The Book of Blacksmithing

CRKT Folts S.P.E.W.

January 11, 2013 Comments (0) Blades & Tools, Reviews

Mora Heavy Duty

I don’t know who first said “there’s no such thing as a good, cheap knife,” but it seems I’ve heard it a thousand times. While “a thousand” might be a bit of an exaggeration, the fact that I positively and completely disagree with that sentiment is not. Each time I hear that little quip in reply to an under-informed query as to an economical way to tool up with a sound cutting implement, I think the answer would have been much easier if reduced to a single word – Mora.

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My own personal favorite among the many variations of the Mora knife is the now obsolete 510. It is light, handles extremely well, is very, very capable and, contrary to its appearance, very tough. It has served as the standard by which I compare all other knives – just because it works so well. Another Mora possessing many of the same functional attributes, but of slightly different design, particularly in the handle, is the Mora Clipper, with its more thoughtful handle shape using a thin over-mould of a slightly tacky, rubbery but firm coating. Both have been excellent knives in my opinion, providing eminently usable handles paired with some of the best blades I have ever used.

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The Mora 510 has been replaced by the Mora 511, which differs only in the addition of a guard on its garish red poly handle. The guard, by the way, is easily removed with a minimum of tooling and skill. The Mora Clipper has been replaced by the Mora Companion, and aside from the name , the differences are functionally negligible aside from a less textured grip. The very qualities that make these two classic knives so desirable to some are those which make them less appealing to others. Their light weight, minimalistic dimensions and partial tang construction sometimes relegates them to light-duty or as a “back-up” knife stowed in a pack.

Back-up to what? Usually, a much more costly knife, ostensibly more rugged and more durable than a lowly Mora and which is often left at home while the Mora is taken out to serve as a “beater” knife. It would seem a bit contrary to the very prejudices against them that someone would reserve their expensive custom super-knife in deference to exposing a Mora to the rigors of the outdoors, to be used with utter impunity and disregard for its welfare, but that happens very, very often. All the same, there has still been a call from the North American continent for a beefier Mora and the call has been answered with the Mora Heavy Duty.

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The Mora Heavy Duty, the actual subject of this article and big brother to the Mora Companion, answers some arguments against the lighter Moras with a bit more of everything. The Heavy Duty has more handle, more blade and more weight, although its weight, still under four ounces, is hardly anything to consider. The blade is a bit longer, taller and thicker and the handle is longer and has slightly more girth. Since the basic knife has all the great attributes of its siblings, I thought it not dismissive to reduce the differences to a table. In fact, the side by side comparison of the dry stats gives about the best view you’re going to get of the Heavy Duty without picking one up and handling it – which is something most of our budgets would allow, right down to those with very limited funds or for those with a taste for an ascetic existence in the wild.

The accompanying table gives approximate measurements between the Mora 510 and the Mora Heavy Duty Companion. I rounded dimensions to the nearest 1/32″ in deference to manufacturing tolerances with the exception of the blades’ thicknesses, where I rounded the thickness of the Heavy Duty down .0003″. The Heavy Duty is a generous one eighth-inch blade thickness, which seems to be a popular minimum in the North American market, being one point three thousandths of an inch proud of that magic number. I did not compare the Heavy Duty to its little brother, the Companion because, for one, I gave mine away to a “non-believer” – someone who doubted the abilities of such a “cheap” knife and because I always compare other knives to the 510 anyway.


( Approximate)

510

Heavy Duty

Difference

Weight

2.4 oz.

3.7 oz.

+35%

Overall Length

8.125″

8.875″

+8%

Handle Length

4.375″

4.875″

+10%

Blade Length

3.75″

4″

+15%

Blade Height

11/16″

13/16″

+15%

Blade Thickness

.098″

.126″

+22%

Inclusive Angle

*19˚

*24˚

+5˚

Price

$10

$20

+100%

*estimated using fixed brass angle gauges with increments of five degrees.

