Sami Länsipaltta is a puukkoseppä from Rauma, Finland. Although he calls himself a “hobbyist” maker his work is anything but amateurish. Sami is an all around artist and craftsman who has a very keen sense of design and detail. He works in the traditional form but with his own unique style and choice of materials. The first puukko by Sami that I recall seeing was one made from a hockey puck and scrap steel. One of his most recent is made of stacked bicycle inner tube in place of birch bark. He uses curly birch and birch bark but likes to take chances and try new approaches. I really enjoy his work and am always looking to see what he’s up to next.
Sami’s website: http://www.lansipaltta.fi/en/
Sami’s blog: http://lansipaltta.blogspot.com/
“I have from an early age loved all kind of hand skills such as drawing, air brushing, lure making, woodworking, just to mention a few. In addition, I enjoy lure fishing and now and then in the autumn I go duck hunting also. So the puukkos, and various types of knives have always been part of these hobbies, but they were so obvious that I really never had paid them any particular attention.
Sometime in 2008, I saw a beautiful handmade puukko in one of the internet fishing forums, and I got the idea: “Why couldn’t I do that kind of puukko myself?”. In the autumn of the same year I signed up for a local Community College puukko course where the puukkos were made from stock blades. Puukko making was therefore a very “lucky” continuum to my previous crafts. Maybe there’s also some craftsmanship in my blood because my father has done woodworking, as well as being an art teacher in elementary school, and his father was a carpenter and farmer. I don’t know if there have been any blacksmiths or metal workers in my family.
As I said, I took the first steps to this great hobby in 2008. Right from the beginning however, I followed my own path and gathered more information mainly from the Internet, from the puukko literature as well as from other nearby courses. Finally, there came the moment that I just had to try to do the blades myself. I forged my first blade in 2010 and the first totally self-made puukko with my own blade saw the daylight at the end of the same year. Since then, I have forged all blades myself. At the same time my relationship and appreciation to Finnish puukko has totally changed over these years.
I can’t say that I’m completely self-taught. I have received priceless advice and tips from many, even here introduced, bladesmiths. I also have to give a big thanks to the internet and, in particular to puukkosivut.net forum. It’s also always good to keep your eyes and ears open to new ideas and methods. The best advice I have received, especially on forging, was by listening and following the other black- and bladesmiths at work.
I think the essence of a puukko comes from its simplicity and minimalisim, in other words, the traditional design. Not to forget it’s usability. Simplicity is very difficult to achieve and perhaps the challenge lies right there. On the other hand you could say that the simple shapes and lines stem from somewhere deep in Finnish culture, such as Alvar Aalto’s and other great Finnish designers design. From time to time I am very pedantic and I am trying to focus on finishing and why wouldn’t I? This is a pure hobby for me, so I don’t have any time pressure. Because I make only 1-3 puukko a year, I always try to find or try to do something new and different. In addition, it’s also kind of fun play around with different materials, even a little different from the traditional that is usually seen in puukkos.
I have also noticed how a perfectly shaped and finished knife is nothing if it doesn’t have the proper blade. I have recently tried to search for information, and make experiments in forging and heat treatment and thus to improve the functionality as well as the quality of my puukkos. These experiments, however, hold back bit the fact that I don’t own my own forge.
Although this is just a hobby for me, and almost the only hobby in addition to my family at this time. It’s very wonderful to see that others have recognized my puukkos as well. So far the biggest tribute to my hobby has been the invitation to take a part Puukontekijät Exhibition organized by Professor Simo Heikkilä (known eg, Leuku Exhibitions). Maybe there was needed also one hobbyist among the 17 top bladesmiths?”
(The exhibition Sami refers to was at the Höyry Galleria in Korpilahti, Finland April 2013 ) http://hoyrygalleria.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2013-04-30T14:58:00%2B03:00&max-results=7
The hockey puck puukko…
…what he started out with.
This one has stacked bicycle inner tube in place of birch bark.
Some of the material used in the puukko.
Sami at the furnace.
Some examples of Sami’s drawings and fishing lures: