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.

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Lauri Karjunen

My name is Lauri Karjunen. I’m 34 years old and I’m from Joensuu, in North Karelia region. Today I live in Hamina, a city in Kymenlaakso region, with my wife and son. I work in the Finnish coast guard, so I’m not really a professional bladesmith.

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Lauri Karjunen

On my father’s side, my great-uncle was a professional blacksmith in village Ii, about 35km north of Oulu. I believe he has been the only professional smith in the “close history” of my family.

On the other hand, the old puukkos shown below were made very close to my mother’s homeplace, near Koli, a village in North Karelia, by my grand mother’s cousin’s husband’s father.

I have always been interested in Puukkos. My first memories about them is at a very young age when I was learning whittling with my dad. The puukko has always been part of my hobbies, hunting, fishing and so on. My first puukos were Marttiini and Iisakki Järvenpää factory made ones and they worked well enough. It was 2008 when I decided to order my first custom puukko from bladesmith Mikko Inkeroinen, a Tommi. It was and still is a very good utility puukko, but I was very impressed also of how beautiful it was. Materials, lines and sheath were totally different compared to my older puukkos. I remember that I was thinking how great would have been to have that kind of craftsman skills. I would say that I am half selftaught, but I’ve been lucky enough not to learn everything the hard way. In the beginning there have been few older guys who taught me some basic techniques for forging and heat treatments. If I have to name one, it would be bladesmith Tapani Eskola. But learning takes a lot of time and plenty of repeats to get good results. Internet is also very helpful in these days.

My favorite puukko model is the Tommi puukko. I like to use the same kind of lines in my works too. Rautalamminpuukko is the most beautiful and Kokemäenpuukko is the most fun to make. Sami knives are also something I would like to learn more about.

I get my inspiration from nature and my other hobbies. If I wouldn´t hunt or be interested in the outdoors, I would never have started knife making: I see that these activities are strongly linked to each other. If I would make knies for money, I think I couldn’t enjoy it in the same way. I don´t have any special goal as a knife maker, I just want to improve my skills as a bladesmith. There is a lot of techniques that I would like to learn. Maybe in the future I will do also some different styles of knives.

In Kymenlaakso region where I live there isn’t a particular historical puukko model which is widely known, but at the present time puukko culture is strong and there are lots of hobbyist makers here.

There isn’t any particular known puukko model also in Northern Karelia region where I am from; if I have to name a model as Northern Karelia “maakuntapuukko”, it would be “Karjalan kaiku” puukko from Ilomantsi. It was originally made by Lauri Huurre in -50 (not sure about that year). After him, his son Mauri continued making this model. They are now both passed away but Urpo Parviainen has kept making that model in Ilomantsi.

My other hobbies are, as I earlier mentioned, hunting and generally the outdoors. Being in the forest or near a bog in an autumn morning is absolutely one of my favorite things. Easily better than knife making.

Right now most of my spare time is spent at our home or cabin with my wife and 6 month old son.

Visit Lauri’s website at https://laurikarjunen.com/

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Lauri’s new work shop.

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The shop for forging rough grinding and heat treating.

 

 

Juha Nikki: Recent Work

Juha Nikki – Recent Work

Mike has generously prompted and prodded me for an update on what I’ve been working on recently, so here goes. The knives below have been made in the last couple of years. As you can probably work out, I only make a handful of knives a year.

The latest development for me is that I’ve moved down from Northern Finland –  Lapland – to the South. Whilst here, I’ve been taught to forge my own blades – something that was a surprisingly easy skill to pick up under good tutorship. Which is not to say I’m suddenly an expert smith or even a smith at all, far from it. I don’t think that I’ll make a habit of forging my own blades. I’ll leave that to the smiths who enjoy it – forging was fun, but I like the other aspects of knife making more. There are plenty of good smiths in Finland I can buy blades from. A lot of them will sell blades despite the fact that we have this weird perception here, where everyone who can forge should apparently make the whole puukko themselves and those who can’t (won’t) should stick to knitting. I don’t quite see the reasoning behind it, but people are entitled to their opinions. I might just knit my next puukko handle…

The little knife above is one which I made years ago for my personal workshop knife – it took about 30 minutes to put a handle to and finish. The blade it by a smith in Wales, called Nic Westermann, and it is a little miracle. If memory recalls, it’s about 2 mm thick and 50 mm long. It’s a laminated blade, with a hard core and flexible cheeks. It was as sharp as a razor, very easy to sharpen and kept it’s edge well. It was so good, I regret that it left my workshop… A reindeer herder in Lapland saw it and decided it would be ideal for ear marking reindeer, to I spruced the knife up a bit and made a sheath and regrettably sold it.

