Morakniv has previously embraced the bushcrafting crowd by offering their Bushcraft series of knives. Even though our testing has shown the Bushcraft Black can take some serious punishment, there are still some who reject it since it does not have a full tang.
Well a full tang Mora is finally here. The Garberg is an attempt to win over those customers. To find out how it performs, I purchased one myself and carried it on a handful of outings to find out if it will live up to the hype.
Blade: Sandvik 14C28N Stainless Steel, Clip Point, Scandi Grind
Rockwell Hardness: 56-58 HRC
Handle: Synthetic Overmold with textured synthetic insets
Tang construction: Protruding Full Tang
Sheath: Injection Molded ABS Plastic
Country of Origin: Sweden
Price: MSRP-$119.99 / Online-$80~
Dimensions (measured on this test sample)
Overall Length: 9”
Handle Length: 4.632” (not including the protruding tang)
Handle Thickness: 0.902”
Blade Length: 4.229” (measured from the tip to the leading edge of the handle scale)
Sharpened Length: 4.02”
Blade Thickness: 0.126”
Weights: Knife: 5.95 oz / Sheath with single belt loop: 1.4 oz
With the Garberg, Morakniv has taken the elements that made the Bushcraft models successful – a 3.2 mm thick blade with a crisp, 90-degree spine – and added a protruding full tang and a thicker iteration of the handle from the Mora 2000. In doing so they have put together the burliest small Mora knife yet.
To those pining for a lanyard hole, you are in luck. To my knowledge, the Garberg is the first Mora to have one since the Craftsman models were discontinued. Although the Garberg’s lanyard hole is small (it can barely fit a single strand of paracord), it is appreciated.
This is also the first time the Swedish company has used Sandvik 14C28N steel, rather than the cheaper 12C27 used on the rest of their stainless models. They’ve even given it a nice lightly stonewashed texture. While 14C28N is not a “supersteel,” I have found it and the closely related 13C26/AEB-L to be excellent choices for outdoors knives. It is quite tough for a non-powder metallurgy stainless, takes a fine edge easily, and holds it a lot longer than you would expect.
The sheath is also a departure from the simple injection-molded affairs they usually make. With this new “Multi-Mount” system you can wear the blade in a number of ways by attaching an assortment of accessories to the actual scabbard the knife sits in. The scabbard has two large drain holes at the bottom, and to it you can add a simple belt loop or a loop that folds over the pommel and snaps shut on the front of the sheath.
If you would rather not carry the knife on your belt, it also comes with a bracket that the sheath will snap into/out of for easy access. This can be mounted either with screws or supplied velcro straps.
If none of these options are to your liking, for a modest price increase of $10, you can buy the Garberg with a pouch-style leather sheath with a snap-secured flap.
Fit & Finish / Initial Edge
If you’ve ever handled the Bushcraft Black, Morakniv’s previous standard bearer, you know that the Swedish company is capable of putting together a nicely made product. The Garberg is at least as good as the BB.
The seam on the injection molded handle is virtually nonexistent and there are no burrs or rough edges anywhere to be found. Same goes for all of the sheath components
Unlike other Moras, the sharpened edge doesn’t go all the way into the handle, and instead we actually see the start of the grind. The plunge on this example is executed perfectly, with a symmetry that beats some custom knives I have seen.
It has long been known that Moras come with a microbevel on their scandi-ground edges, but this is the first time I could actually see it without magnification. Peep it yourself with the closeup above.
That factory edge was quite sharp though, pushing through ¾” taut manilla rope with ease and shaving phonebook paper equally well.
The handle shape of the Garberg represents a vast improvement over the Bushcraft Black. It has a pleasing swell and more natural shape that fits my hand much better.
In fact, the shape is a lot like the traditional wood-handled Moras. The symmetrical profile also makes reverse and upside down grips much more comfortable for my size-large work glove wearing hands.
I also like that the Garberg’s grips aren’t overly rubberized. Only the side panels are (slightly) tacky while the rest of the handle is a harder plastic, all the better for reducing hot spots.
As expected, the Garberg weighs more than your average Mora, but the balance is excellent with the tipping point right where I like it on a knife this size, right around the index finger.
While the protruding tang could be useful for thumping on stuff, as well as scraping tasks since the edges are nice and crisp, it gets in the way when drilling, especially if you are not wearing any gloves.
