Mora Knives vs Custom Knives
by Greg Ritchie
I like a good knife. Over the years I have developed opinions of what I like in a knife. To that end I have had my friend Jim, owner of Oak Level Knives make me a trio of knives. These knives I will not claim to have designed, although Jim will tell you otherwise. I did not draw out any patterns or such, I merely described what I wanted and Jim put them together for me.
The various Mora Knives have a reputation of being best in class. And they are generally very attractively priced. Available in a variety of models, but with a distinctive look. There is never any doubt that you are looking at a Mora. Let’s take a look at a trio of my custom knives and compare them to a trio of Moras.
First up is the Mora Kansbol and the first knife that I received from Oak Level Knives. I was asked what do I prefer in a knife, blade thickness, length, grind, what do I want in a handle? Jim listened and a few weeks later I was gifted this knife. It’s a drop point with a blade just under 4 inches in length that sports a Saber grind. The handle is just over 4 inches giving me a full fisted grip. It is full tang, meaning the blade stock goes all the way to the end of the handle. The blade spine is about 3/8th inch thick. This is a very robust knife. It has done every chore I have asked of it except it does not strike a fire steel or scrape fatwood, although it does feather fairly well. That is not a fault of the knife, but of me. I did not think of asking for a 90 degree spine. I have used this knife to dress deer, pigs, small game and fish. Basic camp chores like meal preparation and preparing wood for the fire. Yes, I have batoned with it. As noted earlier it is a sturdy knife and up to the task. The knife nests in a nice leather sheath.
The Mora Kansbol has a blade just over 4 inches in length. The blade is stainless steel, I would have preferred carbon steel, but that’s not a deal breaker. The knife is not full tang, I would hazard a guess that it is a 3/4 tang. The blade has a Scandinavian grind. The spine is about 3/16 of an inch thick. The blade thins toward the end making this a great slicer. The handle is full fist with a grippy TPE type covering with hard plastic panels. The plastic panels have indents that snap securely into the plastic sheath. The Kansbol has a very sharp 90 degree spine and will strike a fire steel or scrape fatwood very well. This knife does a very good job of dressing deer and pigs, and the rounded belly of the blade makes it a good skinner. I do not like this blade for dressing small game. But with the thinned section of blade, it does a very good job of dressing fish. For camp chores and food preparation this is an excellent blade.
So which would I choose as a general purpose knife? That’s a tough choice. They both have their strengths and weaknesses. The Mora edges out the custom in fire making and dressing fish. I like the TPE handle better in wet conditions. The custom knife I think is the better field knife and I would choose it over the Mora as a hunting knife. As a camp knife I would call them equal. In the end the custom knife would be the one I would choose. The Mora can be had for around $40.00, while the custom could easily go $100 or more.
Next up is a pair of basic camp knives. The Oak Level knife is basically the same as the previous custom knife, the blade and handle are both shortened by about 1/2 inch. What can be said of one can be said of the other.
The Mora 511 craft knife is however a completely different animal than the Mora Kansbol. When you pick up the Mora 511 the first impression is cheap. And it is. I bought a trio of them for $15.00. That’s $5.00 each folks! But cheap is such an unfair word, let’s call it inexpensive. I still see these knives available today for less than $10.00 each. The second thing you notice is that this knife feels real good in the hand.
In a side by side comparison you would be hard pressed fo find a large difference in performance between these blades. The custom knife is obviously the more robust knife with its full tang construction and thicker blade. And you look better using it. The custom knife has a good friction fit in its sheath, the Mora will fall out of its sheath easily. It snaps in tight when new, but quickly loses its grip. There is a quick fix, warm the sheath by the fire and mash the sides together. It will fix it...for a little while. I fixed mine by adding an elastic cord to the sheath belt clip. I just stretch it around the handle to secure the knife in the sheath. Neither the Mora or the custom will strike a fire rod.
There is one area where the Mora 511 excels though. Slicing. With its super thin blade it slices through stuff like a razor. This has become my favorite knife for food preparation and it is the knife I reach for when I am dressing small game and fish.
Which one do I prefer? Well, that choice was made easy for me. The wife has claimed the custom as her own. She claims it to be the best kitchen paring knife ever made. That leaves me with the Mora. And I am very happy with it. And if it ever does break or fall out of the sheath and get lost? I have two more of them!
The last of my knife pairs is my fire kit knives. My fire kit rides in an Altoids tin. The original intent was to have a knife that would fit inside the Altoids tin. I described what I wanted to Jim. You are going to cut yourself says he. Let me make the handle bigger. No, I want it small. Then let me stretch out the bolster. Hmmm...that could be an interesting look, yeah, let’s do that. In the end, we have a blade and handle the way that I want it with Jim’s bolster on it. It turned out to be a very good looking and unique knife that unfortunately does not fit in an Altoid tin, so Jim made me a horizontal belt sheath for it. With its little 2 inch blade and 90 degree spine it made a very good fire kit knife. Thumb cuts are easy and it makes some very nice feather sticks. It scrapes fatwood very well. It’s not my favorite knife though. It’s handle is just too small. Even with the lanyard and lashing my pinkie to the handle it’s just a matter of time. I’m going to cut myself with it.
The Mora Eldris is another very small knife. It’s available in 7 different colors, blue, black, green, red, yellow, purple, and orange. Interesting that the price changes with the color. I bought the blue because it was the cheapest. $20.00. The red, black, and green were $25.00 and the orange, purple and yellow were $30.00. I was not sure I would like this knife because it was so small, so I went with blue. For an additional 3 dollars I bought a belt loop that slides over the sheath. I did not like it as the knife draws the belt loop up with it. Did I say it has very good retention? I decided to make it a neck knife. A length of paracord through the drain holes and viola, a neck knife. I also served some #36 bank line around the top of the sheath, ostensibly to give me a length of cordage should I need it, but in reality to break up some of the blue.
I have only had this knife a week or so, but I put it through its paces pretty well in that short period of time. I really like this knife. The blade shape is much like the Kansbol. I found that pushing straight down on the curve of the blade, much like you would use a chisel, gives you great control. Feather sticks are fast and easy. The handle is much like The Kansbol handle, just a little shorter. It does fill the hand well. Scraping and striking a fire rod was easy. Matter of fact the Eldris became my favorite striker upon the first use. As I was a little low on fatwood, I went down to the pine thicket in my bottom and harvested some. I even used the Eldris to baton some fatwood. It handled the job with ease.
It’s obvious that I really like the Eldris. The custom knife is a fine blade and able to hold its own, it’s just a bit too small for my meaty hands. The Eldris will be with me for a long time and I will likely buy another. To paraphrase Johnny Cash, I will get the yellow, or red, or orange, anything but blue!