It’s hard to talk about bushcraft without talking about Mors Kochanski.
He was the one who popularized the term, “bushcraft,” and he coined the saying, “The more you know, the less you carry.” This basically means that if you learn the skills to survive and thrive in the outdoors, you won’t need to bring as many things with you.
Nevertheless, one thing that even Mors agreed you should carry is a good knife … and he had certain thoughts on what made the best bushcraft knife.
Ben Piersma of Ben’s Backwoods and Jason Gustafson of Lester River Bushcraft were both students of Mors, so when they sat down to design a knife for outdoors use, they were directly influenced by their work with Mors, along with the knife he described in his seminal outdoor text, Bushcraft.
A Bushcraft Background
Ben Piersma is the owner of Ben’s Backwoods, an outdoor shop specializing in outdoor gear and with a focus on bushcraft tools and supplies. And Ben isn’t just a shop proprietor; he lives the lifestyle and spends his fair share of time in the woods. He also instructs wilderness skills classes, which can be found on the “Training and Skills” section of his website.
If you check out those training classes, you’ll see that one of Ben’s co-instructors is Jason Gustafson of Lester River Bushcraft (this company, located in Duluth, Minnesota, makes some top-notch wool outer garments.) Like Ben, Jason also trained with Mors Kochanski, as well as other well-known outdoors instructors such as Madison Parker, Terry Barney and Mark Laine.
Mors Kochanski’s Knife Requirements
Mors Kochanski laid out very specific criteria for a bushcraft knife in his book, “Bushcraft.” He suggested a 2-3mm-thick blade that is as long as the width of your palm (around 2-2.5 centimeters wide) with a tip close to the centerline of the handle and a point sharp enough to penetrate deeply into wood.
He wanted the curve of the cutting edge to extend the full length of the blade. He also wanted a full-thickness spine with no taper or sharpened back edge in order to better accept a baton for splitting wood without tearing it up.
Mors preferred high-carbon steel that was soft enough to sharpen and maintain using common stones and tools. He also liked carbon steel for use with flint as a fire-starting method.
Mors specified a full-tang design for strength and a durable, water-resistant handle that was as long as the width of your palm and with an oval cross.
He did not want a guard, because he felt that it interferes with being able to deeply seat the knife in its sheath for security and retention. He also felt that it detracts from use. It should be able to be driven 4 centimeters into a standing tree at a right angle and bear your weight as you stand on it.
Ben and Jason designed three knives so far in their bushcraft series: the Kamrat, Lagom and Leuku. The Lagom is the midsized blade of the three and a knife that closely follows Mors Kochanski’s recommendations for a bushcraft knife.
Lagom is a Swedish term meaning “just the right amount” that seems fitting for a knife that is designed to do everything you need of it without being too much to carry.
The Lagom uses a 3.5-inch blade that’s 1 inch wide, 0.125 inch thick and ground from O-1 high-carbon tool steel. It has a Scandi zero-grind edge, as well as a flowing, continuous curve from tip to base that’s well-suited for carving and peeling.
The Lagom is a full-tang design and is fitted with scales of either G-10 or Micarta. My test sample has orange G-10 scales, but various Micarta options are also available.
The handle shape is a flattened oval with enough “meat” to it for a hand-filling grip. It’s similar in profile to tools such as a hammer or hatchet. The shape allows you to naturally index the knife and know where the edge is by feel. It’s also a handle style that’s been used for generations and has proven itself to be comfortable and usable for long periods of time without undue fatigue or strain on the hands.
The handle is noticeably wider than the blade, which helps with leverage when carving, peeling or notching. The handle scales are secured with epoxy and a pair of Corby bolts, which make them extremely secure and should keep moisture from getting under the scales and creating corrosion. A brass-lined lanyard hole is fitted near the pommel of the knife; it is sized to easily take commonly found paracord.
The Lagom comes with an extremely well-made leather pouch sheath that is equipped with a removable dangler. The sheath covers about two-thirds of the knife’s handle, ensuring it sits deeply and securely in place. The sheath has a fire steel loop on the welt side that is sized for a large Swedish Army fire steel.
The overall length of the Lagom is around 8.125 inches, and my test knife weighed in at 6.6 ounces on my postal scale. It was 9.9 ounces in its sheath and 11.3 ounces in the sheath when equipped with the Swedish Army fire steel. The Lagom, itself, is hand-built to Ben and Jason’s specs by L.T. Wright Knives of Wintersville, Ohio. The sheaths are made by JRE Industries in Schaumburg, Illinois. So, it is an entirely made-in-the-U.S.A. product.
After working with the Lagom, I think it’s safe to say that Ben and Jason did a great job of turning Mors’ vision of a bushcraft knife into a solid and practical tool that would be a great addition to any outdoorsman’s belt or pack. If you want a Lagom of your own, you can pick one up in a variety of handle colors and materials from Ben’s Backwoods or Lester River Bushcraft. It’s a simple, well-designed tool that’s solidly built of good-quality materials. The Lagom lives up to its name of being “just the right amount” of knife, and I think Mors would definitely approve.