Saturday, August 27, 2016

Review: Morakniv Garberg [Fixed Blade Bushcraft Knife]

Mora has been one my favorite brand of fixed blade knives for years. Simple, cheap, durable: there's not much not to like. I've carried a 15 dollar Mora Companion in my camping gear as a backup, but it always seems to come out for use around camp. I've abused it, neglected it, and drug it across the whetstone when it gets all corroded from neglect.

Many people prefer their carbon steel knives, but just as many people get confused that they stain and corrode. Personally I like both carbon and stainless steel: both have their pros and cons, and Mora makes lots of knives with different steel, thickness and even full tang.

So when someone handed me this Mora Garberg and said "hey you should review this new bushcraft model" I jumped at the chance.

Morakniv Garberg - Product Link


Product Description

Price: About 90 dollars online

The Garberg is a full tang bushcraft style fixed blade made in Sweden from 14C28N Sandvik stainless steel. It features a true Scandinavian ("Scandi") grind on the blade, and it's a good bit thicker and heavier than most of their other models.

Initial Impressions


My very first thought was "wow, pretty knife, but they still can't make a decent sheath." But inside the box is a few attachments to customize the sheath, which is at least an improvement.

The knife itself is gorgeous. I've always liked Mora, but they really outdid themselves on the Garberg. It better be good for being damn near 100 bucks. That price point has some fantastic bushcraft knives from brands like TOPS, Fallkniven, Benchmade, etc. for a few bucks more.

Morakniv Garberg - In Box 1

Morakniv Garber - In Box 2

Morakniv Garberg - In Box 3



Build Quality



Mora has a reputation for really good build quality that's a little rough around the edges. They're known as a budget brand after all, and not many people complain for 15 bucks. But for 90 bucks, it still seems well built.

The full tang, Sandvik stainless blade is as good as I'd expect it to be, and so is the ballistic nylon (plastic) handle.

The sheath, not so much. It feels a little cheap for the price point. It's a step up from their cheap-as-dirt sheaths, but not quite where I'd expect it to be, even with all the sheath paraphernalia it comes with. Other than that, there's nothing wrong with the sheath functionally.

Morakniv Garberg - Product View 1

Morakniv Garberg - Product View 2

Morakniv Garberg - With TOPS Fieldcraft and Mora Companion 1

Morakniv Garberg - With TOPS Fieldcraft and Mora Companion 2
From Top: Mora Companion, TOPS Fieldcraft, Mora Garberg

Morakniv Garberg - With Mora Companion and Mora Craftline Robust 1

Morakniv Garberg - With Mora Companion and Mora Craftline Robust 2
From Top: Mora Garberg, Mora Craftline Robust, Mora Companion


Fit And Finish


Overall, very good. The first thing I look at with a Mora is the spine of the blade. Even their mid-range knives usually come with a rough, unfinished spine. The Swedes are practical if nothing else. But the Garberg has a polished spine--it's more polished than the blade itself, which has a stonewashed finish.

The fit and finish is mostly fantastic and in line with what I would expect from a knife of this price. The etched logo is crisp, the handle doesn't look unfinished like their other models, and the machining and grind are brutally precise. Three's a tiny mark on the bottom of the handle near the blade where the handle was injection-molded.

Really looking hard for a flaw, the best I could find is that the edge isn't as sharp out of the box. It also doesn't look great on the photos. I've had 300 dollar knives with an edge no better than this out of the box, but companies that make knives this nice can do better.

The plastic sheath is well done for looking a little cheap, though I can't find really anything to pick on specifically. The snap is a little tight, but that's pretty much normal. The leather on the strap seems a little cheap, too.

Blade


The blade is the heart of any knife, and the heart of this one beats strong. Other than the edge, the blade itself seems perfect. I love full tang fixed blades, and I love blades with a true Scandi grind, and not the "Scandvex" double-bevel (also called "modified Scandi")

There's a pommel, aka "extended tang" where the steel continues past the handle to function as a hammer or striker for your magnesium firesteel rod. Love it! The extra bit of steel also gives the knife a better balance in your hand.

Mora has always made good steel, and most people know them for their high carbon blades which corrode if you basically look at them harshly. It's never been a problem for me, though: just a few drags across a whetstone with the flat of the blade, and the corrosion comes right off.

But the Garberg comes with  Sandvik 14C28N stainless blade, which some people have mixed feelings about. High carbon steel has its advantages, but so does stainless, and I mentioned the Swedes make good steel, right? I think it's a fine steel as long as you're aware of the trade-offs, and most people get really confused when their knife starts corroding from  normal use.

