Osmo Borodulin Puukko Review

By Federico Buldrini

This puukko was crafted by Osmo Borodulin, a Finnish hobbyist knife maker from Kotka, a city on the Gulf of Finland, about 130 km east of Helsinki. He doesn’t forge his own blades, so I asked for one by master blacksmith Antti Kuikka  ( antinpaja.fi ) of Nuutajärvi, a small village about 100 km north of Turku.

A small note; the blade stamp is a black-throated loon and “kuikka” is, in fact, its Finnish common name.

blade:
length 95 mm
width 22 mm
thickness 4 mm at the spine
tang 6 x 3 mm at the pommel
steel DIN 56Si7
bevels hollow
edge angle 20,6 °
hardness ~ 58 HRC

handle:
length 110 mm
width 33 mm max.
thickness 25 mm max.

weight:
knife 100 g
with sheath 160 g

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Overview

The blade was forged, by power hammer and eccentric press, from a 56Si7 springsteel bar. This steel is similar to 5160, but has a higher silicon content, improving its strength.
The blade has a flat section, tapering in height, but not in thickness. After annealing and normalizing it was heated in the forge, quenched in oil and tempered in an electric oven. The bevels are ground virtually to zero.

The handle is made of birch bark discs compressed between two 3 mm bronze bolsters. It’s sanded to a fine grit. It’s a bit tapered in width, while the thickness decreases strongly, towards the blade, from about the center of the handle. It has an oval section, shifting into a slim elliptic one towards the blade, the transition following the same principle of the thickness. It’s coated with carnauba wax and polished. It fills the hand well.

The sheath is crafted from 2 mm thick leather, it’s hand stitched and holds the knife perfectly. The back of the seam is painted. It has a pine plywood liner. The wide belt loop is fixed with a big steel D-ring and the loop itself is closed by two steel rivets and glued. As always the D-ring is a good compromise in steadiness and free of movements.

In use

Out of the box the blade was shaving sharp, though not perfectly smooth and with a tiny microchip about 2 mm from the very tip. Stropping wasn’t enough to fix it, so I went with DMT #325, #600, #1200 then strop again. Oddly, I felt like the steel offered a bit more resistance than 80CrV2 at 62 HRC.

While carving a dry cornel troll, I felt a good bite in roughing cuts, with just a bit of struggling when cutting away the bundle of feathers created while thinning down the hat and while cutting end grains. The spine felt a bit sharp. All in all the cuts were always clean and polished. At the end of the work the edge was pristine, but the shaving bite was gone, though easily restored with black and green compound. The handle was always comfortable, quick and intuitive.

While carving the dry silver fir spatula the handle gave its best, allowing for a lot of force to be applied during all the roughing process. The blade, on the other hand, tended to slip while biting fibers with a fore hand grip, especially when working the sides of the spatula. Working using the thumb as a fulcrum and pulling the knife improved a lot the performances and again the big proportions of the handle allowed for a lot of control and force. No problems cutting end grain, while, again, the belly of the shaft was better carved pulling the puukko and using the thumb as fulcrum. I tried also some roughing with a chest lever grip, but the blade replied similarly as with a fore hand grip.
At the end of the roughing process the blade was starting to struggle, the bite was drastically dropped and I detected a roll at the center of the edge. Everything was fixed with black and green compound.
During all the finishing cuts the puukko was fast, effective and never really struggled. The blade only slipped a bit during the smoothing of the flats. The finishing and smoothing of the concave part of the shaft was particularly effortless and fluid, pulling the puukko. The spine was actually a bit too sharp for my tastes and few times was painful to thumb push against it. The handle, again, was very intuitive, very comfortable and easy to work with.
At the end of the carving I detected a new roll in the edge and the shaving bite was almost gone.

