Like many bushcraft guys, I’m a longtime fan of the modestly priced Swedish Mora knives. The Moras offer a lot bang for the buck in that you get a good quality blade that takes an excellent edge fitted to a simple, but generally comfortable handle, at a price that can’t be beat. Where Moras sometimes fall short is when folks want a little more strength than their stick tangs provide. I’ve heard many times over the years folks wishing for a full tang Mora that could still be had at regular Mora prices. Well, it may not be a More and it might not come from Sweden but Condor Tool and Knife’s Sapien might be just what a lot of folks have been looking for.
A product of the ever fertile mind of Condor designer and Woods Monkey contributor Joe Flowers, the Sapien incarnates that wish for a sturdier, heavier Mora style knife at a price that even the most frugal bushcrafter can afford. Joe will freely admit that the humble Mora heavily influenced the Sapien and you can see that with its 4 inch, Scandi ground blade and oval shaped handle. The blade has a straighter spine that makes it look more akin to a Finn Puukko than the drop point Mora to me, but the drop is there . The handles are available in either Gautamalen Walnut or, on the newer models, a gray canvas Micarta. I’ve worked with both model but for this review I had one of the new Micarta models to check out.
As you can see in the pics, the Sapien compares very favorably in size and style with the Mora #1. What you get though is a full tang design and a stiff 1/8 inch thick blade of 1075 high carbon steel, finish in a rust resistant black powder coating. The handle is 4 ¼ inches long and has a slight integral guard to keep your hand off of the blade. On this sample the scales are the gray Micarta variant and they are secured with epoxy and three brass pins and are well fitted to the tang of the knife with no high spots or sharp edges that might cause hot spots during use. The factory edge is sharp, and will shave hair with a little bit of effort. Weight on the Sapien is only 4.4 ounces on my scale so it’s still a light and handy belt knife despite being full tang. The sturdy pouch style, black leather sheath provided with the Sapien is of heavy grade and riveted and stitched with a separate welt. The belt loop provides for a high ride on the belt. It’s a much more solid sheath than you typically see with a Mora, or with many other knives for that matter.
In use the Sapien handles a lot like a Mora. The grip is oval shaped, despite the finger indent and small integral guard so it feels good in the hand in a variety of grips. The 4 inch blade and 4 ¼ inch handle are an excellent size for woodcraft and worked well for notching stakes, making fuzz sticks and whittling. Batoning within reason was a breeze for the Sapien. If there’s one area where folks typically want more strength on a Mora it’s when it comes to batoning. I’ve personally never broken one batoning or doing anything else, but other folks have and this is where the full tang is really appreciated. Not that you can’t break a full tang too if you use bad technique, but they probably are more forgiving than a thin stick tang. The spine actually felt a little rounded to me and I didn’t think it would work with a ferro rod but I was happy to be proven wrong. The spine of the Sapien is left uncoated and there’s enough of an edge there to catch a fire steel and throw spark. If you really wanted to you could use a file and square off a section of the spine even more if you felt it was necessary.
Now, a basic Walnut Sapien has a street price under $30. That;s pretty darn good. Yeah, its at least double what a Mora #1 is but you’re getting a full tang knife with a heavy leather sheath. The sheath alone is probably half of that price. If you compare it to one of the new Mora Bushcraft knives you’ll find that they actually cost more. The Micarta handled Sapiens run around $50 on the Net but that isn’t a huge jump over the Mora Bushcraft knives, and it’s a heck of a lot less than just about any other full tang, Micarta handled bushcraft knife, especially with a good leather sheath. Whichever model you choose, Walnut or Micarta, the Sapien offers a solid value for the bushcrafter on a budget or the gear junkie who wants a solid beater bush blade for his pack or his truck.
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