Review: MKM Normar – Modern Crossover Bush Tool
Disclaimer: I’ve had my Normar for a long time now (more than half year), received it months before release to evaluate it as a bushcraft tool and to share my thoughts with the designer (and MKM). I didn’t even plan to review it at all, but… it’s an exciting knife, and not a typical shape or form.
Hopefully this review will help you to decide if it’s for you. This review is based on my solid experiences with the knife on multiple forest walks, hikes, and overall working with it around my country house – not just moderate use for a few weeks after the recent release.
Who, if not the Danish knife maker Jesper Voxnaes, would be a better person to blend traditional Scandinavian puukko grinds with a modern bushcraft knife and a flavour of Nessmuk styling? He did just that, and the name of this game is the NORMAR – manufactured by MKM in Italy exclusively for knivesandtools.co.uk for those of you, who prefer good old fixed blade in the wilderness. Of course if you can’t use or carry a fixed knife for legal reasons in your area, you can check their pocket knives offering.
The overall shape of the Normar is nothing you’ve seen so far. It’s like a cross-over knife, which takes the best design characteristics from traditional puukko, Mors Kochanski’s bushcrafter, and an old-school Nessmuk knife.
The 4-inch blade is made of .110″ thick slab of CPM-3V. Has a true scandi zero-grind but with a robust bushcraft-style tip and a fully curved Nessmuk-like blade profile. This is not an obvious blend, but oh boy, it works!
Even with almost no finger guard the Normar’s micarta handle feels firm and can be safely used in multiple grips. Just like a standard bushcraft knife, but with a modern twist, which can immediately be recognized as Jesper’s signature lines. If micarta is not your cup of tea – there are also options of G10 and wood handle slabs. However, micarta not only looks fine and ages nicely, but also offers good grip (even when wet), which is a godsend feature in a knife without a hilt.
It’s not too thin but not excessively thick either, so it can be easily operated even in thick gloves – as every Scandinavian outdoor knife should (due to severe Northern weather conditions). It’s nicely contoured and rounded – scales and the whole tang too.
This positioning of the striker has two benefits. Not only is it easy and safe to scrape birch bark or other tinder material with it by holding Normar in a hammer grip, but it can also be used both to scrape and throw sparks with just one hand (in a safe way) in an emergency when holding tinder material (and after that ferrorod) by stepping on it. It sounds like a “this will never happen to me” story, but… you never know.
It’s made in Italy by MKM and is known for its superb quality. MKM stands for Maniago Knife Makers and is a join-venture of top Italian knife manufacturers (LionSteel, Viper, Fox, and Mercury) dedicated to the most innovative products and production processes.
These companies also won multiple Blade Show Manufacturing Quality awards and Knife Of Year awards. So yeah, they make some of the best and most advanced knives available today, and the Normar is no exception.
I tried it as a food preparation knife, but (as expected) that scandi grind is not something I’d recommend for a kitchen cutter. It’s still fine as an impromptu vacation camp kitchen tool as it does the job overall.
But it’s not the same food-prep performance as a dedicated thin stock, full-flat-grind blade would deliver. Cutting meat or cleaning fish is no problem, but things like slicing carrots… well, it’s more like chopping or even splitting than actual cutting. So yeah, it gets the job done, but it’s not optimised for this – like most scandi blades.
Chopping & batoning (wood splitting)
Now this is where a scandi grind shines! The Normar splits 2-3 inch pieces like a champ! I tried it on spruce, birch, and many other timbers up to seasoned oak (pictured), and even this didn’t ruin the cutting edge.
CPM-3V’s reputation for being darn tough on impact is not just marketing hype. 3V might be THE toughest steel available today, which is still almost stainless and can also be sharpened by us mortals in the field. I couldn’t be happier with such a steel choice on a proper bushcraft knife – in my opinion, for this kind of use CPM-3V is still the king.
And yes, I know the new never-ending debate of MagnaCut vs. CPM-3V – but toughness and ease of sharpening in the field in a knife intended to chop and baton wood is still a winner for me (YMMV).
I tried some general chopping too – it works, but with a compact 4-inch blade it’s simply too lightweight to be a truly effective chopper. Still I had no problem to chop through about 2″ branch – that grind profile works a bit like an axe.
Any zero-grind scandi (like the Normar) requires excellent edge control when feathersticking, but if you know what you’re doing, it’s just a sweeeeet curls shaver. Otherwise it can just bite deep into the wood like a chisel instead of making a thin curly feather.