The differences, while obvious in the table, are more subtle in hand. When handling the Mora Heavy Duty, one is mildly aware that there’s more knife there, if one is accustomed to handling the other more common Moras, but there is little lost in the way of handling qualities. The Heavy Duty weighs more than the 510 by thirty five percent, but the difference in handling is negligible – it is still a very lightweight knife compared to many. The extra quarter inch of blade is not obtrusive. Four-inch blades are still very handy. The extra half inch of handle is actually not terribly noticeable to me because I choke up so far on a handle anyway, but for someone with larger hands, I am confident it will be appreciated. The overall shape of the grip is very good and fills the inside of a fist quite well. A tad more girth or slightly more radius at the top/front of the handle would complement its other more generous features, but the placement of the swell in the belly, hump on the spine and minimal and unobtrusive guard all facilitate very good control, which is something missing in many, many knives costing much more.

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DSCF3830_1024x768The Heavy Duty’s blade, while longer, taller and thicker than the 510’s is still a very comfortable size and very handy. In my comparisons of making tension cuts on the backs of bent saplings, the 510 had a slight edge over the Heavy Duty, not necessarily

because of the difference in thickness but probably because of the difference in the inclusive angles of the grinds. This could easily be a variance found within manufacturing tolerances or it could be a response to the insistence of some that a Scandinavian (“Scandi,” or single bevel grind) grinds be sharpened to their original angle without a secondary edge. I have found that the Moras I have used, ground at ten degrees or less per side, do not stand up well when sharpened at their original angle, without a secondary edge. That’s fine with me because I prefer a slightly less acute minor edge at the terminus of an acute grind. The combination works extremely well, the edge holds up and it is very easy to maintain afield.

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The Heavy Duty in my possession is ground at just under the optimal 12.5 degrees per side. At 12 degrees to 12.5 degrees per side, most decent high carbon steels hardened to about 57 to 60 RC will stand up reasonably well when ground with no secondary minor edge. There are many variables that come into play in this subject, so my statement is meant as a very general one. I have had “Scandi” grinds as obtuse as 15 degrees per side which would not hold an edge in paring seasoned juniper and some of the softer hardwoods but have also used ridiculously steep grinds that held up to hacking seasoned ash. The steel/heat-treat combination in the Moras I have owned have been excellent, but expecting a very durable edge at less than ten degrees per side might be a bit optimistic. Though I have not yet tried it, I believe that the 12 degree grind on the Heavy Duty could possibly stand up very well if sharpened at the original grind angle – without a secondary edge.

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The factory finish on the Heavy Duty is very nice. The faces of the blade are polished and the spine is ground square and polished which removed the typical Mora stamping signature of shear marks. This is a nice feature and nicer still is the easing of the spine’s edges for those inclined to press a thumb against it for certain holds and cuts. The down side of this is the fact that I could not throw a spark from a Light My Fire (LMF) ferro-rod to save my life – which is exactly what the LMF is for and why you want a sharp spine, or at least one sharp spot on the spine. If you’re the least bit squeamish about marking up a shiny, new custom knife you’re in luck here. If you screw up the next part, you’re only out about a tenth of what you will spend on a conservatively featured custom.

The Mora Heavy Duty’s gentle edges on its spine are great, but one may want to do a bit of grinding or draw-filing at some point along its length to create a nice, crisp ninety degree edge for throwing a spark from a ferro rod or teasing inner bark into a ball of fine, fluffy tinder. My personal preference is right at the point (literally) where the clip starts. It’s about an inch and a half back from the tip of the blade and right where I like to lay the spine on a ferro-rod. By filing or grinding that minor protrusion into a very shallow arc, it provides a great scraper and is still closer to the tip of the blade than I place my off-hand thumb for leverage on thumb-cut paring tasks. Some may prefer to strike their ferro rod nearer the knife’s handle, and that’s fine too, just tape up the handle and do a little metal-work there.