Folks considering buying this knife would do so for the blade, and I don't think would be disappointed.

Morakniv Garberg - Blade View 1

Morakniv Garberg - Blade View 2
Morakniv Garberg - Blade View 3
It's supposed to be a true Scandi, but it sure looks a) like a botched edge or b) like a "Scandivex" grind

Handle


The handle is made from hard, ballistic nylon. Some people turn their nose up at "plastic" handles, but they're great if done right. And Mora does it right for this model. From using Moras over the years, I've found that it's almost easier to take a chunk out of the blade than the handle, and that's for their cheap knives.

Some of their cheaper models come with the handle slightly unfinished where the handle meets the blade, but they really paid attention to detail for this model. Again, 90 dollar knife.

This model comes with a beefy looking lanyard hole integrated into the full tang blade near the pommel, and I would expect your paracord lanyard to break before the handle does.

Build quality, texturing, thickness, fit and finish: it's all what I'd expect. It gives the Garberg a solid, grippy feel in my hand. The lighter handle material also contributes to the great balance it has in my hand.

So I guess what I'm saying is that the handle is perfect.

Morakniv Garberg - Handle And Pommel View


Sheath


I'm not sure how to put the sheath other than it's hard to have a love affair with Swedish knives when they make such shitty sheaths.

They do offer a version of this model with a leather sheath, but it's 20 bucks more and the sheath still looks kind of cheap. For that price, I can get a USA made Benchmade bushcraft knife with a beautiful leather sheath.

The sheath for this model comes with an insert to make the sheath "snapless" as well as a military style molle mount, which at least makes the sheath fully functional for tactical applications if it's not very pretty.

But again, this isn't a knife you'd be buying for the sheath, although these cheap plastic sheaths perform much better in damp or wet environments which would turn a leather sheath into mush. The Swedes aren't much for flash, so again, it's hard to find much to pick on functionally, other than I hate the stock snap-on strap.

Morakniv Garberg - Sheath View 1

Morakniv Garberg - Sheath View 2


Usability


This knife is pretty much all business. Don't get me wrong, it looks beautiful, but this is a knife you can be in an abusive relationship with. I tend to beat up my fixed blades, and this knife just reeks of durability.

Some people prefer the dual bevel Scandi grind, but I've found those much harder to sharpen. It's pretty much impossible to end up with anything other than a hair popping edge with a few drags across a whetstone--there's no skill necessary.

The stainless steel isn't quite as tough as high carbon steel, but I doubt most people would ever see a difference in performance. Theoretically carbon steel is better for applications like batoning firewood, where you're pounding on the knife with a hammer, but this is still a true bushcraft knife, and I couldn't imagine this knife being damaged by anything short of intentional destruction.

Morakniv Garberg - In Hand 1

Morakniv Garberg - In Hand 2
It's hefty, even in my gorilla hands!


Weights & Measures



Everyone tells me "find me the best camp knife" and when I hand them a full tang knife, they complain it's too heavy. For a full tang bushcraft knife though, I think the weight of the Garberg is perfectly reasonable. But it's definitely much heavier than their cheaper models.

Morakniv Garberg - On Scale

Morakniv Garberg - Next To Ruler


Conclusions



The Garberg is a well done knife, even compared to higher end knives in its price range. I think it's a good value, but it's still a tough sell for the price point. For 20 bucks more, in some ways my TOPS Fieldcraft knife is in a different league: High end tool steel, high end G10 with liners, etc.

But there's one reason where I would almost carry this knife at any price: it's a Mora, and their reputation is pretty much unmatched. I've seen YouTube videos where people try and fail to destroy their cheap models, and you won't find many hardcore fixed blade enthusiasts who don't at least respect Mora. Plus, I've carried and used them for years, and even the cheapest models continue to impress me.

So, if you are a Mora fan, you will like this knife and appreciate the value and proven performance of their knives. This is a working knife you can beat up on every day. And if you're not a Mora fan, you'll scratch your head and wonder what the fuss is about.

7 comments:

  1. you got the wrong sheath. The leather version is top notch.

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  2. they should have made the leather sheath ambidextrous

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  3. they should have made the leather sheath ambidextrous

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  4. Your pictures show it has a clear secondary bevel, so not "Scandi" as "officially" defined by the Brits - saber with single bevel.

    And you might want to use the knife before reviewing. Its thicker blade does not slice as well as, say, the Companion.

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, the photos are pretty clear that it has a "Scandivex" grind. But I don't think I said it slices as well as a Companion. It's just that those Scandi grinds are good slicers in general.

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