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Mora 164 Hook Knife Rehabilitation #1: Mora 164 Hook Knife - Why it Needs Help

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Blog entry by HokieKen posted 01-07-2020 02:48 PM 839 reads 0 times favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Mora 164 Hook Knife Rehabilitation series Part 2: How I Improved it »
Well, it’s January again. I don’t do New Year’s resolutions in the typical sense but I do tend to reflect on the previous year and evaluate things I could have done better. So I’ve decided it’s time I gain some weight, get less exercise and drink more beer. Just kidding ;-) But, it does seem like whenever I evaluate the evolution of my own skills as a craftsman and think about the things that I’ve learned, two things come to mind:
  1. I’ve gained a LOT from Lumberjocks in the last year
  2. I’ve gained MUCH more than I’ve given

So in an effort to balance that scale, I’ve decided (as I do most every year) to try to make a few blog posts this year whenever I have something of interest to share :-) I usually do this when I have a large project and try to do a series of blogs that will hopefully be of help to some in the way that other blogs and forums have helped me. But I don’t have anything that came to mind immediately.

With that in mind, I did have a project I did this weekend and I had the foresight to take pictures as I did it. So hopefully this will be of use to someone, somewhere, someday :-)

Blah Blah Blah. Here’s a little background.

The Mora 164 Hook Knife is a blade that’s purchased by many a budding spoon carvers. It’s affordable, accessible and has the name of a reputable manufacturer of quality blades. You can’t spit the words “wood carving knife” into the Google pool without the Mora 106 and 120 blades splashing back up in your face. And for good reason! I own both of them and they are excellent sloyd knifes.

When I decided last year to dip my toe into spoon carving, I did a good bit of research. What I found was that you basically have 3 options when it comes to purchasing a hook knife:
  1. Buy a Mora
  2. Buy a generic Chinesium knife (many of which are labeled Beavercraft)
  3. Spend a LOT more money and wait for a significant period to receive a high quality knife from a custom maker

Option 2 was a no-go because I found nothing from experienced carvers to suggest that was anything but frustration and wasted money. Option 3 is definitely my preference. But, in this case, I didn’t know if I would even carve a spoon beyond my first one so it didn’t seem prudent to go straight to the top shelf. Another reason I didn’t go with option 3 was that there are several options from most makers as far as size, sweep profile, left/right handed or dual bevel. Having never used a hook knife, I had no idea which options would suit me best.

So, option one it was! Morakniv makes two other hook knives that are double-beveled in addition to the 164. But from what I read online, that’s just an invitation for many a sliced thumb so I didn’t really consider those.

Here’s my beef.

So I knew from what I’d read online that there were some issues with this knife that prevent it from being a choice for a lot of experienced spoon carvers. But, I got the impression that it was good enough to get a feel for the craft and that it was a solid, functional tool. I’m gonna call that debatable.

The knife does have a sharp edge out of the box. It’s a beautiful knife with a beautiful polished steel like all Moras that I’ve seen. I love the oiled Birch handle which is like the one on my Sloyds that I’m so fond of. But, it just doesn’t work for it’s intended function very well IMO.

Now, like I said, I was dipping my toe so I had exactly zero experience with hollowing a bowl for a spoon before I got this knife. So I took it out of the package, checked the edge (very sharp), and dove right into a blank I had prepared from a green piece of Apple wood. It would cut and I could see how it worked. But wow, it took a lot of energy to hack out some chips.

So, I did what I usually do when I’m stumped – I came to Lumberjocks :-) I posted the issues I was having in the Carving and Carving Tools of Your Dreams thread. I got some great advice including a link to a YouTube video of Jögge Sundqvist showing how to use the knife. That video was helpful because it clued me in to working cross-grain for hogging the wood out rather than working with the grain as I had been. That little tip was certainly helpful. But, it still seemed to me like I was working way too hard for ugly little chips.

In that thread, woodcox also posted this reply:


This is the shape it should be to feel less hatchety, Kenny. I don’t think you would ruin it, but it would be a job reshaping it.

Maybe try some bigger server size bowls with the mora.

- woodcox

I saved those pictures and they are what eventually guided me to the solution I’ll detail in a later post. Over the next several months, I attempted a couple of more spoons but never could make the hook knife cut satisfactorily. It’s unfortunate that so many aspiring carvers purchase this knife because I can only imagine how many of them get frustrated and abandon the pursuit of the hobby because of it. Even in Basswood I could hollow a bowl and make it presentable but didn’t really ever seem to be able to shape it exactly how I wanted and spent way too much effort trying to.

