Monthly Archives: February 2013

Ilkka Seikku

This post is the first in a series of profiles of puukkoseppä. Federico Buldrini has started this project by contacting several puukkoseppä to ask if they’d be willing to submit a short biography, some thoughts on knife making and Finnish culture and some photos. He has received some very interesting replies and I’d like to present the first one of Ilkka Seikku here on Federico’s behalf. He has several more profiles completed and I’ll be presenting them here over the next several weeks. My thanks to Federico, Ilkka and to all the puukkoseppä who have taken the time to respond! Visit Ilkka’s website to see more of his work: and check out his blog also:

Ilkka Seikku:

“My great interest about old Finnish culture is surely one of the reasons that made me interested in blacksmithying. Also the fact that I´ve always made all kind of handicrafts has guided me at this point where I make my living as a blacksmith.

I don´t know if there is some distant forefather who has been blacksmith… I think every Finnish person has some distant forefather who has been a blacksmith. Both of my grandfathers have forged their everyday tools, but they were not professionals. Simple puukkos and other tools. That has been very common in the Finnish countryside and it´s not rare even today. So, there has not been any certain blacksmith tradition in my family, but I have kids, so…

I think I seriously started to think of blacksmithing as a real job in 1998 and that´s about the time when I started to really understand something about blacksmithing. In 2000 I made some of my living making puukkos, knives and tools and in 2002 I started my own business. Some hobby forging a lot earlier, of course.

My first real blacksmithing teacher was masterblacksmith Hannu Antila, who is surely one of the best blacksmiths in Finland. So, not just puukko blades. Also Martti Malinen, famous axesmith, is a name I want to say in this factual connection. But as a stubborn Finnish hillbilly, I have to make my own mistakes and learn all by myself. So I don´t take any instruction as a one-and-only full truth, no matter if those instructions come from some mastersmith or even Master of The Universe… I also don´t think that this is the world´s most important and dead serious thing. My main sources of inspiration obviously come from traditional Finnish culture. Not by copying, but by living.

In the countryside in Finland, most of the blacksmithing tradition is based on farming (scythes, sicles etc), forestry (axes, log grapples, etc) and hunting (traps, knives etc.).There is no particular puukko named by Sammaljoki or Sastamala. But I think this whole thing with puukkos named after certain areas is some new aged idea. Of course there has been some similarities with puukkos made in Sammaljoki in old times, because same blacksmiths have made those. At the moment there is one fulltime blacksmith in Sammaljoki, guess who! So my puukkos are all “Sammaljoki puukkos”, if I want to call those in that name.

Beside blacksmithying I’ve made my living also from antler and horn works, wood works, leather works, traditional bows, taxidermy and drawing. Finally, I think there is no any mission given to a man like me. But I surely try to inspire people to the traditional crafts and, through that, maybe getting more understanding from the nature and “good old times”. I don´t like the idea about every man should do exactly the same things and there is some master of the masters who says how to make things. Copying is same as lying.”

Some puukkos:


Ilkka new


Ilkka 7

Ilkka 8

“Prowlers/prowlerantler – Even though I make a lot of traditional puukkos, like simple maasepänpuukkos and other traditional works, at the moment my bestseller is no doubt the BushProwler. I’m very pleased about the feedback it got from users all around the world.”


Ilkka prowlerantler

“Tradleuku – Traditional leuku is of course one of my regular works.”


“Bowyersknife  (archer’s knife)- I have a huge need to make all kind of carvings and other decorations. It´s something I have born with, I think. I normally try to make very simple knives and puukkos without a lot of decorations, but sometimes there just appears some carvings at the kniveshandles too.”


“Puukko blade forged out of a ball bearing from a bus.”

Ilkka Blade

“I use knives and puukkos everyday. I don´t make some special tests with my knives, but I test them in real use. Butchering, skinning, cutting meat, carving wood, whittling, batoning, etc. Just normal everyday things.”


“Me at work.”

Ilkka portrait

Rautalammi Puukko by Arto Liukko

Recently when I was trying to learn about the Rautalammi puukko I wrote to Arto and Jari Liukko to see what they could tell me. I am an admirer of their masterful work and was hoping they would have some information about the history of this type of puukko. Arto is one of the seven puukkoseppämestari of Finland and Jari is his son. Their work is of the very highest level as you will see by the photos below. You can visit their website at Here is the information I received from Arto and Jari:

The Rautalammi Puukko by Arto Liukko

“There’s no greater puukko tradition in eastern Finland than there is in Ostrobothnia, (Kauhava, Härmä…) which is the cradle of the whole Finnish puukko culture. Of course the puukko was needed here on a daily basis like everywhere else. Surely the local smiths had their own models and puukkos from elsewhere for sale. But there is one model, labelled as a traditional puukko, that stands out and honorably represents knife making skills in eastern Finland. The Rautalammi puukko.

