Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Breaking In a New Knife

Mora #106 Review

I decided that I should give one of these Mora carving knives a shot, usually what I use is a wider, slightly longer knife like the Mora #2 I have, or the #510, or a Woodjewel.  Still all narrow compared to many of the poplar bushcraft and outdoors knives, but quite wide feeling after using this new #106.

I ordered this one from, he has a really wide selection of a lot of bushcraft gear, good prices, and quite unparalleled shipping prices, especially for how quickly he gets things out the door.  I buy from him whenever I get the chance.

These Mora knives are great deals, most being between $10-20.  The steel is quite good, the handles comfortable, and because of the low cost I'm not afraid to use them quite hard, which means they get more use than the expensive knives I used to own.  The biggest issue is that the sheaths they come with are not amazing.  The sheaths with the wood handled knives don't retain the knife very well if you do much moving around.  The plastic handles all click in fairly securely to their sheaths, but can still be a tad bulky and a tad ugly.  The Mora #1 would probably be my favorite knife except the handle is too small for the meat paws that pass for my hands.

The other drag about Mora knives is that they require a bit of a break-in.  The very edge is apparently not kept cool enough during finishing of the blades (leading to the steel at the edge being annealed), so until this is sharpened through the edge is fairly fragile and prone to rolling.  Normally on Mora knives when I first get them I grind the angle a bit thinner, and very slightly convex the edge on my 1x30 belt sander, in the process being sure to take off enough metal to get to the good, hard stuff beneath the initial soft layer.  I hesitated to use that process on this knife because of the narrowness of the blade and the illusion of delicacy it presents.  I instead chose to repeatedly cut into some various hard woods like seasoned Maple, Birch knots, and across the growth rings of a few different species of Pine, using both push cuts and draw or slicing cuts.  After making feather sticks and some various other cuts, the edge is rolled and visibly dull in several spots, so I lay it on the stone real quick and sharpen them out, and go back to cutting.  I did this a half dozen times or maybe a couple more, and it's still rolling.  I guess I'm not taking off that much metal when I really think about it, so this one may end up on the grinder yet.

In the meantime, I've been pleased with being able to cut tighter curves using more of the blade, because previously for tight cuts I would have to choke up and use only the very tip of my other knives.  The larger barrel handle is pretty comfortable so far, it's about the same as the handle on the #2.  Overall I'm quite pleased with this knife, I imagine I'll be using it quite a bit in the future.   

Monday, January 23, 2012

Attempted Wood Plane, Camping

I've had my eye out for a good old plane iron for a while, and finally a couple of weeks ago I came across a wood bodied Jack or Try plane that wasn't in great shape with a good laminated, tapered iron.  After I bought the plane and an axe, I gave him back the body and just left with the blade.  Maybe he can sell the body to someone looking for a mantle decoration.

After I ground the iron, sharpened the bevel and got the back into satisfactory condition I started working on a body made from some Red Oak I saved from a house I worked on over the summer.  I've been curious to try a Japanese style setup for some time, so that's where I started with my layout.  The body is about 12" long, with the blade bedded at 45 degrees, or a tad less because of the tapered iron.  I think I might scrap this body, the Oak is really brittle and even being careful I ended up with quite a bit of breakout in front of the mouth.  The shavings aren't too bad, but I don't think it's worth trying to go any further with fettling it.  I might try again with some Cherry or Maple that I have.

In other news, I went camping a couple of weeks ago up in New York, right by the Canadian border with some friends.  The high for the weekend was about 5 degrees F, with nighttime lows close to -20.  A few days before we went out one of the guys that's local to the area went in with a chainsaw and cut several piles of standing dead Ash and Oak for the fire.  I think we went through just about all of it in the two nights we were there.  We walked in a mile or so, most of us using sleds to carry our gear over the 8" of snow.  I took three axes, my Gransfors carving axe, my 3.5 pound Snow and Nealley, and a 3.75 or 4 pound antique on an experimental handle.  The antique ended up splitting all the wood for the weekend, since my S&N is ground pretty thin and would just get stuck in logs, and no one else brought a big axe.  The experimental handle on the antique is Maple, with the growth rings oriented perpendicular to the way traditional wisdom says they ought to be.  My reasoning for trying that is that most wood splits more easily across the growth rings, and the way growth rings are oriented in a common axe handle, it seems that they would be more prone to splitting.  Anyways, the handle did alright, but toward the end a large section split off.  I think Maple is perhaps not the best axe handle material, and the cold also negatively affected another guy's axe handle, so perhaps that was a factor in this case.  Either way, I think it merits some more experimentation.  Maybe sometime I'll put together a proper scientific test.

My camp: