Fredrik Prost: Saami Craftsman

In this post I would like to feature the superb craftsmanship of Fredrik Prost of Kiruna, Sweden. Fredrik makes traditional Saami knives and other objects. For more information or to contact him visit his website at http://www.fredrikprost.com/ .

Fredrik Prost:

“I became interested in knives as a small child when I saw the beautiful knives people had in their belts during hunting and reindeer herding. Both practical and beautiful seems to be a theme in our handicraft. When I was 14 I made a knife with the help of an old man in our village who was a knifemaker. The knife was really ugly (even I could see that) so I wanted to make another one and another one after that. I had just simple hand tools and worked in my father’s old shed. I am glad I had that start and still use some of the tools from back then.

One of my first influences was Per-Anders Hurri who was an old Saami handicraftsman from my village. He had the traditional knowledge of our handicraft traditions and was very glad to share his knowledge with me, I still admire his style and the feel of the knives and other objects he made. My grandfather’s brother, Niila Prost, is also a big inspiration to me. He was completely blind and still made knives, cups and all sorts of Saami handicraft with simple hand tools out in the wilderness.

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A knife made by Fredrik’s grandfather’s brother, Niila Prost alongside a knife Fredrik made as a tribute to him.

I went to the Saami school of traditional crafts in Jokkmokk which is in the north of Sweden. I applied on the encouragement of Per-Anders Hurri and he even wrote a personal recommendation letter for me. I went there for three years and at the school I learned from the best Saami handicrafters of all fields so it was really rewarding and the only proper school that has ever given me anything useful.

The art of forging damascus blades I learned from Roger Bergh who is a world renowned blade smith from Dalkarlså in Sweden. He was kind enough to take me in for a short period to show me the craft and his workshop. Damascus blades are not part of the Saami traditions but something that I wanted to try to introduce with my knives because it’s possible to continue the design with the blade.

My favourite knife is the Saami wooden knife which has a sheath made entirely from a bent piece of wood and covered with soft leather at the top. It is without doubt the best utility knife there is. It is my favourite for hunting, fishing and reindeer herding.

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The Saami wooden knife which has a sheath made entirely from a bent piece of wood and soft leather.

I like to use all natural materials. I use all sorts of wood I can collect myself from nature including reindeer and moose antler of course. So in that sense I am very traditional. We use the antler and the skin from the reindeer and moose too and wood from the forests of our ancestral lands. All the knives I make are traditional Saami knives but if I were to chose one it would be the wooden one which is most common amongst hunters and reindeer herders.

I try to be pretty free in my designs and never have a finished sketch or anything like that in advance, so I go a lot by feel. It is crucial for me though to still stay within the borders of the Saami traditions which can be a bit tricky. I can spot a “fake” Saami knife from miles away. Non Saami who make Saami style knives don’t have the cultural knowledge to make them properly so to us Saami those knives, however well done, are almost always a mish mash of a lot Saami patterns and design of things, I guess you could say that is what people who make “Nordic” knives mostly do.”

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Fredrik Prost

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Náhppi. A náhppi is a large cup used for milking reindeer. It is made of a single piece of birch wood with inlayed reindeer antler for decoration. Diameter about 250 mm.

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Čoarveroahkk. A buckle for our traditional clothes made from reindeer antler. The engravings are made with a small knife and then dyed with birch bark.

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Doassu. A small box made of moose antler. Top and bottom made from Birch Wood with inlayed reindeer antler.

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Nállogoahti. Needle case. A needle case for safe keeping of the needles and a traditional sami woo gift. The needle case is made of reindeer antler with silver rings as decoration. Length appx. 14 cm. without the leather strap. Photo: David Nutti
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Njiskkun. This is for weaving beautiful bands for the traditional Saami costume. It is made from reindeer antler and is a really big project for which you need first class materials. Length 34cm. Height 9cm.
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Making a damascus billet Photographs by Hans-Olof Utsi

A Visit To Finland

When my friend Federico Buldrini told me he was going to Finland to visit Pasi Hurttila I asked him if he would take some photos and write something for Nordiska Knivar. Here is his report. Thank you Federico and also to his brother, Fabrizio Buldrini for taking the photos.

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 We’re going to hike in the Hammastunturi wilderness area. This area, spreading within parts of the three provinces of Inari, Kittilä and Sodankylä, was declared protected in 1991, after having been for centuries a wintering ground for reindeers bred by Inari Sámi and having being the scene of one of Lapland’s gold rushes, in this case from 1868 until the 1920s, with a few gold diggers still present today.

Pasi parks the van, we take our backpacks, he puts Pyry on the leash, makes Kumu wear a radio collar with GPS and we hit the trail. Actually there are no trails in this part of the reserve, so we proceed in a straight line on peaty soil, dotted with moss and streams and surrounded by pine trees.

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Moist, clean air, cloudy sky. Kumu runs away and after a while we hear him barking and yelping. When we reach him, he’s frantically digging and biting into the ground, where we find the remains of a lemming. Kumu has a bloody lip: the rodent hasn’t reached Valhalla without a fight.

Bogs, mosses, lichens, streams, pines, birches.

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While we continue the ascent we reach a clearing. A rusty saw hanging on a branch, a plastic sheet on the ground, strainers, pans, blankets and thermal trunks scattered.        It’s a local gold digger that has made his camp here.

We skirt a small river, we continue to ascend, and after half an hour we find a good place to make camp in a small clearing, a few meters from the stream. We are on top of a fell and within a circle of pines.

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Feathersticks and the fire flares up.

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While we eat it starts to rain softly and the wind rises, but the softshell and the raincoat are more than enough; the rain also doesn’t last more than fifteen minutes. Again on the trail while the sky clears and the sun rays fall.

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After half an hour we reach the summit, and we dominate a solitary and majestic landscape, sprinkled with birch trees and glacial erratics, kissed by the grazing light of the approaching autumn.

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The temperature rises slightly as we begin the descent. Bogs, streams, birch and pine. We are now in a slightly marshy valley, surrounded by forest and tunturit.

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After a woad we walk again among the trees, but the soil is still peaty and kind of elastic.

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We continue to go down, each one absorbed in his own thoughts…

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and around 6 p.m. we reach the road and the Toyota parked nearby. While we are loading the van with backpacks, collars and so on, with perfect timing, it starts to rain again.

 

22/8/16

 As decided yesterday, today’s program includes a visit to the Sámi Siida in Inari and a second hike.

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Upon entering in the museum you are greeted by the ticket office and the gift shop: books, plush, silver jewelry, knives etc. We walk along a ramp and reach a room with a chronological table that tells the prehistory and history of the Sámi, next to known major events of the rest of the world.

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The main room is divided in two and the themes are addressed through large explanatory panels, artifacts and some simple dioramas. On the outside it explores clearly and in detail the geology, flora, fauna and climate of Lapland, also illustrating the variations in hours of light, temperature and landscape throughout the year. In the inner part it explains crafts, hunting and fishing – conducted separately and exclusively by distinct Siidas (or tribes) the different costumes between a geographical area and another, the transition from nomadic to sedentary life. All this is achieved in a simple but very accurate way and, above all, without ever falling into the false “touristic” romanticism that the topic could easily inspire.

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Outside there is the original museum, composed of both originals and reconstructed buildings, which tell the life changes after the resignation from the nomadic life. Houses, farms, a court, a food storage cabin lifted off the ground, which was also the first installment of the museum at the time of its foundation, in the 50s. A little afar there are also few medieval looking traps for fur animals.

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After the visit we go back to Pasi’s cottage, we take our backpacks and step into the woods. The weather is grayer and more thoughtful than yesterday. Again we walk on a path covered with sphagnum, moss and peat areas. The forest here is a bit more disordered than on the Hammastunturi and on a couple of points the march is hampered by fallen pine trunks. The terrain itself is frequently wavy.