So, long story short (sorta), I came to the conclusion that there were a couple of issues with the knife that prevented me from being able to use it the way I wanted too:
  • First, it’s just too danged bulky. It’s wide and thick.
  • Second, there are essentially 3 bevels on the blade for the first 1/2 of it’s span and two through the curved section. (This is nicely seen in the first picture of woodcox’s post above)
  • The first and second issues add up to a steep cutting edge with a thick wedge backing it up. A good design for a strong chopper or hatchet. Not really ideal for smooth controlled cuts though.

In addition to these things which affect the functionality of the blade there are a couple of more issues I had with the general ergonomics. First, the back of the blade is blunt, coarse and has sharp corners.

Second, it comes to a sharp tip (REALLY sharp) at the end of the hook:

I noticed when I linked the Morakniv site at the beginning of this post that the pictures on there no longer show the sharp tip but show it being rounded off now. Apparently I wasn’t the only one that was constantly jabbed and frustrated with it :-)

So, there you have it boys and girls. Why I bought this knife to begin with, how it worked (or didn’t work) for me personally, and what I came to suspect were the root causes of the issues I was having with it. Tune in next time for how I decided to try to remedy what ailed me. Same bat time, same bat channel.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!



21 comments so far

View GrantA's profile

GrantA

2226 posts in 2050 days


#1 posted 01-07-2020 03:37 PM

aw c’mon Kenny I was ready to make some popcorn for the rest of the story then it just stopped :-(
so how much blood has it drawn from your hands?

View HokieKen's profile (online now)

HokieKen

12352 posts in 1781 days


#2 posted 01-07-2020 04:05 PM

I’ll finish it up tomorrow or the next day :-) It just got longer than I intended so I figured I better spread it out… And, surprisingly, I haven’t cut myself with this knife. Yet.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View KelleyCrafts's profile

KelleyCrafts

4117 posts in 1382 days


#3 posted 01-07-2020 04:16 PM

Well done.

-- Dave - http://kelleycrafts.com/ - pen blanks - knife scales - turning tools

View mpounders's profile

mpounders

952 posts in 3538 days


#4 posted 01-07-2020 04:30 PM

I agree with your assessment of Mora knives. They do need some work, as do the Beavercraft tools. You caan make them cut better, but they usually require work and some skill to make them usable. I started with a Pinewood Forge hook knife and it is still a favorite, although there is a significant wait and the price has risen since I got mine. I am teaching some classes on spoon carving and have purchased some more tools that are not bad. Deepwood Ventures makes some good tools and you can buy just the blades and out your own handles on them easily enough. Not as long a wait as PineWood Forge. And I also purchased a hook knife and some knives called Sidewinders from OCCT tools. They are very inexpensive, and are already sharp and ready to use. Much better I think than Mora or Beavercraft. I have used OCCT tools and knives for some time and never been disappointed with them.

-- Mike P., Arkansas, http://mikepounders.weebly.com

View HokieKen's profile (online now)

HokieKen

12352 posts in 1781 days


#5 posted 01-07-2020 04:42 PM

Thanks for those recommendations Mike! The Pinewood Forge and Deepwood blades are two I’ve been considering. I just wanted to get a better idea of what kind of size/sweep I want before I buy one. The OCC blades look really nice though and are affordable and US made :-) I also like that they list the steel type and hardness. I’ll very likely be grabbing one of those.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View Lazyman's profile

Lazyman

4686 posts in 2030 days


#6 posted 01-07-2020 04:43 PM

Like you, I wasn’t sure if I would do much spoon carving so I just bought the 50% cheaper Beaver Craft knife to dip my toe in. I was actually pretty happy with it the one time I used it based upon no other experience with hook knives. The result was good enough that one of our friends want to keep it even though I think that I just carved a piece of fir or spruce from the firewood pile of our VRBO last summer so I probably didn’t tax the knife very much. The picture of yours actually looks pretty similar to my Bevercraft (thickness and shape of the blade) with a flatter handle.

Waiting with bated breath for the next installment. At only about $14, it won’t hurt too much if I mess it up trying to improve it.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View HokieKen's profile (online now)

HokieKen

12352 posts in 1781 days


#7 posted 01-07-2020 05:06 PM

I agree Nathan. I think I paid $22 for the Mora but I’d already pretty much decided to buy a better one anyway so I figured I had nothing to loose by re-working this one. I’ve already carved a spoon since modifying the blade on this one and I’d say it took me less than 1/2 the time to carve out the bowl without exaggeration. And, I got a finish-ready surface right off the knife which is a huge difference in and of itself.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View EarlS's profile (online now)

EarlS

3495 posts in 2991 days


#8 posted 01-07-2020 05:07 PM

I’m shocked that you are allowed to have something that is both sharp AND pointed…..

