Quickly now, without leaving this web page: what’s the best fixed-blade knife under twenty dollars? You’re probably thinking that’s a trick question, but I promise you the answer isn’t a Ka-Bar with a $20 rubber-banded to the handle. The best fixed-blade knife you’ll ever find at this price is a Mora knife (any Mora knife, really) and the 748 ‘Long Clip’ is simply the biggest Mora in this price range. Despite everything you’re going to learn about Mora knives, they’re not widely known in the U.S., and it’s my intent to change that. This article is both an overview of Mora knives in general, and a model-specific review of the 5.75″ Stainless Steel ‘Long Clip’ utility knife. Ready? Let’s go . . .
The Swedish town of Mora (pronounced ‘Moo-ra’) has been a center of metalwork and knife making for hundreds of years. Mora isn’t far from the Swedish mountains and their unique iron ores, which contain useful traces of chromium, vanadium, molybdenum and manganese. From the beginning of the industrial revolution, Swedish steel has been exceptionally hard and tough, and its chromium content makes it highly corrosion resistant. Swedish steel was probably the closest thing to a naturally occurring stainless steel. Mora’s proximity to superior-quality Swedish steel gave its craftsmen an inherent advantage in the forging of fine blades.
In Sweden and neighboring countries, Mora knives are the indispensable utility tools of anyone who needs to cut things: construction workers, farmers, soldiers and hunters. Children are given Mora knives with metal guards at early ages, and it is a recognition of their maturity and competence with their knives when they are allowed to remove the guards.
Over the last century or so there were two major knife makers in Mora, the K.J. Eriksson company and Frosts of Mora. In 2008 these two combined to form Mora of Sweden, and I’ve got no idea how they stay in business selling knives at prices like these.
Mora knives generally feature straight-backed blades (or with a very slight clip) with lengths between three and six inches. The edges are ground with the ‘Scandinavian Grind,’ a single flat bevel with little or no secondary bevel. As one of our readers pointed out, Mora actually grinds most of their blades with a secondary microbevel that’s barely perceptible.
Either way, Mora knives are outrageously sharp right out of the box. All of the three Moras I ordered showed up substantially sharper than the most modern folders made from the most desirable exotic super-steels du jour. They are the sharpest knives I’ve ever handled, with the exception of frighteningly sharp but fragile ceramic blades.
Old Meets New
Roughly speaking, there are two styles of Mora knife: traditional and modern. The difference lies not in their blades but in their handles.
Traditionally-styled Mora knives feature barrel-shaped wooden handles. Some are stained in various colors, and some feature one- or two-sided metal blade guards. These working blades bear a substantial resemblance to Finnish Puukka knives, albeit with rounded handles and the occasional blade guard.
Modern-styled Mora knives feature the same blade shapes and steels as their traditional counterparts, but their handles are molded from polymer and are often rubberized. Of the three Moras I ordered for our test and giveaway, the 11863 Companion ‘Military’ model in the center had the best grip, and the 748 Long Clip stainless had my least-favorite grip although it’s rubberized for good traction. The 511 ‘Craftline’ on the right had a comfortable plastic grip with a sturdy guard. It might get slippery when wet, but that guard would prevent any mishaps.
Blades And Steels
Mora knives have fairly slender blades, between .078″ and .098″ thick, and a rat-tail tang. Most of us would probably agree that full tangs are preferable to rat-tail tangs, but Mora knives have outstanding reputations for strength.
The Mora ‘Bushcraft’ and ‘Heavy Duty’ models feature thicker .126″ blades. These models are way more expensive than most Moras, but they’re still only $35 to $70 so they’ll hardly bleed your wallet dry. Most Mora blades are roughly finished along the spine. They look like they’re not finished at all, but this isn’t a defect.
Mora ‘Bushcraft’ and ‘Light My Fire’ knives have finished, sharp-edged spines so they’ll work better with the firestarters that Mora also sells.
Most Mora knives are made from UHB-20C carbon steel, including the ones we sent to readers Steve Spaulding and The Last Marine Out. This high-carbon steel is hardened to 59-60 HRC, and often develops a patina with use. It can rust if not cared for, but Swedish steels (as I probably don’t need to keep repeating) are somewhat corrosion resistant all by themselves.
Mora also sells stainless-steel knives, with blades forged from Sandvik 12C27 hardened to 57-58 HRC, and this steel is used in my 748 ‘Long Clip’ test knife.
Other Moras are available in laminated steel, with an edge core of super-hard (HRC 61) carbon steel sandwiched between tougher sides of low-hardness steel. Another exotic blade option is Mora’s own ‘Triflex’ steel, which is differentially hardened carbon steel with a hard edge and a softer, tougher spine. These laminated and Triflex knives are somewhat more expensive than stainless or carbon-steel Moras, but they’ll still run you less than half the price of the cheapest Ka-Bar.
Why Haven’t I Heard Of These Before?
Beats the hell out of me. I’ve enjoyed camping and outdoors fun since the late 1970s, but I’d never seen nor heard of Moras before I stumbled over them a few months ago. Getting to know them has been like discovering an obscure car maker who sells their sturdy no-frills pickup trucks for $3,000-$5,000 brand-new. My initial disbelief (that costs what?) turned to curiosity as I researched them in the blade forums. When the three test knives showed up in the mail (for less than $50 total, including shipping) and I started using them, that curiosity turned to utter amazement.
Part of Mora’s obscurity comes from the fact that few of us will ever see a Mora in stock at a brick-and-mortar sporting goods store or knife shop. I never saw one in the flesh until UPS dropped them off at my door, and only a few of my friends had even heard of them.
Now they’ve all heard of them. And so have you, but I’m just getting started.
Knife Review: The Blade
As you may have guessed by now, the Mora 748 ‘Long Clip’ is a general purpose fixed-blade knife. The blade is 5.75″ long with a slight clip point, and it’s made from Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel with a hardness of 57-58 HRC and a blade thickness of .098″.
The blade is remarkably thin for a blade of this length. It has a tiny amount of flex, but it doesn’t flop around like the fish knife you’d expect it to be. I used it as a cleaver and splitting wedge and even a miniature machete, and the blade remains completely straight.
The 748’s blade has a traditional Scandi-grind edge, but with a secondary microbevel as you can faintly see here. The back of the blade, as with most Mora knives, is not cleanly edged or finished. It’s actually kind of ugly, but you won’t really care unless you’re trying to scrape magnesium shavings to start a fire with. It really sucks for that.
The handle is blue plastic with a thick black rubberized coating that almost completely covers it. Compared to the mirror-finished perfection of the Swedish steel blade, the 748’s handle is something of an aesthetic buzz-kill.
The handle may look like something you’d find on a $4.99 knife at Wal-Mart, but it holds the blade securely and it fits your hands (especially if you’ve got bigger hands) very nicely. The rubberized coating gives a slightly tacky and 100% firm grip, wet or dry, hot or cold. It gave enough purchase to let me power the blade through dozens of 1/2″ to 3/4″ sapling boughs without slipping and without blistering my knife hand.
The blade is 5.75 inches long, and the handle adds another 5 inches. The total weight, however, is a featherweight 4.2 ounces. The thermoplastic sheath adds another ounce and change, but this knife and sheath weigh about the same as some folding knives half its length. For the hunter or backpacker who spends hundreds of extra dollars on titanium cookware and carbon-framed backpacks, this kind of lightness is almost worth its weight in gold. (And the slightly shorter ‘Companion’ model is even better…)
The blade came from the factory almost whisker-shaving sharp, but I had my doubts about how well it could hold that edge with heavy use. I tested it for sharpness on newsprint, then cut many sections of 3/4″ Manila rope with a variety of strokes, and then sliced through box cardboard (across the grain) until it stopped cutting cleanly. And then I went back and cut some more newsprint. HRC 57-58 isn’t terribly sharp, and I half-expected the keen microbevel to look like I’d dragged it across a concrete sidewalk.
Straight from the box, the Mora sliced through unsupported newsprint with the ease and precision of a Kyocera ceramic chef’s knife. Technique wasn’t required; at nearly any angle, whether drawing or pushing, it just sliced neatly and effortlessly. Keeping in mind that longer blades often slice more neatly than shorter blades, this large Scandi-grind Mora leaves every other knife I’ve tested in the dust.
Even after my nonprofessional resharpening efforts, it’s still the sharpest metal-bladed knife I own.
3/4″ Manila Rope: A+
No pictures here, but the 748 Long Clip is also the best rope cutter I’ve tested to date. The oversized handle lets you put extra muscle into the cut, but the super-sharp blade doesn’t require it. The long blade confers an advantage over the other 3″ folders we’ve tested, but it cut neatly and easily whether I used short push strokes, long draw strokes, or simply pressed the blade flat down like a guillotine. The cut ends of the rope were almost as neat as if I’d used a hot box cutter. Nothing I’ve ever used has cut rope as cleanly or easily as this Mora knife.
The rope test put some very minor dings in the blade, but this has happened with nearly every knife tested. On to the cardboard!
Box Cardboard: A+
After chopping the rope, the Mora sliced corrugated box cardboard into neat ribbons like this, just 3mm thick. It cut very neatly and incredibly easily for the first approximately 75 linear feet. The only challenge was one of technique, because the Scandi-grind blade tends to make a wandering cut (compared to typical hollow-ground of full flat ground grinds) unless you put some effort into guiding the blade carefully.
There were a few small spots of rolling or crushing the cardboard after about 75 feet, but the blade continued to cut easily (and with precision, as I discovered the technique) until it approached the 100-foot mark. It began to catch and crush the cardboard pretty seriously at 103 feet, so I called this test complete at that point.
After this cardboard punishment, the blade was still usably sharp and had no visible dings in it. It wasn’t cutting cardboard that well but it didn’t seem completely trashed, so I went back to the newsprint for a follow-up test. It still sliced the newsprint almost as well post-cardboard as most of our other quality test knives will do after a fresh sharpening. Yowza.