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Conclusions

I really liked the handle of this puukko. Its generally big proportions, paired with its drastic taper towards the blade make it both strong and fiddly, with a great easiness in shifting its character. A strong taper towards the blade can be somehow annoying, if the handle is generally slim, but in this case the index was allowed a lot of freedom, while the thicker part of the handle gave the hand greater support. Actually its rounder and bigger proportions make this puukko resemble in some ways an old Pekanpää puukko.
As said, the spine resulted painfully sharp when thumb pushing was needed, so I ended up sanding its corners slightly with #2000 sandpaper. Anyway the sharp edges can work as striker for a ferro rod, if someone prefers to keep them.
The steel reacted as I expected it to. Not really a great edge holding, but quite easy to resharpen and, given the very fine edge, also quite resilient. On green wood I got better performances, but that’s no surprise.

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Otto Kemppainen

I am pleased to present this post about Otto Kemppainen, the youngest puukkoseppä to be featured on Nordiska Knivar. Read his story and take a look at his work, I think you will be as impressed as I am. You can follow him on Facebook at KEMP KNIVES

Thank you Otto, keep up the good work!

Otto Kemppainen:

“I am an 18-year-old custom knife maker from South Karelia. I made my first sheath knife in 2012 at my school’s technical work lesson. The blade was bought in a store. Then in 2015 I forged my first blade and I haven’t used anything different since. I have always liked hiking, fishing, hunting and other outdoor hobbies. I think I have got my interest in knife making from my hobbies. Additionally, I have had great technical work teachers who have encouraged me in my knife making. I have also gotten great tips and support from older knife makers in my projects. Still, I am mainly a self-taught knife maker. You need many skills in knife making. The work’s diversity really impresses me. Metallurgy, woodwork, leather work and goldsmith’s skills have their own dimensions. The most fascinating things are metallurgy and goldsmith’s work in my opinion.

I’m currently the first knifemaker in the my family. My distant relatives in Hyrynsalmi had made Tommi puukkos during old times and I have made only one Tommi puukko. My brother is 13 years old and he made his first knife last year.

As said I am mainly self-taught. I have read many knife making books and texts about knives. Watching other makers work in person and in pictures can teach you a lot. It is important to understand aesthetic design and the best way to learn is just to make knives. My friend Tapio Syrjälä from Aura has given me the fantastic opportunity to make knives when he gave me his great belt grinder in spring 2016. I am really thankful to him for this support. Tapio´s grinder gives many new ways for grinding facets, which is really useful. I have sometimes visited Lappeenranta folk high school’s knife making soirees. The soiree is full of South Karelian knife makers. There you can hear the freshest knife making news in the area. Especially making old Kauhava sheath knives is very complicated. There are so many variables in the making process that careful familiarisation is really important. Jari and Arto Liukko from Savonlinna have helped me a lot with Kauhava sheath knives.

There is no regional model where I live. “Lemin puukko” is my own design for my home village. It is recognized for Lemi’s coat of arm decoration in the handle.

Someday I want to start my own company. I prefer the global market to the Finnish one. Additionally, I would like to win Finnish championship in Fiskars knife making competition and join the Finnish knifemakers’ guild. I will really work for my dreams.

I have always been an avid walker in the wild. There are not many hobbies in a secluded small village. My bushcraft hobby gave me my interest for knives. Especially hammock hiking, hunting and fishing are the best hobbies that I know in the wild. I have made handcrafts my whole life. Wood carving and other crafts were really important to me before I went to school. In the knife making I am most fascinated by metallurgy and decoration methods. In the case of metallurgy, Damascus steels and stainless steel are particularly fascinating. I have built a heat treating oven to temper these steels. It is interesting to learn how to decorate a knife in different techniques. Sami carvings and sorkoupotus I have already tested, but I would like to develop my expertise in metal engraving and scrimshaw technique.”

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Otto Kemppainen

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Otto and his Finnish Spitz “Nekku”.

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Juhana Salonen

Juhana Salonen:

“I became interested in knife making, more precisely in making puukkos, about eight years ago, when I worked with sharpening different tools that are needed in the paper industry. I also heard that one of my co-workers had made some puukkos. At the time I didn’t have any idea how to make a puukko, but I became so interested that I decided to find out. How to find information nowadays? Go to Google. So I looked up knife making instructions from Google. it provided me with all the information I needed, and even more.

With this knowledge I started to make my first puukko. It was clear to me from the very beginning that I would make the blade myself too, otherwise it would not be a self-made puukko. So I started from the blade making. My first puukko isn’t really a beauty but it gave me the spark for knife making. I always try to make the next puukko or knife better than the one before. “Työtekijäänsäopettaa”, old Finnish proverb means that the work that is done teaches it’s doer. It is very true when it comes to knife making. During these eight years I’ve made quite a few puukkos and also some hunting knives and Japanese-style chef’s knives. All the time you can learn something new and make better knives.

I prefer traditional materials and styles in puukko making, but also like to try something fresh now and then, and I don’t want to stick to just one model. In blades I usually use 80CrV2 tool steel. For handles I use different types of wood, for example birch, curly birch, birch burl, willow root… Maybe my own favourite is handle made of birch bark, because you get a good grip of it and it is smooth to handle. In a birch bark handle you can also make wire inlays or decoration (sorkoupotus in Finnish.) For bolsters I might use brass, nickel silver, bronze or perhaps reindeer or water buffalo antler. My sheaths are made of vegetable tanned leather.

After some years at this hobby I decided to go to a local puukko-making course. This gave me new tips in knife making and also a precious opportunity to use some machines I didn’t have at home (yet…) I have received much good advice from some friends who have the same interest in puukko-making. The Finnish Facebook group puukko|areena has also given me much information.

In my family there are no other puukko makers at the moment. My grandfather (mother’s father) has made puukkos in the past. Knife making is a dear hobby to me, but who knows if one day I could make my living out of it? My other hobbies are motorcycling, skiing and of course trekking and wandering in nature. As a man’s time is limited sometimes you need to choose between these interests. The love for nature links perhaps the closest to puukko making, as the puukko is a traditional tool useful in many tasks when spending time in the wilderness.”

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Juhana Salonen

 

Finnish Military Knives/Centennial Observance

In conjunction with and in observance of Finland’s 100th Anniversary of Independence on December 6, 2017 I want to present some Finnish military knives in honor of all Finns who have fought and served.

I contacted Pekka Tuominen about this and he was very helpful as usual and sent the photos and information for this post. Thank you once again Pekka!

Pekka Tuominen:

“Here are some official Finnish military knives from 1919 to the early 1960’s. There are maybe some more, but it must be very small batch. In Finland we have a tradition that every man buys a knife (mostly puukko-knife) when he goes into military service. We have a conscript service, and about 80% of young men (and voluntary women) do their 6-12 months conscript service. That’s why there is such a small number of official military knives in the independent Finland military history.”

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Civil Guard puukko-knife m/27 Official dress knife for the Finnish Civil Guard (1918-1944). m/27 is designed in 1927 and it became official in 1928. Made by Hackman.  Long blade with full length ‘blood groove’. Curly birch handle. Leather sheath with blue or green porte-epee. Very rare knife.

 

A2 Dress knives

Dress knives became an official part of the military dress in 1919. Design comes from Imperial Germany. In Finland those knives were made by Hackman and Fiskars in early 1920’s. Also Finnish military ordered similar knives from Germany, mostly from Solingen area. In Finnish some call dress knives by the name ‘puukkopistin’ (puukko-bayonet). This name is funny, because that knife is not either a puukko or a bayonet. In the photo from right to left Hackman made dress knife with file work in the handle and leather porte-epee, and another Hackman made dress knife with plain handle. Far left is German made dress knife. All knives come with steel sheath, like in the photo. There are also super ultra rare officer’s version of that knife, blade is longer and the longer sheath comes with 2 rings for sword hangers. (Hackman made knives are from Mr. Heikki Stark’s Collection.)

