Karelian Forging

By Mikhail Artemiev & Federico Buldrini

The importance of blacksmithing for Karelians reflects in the epic Kalevala, where the demigod smith Ilmarinen forged the Sampo mill, a source of happiness and prosperity for its possessor.

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Scheme of an ancient iron furnace.

In the past many Livonian Karelians practiced ore mining, blacksmithing and tar smoking. Karelian blacksmiths forged axes, drills, knives and sickles from mined and smelted ore. At some point the iron production was so widespread that sources from the XVI century speak of entire villages living entirely on it. During the XIX century there were also firearms crafted. All these were much appreciated and in demand on the Russian market.

battle axe 10th cent

Battle axe, 10th century

In many Norse sagas from IX and X centuries we find mention of the Kiryal people, living on the shores of lake Ladoga, as rich, trading with the Sami people, penetrating far north and giving Vikings a decent resistance. According to the sagas, Swedish legendary king Ivar Vidfamne, the great great great grandfather of Ivar the Boneless, died during a campaign against the Kiryals, after being tricked into an argument by Odin in disguise, resulting with Ivar jumping after the man and into the sea.

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Sword, 10th century

Also, the Saga of Halfdan tells of the Viking battle in Kiryalanbotn. Although sagas aren’t considered particularly reliable historical sources, their mentions of the Karelians and Karelia indicates the existence of ties between the Scandinavians and the Karelians, plus their military and economic development at that time.

16th century battle axes:

The Norsemen called the Kiryals land “Kiryalaland” or “Kiryalabotn”, the last one translatable as “Kiryals living at the end of the fjords”. Such fjords can only be found on the northern coast of lake Ladoga. Archaeological finds in that area show that local settlements were indeed located at the lake’s fjords ends, confirming the truthfulness of the old name.

Ancient Karelian weapons were mostly of Russian type, with some European variations as well, both imported with trades and locally crafted.

Twenty four sword fragments found show straight, double-edged blades, about 1 meter long, with sheaths of wood and leather and a bronze tip. The pommels and guards are mostly decorated with floral pattern. Metal inlays are often found on the blade groove, while the sword found in Kurkieki has an Latin inscription.

Other findings include various types of spearheads, from 26 to 37 cm long, some decorated with ornaments and inlays, many axes, including smaller decorated battle axes and great variety of bow arrowheads and cross bow arrows. Many small iron plates, maybe parts of an armour were found only in Rääisälä.

spearhead 16th cent

Spearhead, 16th century

Last but not least, numerous items of horse harness such as bits, horseshoes, buckles and studded horseshoes, for rides on smooth ice.

ice crampon 15th cent

Ice crampon, 15th century

spearhead 16th cent

Spearhead, 16th century

arrowhead 15th cent

Arrowhead, 15th century

Brooches, 10th and 12th centuries:

11th and 12th century pendants:

 

All pics taken from the Karelian National Museum website:

Mikhail Artemiev

Mikhail Artemiev

Adapted by Federico Buldrini from a text by Roman Zelenov and Mikail Artemiev

Russian bladesmith Mikhail Artemiev lives and works in Petrozavodsk, the capital of the Republic of Karelia. His grandfather Karel was Karelian with Finnish roots. He’s the first forger in his family, but his now two years old son might follow in his steps. Mikhail is an enthusiastic tourist, doing several polar Ural hiking trips and participating in various open water marathons and practicing winter swimming.

Mikhail attended Petrozavodsk Railway Technical College, where he received his first theoretical metalwork knowledge, then he joined the Railway Depot upon graduation.
In the repair workshop he honed and improved his practical forging skills and it was here that he actually forged his first camp hatchet. For some time this forge was his production base.
In 2006 the city administration commissioned him the design and forging of the gates and fence for the city park.

With the growth of customers, it became possible to establish a private smithy and workshop for wood and leather working at home, near the railway station and in the view of Lake Onega.
Mikhail has now specialized in forging axes, carpentry tools and traditional Finnish knives.

As the owner of a one man company, every stage of production, from forging, to heat treatment, handle shaping and sheath making is personally tackled by Mikhail.
Within twenty years of practice he developed more than fifty different axe models, from the Finnish style to the Old Russian style based on 15th century archaeological findings.

Blacksmithing skills come with experience after thousands of unsuccessful attempts of putting what you have in mind into steel. Character strength, patience and determination all play a huge role for success. It’s necessary to be tuned for every new work, to have constant attention and even the blacksmith’s mood can affect the final result: sometimes Mikhail dances in the forge.

