My experiences with the Mora 106 carbon
What makes the 106 so great and why has Morakniv recently released a new version in carbon steel (carbon)? What are the differences between these two knives and which knife suits you best? In this blog we will look for the specific features of both versions and I will tell you my experiences with this new version of the Morakniv 106 and 120. I bought the knives with my own money, tried them out and I asked Morakiniv for more information.
My first Mora: a beach find!
My first encounter with Morakniv was years ago. On a dirt road along the beach in Sweden I found a knife that had been lost by someone. At first glance, the somewhat weathered carbon steel didn’t seem like much anymore, but the knife turned out to be razor sharp. That knife has been a backup on every canoe trip since then and is still just as good and reliable as it was 13 years ago. Since then I have come to appreciate Morakniv knives very much, as they offer great value for money. I have been using the laminated Morakniv 106 for spoon carving for years and it is still one of my most used knives.
Why the Morakniv 106 carbon
The Morakniv 106 is a versatile and durable wood carving knife at a very low price. Unlike many other woodcarving tools, Morakniv knives come razor sharp from the factory. The scandi edge makes the knife easy to sharpen and also nice to use. The wide flat surface is a big aid when carving longer or larger surfaces. The knife is fairly thin and the edge is nice and flat. This makes the knife very ergonomic in the hand and you have a good view of where your knife is going. Another plus of this knife is the sharp, pointed tip. This allows you to carve finer details and it handles tighter curves very well.
The handle is made of unvarnished wood. This is also comfortable at high temperatures and prevents blistering during prolonged use. The barrel-shaped handle gives you a lot of grip on the knife, even with powerful knife grips. In short, the Morakniv 106 is a versatile, strong knife that is very user-friendly and competitively priced.
Woodcarving: a trend?
Where previously only a handful of people all over the world were engaged in carving spoons by hand, in recent years we have seen that the popularity of this craft is increasing enormously. With the rise of social media, spoon carving suddenly came to the attention of a much larger group of people and it became much easier to find and follow each other online. This increase in popularity of woodcarving is also seen outside the world of spoons. The corona crisis of recent years has certainly also contributed to people looking for hobbies that keep you in the here and now, that slow you down and that are sustainable. A bit of distraction from our busy existence today.
The corona crisis
Unfortunately, due to the corona crisis, we are also dealing with major problems in the supply of raw materials, making many tools and other items more difficult to obtain at the moment. For example, I myself have been waiting for more than 1.5 years for a knife from another manufacturer that is sold out everywhere. They also suffered from this at Morakniv. The laminated 106 was already sold out at Morakniv itself. Hence the search for alternatives.
Morakniv makes their knives from 3 different types of steel: stainless steel, carbon steel (carbon steel) and laminated carbon steel. Traditionally, the Mora 106 wood carving knives were made by Morakniv from laminated steel, but now they have decided to supply the knife with a carbon version.
In review: the differences and similarities between the two versions
The Morakniv 106 and 120 as we have known them for years are made of laminated carbon steel. Steel with a high carbon content (1%) is enclosed by steel with a lower carbon content (0.2%). The steel with a high carbon content is harder and somewhat more brittle than steel with a low carbon content. This allows you to get it very sharp and helps it stays sharp. The softer steel layers around it ensure that the knife can withstand lateral pressure very well. So it has more flex and is therefore less likely to break.
The softer steel does require a bit more attention during stropping to get the burr off (because it’s more flexible). On the other hand, sharpening is a bit easier because the majority of the steel that you have to grind away is softer. The steel layers are rolled on top of each other. This makes the surface of this steel somewhat bumpy and you can see that on the knives. Rolling is also an extra step in the production process and therefore the laminated blade is slightly more expensive.