On the other hand, breaking the zero edge with a delicate secondary bevel can make feathersticks preparation more comfortable (especially for beginners). And it also makes the blade easier to resharpen in the field – so it might be a good idea.
This is easily 10/10 for me. You can use the dedicated pommel scraper in hammer grip (with a super sharp 90 degree edge) to scrape birchwood bark, fatwood, leather for some bushcraft projects, charcoal, or even use it to clear scales off a fish. And it works for fire-starting too.
But you can use the spine as well – I know it is slightly rounded, but still, there’s a sharp edge between flats and that round top, which easily scrapes firesteel, fatwood, tree bark off fresh twigs, etc. That spine is like the best of both worlds – it can scrape, but you can still push the spine with your thumb and apply full pressure for a push-cut without the risk of cutting your finger (or glove) if you slip your hand.
With a very sharp classic 90 degree edge you can easily cut yourself – that’s why I like Normar’s solution much more. The photo lets you see the spot on the blade used to strike ferrorod.
Some knives are easier to sharpen, some are harder. The Normar is not the easiest one to resharpen if you want to maintain that original scandi grind (which comes without even a hair of secondary bevel). Sharpening is an art – there’s no perfect answer to how to sharpen a knife. Overall I’m a fan of a proper scandi grind, but resharpening scandi in the field is not as easy as it sounds.
It would be best to have a set of full-size flat stones in at least 2 (better 3) grades, a stable workbench, and a lot of water. None of these is easy to bring or find in the field. And now consider that the Normar takes it to the next level with an all-curved line, which also leans toward the handle with a so-called negative angle. This requires both equipment and skills.
So on my Normar, I added a minimal secondary bevel – about 1 Deg on each side. This solves all these issues for me – now I need just a tiny pocket stone like the Fallkniven DC4 (double-sided, medium diamond & fine ceramic) and I’m done! And maybe a small strop.
A slight secondary bevel has clear benefits too – it’s easy to maintain in the field and makes the edge more robust. And for most outdoor tasks, it is just as good as traditional scandi.
Furthermore, a microbevel can be easier controlled on the material’s surface – the angle change between the scandi and microbevel makes all the difference. Even some well-known Scandinavian knives come with such edges from the factory – a good example is the Mora Garberg.
Finally, of course, you could also make a micro-convex bevel on the Normar, which combines the benefits of both grinds and is still easier to maintain than true scandi. But if you prefer the zero-edge scandi and can keep it sharp – I can fully understand going this way too. Whatever you prefer.
The original generic MKM sheath is alright – heavy-duty leather, double stitching, MOLLE compatible (yes!), well crafted, and safe to carry. But is that an ideal bushcraft sheath? There are two issues for me, which make it not the best suited for bushcrafting. First is the retention strap, which is positioned on the edge side and could be accidentally cut with that razor-sharp blade.
On most knives the risk is minimal, but Normar has a very pronounced curved blade profile, which creates almost like a recurve in the rear part of the blade and can trap and cut the retention strap when drawing the knife. So be careful, especially with one-hand operation.
Another problem is the need for a ferrorod loop. The target user group for this knife are bushcrafters, who carry ferrocerium firestarter everywhere and every time – mainly on a knife sheath… especially if the blade is designed to be used as a ferrocerium striker, like the Normar.
But if you want a bushcraft tool intended for frequent use, find & buy a slip-in style bushcraft sheath or locate a maker to make you a dedicated kydex sheath. Both are quicker and safer for one-hand use and could be made with a firestarter loop.
I bought a leather sheath with a dangler at a knife show and made myself a kydex sheath as a second option. Both work great and check all boxes for my intended use of Normar as a bushcraft knife – so I suggest doing the same.
Normar is like a racing knife among classic bushcrafters. It has all the characteristics of a top-tier wilderness knife but needs an experienced operator. It’s like a sporting car, requiring a professional driver to show how good it is.
We have a zero scandi grind, a fully curved edge, an almost straight handle without a pronounced guard, and a scraper on the pommel. All of these shine in the hands of a qualified adventurer.
But a curved blade with no guard could be dangerous for the fingers of a careless person. Also, a curved scandi blade is not something anyone could easily sharpen free-hand in the field. But still, it’s a CPM-3V blade with a zero edge, so in trained hands it will cut like crazy, whittle perfectly… and is tough as nails.
For me, it’s one of the cooles bushcraft knives I tried in recent years, and I enjoyed almost every aspect of it during use… well, except for the sheaths, but I took care of that. Other than that – it’s a highly recommended bushcraft machine. I can’t wait for the summer to use it during my mountain vacation!