After making a few spoons with my current knives (a short Frost knife and one or two chip carving knives), I determined that I needed a longer knife for shaping handles. I searched for Sloyd knives at all my usual, favorite tool companies. Lee Valley had discontinued theirs. There was nothing at Tools for Working Wood. Nothing at Highland Woodworking. Ditto at Woodcraft.
In desperation, I did what any half-sane person my age would do. I Googled “Sloyd knife.” To my surprise, Amazon was offering a 4″ Morakniv Sloyd knife. It was very well-reviewed and priced under $15.
I balked. I usually steer clear of new, cheap tools because, well, when it comes to real tools, you usually get what you pay for. But between all the positive reviews and the low sticker price, I took a gamble on this knife. I’m glad I did. I’ve since gotten a second one.
After using the Mora knife for several spoons, I find that it is comfortable to hold (if you are used to holding a standard Sloyd knife handle). The blade is long enough to take a good, long shaving with the right technique. It also holds its edge very well. I used the knife to carve a spoon out of dry black walnut, pausing to resharpen only once in the process. Other knives I’ve had would have required two or more resharpenings over the same period.
The knife comes well-ground and somewhat sharp, but it’s not ground correctly for good Sloyd technique. A proper Sloyd knife should not have a secondary bevel. Rather, it should be sharpened more like a double-bevel chisel or drawknife, with two primary bevels going all the way to the edge. This allows the user to register the knife edge firmly on the workpiece and make long, straight cuts. The problem is that this knife comes with a secondary bevel on both sides.
I decided to lap one of the primary bevels flat and retain the secondary bevel on the other side, so as not to end up with too shallow a bevel, which would make for a fragile edge. This way, when I make long strokes away from myself, I can register the wide bevel on the workpiece. When I turn the knife around and make shorter cuts toward myself, I have a much smaller secondary bevel registered on the workpiece, but in this position I am usually making short cuts, and it works out okay. The secondary bevel on one side also allows me to cut curves of a slightly tighter radius than I would otherwise be able to.
Overall, the Morakniv is a good knife, though perhaps not a suburb one. If I continue to plumb the depths of traditional greenwood carving, I will eventually trade up to an artisan-made model. In the meantime, if you are just beginning to learn greenwood carving, as I am, it’s hard to go wrong with the Morakniv.