General Purpose Tools

Morakniv Companion Fixed-Blade Knife

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Versatile fixed blade outdoor knife

I have been using the Morakniv Companion off and on for several years, mostly doing volunteer trail-clearing work. It is a remarkable tool. Rather than doing my usual good-bad lists, I will discuss the various sections of the knife, then summarize.

The Companion is Morakniv’s general purpose/entry level knife. It is a fixed-blade knife, meaning the blade doesn’t fold into the handle. All fixed-blade knives must be sheathed to make them safe to store and carry, and the Companion comes with a molded plastic sheath. (More on that later.) A good fixed-blade knife is incomparably better than a folding knife in nearly every way that relates to function, and this is a good fixed-blade knife.

The blade

The blade is just over 4″ long, which is long for a pocket knife but short for an outdoorsy knife. It has a clip- or drop-point profile (I have seen it called both) in which some of the back of the blade is ground away near the tip. This has the effect of dropping the tip down closer to the midline of the knife, probably to make it more handy for drilling holes should the need arise. (Some claim the blade is based on a traditional Finnish knife, the “pukko,” but I can’t confirm that.)

Two steels are available: stainless steel (Sandvik 12C27) and carbon steel (which will of course rust if you don’t keep the blade clean and oiled. I personally prefer the stainless steel.) Sandvik 12C27 is considered a fine but unremarkable knife steel, certainly suited for this kind of knife. It is tempered a bit soft (R57-58), which is also appropriate for a utility knife. The blade is quite tough; there are videos of a blade being bent double without breaking, and then being straightened, and then being used to cut things without a problem.

The blade is somewhat thin, being 0.1 in. (2.5 mm) thick. That is thicker than most folding blades, but thinner than some survival knives. The Companion is also available in a Heavy Duty version with a 0.125 in. (3.5 mm) blade.

The grind is more or less a “scandi” or “v” grind, meaning there is only one bevel angle. (I say more or less because mine had a bit of secondary bevel where it had been honed.) To contrast, your usual chef’s knife has at last two and usually three grind angles. Scandi grinds have the advantage of not requiring much skill or apparatus to resharpen. If you are out on the taiga and need to resharpen a seriously dulled blade, you just place a stone flat against the bevel and rub. The grind also makes for a robust blade, since no other steel is removed from the blade other than at the bevels. For things like whittling, creating feather sticks, etc., that grind is supposedly unparalleled. The disadvantage is that the blade can wedge and bind in stiff materials like cardboard or hard vegetables like squash. It will not act like your 8″ chef’s knife (which has a “full flat grind”). That grind also means sharpening is relatively slow, since you have to remove steel the entire width of the bevel. (A serrated Companion is available.)

The blade is polished, but not quite to a mirror finish. The blade is pretty bright, but I can see hints of the earlier grinding steps, when coarser stones were used. But the finish is much nicer than it has to be, especially for the price.

The back of the knife is a pretty assertive 90 degrees, good for scraping a fire-starter rod (I tried it.)

The construction is not “full-tang,” where the blade steel continues the full width and length of the handle, and the handle is just two plates or “scales” attached to the tang. It has a “stick” or “rat-tail” tang, where the blade becomes a rod that extends most of the way into the handle. On the good side, that means the knife is cheap, light, and balances well. On the bad, that means the knife is not as durable as a railroad spike or crowbar. (More on that later.)

Out of the box, the knife was scary sharp.

The handle

If you are used to folding knives, the Companion’s handle will be a revelation. It feels palm-filling and secure no matter how you hold it, with no hot spots. You can work with it all day and not get blisters.

There is a subtle finger guard near the blade, and a similar swelling at the end of the handle. They make the knife less likely to slip in your hand, but they aren’t big enough to get in the way in certain holds. Overall, the handle is shaped perfectly.

The material is just plastic overmolded with tackier rubbery material except at the handle ends. It does not become slippery when wet (though I haven’t tried it when the handle was greasy.)

The handle caps (and sheath) are available in a variety of colors. The light blue or orange options are harder to lose and less scary looking than black or dark green.

The sheath

The sheath is a single piece of tough, rigid plastic. The knife snaps in, so no securing strap is necessary (though Morakniv does sell more elaborate sheaths.) It has a sturdy belt hook and a drainhole. It will likely last forever.

Interestingly, the blade covers about half of the handle as well as the entire blade. That makes it very secure and protective; the knife really will not fall out. But it also makes it a little slower to grab and draw out. A worthwhile tradeoff, in my view.

The cost

It costs FOURTEEN DOLLARS. I have seen them for as little as $12. And there is no other place to say that the knife, taken as a whole, from the sweep of the edge, to the mirror-like polish, to the contouring of the handle, is beautiful. It didn’t have to be, but it is.

So now, the good and the bad.

The good:

the Companion is…

– Durable (certainly more so than any folding knife)

– Fitted with a superior handle (superior to any folding knife, and most fixed-blade knives)

– Light, well-balanced and easy to handle

– Nicely made and finished

– Available in a variety of options re color, steel, serration, thickness, etc.

– Cheap as all get-out. An amazing bargain.

The bad:

the Companion is…

– A tad scary to look at, though it is smaller than many kitchen knives. You might get a reaction from people if you show it to them.

– Probably illegal to carry on your person in most cities. They are meant for the campsite or worksite. There is a shorter knife, the Eldris, which for some reason is more expensive.

– A bit harder to sharpen, because of the scandi grind. Apparently some people who enjoy that kind of thing will grind a deep secondary taper into the blade, so it has almost a wedge profile, like a kitchen knife. That will make the knife easier to sharpen and a better slicer, but less robust. A few Morakniv models come prethinned toward the tip of the blade, which supposedly makes them better for animal skinning and breakdown.

– Not the most heavy-duty knife out there. It is certainly strong enough for most bushcraft, including batoning (where the knife is used as a small splitting wedge.) But you cannot hammer it into a concrete wall with a sledge. You cannot pry open doors with it. It is just a cheap, simple knife. If you want a heavier duty knife, you can check out Morakniv’s Garberg or Bushcraft models.

– Some people complain that the sheath and handle show wear relatively quickly. I would respond that both handle and sheath are comfortable, effective, and cheap, so who cares? If you want a G10 handle, buy a different knife (and pay 3, 5, or 10 times as much.) Same goes if you want a heavier blade. So for the cost of a screwdriver, you can get a very functional, well-designed, effective, almost beautiful knife with a few shortcomings. The only change I might really want would be to make it a full flat grind, like a lot of Spyderco knives. That would make the blade less durable and robust, and it would mean more machining, so more cost. But at even double the cost, it would be a good buy. And even as is, it is a no-brainer for camping, woodcraft, even gardening and some bushcraft. If you don’t have a fixed-blade outdoor knife, this is the one to get. You will be amazed at how much more comfortable and capable it is than any folding knife.

-- Karl Chwe 06/28/17