Special Bonus Field Machete Test: B+
I haven’t been out camping with this knife yet, but I used it to baton an 8″ 2×4 into small sticks for the firepit. No dents, dings or blade damage ensued, so I chopped up a big pile of very woody hedge clippings. The 748’s blade is awfully short and light for a machete, but the edge was still razor-sharp and it cut through twigs and green wood like nobody’s business.
Many of the branches were 1/2″ to 3/4 thick. These were too thick to chop through machete-style, but the Mora could whittle through them with a single vigorous stroke. These knives were originally designed as woodworking blades, and I can only imagine how well Steven Spaulding’s shorter ‘Craftline’ will perform at wood-carving.
Special Bonus Food Prep Testing
I was a bit nervous using the Long Clip to carve up a roast chicken and make salads, because the rest of my kitchen knives aren’t dermatone-sharp. The Mora’s sharpness and firm grip are outstanding, but the shape and size of the blade aren’t ideal for many kitchen tasks.
It was a little clumsy at slicing up bell peppers, and the wandering cut of the Scandinavian grind made it tricky to cut vegetables precisely until I got the technique down.
It was awesomely efficient at bigger kitchen tasks, however. It’s the best watermelon-cutter I’ve ever tried, and there’s an even longer Mora which would be even better for that. It also cut fresh-baked soft French bread, without crushing it, into slices so thin they were more air than bread.
There was no visible edge damage after the cardboard and rope tests (!!), but I could feel some roughness along the edge with my fingernail. It took about ten minutes to polish them out with my ceramic/polishing compound/strop method. The 748 Long Clip was my first experience with the unique Scandi grind, and I wasn’t sure how or if I was going to be able to resharpen that razor-sharp edge.
But I needn’t have worried; even though my technique hasn’t been quite perfected yet, it still got the Mora almost as sharp as it was from the box.
Overall Blade Performance: A+++
This knife doesn’t boast the priciest, most exotic super-steel of the month, but this simple blade performed so well it was utterly sick. It’s almost a violation of the Laws Of The Knife Universe that such sharpness, edge retention, toughness, easy sharpening and cheapness can be found in the same package.
- The blade steel and construction. It’s light, exquisitely sharp, and far tougher than it any right to be. And this is the softer stainless version; now I want a carbon-steel or laminated version too.
- The grip is rugged and comfortable, but it’s damned ugly and I know that other Moras have even more comfortable grips that don’t look so Wal-Mart.
- The blade is just a little too long for optimal control, but not quite long enough to be a real bushcraft knife. I’d shave an inch off it and call it perfect.
The Mora 748 Long Clip is a fantastic knife with a fantastic blade and a comfortable, if not exactly elegant, grip. I can’t recommend it highly enough, but it’s not actually the Mora knife I would recommend first.
The 748’s blade length is a bit too long for some tasks and a bit too short for others. I really preferred the handling of the 11863 ‘Companion’ model I gave to The Last Marine Out, which has a slightly shorter blade. If that blade performs like this one did, it may be the closest thing to a ‘perfect’ utility sheath knife I’ve ever seen.
I’m completely confounded how the Swedes manage to put all this together. I expected the delicate edge and not-terribly-hard steel to lose its sharpness quickly under this tough testing, but it didn’t. I expected it to be a major PITA to resharpen, but it’s not. I expected the thin blade to flex like a pancake spatula, but it doesn’t. I’d expect a blade this sharp and durable to cost at least twice as much, even if it had an ugly rubber grip.
After a lot of thought, my overall opinion of Mora knives is that you should stop reading this and go buy one. Hell, spend $50 and buy yourself three of them! I’m completely serious; they’re so good and so cheap that you have absolutely no excuse not to own at least one.
Really. Just go buy one.
Type: Fixed-blade general purpose knife.
Blade dimensions: 5.75″ length, .098″ thick, 0.9″ wide.
Blade material: Sandvik 12C27, mirror-polished.
Grind: Scandinavian grind, with secondary microbevel.
Tang: Rat-tail partial tang.
Grip: Molded blue plastic with black textured rubberized coating.
Overall length: 10.75″
Weight: 4.2 oz.
Sheath: Molded thermoplastic, with belt loop.
Price: $20 including shipping, if you’re clever.
RATINGS (out of five stars):
Styling: * *1/2
Not much to look at.
Blade: * * * * *
Amazing cutting performance and edge retention.
Ergonomics: * * * 1/2
The blade is a bit too long for most tasks you would use this knife for. The grip works well enough, but there are better Mora grips available.
Ruggedness/Durability * * * * *
A full tang is would be better (and that blade looks kind of thin) but there’s nothing delicate about this workingman’s knife. The bladeforum gurus describe it as ‘The only $20 I’d trust my life to.”
Overall Rating: * * * * 1/2
A dirt-cheap knife that will never stop amazing you.