Mora : #1260 : narrow blade : 1095


The review consists of :

Specifications

This Mora is the #1260 model with a 9/16" wide blade which is 3 1/2" long. The knife is crafted from 1095 high carbon steel listed at 60 HRC. The blade is 0.098" thick, weighs 45 grams and balances 1.25" behind the handle. The traditional scandinavian bevel is 0.258" wide, ground at 10.4 (4) degrees per side. The sheath is hard plastic with a drainage hole and weighs 20 g.

The blade finish is quite high, able to see a clean reflection and can be used as a signaling mirror readily. However the finish was scratched in a couple of places and the edge had several sections which strongly reflected light. The wooden handle had clear and clean grain and wasn't highly polished so was somewhat rough in hand. There was a gap between the blade and the handle which was quickly filled in with epoxy to prevent water from entering and corroding the tang.

Stock work

Sharpness : the Mora was initially fairly blunt, there was little shaving ability, one side being slightly better than the other indicating a rolled edge. There was no ability to push cut newsprint, a vertical slice could be made. On thread and poly the sharpness was low and inconsistent, the tip was more than twice as sharp as the base. On 3/8" hemp the force required for the push cuts near the base was very high compared to the tip, little aggression was seen on a slice. The knife was sharpened and the sharpness and cutting on 3/8" hemp rechecked :

Initial sharpness and cutting ability of the slim Mora and performance after a light honing
Condition Thread Poly Hemp
push slice
base tip
grams cm lbs
Initial 157 (26) 3.4   (4) 43-45 16-17 23-25
Honed  77 (  5) 0.30 (4) 14-15  9-10 10-11

The large change in sharpness as shown on the thread and especially poly cutting induces a corresponding influence on the cutting ability on hemp rope which shows massive drops in the required amount of force. Moving on to deeper cutting, pointing some ends on a basswood dowel with a 22 degree fine ceramic micro bevel, the Mora needed 2.5 (3) slices. The performance was extreme due to the thin blade stock, acute bevel and excellent leverage due to the edge being fully sharpened right to the handle.

Tip : with a 50 lbs push, the sank 285 (13) pages into a phone book. The very narrow blade profile, thin stock, and acute edge profile all act to increase penetration, the only aspect which is less than optimal is lack of a significant distal taper. Hard vertical stabs were not performed as there is a lack of handle security, which can be enhanced to a degree by hooking the the thumb over the pommel which does however put a lot of stress on a small joint. The 2x4 digging was also not attempted as some light work showed that the tip was too slender to be productive digging in even soft woods.

Food

The Mora made a solid paring knife due to its acute edge, narrow blade and pointy tip. However the wide edge did reduce cutting efficiency and a stock Spyderco Delica cut through the potato easier. The Mora also worked well trimming small cuts of meat, cutting small pieces of cheese and peeling potatoes. The handle is also very comfortable in hand, a Henckels paring knife is squarish in comparison. However with grease or fat on the handle security is low and without a guard care needs to be taken to keep the hand from slipping up unto the blade.

The Mora is however too short for a general utility knife. Cutting a turnip and other large vegetables even two slices from opposite sides can't reach the middle. The low sabre grind also induces more wedging when cutting stiff vegetables. It cuts about half as well as the japanese utility on a medium sized carrot (1.5") in regards to force and is far behind slicing up potatos due to the wedging action due to the narrow primary grind, taking 7-9 lbs to make a cut where the japanese utility needs only 1-2 lbs. The lack of a dropped blade on the Mora also prevents cuts clean to the cutting board.

The corrosion resistance is also very low. While cutting acidic fruits and vegetables visible corrosion would form almost immediately. Some foods like onions would also discolor as they were cut. The blade needs to be rinsed frequently and dried often.

Field

Light vegetation : the light Mora when well sharpened cuts light vegetation well but suffers from lack of reach, there are Mora knives with much longer blades which are more suitable for such work. It can clip off slim alders, quarter of an inch, on a light chop but beyond that wood has to be sliced through with it bent under tension. It can be used with a baton to chop through thicker woods however a few dozen impacts with a piece of ash about two lbs and the ring around the front of the handled loosened and the blade started to move in the handle so there is a concern about heavy use. Thus in general for larger tasks it is best accompanied by a axe, large blade or saw.

Carving : the acute edge of the Mora allows it to quickly rough woods to shape and perform finish carving. As it is lighter in hand and easier to control the rate of fatigue is much less than knife like the Ratweiler for such work. However a larger chopping tool is of benefit as the wood can be chopped to rough shape faster. The short blade on this Mora also makes the point more controlable vs blades such as the Mora 2000 which can be of benefit for carving hollows. Using the tip tracks can be cut in a piece of wood, then the tracks are cut along the top and bottom (1/32" deep). These tracks are then pried out to create a notch on on hard woods just scored until they come out. The process is repeated to create the shallow hole for a spoon, or a small bowl. With the much easier to handle point on the smaller Mora is was many times more productive larger Mora 2000 and could make a small bowl in the time the Mora was hollowing out a small spoon.

