By Federico Buldrini
Morakniv AB has its factory in Östnor, 6 km from the town of Mora, capital of its municipality, in the county of Dalarna, central Sweden. From Dalarna county comes one of the symbols of Sweden, the Dala horse, produced at least since the 17th century, but probably much older, while the massive production of knives in this region dates back to the 18th century, however following typical characteristics of the medieval brukskniv.
In 1891 Frost-Erik Ernström began producing knives to use in his timber sleds factory, but soon expanded production and ended up fully converting the factory to the production of cutting tools. Erik Frost AB was born. In 1912, after being thrown out, literally, from the Ernström factory, a young worker, Krang-Johan Eriksson, founded a competing factory with business partner Lok-Anders Mattsson. KJ Eriksson AB was born. Until 1956 the sheaths for all the manufacturers were crafted by the shoemaker Ström. He was also the first to experiment sheath making with the “Unica” vulcanized fiber, that would eventually replace leather.
Frost AB expansion allowed the birth of several other small companies, often founded by former workers. These small businesses frequently bought raw materials from Frost and then built their own knives. In the 60’s Frost and Eriksson, always remained the two largest companies, began to buy out almost all the other small firms unable to withstand the fierce competition to which they were subjected, thus ensuring themselves an almost complete monopoly. In 2005 Eriksson concluded the acquisition of Frost, a process that began with the sale of part of the shares owned by few members already in 1988. Mora of Sweden AB was born. During the settling period and the gradual shift of all the production in the Eriksson factory there was a noticeable decline in quality control. In 2016 Mora of Sweden changed the name to Morakniv AB.
The model that I review is the Classic Original 1, the first incarnation of the “Mora” knife as we know it today. Unlike the more popular, common and cheap models it has kept the main features of the brukskniv from which everything started: laminated blade and uncolored handle. The sheath is made of vulcanized fiber. There is also the “Exclusive” variant with a leather sheath. The red color of the handle was introduced in the 20s, in various shades, as an imitation of mahogany.
After the war, due to the shortage of leather, started the massive production of vulcanized fiber sheaths, which had already been slowly replacing the leather ones since the 20s. In the 50s it began on the other hand the increasing use of plastics for both handles and sheaths and this was, ultimately, one of the key factors that allowed Frost and Eriksson to take over the monopoly. The laminated steel is currently used only in the Original Classic models and for the carving knives. I attempted to investigate the steel used, but the best I could get was a confirmation that the core is in O1 from Western Europe, surrounded by sides of a low-alloyed steel, produced by the same factory, containing less than 0.4% C so as not to interfere with O1 heat treatment. For writing convenience I will define it 1035.
length 99 mm
width 18 mm, thickness 2.5 mm
tang 2×3 mm at pommel
bevels flat edge 28°
hardness ~ 59 HRC
length 102 mm
width 24 mm max. thickness 19 mm max.
knife 60 g, with sheath 80 g
The flat section blade is stamped from a laminated steel bar made of a O1 core, surrounded by 1035 sides. It is untapered both in height and thickness. The bevels are flat, with a 28° edge taken to zero. Out of the box it was shaving sharp. The tang is secured with a tubular rivet. The common birch handle is machine-made, then assembled and riveted by a worker, without the addition of epoxy. It is sanded with a medium grit and tapers in both directions. It fills well the hand, but is very slender and thin. It has a marked oval section and a good junction between blade and ferrule. The 1.5 mm thick vulcanized fiber sheath is sewn on the back as its leather cousins would be. It has a slotted leather strip, originally designed to carry the knife hanging from a special button, once present on work clothes. Now it can be exploited for neck carry. The sheath, unlike the plastic ones of the red handled Classic models, holds the knife well. In use The knife comes directly from the factory, but both the ferrule and the iron fixing the leather slot were rusted, so I cleaned them with steel wool.
The blade was shaving sharp, but the junction between the flat and the curve part of the edge wasn’t perfectly smooth and didn’t shave. Extremely light, it weighs with the sheath as the Basic 546 alone. The blade spine is rounded for better comfort when applying pressure with the thumb or fingers of the weak hand, depending from the cuts. The junction between bevels and cheeks is rounded as well to reduce friction during cuts.
During the elderberry spikkentroll carving it had good bite, for a flat section blade, but the wood curls were a bit less precise and tight than those possible with rhombic blades.
Since the edge has a really flat portion, rather than a slight continuous curve, I felt this as a drawback on biting potential. This, together with the knife little mass, make it suffer a little during roughing carving and stop cuts. At the end of the work the edge was pristine.
Later I carved a silver fir spatula. The first thing that struck me during the roughing cuts, far bigger than those necessary for a spikkentroll, was the feeling of smallness of the handle. Then I noticed a very quick tiring in my arm due to those minute proportions of the handle, no matter if I did push cuts with the knife or pulled the wood against the blade with my weak arm. The rounded spine was good enough for the thumb of the weak hand during refining push cuts, but it can still be a bit painful if much pressure is applied.
No problem in finishing cuts, where the knife transformed into a very agile and biting little thing. At the end of the work it was still shaving, but had lost some bite and gained two microchips on the flat portion of the edge.
Being accustomed to essentially using custom made rhombic puukkos I realize that I have a very high benchmark, so my judgment is to be taken considering my excessive pickiness, which doesn’t spare puukkos either.
To me the Mora Classic Original, as currently produced, has shown great potential for working both on green and seasoned wood. However, on seasoned wood, what it gains thanks to its geometry, it is largely lost due to the general lack of mass and, especially, the really small proportions of the handle.
The blade has a good combination of thin stock and not too acute bevels, which allow a good compromise of bite and resilience, actually slightly better than that of the #106 carving model.
The handle is the major flaw. Its proportions make it small even for those with medium-sized hands and are far too insufficient for roughing cuts on seasoned wood, even for a smallish project like a spatula. A handle with the same proportions of the aforementioned # 106 (108x29x22 mm), would make a totally different knife.
To sum it up, the knife has good performance on green wood, on very small projects on seasoned wood and is fair enough for basic bushcraft use, but pays way too much its handle proportions for anything that is more challenging.