The father of the Rautalammi puukko is Emil Hänninen (1869-1952) from Rautalampi. His workshop shipped puukkos all over Finland and also abroad, at least to Russia. Hänninen’s grand son, Hannu Tick, has told that a notable amount of puukkos sent to Russia were simple and ascetic utility knives. The Rautalammi puukko is a lot different than that ascetic utility puukko. It has a straight blade and a ricasso, but no blood groove. The handle is symmetrical. It also features a long pommel and skillfully filed bolster. The handle material in preserved models are curly birch and ebonite. An inlayed birchbark handle was also part of Hänninen’s production. The inlay pattern, ”lily of the valley”, he used was simplier than the complex inlay patterns used by the smiths in Ostrobothnia, but it still was beautiful and original. Even though Hänninen’s works are original, the influence of Ostrobothnian puukkos are clearly visible. The one factor separating the Rautalammi puukko from every other Finnish puukkos the most, is the sheath. The particular feature is the last (wooden cover inside the leather), that has strongly bevelled and decorated sides. Ornaments on the sheath are quite original and in my opinion the Rautalammi sheath is one of the most beautiful.

Only a handful of Hänninen’s puukkos have been preserved to these days and most of them are in the familys posession. A known puukko hobbyist Eino Kauppinen owns some of Hänninen’s work. In the Paris world exhibition in the year 1900 Hänninen received a bronze medal for his decorative Rautalammi puukko. This puukko still exists and is owned by the family member of his wife. After Emil Hänninen retired, one of his sons Heikki Hänninen continued in his fathers foot steps. Emil’s second son of four, Urho was a blacksmith. Did he made puukkos? I have no knowledge of it. The son of Urho Hänninen made Rautalammi puukkos by the standards of his grandfather Emil.

Iivari Haring (1887-1954) is mentioned as a maker of Rautalammi puukkos. In his days of youth he worked as a smith in Karttula, but moved to Kuopio in 1914 and from there to Pirkkala in 1937 to work in an airplane factory. There is only one preserved puukko by Iivari Haring in the common knowledge. This puukko and the sheath is photographed in Timo Hyytinen’s ”Suuri Puukkokirja 1”. The sheath is genuine Haring, but the puukko I am not sure of.
I have seen similar work among others in the Kauhava’s puukkomuseum. Haring’s house was destroyed in a fire and most likely a lot of valuable puukkos were destroyed. Hopefully some of his work still exists. What kind and in what condition time might reveal.

The Finnish Puukko culture is rich and original. The Rautalammi puukko is one crucial part of this tradition. I recommend people to get to know this model. It is a stylish and honest Finnish puukko. It was made as a utility puukko and it fills every criterion demanded of a puukko. With this model one can study almost every aspect there is to a traditional puukko. These are for example assembling a birch bark handle, doing the inlays and mountings. All tools used in the sheaths decoration you can make yourself . The Finnish puukko has received its shape and form during the ages. The basic form is very simple. It features a straight blade and a straight symmetrical handle. The length of the handle is a width of a mans hand. The length of the blade is the same or a bit shorter. The blade is relatively narrow, usually 16-18 mm. Of course there are exceptions from this definition to different needs of use and personal choice.”

A gallery of work by Arto and Jari:

Arto Liukko Rautalammin

Arto Liukko Rautalammin

Jari Liukko double masterpiece

Jari Liukko double

Arto Likuuo Keisarinpuukko

Arto Likuuo Keisarinpuukko

Jari Liukko

Jari Liukko

Arto Liukko

Arto Liukko

Jari Liukko

Jari Liukko

Arto Liukko

Arto Liukko

Jari Liukko

Jari Liukko

Arto and jari at the Helsinki Knife Show

Arto and Jari at the Helsinki Knife Show

Joonas Kallioniemi Mammoth Tooth Puukko WIP

Not long ago, my friend Joonas and I were discussing various materials for puukko building and I asked him what material he hadn’t worked with yet that he would like to try. Mammoth ivory was at the top of the list. I did some searching and found that mammoth ivory was pretty hard to come by and may not be suitable for what we had in mind. Ivory from other sources was very expensive and there were legal considerations involved, especially if it had to pass through customs.

In my search I found a dealer with mammoth tooth blocks for sale, while not inexpensive, they were within reason. I wasn’t familiar with the characteristics of mammoth tooth but they looked amazing. After discussing it with Joonas we decided to purchase the blocks and he’d give it a try. He said he wanted to make an heirloom quality knife, one I could be proud of and pass on to my son.