The puukko above is in a kind of Sami style and has a blade by Jukka Hankala – I was very lucky to get it through a contact in France, no less… The timber is birch burl from my (ex) local Lappish forest and there is reindeer antler in the knife and sheath, too. The joints in the handle are spaced with vulcanized fiber. I like to file grooves in the joints between different natural materials, as they are bound to expand and contract in different ways as time goes by. The groove will hopefully prevent any obvious notches or steps appearing at those joints. It’s a small job to do and easy to skip, but i like to think details matter. A matter of personal taste, of course – in other places I like rustic finishes.

This knife has a Damasteel blade by Ralph Etzold. The puukko was shipped to Hawaii, which is why the sheath has in its decorations the leaf of both the Hawaiian and Finnish national trees. The handle is stabilized timber and the sheath is of stitchless variety, as most of mine are these days.

 This one was an excercise in design, as the brief from the customer was to make something unusual. The blade is a special commission from Joonas Kallioniemi (again, I was lucky to get such a good and rare blade). The handle is reindeer antler and double dyed Arctic birch burl.

 A skinner knife with a Polar stainless steel blade. Tried a bit of more accurate dyeing on the sheath and made an insert of reindeer antler, which is visible through the holes in the sheath.

A puukko with YP Taonta (Puronvarsi / Antti Mäkinen) blade. A stabilized alder handle, with stabilized materials I usually don’t file grooves to the joints as the material is, well… stable!

YP Taonta blade, ash burl and reindeer antler handle – this time with a groove on the vulcanized fibre spacer. Another stitchless sheath.

A stainless blade by Ralph Etzold, reindeer bolster. The timber is highly figured Arctic birch double dyed. Stitchless sheath.

This blue puukko is a very special one for a good friend. There are several connections to Lapland. It has a Damasteel blade made in Lapland by Ralph Etzold. The handle has a real gold nugget panned from a Lappish river, and the sheath has an Amethyst dug with my own hands from a mine in Lapland.

 Above a couple of photos from my first forging session on a knife making course.

And finally, above is the first complete knife with a blade forged by myself. The metal parts still need polishing, but it’s more or less there.

Note: Please see the Index page for other articles by Juha Nikki, including how to make a stitchless sheath.

Teuvo Sorvari: Vöyrin Puukko

This post is focused on the work of Teuvo Sorvari and the historical puukkos he creates especially the Vöyrin puukko. When I first became interested in puukko I saw his Vöyri knives and thought they were the most beautiful and exotic puukkos of all. There is not much information available on this style of puukko so I am especially pleased to be able to feature them here, along with the Inarin and Renfors style of puukko . My special thanks to Juha Nikki for this article and to Teuvo Sorvari for allowing us access to his work.

Teuvo Sorvari by Juha Nikki

Teuvo Sorvari is a knifesmith working in the town of Kaarina, Finland, just outside the former capital Turku. He started knife making in earnest in 1998, making a knife using a blade by Eetu Heikkinen. He has since used only his own blades and won several accolades for his precise work. He is one of the very few modern makers of Vöyrin puukko – in fact it’s difficult to find any other recent Vöyrin puukkos. Teuvo’s work is not confined to that particular style, however. He has made a range of different types of knives from traditional Finnish puukko to bowie knives, fulltangs and liner lock folders – even some types of knife that are entirely unique in their construction.

While Teuvo prefers making completely unique knives, at the time of the interview he was beginning the process of making a slightly larger batch of knives. When asked what his “mission” as a knifesmith is, his reaction to the grand word is initially amusement, but after a brief pause he replies: “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly”.

Teuvo has a history of being an active member of Suomen Puukkoseura (the Finnish Knife Society), including a period as the editor of the society’s quarterly magazine Puukkoposti from 2003-2009. He’s been involved with arranging the Fiskars puukko events with its Finnish puukko making championships and been on the panel of judges there. The Helsinki Knife Show also benefits from his experience and work. He has also run community school knife courses for a number of years and continues to do so.

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Teuvo Sorvari, Finnish Knifesmith of the Year 2012 – photo by Jukka Hankala taken the same year.

Going further back to history, Teuvo’s father was a metal worker and welder, also producing some sculptural pieces of art. He also made a small axe, which Teuvo got when he was four years old. He got his first knife when he was five.

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Teuvo’s first axe, made by his father.