14C28N can take a wickedly sharp edge, and it does not take much effort to achieve it. Throughout my testing I made a point of only using my homemade paddle strop to maintain the blade, and I never had to break out the sandpaper to keep a hair splitting edge.
Let us get the tasks that aren’t a scandi’s strong suit out of the way first. While the edge angle will be keener than the secondary bevel on a flat or hollow grind, the shoulders are much thicker, impacting slicing efficiency. As such, prepping food must be done deliberately, and it will be hard to wear out the edge on our cardboard tests since the shoulders will be slowing down the knife more than any dulling of the blade.
After making sure I had a fresh, hair-shaving edge on the Garberg, I cut through almost 150 feet (149.4166 to be exact) of corrugated cardboard against the grain. At the end of this the edge had lost that hair popping quality, but it could still slice phonebook paper with only a hint of roughness at the paper’s edge. The full tang Mora still had plenty of serviceable sharpness to it.
After only a couple of minutes with the strop using the black and green compounds the blade was again brushing hairs off my arm.
Clay has covered food prep with a Mora quite well already (here), so I won’t dwell on this subject too long. Clay used the Bushcraft Black for his tests, which has the same thickness and edge geometry as the Garberg. Despite its tendency to wander in thicker items, he found it a perfectly acceptable comestible cutter for camping levels of refinement. If you are looking for a dedicated camp kitchen blade however, I would suggest something with better slicing geometry.
Now this is where the Garberg shines! The chisel-like edge of a scandi ground knife makes for an efficient wood processor, and this knife is no exception.
I decided straight off to carve a spoon. That sharp protruding tang had given me an idea that I wanted to try out.
First I selected a branch with a bit of a crook at one end and split it down the middle with the knife. I was able to rough in the shape very quickly thanks to the keen edge on the Garberg. It was just as easy to make notches around the base of the bowl as it was to laser off large chunks of wood from the handle.
Rather than use a hook knife for the bowl, I decided to burn it out with coals from a campfire. I had never attempted this before but it worked out rather well. This is where that protruding tang came in handy.
After burning down a ways, the tang made a dandy tool for scraping out the charred wood, clearing the bowl for the next ember. I’d still rather have a smooth pommel, but I have to admit this was a rather neat trick.
I can’t take credit for the idea. I was inspired by YouTuber Foxwalk Primitive who has a prototype knife with an integrated “spoon digger pommel” that works even better than than the Garberg’s thanks to the shape he designed. I got to see it in action at the last Beckerhead Gathering I attended and knew I had to incorporate that idea into this review.
Firestarting: Batoning, Feathering, Scraping, Sparking!
The Morakniv Garberg is a tool that can help in all aspects of starting a fire, from harvesting fuel, preparing tinder and kindling, all the way to starting the blaze.
A few weeks ago, some friends and I camped out during what turned into a rather wet weekend. It rained steadily for the first day and a half of our trip, so naturally all of the fuel nearby was pretty well saturated. We had a chainsaw to cut things up, but we were still going to need to split the wood to get at the dry stuff inside.
Using a couple of cut lengths, I used the Garberg to split them down into kindling, setting aside the outer, sodden layers.
Next up, using a few of the dry inner pieces, I set to making a small pile of wood shavings and curls. I may not be the best featherstick artist (I tend to slice off as many curls as not), but I was able to do a fine job with the Mora.
I then flipped the knife around and used the crisp spine of the blade to scrape some of the dry wood into a fine powder. This is what I would use to actually catch a spark, and the symmetrical handle proved its value here, as it was just as comfortable in the reverse grip required.
The final task for the Garberg was striking sparks from a ferro rod. The spine and the protruding pommel both worked equally well, throwing gobs of hot metal onto the tinder. It took a few minutes of striking before the sparks actually caught – the humidity and damp conditions were still working against me – but the spine didn’t get chewed up too badly at all with only a couple of deformations. Overall it handled this much better than most carbon steels will.
The kindling I broke down for the campfire was fairly low stress, so I later collected an armful of logs from my woodpile to see if the Garberg could handle more abuse.
I kept the logs to a reasonable diameter for a blade this size, with most of them measuring 3-3.5” across, and none of them were too knotty.
