Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mora Knife Carving Roundup

Knives from Mora of Sweden
In anticipation of a presentation on carving woodenware at the Western Pa Woodworkers in January and a possible follow on class that has not been determined I wanted to do a post on the popular knives from Mora of Sweden. I've tested a roundup of the models I think are most useful for general greenwood carving of spoons and the like. This only covers the straight blade knives, not hook knives. Remember this is just my opinion and that Mora makes something like 80 different models. We're going to look at just 5 different knives. Given the prices you'd be hard pressed to find a better value in a knife.

Common Features
There are a couple of things all these knives have in common. First up they are simple and functional, no fancy inlays or any of that, just what you need to get the job done. Sheaths are all functional sheaths of plastic with a friction fit to protect the edge and the user. Most importantly, and the feature that makes them so great for this work, they have the flat Scandinavian (Scandi) grind. 

Scandinavian Grind
A Scandinavian grind is a knife profile that is a long flat bevel extending all the way to the edge. There are no secondary or micro bevels, nor should there be. It's this feature that give a lot of control, from hogging large amounts of wood off to taking very fine shavings to smooth areas. With the flat bevel you can lay the bevel flat to the wood and the edge is on the wood, ready to cut, you can use it almost like a plane. 

I find carving with this grind very natural, you position the knife and it does what you expect. I've never felt this way about other types of knives. Also it is easy to sharpen, the angle is already there to guide you, no jigs needed. The small angle of the edge becomes very sharp easily and cuts readily. 

A downside is that the edge can be somewhat fragile compared to other grinds with steeper secondary bevels. I think the benefits outweigh this and in practice it hasn't been much of an issue. 

Mora 106
Mora 106
This is probably one of the most popular spoon carving knives there is. Seems that everyone in the spoon carving groups on Facebook or Instagram has one. I have one too. Anyway, it's a blade length is about 3 1/8" and is laminated steel. A laminated steel blade has a core layer of hardened steel sandwiched between 2 layers of mild steel. This allows Mora to harden the core a little extra without having a blade that's prone to cracking. Also it speeds sharpening a bit since about half of that long bevel is mild steel instead of hardened. Now for the opinions.

I like this knife and it's nearly ideal for me. The simple beech grip is about the right size for my hand (medium/average). The tapered carving blade allows you to work into tight areas. I never really feel like anything is bothering me with this knife unless I want a shorter blade for an especially tight area or due to the way I'm holding the work. 

Some folks with larger or smaller hands will either replace or modify the handle as needed. It's also available as a bare blade without a handle if you're certain that you'll want to make your own. 

Mora 120
Mora 120
Little sibling to the 106 above it's pretty much the same knife all around except for the shorter blade length of 2 1/4". I like it for getting into small areas and when I have to hold the work in such a way that a longer blade increases the risk of a cut. Makes a great second knife as a companion to one of the others. 

Mora Wood Carving Basic
Mora Wood Carving Basic
In many regards this knife is pretty similar to the 106, the main differences being the blade is a little shorter at 3", the handle is plastic, and the blade is hardened carbon steel, not laminated. It's also a bit cheaper. Aside from cost I'd say the real reason to choose this knife over the 106 is the handle. The basic handles without guards on the other knives can be a bit disconcerting to beginners concerned about sliding fingers up on to the blade. This plastic handle has a small rise near the blade to give a little more confidence. 

Frankly I like the wooden handles of the other knives better. In use I found the plastic handle to be a little more in the way when working towards the hilt of the blade and that the plastic made my hand sweat a little more. Minor concerns though and it's a fine cutter.

Mora Classic No. 1
Mora Classic No. 1
While not technically a carving knife the No. 1 can hold its own. The differences from the others are a longer 3 7/8" blade of solid carbon steel with a wider edge to spine dimension  and a slight clip point. The handle is basically the same as the 106, just painted red. 

This is the traditional Swedish all around belt knife. While there are other knives with plastic handles that are similar in the Mora lineup I chose this one for the wooden handle and it's better utility for carving in my opinion. I'd say the upsides of this one are the longer blade length which can be nice for bigger work. The downside being the wider edge to spine which limits the radius of concave cuts when compared to the 106 above. 

Mora Classic No. 2/0
Mora Classic No. 2/0
The No. 2/0 is pretty much a shrunk down version of the No. 1 above, but that has some advantages. It's a 3" carbon steel blade and a smaller handle. This allows it to cut concave radius nearly on par with the 106, although not quite. 

I like this knife pretty well but the handle is a bit small for me. It would be perfect though for someone with smaller hands who doesn't want to make a handle or trim down one of the others. 

Closing Thoughts
Any of these knives will get you through the parts of carving woodenware you can do with a straight knife. The prices are low and the value of these tools is amazing. I think it's really a matter of getting one in your hand and seeing what you like. Lucky for you if you're in the Pittsburgh area and come to the Western PA Woodworkers meeting on Jan 8th 2015 you'll be able to do just that. Look for a couple of more posts on hatchets and hook knives as a lead up to this meeting. 

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