 

lineman knives

Official Finnish military lineman’s knives from 1920-30’s. From RIGHT two Fiskars made lineman’s knives, full tang blades, sheep foot grind, Ebony handles and leather sheaths. Both marked ‘Suomen Armeija’ (Finnish military) Far LEFT sheep foot bladed lineman’s knives with typical 1920-30 puukko-knife handle with SA (Finnish Military) stamp, unknown maker.

 

orijärvi puukkos

Orijärvi puukko-knives
From RIGHT to LEFT Fiskars made puukko-knife for the first Finnish UN company, in Suez-Sinai 1956-57. Classic, Fiskars Orijärvi model puukko knife, with SA stamp, in the handle and sheath. On the left is WWII Fiskars made Orijärvi with unusual sheath with SA stamp, maybe from pioneer’s or the demolition man’s bags.

 

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Deep sea diver knife, originally from UK, made by Siebe Gorman. Purchased for the Finnish Navy after WWII. Bakelite handle, brass sheath originally comes with a leather belt loop.

 

A 4pilot survival knife

Pilot Survival knife. Iisakki Järvenpää co. made jet pilot survival knife from 1962. Red painted handle with carbon steel blade SA marked. Sheath is so-called ‘boot’ style. Knife has been a part of a pilot’s survival package. In Finland it appears in one book with a wrong name ‘laskuvarjojaakarin puukko’ (airborne jaeger’s puukko-knife), it has never been airborne jaeger’s equipment. It’s easy see influence from Swedish Mora area knives in this knife.

 

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Detonation material knife. One peculiar WWII knife is the unmagnetic detonation material knife. Brass blade and birch bark handle. Unknown maker, maybe made by Finnish military.

Below are two special tribute knives made by Pekka. I have always admired these puukkos and the presentation Pekka has given them in these photos:

Pekka Winter War

“Two puukkos of typical 1920-30’s puukko design tribute knives for Finnish WWII veterans. In this photo is my grandfather Lauri Tuominen’s Winter War medal with SUMMA badge. Summa is one battlefield in Karelian Isthmus 1939-1940
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karelian_Isthmus
There is also Lauri’s certificate for that medal and original cockade (blue and white rondel) and his military service book.”

Pekka 2

“A similar puukko knife with some old photos. In the lower photo both my grandfathers are in the same picture (but they did not know each other at that time) in East Karelia about 1942-43. And upper photo my grandfather Lauri cleans his rifle in his conscript service time early 1930’s. I think photo is from Viipuri (Vyborg).”

 

Celebrating the Centennial of Finland’s Declaration of Independence

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On December 6, 1917 Finland declared itself an independent republic, rejecting its status as an autonomous Grand Duchy of Russia, which it had been since 1809.

Osmo Borodulin

“Living in Finland, The Land of the Puukko it’s very natural to make a puukko at school but I never did. So it was my turn to try my first puukko knife back in January 2010 without any reason but curiosity. I learned all the information for my first puukko project on the internet. I have never been to any puukko making courses, later I learned some tricks from fellow knife makers and took their advice. Thanks to my wife and her nice feedback I made another one and so on.

My approach to knife making is a bit different. I have never done blade blanks nor black smithing work. All the knife blades in my work comes from professional blade makers like Roselli, Puronvarsi, Laurin Metalli (Lauri blades) and many others. I have also customized some knives like Fällkniven, Mora etc. by mounting the blade on a new handle and making a sheath for it. With my knife works I can show that not everybody has to have his own forge but you can use retailer blanks.
Then I started making YouTube videos about puukko making. It took two years until I made my first puukko making video for YouTube on my channel thetopicala. Don’t ask what this nick name means. I should have been more careful with it. Very odd and difficult name to advertise it. Since then I have made close to 300 YouTube videos basically on knife or sheath making. I have got another channel too where I have recorded other types of videos, finnvagabond.

Puukko making is a hobby for me. I’ve had my daily job for almost 30 years and this is good change for me. I have made my best studies in knife making by searching other knife makers and their works using Google and pictures, visiting other knife maker’s sites was a really good lesson. I’m a good listener and if someone says his opinion I try to consider that. The best teacher is the feeling, how does it feel to in your hand. Also I like to collect different handle materials from all over the world. If it’s colorful or exciting wood grain, I’m interested!

In Finland we are lucky to have domestic wood species like the birch and especially curly birch. I have made many knives from that material. Even if it was not stabilized it tolerates the harsh environment during the winter and endures a lifetime if you treat it from time to time. We all have our favorite oils and treatments for the wood and there is not one and only option for a wooden knife handle. The structure of curly birch is very burlish. The grain is very vivid and it does not split like normal wood. It’s almost impossible to cut with an ax. Due to this structure it is a very strong handle material, light but strong.

Making a leather sheath was a great challenge for a long time. Making stitches and using leather was totally new to me. In my case it takes even more time to make a sheath than the knife. There are so many working stages in it. That is why I have great respect for good looking sheaths and leather work.

Social media. I must thank this social media for being known at all among puukko enthusiasts. It spreads the awareness of me as knife maker very effectively and makes the connections easy and fast. There have been numerous times I have been discussing a knife with the purchaser in messenger while I’m making his knife. I think I would have made only couple of knives if there was no social media serving us. I have made contacts all over the world and made some cool journeys in Europe and met great guys. I have spent some nice time among Swiss, German, and Austrian friends and held puukko and leather sheath making courses in the German forest for great a audience a couple of times. How does this sound!

Hunting knife, Lapland knife, leuku, saami style knife, whittling knife, fish fillet knife, mushroom knife, fultang knife, hidden tang knife, rat tail tang knife, you name it and I have tried to make it. The puukko I sent to Federico at Nordiska Knivar is a traditional rat tail tang knife out of birch bark. I collected the birch bark for it myself. I bought two birch trees, the bark for the knife handles and the rest of it for our stove for winter evenings.

Finally I want to thank friends Tommi Makela, Saku Honkilahti, Kari Loippo of Roselli and Tapio Syrjala and many others for the great moments among knife makers.”

Osmo
www.thetopicala.fi 

Osmo Borodulin

 

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Jussi Kallio/Anniversary Puukko

I am interested in posting puukko that have been made to observe the 100th anniversary of Finnish independence which is December 6, 2017. The first one I’ve seen is by Jussi Kallio.  Jussi has been making knives since 2012 when he took a course at an adult education center in Lapua, where he lives.

If anyone has any anniversary knives, even of earlier anniversaries let me know and I will post them before December 6. Contact information is on the Index Page.

Jussi Kallio:

“Arja Gräsbeck taught me the basics of knife making. He was a really good and motivating teacher. The blade making I have learned myself. The Facebook page, Puukko Areena has been a lot of help to figure out how to make blades. Thanks to all those who have guided me.

I try to make a knife for what I like, what pleases my eye. I like to use good steel blades. On the handle I like to use my imagination. I use rubber, brass, plastic, birch bark, birch wool, acrylic and many other materials. I try everything new and different. I even use some recycled materials in the handle of the knives.”

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“My favorite knife, it has a hockey puck handle. The handle is blue and black, on the side of the handle is a silver lion. The blade is made of 80crv2 steel.”

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Some more of Jussi’s knives:

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Jussi Kallio

 

Tommi Mäkelä

Tommi Mäkelä:

“When I was young I had zero interest in anything that had to do with crafting by hands – I was more interested in working with computers.