The protruding tang came in useful for clubbing on when I needed to drive tip of the knife further out of the other side of the log. I also took one of my longer pieces and batoned against the grain… beaver-chewing around the middle in order to halve it before splitting.
I never experienced any gapping serious enough to slow down my splitting, although that is a possibility with a scandi and twistier wood than this. Things went pretty smoothly and I quickly had the entire armful reduced to kindling sized pieces.
After I finished with the pile of wood, the edge wasn’t shaving sharp anymore, but I could still carve some decent curls that could be used for firestarting. Thanks to the microbevel there was no chipping that can occur on a true zero edge during this type of work.
I never felt that the knife wasn’t up to the task of splitting the wood. As long as you don’t expect anything unreasonable for the blade and work within its limitations of length and grind, the Garberg is plenty robust for batoning.
The final task I threw at the Garberg was drilling some divots to test the tip strength of the 14C28N steel. I know the 12C27 on the cheaper models works just fine at this, but it has a bit more toughness than the 14C28N.
First, drilling without a good pair of leather gloves is a non-starter. The protruding tang is too sharp to drill with the pommel cupped in the palm of your hand. You instead have to hold it in a hammer grip and twist it, which is neither a comfortable motion or an efficient one.
With a pair of heavy work gloves to cushion the protruding tang, a standard drilling grip is comfortable enough.
I’m happy to report that the steel at the tip can handle the twisting just fine. Using a few slabs of seasoned wood that I had batoned, I made a half dozen divots and I didn’t lose any of the sharp point at all. Credit the toughness afforded by the fine carbide structure of this stainless steel.
Of course any conversation about the Garberg requires we talk about the price. Morakniv’s claim to fame has always been that they “punch above their price point” as the reviewers are wont to say. Well, the product planners must have heard us, because the Garberg no longer occupies the bargain space that its predecessors do.
The same could be said of the aforementioned Bushcraft Black, which initially cost around $35, but after skyrocketing in popularity it began to fetch $50 or more. And yet the stainless version of the Bushcraft can still be had in that $35 range. It is to that stainless model that I feel we must compare the Garberg.
Cost aside, the Garberg wins for me vs. the Bushcraft by virtue of the handle shape alone. Bring price back into it however, and I’m not sure that the extra 1-inch(ish) of steel under the handle warrants a doubling of the price.
Granted, they have gussied up the materials and construction to try and account for the difference – stonewashed blade, upgraded steel, and a trick sheath system – but those yearning for the simple goodness of other Mora’s in a full-tang format are out of luck.
So are there cheaper alternatives? If you want a full tang, scandi-ground knife with a quality stainless steel, the pickings are slim. Full tang Helle knives cost more, as does the stainless Enzo Trapper and the Entrek Forester.
Perhaps that is why Morakniv decided to go with stainless steel; there are fewer direct competitors at that price, whereas there are tons of options that would render an $80 Carbon Garberg moot. The $50 micarta-handled Condor Bushlore springs immediately to mind, as does the Terävä Jääkäripuukko 110, although US availability is scarce. In fact, the Jääkäripuukko is probably what most of us wanted in a full-tang Mora to begin with.
Taken at face value, the Garberg is an excellent knife. Even though it is not as cheap as we have come to expect from Morakniv, it is still the best value I can find on a stainless, full-tang bushcraft knife. The upgrades to the steel and the sheath are quite nice, and it can’t be said that the knife doesn’t perform.
But I can’t help but pine for a simpler product. By shooting for the moon, the Garberg has lost some of that quintessential “Mora-ness” that made them so popular here in the US.
Maybe it’s just cognitive dissonance, like when Hyundai started peddling $60,000 luxury sedans; it may simply take some getting used to.
Therefore, my final assessment is thus:
Yes, the Garberg is a full tang Mora, I’m just not sure it’s the full tang Mora we wanted…
…but I bet they sell a million of them, because it is a damn fine knife.
About the Author: David C. Andersen has carried a knife ever since earning his Totin’ Chip as a Boy Scout. His favorite merit badges were Camping and Wilderness Survival, and his love of the outdoors continues to this day. A graphic designer by trade, he believes that form follows function, and appreciates knives that combine aesthetics with practicality. In 2016, David launched his own company, Nordsmith Knives, as a way to bring his ideas on knife design to market.