Mora Model 511/546: The Perfect Knife for Boy Scouts

Mora knives have earned a reputation as cheap but outstanding blades. Two of them, Mora models 511 and 546, make the perfect knife for teaching boy scouts and young outdoorsmen good knife skills. Pick up a 511/546 and you’ll discover a sturdy, safe knife that fits younger hands well. It fits a scout budget even better.

UPDATE:

The original article recommended the Mora 511. Reader Michael suggests that the Mora 546 might serve some boys better. The reason: the 546 is stainless. His point is well taken. The rest of this article has been updated to include the 546.

It’s also worth noting that Mora re-designed the 511 and 546 in 2016, shortening and thinning the blades slightly, improving the handles, and changing the names to Mora Craftline Basic 511 and Mora Craftline Basic 546:

If you prefer the older models, they’re still available from some retailers: Mora Craftline Q Allround 511 or Mora Craftline Q Allround 546.

The Mora Reputation

Mora knives hail from the city of Mora, Sweden, where they’ve been manufactured for over 120 years. Mora knives have earned a cult following among outdoorsmen, especially those who practice primitive camping and bushcraft.

What makes a Mora so special? Two things: quality and price.

Mora uses only high-quality steels for its blades. When we say high quality, we’re talking about the same steels you find in knives that cost 5-10 times more. These are steels with hardness ratings in the range of HRC 57-61. In layman’s terms, this equates to extremely hard, durable steel.

Despite the quality blades, Moras don’t look like expensive survival knives. In fact, they look more like tools, and behave like tools. Moras feature thermoplastic handles molded right onto the blade — not unlike a screwdriver — making them rugged and ready to take abuse.

Probably the most astonishing feature of a Mora knife is the price tag. These little wonders often ring in at under $10-15 apiece. That should help you understand their appeal — an ultra-sharp, rugged, outdoor knife that won’t leave you crying when you accidentally drop it in the lake.

And there’s a wide variety to choose from.

The Mora 511/546: Perfect for Boy Scouts

One pair of Moras deserves special attention, the Craftline Basic 511 and the Craftline Basic 546 (also known as the Mora “Q Allround” in past iterations). We can almost consider them the same knife because they’re identical in every way but two. The 511 has a carbon blade and red handle, and the 546 has a stainless steel blade and blue handle. To really appreciate what sets this knife apart, let’s take a look at the requirements for a good boy scout knife.

Sharp & Easy to Sharpen

We constantly lecture the boys on the importance of keeping a blade sharp. We tell them a sharp blade is a safe blade because it requires less force and it will bite into the wood instead of slipping.

All Mora knives have an edge design known as a scandi grind, short for “Scandinavian” grind. If you look at a scandi grind head-on (pointing the knife at your nose), the blade will have a long, continuous V right down to the edge, instead of having a second “v” right at the edge, like you see with most knives.

The scandi grind makes these little knives incredibly sharp, and therefore safer than the butter knives we often see boys trying to use. Of course, that sharpness means the boy needs to really respect the blade, which isn’t a bad thing. I sometimes worry about boys getting too nonchalant with their dull knives.

There’s another advantage to the scandi grind: ease of sharpening. By and large, boys don’t know how to sharpen their knives on a whetstone, mostly because it’s so hard for them to figure out the angles on their blades. But scandi-ground knives have no angles to worry about. The blade is simply one long taper, right to the tip. To sharpen it, a boy just lays it flat on the whetstone and glides it along. Fool-proof.

Good Size & Balance

In my opinion, it’s important for a boy to learn what makes a reasonable blade length. They drool over heavy, fat-bladed knives, but those don’t have the balance and geometry a boy needs for carving, whittling, and camp tasks. The 511/546’s blade is elegant, lightweight, and well-balanced. It measures 3 1/2″ long by 5/8″ high, and the center of balance doesn’t tip toward the blade.

You will be impressed when you see how easily a boy can shave a feather stick with these sharp, well-controlled little blades.

I’ve heard some folks express that blades over 2″ are too long, but I assert that you can’t teach the full range of knife skills with a short blade. For example, every boy should learn how to split kindling with a knife, an essential survival skill if he ever gets caught in the rain and the only dry wood is inside the logs. A 3.5″ blade is just long enough to pull that off (here’s an example with a slightly larger knife).

Safe & Cheap

My favorite feature of the 511 is the admittedly ugly red handle. You’ll appreciate the bright red color if you’ve ever wasted time scouring a campsite for someone’s lost knife. That works fine for our troop because we live in a dry climate. In a wet climate, on the other hand, the stainless 546 would resist rusting better, especially when a boy is caring for it (though oiling the blade will still matter).

Both models are designed for safety. You’ll notice the prominent finger guard which will keep the boys’ fingers safely away from the blade.

Finally, a scout needs a cheap knife. Let’s be frank here, boys destroy things, even when they’re trying not to. If a boy drives the edge of a 511/546 into a rock or somehow manages to break the handle, the $10 loss won’t dent anyone’s budget.

Are Fixed-Blade Knives OK for Scouts?

The Guide to Safe Scouting suggests that boys stick with blades 4″ or smaller. It does not forbid fixed blades.

But taking a step back, we’ve developed a perception problem when it comes to knives. Somehow, with the introduction of folding knives, we decided that they are “safer” than a fixed blade. The truth is, folding knives potentially carry more risks.

For example, the design of a folding knife focuses on being carried, not being held. Think about it. Folding knives either have a thin handle so they ride comfortably in a pocket, or they have a pretty chunky handle with a lot of extra tools bulging out. Neither one fits the hand securely, or sometimes even comfortably. A fixed-blade knife, on the other hand, has a handle specifically textured and contoured to be held both securely and comfortably. In the case of the 511/546, that includes a finger guard to keep a boy from slicing all of his fingers if the knife slips.

Second, the folding action itself carries risks, as anyone can testify who has ever seen a boy fighting with his knife’s stubborn lock. When a boy is trying to release the lock, he’s focused on the locking mechanism, not the open blade. And once he gets the mechanism released, there’s a “guillotine moment” when the blade snaps down.

A fixed blade avoids both of these problems. It also has one more advantage: it rides in a sheath. When a boy needs to set it down for a minute, he doesn’t try to hold it in his armpit or between his legs, he just drops it in the sheath, where it sits covered and secure.

Where Do I Buy Mora Knives?

The official web site is www.moraofsweden.com.

I’ve never seen a Mora in a local store. So unless you’re luckier than I am, you will have to buy online. Amazon is your easiest bet. You can find almost any model and great prices there. Two other vendors that I’ve had good dealings with are Ben’s Backwoods and Ragweed Forge.

Photo Gallery

Here are a few pictures of the now-retired Mora Q Allround 511.