Splitting : this Mora doesn't have the required length to split wood effectively by batoning and really heavy impacts are problematic to the grip anyway. It also isn't rigid enough to split all but the softest wood by prying. Wedges can be carved for such tasks however splitting wood to get the wedges is problematic obviously so usually deadfall is the best option. With weak wedges the first wood to be split should be clear and open grained or else the wedges will break in the woods. The first wood which is split is mainly used to get more wedges.

Out of the five wedges carved from small dead branches used to split the round on the right only one survived the split and the rest just broke apart under the batoning. However this one wedge was enough to split off a small shingle from half of the round and this was carved into a much more durable wedge due to the stronger wood. This allowed the round to be broken down further. In between splits the wedge was reshaped with the knife to keep it at maximum strength, trimming off all damaged wood and reshaping as necessary to get the optimal taper. After the round was split several times there was lots of wood available for wedges which made it possible to split more difficult wood such as a piece with knots.

Note as the wedges from the first round were all soft wood they can self-destructed during the splitting. Generally this is why it is best to try to find a piece of clear hardwood as soon as possible and split that as it would enable better wedges to be crafted. In general with smaller knives like this one, for larger tasks the goal is on building tools with the knife rather than using the knife directly.

Heavy tip work : The Mora has a very slender tip so isn't suitable for digging or prying in even the softer woods like pine. A millimeter of the tip was lost trying to pry out a piece of pine from 3/32" deep and care even needs to be taken with thick bark. In thin barks like on birch it works very well on removing large pieces as the slender tip allows the blade to be easily slipped under the bark and break it away from the trees. Cutting holes in ice in the winter the tip tended to fracture readily which is surprising considering the same work was done with a South Fork in S30V without problems. This likely indicates the tip on the Mora has a hardening problem.

Fire : the Mora works well for gathering first stage tinder for a fire, trimming grasses, slice thin shavings of wood and make fine scrapings. The fire pit was staked at the bottom with some sharpened small sticks to provided solid air flow and made it easy to light the bottom layer which was grasses. On the grass was dried stalky weeds, followed by thin shavings and then some dead branches. There is far more grass than necessary to light the wood but this is always the ideal way.

To keep the fire going heavier fuel needs to be added. Ideally this is dry small wood, split if necessary. However this takes a lot of time and often the fire can be started and continued with other materials while the wood is being split and thus serve as an immediate source of light and heat. One of the best sources of fuel to be gathered for a knife of this size is very pitch heavy bark which burns similar to wax. Heavy bark in general will burn well, bark from deadwoods or which has cracked away from trees works really well when dry.

However after even a light mist some barks absorb water like a sponge. If the bark is wet, it is usually only on the inside and the outside will still burn if placed onto the fire and thus not put out the coals and the heat will act to dry out the inner bark. As the inner bark dries it will burn readily as well, the bark however doesn't tend to form nice and stable coals, so its use as a fuel sorce is limited and generally works best as a temporary solution while actual wood is being gathered.

Miscellaneous utility usage

The Mora can have problems on some harder materials as the edge angle is fairly acute, this can be addressed with a secondary edge bevel which is more obtuse. Though the stock and point are very slim it can still be used for fairly harsh tasks though the method usually has to be adjusted . For example it was used to cut some sod and dig a small hole in rooty and rocky ground.

To keep the knife from breaking when prying up the rocks, the blade was pinched between the thumb and index finger across the flats, and the tip was wedged well under the rock so the very tip, which is thin, was not significantly loaded. This type of uses will round the point and severely dull the blade, but both are easily handled with a few minutes on an x-coarse stone.

For most uses of this type it is better to make a tool with the Mora than use the Mora directly. On the right a digging stick was made which is just a sharpened tapered prybar which works as a pick to loosen soil and can cut through sods with some effort. The tip can be fire hardened for durability and resharpened as necessary with the knife.

Edge retention

On 3/8" manilla hemp the Mora was used to on a slice through the cord unsupported, using two inches of edge. An average (median) of three runs produced the following performance :

Edge retention of of the narrow Mora with a 22 degree micro bevel from a fine DMT rod slicing 3/8" manilla hemp. The sharpness was measured slicing 1/4" poly held under 1000 g of tension
# of cuts on hempedge length to cut poly
cm
  01.00 (13)
  21.20 (  9)
  61.45 (  8)
 14 1.75 (  9)
 30 2.50 (16)
 62 3.00 (28)
126 4.90 (31)

The performance is low compared to a few other blades, specifically well behind the Mora 2000.

On used carpet the Mora was used to on a slice as finished on the 600 DMT rod set at 22 degrees per side. Three runs were done with the cuts made in random order through the carpet. The Mora was again well behind Mora 2000 and other knives. Another more extended run on carpet was performed with the Mora compared against many other blades and it was again very far behind.