Teuvo’s professional background is also in metalwork and making highly specialized unique machinery for various industries, laboratories and scientific outfits. He is mostly self taught in knife making apart from taking on a course for “sorkoupotus” (the art of embedding metal decorations to birch bark handles) and a blacksmithing course, on which he concentrated on making damascus billets.

He makes his own blades, knives and sheaths in his well-equipped workshop, and goes even further than that by manufacturing some of his tools himself. Notably, he produces his own gas-fired forge, which I believe is also available for purchase. He has a hydraulic press he’s modified from a log splitter, complete with heated “jaws”. This he uses for e.g. making damascus. His workshop, which is used for his business as well as the knife work, has been in the same place since 1990. It has a wealth of gear with areas for the office, woodworking, metalwork and leatherwork.

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Metal working area of the workshop.

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Another part of the extensive workshop.

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The workshop is used for both business and knife making.

 

As his hobbies Teuvo names photography, nature, fishing, hunting and woodworking. Occasionally he makes items of jewellery, too. The ceremonial livery collar awarded to the Knifesmith of the Year by Suomen Puukkoseura is his handiwork.

Teuvo is a reader of this Nordiska Knivar blog and has visited the site a few times, albeit not regularly. Mike, the blog owner, has tried to get him to feature through a couple of channels. I hope Mike’s curiosity towards obscure Finnish puukko styles will be satisfied at least a tiny bit after this feature. On that note, a few words about the Vöyrin puukko, which for many is closely associated with Teuvo Sorvari.

VÖYRIN PUUKKO

“Vöyrin puukko” translated to English is “the knife from Vöyri”. Vöyri is a mostly Swedish speaking small town or municipality in the Ostrobothnia region of Finland, just North of the city of Vaasa. Vöyri has a history of interesting archaeology and is the site of one of Finland’s earliest iron foundries from 1703.

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Vöyrin puukko featured in Puukkoposti magazine. (Photo by JN)

Teuvo kindly gave me a copy of the Puukkoposti magazine from 2003 which has an excellent two page story about Vöyrin puukko. It is written by knife historian Pentti Turunen, who had delved deep into the history of Vöyrin puukko (as well as numerous other puukkos) and may well have been the foremost expert on these knives. He has sadly already passed away. The article is obviously in Finnish, but I’ll try to convey some salient points here, coupled with some bits of information from the Finnish Wikipedia entry for Vöyrin puukko. As you have to take Wikipedia with a pinch of salt, I’ll try to stick to what seem like verifiable facts.

  • The amount of surviving historical Vöyrin puukko is only some dozens (Turunen estimates about 40 pieces in 2003). A lot of the survivors are showing their age and have various blemishes and even bits missing.
  • The origins of the knife style are obscured by time, but there are theories of it having a Germanic root through Hansa trade, as Vöyri is a coastal Baltic (trading) town. Finnish domestic, Swedish or European origins have also been mooted. Folk historian Sakari Pälsi reckoned the unique style of the symmetrical sheath was based on the Finnish nobility’s dagger sheaths. Turunen’s conclusion is that whatever the influences, it was the local Vöyri people who developed the sheath style to its final form.
  • Wikipedia mentions the year 1750 as a possible date for the first Vöyrin puukko, but reminds us that puukkos have been made in Vöyri well before that.
  • Turunen quotes the Lundberg family as a prominent maker of the decorative versions (dress knife) of Vöyrin puukko. It is possible they were the only historical Vöyri dress knife makers. The simpler everyday (user knife) versions have been by various others, notably the blacksmith Konsta Kruut from Alahärmä.
  • The Lundbergs made Vöyrin puukkos between 1750-1880 in three generations, by the end of it there were four brothers involved, according to Turunen’s information.
  • All Vöyrin puukkos have a straight handle. They can be either single knives or a double knife versions, where two knives are housed in the same sheath. The odd treble version of an everyday knife has also been made.
  • In the modern day, the term “Vöyrin puukko” usually refers to the decorative version of the knife.
  • Most handles are brass from top to bottom, but some also show a little timber in the middle section. There are solid brass handles, as well as those with a wooden core covered with brass plating.
  • The handle decorations often include a criss-cross pattern and a wavy snaking line around the (top of the) handle.
  • Turunen quotes Vöyrin puukko as the oldest Finnish knife style that has been manufactured in a reasonably large scale. Wikipedia also mentions it as “the first distinguishable puukko type of our modern time” – which can obviously be contested.
  • There are also asymmetrical sheaths, which is to say that the rounded bottom part of the sheath is semi-circular instead of circular.
  • The sheath is leather, usually with a wooden insert and a very strong, prominent brass framing, strengthening or decoration – whatever you want to call the brasswork. There can also be decorative brass strips on the flat middle part of the sheath.
  • There are very rare examples of Vöyrin puukko with birch bark sheaths. See the photo of the Vöyrin puukko story with rare examples, including all leather, all metal and all birch bark versions as well as an asymmetrical sheath and a hat sheath. Whether some of the photos are actual Vöyrin puukko or sheaths could be questioned, but you can see where Turunen is coming from with those examples.
  • Turunen moots the idea that Vöyrin puukko could be a predecessor or at least an inspiration for Toijalan puukko, another traditional Finnish model.
  • There are also associated knife belts (helavyö) for Vöyrin puukko. According to Turunen they appeared in the early 1800’s. Most of the known belts were made by Gustaf Blomqvist (1841-1919) in Vöyri.
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Puukkoposti from 2003, featuring Vöyri & Renfors puukko stories. The cover photo of a Vöyrin puukko and its belt is by Jukka Hankala. (Photo by JN)

