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.1 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.2I 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.3
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-off4 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.