For axe forging Artemiev uses mostly tool steel like 9KHS (150Cr14) and KHVG (O1). The steel billet should be slightly heavier than the final head weight as with each heating the surface burns out and further metal is removed by grinding.

A spheric billet is firstly forged square, then heated to red to punch the eye hole and stretch the neck. Then the head is hammered out, the edge with nose and toe is forged and, depending on the model, the hammer shaped back. The blades are dipped in red hot smelted salt,then quenched in oil. After the heat treatment, the finishing touches are done by grinding. It takes above 250 steps to craft the axe.

Each axe is unique and, since production is mostly done by hand, no more than 16-18 pieces leave the workshop in one working session.
Birch and ash pre-dried and seasoned for 6-8 years are used for handles. Every handle is individually planned for each axe head, roughly shaped by saw, then sanded and fitted with a 2 ton pneumatic press. In the end the wood is soaked in linseed oil.

A great attention to details, ergonomics, design, reliability, durability, convenience, positive emotions and the pleasure that axe owner take from working must be embodied in every product. The axes mustn’t be only functional, but also beautiful: a household tool can be collectible and an ancient symbol of male power and embodiment of military spirit.

Forging has much in common with sculpture and chess playing, but instead of malleable clay, stubborn steel is used, and intellectual game goes along with hard physical work. A blacksmith needs to plan the design in advance, break it down into stages, imagine how dynamic force from the hammer blows will affect the metal, understand the laws of thermodynamics, what happens during heating and cooling and win the constant race against time.

It takes up to 2 months of hard work to develop a new model, starting from forging, practicing forging techniques, optimizing specific processes to start the first forging round, then a certain number of finished products will eventually be discarded by the smith. A constant search for new solutions, improving and testing axe-making technologies and the desire to create motivate the artisan.
To create unique and unparalleled work it needs to be blacksmith, artisan, artist, creator and scientist all at once.

As a final note, Mikhail has the dream to create a private museum of the axe and hand tools next to the workshop, wherein to show his works and leading visits for schools, families and tourists alike.

The ax

The ax, the shiny ax is the attribute of the woodsman. As unavoidable as the key in St.Peter’s hands.

I have worn out many axes, Mustad axes, Finstad axes, Swedish axes, many.

Some served me faithfully for wood fragrant days, others have broken in the hard wood and called curses over the unworthy oath of the smith.

But all the deceitful as well as the faithful axes had their face. Its strict steel profile unlike any other. You see it as soon as you haft your ax,

this own expression that says I’ll meet you many mornings, be in your dreams as a silent reminder.

And when you swing the new ax in the first trying chop, it’s like the muscles are listening.
And if you don’t get to know the axe and become friends with her….

Then it happens, she reminds you of the steel’s bloody tradition.

Hans Børli

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Mikhail Artemiev

 

Nils Ögren

I began my blacksmithing journey in 2017, at the age of 24. I had been in the music industry for as long as I can remember and I simply had enough. I grew up as a son of a farmer and brother to a carpenter, so I guess manual labor comes fairly natural to me. I usually describe blacksmithing as something in between music and manual labor, to me it has all the creative parts of music but at the same time speaks to me as a “typical” masculine line of work. I started by trying to make swords. However I realized that it was a lot harder than I thought, so I moved on to knives and a lot of other things. Finally, in March 2019, I began forging axes and that has been my thing ever since.

When I first started out I thought I was the only blacksmith in my family history. On my 25th birthday my uncle gave me a really old anvil that apparently had once belonged to my great great grandfather. I was blown away: that moment fueled my amazement to the craft and I felt honored to carry the torch. And yes, I’m self taught.

Unlike what SAS says, Scandinavians have a very strong culture. Axes and tools have been something that blacksmiths have made for thousands of years. Say what you will about the viking age tools, but even later in the 16th,17th,18th,19th and 20th century, the north has been very productive when it comes to tools.I try my best to respect the traditions of my country and I try to implement it as much as I can in work!
I have always been amazed by people with years and years of experience, in any craft really. The humbleness and expertise is truly something I strive towards.
I want to see where this can take me. I’m not so focused on the end goal as I am on the journey: getting to know amazing people and collaborating with others is a goal in itself.

I get inspired by watching and seeing other people work. I know it’s easy to get a little jealous and take to envy, but I find that being thankful is far more giving and inspiring!
To name a few people I’d say: Dave Delagardelle, Derek Melton, Alec Steele, Liam Hoffman, Kyle Royer, Will Stelter and Paul Krzyszkowski.