Having compiled the above, I had a look at Anssi Ruusuvuori’s “Puukon Historia” (history of puukko) book.  It has more detail for those interested in Vöyrin puukko. Ruusuvuori says they were made around 1740-1880 and suggests the sheath design is likely to be baroque influenced. Another reason for the sheath shape could be that these are some of the earliest puukko sheaths using a wooden insert, he says. There are quite a few photos of historical Vöyrin puukko in the book, as well as the full specifications and detailed photos of almost a couple of dozen of these very original knives.

TEUVO AND VÖYRIN PUUKKO

Teuvo Sorvari has made both single and double knife versions of Vöyrin puukko – the Finnish term for a small and larger knife in the same sheath is “kaksineuvoinen”. He got the idea and the model for making his first Vöyrin puukko from a Finnish interior design magazine called Avotakka. He then managed to borrow an original knife – or in fact a duo of knives in the same sheath, “kaksineuvoinen” – from Ilmo Juntunen to get the measurements from. The interpretation of the sheath on the first puukko is Teuvo’s own, as he didn’t inspect the original for the method of construction. He says his main objective was to make the sheath as compact as possible in terms of getting the two knives in the sheath as close as possible. One of these works has won for Teuvo first prize in the Heritage Knife category of the Finnish Knife (Puukko) Making Championships in 2004, as well as being voted the Most Beautiful Knife in the show by the audience.

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A double Vöyrin puukko, maker Teuvo Sorvari.

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A single Vöyrin puukko by Teuvo Sorvari.

The Vöyri sheaths Teuvo makes are, according to the man himself, a little bit rounder, fuller in shape than a lot if the originals.  As an anecdote, Anssi Ruusuvuori has measured Teuvo’s Vöyrin puukko for the purposes of his “Puukon Historia” book.

Another bit of information Teuvo shares is that the original patterns engraved on the handle will have been the criss-cross motif coupled with the snaking “worm” line. On the 2004 Vöyrin puukko he was too nervous to try this for fear of ruining the knife and he settled for some straight rings around the handle. The decoration from one original puukko to another varies somewhat too, so this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Vöyri knives in general are very labour intensive, hence also expensive. This is likely one of the reasons for their rarity. Teuvo says he has never taught anyone else in making Vöyri knives.

INARIN PUUKKO

The Inari Knife (knife from Inari, Inarin puukko) is another historical style that Teuvo has tackled a few times. This is an archaeological find from Mihkaljärvi, Inari, situated in Finnish Lapland. The knife, dated to 1050-1300, in the Finnish National Museum also features in Anssi Ruusuvuori’s book “Puukon Historia” (The History of Puukko). Teuvo’s rendition of Inarin puukko has an ebony handle and a strikingly elaborate horizontal carry brass sheath. As the original find didn’t have any leather surviving, Teuvo hasn’t lined his completely with leather. Unlike the original, the spine on Teuvo’s sheath is solid brass, and the whole package is very solid with a good weight to it.

A photo of the original can be seen on this Sami Museum page:

http://www.samimuseum.fi/anaras/historia/historia.html

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One of Teuvo Sorvari’s Inarin Puukko.

TEUVO AND RENFORS PUUKKO

Renfors puukko (Renforsin puukko) is a further relatively little known Finnish puukko. It is named after a gentleman called Herman August Renfors, a polymath, inventor and businessman who for a lot of his active career resided in Kajaani, Finland. You can find more on him by googling e.g. “renfors fishing”, as a some of his patents etc. were on fishing lures and such. Amongst his many inventions and products was a knife, which is now known as the Renfors puukko. Renfors also holds the first Finnish patent (from 1910) to do with knife making – or to be precise it concerns the use of metal with sheaths.

