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

 

Knife making at the Nilakan comprehensive school in Keitele, Finland

This post is about a subject that has interested me for a long time. I am fascinated and more than a little envious that Finnish students have the opportunity to make their own puukko in class. The students in Keitele get to make theirs under the guidance of one of the great puukkoseppä, Pekka Tuominen no less.

My thanks to Pekka for writing about his course for me. He has been a great help with this blog since the very beginning. 

By Pekka Tuominen

In Finland we have a nine grade school system plus pre-school before the first grade, students spend total of 10 years at school. Handcraft studies start from the first grade with their homeroom teacher. From 3rd to 7th grade they have about 2 hours a week obligatory handcrafts with a special teacher. In 8th and 9th grades handcraft is an optional subject. We also have a handcraft club for free time after school for 7th to 9th grade students.

In Nilakan comprehensive school students can use also machines, if the family has given permission and the teacher has instructed them. They must plan what they’d like to make themselves and then normally design it on paper. After that the teacher looks at the plan to see if it is correct and possible to make.

When I was chosen to be the temporary handcrafts teacher at Nilakan comprehensive school some years ago, the students already knew that I’m a blade smith for my main work. Several students asked if I could teach them how to make a knife. So, it’s not mandatory to make knives, but I’m happy that many of the students wish to make their own puukko-knife.

For me knife making means that you make blade, handle and sheath. Knife making is a varied craft, because you must learn to work with steel for the blade (forge, grind and heat treat), how to use precious metal for bolsters, wood etc. for the handle and leather for sheaths. So, when you make one object you must use many materials and many techniques also.

Because we live in Finland, we mostly make our traditional knife, the puukko at school. Almost everybody makes their first knife, the model is very simple, but it includes all parts of a puukko-knife. The first thing to learn is, what is a puukko-knife, how you separate it from other knife models etc. Then they start to make blades with forging. For that we normally use 80CrV2-steel or similar simple carbon steels.

After forging the blade, it is roughly free hand ground before heat treating. After heat treating comes the last grinding and finishing of the blade. When the blade is ready, they will make bolsters and a handle for the blade. As soon as the blade and handle are together and finished, they carve the wooden insert for the sheath and after that hand-sew the sheath from leather. The last thing is to make a belt loop for sheath and colour and wax the sheath.

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Blades after forging.

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Blades after grinding.

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Sheaths before dying.

Some student made puukko. 

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Pekka Tuominen

Vyacheslav Kharkov

My name is Vyacheslav Kharkov. I like Northern knives. The area in which I live is not considered northern, but we go on winter wheels for 5-6 months a year. My city is called Tolyatti, also known as Togliatti, is a city in western Russia by the Volga River.

When asked how I became interested in knives, I’m not sure, but for a long time there was a strong desire to make a knife. I wanted to make myself a knife for everyday use. I began 10 years ago, and every time I try to make a knife as if it is for myself, not paying attention to the time spent.  If I plan to make a very good knife, an expensive knife, it will be spoiled and thrown into the box under the table. This is verified repeatedly.

Hunters and fishermen in our area mainly use knives that look like weapons, with guards, long blades. I needed a small knife, suitable for use both at home and in nature, which you can absolutely legally carry with you every day. One that does not scare neither women nor the police. Thus, I my attention was drawn to the northern type of knives. It totally suited me. I was amazed by the variety and unique northern style. For a whole year, I read the forums of knife-makers, assimilated the techniques and methods of building a knife. I watched and collected photos.

I made the first knife for myself from the shop blade of Lauri, Karelian birch and antler. He also taught me how to use new techniques, and he still serves me. After a couple of years, it was time to decorate my work. I received all my knowledge from the Internet. A lot of information on Sami carving has appeared, but at that time there was almost none.

Special thanks to Igor Barutkin  for his tutorial on making the Sami knife. Also I am a frequent guest at kniver.blogspot.com and nordiskaknivar.wordpress.com
I tried to start carving several times and threw it away because of failures. Then I came back and tried again. I still consider myself a student in this matter. I don’t have any art education, I don’t draw very well and look for any information on Sami carving.
Often I use traditional patterns of the Sami people to create the most authentic look of a knife. In addition, there are so many Scandinavian masters with their unique styles and ornaments, from which I also want to learn something.

The Sami ornament reminds me very much of the munnharpe, or jaw harp, melody. The beauty and diversity of the refrain never seems excessive. And one color, as well as one note, can express a huge variety. I like it so much that sometimes I am not sure that I will use it in the right place. In knifemaking, I met a lot of friendly, enthusiastic people. We sometimes meet and discuss our work, new materials and much more. But I am fond of carving alone.

As far as materials I always prefer natural. I believe that the tool should not only have utilitarian properties, but also aesthetic along with them. Birch, its burl, birch bark and Karelian birch are especially fine. They have a magical material. The worst sort of Karelian birch after coating with oil turns into a unique sample of the natural fantasy of the tree. So is horn. In the photographs, it looks white, but in reality its marble look sometimes does not want to be hidden by a pattern. Deer horn is a “lively”, reliable and pleasant material.

My favorite type of knife is the Finnish type of puukko. It is an unsurpassed universal tool. In Russia, it appeared more than a hundred years ago and will always be used. With this type of knife it is very important to learn how to work with leather, the secrets of which are still open to me.

As other hobbies, I am interested in Slavic languages, trying to learn how to play Norwegian munnharpe.

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Vyacheslav Kharkov

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Helsinki Knife Show

The Helsinki Knife Show was held at Vanha Ylioppilastalo, The Old Student House in Helsinki on January 4 and 5. Here is a collection of photos featuring the prize winners and some knives made by frequent contributors to this blog. Photos are by  Ilari Mehtonen.

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Jukka Hankala, Best of Show

 

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Markku Parkkinen, Best Fixed Blade

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Tapio Syrjälä, Best Folder

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Waltteri Ryjenko, Prix Special

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Jukka Hankala, Markku Parkkinen, Tapio Syrjälä and Waltteri Ryjenko

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Anssi Ruusuvuori

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Arto Liukko

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Eero Kovanen

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Jani Ryynänen

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Jari Liukko

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Kay Vikström

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Mikko Inkerionen

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Otto Kamppainen

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Pekka Tuominen