Other than forging, I love watching movies and reading great books and still play music from time to time, but something that really inspires me is History & Christianity. I really like digging in and trying to find meaning in old stories and important literature. I also have a small Bible collection.

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Nils Ögren

Kokemäki puukko

 

By Anssi Ruusuvuori

Kokemäki puukko is a simple and graceful puukko model without any fittings. One of its most typical features is the end (butt) of the handle which is often, but not always, beveled slightly from both sides. The black or brown colored sheath is equally simple and elegant without excessive decorations. The typical decoration of the sheath consists of simple impressed lines following the edges of last and the sheath mouth, with diagonal lines drawn on last ”shoulders”. The blade was often made from an old file and the tang was left shorter than the handle. In an 1962 article by Eino Kauppi it is told that Kokemäki puukko was also called as ”Satakunta puukko” and that it was made in three sizes.

Not much is known about the birth history of Kokemäki puukko. It was manufactured at least already in the beginning of 20th century – possibly already during the 19th century – and the making of it continued in Kokemäki all the way until the 1980s. According to an article by Vesa Toivonen (Puukkoposti 1/2007) for which he interviewed a local collector Seppo Marjanen, the most important and only professional maker of Kokemäki puukko was Aksel(i) Ekman (1883 – 1950), originally a master shoemaker. There is a mention in the books of Iisakki Järvenpää factory of a certain Akseli Ekman working in the factory for some time. It is not known if he was the same person as ”the shoemaker Ekman” or just his namesake, but it would seem more plausible that they actually were the same person, which suggests that Ekman might have learned some of his puukko making skills working for Järvenpää.

Some of the part time makers of the model were: Viljo Kallionpää (1896 – 1965), Ilmari Kuula (1903 – 1983), Aarne Kuula (1911 – 1985) and Heikki Marjanen (1918 – 1989). Two local inhabitants Mikko Karen (born1930) and Erkki Tähtinen have also made Kokemäki puukko as a hobby until recent years. The most noted of today’s Kokemäki puukko makers are puukko smiths Pekka Tuominen and Mikko Inkeroinen. The first picture shows a Kokemäki puukko from the collection of National Museum of Finland, made by Ilmari Kuula around 1940 – 1950 after a model by Akseli Ekman. The next picture shows three Kokemäki puukko made by Akseli Ekman himself.

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A Kokemäki puukko from the collection of National Museum of Finland, made by Ilmari Kuula around 1940 – 1950 after a model by Akseli Ekman.

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Three Kokemäki puukko made by Akseli Ekman.

K4 ryynanen

Jani Ryynänen

K1 inkeroinen 1

Mikko Inkeroinen

K2 inkeroinen 2

Mikko Inkeroinen detail.

K7 Saku kokemc3a4en-11

Saku Honkilahti

K5 tuominen

Pekka Tuominen

K3 rasimaki

Heimo Rasinmäki

 

K6 old from a private collection

From an old private collection.

 

 

 

Henri Tikkanen Norse Knife

By Federico Buldrini

This knife and sheath are crafted following the general style used in Northern Europe from the 7th to 13th century circa, with Baltic sheath decorations.

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blade
length – 96 mm
width – 21,5 mm
thickness – 5,5 mm
steel – ThyssenKrupp 125Cr1
bevels – flat
edge angle – 14,5°, tiny microbevel
hardness – ~ 60 HRC

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handle
length – 102 mm
width – 25 mm in the centre
thickness – 18 mm in the centre

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weight
knife – 62 g
with sheath – 107 g

The blade was forged with a hand held hammer recycling the steel of a Viiala file, with 1,3 % C. It has a triangular section, slightly tapered in height and thickness. After annealing and normalization it was heated in the gas forge, quenched in oil and tempered in the oven. While the bevels were dipped in oil the spine was tilted out so to be left softer. The bevels are ground to 14,5°, with just a hint of microbevel.

The handle is crafted from a piece of carelian birch. The tang is glued with epoxy and has two little wedges at its sides to make everything the tightest possible. It’s sanded to a fine grit, giving the handle a very smooth and soft feel. It’s strongly tapered in height and thickness towards the blade, it has a teardrop section and fills the hand well.

The hand stitched sheath is crafted from 2,5 mm thick bark tanned leather. As it was the custom in the Middle Age there isn’t a wood liner. The belt loop is a simple knotted leather strip. The retention is excellent, without becoming excessive.

