Making A Puukko Without Power Tools by Ilkka Seikku

Here is a very interesting piece by Ilkka Seikku about making a puukko without any power tools.  I hope he’ll favor us with a sequel on the leather work aspects of this project. Thank you Ilkka!

Ilkka’s website:

and blog:

“First I forge the blade. I use my foot powered forge and hammer it from silversteel. It’s necessary to hammer the blade straight to its shape and even the bevels need to be almost ready after forging. It´s very hard to file the blade if during forging the hammering hasn’t been so good.

I forge this blade to be something like 90 mm long and 22 mm wide. It has rhombic section and the thickest point is about 5 mm. It´s quite regular and traditional size. If you’re lucky enough to have seen some old Finnish maasepänpuukkos, you may have seen they have hammer marks on the bevel too. That´s because the forging was done very close to final thickness also for the bevels. Filing and grinding with hand tools is very arduous so it has to be forged almost sharp.


Next thing I do is to file the bevels edge just a little bit so it´ll be fine. There’s no need to do anything for the spine or anything else neither, it was fine already.





Now I need a handle. This is a hard part, maybe the hardest one. It’s a lot of work sawing very hard curly birch (diameter over 20 cm) with a hand saw.
Finally I got my piece for the handle. I shape it to be fitted better to the blade with my self made ax. Then I drill a hole with, again self made, hand drill.





As you may have noticed; I haven’t done any heat treatments to the blade yet. That´s because I´ll next heat the tang to burn the hole. This is how I can make the hole to be exactly in the size of the tang and the blade will stick in the handle “perfectly”.
It´s very important NOT to burn it all the way through! The last cm needs to be pushed through when the tang is cold again. This is how the fitting can be made very nicely.




Now I saw a piece of antler that will be the bolster. Again with the hand drill, I make a little hole and burn it through with heated tang. When burning through the antler with tang, it has to be done very quickly, otherwise the antler will burn.





Then I cut the handle so that the tang is longer than the blade, as I´ll rivet the tang from the bottom of the handle. After a little checking I cut a piece of moose rawhide to be a liner between the birch and the antler. I wet the rawhide and hammer it to be very hard. So I make sure that the it will not shrink.




Now that I have fitted the handle around the tang I can make the heat treatments. I use always a living fire while making it. That´s the way blacksmiths have done for ages! It´s very sad that today many blacksmiths can’t trust their eyes and experience to do that. They use all kind of modern equipments to get exact temperatures etc. If someone can tell me if some blade was tempered in oven or with the fire just by using the knife, I surely dont´t believe him!




I whittle the shape of the handle with my self made BushProwler and then sand it with 80# sand paper. After the piece of birch starts to get some shapes it´s time to glue the knife together.
First I glue the bolster to the tang. I use, guess what, my self made glue that I get from mixing birch bark oil and carbon black. It works like heat glue, so I have to warm up the tang, but not so much to spoil the heat treatment.



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I managed to find a quite good mixture, the glue needs high temperature to melt and is not too glass-like after getting colder. Right after gluing I hammer the head of the tang so to rivet the all knife.







I hammer the head of the tang so to rivet the all knife. After some more whittling and some finishing with 80# sand paper, I took this picture.
This is about all of the tools and materials I have used.


Now some sharpening with a piece of slate I have taken from the wilderness. There is a lot of slate in our forest and I have found it to be very good grind stone.


Traditionally made Finnish puukko. This is something I can proudly say to be HAND MADE!


Now it´s time to check if this puukko is worth anything. A puukko needs a sheath of course, and its first job is always to carve its own wooden liner!
I use coniferous woods when making inserts. It has great ability to remove the moisture from the blade and fade it avoiding any damage for the blade.

Making a liner is very easy. First the blade profile is drawn and then it’s just carved off. From these pictures you can see that there is really no need of chisels or anything else but the puukko that is going to have this liner!
This insert must be solid, so it needs another piece of wood at its back. I usually use birch for this piece. It’s quite hard wood and it makes the all liner more solid. When the top is, for example, spruce, the moisture can still fade away easily.
Again the gluing is done with that same glue as I used for the handle. After the glue gets colder, I can shape the insert to be ready.












I cut a piece of moose rawhide, which I´ll use to make the sheath and also there is a moose leg sinew which I´ll use for the sewing. First I have to bark tan the leather but that´s another story. Maybe I´ll share it with you someday.


I hope this was fun to read and hopefully it makes more sense about the REAL tradition of making puukkos!”


13 responses to “Making A Puukko Without Power Tools by Ilkka Seikku

  1. Great! Thank you very much for that project! You did a great job.
    best regards from Germany!

  2. Impressive craftsmanship you do nice work. Not meany can make such a knife with so little. People like you inspire me.

  3. daniel roualet

    great and beautiful work!!!!!!!! you are the best!!! Regards from France

  4. I will make sure Ilkka knows about these comments, thank you!

  5. Very inspiring. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Thank you. This is informative and very interesting. Nice work, and I am very impressed with your hand drill. Best wishes from Nelson, New Zealand. Stephen Coote.

  7. Looking forward to going to Ilkka´s course in the near future. A great article! Inspiring work.

  8. I wish I could join you for that course!

  9. Wow, nice work! I am just getting into knifemaking and for some reason I just love puukkos, something like this looks great for a first knife because you showed how few tools are really needed. I can’t thank you enough for the inspiration!

  10. Reblogged this on Traditional Skills – David Sims and commented:
    I found this cool article about making traditional puukko (knife) and thought others might find it interesting like I did. This artile is a reblog or a reblog, but it appears that the original article is no longer available.

  11. I really enjoyed this write up. Please keep it coming.

  12. Man that is one of the coolest things I’ve ever read. I’ve got to have a go at this and get myself a real handmade Finnish puukko! 🙂

  13. Hermoso trabajo 🙂

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