A Visit To Finland by Federico Buldrini

This blog post is about a road trip that Federico Buldrini made this past summer driving  for something like 3660 km, that is 2270 miles. He left his home in Modena in Northern Italy and flew to Stockholm, then traveled on through Sweden and Norway before reaching his destination in the far north of Finland at the smithy of Pasi Hurttila, in Lappland north of the Arctic Circle.


I enjoyed Federico’s account of the trip and the pictures he took so much  that I asked him if he would post them here.  He graciously agreed and what follows is his account of a visit to Finland. Thank you Federico!

“Here is a short report of a longer trip I made on late August together with my brother and a friend. — F.B.”

28 August 2012

After a good night sleep we leave the hostel in Riksgränsen and drive east towards Karesuando, on a part of the E45 still to be completed, with dirt road without asphalt for around 20 kms. All the morning goes in driving, but after lunch we pass the border with Finland that cuts Karesuando right in two. Here we meet warmer and autumnal colours than in Sweden and Norway. We go in the direction toward Inari on a dirt road, in the company of reindeer, birches and pines.

Inari, the lake. Green islands on deep blue water. Near a pier is moored a red and white float plane. We take off for Ivalo, 30 km south from Inari.

It’s already evening when we arrive at Pasi’s place. We take a look at his smithy. Belt sander and canvas wheel on the left, charcoal forge and anvil straight ahead, hammers, screwdrivers, files and drill to the right, antlers on the ceiling.

We enter his house and I see that his working table is inside, no workshop, just house and smithy. Everything else is in his hands and skills.

29 August 2012

After breakfast I watch Pasi while he sews a puukko sheath. A few holes at a time with a awl mounted on a moose antler piece, two needles and double stitching. All the leather forming and decorations are made with a moose shin bone shaped on purpose for the job.

After lunch we go for a trip in the wilderness area dominated by the Sarmitunturi fell. We’re about 10 km from Russian border, it’s a bear area and so Pasi takes his Sako 75, you never know. We walk on a carpet of moss, lichens and blueberries, pines around us.

We’re near the top and we stop at a camp site for a tea. When we arrive on the top of the fell we have tundra all around us and few small lakes in front of us. On the top of the fell is a shabby Russian watch tower.

While we made our way back home the sun kept us company playing through the trees.

30 August 2012

In the morning we visit the Guesthouse Husky  http://www.guesthousehusky.fi/  where Lea, Pasi’s girlfriend, works.
In the winter the farm organizes sleds trip for tourists and Pasi sometimes works as a guide, as he did full time, when he was still a hobbyist blacksmith.
The apartments were built a couple of years ago, but the farm has existed for 20 years.

The farm is a junction between an hostel and camping, since it has rooms, but you’re right over the forest. You have all together a house room with moss and pine scent right outside, just a glass between.

In the guesthouse there are few very nice rooms with bathroom, a common kitchen, a sauna, free wi-fi, bike and ski rental. All the interior is permeated by pine tar smell.

The owners are really cheerful and helping people. In front of the guesthouse there is the hut to store sledges.

The dogs are kept in single clearings, with their own bed and place where they can move around. Rasmus is one of the usual pack leaders.

Even if kept on the chain for obvious reasons I don’t see a dog with sad eyes, on the contrary all very spry.

In the afternoon we take the canoes and go to lake Inari for a paddle. The plan is to arrive at one island with campsite and then go to the top of the island to take a look around. After about 2,5 hours we take land and set up camp.

Pasi chops firewood, batons kindling and we carve spoons and spatulas  while tea is warming up. A hot tea in excellent company, what else to desire?

After the tea we climb up and take a look over the placid lake. Lake Inari is actually frozen for almost 8 months a year and you can normally ski on it, rather than canoeing.

On the way back the wind rises and pushes our breath down the throat. We put more effort on the row and slowly conquer the meters. The paddle bounds you to your work, even if you’re tired and want to rest, you keep on pushing the oar as you know that THAT is your duty. The canoe won’t proceed if only the helmsman conducts and to get out of the wind you have to do your part.

I feel bit tired, the shoulders muscles start to ache but, as I tell Pasi, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. We finally get out of the wind and we can take a quick rest on a small island. The sun has started his set when we finally reach the pier, bit tired but happy. A good dinner, a night sleep and everything is fine again.

31 August 2012

Today I have the opportunity to see Pasi at work. After having forged 40 nails, for an order of 200, he shows me the forging of a flat puukko blade. All the forging is done with a 1,5 kg hammer on a 85 kg anvil.

He takes a bar of silversteel and flattens it, then he starts to forge the tang on the anvil horn, so the steel stretches evenly, and blade’s shoulders on the edge of the anvil,

then he cuts the steel bar with angle grinder, he can do it also with a steel wedge, but he would have to heat the bar again only for it and the angle grinder gives same result, after that he hammers the blade shape…

this done he starts to forge bevels and when he is satisfied he stamps the blade…

then kneels down to finish bevels forging and have a better sight of steel reaction.

After that he gives the last blows,

cleans it with a brush

and checks that it is straight

After 20 minutes, from heating the bar to stop, the blade is forged and ready for quick sanding before heat treatment.

Pasi takes off the gloves, starts the belt sander at low speed and polishes a bit the bevels, marks bit more the shoulders and cleans the spine, cooling the blade in the water a few times during process. It doesn’t take more than 2-3 minutes, anyway.

At this point Pasi tells me to close the door of the smithy to create more shadow, so steel colours can be seen better. He put the blade into the forge again, took it out when it was cherry red and left it finally to cool at room temperature. Annealing is done.

Then he extinguishes the forge fire and we go to drink something. The rest of heat treatment will be done on the forge in the following days. Pasi usually quenches in oil and gives two or three temperings to the blade. He doesn’t use ovens for treatments and doesn’t have will to. He doesn’t have interest to use ovens, rather to keep traditional ways.

The evening is the last of our time together and we pass it talking and drinking. The next day we would have to start our way back to Italy.

A leuku by Pasi Hurttila.


2 responses to “A Visit To Finland by Federico Buldrini

  1. Jonathon Paulison

    What a great story ! Thanks for sharing your trip and all the pictures ! Very informative as well . I am a knife maker myself and enjoy bush craft . I make big choppers and bush craft knives , just starting to make my own sheaths . Thank you this story has inspired me and to keep it real !

  2. Best work and very good pictures.


    Wolff from France.

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