The Knives of MoraDecember 4, 2015
Swedish knifemakers bring high quality at a low cost to outdoors enthusiasts and kitchens around the globe
High quality at a low price: It’s a combination sought by the buyer of any product. And when it comes to knife buyers, it’s hard to beat blades made by Mora of Sweden.
Mora knives have been made in Sweden for more than a century and are sold around the globe under the brand “Morakniv.” Scandinavia is known for its quality knives, and the region is Mora’s largest market, but sales of the company’s outdoor blades have seen upwards of 25 percent growth in the United States each of the past couple years.
“Bushcraft and survival is much more common in the U.S., and you could say that Morakniv in [the outdoor category] is more popular in the U.S. than other countries,” Mora spokesman Björn Åkerblom said.
He expects the United States to be the company’s biggest market in coming years, led by an American marketing push starting in 2016 for Mora’s line of stylish kitchen knives to compete with the likes of Wüsthof and Global.
“The hallmark of the Swedish knives is a real reasonable price and excellent materials, and that’s what they are recognized for around the world,” said Howard Korn, CEO and founder of KnifeCenter, an online blade retailer based in Fredericksburg, Va. “They are not real fancy knives, but the quality of the steel is excellent – they hold an edge.” He added that they also can be sharpened easily.
There’s a lot of chemistry behind the scenes of blade steel, but knives typically fall into one of two categories: carbon steel or stainless steel. Carbon is the steel of choice for knife lovers because it sharpens easily and lasts a long time. But carbon also tends to rust, and therefore requires regular care and oil coatings. Stainless steel doesn’t rust or require as much care, but the metal is harder, making it more difficult to sharpen.
One of the most popular Mora blades is the original Mora Classic, a 3.85-inch carbon steel utility blade fashioned with the company’s iconic red ochre birch handle. As an all-around utility knife, the short blade has found popularity with fishermen, women, bushcrafters, woodworkers and even in kitchens around the world.
“It’s just an all-around great work knife,” Korn says of the blade, rated 4.6 stars out of 5 on his website. “It’s really a classic knife in the simplicity and quality of its materials. That’s really at the essence of Scandinavian knives in general: The overall quality of the instrument and the value is excellent.”
Nikki Reese bought her first Mora Classic five years ago, using it for “basic bushcraft chores,” such as making fires, preparing food and carving spoons. “The Mora is the best value for your money,” the Austin, Texas resident said. “The beauty is in its simplicity and capability as an edged tool.”
Mora knives trace their origins to 1891 in the Swedish village of Östnor (located in Sweden’s Mora municipality), which has a long history of metalwork and handicraft. That year, Frost-Erik Ersson returned home after working as a lumberjack in North America and opened a factory called Frosts Knivfabrik that made, among other goods, timber knives and tools.
In 1912, Mora businessmen Krång-Johan Eriksson and Lok-Anders Mattsson founded Eriksson & Mattssons Knivfabrik, which later became KJ Eriksson AB. In 2005, KJ Eriksson acquired Frosts Knivfabrik, and the company changed its name to Mora of Sweden, creating both utility knives under the Morakniv brand and kitchen products under “Frosts.” Mora knives also hold a royal warrant from the Royal Family of Sweden, an appointment that allows the company and only 130 others to use the Greater Coat of Arms on its products as a signal of high-quality Scandinavian design.
Plastic handles emerged on Mora blades in the mid-20th century. In the 1980s, KJ Eriksson worked with an Iowa meatpacking company to develop ergonomic, friction-grip handles that wouldn’t slip from the hands of butchers, leading to increasing demand for handles for craftsmen with synthetic grips.
“A lot of people like Mora knives because of the handle of the synthetic grip,” says Ashley Williams, a manager at Columbia, La.-based retailer KnifeWorks.
The shorter blade, a staple of Mora knives, offers a solid design for working with animals or fish.
“Mora knives have completely redefined the American knife market in recent years,” said Jason Schwartz, founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft, a popular Colorado-based bushcraft blog. “Their low cost, awesome cutting performance and comfortable handles have proven that a cheap knife doesn’t have to be a low-performing or low-quality knife. In my view, if you don’t have at least one Mora in your knife collection, you’re really missing out.”
And the United States isn’t just an important buyer market for Mora, Åkerblom noted. It’s imperative for knife education and community, as the country plays a large role as the source of content and discussions about knives through online forums, blogs and social media.
“This makes the U.S. market an important influencer regarding knives across the world and thereby a very important market for us as a company and brand,” Åkerblom said.