When I first started writing for TTAK, I hadn’t even heard of Mora knives. In fact, I first heard of them when Dan and Chris started writing about them. I can’t say I was completely skeptical since I have come to trust their advice over the years at TTAG. However, when claims are made like “they make every other knife look like a rip off”, the bar gets set pretty high.
I have been auditioning a new “go-to” knife for guiding. So for a modest investment (Technically, the Bushcraft lists for $70, but I have never seen it on Amazon for more than $38), I figured I didn’t have anything to lose- even if it turned out that Dan and Chris were exaggerating.
The Bushcraft has a 109mm (4.3″) blade and is a hefty 3.2mm thick, remaining so until the last 1/4″ of the blade where it the bevel brings it to a point. It is available in both stainless and tungsten coated carbon steel. I chose the carbon steel blade, mostly to be different since we have already reviewed a couple of stainless Moras including Chris’s long clip. They have been put it through the wringer and have easily handled anything that has been thrown at them. So it was time to give a carbon steel one a try.
The blade has a Scandinavian grind which means that the primary bevel begins quite close to the edge (about 3/8″), running parallel for the length of the blade. The beveled section of blade is very short, especially when compared to popular hollow ground styles where the primary bevel begins closer to the knife’s spine. The back edge has a slight clip point, beginning about 1.5″ from the tip. All of this combines to form an almost spike-like tip, reminiscent of an ice-axe.
The tip will easily pierce a can of beans, and by placing it along the lip of the can, makes quick if not pretty work of opening the can when the handle is tapped with the palm of one’s opposite hand. The knife took this metal cutting abuse in stride. It wasn’t the lightsaber it was before when zipping through newsprint, but a couple of swipes on my Spyderco Sharpmaker took care of that.
Unlike some other Moras, the back edge is well finished. This is done so that it can be used to scrape a magnesium fire block. If you want to spend $75, you can get a Bushcraft with a Mora fire-steel attached to the sheath. Something to consider, though we are getting out of the “most ridiculous knife value on earth” range at that price. There are cheaper fire starting alternatives that can be attached to the sheath with homemade “Ranger Bands”.
The tungsten coating on the blade is very effective. It discolors easily, almost mimicing corrosion in appearance, but this rubs off easily with use or a quick wipe with a paper towel and some Froglube. I would not recommend using anything more abrasive, since you don’t want to scratch off the coating. That being said, the coating on mine is not showing any wear despite months of use.
The untreated edge will show the beginnings of corrosion fairly quickly, in fact if I throw it in the truck wet and drive home in 90 degree temperatures, this can show up in a matter of hours (gotta love the South – mud and rust). This is visible in the photograph, but comes right off with a couple of passes through a piece of cardboard scrap and a swipe or two down the Spyderco Sharpmaker. I also found that treating the knife with Froglube helped in the corrosion battle.
My blade came extremely sharp from the factory, and held this edge nicely. I have never needed to truly “resharpen” this knife. After a few initial passes on the coarse rods of the Sharpmaker to tweak the microbevel, all that has been required is the occasional touch up on the fine ceramic rods. I am continually amazed at the edge I can put on this blade.
The handle is textured rubber, and is incredibly grippy. I did not experience the slightest problem with my grip throughout any of my testing, even when the handle was wet with fish slime or hacking my way through brush. It has an ergonomic shape that fit my medium-sized hand well, and a front quillon that provides a reassuring contact point at the front of the grip. There is jimping on the top of the handle to provide even greater thumb control.
The sheath is included and comes with both a full loop and a belt clip. They are all made of a tough, semi-hard plastic, and the sheath has a drain hole at the bottom. The sheath pivots freely in a full 360 degree arc from the loop or clip.
One of the only knocks that I have on Mora is that they do not offer a full tang knife. Instead their knives employ a modified rat tail that runs almost to the pommel. I imagine that the reduction in steel required is one of the primary reasons that Moras hit the price points they do.
This cut corner does not seem to affect the strength of the finished knife. I have put this knife through some pretty serious batonning- including on the handle when I needed to re-position the cut, and I used it to chop through brush up to 3″ thick. There are no signs that I have stressed the knife in the slightest.
In a word, wonderful. The contour of the grip is extremely pleasing to the hand. Combined with the grippiness of the rubber, this handle has one of the most solid feels I have ever experienced. If Mora made aftermarket rubber grips for a Glock, I would buy a set in a heartbeat. I really like the textured rubber.
Using the knife is a pleasure. It is hard to describe. The blade length seems just right to me. You can put some serious leverage into the blade when cutting wood or heavy rope. However, surprisingly delicate slicing is also possible.
Carry and Deployment:
This isn’t a small knife, and unless you do so on a regular basis, carrying a fixed blade knife takes a bit of getting used to. I guess the best way to describe it is I am much more aware of the knife than I am of an EDC folder.
I keep the Bushcraft on its own belt – in this case a 2.5″ nylon wading belt that I wear with waders or just shorts when I am wet wading. After experimenting with where to carry the knife, I settled on a 9 o’clock position. In this position, the knife and sheath are facing backwards/edge forward.
The “button” arrangement for attaching the clip or loop to the sheath allows the sheath to pivot in a full circle. This allows the knife to pivot away from the direction of a drawing force to the knife, essentially always aligning the sheath for a straight line draw no matter what the orientation of the drawing hand.
It also allows me to simply flip the sheath inverted on my belt when entering a vehicle. The knife holds firmly enough to the inside of the sheath that I have never once had my knife fall out while driving or upon exiting the vehicle. It is only a matter of taking a few steps before the sheath tips back around to its proper orientation.
I chose this position for the primary reason that I could carry a firearm in a traditional 4 o’clock position. While a pistol is not a usual part of my fishing kit in the Smoky Mountain National Park, it was an incident on Paint Creek in the Cherokee Nat’l Forest that convinced me to get my carry permit. I will not fish in meth country again without an openly carried sidearm.
I am somewhat ambidextrous, and from the 9 o’clock carry position I have several options. I can draw the knife with my right hand across my body and have it in a traditional point-up grip position. I can draw it with my left and I have the edge-out, tip-down. With practice I can shift the knife in my left hand to a traditional orientation or pass it to my right and the blade is ready to use.
I am not an expert in knife-fu, but an actual expert – Michael Janich explained to our own Robert Farago, that having a plan is important. There are defensive advantages to the left hand draw position. It deploys the Mora in a way in which it could be used to immediately forearm block a downward stab. By raising your arm across your face, your attacker’s downward stabbing arm or hand would be met with the razor-sharp edge while you can protect your head and neck. Your right hand can draw a firearm if available, or be free for striking or grasping. This is also a good position from which to make right leg kicks as well.
TTAK Knife Testing Protocol:
I started with the standard battery of TTAK tests: Newsprint, Cardboard, and Rope. Then I got creative.
Unsupported Newsprint: Unreal. By far the most impressive results of any knife I own.
Cardboard Strips: I stopped slicing at 100 linear feet of corrugated cardboard. There was no discernible fall off in performance until after the 50′ mark and it was still doing a more than passable job when I stopped – though the occasional tear was beginning to appear.
Rope: The Bushcraft is a rope slicing dream. The firm grip, the leverage from the blade, and the knife’s razor sharpness, combined for impressive results. It positively owned 3/8″ polyethylene, 1/2″ nylon (drift boat anchor rope), and 1/2″ sissal (not shown). The 1/2″ static climbing rope required bench sawing, but left behind an exceptionally clean edge.
Culinary Tasks and Butchery:
I have already tested this knife in a head to head challenge with a Cold Steel Mackinac. The Mackinac won, due in large part to its long, hollow-ground taper versus the peculiarities inherent to a Scandinavian ground blade (they are hard to keep from wandering in thick vegetables). The Bushcraft is also, as I have mentioned, thicker than most Moras such as the Companion.
It isn’t a Wustoff, but the Bushcraft is perfectly comfortable for most kitchen tasks. For game and meat processing, it is excellent. For the purposes of testing I cut up a slab of ribs, and I processed a wild rainbow trout from the Smoky Mountains.
I chose the ribs because they are obviously a reasonable analog for wild game. Unfortunately, I am in a bit of a mid-life pause with regards to my large game hunting until my kids are older and I cultivate hunting access here in TN. I may cut up the woodchuck that keeps raiding my garden if I ever get pissed off enough to shoot it. Stay tuned.
With respect to the actual separating of the pork ribs, I was able to slice them apart almost effortlessly. The Bushcraft zipped through raw, unfrozen meat as cleanly as my Wustoff Classic Chefs knife.
I have processed enough animals in my life, and I have tested this knife extensively enough to say with confidence that the Bushcraft would have no problem disarticulating any joint on any large game I have encountered. The tip is strong, thin, and sharp. It could slip into any joint and sever the connecting ligaments.
As for the trout. The blade is heavy enough that I was able to use the back side as a “Priest” to administer Last Rights (a sharp blow to top of the skull). I experienced a sense of “knife-vana” as the blade made the initial belly slit through the fish. The skin parted effortlessly. Chopping the head cleanly off required minimal force, and left behind an edge as clean as that on the pork ribs.
With the entrails removed and the cavity scraped and rinsed clean, the fish was ready to take home and throw on the grill.
Some manufacturers do not like the practice, but batoning a blade through a piece of firewood to split it is a job requirement for any true bushcraft knife. I have no idea what Mora’s specific warranty policy is, but it really doesn’t matter. I have never met a better knife with which to split wood.