The Renfors puukkos Teuvo has made are all a series of three knives with beautiful, ornate brass clad leather sheaths like the originals. The knives in the set are in three sizes, otherwise they are identical. The smallest one – from the writer’s memory – is roughly 10 cm long with its sheath and the biggest knife I’d liken to a good sized regular Tommi-puukko or such. The knives themselves have ebony handles.

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Teuvo Sorvari’s Renfors puukko set.

There is a good two page story on Renfors knives by Ilmo Juntunen in the same Puukkoposti magazine that has the Vöyrin puukko story. It is more about the man and his exploits than knives, but there are a few interesting nuggets regarding the puukkos, too. For example, the handles are said to be ebony and the size of the largest puukko 18,5 cm with the sheath and the smallest knife at 8,5 cm long. The story also asks to get into contact with Suomen Puukkoseura, if you have anything resembling a Renfors knife or sheaths. This is because they are so rare that even the regional county museum of Kainuu, the area where the knives were manufactured, hasn’t got an example – at least in 2003 when the story was written.

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Renfors and his knives in Puukkoposti magazine (Photo by JN)

Renfors also had a special belt (helavyö) for these knives, which Teuvo has also reproduced.

“Puukon Historia” book has a little additional detail on this knife, too, with a couple of photos.

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Teuvo has made a copy of another one of Renfors’ products, a large fishing lure.

MORE OF TEUVO’S WORK

As previously mentioned, Teuvo has made some engraved liner lock folding knives. Some engravings are his own and others he has outsourced to Pentti Nieminen. The two liner locks I handled had a pleasant, easy and smooth action.

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Folding knife in ebony by Teuvo Sorvari, engraving by P. Nieminen.

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Teuvo’s own design, what you might call a folding puukko. The blade folds into the metal frame and can be inserted inside the wooden handle.

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The same knife assembled and ready to use. The screw at the top attaches the handle firmly to the blade.

There are also numerous other models of puukko Teuvo has made. Most of them are his own design, some incorporating aspects from e.g. Tommi and Ilves puukko models and other classic all purpose puukkos. Other items in his repertoire include for example bowie knives, fulltangs, framelock folders, leukus, axes, fishing lures and kuksas (wooden cups).

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A folding hunting knife.

Below is a selection of some more conventional models of Teuvo’s puukkos.

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I’ve compiled this article the best I can – if you can provide more information or want to correct something I’ve written on the historical knives, feel free to use the comments section.

All the photos in this story, where not indicated otherwise, are from Teuvo Sorvari.

 

 

 

Roman Kislitsyn: Sami Style Carving WIP

In celebration of post number 100 on Nordiska Knivar I would like to present a special piece that has been in the planning stages for sometime.

I have presented the knives of Roman Kislitsyn on these pages before (Roman Kislitsyn) and I was in awe of his work. I asked him where he learned how to make Sami style knives with such beautiful and intricate carving. He told me he was self taught and some of what he learned was from Nordiska Knivar.

I asked him if he would consider doing a work in progress post to show a work in its various stages and he graciously agreed. I hope you will enjoy this post as much as I do.

Thank you very much to Roman for taking the time to do this for Nordiska Knivar!

Please visit his blog at Roman’s blog (girvas.blogspot.ca)

Sami style carving my way by Roman Kislitsyn

First of all, a disclaimer: This is how I do carving. I learned it all myself using information from the internet and by no means it is the only way or even this is right way to do Sami style carving. But this works for me.

The hardest question to answer about carving is “How do you come with the patterns, where can I learn it?” This question has no answer. Or, more precisely, every maker has his own answer.

I grew up in the Kola region, north-west Russia. This land used to belong to Sami people for hundreds and thousands of years. Very few Sami people were living there by the time my family moved up north, but most of the topographic names came from Sami language and they always sounded like a mystery to me. I never had Sami friends, but grew up with the music of the names of mountains, rivers, and lakes: Kukisvumchorr, Aikuaivenchorr, Tuliyok, Kaskasnewyok, Chudzyavr, Pyatnyavr…I was fascinated by these long words and their secret meaning. I like to believe that this helps me to see the beauty of Sami carving patterns and helps me to create my own combinations of traditional design elements. I also get inspiration from seeing other Sami crafts, jewelry, tools, and, of course, Sami knives.