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After about an hour and a half, we pass yet another ripple and arrive on the shores of Lake Saarijärvi. Long lake, with jagged shores covered with sphagnum and dotted with small islands in the distance, hence the name. Everything is wrapped in a light mist. Autumn is breathebly in the air.

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We collect a bit of wood, we light the fire and prepare some tea with strawberries, embraced by the sweet moist and silent air of the taiga.

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Shortly before leaving, while the fire is dying out, we pick up a beer bottle that is already colonized by mosses, a clear sign that it has been abandoned there for several months

We keep up the ascent and get over the ridge of a hill.

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Pasi plans to continue in the forest to the cottage, but shortly after Kumu starts to chase something, maybe a fox and ends on the road. We follow him, and when he makes the move to even chase a group of reindeers that roam the forest edge, Pasi calls him back and decides to stay on the road

We conclude the hike walking the last stretch on the road.

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Pasi Jaakonaho: Work In Progress

Pasi Jaakonaho is a puukkoseppämestari– a master smith, and teacher  in Inari in Northern Finland, whose fine traditional knives evoke the spirit of the north. He is a craftsman who also works in wood and antler and makes silver jewelry.  You can read his profile by visiting the index page and visit his website at    http://www.pasijaakonaho.fi/linkit.htm to see more of his work or to contact him.

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Mora Knife

By Federico Buldrini

Morakniv AB has its factory in Östnor, 6 km from the town of Mora, capital of its municipality, in the county of Dalarna, central Sweden. From Dalarna county comes one of the symbols of Sweden, the Dala horse, produced at least since the 17th century, but probably much older, while the massive production of knives in this region dates back to the 18th century, however following typical characteristics of the medieval brukskniv.

In 1891 Frost-Erik Ernström began producing knives to use in his timber sleds factory, but soon expanded production and ended up fully converting the factory to the production of cutting tools. Erik Frost AB was born. In 1912, after being thrown out, literally, from the Ernström factory, a young worker, Krang-Johan Eriksson, founded a competing factory with business partner Lok-Anders Mattsson. KJ Eriksson AB was born. Until 1956 the sheaths for all the manufacturers were crafted by the shoemaker Ström. He was also the first to experiment sheath making with the “Unica” vulcanized fiber, that would eventually replace leather.

Frost AB expansion allowed the birth of several other small companies, often founded by former workers. These small businesses frequently bought raw materials from Frost and then built their own knives. In the 60’s Frost and Eriksson, always remained the two largest companies, began to buy out almost all the other small firms unable to withstand the fierce competition to which they were subjected, thus ensuring themselves an almost complete monopoly. In 2005 Eriksson concluded the acquisition of Frost, a process that began with the sale of part of the shares owned by few members already in 1988. Mora of Sweden AB was born. During the settling period and the gradual shift of all the production in the Eriksson factory there was a noticeable decline in quality control. In 2016 Mora of Sweden changed the name to Morakniv AB.

The model that I review is the Classic Original 1, the first incarnation of the “Mora” knife as we know it today. Unlike the more popular, common and cheap models it has kept the main features of the brukskniv from which everything started: laminated blade and uncolored handle. The sheath is made of vulcanized fiber. There is also the “Exclusive” variant with a leather sheath. The red color of the handle was introduced in the 20s, in various shades, as an imitation of mahogany.

After the war, due to the shortage of leather, started the massive production of vulcanized fiber sheaths, which had already been slowly replacing the leather ones since the 20s. In the 50s it began on the other hand the increasing use of plastics for both handles and sheaths and this was, ultimately, one of the key factors that allowed Frost and Eriksson to take over the monopoly.   The laminated steel is currently used only in the Original Classic models and for the carving knives. I attempted to investigate the steel used, but the best I could get was a confirmation that the core is in O1 from Western Europe, surrounded by sides of a low-alloyed steel, produced by the same factory, containing less than 0.4% C so as not to interfere with O1 heat treatment. For writing convenience I will define it 1035.