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The face grinds of the Heavy Duty are polished almost as nicely as the rest of the blade, but one should not take that to mean that the bevels are ground perfectly because they are not. If one intends to sharpen a Mora as I do, using a secondary edge, no problem, It won’t take long at all. If one intends to sharpen at the original angle of the grinds, then there is some work to do. Not grueling hours rubbing on stones, but some “clean-up” work will be required to get perfectly flat bevels. The first sharpening of this particular Heavy Duty revealed typical grind marks which indicate just how much work is needed. Not much, but some. I have not bought a single-bevel grind knife yet, custom or production, which did not need some such effort, save for a single exception which originated in the shop of Brian Andrews. It’s worth the effort if you wish to maintain a true single bevel and an effort to be expected with most knives anyway.

The Heavy Duty’s sheath is typically Mora in most every sense except that it too seems slightly more substantial than the ones that have come with my 510s (511s) and Clippers (Companions). It is a lightweight, rugged and compact molded plastic cover which is deep and secure. The Heavy Duty clicks in and out with excellent tactile feedback which is very reassuring. While the sheath holds the knife securely, it lets water run out, as there is a drain hole at the bottom. The belt clip is mounted high and accommodates up to a one and three quarter-inch belt, over which the sheath snaps easily and very securely. This clip also conveniently facilitates the use of a neck lanyard or Baldric rig in addition to having a button-hole which allows it to be snapped over a trouser or coat button. The button hole mount is also very secure. Buttons, such as suspender buttons or those on your favorite pair of jeans can be purchased and added as desired so one won’t be dependent on where the buttons are that came with the clothing. I also clipped the sheath to the webbing of a Twenty five dollar surplus pack and it worked perfectly.

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Each of the Moras mentioned share a characteristic partial tang which leaves no part of the knife’s steel in contact with your hand and is a great comfort in extremely cold weather. Their handles are molded plastic which is very slow to conduct precious heat away from your skin and which contributes to these knives’ light weights. The 510 and Companion are “light” in the sense of their actual mass and convey to some the sense that they are not particularly stout which is a point of concern for some who otherwise appreciate them but are hesitant to rely on them as other than a back-up or secondary knife. The Heavy Duty shares all the desirable features of its lighter counterparts while being bulked-up a bit for peace of mind.

While I have to admit that full-tang knives do evoke a sense of security and cannot deny that if put to the most extreme and sometimes unreasonable test that a full-tang knife would come out on top and in one piece. This is no false sense of security either and I admit to even feeling somewhat more assured with a full-tang knife myself, BUT I have never broken a Mora. I have handled cutting tools all my life and can tell you that it is easy to learn and understand the limitations of most basic implements. I got pretty good at replacing axe handles as a kid. Repetition can make any lesson sink in eventually.

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That expensive education did not enlighten me to the potential virtues of a supposedly indestructible (non-existent) axe handle, rather it made me realize that an axe is an incredibly tough tool and will survive constant and hard use – when used correctly. The only axe handles I have replaced in several decades have been on neglected treasures drug home from the flea market. The only Moras I have ever replaced have been ones I have given away to someone who needed a “good, cheap knife” as I have also been known to proffer the expedient wisdom to budding outdoors enthusiasts to “start with a Mora,” leaving them to believe that it would naturally follow that they would graduate to a “better” knife as fiscal circumstances allow. Those who chose to graduate usually end up keeping the Mora too.

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Poking around on the ‘net, I have found dozens of places offering Moras for sale. Some places have higher prices than others but even the highest priced sources are still providing a bargain. I have a couple places I like to buy from because I like the people who run the stores and I go there first. For what a Mora costs, it is possible to buy two or three so one can be stashed in a bag or kit and one kept handy for use, another left cached in a cabin or drug along as a spare. Even the Heavy Duty, at twice the cost of its slightly smaller siblings, allows such redundancy and one won’t have to decide whether to stow or carry one’s favorite knife.

www.ragweedforge.com

(Editor’s note: I picked this one up from Ragweed Forge, which is usually the first place I go when looking for new Scandis)

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