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.

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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.

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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

Paweł Michalski

My name is Paweł Michalski, I am a 34-year-old knifemaker from Poland.
Currently I live and make my knives in Koziebrody, a small village in the central part of Poland. Here I have my own workshop in which I spend most of my day.

I have been manufacturing knives since 2015, however knives as a tool for everyday use were in my life from the early years of my youth, when I always had a little folding knife in my pocket, a Polish production knife by Gerlach company.

Currently I am a full-time knifemaker, I run a business and I try to make a living making knives. Since the beginning of my activity as a knifemaker I made different types of knives inspired by the traditional knives of the different regions of the world.
However, knives in the Scandinavian style, and mainly Finnish puukko knives turned out to be what have fascinated me the most. I like to make traditional puukko, but considering that I’m not from Finland, and I’m just inspired by the style of this region of the world, I decided to look for my way, for my style in this field.

I have used many different materials on handles of my puukko: antlers, curly birch,
stabilized wood, birch bark, but also the G10 and Micarta. I use modern types of steel like for an example: D2, N690, Elmax. I make my blades mostly by the grinding method. Forging blades from high carbon steel is still in the future, and it requires adding a small forge.

One of my favorite ideas is to make a small puukko with a blade length of 70mm and 90mm handles as a kind of EDC, with scabbard to carry at the belt or at the neck, as a neck knife.This idea inspired my colleague who asked me to make a special puukko knife, to be small and maximally colored. That’s how my production of small EDC puukko neck started. I’m still trying to do more and more interesting knives, keep trying new ones, try not to close on one type of blade.

Not long ago at the request one of my clients, I started making big leuku, and also leuku and puukko in one double scabbard. Of course, I make all my scabbards as well by myself, in modern and the traditional style, always from best quality natural leather.

I publish all my works on many internet forums and social media, such as Facebook or Instagram. Every year I also exhibit at CEKE, the annual event bringing together all the knife makers from the Poland.

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Paweł Michalski

Janne Kilpinen

My name is Janne Kilpinen and I am a 34 year old knife maker from Finland. I live in a northern Ostrobothnia city called Oulu where I was born. I have a beautiful wife and we have two beautiful kids. We live in a detached house in a neighborhood called Jääli and I make all my knives here in my own garage that I turned into workshop. I like to make puukkos, hunting knives, kitchen knives and many kinds of leather products.

I have been making knives for 7 years and the last 3 years more and more on a professional scale. My biggest achievements are 1st place in kitchen knife series in Finnish championships 2019 and exhibiting twice at The Helsinki Knife Show.

Puukko has been a fascinating object to me since I was a little boy, maybe because there’s a little danger and also you can create things with it quite easily. I think I got my first puukko when I was 6 or 7 when I was in scouts. That puukko was made from carbon steel, curly birch and reindeer antler. I have always liked natural materials. I think that’s one of the most fascinating things in knife making, you never know what you will find inside those interesting wood blocks. Also I think that there’s not many hobbies where you need as many skills such as metalwork, woodwork, leatherwork, design, photography and many others. That’s why I think I will do this for the rest of my life.

I started knife making about 7 years ago when I asked my father to join me at a local puukko making course. Those courses became more and more interesting and I always looked forward to Mondays, class day, eagerly. There was a teacher named Jorma Heikkinen who made really nice hunting knives and he gave everybody the freedom to do what they wanted. To me it was fine because I like to do many kinds of things and not just one kind of traditional knife.

I went to the classes again and again and finally when I had been practicing for three years I started to get orders. That was when I started to think that this might be a part time profession for me someday. Three years ago I founded my own business called Kilpi Custom Knives & Leatherworks and since that day I have had orders of puukkos or other kind of knives or leather products. As I was sewing sheaths for puukkos I fell in love leather as a material. With leather you can make a lot of useful things that you need in everyday life. I’m making not just knives but also belts, wallets and things like that.

I like simple puukko and my favorite types are maasepänpuukko and kokemäenpuukko. I have to mention simple birch bark handle puukko because birch bark as a material is so nice. First when I started making knives I tried to add many kinds of material in the handles and tried to decorate sheaths in many ways but now I’m more into simple knives. In every kind of work you just need time and patience and I believe that the result will be fine if you just don’t hurry. My philosophy about puukko is just to keep it simple and enjoy it. I’m not that serious a person so the main thing in knife making and almost everything is that it should be fun.

Most of the knives I make are made from carbon steel but every now and then I make also stainless steel blades. I like to use all kind of natural materials like curly birch, birch bark, antlers and leather. Today its also possible to use stabilized wood blocks which maintain the look of natural wood but is much more durable than soft wood.

There’s lots of really talented knife makers in Finland but I have to mention one who I was influenced by when I joined knife making groups on Facebook and started to look what kind of knives others made. He has a simple and natural style and also is one of the nicest guys I know. He’s always helpful and he treats people with respect no matter how talented they are and where they come from even if they are not from South Ostrobhotnia 😉 This guy’s name is Saku Honkilahti.

Besides knife making and leather work I have some hobbies like playing guitar and singing and I also play ice hockey and floor ball just for fun and to stay in some kind of shape. Music is very important to me, I need music that I can relax with and make things at the same time. I like old style and rock music and many of my friends say that I’m mentally 70 years old what comes to music and interest in old times when everything was more simple.

