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Monday, October 10, 2005

The Fabled Mora Knife

More than 100 years ago, in the rural Swedish village of Östnor, just outside of the well-known town of Mora, a knifesmith named Erik Frost founded Frosts Knivfabrik. The Mora region was renowned for its high-quality blades, and Frost built his company on knife making principles and practices that had been handed down for many generations.

Today, Frosts Knivfabrik ( is still producing knives, and its tough blades have garnered a following with hikers, campers, hunters and survivalists in Sweden as well as the United States. The company’s signature knives are classic models with 3- or 4-inch blades, a wooden or plastic handle, and a price that is usually less than $10. These humble knife models are referred to simply and universally as Mora knives.

(Over the years, there have been other companies to market Mora knife models, but often they were knock-offs of Frosts Knivfabrik designs with inferior blades. However, KJ Eriksson, a company with ties to Frosts Knivfabrik and a factory right next door in Östnor, Sweden, is considered an original Mora knife manufacturer as well.)

gear review
The Historic Mora Knives

What makes a Mora knife so special? They’re cheap, lightweight and simple -- a no-nonsense knife that comes with a plastic sheath. Its straight blade is sharp out of the box, and it feels well-balanced and strong in the hand.

But what really has made Mora knives famous are their superior steel blades. The steel, which comes in four varieties from Frosts Knivfabrik -- carbon-steel, stainless, Triflex and laminated-steel -- is known to hold an edge well, and it is regarded as extremely tough and resilient. Indeed, a common survivalist endorsement of Mora knives says that in a time of dire need one of these knives can be used to fell a tree by pounding the blade in and hammering the knife back and forth to slowly cut through the trunk.

A grown man can also pound the blade of a Mora knife into a tree and stand on it without hesitation, or so portended the common wisdom and folklore that I’d heard.

To see what these Swedish knives could actually take, I recently found a tree on my family’s property that needed to be removed and went to work with a Mora knife I’d picked up in Sweden earlier this summer on a trip through the country. The tree was a box elder, and I managed to hack off a 6-inch-wide branch with the knife in about 10 minutes, repeatedly pounding the blade in a couple inches with a log and then forcing the handle back and forth to cut.

gear review
A Contemporary Mora Knife

I next pounded the knife into the base of the tree to stand on the blade with my foot pressed hard against the bark. It did support my 185-pound frame, though the blade bent slightly from this silly abuse.

Frosts Knivfabrik sells its Mora knives in several variations, but all are basic, straight-blade knives with a similar look and feel. The better Mora knives use a modified carbon steel or a laminated steel. Particular models I’ve used and would recommend include the 660 SB and the S-1 BK (these are the model names from the Frosts Knivfabrik catalog).

Though you cannot buy direct form the Frosts Knivfabrik Web site, Mora knives are sold in the United States at some specialty outdoors shops, as well as online at sites like and Knife prices range from $8 to $12 with these retailers.


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