Wednesday, March 28, 2012

REVIEW: Light My Fire (Mora) Swedish FireKnife


In early 2011, Light My Fire and Mora began a collaboration to design a revolutionary new fixed blade survival knife-- one that would integrate a firesteel right into the handle. This had been done in the past with folding knives like Light My Fire's SL3, but never with a mass-produced fixed blade knife. In the wilderness, fixed blades have obvious advantages over folding knives, such as greater strength, increased comfort, easier to clean, etc. So it follows that having a fixed blade with a built in firesteel is the obvious choice over a folder like the SL3. 


Being longtime fans of Mora knives, we were especially excited when we heard rumors last year of this knife being developed. Then, back in January, our friend Joe Flowers at Equipped to Endure did a nice interview/preview video on the FireKnife at SHOT SHOW 2012 which piqued our interest as well. So when Light My Fire offered us the opportunity to be one of the first to review this knife, we literally jumped at the chance. 

Now, let's take a quick look at the specs:

  • Blade Steel- Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel
  • Modified Scandinavian grind
  • Polypropylene sheath with clip
  • High-friction, TPE rubber handle
  • An original Swedish FireSteel Scout, with approximately 3,000 strikes, twist locks into the handle
  • Dimensions (in sheath): 8.7" x 1.8" x 1.2" (22 cm x 4.5 cm x 3 cm)
  • Knife Length: 8.5" (21.5 cm)
  • Blade Length: 3.75" (10 cm)
  • Weight (w/ sheath): 3.9 oz. (as weighed on a digital postal scale)
  • Country of origin: Made in Sweden my Mora Knives
  • It also comes in five colors:


Right out of the box, my first impression was that it was a bit smaller than I was expecting. I was thinking the FireKnife's blade length and thickness were going to be similar in proportion to Mora's new Companion Knife, but in fact, it's more like Mora's discontinued 860 Clipper. The FireKnife and Clipper share the same blade thickness, but the Fireknife sports a shorter 3 3/4" blade compared to the Clipper's 4" blade:

(click to enlarge) 

Blade thickness comparison between the Clipper and Mora Bushcraft Force:

(click to enlarge)

Overall size comparison between the Clipper and Bushcraft Force. The blade also has a more "machined" appearance compared to the high polish of the Clipper 860 and Force:

(click to enlarge)   

The sheath is made of a tough Polypropylene plastic and appears to be a new design by Mora and similar to sheaths on the Companion and Allround knives. The belt clip is also big enough to accept belts up to 1.75" in width:

(click to enlarge)

Of all the Mora sheaths I've tried and tested, I like this one the best so far. The belt clip really clamps down tight during use, enough so that it can be clipped to your pants pocket safely without it coming off easily (see pics below).

Knife retention is good as well. I held the sheath upside down and shook it vigorously to see if the knife would come out, but it stayed firmly in place. When inserting the knife into the sheath, it snaps into place with a reassuring "click", letting you know it's inserted all the way.

The lanyard can also be wrapped around inside the belt loop clip for additional knife retention as well (photo on the right):

(click to enlarge)

This clip also makes it a breeze to attach to your backpack waist strap, providing easy access to your knife. After clipping it onto the strap for the photo shoot, I had to use two hands to pry it off, so it definitely stays attached securely.

(click to enlarge)

Firesteel

The firesteel that comes with the FireKnife is a shortened Light My Fire "Scout Model." Here's a side by side comparison of the two (the Scout model shown is an older 1.0 model but is the same size as the current 2.0 model):


Removing the Firesteel

To remove the firesteel from the handle, grasp the end cap, turn clockwise about an 1/8 of a turn, then pull straight back. It will be a little stiff when new, but it loosens up after a few uses. To put it back in just do the reverse.
(click to enlarge)

Ok, so this leads to two big questions: 1) Can the firesteel come out easily and be lost? 2) If the firesteel is lost, will the grip still be large enough to hold the knife comfortably and securely?

To answer the first question, I'd say definitely no. Light My Fire and Mora really did their homework on this one. The firesteel locks securely into place, and there's no easy way to get it out without manually unlocking and pulling it out. Now, I can't say if it will loosen up over many years of service, but since it's made of a fairly tough, resilient type of plastic I think it will hold up well.

As to the second question, I wear a medium glove and found that the handle works well without the end cap and is still reasonably comfortable. I don't think people with larger hands will find that the knife is all that uncomfortable without the end cap either.