The extremely sharp edge bit quickly into the wood, and the burly, wedge-shaped blade split the grain apart cleanly. The wood frequently splintered before the knife was halfway through.
Not being satisfied with splitting dried firewood, I decided to try something that really challenged the knife. I had a scrap of 3/8″ plywood lying around that wasn’t spoken for. Unlike a nice, straight-grained piece of walnut, the plywood’s alternating layers will not split neatly apart. Half of the layers are oriented perpendicular to to blade. These will need to be actually sliced, not split.
It wasn’t a quick process, but with persistence I was able to baton my way through a 10″ long piece of 3/8″ plywood. I could still slice newsprint when I was finished. Unreal.
The purpose of this test was to try and document the penetration power of the blade. A secondary demonstration is the confidence I had in my secure grip on the handle. If the sudden jarring stop dislodged my grip, I risked slicing my fingers to the bone. I wouldn’t recommend trying this at home, but suffice it to say, I am not changing my name to “Stumpy”.
The Bushcraft fully pierced the 1/4″ luan plywood when the thrust was parallel to the grain, and the point did penetrate with the perpendicular thrust. My grip never shifted a bit -not even with the abrupt stop in a failed attempt to replicate this test with 3/8″ ply.
One of the most frequent uses I have for this knife when I am out guiding is cutting down branches when my clients get their flies caught in a tree. Fishing in tight quarters on Smoky Mountain trout streams makes such an occurrence an inevitability – even for guides :). With one hand pulling down on a branch, I can use my knife to shear off a section of branch allowing me to untangle the mess more safely and comfortably than when standing on a rock reaching over my head. Using the Bushcraft, I can frequently slice through branches up to a 1/2″ thick in a single pass.
Campcraft also requires a blade that can process wood, and in an emergency or simply out of convenience some lighter “axe” tasks. I have already covered batoning firewood. I want my campcraft knife to be able to cut sapling staves to lash together a shelter or a cooking tripod in a pinch as well.
I decided to use the knife to attack a section of overgrown kudzu, saplings, and overhanging locust branches on the edge of my property. I would normally use a machete or a brush blade or chainsaw attachment on my string trimmer to perform this work.
The Bushcraft is not the ideal tool for brush clearing, but I feel that the results I achieved prove that it can answer the call if necessary for any wood processing task you are likely to throw at it. You could construct some pretty impressive camp projects with nothing but a forest, a spool of sisal rope, and the Mora Bushcraft.
Things I like:
- This thing takes a frighteningly sharp edge. It took a month for my arms to regrow hair after my Bushcraft arrived…I couldn’t stop testing the edge.
- Insanely low price. This knife positively lived up to the hype. Mora knives really do “make all other knives seem like a rip off”.
- Rubber, non-slip grip.
Things I don’t like (and this is getting nitpicky):
- No full tang. Not that I had a problem with the knife’s strength.
- Corrosion issues…Manageable. I could have bought stainless if I were worried.
- Scandi-grind blade wanders a bit through long cuts.
Ratings (out of five stars)
This thing isn’t going to win any beauty contests, but the blade looks pretty wicked, especially in black.
Blade **** .95*
In terms of performance, I have never owned a more versatile knife. The .05 off is not due to the fact that the edge would rust. Again, it is carbon steel, it is expected. My disappointment is the rapidity with which this can occur in Tennessee summer heat and humidity.
Fit my medium-sized hand well. The rubber grip on the handle is remarkable in and of itself. The pivoting sheath was useful in ensuring a clean draw of the knife, as well as allowing it to be flipped out of the way when sitting in a chair or in a car.
I feel like a plastic handled rat-tail tanged knife ought to have an attainable failure point. I just haven’t found that point yet.
Overall Rating: *****
I have auditioned several knives along the way, trying to find that “one” guide knife. I found it in the Mora Bushcraft. It is a versatile tool that I can’t imagine getting knocked from its position on my 9 o’clock hip anytime in the foreseeable future. I have tested it every way that I can imagine short of disemboweling a moose, and it has passed with flying colors.
The superlative nature of this knife is independent of the price. Especially considering that I spent twice as much on my EDC Spyderco Native, and it isn’t 1/4 the knife as the $35 Mora. From a bang for your buck point of view, I probably agree with Chris that a Companion might very well hit that sweet spot. If I had it to do over again I might consider the stainless version of this same knife. But I have carried this knife for almost an entire fishing season now and caring for the carbon steel is really not a hassle.
Bottom line is if you are looking for a darn near indestructible knife that can take and hold an unbelievably sharp edge through any manner of use, I am yet to find a better one than the Mora Bushcraft – at any price.