Kalle Keränen and the Tommi Puukko
Adapted from an article by Taisto Kuortti
Translated by Federico Buldrini and Pasi Hurttila
Finland, 1870. Close to Hyrynsalmi, in the region of Kainuu, South Karelia, lived Kalle Keränen (1844-1912) a young self-taught blacksmith who had heard that a metallurgist from England was arriving at Fiskars to teach the rudiments of forging and oil quenching. At that time Finland was going through a period of bad famine, so Kalle decided to go south, learn new things and look for better luck. He packed his ruckpack and set off on foot. He was about to march for 730 km.
It was probably Edward Hill, another metallurgist and teacher at Fiskars, that brought oil quenching concept to Finland. Kalle became the pupil of Thomas Woodward, with which he further perfected his forging technique and experienced oil quenching. Three years in the noisy south were more than enough for Kalle, so he soon decided to return to his forests and to his smithy.
Kalle began to forge knives regularly after his return from Fiskars and gave his own interpretation of the Kainuu regional style. It was a simple puukko with 11 cm barrel handle and 10 cm rhombic blade with slightly hooked tip. However, the latter peculiarity was later abandoned in favor of a completely straight spine. Kalle named the knife in honor of his master, from Thomas, Tommi.
His knives were good tools and earned great success thanks to the excellent quality of the blade. They became famous even outside its province and other smiths began to forge following his style. It is however uncertain when the knife acquired completely its technical and aesthetic features, now widely recognized. Kalle’s knives became even more famous and customers started to call him Tommi. With the passage of time the blacksmith became simply Tommi, he was a good knife maker and a good drinking mate
After his death, his son Setti continued the father’s work and introduced the larger models that would have had an important part during the Winter War and the struggle for Finnish independence from Russian domination. The larger Tommis would have been used as short swords in close combat fights and as leave gift for graduates.
The Tommi is the only Finnish puukko to have developed a such defined own tradition and to be so famous beyond the borders of Finland. The eighth Finnish president, Urho Kekkonen, a eager hunter, used to keep one in a drawer of his desk and in various occasions used these knives as a gift for political collegues.
Today the tradition is kept alive by other makers as such as Mauri Heikkinen mauriheikkinen.fi/ Jukka Hankala http://www.hankala.com/ and Pentti Kaartinen http://www.tommipuukko.com/index.htm. Veijo Käpylä at Kainuun Puukko http://www.kainuunpuukko.com/
As it says on Jukka Hankala’s website “Tommi is an old knife model, which has been made by at least 150 different bladesmiths in Finland. Every bladesmith gives his personal shape and form for the knife he makes. Tommi is very simplified general purpose knife.”
Thank you to Federico Buldrini for this article.