Janne’s Facebook Page

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Janne Kilpinen Photo by Terhi Haapakoski

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Arto Liukko

When I first started this blog I was trying to learn about the different types of puukko and one of my favorites was the Rautalampi. I contacted Arto Liukko who is a puukkoseppämestari and master of this style of puukko. He wrote the history of the Rautalampi which is featured here: Rautalammi

Now I would like to present  a little background about Arto and show some of his beautiful work here for you to enjoy.

Arto has been engaged in crafts since childhood. Some of the toys he used as a boy were handmade by him, mostly with a knife. In 1986 his daughter, a music teacher asked about a blacksmith capable of crafting knives to cut and maintain oboe reeds. Once asked, Arto considered the possibility of making them himself, but before starting he asked blacksmith Leo Lappalainen to teach him the basics of forging and heat treatment. So started his knife making.

In 1989, while looking at a book about puukkos, he saw a photograph of a Rautalampi puukko crafted by Emil Hänninen and was bewitched. He then started to research other specimens, visiting museums and taking measurements of every preserved Rautalampi puukko. The puukko making flame was ignited.

In 1994 he participated with a Rautalampi in the Fiskars puukko competition and won the gold medal, creating a stir, for nobody was thinking the Rautalampi would be resurrected from the ashes. In 2009 he was one of the seven knifemakers to pass the exam to become puukkoseppämestari. (His son Jari, also featured on this blog followed in his father’s footsteps becoming a puukkoseppämestari in 2018.)

While initially he didn’t consider teaching, Arto now does occasionally tutor other makers. Two years ago he was the teacher in Rautalampi crafting for fellow bladesmiths Tapio Syrjälä, Mikko Inkeroinen, Eero Kovanen and Marko Lindelä. Untill retirement Arto has been the organist in Savonlinna’s minster and, when needed, also for smaller towns surrounding the city.

There is no particular puukko tradition in Savonlinna, but nevertheless Arto conceived and crafted the Linnapuukko, which cast pommel is fashioned as the Olavinlinna castle keep.

His other hobbies, shared with his son Jari, are hunting and fishing. In addition to this he also sings and is leader of a church choir. Until retirement Arto was the organist in Savonlinna’s minstery and when needed, also for smaller towns surrounding the city.

His intention for the future is to keep crafting puukkos as long as he is able to.

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The Linna puukko with a theme related to Olavinlinna: the top of the Olavinlinna castle tower as the top of the knife and the Linna’s ram and the rowan leaf and rowan flower in the ornament of the sheath.

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Another Linna puukko.

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In Iisakki Järvenpää style.

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Arto Liukko

 

 

Götz Breitenbücher – Götz Iron Works

Götz Breitenbücher:

“As far as I know I’m the first in my family to become a blacksmith. In 1991 I quit studying veterinary science to become a ferrier and started looking for a place to learn it, following the German apprentice system. An old ferrier told me: ‘Don’t do it: you`ll see four hooves for the rest of your life. Become a blacksmith first, then you can go for horses any time you want.’ That was indeed the best advice I’ve ever received.

During my three years of apprenticeship it turned out that I had talent for forging, so I started in Northern Germany with traditional forging; railings, stairs, roses – you name it. Then I also decided to teach myself blademaking. One day I attended a Viking re-enactment event and was hooked. Since then I mostly forge early medieval stuff. Mostly blades, but also tools and kitchenware etc.

I use a number of different steels, depending on the customer`s wishes and expectations. Tool steel like 2842 (K720 or O2), nickel/iron, sometimes meteorite. I do make a lot of steel myself and have come to like that best, even if it does not produce the same “showy” results, or perhaps because of that.

I do like to recycle steel and iron. We have here an abundance of absolutely lovely old steel (mining chisels, 18th century) and also “real” iron, often bloomery, from the 16th century which looks exactly like my own iron. Consequently I need to use a broad variety of heat treatments. I use a gas forge for that and, depending on the steel, oil or water. Anyway the old fashioned steels are generally water hardened.

I like to temper knives to a medium Rockwell hardness, about 57 HRC, unless more is required for particular uses, like kitchen blades that are usually around 60 HRC. I really prefer easy resharpening and advise customers not to fall for the harder-is-better trend. Needless to say, no stainless or damasteel in my forge!

I do have most authentic materials at hand, from bog oak to curly birch, ivory, antler, and so on – I’ve had about 25 years time to collect stuff. Lately, though, I like to focus as much as possible on the forging itself, providing blades to other craftsmen, rather than making knives myself.

My other interests and hobbies are silver smithing, fishing and, most important of all, sailing and beer brewing. Very important!”

Go to Gotz Iron Works website.

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Martti Malinen

Here are a few new pieces from one of my favorite smiths, Martti Malinen of who lives in Puumala, Finland in the middle of Lake Saimaa. While known for his very fine axes, he is a smith who makes  puukkos, tools and just about anything else anyone may need. Martti has been featured on this blog in the past, please see the Index Page and his website;  Martti Malinen

Martti Malinen:

“I like to keep the Finnish blacksmith tradition alive. It´s somehow important to offer services for locals if they need a blacksmiths help. That’s why I accept many kind of orders, not only knives and axes. I don’t want to fill the world with my knives but if the neighbor comes to me and asks me to forge the candle holder I make it gladly. My duty is to be the smith in the local community.”

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An earlier piece.

Martti’s damascus is made from 1070 and UHB15N20 steel.

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Martti Malinen