I try not to copy other people’s work, but rather learn new elements and patterns, try to draw them in different combinations and see what works and what doesn’t.
I like to go out and sit on the lake shore or on the top of the hill and look at the Nova Scotia landscape which reminds me of places where I grew up, and this also helps to come into right mood and I often come up with ideas this way.

In my work I mainly use traditional materials like reindeer antler and all sorts of figured birch, but I like to experiment with other woods as well. If you ask me what is my favorite wood, it’s probably a birch burl. I used this wood for my very first knife and I was fascinated by the deep three dimensional structure of this wood. And even now, a quarter century later I still find it very attractive.

As to the reindeer antler, many people believe that it is best if it’s white or almost white, like ivory. I think that plain white is rare, but boring. Antler has many subtle tones and colors which are beautiful and which create a unique pattern on each piece…but let’s get to business.

This tutorial is about Sami style carving on reindeer antler, not the whole knife making process, so the first few photos briefly demonstrate building of the knife, then I show my carving tools, and then explain process of carving.

Everything begins with selection of blade and materials. By this time I usually have an idea of what this knife will look like. Often I draw a sketch, but over time I figured that the pattern from original sketch rarely looks good on the real knife. So I just roughly draw an idea and then, when the knife is ready for carving I draw on it and see what pattern looks good. Anyway, here are a few photos of how knife is made.

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On the last photo both handle and sheath are sanded down to 2000 grit and buffed with velvet wheel on my Dremel. This makes the antler surface very smooth and even tiny defects become clearly visible. If small scratches are not completely removed they can pop up after paint is applied and then it’s too late to get rid of them. Also wooden parts are stained and covered with two or three layers of teak oil. Now I’m ready to draw the pattern. After few experiments I come with the pattern I like.

I take a photo at this stage and in a future I use this photo as a reference because pencil lines get erased easily from the smooth surface of antler as I start carving.

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Now it’s time to say “damn! I forgot the rivets!” Believe it or not but by this time I get so excited to start carving, that I forget about rivets in about 50% cases. Ok, rivets are installed and filed flush with the surface, everything is sanded down to 2000 grit again and NOW I can finally start with carving. Since it will be two colored pattern, I first draw and carve main lanes for the black part.

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Here is my carving knife. This is my main tool which I use for pretty much everything except for round dots. To make dots I use an awl. I made this knife from a flat lathe blade using my Dremel tool. I think it’s called parting blade, but I’m not sure.

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The carving knife needs to be very sharp and I hone it before each session with 1000 grit wet stone and green polishing compound. I also hone it with green compound after each 10-15 minutes of work or if I feel I need to.

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Carving technique is very simple. Everyone who carved his or his girlfriend’s name on a tree or on the neighbor’s fence knows how to do it. Basically I hold a knife like a pencil and drive it with one hand, while pushing it with a thumb of the other hand and holding the work with all free fingers. This way I carve along a line…

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…and then carve it back along same line removing tiny amount of material and forming a V-shaped groove. This way I carve all the lines. To make thicker lines I hold a knife at lower angle to the antler surface. To make thinner lines I keep a knife more vertical. It is very important not to push too deep. Grooves need to just a fraction of millimeter deep.

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To make little triangles I use a different technique. Line forms a base of triangle, then I take my carving knife like an awl and with one push I make a cut from the bottom of triangle to the top. This is a deep cut with a corner of the knife. Then I turn backwards and make same deep cut from the top down to the base. If everything is done right, I get a nice triangular hole.

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After the carving is done I carefully check it and clean all corners. Then I lightly sand everything with 800 grit paper. If I’m doing one color, I would sand it to 2000 grit again. But this time I’m doing 2 colors and will have to sand it again after the second session of carving. So, I will sand it to 2000 later.

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Then I thoroughly paint everything with artistic oil paint.

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And thoroughly wipe it off.
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Do same with the knife handle.
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After paint is dry I thoroughly (you probably noticed by now that all the paint stuff need to be done thoroughly) rub all black lines with the candle to cover them with paraffin. ThenI wipe paraffin from open areas, draw and carve brown lines.

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For some reason artistic oil paint does not come in brown color. Instead it comes in a bunch of colors like Van Dyke brown (which is rather black to my eyes), or burnt sienna(which I think is rather dark roast color). So, I figured that to get a brown color I like, I mix 1:1 Van Dyke brown and burnt sienna, and then add a bit of white until the resulting color is light enough. Then (yes, that’s right!) I thoroughly paint all brown lines and clean excess of paint. Ta-da!!!