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In use

The knife has neutral balance and feel slightly heavier than its actual weight. Out of the box the edge had a couple of asperity, so I gave it six passes, with circular motion, on DMT #1200, then stropped twenty times on black (#3000) and green (#6000) Bark River compound.
After a first project on three months seasoned hazel I felt another asperity, thus I gave the knife a complete sharpening session with Work Sharp’s #600 stone, ceramic and stropping compound (#32000).

Let’s start with a couple of three months seasoned hazel owls. No problems whatsoever during both roughing and refining cuts. There has been only mild resistance when planing the bases, while the tip, despite the thickness, proved itself good at working on facial discs and ear tufts. At the end of the work the shaving bite was just a hair less aggressive, but present all along the edge. Three passes on Bark River white compound and three on Work Sharp green compound.

Let’s continue with two seven months seasoned plane wood spikkentrolls. Before starting carving the first hat I trimmed a lateral shoot and flattened the knot. No resistance during roughing cuts, even though during the very first cuts, pressing the thumb on the spine I felt its corners a little too marked and annoying. No problem then in finishing cuts and carving the face notch. A minimum of resistance only while leveling the base.
After the first troll the edge was pristine, but the shaving bite was gone in the first two cms near the handle, used heavier. Thirty passes on BRKT white compound and twenty five on Work Sharp one.
While carving the second troll there was resistance only when cutting the top half of the V notch of the hat, then a minimum when notching the face, whose wood was in correspondence of a knot on the opposite side of the stem, and a minimum while I was leveling the base.
At the end of the work the edge was perfect, while the razor bite was almost gone in the first two cms, like before. To speed up the tuning I gave it eight passes on fine ceramic and fifteen on Work Sharp compound.

 

After smoothing the spine’s edges with the SwissTool file and sanding for a minute with #120 and #180 grit I continued with the usual wizard, but having run out of poplar, I carved it from a much harder beech branch. No resistance when roughing the two main facets, even when planing two knots away. Constant and good bite in creating and working around the three V, bases for the features. The spine thickness was not perceived when engraving the nose profile nor when working the lip. No more problems with the spine edges. The only real resistance came when notching around the stem to thin it down and free the wizard. Nothing serious, but definitely perceptible, then no problems to level the base.
At the end of the work the edge was pristine, while the shaving bite was gone almost completely. Thirty passes on the black, green and white BRKT compound, ten per compound, followed by twenty on the Work Sharp one.

Let’s finish with the eighteen months seasoned silver fir spatula. On the piece of wood that I used there was knit 2.5 cm long and as wide as the blank. The roughing, despite the removing of the knot, was actually faster and easier than I expected. Easy to imagine this was the only real resistance, though significantly lesser than expected, and only while I was working to eliminate the knot and create the curve of the rear part of the spatula. At the end of the roughing the edge was perfect and the bite unchanged.
Nothing to report on the finishing cuts, quick and easy to do. The knife has always remained comfortable and agile, maintaining a rather aggressive, but still very controllable bite.
At the end of the work the edge was still pristine and the bite just a hair less aggressive, but still capable of shaving without pressure. Ten passes on Work Sharp compound.

Conclusions

I used the knife extensively on hazel, plane and beech, including the trimming of knots and the only wood that has actually influenced the bite the most was indeed beech, but the acuteness of the edge, cutting also by simple geometry, makes for a very little perceptible bite loss.
In a previous review I already had the opportunity to test the 125Cr1, on other geometries and with a much harder tempering, so I already knew of its edge holding ability, while even with such a thin edge it was also able to maintain a remarkable bite and a surprisingly good resilience. Praise to the heat treatment.
The section and tapering of the handle are particularly well executed and flow perfectly into the blade making the knife extremely intuitive and, among the three Tikkanen knives that I have, undoubtedly my favorite and the most comfortable.

 

Christmas Photo Gallery

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Hyvää joulua ja onnellista uutta vuotta!

