Monthly Archives: May 2012

Saku Honkilahti – Kokemäen Puukko

I am trying to define and illustrate the various traditional forms of the Finnish puukko and Saku Honkilahti was kind enough to offer some background and information on the Kokemäen. Saku is a puukkoseppa and I’m happy to say I own one of his puukkos with a beautiful stacked birch handle. To see his work please visit his website at:  Thank you for all your help Saku!

“The fact of who actually developed or invented the Kokemäenjoki puukko or even when, is unknown. A Kokemäenjoki knife is very simple, functional and straightforward, devoid of decoration. It has always been primarily a tool, not a weapon.

The Kokemäen puukko is typically timber handled, usually curly or flame birch, which has a clear reason. The handle has no ferrules,  so the wood itself must be strong and tough. Normal size in a knife handle, a length of all Finnish puukko is typically 100 + mm, the width of a man’s hand. Cross-section is oval and the blade tapers both both forward and backward. Height of the handle is at most 30 mm and a thickness of 20 mm.

The second feature is that the blade tang does not go through,  it is called a stick tang. Because the handle must sit very tightly, it is traditionally inserted into the handle by burning, thus it is not drilled.

The third feature is the “gap” between the blade and the handle. One explanation could be that the seam is possible to keep clean. Another explanation of the design is that it allows one to tighten the blade later. The third is that the final grinding is easier. The truth is that no one knows anymore.

The top of the blade is oval-shaped cut. Handles have mainly the oil finishing. The blade is the typical Finnish form of a puukko blade:  upright, without a gig in the tip, sharpened straight and and typically a little longer than the 100 to 130 mm handle, and also lower around 15 to 20 mm high. In hand the Kokemäen puukko must feel natural and lively, not clumsy at all.

The Kokemäen sheath is the most spectacular part. In general, it is brown leather and designed with a slightly pointed gig. The upper part of the sheath is long, knives must sit firmly in the sheath. The hanging loop is a simple leather loop or sometimes metal chain.

Here are some notable puukkoseppa who made the Kokemäen:

Akseli Ekman (02.25.1883 – 06.20.1950) was the only professional knife maker who made the Kokemäen puukkos for a living. He was also a shoe maker and well known from his first class quality sheaths. The blades he made mostly from old files. Near his workshop also lived a blacksmith, Peltonen who made the blades for him until they came to a dispute in 1942, when Ekman won a famous knife competition but did not mention his  blade smith at all. Ekman’s production was at its peak since the 1920s and even 1940-50, when his puukkos were sold from the local hardware stores etc. They had a very good reputation.

Ilmari Kuula (09.28.1903 – 10.23.1983) made a career as a gurad at the Cedercreutz Art Museum, a job he held for 45 years, vv. 1933 – 1978. Also his brother Aarne Kuula (11.18.1911 – 08.19.1985)  made Kokemäen puukkos, mainly by commission and hobby and neither of them made a living making knives.

Keikki Marjanen (10.21.1918 – 01.31.1989) made smaller Kokemäenjoki puukkos, several hundreds of knives. His sheaths usually have his monogram, a stylized letter M. A second feature is the blades are concave ground . His knife handles are usually painted.

Today there are two professional makers: Pekka Tuominen and Mikko Inkeroinen and some hobby makers like me, Jani Ryynänen and Eino Hell.”

Saku Honklahti

Igor Barutkin – Knives of the Lappish Pures

Igor Barutkin lives the Lappish village of Lovozero near Murmansk in northernmost in Russia:  “Very interesting and beautiful places. Lakes, Hibinsky mountains, tundra… Look on Google:) Earlier I often went to the North of Finland and Norway and was in Ekmokk. Now there is no time while. Lappish knives and utensils, it is my bread, my work. My way of life.”

Igor is a student of Jon Ole Anderson and practitioner of duodji, the Sámi traditional way of life.  The word duodji is also used as a mark of authentic Sámi handicraft. It relates first of all to the handicraft itself and in second place to the Sámi way of life. Igor can be found on Facebook at Take a look at his work!


