Maasepän Puukko

Here is some information about a very basic form of puukko, a style of knife making that has been around through the ages. I would like to thank Federico Buldrini who originally posted in this piece in a somewhat different form and Ilkka Seikku the puukkoseppä who did the tutorial and wrote additional text. Ilkka’s excellent work can be viewed at his website  http://rautasarvi.fi/?cat=34

Also visit his blog at: http://rautasarvi.blogspot.fi/2013/11/blog-post.html

I hope to be featuring more work by Federico and Ilkka in the near future.

Federico Buldrini:

“The maasepän puukko (something like saying “old villagers blacksmith knife”) is the simplest and oldest style of puukko and has parallel equivalents in Sweden and Norway too. They have their origin in the early Middle Age as all around belt knives of the free men. In higher classes knives were obviously more refined (metal bolsters, pattern welded blade, metal decoration/retentions on the sheath) but we are now talking of the original humble man knife.

The following pictures are of a knife and sheath being made by Ilkka Seikku. The process in this case, trying to be the closest possible to how it was made in the old days. Ilkka  produces his own pine tar in the old way, by heating old wood in a cauldron (the method is shown also in Ray Mears “Sweden” episode).The pine tar seals  the wood  closing any gap. It was also used to protect longships hulls for a reason. Ilkka Seikku is a blacksmith, craftsman and wilderness guide, quite renown in Finland as a bow maker too. He’s very keen in keeping alive the old skills of the fathers, despite his young age.”

Ilkka Seikku:

“I want to explain one very relevant thing about maasepänpuukko. It is the rhombic blade shape. Usually people think that rhombic blades are something that has been invented on purpose. The truth is that this rhombic shape has come from the material these “countryside blacksmiths” were sometimes using. They did use old files to make blades, and this is very common nowadays too! One type of file was particularly found to be very functional to make blades from, it́s the so called feather file. It́s already in shape of rhombic and that was easy to forge or even just grind in blade shape. It́s very plausible that this rhombic shape was just a secondary matter. Then people who used those rhombic shaped blades found the shape very functional. The last two pictures of maasepänpuukko are ones I have forged from a feather file. You can see there are still file teeth.

The birch bark sheath is called “tuohituppi” in Finnish. “Tuohi” means birch bark and “tuppi” means sheath. The wooden insert inside is called “lesta”. Birch bark does not need any kind of treatment. Inside of birch bark there is  oil, which makes it water proof. Birch bark is very long lasting material. You can see that from the archaeological puukkos, for example. Very often there is almost nothing left from the blade, but if there has been birch bark handle or sheath, that is still recognizable. Also birch bark has been very common material to keep moisture out from log houses in Finland. Between the stone (which is in the ground) and the log, birch bark works excellent. Moisture from the ground goes up via stone, but birch bark stops that and moisture will never ends up to the wood.”

Let’s start with the block of wood and the blade, the tang has a sharp point. The wood is roughly carved with an axe.

Then a hole is drilled in the wood and enlarged with a hot iron rod.

The blade is stuck in the wood is then struck on a large log to “nail” the tang well into the wood. If the operation is done properly the blade will stay in place without any glue or wedges against the tang.

The handle is then carved and sanded with #120 paper.

Finally the handle is treated with pine tar.

The sheath could be the usual back sewn leather tuppi or one woven from birch bark.

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Here are some very nice additional examples of the maasepän puukko sent to me by K. Kock. Please visit his website and blog at http://www.promaakari.fi/ and http://promaakari.wordpress.com/

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"This one with a "dagger blade" I have gotten from my father (you can maybe see his initials LK in the pommel end of the handle). It´s blade is steel witch has been made from limonite iron ore dug up from thelakes bottom i.e. so called "järvimalmi". This puukko was made in 1950´s for my father by an old smith in Middle Finland. K.Koch"

“This one with a “dagger blade” I have gotten from my father (you can maybe see his initials LK in the pommel end of the handle). It´s blade is steel which has been made from limonite iron ore dug up from the lake bottom i.e. so called “järvimalmi”. This puukko was made in 1950´s for my father by an old smith in Middle Finland. K.Kock”

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Here is a special maasepän puukko featuring Ilkka’s family insignia which he explains on his blog:

3 Ilkka

 

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5 responses to “Maasepän Puukko

  1. Simple, elegant, a real working-man’s knife. Great stuff. The birch bark sheath is outstanding.

  2. very nice and good job!!!!!

  3. Very good article. Maasepän puukko is my favourite model to collect and I have managed to find three good pieces. All of them have birch bark sheath.

  4. Thank you promaakari and thank you for the photos!

  5. Hi,
    What a wonderful article, thank you. I am an amateur knife maker and I would love to make a rhombic knife or two. I have a question regarding blade geometry. Could you tell me if these blades have a distal taper or not.
    Thanks
    Matt

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