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After brown paint is dry it’s time to remove protective layer of paraffin from black lines. I carefully warm it up on the stove until paraffin starts melting and thoroughly wipe it off with clean soft rag.
All I have to do now is to stitch and dye the leather top for the sheath.
And here is a final result:

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Risto Mikkonen: Puskusauma WIP

This post features Risto Mikkonen; a look at a few of his puukko and a WIP on how to stitch a tuppi, or sheath using the puskusauma style. This method of stitching makes for a low profile and an attractive seam.

Thank you very much to Risto Mikkonen and to Juha Nikki for translating Mr. Mikkonen’s text. Risto Mikkonen puukkos are available at lamnia.fi

Risto Mikkonen:

“When I was working as a sales manager for a big Finnish company, I didn’t have time nor possibility to do handcrafting. When I retired, at the end of the 90s, my interest in puukko making was on the rise. This also was because my older brother, Esko Mikkonen, was a smith and among other things he crafted puukkos. In summer 2000 I took my first try at puukko making at my brothers smithy. I made my first puukko there.

A few years back my wife and I bought a small farm in Laitila, a village north of Turku. Then I built a small workshop in the old barn where I first made some woodturning with a lathe, but after trying knife making I was more excited by it. I made a liquid propane forge, got an anvil, necessary tools and then started practicing. I took one puukko class, but that wasn’t exactly motivating as we made puukkos from ready forged blades and traditional forging was missing.

I felt making puukkos was my thing, so I went really deep into it. My brother was a lot of help: we went through many phone conversations almost daily and many times I visited his smithy for some practicing. Due to strong determination I achieved a professional education as puukkoseppä in Savonlinna school in 2003. That same year I was invited to Vakka-Suomen folk school to teach puukko making and I’m actually still working there. In my lessons I try to emphasize the tradition of the Finnish puukko and its making, but to be honest some amount of “modern time” has come in, in form of machinery. Still, we start making the blade by hand forging. During 12 years of teaching some from the hundreds of students I had, have become good smiths and had won awards in Finnish competitions, even first places.

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In my courses blades are primarily forged from carbon steel, which I sometimes use too, though I’ve mainly shifted to stainless steels such as Niolox and RWL-34, both representing the best in wear resistance. Also their heat treatment is demanding and interesting. As handle materials I have moved more and more, partly due to customers’ requests, to birch bark, which is very pleasant in hand as it’s warm and grippy.

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I do the sheaths with traditional stitching which takes a lot of attention and care and is much slower than vastasauma. This is the conventional stitching used in puukko making: they put the leather around the insert and the knife, close the leather so that its edge-to-edge and then stich the leather. So the stitching is about 2-3mm high and it takes 15-20 minutes all in all.

I use the puskusauma, made without the knife or the insert inside. I measure carefully the dimensions of knife and insert and then do the stitching. This stitching is only about 1 mm high and more eye pleasing.

Risto Seam

In 2004 began an interesting 10 year period in my life when I was chosen as a secretary and treasurer in the Finnish knife makers guild, the Finnish Puukko Association. I was the secretary for 10 years and I’ll be treasurer until spring 2016. The time as a secretary was very much giving. I got to know Finnish and other Nordic knife makers, even the best of them, and learned so many new techniques from the conversations with them. So much giving has also been being the jury secretary during puukko making SM competitions. A couple of times it has been interesting to evaluate and guide soon-to-become puukkoseppä final works and master puukkoseppä final works.

Risto puukko

Nowadays teaching and making custom order puukkos for my own firm is taking most of my time. A good and necessary contrast to this lonely work is classical music. I go to concerts in Turku philharmonic every other week. Music takes me away from puukkos and everyday life.”

WIP: Puskusauma style tuppi

My attraction to the beautiful and stylish butt seam in a knife sheath has become noticed among  knife smiths, and several requests have come in for written instructions complete with photos and associated captions. It’s worth mentioning at this stage, that the instructions I’m about to present aren’t the only way to make a butt seam. For example, Erik Nylund’s book “Korupuukko” mentions another style, chiefly originating from Sweden.

Making a butt seam requires great accuracy and patience. It is slower to make than the ordinary plain seam, but a good end result will reward the maker.

For making a butt seam you’ll need two needles, thread, beeswax, a puukko knife and the insert for the sheath, e.g. a Stanley or a craft knife, a piece of leather, a stitch marker, awl or a miniature drill, a pencil and some squared paper.

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Combine the insert and puukko and attach a piece of masking tape along the entire length of the knife and insert. Draw a horizontal line across the top of the paper, which will be equal to the top line of the sheath. Draw a vertical line in the middle of the paper and make a scale for the measurements at every other square, and number it.