SANTA

Markku Parkkinen

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11 Markku Parkkinen10 Markku Parkkinen9 Markku Parkkinen8 Markku Parkkinen

Vyacheslav Kharkov

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a 11a 10a 9a 8a 7

a 6a 5a 4

Otto Kemppainen

56 Otto Kemppainen57 Otto Kemppainen58 Otto Kemppainen59 Otto Kemppainen

Anssi Ruusovari

4 Anssi3 Anssi5 Anssi6 Anssi

Arto Liukko

7 Arto Liukko60 Arto Luikko

Laurent Juhel

19 laurent Juhel20 Laurent Juhel21 Laurent Juhel

Janne Kilpinen

22 Janne Kilpinen23 Janne Kilpinen25 Janne Kilpinen24 Janne Kilpinen

Johannes Adams

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44 Johannes Adams46 Johannes Adams47 Johannes Adams48 Johannes Adams49 Johannes Adams51

5250 Johannes Adams

Martti Malinen

26 Martti Malinen27 Martti Malinen28 Martti Malinen29 Martti Malinen32 Martti Malinen

Tero Kotavuopio

40 Tero Kotavuopio41 Tero Kotavuopio42 Tero Kotavuopio43 Tero Kotavuopio

Teemu Häkkilä

34 Teemu Häkkilä35 Teemu Häkkilä36 Teemu Häkkilä39 Teemu Häkkilä2 Teemu Häkkilä37 Teemu Häkkilä

Jani Ryynänen

15 Jani Ryyanen

16 jani Ryyanen17 Jani Ryyanen18 jani Ryyanen

 

 

 

 

The Winter War

In Memoriam: The Winter War November 30 1939 – March 13 1940 

The Winter War began 80 years ago today. The conflict began after the Soviets sought to obtain some Finnish territory, demanding among other concessions that Finland cede substantial border territories in exchange for land elsewhere, claiming security reasons,primarily the protection of Leningrad, 32 km (20 mi) from the Finnish border. Finland refused, so the USSR invaded the country.

The winter of 1939–40 was exceptionally cold with the Karelian Isthmus experiencing a record low temperature of −43 °C (−45 °F) on 16 January 1940.At the beginning of the war, only those Finnish soldiers who were in active service had uniforms and weapons. The rest had to make do with their own clothing, which for many soldiers was their normal winter clothing with a semblance of insignia added. Finnish soldiers were skilled in cross-country skiing.The cold, snow, forest, and long hours of darkness were factors that the Finns could use to their advantage. The Finns dressed in layers, and the ski troopers wore a lightweight white snow cape. This snow camouflage made the ski troopers almost invisible as the Finns executed guerrilla attacks against Soviet columns. At the beginning of the war, Soviet tanks were painted in standard olive drab and men dressed in regular khaki uniforms. Not until late January 1940 did the Soviets paint their equipment white and issue snowsuits to their infantry.

Immediately after the war, Helsinki officially announced 19,576 dead. According to revised estimates in 2005 by Finnish historians, 25,904 people died or went missing and 43,557 were wounded on the Finnish side during the war. The Soviet Union losses were approximately 63,990 dead, 207,538 wounded and frostbites, making total casualties 271,528.

Pekka

A 1930’s style puukko made by Pekka Tuominen and his grandfather’s military items from The Winter War.  “In this photo is my grandfather Lauri Tuominen’s Winter War medal with SUMMA badge. Summa is one battlefield in Karelian Isthmus 1939-1940
There is also Lauri’s certificate for that medal and original cockade (blue and white rondel) and his military service book.”

 

Henri Tikkanen Yakut Knife

Review by Federico Buldrini

Henri Tikkanen is a young blacksmith living in Pieksämäki and former pupil of Mikko Inkeroinen. This is the first yakut knife crafted by him. For more about the yakut see this earlier post: Yakut

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blade
length – 95 mm
width – 18.2 mm
thickness – 6 mm
steel – 1085
bevels – left convex, right concave
edge angle – 21°
hardness – ~ 59 HRC

handle
length – 101 mm
width – 26 mm in the centre
thickness – 19 mm in the centre

weight
knife – 70 g
with sheath – 130 g

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1

The blade was forged with a hand held hammer recycling the steel of an old horse driven plow, with 0.85% C. It has a flat section, slightly tapered in height and thickness. After annealing and normalization it was heated in the gas forge, quenched in oil and tempered in the oven. While the bevels were dipped in oil the spine was tilted out so to be left softer. The bevels are ground to 21°, with just a hint of microbevel.

The handle is crafted from a piece of birch burl. The tang is glued with epoxy and has two little wedges at its sides to make everything the tightest possible. It’s sanded to a fine grit, giving the handle a very smooth and soft feel. It’s strongly tapered in height and thickness towards the blade. The section is oval and fills the hand well.

The hand stitched sheath is crafted from 2,5 mm thick bark tanned leather. Inside there is an alder liner, carved and then sanded. The belt loop is a simple leather strip. The retention is excellent, without becoming excessive.

In use

The knife has a perfectly neutral balance. Right out of the box the edge wasn’t perfectly smooth, so I gave it two passes with rotatory movement on DMT #600, two on DMT #1200 then stropped on Bark River black (#3000) and green (#6000) compound. Between the blade shoulders and the handle there is a tiny 0.5 mm gap.
I also sanded for a minute the spine’s edges with #120 and #180 sandpaper to get a more comfortable surface for thumb pushes.

First off I carved a couple of owls from a three months seasoned hazel branch. No problems in both cases, even though the knife isn’t particularly fast for such tiny projects, given also the tip thickness. There has been some minor resistance when planing the bases, while the knife suffered a bit more when carving the two notches under the facial disks, to start defining the owls abdomens. At the end of the work the edge was pristine. Six passes on Bark River white compound (#12000).

Let’s continue with two seven months old plane wood spikkentrolls. Excellent bite while roughing out the shape and planed three knots  with no problems. I felt a bit of struggle when flattening the base, but as I carved on the struggle actually decreased. When I carved the V notch in the hat, cutting from top to bottom to join the two halves of the notch, with the hollow bevel in contact with the wood, I felt like the edge didn’t have enough material behind it. Despite my feeling the cut was done fast and good. After the first spikkentroll the shaving bite was perfect and the edge pristine.
As for the first one, I felt good bite and ease of work when roughing and refining the cone hat. As with the first one, when doing the stop cuts defining the face and the pon pon I felt the edge separating the fibers definatly less than a V edge. Due to the asymmetrical geometry I also can’t do finishing pull cuts, since, when the concave bevel is in contact with the wood and the knife is pulled towards me, it creates long flat feathers, while I aim for small tight ones. I guess is a matter of habit. Again I felt some struggle caving the face’s notch and planing the base, but nothing big. At the end of the work the edge was perfect while the shaving bite was gone in the first two cm near the handle, the ones I used the most when roughing. Forty passes on white compound and twenty on bare leather.

Let’s continue with a six months poplar wizard. Not much to say, there has been some resistance when carving the three V forming the base for the features and at the end when planing the foot. On the other hand it was more agile than I expected when engraving the sides of the nose and the lip. When cutting perpendicularly to the fibers, removing the feathers created to deepen the Vs, I felt again as if the edge had too little material. Compared to other knives it wasn’t particularly fast.
At the end the edge was perfect and the shaving bite gone in the first two cm near the handle. Fifteen passes on white compound.

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Let’s finish with eighteen months silver fir spatula. All the roughing was easy and rather quick, done only with push cuts since the geometry doesn’t allow pull cuts on concave surfaces without biting too deep and breaking the fibers, while on the other hand it did great flattening the spine. The blade thickness allowed for a good wedge effect when I was removing a lot of material to create the lower part of the shaft. The only pull cuts I could do were planing the angular end of the shaft and shaving tiny bits from the end grain in the curve front part of the spatula.

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After all the roughing the edge was pristine and the bite untouched.
Easy finishing cuts, always pushing, also when flattening the edges all around, but in the front curve. At the end the edge was still pristine and, again, the bite was decreased only in the first two cm. Twelve passes on white compound.

Conclusions

Excellent first try at the an unknown style by Tikkanen. Comfortable handle and spot on heat treatment. The strong handle taper towards the blade was particularly effective for doing refining push cuts, engaging the wood with the blade curved belly. The asymmetrical geometry kept having a strange feeling; bites well when touches with the convex bevel, planes well touching with the concave bevel, but when asporting material, cutting perpendicularly to the fibers, on a a flat surface, it pulls the little material at the edge, actually feeling a bit underpowered.
An extremely specialized and interesting knife, even though such specialization can sometimes became a limitation. It won’t be the only yakut knife I’ll try, but I doubt I would prefer it to a rhombic section puukko, to me still the best compromise.

Laurent Juhel Maasepän Puukko Review

By Federico Buldrini

Laurent Juhel, born in Cotentin, Normandy, now lives in Bazouges-sous-Hédé, in Brittany. He divides his time between prehistoric archeology, his real profession, and knifemaking. His work as archeologist led him to study, and craft for his own interest, flint knives. After twelve years he started crafting outdoor knives using blades by Antti Mäkinen and Pasi Jaakonaho, having being fascinated by puukkos. In 2018 he started forging his own blades.

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blade
length – 87 mm
width – 22 mm
thickness – 2,5 mm at the spine; 3,5 mm at the bevels junction
tang – 6×4 mm
steel – 100Cr6
bevels – minimally convex
edge angle – 15°, with a tiny microbevel
edge hardness – ~ 61 HRC

handle
length – 110 mm
width – 29 mm max.
thickness – 18 mm max.

weight
knife – 80 g
with sheath – 130 g

The blade was forged with hand held hammer from a bar of 100Cr6, it has a very subtle rhombic section, with just a hint of taper in width. After annealing and normalization it was quenched in oil and tempered in the oven. Blade and tang were completely dipped in oil, so hardness is consistent along all the blade structure. Bevels are ground to 15° and sport a hint of microbevel. The curly birch handle is divided, 24 mm from the blade, by three birch bark flaps, while the tang is hammered flat against the back of the handle. The handle is sanded to a fine grit, is slightly tapered in height and thickness towards the blade. It has a marked teardrop section and, even though not particularly thick, fills the hand well. The 2 mm thick leather sheath is hand stitched and has a carved and sanded scots pine liner. The belt loop is a simple twisted leather thong. The retention is excellent, without being excessive making the knife difficult to pull out.

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In use

Out of the box I gave six passes on Bark River green compound (#6000) just to have the edge absolutely smooth.

Let’s start with the usual plane wood spikkentrolls. I felt no resistance while carving the first and the cuts always had a smooth surface. Due to the very acute geometry there was a just a bit of resistance while planing the knot. At the end the shaving bite was slightly low, while still actually shaving. Six passes on green compound.
No problems also while carving the second troll, with only a tad of resistance when cutting against the fibers the notch in the hat and while planing the base.
At the end the edge was pristine and still shaving, the bite was just a little bit less aggressive. Six passes on green compound.

07

Let’s continue with a six months seasoned poplar wizard. There was a bit of resistance when planing the two main facets. Then the puukko was very efficient in carving the features notches, even though the handle, given my way of gripping, is probably just a hair too slim to have a steady grasp when pulling the knife towards myself. To solve this I just had to shift the thumb/fulcrum slightly down the work piece compared to where I usually place it. The thin tip was excellent when engraving the sides of the nose and the lower lip. Finally there was a tad of resistance when planing the base.
At the end of the work the edge was pristine, but the shaving bite was gone. Fifteen passes on green compound restored it.

0908

1110

Let’s finish with the eighteen months seasoned silver fir spatula. There was no particular resistance during the roughing process, but when cutting, from both sides, around the bent bundle of fibers now creating the scalloping on the shaft. At the end of roughing the shaving bite was less incisive only in the first 3 cm of edge, otherwise perfect.
No problems also during the refining cuts; the puukko has always been comfortable and handy.
At the end of all the work the shaving bite was still intact, as said, just a little less keen nearer the handle. Six passes on Bark River white compound restored it completely.

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Conclusions

First of all, a due praise to the combination of geometry and heat treatment. Even though the edge is extremely keen, the slightly convexed bevels manage to sustain it excellently, gaining resilience and just a little heft, without losing nothing of the aggressive bite. The blade itself, even if thinner than what it’s usually seen on puukkos this side, doesn’t feel under dimensioned.
The handle, even though not that thick, has always been comfortable and very intuitive in the hand. As said previously the thinness is felt only when pulling the knife towards yourself using the thumb as fulcrum, never otherwise.
Generally speaking, Laurent has given the knife has a very personal touch, while nailing well the Finnish spirit and practicality.

Laurent Juhel

“My name is Laurent Juhel. I am a French guy, growing up in Normandy and now living in the countryside of Brittany. I started knife making as a hobbyist ten years ago, and now it is gradually becoming a real work activity.

Why do I craft puukko style knives ? For a long time, I have been fascinated by the great landscapes of the North. Therefore my passion is hiking and outdoor life usually in Nordic surroundings. This is clearly the main reason why I craft this kind of knife. The puukko is a beautiful and perfect tool for all outdoor requirements.

As a child, I remember I tried to break flint to make prehistoric cutting tools. Prehistoric people, flint tools and wild living fascinated me. I also remember a fascination for the Arctic and Inuit people. One of reasons was probably that this environment equivalent to that of the prehistoric ice age during which the first people lived. Later, I searched and found prehistoric tools on the Normandy coast. Later I finally became a professional Prehistory archeologist. At this time I made my first real knives with flint, to reproduce prehistoric artifacts I was studying.

