Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mora Knives

Most of you are very familiar with the Mora knives, and if you are not, all you need to do is take a look at any of the bushcraft forums to see how well respected they are.

Mora is a line of knives produced in Sweden, and they are very similar to puukkos in design. The blades are thin, short and with a single bevel grind, which has come to be referred to as a Scandinavian grind because of it’s assumed prevalence in the region. The knives use either a rat tail tang (the tang runs the full length of the handle, but narrows to a point in the back) or a partial tang in their design.

The Mora knives with which most people are familiar are produced either by KJ Eriksson or by Frosts. In 2008 the two companies merged and now the knives are produced under the name Mora of Sweden.

The modern Mora knives with which we are familiar were primarily designed to function as general purpose utility knives, and similar designs are produced by most Scandinavian manufacturers who make construction equipment. They have gained popularity in the bushcraft community because of their versatility and the high quality they provide for a very low price.

Most knives in the line can be purchased for anywhere from $10 to $15.

If you listen to some people, you may come out with the misconception that these are the “perfect bushcraft knives”. Aside from the fact that there is no such thing, it is important to note that the knives have limitations.

We must not forget that we are working here with a fairly thin blade with a very limited tang. It is not uncommon to breake such a knife. Below you can see an x-ray picture of four Mora knives. Note the limited tangs they use.

The knives use a process where the handle, made of a plastic composite, is molded around the tang of the knife. Some of the more traditional models like the Mora #1 and #2, used to use a rat tail tang, which was held by a friction fitting in the back of the knife’s wooden handle. Recently however, they have started to use a partial tang as well, held in the handle by epoxy, as can be seen in the below picture.

While these images may be frightening, it must be noted that the knives are surprisingly strong. The knives will take a lot of punishment and are more than sufficiently strong to perform any cutting task. If you are planning on batoning or truncating wood with them however, failures may occur.

This does not make a knife either bad or good, it is just a limitation of the design for which you have to account and plan your woodworking accordingly. If you have a hatchet or an axe with you for the heavier wood work, then a Mora knife may be ideal for you. If on the other hand you would like to use your knife to split wood or do any other heavy work, this may not be the perfect knife for the job.

I am sure someone will immediately come out with a video showing that you can baton with a Mora. Of course you can, you just have to understand that at that point you are pushing the knife to its limits, and that it might fail.

The knives come in both carbon steel and laminated stainless. I find them to be of equal quality. You have to decide which type you want.

So which of the Mora knives should one consider for a general purposes bushcraft knife? My favorite was the 510, which has now been discontinued and replaced by the 511, which I don’t like because of the finger guard.

Another favorite is the Mora Clipper 840...

...and so is the Mora #1 and #2.

There are numerous other models which will perform equally well. It all comes down to which one looks and feels right to you. Their performance characteristics are about the same.

Some people like the Mora 2000, but I find it to be a strange design, and it does come at a higher price tag.

Recently Mora has even come out with a line of knives specifically designed for bushcraft. The one shown here is the Bushcraft Force.

I find this to be another example of a bushcraft tax. In my opinion the knives are not significantly different from any other knife in the Mora inventory, but because they are “bushcraft” knives, they cost three times more than a regular Mora knife, coming in at over $30. There are some minor differences and design variations, but they are in no way three times better than any other Mora knife. Remember that Mora made its reputation in the bushcraft community on the merits of its regular knives, not these new bushcaft ones.

If you are looking for a good knife at a low price, you can not go wrong with a Mora, as long as you respect its design limitations. Ultimately however, a knife is a personal choice, and the one you carry will depend on what feels comfortable in your hand and for what purpose you wish to use it.