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Donnerstag, 10. November 2011

On bargain and value: What´s the difference between a Mora and a custom knife?

Now you all know my opinion on Mora knives. I simply love them, and they simply work great. And they have worked for generations of outdoorsmen. Period.

So why should anyone worth his wits buy a custom knife for a price ten or twenty times more expensive?

While Moras are a great, great value for money, there are occasions where production knives just do not "cut it". In most cases it might be a luxury problem, but that´s fine with me. Sometimes you just want a piece of art and craftsmanship, that´s one reason. Then you might have special tasks at hand and simply cannot find a knife or knife system suited for the task. For instance, a Mora clipper for 7 € will ultimately break if you constantly abuse it by batoning it through knotted hardwood and other such stuff. A full tang knife such as a Enzo Trapper or a custom knife will be suited much better for the task. And edge-holding capability of a selectively tempered knife made by a master will be much superior to a production knife. One more of many other reasons is that you want to have a  face behind the work.

It sums up to totally different motivations. Will I buy a Mora clipper or wait until I can afford a more expensive knife? Will I buy a custom knife in the first?

Most people I know own Moras. It was their first knife, and they used it until they could afford another one or the old one broke. There is no contradiction between sensibly saving money and wanting a custom knife. With a custom knife, however, you get a totally different product policy. First and foremostly, you get exactly the tool for your job. You can order anything that makes sense, tailored to your needs, with exactly the materials you want. You get an elongation of your hand, and a tool for the job.

But first and foremostly you can get something you can NEVER get with a prduction knife. You get someone to talk to, a face behind the craft. If it´s a good craftsman, you get a piece of art, a legend even. I am very amazed by the works of Jake Powning, whose blog I follow and whose works I covet. Now Jake makes swords, and little to no knives, but he serves well as an extreme example of what I am up to. Those works transcend the world of the mere functional, even if they are anything but wall - hangers. Each one of his swords is made with a deadly purpose, and would work excellently, this much I am sure of. But he does not sell function. He sells an atmosphere of myth. He sells a legend.

A knife is a companion in a surrounding that can as well be hostile as it can be beautiful and peaceful. Even in a city park you could die, as many sorry examples talk of, especially in winter, when many homeless people all over the world die of the cold, of hunger, ah, and of alcohol, of course. With a knife you are prepared to make a fire (if you know how to), you prepare your food, you build a shelter. It will guide you through the wild and not-so-wild. You can work with it, you can play with it, you carry it a lot of time, and if you happen to be in a fix, it should get you out. Most fixes are a bit testing on your good humour;-), if you ask me, and I have seen my share of them in my time;-), and for me it was always good to have something to remind me of the good things in life by my side. A knife is like this. A Mora can do that, too, but on an entirely differnt path. You use it, and it grows on you, and you remember the good times you had with it. Scratches on the handle become runes you can read when you need them to encourage you. A good custom knife has this function built in. It is, if not a myth, or a legend, but a good thing in life you can thoroughly enjoy. As I said, that is not to say a Mora cannot do that.

I made Lugra-Moros (Moon-Mare) some time ago. I made it for myself. I cannot afford custom knives, so I make them myself. Lugra Moros (not Lugra-MORA, mind you;-)) is one of them. It might be a bit weird to call a knife a name, it´s a thing after all. But it´s a sort of talisman for me, and even if its primary task is to cut the herbs and whittle the spoons and do all the other work, I know that memories and images of the mind have powers. I do not confuse  a symbol or a metaphor for an object, mind you, but just as I keep its edge keen, I also keep its mythological edge sharp. To get me out of fixes of the body as well as fixes of the psyche.

You can make scratches into your Mora by purpose;-), you can get a custom knife with two edges where there is just a single one in the first.  You know that I am all for Moras. It would be quite decadent if I would say they do not work. In other cultures, a Mora would be high-end. They make knives from mild steel scrap metal in Paraguay and elsewhere. They work for them as good as keeping them alive. It´s a bit of a fancy when a western European individual talks about survival, if you ask me. Preparedness is another matter, but I recently read about "survival" being a "sport". This is thoroughly wrong. Survival is a biological term. If you are dying, you did not manage to survive. That simple. And it´s bigottery to talk of bushcraft shows as "survival". It´s a surrogative for real life like so many other things in our modern world, a distraction, a way of making money. In our society, however, making money is a matter of "survival", or better, "getting along". We own loads of gear, and I, myself, own some 150 knives. I do not judge that, mind you, I just describe it, for it´s a fact. It´s okay, for it is a fact that our society is working that way, and if we want to change it, we have to start with ourselves.

It´s about the same question when people nowadays are shopping for a car. It goes vroooomm when you put the hammer down, and hopefully brakes if you stamp on the pedal. That´s the function. But you also want an eciting exterior, you buy an image, you want comfort and Bear Grylls also drives an SUV. It´s fine with me.

A friend of mine owns an ancient tool factory, making hammers, tongs, axes, hatchets, and everything you order him to. He is very modest, and polite, and calm. He does not do any marketing and tries to compete with Chinese big - term - manufacturers.

That´s not fine with me. He is a good guy, a family man, and always strives and struggles. He never complains and never would,  but he had a heart attack recently. He fights windmills instead of those processes that build them.

I wonder what would happen if he concentrated on his unique selling points instead?

The things that build the windmills, however, are to be found in the building of our society, and in the facts that enable marketing processes. In indigenous society, there are few tools, lovingly made, lovingly cared for and crafted with care and an eye for the artistical value also. Not many individuals in indigenous cultures could afford 150 knives. But if they did, they would last generations. There are excavations of stone knives dating to 15.000 BC in serviceable condition. Many Roman, Celtic and Germanic knives could be adapted to be used without modifications. In Japanese Buddhistic and Shintoistic culture knives are buried ritually if they are worn to crap metal.

The average product cycle for an outdoor product in our society is half a season.

If I were one for offering counsil, it would be: Buy a Mora if you cannot afford another one, and keep in mind that this is a value, too. Learn how to use it, then buy a custom knife that can teach you other things. This in itself is a path of development in my opinion. It is a kind of individuation process. You simply want to learn who you are, where you come from, and where you are headed. You are told some things factual, and many things fictional while you grow up. You learn to make decisions, and many of them might be false. But it´s your way you are walking. A production knife stands for the things you have been told. A custom knife stands for the things you decide.

Making a knife yourself, however, leads into another direction, and on this I will rant on on another post.:-) 

Kommentare:

Now go on, discuss and rant and push my ego;-). As long as it´s a respectful message, every comment is welcome!

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