Around ten years ago, I decided to make my own knife (with a steel blade!) for the purpose of outdoor trips and activities. After some research, Scandinavian knives definitively caught my attention. Those were the perfect link between my original passions and my outdoor needs. I started to craft Nordic style knives with blades usually bought from Scandinavian bladesmiths, usually Antti Mäkinen, and also classic blades made from Lauri Metalli.

What I love in puukko is the shape, simple lines, no guard and a none aggressive design. And of course I like the fact these knives are real tools, made for hard use. In addition, I am pleased to know and think about the links between wild landscapes and this tool : I mean that these knives have been determined by an environment and peoples needs, over many centuries. These knives draw their roots from Nordic landscapes, and they have proved their worth!

My first steps in knifemaking were mainly guided by the blog of Roman Kislitsyn. Thanks to him for that! Of course I also self learned many thinks thanks to many other blogs and websites, such as Nordiska Knivar.

For many years I did not produce my own blades. Three years ago, I met Karel Janik, a knifemaker living and working not far from my home. He quickly became a friend, and agreed to teach me blacksmithing techniques. Today, we work together and he helps me with many projects. Because learning is never done!

Thanks to the web and social networks, I believe we all have many cross-influences, but I am bound to speak here about Pasi Jaakonaho knives. I saw his inspiring work on the web at the beginning of my interest in knifemaking. I said to myself “wow, I’d like to craft something like that !”. Of course, I have many favorite knifemakers. I can not mention all of them, but I confess that many are from Finland. I also want to say I love traditional Sami knives and crafts, especially Fredrik Prost  and Nils Johan Labba works. I admire the way they bring to life the ancestral culture of their people.

For my blades, I only use high carbon steel, actually 100Cr6 and 135Cr3. Both of these steel give a great edge. I mainly forge with charcoal. But I also use a gas forge for some heat treatments, particularly for big blades.

I prefer handles without any metal parts, and only built from natural materials as oiled wood, antlers and barks. For now I am committed to traditional materials as birch wood and reindeer antler. This is my way to convey the “spirit” of the North. So I try to pick up some materials during my periodic travels in Scandinavia, and I am pleased to know that the knife owner gets a little parts of these trips in its handle.
I am also in connection with a guy in Greenland who provides me with some musk ox horn from his hunts. That’s a great and precious material from the Arctic, and I try to highlight it in my knives. This material from Greenland has a particular significance for me, and I think it gives a personal touch to my puukko.

I try to develop my own style following traditional techniques, clearly inspired from Finnish “puukko” and “leuku”. I am also particularly interested in Sami knives and sheaths, because of their very efficient shape in the field. Most of the time, I shape a Sami style pommel on my handles.

For the rest, my idea about knives remains simple and clear lines. I let the raw hammer finish on the back of my blades. For handles, my actual main design is to combine antler or horn bolster with a bark ring and curly birch or burl. And I love raw natural materials without mechanical polishing, only satin hand finish.

I always try my best for meticulous finishes, because I think that is a way for a craftsman not to stop learning and progressing. But I never forget I want my knives ready for heavy use on the field.

Actually I share my time between knifemaking and archeology, but in 2020 I will try to work as a fulltime knifemaker. For many reasons, I have always dreamed to work and live from craftsmanship. The time has come to try. Sure it will be a great challenge, but also the right way to continue to learn new techniques and develop new designs.

You can follow this adventure on my website juhelknives.com, and also FaceBook and Instagram.”

1 My first knives 20 years ago

First knives made from flint, 20 years ago.

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Laurent Juhel

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68 Knives testing

Testing knives.

69 Leuku testing

67 My belt knife for hiking and fishing

“My belt knife for fishing.”

66 My knife in use

Some landscape photos from Laurent’s travels: 

Greenland

47 Greenland, humpback45 Greenland icecap43 Greenland49 Greenland, Disko island50 Greenland, Disko Bay51 Greenland, Disko Bay (2)48 Greenland, girls on the beach46 Greenlandic summer dog42 Greenland camp in the icefjord

Svalbard

34 Svalbard36 Svalbard (3)

37 Svalbard (4)

“Rifle for protection from polar bears.”

38 Svalbard (5)39 Svalbard (9)41 Svalbard (7)35 Svalbard (2)

Iceland

57 Iceland59 Iceland, Laki (2)54 Iceland, Westfords53 Iceland, Ejafjallajökull60 Iceland, Lakagigar56 Iceland, Westfords (3)

Norway

65 Norway64 Norway, looking for antlers63 Norway (3)62 Norway, wild reindeers61 Norway Family walk