With and without the end cap:
(click to enlarge)

FIELD TESTING

To test the performance of the knife and firesteel, I conducted four tests: 1) General carving ability and making feather sticks 2) Batoning wood 3) Tip strength test 4) Testing the ability of the knife to create fire with the attached firesteel. The knife came shaving-sharp right out of the box, so no additional edge work was necessary before proceeding.

Feathersticks\Carving

As mentioned in the blade comparison section above, the FireKnife has what is essentially a shorter Clipper 860 blade but with a modified Scandinavian grind, along the lines of Mora's Bushcraft Forest Knife. Upon seeing this new grind for the first time, I was a bit dubious since my experience with Mora's regular Scandi grind has always been excellent and I thought "why change it?"

All that changed after actually using this knife. I've always regarded the Clipper 860 as the best overall wood carving knife I've ever used, but amazingly, the FireKnife out-carved it. The new knife feels more controllable and has the ability to make even finer cuts.

Dave, who already carries a Mora 840 Carbon Clipper for his main bushcraft knife, tried it as well and agreed with my assessment. Here are a couple of feather sticks I made from well seasoned Ponderosa Pine with the FireKnife:

(click to enlarge)

Batoning Test

To test the FireKnife's strength, I decided to try batoning a small Ponderosa Pine log into several smaller pieces. I felt confident in performing this test because of past experience with other Moras. I've batoned many logs with them and never had a failure or chipped edge. I did once roll an edge slightly when I hit a frozen knot but was able to fix it easily with a sharpening stone.

Moras are rather "petite" for a fixed blade but are built tough as nails for their size. The Sandvik stainless they use is very tough with the ability to resist chipping while also holding a great edge. This test would be a way of seeing if the FireKnife could live up to this reputation.

(click to enlarge)

More batoning:

During the baton test, no chipping or rolling of the edge occurred. In fact, the edge was still sharp enough to shave with. Excellent performance but not surprising based on my past experience with Moras.

Tip Strength Test

To test the strength of the tip, I jammed it into the split log from the baton test and twisted it around in a circular motion to create a small hole. No breakage, edge rolling or chipping was detected:

(click to enlarge)

Fire Making

Ok, now for the fun part-- let's see if this thing really lives up to the name "FireKnife!"

Light My Fire included a pre-release "Tinder on a Rope" with the FireKnife they sent and asked us to test it out, so we thought this would be the perfect opportunity. It's basically a piece of pitchwood (also known as fatwood) with a lanyard attached to it.

(click to enlarge)

Light My Fire says this pitchwood comes from the Montezuma Pine Tree in Mexico. According to Wikipedia, the resin in this tree "is so flammable that a cut branch will burn as a torch emitting black smoke when ignited." Being an absolute nut about using pitchwood for natural tinder, I was eager to try out this new variety (look for several upcoming articles here about pitchwood).

On the day of testing, winds were howling at up to 50mph, so I had to dig a small pit with a piece of split wood from the batoning test to keep the tinder from blowing away (also a great technique for keeping magnesium firestarter scrapings from blowing away too).

The tinder from the pitchwood was then scraped into the hole using the back of the blade. Mora intentionally ground the back of the blade with a sharp edge to make striking the firesteel more effective, but it also works perfectly for scraping tinder into shavings for fire prep as well.

(click to enlarge)

I was able to spark the tinder shavings on the third try. Though not visible because of the bright sunlight, the back of the FireKnife threw an incredible barrage of sparks when striking the firesteel. Also, the "Tinder on a Rope" was some of the best pitchwood I've ever used outside of the stuff I get from Douglas Fir trees. Once lit, even the strong winds wouldn't blow it out (note the flame blowing sideways in the bottom pic).

(click to enlarge)

Later in the day when the winds died down a bit, I performed a second test of the FireKnife and Tinder on a Rope. This time it lit on the second try:

(click to enlarge)

Mora vs Folding Knives Comparison

I mentioned in the review that the Mora is considered "petite" for a fixed blade. However, when compared to most folding knives it's actually fairly large as shown below:

(From top to bottom: 1) FireKnife 2) Gerber 3.5" EZ Out 3) Leatherman Charge AL w/ 2.9" blade 4) Victorinox Camper w/ 2.5" blade):


CONCLUSION

I think Light My Fire has a winner on its hands with this one. At only 3.9 ounces total, you get a proven Swedish fixed blade knife, quality built-in firesteel, and a tough yet versatile sheath. At this weight, it's even viable for ultra-lite backpacking. Plus, it comes in cool colors, and I actually had fun with this knife, which I definitely can't say about all knives I've used in the past.