When the blocks arrived I was surprised how heavy and dense they were. They looked like gemstone. My friend Federico Buldrini reminded me that they weren’t actually tooth anymore but mineral, stone. Fossilization had occurred over the thousands of years since the mammoth had become extinct. These were blocks cut from a tooth which was probably larger than a shoebox or large loaf of bread. The mammoth had four of these huge teeth which were needed to chew about 500 pounds of vegetation a day.

I couldn’t imagine how Joonas was going to work such hard dense material, but he was up to the challenge as usual. So just before Christmas I sent the mammoth tooth to Joonas, what follows is his report. You will know by the photos of the finished puukko that I was very pleased with the results. It is indeed an heirloom piece to be handed down to my son and hopefully his son and and his son and on.

Thank you Joonas for all your hard work and taking time out of your work schedule to document the creation of this beautiful puukko!

Joonas Kallioniemi:

“Some time ago Mike and I started to play around with an idea of a new puukko knife for him. All along from the start it was clear that it was going to be a very special knife, and we agreed that I’d make a WIP post of the building process. After some thinking we decided to go with a piece of mammoth tooth for the handle, with nickel-silver fittings. I shared some of my ideas with Mike and he gave his approval, so all that was left was to make the knife!

The concept for the knife came with some influence from Tommi puukkos, and some from my own mind. I saw the knife in my head and started the process of bringing it to life. The following pictures are not perfect and they don’t capture every single detail in the making process, but they give some sights inside the craft.

Here you can see what we started out with: a beautiful piece of stabilized mammoth molar, some nickelsilver and silversteel.”


I turned to my good old friend The Fire, and forged the raw form of the blade.







Then I removed the scale and slightly ground the blade to get the profile where I wanted it.




Then I ground the blade closer to what it should be.




After grinding I filed the shoulders of the blade with a nice radius, with the aid of a filing guide.




As I had the blade roughed out I shifted my attention to the bolster and pommel. I got a bit creative with the milling machine and made the rough shapes… still a lot to do before they fit perfectly.





This is what we had at that point.


Behind the window, gray and cold, -28 degrees Centigrade. So heat-treating the blade seemed like something to do.



After heat-treating I always do a rough sharpening for the blade and test the durability of the edge with some deer horn. Then I proceed by finishing the blade and etching my name.




Then the rough-cut bolster has to be fitted to the blade. No shortcuts there, just pressing and taking material off where it needs to be taken off.




Some shady pictures of fitting the blade to the piece of mammoth… that’s some hard stuff. I’ve drilled the piece before using the hand tools for opening the cavity and I must say that piece was the hardest material I’ve ever drilled. The brown layers on the material seemed to respond very well to drilling but once I hit that shiny white layer… it was like drilling glass! The bit just wouldn’t want to penetrate the layers, but with time and cursing we got through the job.



That’s it! A snug fit with some extra room for epoxy. Not perfect but it fits.33


I’ve also slightly cut off material from the piece of tooth at this point, so it’s at correct length and angle. I have maybe too much material, but I’ve never dealt with this material before so I’ll rather have some extra on it.


Then the fittings needed some shaping with the belt grinder.



I then assembled the knife, with as much epoxy in between as possible, and peened everything together nice and snug.



A quick touch up with the belt to see how clean the peening is. Two horrible mishits with the hammer! Sometimes they happen, luckily they’re not too deep so I can get them off later when I’m rounding the pommel. Everything looks rough and ugly at this point… bear with me!


Better leave the knife alone for a day to set, enjoy some coffee.


The handle has to be ground out. First the profile, then rounding it. I usually tend to favour a more teardrop shaped cross-section on my knives but with this particular knife I wanted to go with a more rounded profile. This material was quite hard to shape with conventional methods. I also tried to avoid heating the material too much, so that slowed me down a bit too. The smell of this material was horrible too! Even with separate working clothes the smell stuck to my clothes and sweat, and judging from the looks on their face I’m pretty sure that other people noticed it as well!

41 42

The pommel is getting some shape. There’s a slight dent right on the edge of the metal, but it’s so minute that it’ll go away when I finish up the knife.


With careful finishing we end up at 2000 grit.


Some sights into the process of making the plywood liner for the sheath.






With the liner ready, we’ve cut some leather and done some cutting and marking for it. So the stitching may begin.



Then it’s just a matter of letting the leather dry, smoothing it out and adding a bit of colour.



After greasing up the leather and making the dangler ring and one-piece leather-rivet


It’s just a matter of assembling it up. And then you realize that the knife is ready! It is quite mind-boggling to think that the handle of that knife is actually a piece of a mammoths tooth… It kind of puts things into perspective. I’m pretty sure that the animal couldn’t have guessed that one day one of those teeth would end up at a dusty workshop in Finland. We tried to make a heirloom object, a special knife, and I think we got there. Thank you for the opportunity to bring this idea to life.