“The knife is a universal tool. The Sámi often have several knives hanging from their belts. The knives have different functions. The larger knife is used instead of a hatchet, the everyday knife for all kinds of daily needs, the calf-marking knife is special and is used to cut the markings on the reindeer calves’ ears.

The form of the sheath of the knife depends on the natural shape of the reindeer antler and one can basically distinguish two typical shapes: one with a long gentle curve and one with a more pronounced curve. The sheath with the more pronounced curve occurs more commonly in the north. The handle of the knife is made of masur birch and reindeer antler, or totally of reindeer antler. The handle often has bark between the antler pieces that gives a good hold and keeps the handle from slipping in a person’s hand. The handle ends at the top in a knob. The knob is bigger in the north Sámi area while it isn’t as pronounced in the central and south Sámi areas. In the north Sámi areas the handle is often times not engraved while engravings in the handle are common in the central and south Sámi areas.

Knives are made principally in three different variations: 1) the sheath and the handle are made totally of reindeer antler; 2) the sheath is made of reindeer antler, the leather casing of rawhide and the handle of wood or reindeer antler or a combination of both antler and wood; 3) the sheath of wood and the handle of wood or reindeer antler or a combination of both antler and wood. There are also other varieties of knives with the sheath of leather and knives that only have a wooden blade protection, bark or reindeer antler. The knife with a sheath and handle totally made of reindeer antler is considered the artistic handicraft variety of Sámi knives, while the other varieties are considered everyday knives. All the sheaths have a braided reindeer cord to to hang from the belt.

The north Sámi engraving is characterized by the geometric star, flower or heart motives in combination with curved lines, edging and shadings. The edging consists of different engravings, sometimes a combination of different geometric cuts made with the sharp point of the knife and sometimes combined with curved lines. Especially typical is an edging that is like twined cord.

Characteristic for the south Sámi areas are braided patterns. The braided pattern is created by both lines and a combination of the patterns made with the point of a sharp knife. The design often covers the whole handle or sheath. The edging is very strict and is completed by cross-like knife cuts in both simple and double rows. Within the central Sámi area the same braided patterns occur as in the south, the shaded curves, but even simpler star and cross-like design patterns which communicate a relationship with the designs in the north Sámi areas. The lines of the star design are often finished with cuts with a sharp knife. In the production of knives, the traditional designs and pattern combinations have changed more recently to a more general Sámi design and pattern.”

Igor makes some of the most beautiful knives you will ever see, here are a few of my favorites:


Two Unique Puukkos

I like the traditional puukko and want to show you what two talented puukkoseppa have created putting their own spin on the form. I think you will enjoy these two.

The first one is by Willem O’Kelly (also known as “Smokepole” on various knife forums), from South Africa:

“I live in the Great Karoo in the Eastern Cape region in South Africa, not too far from Nelson Mandela’s home and my makers mark/brand is K’roo – as that is how Karoo is pronounced locally. I don’t have a website for my knives specifically (I know, I know, I’ll make work of it!) but I do have one for the muzzle loader shooters over here and there is a forum on Edged Weapons that contains quite a bit of my work –”

“My brief from the client and thus my approach was to build a Puukko with an African “flavor” so to speak.The result is shown in the following pics. The blade I made from an HSS 18 from an old table plane blade, the “bolster” is brass, with leather spacers, warthog tusk and African Black Wood alternating each other. I riveted and counter sunk the tang and added a false end of warthog tusk.”

Willem does beautiful work and makes all kinds of knives, some of which can be seen on this thread:

The second one is a “hockey puukko” Here’s a great example of Finnish puukko making. Take some recyclable material and turn it into a beautiful puukko and sheath. This one’s by Sami Länisipaltta. In his words:

“Here’s my latest puukko. It have taken over year and four months from my previous puukko (keeping busy on other business ).
Serial #: 09
Handle: Made in Czech Republic (hockey puck)
Bolsters: Aluminum
Blade: Hand forged bearing ring, 18,5°
Sheath: 2,3 mm leather (colored with black Narvi-colour)
Dimensions: blade: 72 mm, handle: 85 mm and sheath: 150 mm (for very little hand)

Sami’s website:

More detailed info (sorry again in Finnish) about this knife could be found from my blog … tehty.html

Take a look at his blog, the man is amazing.