I need to devote some time to the awesome little carving knife Dave P made and sent me and re-re-read the carving book he sent along with it by Jögge Sundqvist. I’ll also have to go back through your blog(s) and see what kernels of wisdom (or corn) I can glean from your musings.

Your blog also rightly reminds me that I have a couple reviews and a project post that I need to write so I can “contribute” to LJ’s and not just soak up the knowledge and wisdom of others.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

4600 posts in 1225 days


#9 posted 01-07-2020 05:08 PM

I’ve got a Pinewood Forge slöjd. It’s a quality tool. And it’s from Minnesota.

I’ve also got a Mora 164 that I bought direct from Mora. I recommend that, as they have the full catalog available online. The one I got has a rounder tip than the squared-off one they currently sell, but nothing as stabby as the one you bought. They also sell blanks if you’re interested in putting handles on them yourself. Also, shipping direct from Sweden has been faster than most of the resellers located in the US.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View HokieKen's profile (online now)

HokieKen

12352 posts in 1781 days


#10 posted 01-07-2020 05:21 PM

Spoiler Alert Earl! It’s not pointed anymore ;-) It’s still sharp though.

Dave – I’ve been leaning towards buying one of the hook knife blanks from Pinewood Forge or a blank from Deepwoods Ventures just haven’t decided on size or which one to go with. They both come highly recommended and are both US made. The Deepwoods one comes in quite a bit cheaper though. Now with Mike bringing the OCC version to my attention, I have another one to consider. Decisions, decisions…

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View Phil32's profile

Phil32

951 posts in 546 days


#11 posted 01-07-2020 06:37 PM

Kenny – It’s too bad you have to go through the whole learning experience to arrive at a workable carving tool. After taking a class from the crooked knife experts – the First Nations carvers of the Pacific Northwest – I went directly to Kestrel Tools and bought two blades that I hafted myself:

Note that it is not necessary that the blade double back on itself to be useful for bowl or spoon carving. Also, by extending the haft (handle) you can get better leverage on the blade.

-- Phil Allin - There are mountain climbers and people who talk about climbing mountains. The climbers have "selfies" at the summit!

View HokieKen's profile (online now)

HokieKen

12352 posts in 1781 days


#12 posted 01-07-2020 06:47 PM

I don’t mind going through the exercise Phil. It’ll only enhance my understanding of what’s occurring when blade meets wood and I don’t make my living doing this so all it costs me is time and a little elbow grease.

I have looked at the Kestrel tools as well. They come in on the high end of the price range and have a lot more shapes and sizes to choose from. I will definitely keep them bookmarked for if/when I carve often enough and well enough to know which one to choose!

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

4600 posts in 1225 days


#13 posted 01-08-2020 01:28 PM

Kenny, if you’ve rehabilitated the Mora, just keep using that. While I’m sure the other makers would appreciate your business, I know Del at Pinewood is generally backed up far enough that you’ll have almost forgotten you ordered it by the time it arrives. Then again, that’s kind of like Christmas, but you didn’t even know it was winter, so maybe that’s a good thing. ;-)

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View HokieKen's profile (online now)

HokieKen

12352 posts in 1781 days


#14 posted 01-08-2020 01:57 PM

I considered that Dave. But, I still don’t have any experience with a known good hook knife to know if the Mora really is good or is just better than it was. If that makes sense. I had already resolved to buy another once I had a better feel for what I wanted as far as size and sweep which is what emboldened me to start grinding away on this one to begin with :-) Plus, I like new toys.

When I was poking around on Amazon last night, I noticed that Narex now offers hook knives. I think this is a pretty recent development. I doubt I’ll grab one because I bought a set of their carving tools a couple of years ago and they’re mediocre at best IMO. On the other hand, I do like that Narex as a whole is bringing good quality chisels and edge tools to broad markets at affordable prices so I am tempted to support their efforts and try one. I don’t suppose anyone here has any hands-on with their hook knife?

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View Lazyman's profile

Lazyman

4686 posts in 2030 days


#15 posted 01-08-2020 03:32 PM

You could have just said: I want one. :-)

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

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