After the military service I worked 6 years a salesman at a computer store and then moved to be a project manager for almost 7 years. In 2014 I moved to Kauhava and went to work for my father-in-law at Laurin Metalli. Laurin Metalli is a company turning 100 years old next year, specialized in making products for the puukko industry, supplying puukko makers ranging from one man shops to big ones with several, even tens of thousands of knives made per year. We at Laurin Metalli make somewhere between 150 000 to 200 000 knife blades per year and on top of that everything else related to puukkos; ferrules, bolsters, plastic liners. In the last few years we have been very fortunate to get to work with the company Varusteleka and being the co-designer and manufacturer for their highly successful Skrama and Jääkäripuukko.

I started working in June 2014 and I think it was September when I first got really interested on using the stuff that I work daily with. And thus my journey making puukkos began.

I am fortunate that the Kauhava area is filled with puukko makers and when I was starting, I got a lot of help from them, namely Harri Merimaa of Woodsknife. I had the blades and other parts, but as we don’t work with wood, I had to turn to the makers and to get my journey started. I started putting puukkos together using premilled handle pieces and experimenting with different blades from our product range. It didn’t take me long to go online and start buying different types of materials from one of our retailers, Brisa. At first I made just puukko after puukko without any sheaths, but soon got interested in completing the job with them. All of the puukko makers here use the industrial way of making sheaths, cutting certain patterns from leather and sewing them with a sewing machine and then hammering in the lesta and the puukko. Obviously, this wasn’t the method I was interested in.

I believe starting to get to sewing sheaths, especially the traditional ones with a back seam, I stumbled across an article on the web written by Saku Honkilahti (who actually has since then became one of my best friends, both in the puukko world and off it). I didn’t make the lestas from wood by hand up until much later (summer of 2016) but used our company’s range of plastic liners instead. Also the YouTube videos from (nowadays another very good friend of mine),  Osmo Borodulin / thetopicala were a huge influence to me. I studied the techniques Osmo used and really admired his work.

 I browsed the internet for a lot of different knife and puukko types and tried to take something out of each one and combine them to my work in my own way. But the most influential makers for me are definitely Saku and Osmo.

 I am 95% self taught, never been to any puukko making courses or other trainings, but searched for information on YouTube the internet. A lot of the basics I picked up from the makers around the Kauhava area.

 I don’t generally have a favorite type of puukko. I like to do a little bit of everything. As much as I like the traditional barrel/teardrop shape of a puukko handle, I enjoy making bigger hunting knives and leukus.

 As widely known, I use 95% of our company blades in my puukkos, but sometimes I buy a blade or two from Saku Honkilahti and create something different with those. It’s refreshing to work with a whole different type of blade. I have made a few blades myself from stock, but I prefer to slightly modify our existing blade range – making a little different changes to the shapes and altering the geometry of the blades a bit here and there.

 For the handles I use everything. From basic natural curly birch to acrylic. Some people have called me a rebel in the puukko scene, since I like to for example make unna niibas saami style influenced puukkos completely out of plastic materials, acrylic and corian. Probably my favorite handle material is stabilized wood, it looks awesome and is really easy to maintain. I usually put my handles together using multiple pieces, whether it is a combination of different materials or just a stack of metal spacers. Very seldom I have a basic bolster-handle-bolster build.

My sheaths are 1.8mm thick vegetable tanned leather, which I dye to my liking. Lestas are carved out of wood. Lately I have been making more and more sheaths with the bottom part exposed, made from curly birch in most cases. But I do use Corian in the bottom parts sometimes as well

My philosophy is ”Make it usable”. No matter what crazy materials I make puukkos of or use unorthodox shapes, I always keep in mind that the puukko must be usable. Doesn’t matter if it is a ”mini” version for 3 fingers made from acrylic or a 220mm huge knife with a walrus head on top, you can still use them – so they are not merely decorations.

When I am not working or making puukkos, I spend my time with music, movies/tv series or disc golf. I have been playing the guitar for 15 years and do a lot of home recording just for fun.”

Tommi Mäkelä

Tommi Mäkelä

 

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