0.48” across, and they’re slab-sided without any contouring or texture. There is a run of jimping in the liners towards the rear of the spine, which is a location that I’ve always wondered what the purpose of applying jimping is since it’s not a pinch point of any sort. Construction is flow-through with a pair of hourglass-shaped standoffs supporting the liners in the rear of the handle. Standard Torx fittings are used for the body and pivot screws, being bolt-through on both sides with T10 pivot screws, T8 body screws, and T6 clip screws. That pivot screw, by the way, is free spinning and is not keyed to the liners or scales to prevent it from turning when you want to adjust it. Markings are laser-etched onto the stonewashed blade surface, with one side having the Kansept “UFO” logo, the steel type and a model number, while the opposite side features Dirk Pinkerton’s designer logo, and the model name.
The pocket clip is a stamped steel deep-carry clip, held in place by a pair of vertical screws with a pass-through hole in the clip for access, and it’s configured for right hand tip-up carry only, with no additional screw holes tapped in the handle. It has a spoon-shaped tip that makes ingress and egress from the pocket easier and mounts at the very edge of the handle to hide as much of the knife as possible in your pocket.
While I may not be in love with the design of the knife, it must be said that the fit and finish is good, with a few exceptions: that persistent lock stick, a less than impressive factory edge that could have benefitted from a few more passes on a high-grit wheel, and some tiny surface-level voids in the handle scales. The blade is nicely centered between the liners when closed, the complex blade grind (including a beveled spine) is clean and symmetrical, and all the body screws are level with the surface of the scales. All my dislikes on this knife are design-related, not quality-related.
The Main Street is a bulky looking knife and that impression transfers over to how it carries in the pocket – it’s broad, slab sided and relatively heavy at 4.6 ounces. The profile of the blade is really the big issue, with the hump in the spine and the tall blade protruding out quite a bit from the handles, taking up precious pocket real estate. This knife makes your cell phone feel crowded if you carry it in the same pocket. The clip is good, though: easy to get in and out, good tension, and the knife rides very low in your pocket with just the corner of the handle protruding. While the flat scales are no benefit in the hand, they do make the knife lay flat in your pocket, but it’s still heavy and bulky.
It doesn’t get a lot better when you use it. The action of the knife is great – it’s very slick, fun to fidget with when you’re bored, but it just doesn’t feel great in your hand. The handles are wide but don’t really fill your palm naturally, there’s a barely pronounced finger guard, and the straight profile of the handle doesn’t give you a defined grip position. There’s no forward choil, no thumb ramp, just a big flat slab that never really locks into your hand. The curve on the spine does give you a place to put your index finger in a pinch grip for opening boxes, but it’s too far forward on the spine to feel natural.
And opening boxes is what this knife excels at, with its reverse-tanto blade shape being a reasonable facsimile of a standard utility knife. Tip down low, totally straight edge – looks like a box cutter, doesn’t it? The chunky grind that terminates halfway up the blade doesn’t make the best slicer, with the excess material creating friction when breaking down cardboard, but at least the abbreviated sharpening choil leaves the maximum amount of sharpened edge available and doesn’t present an obstacle to cutting. I’ve always thought that reverse tanto/wharncliffe blade shapes are too specialized to be especially useful in EDC roles, being good at breaking down packaging but mediocre at food prep or piercing things – while it has a nice sharp tip, the relatively acute angle makes it more work than your average flat ground drop point would be. These style blades are cool looking, and more-so blacked out like this version, but I still don’t gel with them in an EDC function.
All these knives available at BladeHQ.Despite my misgivings about reverse tantos, they seem to be extremely popular on the market now, with most every mainstream brand offering at least one or several models that compete directly with this Kansept Main Street and it’s $82 MSRP.
First is the CJRB Pyrite, which we tested in a stainless-handle drop point version previously. We loved the Pyrite, with the exception of it’s slick and heavy metal handles, but this Micarta-scaled version weighs in at only 3.6 ounces. It sports a 3.11” reverse-tanto blade in Artisan’s proprietary AR-RPM9 powdered metallurgy steel, with a more useful full flat grind as well as an oblong thumb hole for deployment along with caged ball bearings in the pivot. It uses a button lock versus the Main Street’s crossbar lock, but our experience with the Pyrite was overwhelmingly positive – especially for the $55 retail price. It’s smaller (7.30” vs 7.95” open) but a whole ounce lighter, and the ergonomics of the Pyrite handle were preferable.
Also worth considering is the WE-built Civivi Sentinel Strike, also featuring a reverse tanto blade and a button lock like the CJRB. It gives you ALL the options for deployment: a thumb stud, a wide oblong thumb hole, and a flipper tab. That handle is funky: it’s made from machined aluminum, but with a textured overlay that wraps over the spine, as well as a butt-mounted deep carry clip anchored by a glass-breaker stud. The reverse tanto blade measures a long 3.7” and is full flat ground with a shorter profile, made from K110 steel.
There’s also the funky Bestech Slyther reverse tanto model, with two-tone G10 contoured scales, a liner lock with flipper deployment on ball bearings, and a slim 3.625” reverse tanto blade in Sandvik 14C28N stainless steel. It’s a little cheaper at $68 retail, and Bestech quality is typically top-notch. Weight is similar at 4.55 ounces, and it features an attractive tip-up deep carry clip for right hand use. You can also get it with trendy natural Jade G10 scales or other mono-color options as well.
Finally, there’s the Azo-designed Kizer LP, featuring a slim 3.5” reverse tanto blade in 154CM. Its narrow profile keeps the weight down to 3.6 ounces despite the 7.9” overall length, and it deploys via a thumb stud and a ball bearing pivot. Lockup is via a liner lock, and it comes with Jade G10 scales for its $75 retail price. An ambidextrous tip-up deep carry clip is polished stainless steel, and the contoured liners stand proud of the scales for a solid grip.
As more and more knife companies join the fray in the sub-$100 price point, the differentiating factor becomes less about quality – because the number of very high-quality knives you can get out of Yangjiang, China these days for less than $100 is overwhelming. Brands like QSP and Vosteed are offering a surprising level of polish and fit and finish for your buck, with designer collabs left and right, and there are some genuinely nice options.
It comes down to design for me – because in terms of product quality, the Kansept Main Street is well made, well equipped, and has great action. I just don’t love the design – even if we look past my inherent dislike of reverse tantos for day-to-day use, the ergonomics are a letdown – it’s wide but slab-sided, there’s no relief cutout to access the thumb studs, it has a spinning pivot, the blade shape takes up a lot of pocket real estate, and it seems more designed to collect likes on Instagram than it does for actually cutting things and making life easier. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but for me with knives form should naturally follow function. I don’t particularly like either here. If you like the looks and find the blade shape useful, there’s nothing wrong with the Main Street, but it doesn’t do it for me.