When Carmen started guiding wilderness quests, we bought a couple of Mora knives, which are strongly recommended by Canadian bushcraft legend, Mors Kochanski.
I have never been a fan of v-grind knives, but I quickly became very impressed with the Morakniv.And it turns out Mora made the inexpensive and sharp knife I used while salmon seining back in the 90s. I also became frustrated with using a folding pocket knife for many work and garden tasks, so I thought I would try carrying a belt knife more often—but something a little more svelte than the rubber-handled and plastic-sheathed bushcraft knife.
It is handled with black walnut, from a tree my great-grandfather planted and my grandfather felled and milled. I have a few little scraps that I use for various projects, and a knife like this needs very little wood. I roughly chiseled a pocket for the tang in each side and glued the two halves together with five-minute epoxy.
Then I clamped my belt sander to my bench and started with the coarsest grit I had, just grinding and shaping to fit my hand. I did not guard the edge of the blade at all, which is not very smart, so I was very alert as to how I was positioning my hands and the work so I would not catch the sanding belt. I jumped quickly through a few grits of hand sanding, then soaked two coats of linseed oil into the wood.
With the handle shaped I started working on the sheath. This is a carbon-steel blade so I wrapped it in cling film to protect the blade and to add some bulk around the knife as the leather molded to it.The blade still rusted a bit, which you can see in the picture.I cut a scrap of vegetable-tanned leather to a rough shape, then dipped it in hot water and folded it around the knife. The leather can be shaped by rubbing it with your fingers and a few bulldog clamps will hold it in place (and add more rust stains).
I trimmed the belt loop a bit more and skived across the end so it would stitch down smoothly, punched the holes and stitched it with waxed nylon thread. Then I punched the holes along the edge and stitched them down. I used a bit more hot water to mold the opening a bit more so it would not catch on the handle, and to flatten down the belt loop a tad. I trimmed a little bit more here and there to fair the leather edge to the stitch line then I rubbed the edges with beeswax and burnished them with the knife handle. Finally, a few applications of Obenauf’s Leather Oil, which the geeks online seem to think is a good leather conditioner.Leather care is hotly contested. Traditional animals fats such as mink oil may degrade the fibres. As may petroleum products. Scientific papers are in short supply.
This blank is a carbon steel Mora No. 2/0, which has a three inch blade. It seems a bit small, so I might get around to making one with a No. 1 blade. They offer stainless and even laminated blades, and several different blade shapes.
And I haven’t mentioned the blade price. $9.
Nine dollars. Madness. You can get most blades for well under $20 including shipping from Amazon.
So this was a very inexpensive project, the blade being the only thing I did not have lying around. I found the leather stitching to be particularly satisfying, in that way that makes me wonder if we are literally genetically adapted to feel good when we sew leather.
I am very fond of knives—we even had a one-offEvery year I swear we will do it again. holiday called the Sabbath of the Knives. I spent several weekends studying with a Japanese sword maker. Sometimes I think I could be happy just making chef’s knives and that I should abandon everything else.
This knife is not that. No metal was harmed in the making of this knife. But I found this little project very gratifying to work on, and I love the sensation of oiled leather and smooth wood in my hands.