Technical data

blade

length       99 mm

width       18 mm, thickness  2.5 mm

tang        2×3 mm at pommel

steel         O1 core, 1035 sides

bevels       flat edge 28°

hardness   ~ 59 HRC

handle

length         102 mm

width         24 mm max. thickness     19 mm max.

weight

knife           60 g, with sheath 80 g

Overview

The flat section blade is stamped from a laminated steel bar made of a O1 core, surrounded by 1035 sides. It is untapered both in height and thickness. The bevels are flat, with a 28° edge taken to zero. Out of the box it was shaving sharp. The tang is secured with a tubular rivet. The common birch handle is machine-made, then assembled and riveted by a worker, without the addition of epoxy. It is sanded with a medium grit and tapers in both directions. It fills well the hand, but is very slender and thin. It has a marked oval section and a good junction between blade and ferrule. The 1.5 mm thick vulcanized fiber sheath is sewn on the back as its leather cousins would be. It has a slotted leather strip, originally designed to carry the knife hanging from a special button, once present on work clothes. Now it can be exploited for neck carry. The sheath, unlike the plastic ones of the red handled Classic models, holds the knife well. In use The knife comes directly from the factory, but both the ferrule and the iron fixing the leather slot were rusted, so I cleaned them with steel wool.

The blade was shaving sharp, but the junction between the flat and the curve part of the edge wasn’t perfectly smooth and didn’t shave. Extremely light, it weighs with the sheath as the Basic 546 alone. The blade spine is rounded for better comfort when applying pressure with the thumb or fingers of the weak hand, depending from the cuts. The junction between bevels and cheeks is rounded as well to reduce friction during cuts.

During the elderberry spikkentroll carving it had good bite, for a flat section blade, but the wood curls were a bit less precise and tight than those possible with rhombic blades.

Since the edge has a really flat portion, rather than a slight continuous curve, I felt this as a drawback on biting potential. This, together with the knife little mass, make it suffer a little during roughing carving and stop cuts. At the end of the work the edge was pristine.

Later I carved a silver fir spatula. The first thing that struck me during the roughing cuts, far bigger than those necessary for a spikkentroll, was the feeling of smallness of the handle. Then I noticed a very quick tiring in my arm due to those minute proportions of the handle, no matter if I did push cuts with the knife or pulled the wood against the blade with my weak arm. The rounded spine was good enough for the thumb of the weak hand during refining push cuts, but it can still be a bit painful if much pressure is applied.

No problem in finishing cuts, where the knife transformed into a very agile and biting little thing. At the end of the work it was still shaving, but had lost some bite and gained two microchips on the flat portion of the edge.
Conclusions

Being accustomed to essentially using custom made rhombic puukkos I realize that I have a very high benchmark, so my judgment is to be taken considering my excessive pickiness, which doesn’t spare puukkos either.

To me the Mora Classic Original, as currently produced, has shown great potential for working both on green and seasoned wood. However, on seasoned wood, what it gains thanks to its geometry, it is largely lost due to the general lack of mass and, especially, the really small proportions of the handle.

The blade has a good combination of thin stock and not too acute bevels, which allow a good compromise of bite and resilience, actually slightly better than that of the #106 carving model.

The handle is the major flaw. Its proportions make it small even for those with medium-sized hands and are far too insufficient for roughing cuts on seasoned wood, even for a smallish project like a spatula. A handle with the same proportions of the aforementioned # 106 (108x29x22 mm), would make a totally different knife.

To sum it up, the knife has good performance on green wood, on very small projects on seasoned wood and is fair enough for basic bushcraft use, but pays way too much its handle proportions for anything that is more challenging.

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Christmas Photo Gallery

Merry Christmas, hyvää joulua from Nordiska Knivar!  