On cardboard the Mora was compared to the Spyderco Temperance. The edge angles were the same for both and the knives sharpened with waterstones and finishing with 0.5 micron chromium/aluminum oxide loaded leather. Four runs were made with complete sharpenings and the results consistent. Details :

Edge retention of the Mora and Temperance in on ridged cardboard slicing using two inches of blade. Sharpness was measured by the amount of force to push cut light thread.
Model Initial Sharpness Final Sharpness
 7.4 m 14.6 m 24.2 m 16.9 m*
Mora 105 ( 7) 247 (49) 416 (49) 451 (25) 363 (30)
Temperance 108 (11) 228 (58) 350 (45) 431 (38) 270 (14)

The first three runs were on 1/8" cardboard, the last run of 17 m was on 1/16" cardboard and the blades were sharper at the end of that run than on the 15 m run on the 1/8" which is also not surprising. Over all runs the Temperance was slightly ahead however the difference is slight. In general, slicing light cord was later found to be a much better measurement of slicing aggression and better able to note the edge retention for such work.

The carbon steel Mora was also compared on cardboard cutting to a the Mora 2000 with no significant advantage in edge retention or sharpening for either, however the volume of cardboard cut was very low, and in general more extended comparisons need to be made to show the difference in detail.

Wood : on fairly non-abrasive woods like Pine, Oak and Birch, the edge retention of the Mora was easily enough to allow extended periods of carving even on seasoned woods without significant blunting. It could also be used for extended baton work without edge damage, care would need to be taken around knots as the edge angle is quite acute.

Ease of sharpening

A 1000 grit waterstone was used for a few minutes to set the edge which revealed a hollow edge bevel. The finish was raised with the 4000 stone after giving the very edge a couple of higher angle passes to remove the burr. Finishing on chromium/aluminum oxide loaded leather, six passes per side, produced a high polished and even shaving finish.

Compared to the Temparence in the above stock comparisons, both knives could be restored to a fresh edge with a 1000 grit waterstone in about a minute and polished for for another minute with 4000 grit stone for narrow Mora and about two minutes for the Temperance. Both were finished to fine shaving edges with six passes per side on 0.5 micron chromium/aluminum loaded leather. Even though the Temperance has a much harder to grind steel the much more narrow edge bevel compensates.

Field sharpening : after the Mora had been used to dig a hole in the ground, it could not cut light vegetation and took 105 passes to slice through a piece of 1/2" poly under very heavy force. However using just a broken rock in about a minute the edge was reset to a full and even burr. The angle was then elevated and the burr removed leaving the edge able to shave a little on a slice. It would also readily slice paper and cut fine plastics.

The rock in the picture on the right was what was used to sharpen the knife, not a piece of sandstone, just a hard and irregular surface. The Mora would also now slice the poly in four cuts and had no problems cutting light vegetation smoothly. A similar edge was later checked on light cotton and could make a cut under 200 grams of tension, requiring 0.90 (5) centimeters of edge, about 0.35 (5) is optimal for an x-coarse hone.

Handle ergonomics and security

This Mora has the traditional tapered round grip making the handle very versatile, not biased towards any particular hand orientation. However the grip security is low due to lack of retention contours and no checkering or texturing, additional security can be gained by using the thumb on the butt of the handle. The only real ergonomic problem for cutting was found when doing a lot of rope slicing using a sabre grip the rather thin cross section was a high pressure point after about a hundred cuts.

Sheath

The sheath is hard plastic with a belt loop and drainage hole which makes for ease of cleaning. The fit is secure enough to hold the knife in place with no rattle and will retain the blade when the sheath is turned upside down, and isn't likely to come out with a hard wrist snap. The hard plastic can be quite noisy in respects to contacts off of hard branches compared to leather.

Summary

The small Mora worked well as a paring knife due to the narrow blade. The acute edge was well suited to wood carving and combined with the thin stock made it a solid cutting tool in general. It has little power on a swing due to the low weight and balance and it doesn't have the durabilty necessary for heavy batoning so it isn't efficient for thicker wood work. The initial sharpness was also low and a full sharpening was required to bring out optimal performance. The edge retention was also low on abrasive materials. While the steel was easy to grind, the wide edge bevel reduces sharpening efficiency significantly.

The steel could be made harder, though it is listed at 60 HRC, it appears softer and this class of steel can reach 66 HRC, however at this level of hardness sharpening the scandinavian bevel could be problematic. Some companies have used differential hardening and laminates to address this issue. In general the use of a primary grind would make the knife a much more versatile tool however the single bevel scandinavian grind is traditional. The traditional round handle also has security issues though are Mora's with more shaped handles and even guards.

Comments and references

Comments can be sent to : cliffstamp[REMOVE]@cutleryscience.com or posted to the following thread :

The Ragweed Forge website can be visited for more information. Jim Astons web page also has many worthwhile links on these types of knives : his webpage on Mora knives.


Last updated : 04 : 20 : 2006
Originally written : Oct 22 : 2003
Up