The carbon steel
The new Mora 106 carbon is made entirely from the harder carbon steel and is therefore less resistant on paper to the lateral forces that are placed on the knife when using power grips. Because the hard carbon steel is also a bit more brittle, it is possible that the already vulnerable tip of the morakniv 106 with this knife requires a little more caution when, for example, chip carving or colrosing. Fortunately, the tip is very easy to repair should it ever break. And I prefer the sharp straight thin point of the Morakniv 106 over the rounder and thicker point of many other wood carving knives.
In theory, sharpening is also a bit more difficult, because the steel is a bit harder. On the other hand, it is easier to strop because the burr breaks off more easily. This type of steel is somewhat cheaper and the production process has fewer steps, therefore this knife is slightly cheaper than its older brother. Because the steel is not rolled, the knife has a smoother finish. However, carbon steel will acquire a matt gray patina over time.
Hardening the blade is one of the most important steps during the production process and ensures that the blade becomes very sharp, stays sharp and is strong. Because the part that does the actual carving is made of the same carbon steel and both are hardened to HRC 58-60, in theory both blades will be equally sharp and stay sharp for just as long.
Steel with carbon is more sensitive to acids. Acids in the wood can cause the blade to rust. Therefore, always wipe your knife clean with a damp cloth and dry it well. Not using the knife for a while? Then store it clean and dry and grease it with a non-drying oil. The advantage of the matt gray patina is that it protects somewhat against rust. Because the laminated blade has steel with a low carbon content on the outside of the blade, it will rust slightly less quickly. Only, low-carbon is not carbon-free and I know from personal experience that the laminated blades will also rust, especially in the dents of the rolled surface.
My experiences with the Mora 106 carbon
The new Mora 106 carbon and 120 are similar in shape to their predecessor in laminated steel. They also come in the black sheath we know from Morakniv. For the knives that I use a lot myself, I have replaced them with a wooden alternative, because the plastic sheaths are not ideal. Sometimes the knife is just not locked firm enough. If you hold the sheath upside down, it can cause a very nasty surprise. The knives are really razor sharp directly out of the packaging.
I’ve been using the new carbon blades extensively for a few weeks. I’ve carved a dozen spoons and other objects with them. Both from the softer birch and from hard woods such as woods from fruit and nut trees. I have tried the knives with fresh wood and dried hard cherry wood. I also used a lot of power grips. In short, I have put the knives to work.
So far the blades are still straight, intact and in excellent condition. With the last spoon, the knife became somewhat dull due to the somewhat harder pieces in the wood, which are often caused by an accumulation of the minerals that the tree receives from the groundwater. So the knife can now use a sharpening.
Is sharpening more difficult?
I do not think so. I sharpen with waterproof sandpaper and that goes very well. An advantage of the harder steel is that you get the burr much easier and you can see it better. This visual feedback is very nice, especially if you are just starting to sharpen. In my opinion, sharpening by hand is just as good, if not better, than with the laminated blade.
Conclusion: you can’t go wrong
In my opinion, the new Morakniv carbon is a quality knife that certainly can hold its onw. The laminated blade can handle a bit more flex on paper, but in practice that wasn’t noticeable. Precisely because the carbon knife is harder, it is easier to get a good burr when sharpening, which also breaks easily when stropping. This makes the knife easy to sharpen by hand, which is especially nice for novice sharpeners. The steel of the carbon version has a smoother finish than that of the laminated knife. Both the laminated blade and the unlaminated version can rust, so both knives should be stored clean and dry. The carbon knife is promoted as a good knife for beginners, but as far as I’m concerned, the new carbon knife is suitable for both the beginner and the advanced carver.
So which one should you choose? Laminated or carbon? The differences are minimal and are mainly in the toughness of the laminated blade, compared to the easy manual sharpening of the carbon blade. I think you can use these factors to make a choice that best suits your experience and how you use the knife. It is almost impossible to make a bad choice, because they are both excellent knives. And if you want help choosing between the Mora 106 and the Mora 120? I have already written about this in this other blog. What are your experiences with these knives? Do you agree with me or not? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Have fun carving!