Roman Kislitsyn

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Jukka Hankala

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Martti Malinen

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Igor Barutkin

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Anssi Ruusuvori

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Joonas Kallioniemi

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Markku Parkkinen

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Mikko Inkeroinen

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Matti Luhtanen

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Eero Kovanen

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Saku Honkilahti

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Tero Kotavuopio

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Sami Länsipaltta

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Danijel Haramina 

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Hervé Hueber

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Tapio Syrjälä

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A photo from Tero Kotavuopio.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seishi Oizumi; Bush n’ Blade

Seishi Oizumi:

For a long time I thought I was the first one in my family to become a knife maker or any kind of professional crafter. Recently I have discovered that my great grand father on my mother’s side was blacksmith in Finland, so I do have maaseppä in my background and perhaps, that blood drew me in to this profession. However, I enjoy knife making very much and I am thinking about it 24-7.

I am interested in making things with my hands and have no fear of DIY so, I started as self-taught and that went on for quite a long time. I only started to become interested in getting a teacher when I realized that I wanted to do this professionally. It was also about the same time I was reaching the limit of being self-taught, especially in the area of traditional puukko making. Luckily, Mr. Taisto Kuortti was teaching traditional puukko making nearby, so I started to take his courses for his teaching.

Knife making tradition… I am not sure, but tradition of living with blades, YES.
Those of you who know me probably know that I am Japanese. Born in Japan and grew up in Japan. But not many know that I have a Finnish mother. I grew up hearing and seeing about Finland and its culture through her.
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When I was child I was naturally surrounded by Japanese bladed tools and a culture where the blade has special value and role. Raised with how to respect the blades, not just because it is an important tool or could be dangerous, but because it is a tool that has soul.
Well… it does sounds cheesy and too dramatic to say so, but that was how the elderly generation around me treated the blades and that is how Japanese blade smiths are creating blades.
As for the Finnish traditional blades, my first fixed knife was Finnish puukko. I was interested  how the knife was carried and used daily in Finnish old days. Hearing my Finnish grand father’s stories and so on, I remember fantasizing myself back there and carried around knife in my local woods to make use out of it even it actually did not needed.
My biggest source of  inspiration is traditional Japanese and Finnish crafts.
When I get inspiration, I try not to just copy the look, it is important for me to learn its back ground as much as I can. The history, the culture, how it is done, the tools used etc. and often that background gives me a much more wide range of inspiration.
IWG model for example
It was inspired by Japanese indigenous Ainu peoples’ knife. The original one is called Makiri. When I saw it, I started to think how to bring it in to Finnish style knife. As I researched, I started to see the similarity in saame style knife in its look, use and culture.
From that IWG leuku was borne. Since then I have been making different versions of this knife and the latest one in the picture received first place in modern puukko at SM puukko kisa this year.
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I am not much of fashion person, but think would be so cool to have a knife hanging that tells others who you are.  In city life, people dress up, wearing all kinds of accessories to make oneself unique. Decorate oneself how you want to look. So I started to make knives because I wanted the knife that does the needed job in the woods and does look nice.
If you think of knife as just a tool, then perhaps a wild looking straight out of the forge blade with what ever works on the handle does the job. (do not take this wrong way, I am not criticizing that. in fact, I love those style and I do make them as well) But if you look back at the history of knives, the user/maker has been decorating the tool blades in some way and it had some meaning to the user.
The bottom line is a knife is a tool and it must do the job. But at a same time, it is not just a tool to get the job done. It also should have meaning, culture, history, character… and I think that makes a knife interesting. If/when I manage to create a knife that says that to some one, then I could say I have accomplished something.
It is difficult for me to separate hobbies and work because in a way, my hobby/passion got out of hand and it became my profession. Other than knife making, I am also a wilderness and nature guide, so again not completely a hobby but I love spending time in the woods. Taking nature photos has been of interest and a hobby since I was child. One of my new areas of interest is birds. It is such a easily seen wild life yet easily missed if not paying attention.
Here are some of my works. Many are puukko based models but I think there is always some taste of Japanese in it. My good friend named my style “Scandiasian”. I think the name describes it well of my work and myself.
Please visit https://sites.google.com/site/bushnbladeshop/home for Seishi Oizumi’s Bush n’ Blade website.
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YP-Taonta Review by Federico Buldrini

YP-Taonta is a small company, founded by the old master Yrjö Puronvarsi, located just outside Härmä, a town 24 km south of Kauhava. Since 2006, the torch has been passed to his grandson, Antti Mäkinen, who continues the family tradition, keeping both his grandfather’s punch and style, while adding a few personal touches. Yrjö, however, continues to forge every day as a hobby, in spite of being 88 years old. Most of the production is focused on iron objects and on blade forging. See this post for more information on YP-Taonta:  yrjo-puronvarsi-blades-yp-taonta

 

Yrjö Puronvarsi and his grandson Antti Mäkinen at work at YP-Taonta

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Technical data

blade
length         106 mm
width           20 mm
thickness     4 mm at the spine; 5 mm where bevels start
tang             3×3 mm at the pommel
steel             C75
grind           concave
edge angle   21 °, tiny convex microbevel
hardness     ~ 60 HRC at the edge

handle
length         120 mm width           29 mm max. thickness     20 mm max.

weight
knife             100 g with sheath   150 g

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Overview

The blade is forged from C75, European equivalent to 1075. It was first roughed out with power hammer, then finished with hand held hammer. It has a rhombic section slightly tapered in height. After annealing and normalization it was heated on the forge, quenched in oil and tempered in an electric oven. It came shaving sharp. The common birch handle was machine roughed out and then finished on belt sander. It is sanded with a medium grit; it’s slightly tapered towards the blade in both height and thickness. It fills well the hand and has an oval section. The collar and brass rivets are made by Lauri Metalli Oy. The 2 mm thick leather sheath, is made by the Kari Rämäkkö factory, which also supplies several other Finnish companies that produce knives on a large scale. Machine sewed, it has a simple plastic liner inside. The belt loop is the usual twisted strip of leather. To improve retention a small leather strip was added in the inside of the mouth.

In use

When the knife arrived the first 3 mm of the blade’s heel were chipped out, forming a clear half moon shape. This probably happened when hammering the handle onto the blade. So I completely resharpened the puukko with DMT #600, #1200, #8000 and stropped with BRKT black and green compound. The steel proved quick to sharpen and the chip is now reduced.

Now a couple of tests to sum up my impressions.

Firstly I carved a small gnome, in the style of Norwegian spikkentrolls, from a seasoned maple twig. During the carving I felt some resistance from the wood when doing roughing power cuts: the concave bevels bite deep, but have little mass behind the edge to separate the fibers. While performing refining cuts, pulling the puukko towards myself, holding the blade there were no problem and I was able to get tiny curly spirals of wood.

At the end of the work all the edge was still shaving, though it had lost some bite.

After some time, so to avoid enhancing eventual fatigue and without touching up the blade, I carved a butter paddle from seasoned silver fir.

As for the gnome I felt some resistance during roughing push cuts. Also, I was gripping the knife very close to the blade and I had my nails clearly digging in the palm, due to the tapered handle.

During refining cuts, especially in the concave joint between the handle and paddle, the puukko was quite precise, though I felt like the point was slightly too big for the purpose.

At the end of the work I detected three minor rollings in the straight portion of the edge and only the last curved third was still enough sharp to shave hair.

Conclusions

It is not the most precise wood carver, due to its geometry and to the untapered tip, but fair enough for general use.

The handle of this particular model can be a little too slim when grasped near the blade, if working a lot with power cuts or for those with larger hands.

The steel is quite resilient and rolls rather than chip. It doesn’t have a ludricrously long edge holding, but sharpens quick and easy.

A good option for those interested in trying rhombic section puukkos, without going custom right away.

dsc02391

dsc02396

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