Since January, I’ve the opportunity to use a pair of fixed-blade utility/survival knives that are among the very best I’ve clutched in a number of years, and believe me, I clutch a lot of cutlery.
The first, the Mora Bushcraft* Black, is from the town of Mora**, in Sweden, and is a mixture of 21st-century technology and a 1,000-year-old blade shape.*** The handle is an ergonomic marvel that is molded from super-tough synthetic rubber, and the tool-steel blade is a 4.3-inch clip point whose profile is identical to that of a knife that survived from when the Vikings were in bloom. The edges of the blade spine are sharp, so you can strike them with a magnesium bar and get sparks. The steel itself has a handsome black finish which is supposed to protect against corrosion, but doesn’t. But if you put a drop of oil on the Bushcraft Black blade and spread it around, you’ll never have a problem.
The Bushcraft Black is extremely light (5.7 ounces) pretty much indestructible, sharpens easily to a true razor edge, and is capable of very fine work. You could probably do a corneal transplant with it if the light is good enough.
The handle, in addition to being of an eminently practical shape and size, is extremely good in cold weather. I used it at 5 above zero, and until my hand itself froze, I could grip it with no problems. The sheath is just as good as the knife. It’s a pouch-type made of hard plastic. The knife snaps in and out. You can’t lose it, the blade can’t punch through, and there’s no maintenance required.
The real world price is about $49, which is a bargain of incalculable proportions. If you’d like a somewhat larger knife, Mora makes the Pathfinder, which is pretty much identical except for a heavier, 6-inch blade and a ballistic nylon sheath. Its real world price is $130.
The other knife is from Ontario Knife Company which was established in upstate New York in 1889, and which makes a great many of our military-issue knives and bayonets. It’s called the OKC Bushcraft Field Knife, and is much more traditional than the Mora. The blade is a 5-inch-long drop point, very thin, forged from 5160 steel**** and hardened to 53-55 on the Rockwell C scale, which is pretty soft by today’s standards. This means that while the Bushcraft Field Knife will not retain its edge forever and a day, it sharpens with extreme ease and takes a nightmarishy sharp edge.
OKC Bushcraft’s handle is made of walnut, of an excellent design, and God bless, is long enough for anyone’s hand, even mine. The scales are fastened to the tang with three blued-steel bolts***** that can be removed in case you prefer to wrap the tang with paracord. The knife comes in a hard-lined nylon DeSantis sheath that is decent enough, and which includes a fire striker that’s pretty anemic. Leave it home and replace it with a Bic lighter or a small flashlight. The OKC Bushcraft also comes with a paracord wrist lanyard that contains over 20 feet of line but which will only get in the way for everyday use. Take it off and stick it in your pack.
Like the Mora Bushcraft, the OCK is a very light knife that can do damn near anything–dress game, work in the kitchen, build a shelter, perform emergency vasectomies, you name it. It’s an absolutely ferocious cutter that will slice through anything with minimal effort. The real world price is $83, and you can throw all your other knives away. Or send them to me if they’re any good.
_*If you don’t know what bushcraft is, get the book of that name by Canadian survival expert Mors Kochanski. It’s been around since 1988, is considered the standard work on the subject, and is based on the use of a small knife to do damn near anything in the wilderness.
**The blade is absolutely identical in length, shape, and thickness to that of a knife owned probably 1,000 years ago by a Swedish Viking named Einaar the Permanently Enraged. Helle of Norway makes a faithful copy of it, called the Viking, and a fine knife it is.
***Mora, pronounced moo-ra, has been inhabited for 4,000 years, and was once the center of witch-burning in Sweden. Cutlery production has been a staple of its economy since the Middle Ages, when Mora made swords.
****Even though there are a good many newer, more complex, knife steels available, there are many smiths who still prefer the old, simple-alloy numbers such as 5160, 1095, and the like, for their ease of sharpening.
*****Every photo I can find on the Internet shows the handle with the original bright-metal rivets. I checked, and what you do get are removable blue-steel bolts.