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Define/mark the top edge of the sheath into the puukko, which you’ll then align with the horizontal line on the paper. Then copy the scale with its numbering from the paper to the knife’s masking tape.

From same leather as you intend on using for the sheath, cut an approx. 3 mm wide and 15 cm long strip, which you’ll use to measure at each point of the scale the circumference of the puukko and insert. Mark the circumference into the strip with e.g. a pin.

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Measure the circumference and add 3 mm to it. For example, circumference 85mm + 3 mm = 88mm. Divide this figure by 2 and mark the lenghts on either side of the vertical line. DO THE MEASUREMENTS AND MARKINGS ACCURATELY!!!

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At the bottom of the pattern about ½ cm from the tip of the insert, draw a horizontal line, which extends 9mm either side of the vertical line. Combine the measured points and draw the pattern, into which you should add extra in the shape of the attaching point for the belt loop, any type you choose (the “ears” at the top of the pattern).

After checking the pattern is symmetrical, cut it out draw the pattern with a pencil onto the top (good) side of the leather.

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Cut the leather out accurately along the line with the top of the knife tilted 30-40 degrees outwards. Thin the leather on the reverse side around the belt loop attachment extensions and at the bottom end of the sheath, in order to make it bend more readily. You can also cut the top edge at an angle, unless you want to fold it double. If you do want a fold at the top, you’ll need an extension at the top, which you’ll thin down.

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Draw a line with a pencil on the top side of the leather 2.0 – 2.5 mm from the edge, along which line you’ll use the stitch marker to mark the spots for the stitches. The hole will extend to half way of the slanted cut surface or a tiny bit below it, but under no circumstances beyond the edge of the cut surface. With half-tanned leather you can also make the holes such that they don’t extend to the raw layer.

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You can make the holes in the traditional manner with an awl, in which case you should make the leather wet. A modern and quick alternative is to drill the holes with a miniature drill or Dremel into dry leather. A dentist’s flame bur is well suited to the job, as long as you sand down some of its roughness from its outside surface. The variations of leather hardness won’t make the job any more difficult when using a Dremel for the holes. The method is excellent for half-tanned leather. When making the holes, you should have a piece of firm foam under the leather.

Stitching the sheath, I use a dacron fly fishing bottom line at the strength of 20 pounds, the length 7 times the length of the sheath. I remove the slipperiness of the thread by treating it with beeswax. A saddler’s round tipped needle to each end of the thread such that at first I put the needle through the thread about 5 cm from the end of the thread, and then thread the end of the line through the eye of the needle. This way the thread won’t slip out of the needle. If the sheath insert isn’t very much wider than the puukko handle, the sewing will start from the bottom end of the sheath. If this is the case, you’ll have to count the holes on either side, so they’ll match at the top end.

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After starting the stitching, it is useful to attach the leather into a “sheath stick” in a vice and tie the leather with rubber bands in order to keep the sheath steady and free both of your hands for stitching. It’s good practise to lock each stitch such that you put the thread through the loops formed, one side of the seam from top to bottom and the other side bottom to top. Once stitched to the end, it’s good to backstitch about three stitches and you can cut the threads by burning.

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Before putting the puukko and lesta into the sheath, it is imperative to protect the (especially carbon) blade by oiling it and the whole puukko by wrapping it into cling film or a piece of a freezer bag. A freezer bag has less friction than cling film and hence it is easier to get the puukko out of tighter sheaths. You can rub some candle into the insert to reduce friction and then put the puukko and insert into the sheath. Check to get the seam straight, after which you can start forming the sheath with e.g. a bone tool. When the sheath starts to dry, it’ll get lighter in colour, and it’s time to make decorative patterns into the sheath. While drying, it’s useful to keep pressing the leather surface down with a (bone) forming tool, which is when it’ll get a nice even shiny finish.

The free drying time of the sheath is at least 48 hours.

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There are several alternatives for belt hangers and loops. If your attachment is like the one on the left or in the middle, it is worth putting a slightly thinned down piece of leather between the leather and the sheath in order to have space left for the hanger attachment.

You can position the seam on either side, front or even twisting around the sheath.

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Finished butt seamed sheaths with different belt hangers. The sheaths on left and in the middle have been made with a natural colour leather, the left one has been dyed with a leather dye. The one on the right has been coloured at the tannery.

Leather is sheath leather by Lapuan Nahka Oy.

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Photos and text: Risto Mikkonen