Härmän Puukko

The Härmän puukko is a very distinctive puukko from the Ostrobothnian region of Finland. These knives have been made by the Rannanjärvi family for many years beginning with Erkki Rannanjärvi (1838 – 1925) up to Antti Rannanjärvi (b 1951) in the present day. They seem to be pretty rare and are seldom found outside of Finland other than some that were made for a shop in the U.S. some years ago.

Here is some information written by Tuula Rannanjärvi-Laukkanen found on a museum web site:

“The sheath-knife, or puukko, is an element of Finnish material culture and heritage. For the Finns it has been both an important general-purpose tool and a personal weapon. At present, the old ornamental puukko types are primarily gift items and collectibles. The knives are mostly made on an industrial basis, but a few knife-maker families have preserved the traditional crafts skills up to the present day.

The Härmä puukko knife is a South Ostrobothnian type with a history extending from the mid-19th century to the 2000s. The master knife-makers of the Rannanjärvi family have made the Härmä knives by hand for four generations. The basic design has a sheath of two parts, housing a larger knife (isopuukko) and a smaller one (pikkupuukko). The Härmä knife was made in four sizes, known as Pikkupuukko (small knife), Naistenpuukko (women’s knife), Normaalipuukko (normal knife) and Anssin Jukka (named after a legendary folk hero).

The ferruled Härmä knife was a harmonious design, in which the leather sheath and the wooden handle were richly decorated with ferrules. The brass ferrules bore a great number of engravings and ornamental patterns were set in the sheath. The sheath and the handles were also painted in black and red. The ornamental appearance of the Härmä knife bears witness to both a respect for the puukko knife and an appreciation of the craftsmanship of its makers.The making of the knife required a great deal of time, and special attention was paid to the quality of the workmanship. In the Rannanjärvi, family, knife-making skills were passed on as a tradition from one generation to another. Each master knife-maker of the family developed the design to some extent, while retaining the main features of the traditional methods.

The Finnish sheath-knife and its use were traditionally associated with the customs of communities. It became almost a national symbol during the Second World War, when the knife industry flourished. The South Ostrobothnian puukko knife is an important element of local history. The Härmä knife was associated with the history of the häjyt (troublemakers) of Härmä, knife fights and the heyday of knife-bearing ruffians around the middle of the 19th century. The knife with a ferruled handle is mentioned, for instance, in many folksongs about the legendary häjyt, Erkki Rannanjärvi, the maker of the first Härmä puukko knife, was the cousin of Antti Rannanjärvi, a well known criminal and troublemaker of the period. During its history, the Härmä knife has evolved from a utility knife to a gift item and collectible. Its reputation has partly been maintained by the symbolic values attached to it. The Härmä knife was regarded as the weapon of the häjyt, but also as a symbol of the home region and the spirit of Härmä, The knife tradition of some 150 years and the craftsmanship of the master knife-makers have contributed to the appreciation of the Härmä knife.”

The puukkos featured in the photos were a gift to me from the collection of Bill Lecuyer and were most likely made by Johannes (Juha) Rannanjärvi (1873-1931). Current production Härmän puukos by Antti Rannanjärvi may be seen at

Onni Rannanjärvi (1909-1971) of Ylihärmä making a puukko knife in 1946. Photo: The National Board of Antiquities.



Welcome to Nordiska Knivar my scrap book about Nordic knives. I will be posting photos and information about traditional knives and knife makers, especially the puukko from Finland.  I’d like to start off with this beautiful puukko with an ebonite handle from  Joonas Kallioniemi.

According to Joonas, ebonite was used for handles in the early 1900s:  “The handle is made out of ebonite.  After some reading I got to know that ebonite was indeed used for puukko handles  about a hundred years ago or so, but for some reason no-one has kept on using this fine material. It is basically a hard rubber, it has a rubber-like firm grip to it, it stands up to all kinds of different environments and doesn’t “live” like wooden handles do. It is made out of natural rubber, linseed oil and sulphur and it is totally food-safe. I find this to be a very good material for a knife handle.”