Complaints? Yes, two in particular. First, I'd like to see the blade highly polished like the newer Mora Bushcraft and Companion knives. Highly polished knives are easier to clean and resist corrosion better. It's not that the finish on the FireKnife is bad, but it could be a little better.

Second, I'd like to see the same 4" blade length on the FireKnife as the Clipper 860. This makes batoning a little easier without giving up dexterity for closer work. My guess is that Light My Fire chose this shorter length to comply with the various knife laws around the US. That said, most people won't even notice these minor shortcomings and will enjoy the knife regardless.

With a great combination of useability, innovative design and Mora's legendary quality, I'll bet Light My Fire will sell these by the bucketload.

5 out of 5 Stars (Highly recommended)

January 29th UPDATE- Replacement firesteels are now available and can be purchased directly from Industrial Revolution's website at: 
To buy the FireKnife, visit our sponsor LifeView Outdoors:


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24 comments:

  1. Great review buddy. That looks like a winner for sure. I like the tip test. Most people don't do that.

    - OutdoorEnvy

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  2. Excellent review, as always. You are incredibly thorough with your gear reviews. Your fiskars one haunts me everytime I walk through the tool dept. That Mora looks like a keeper for sure. Now I just have to wait until they get into stores. Will the end cap stay on it if you break or wear out the ferro rod do you think? I guess you could just glue another scout in there. Thanks again.

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    1. Thanks watchman, really appreciate that. Regarding the end cap and firesteel, it seems to be very well put together, but time will only tell of course. I will email our contact at Light My Fire and ask them about replacement end caps and post the answer here. Cheers, J

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    2. Just a quick update: I read a review online that posted an e-mail from Light My Fire stating that replacement fire steels will be available for the fire knife in the near future. BTW your review on the knife is one of the most linked and referred to that I keep seeing pop up. Dynamite job guys.

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    3. Thanks for the update and the compliment!

      -Jason

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  3. Great post very informative. FYI I never comment on stuff

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    1. Thanks, we appreciate you saying that and thanks for stopping by.

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  4. Great review, you've answered my concerns about the firesteel handle getting too loose and the handle size if it were to become lost.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the comment and glad the review helped.

      Cheers, RMB

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  5. Super review with no tricks!! You didn't miss a lick!
    This combo really saves on firesteel ranger bands that I have on my Mora sheaths, maybe 10 or so of these best value brilliant blades.
    My only peeve is that this sheath is not slotted for a button carry, the Viking way, nor for my Mora Robust. But I switched sheaths with a Wahoo Killer and BINGO!! My Light My Fire riding on my Robust, now that's a combo!!
    Loved your comments and cheers,Expo

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    Replies
    1. EXPO- thanks for the comment and I'll have to check out that tip on the sheaths. Cheers, Jason

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  6. Owning this knife myself, I can attest to your review.  It's small and light weight, but I still feel it can handle all the requirements of a back country knife.

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  7. Thanks for sharing your experience Ruby. It's always nice to hear how something that we've reviewed performs in others people's hands. 

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  8. We appreciate you saying that and thanks for stopping by!

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  9. Thanks watchman, really appreciate that. Regarding the end cap and firesteel, it seems to be very well put together, but time will only tell of course. I will email our contact at Light My Fire and ask them about replacement end caps and post the answer here. Cheers, J

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  10. EXPO- thanks for the comment and I'll have to check out that tip on the sheaths.

    -Jason

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  11. I recently bought this knife and am very happy with the product, i have one problem which is the lanyard cap (the piece of plastic holding it together) keeps popping loose but this is a minor fault and i will probably be replacing the lanyard with some 550 cord of jute for tinder.
    I do have one question though, if i were to lose the firesteel in the woods will i be able to buy another that will fit in this knife?, i see lots of these knives on sale but no replacement steels

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  12. TavChav thanks for the comment. I haven't heard of the problem you're describing, so sorry to hear that. Yes, Light My Fire just started selling replacement firesteel caps- http://shop.industrialrev.com/p/swedish-fireknife-replacement-firesteel?pp=12&pp=12

    Best of luck,

    RMB

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  13.  Thanks for the swift reply and the link, i only just noticed the advert above the comments box to the same link haha, not very observant of me but that's great news on replacements, not needed just yet but I'm always losing stuff :D

    thanks again,great review

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  14. You're welcome, and thanks for the kind words!

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