Veikko Hakkarainen is a full time blacksmith who lives and works in Tapio, a small locality a few km away from Rovaniemi, the “capital” of Finnish Lappland.
His great grandfather, grandfather and his father were also blacksmiths, but they didn’t craft knives for a living, though his father made few during retirement. Veikko was taught about blacksmithing basics by his father doing his forging on a charcoal fire, but he’s mostly self taught. In fact he learned puukko making by himself.
Before 1978 he used to forge agriculture tools, then he was asked by Lauri-Tuottet, a small souvenir company in Rovaniemi, to forge blades for them. That’s when he started to forge blades and make puukkos regularly. Since then he has focused on knives only and his Kullervo Puukko, named for a character in the Kalevala the national saga of Finland, is now a registered trade mark in Finland. ( Scroll down after the photos for the story of ill-fated Kullervo.)
His goal has always been to make the finest knives possible, as precise as possible, paying careful attention to details and giving the best of himself to every knife. In thirty five years of knife making for a living he has received major awards twice, even though this isn’t really important to him. In 1986 his Kullervo won a puukko contest in “Metsästys & Kalastus” (Hunting & Fishing) magazine and in 1995 he was chosen as the best Finnish knife smith. The most important thing, he says, is customer satisfaction, not the awards.
As long as his body will allow him, he’ll forge more puukkos and, after all, he plans to keep hammering for at least for another 10 years.
The Kullervo puukko is now available at Lamnia, http://www.lamnia.fi/items.php?lang=en&pid=8438
”It is important to me that the tools I make, the knives, are as good and of the best quality as possible. Old, proven methods are essential in my production, but I don’t hesitate utilizing new technology, methods and materials either.
Being a knifesmith in fourth generation I feel obliged to do my work in the best possible way. I have seen how tools can be made since I was a child and thus my began my interest in the profession of a smith.
I became a smith when I was a young boy. I find it very challenging and there is always something to learn.”
The Kullervo puukko pictured above is owned by my friend Bill Lecuyer and he provided this information:
tang 6x4mm thick at peening
height 30mm max
thickness 21mm max
“The blade is hand forged from xc75 carbon steel and heat treated to 62-63HRC. The blade has visible hammer marks.The handle is oval shaped and made of birch bark pieces compressed between two brass bolsters, bottom bolster is 7mm and top bolster is 4mm. The birch bark handle provides a nice warm and comfortable grip in all conditions.
The sheath is made of 3mm leather with a nylon insert for protection and a leather thong belt loop.The puukko came in a wooden box lined with straw.The Kullervo feels really nice in hand and came razor sharp.”
The Story of Kullervo by Federico Buldrini
Here is the tale of Kullervo as told in the Kalevala:
Among Kalevala characters, Kullervo is the most tragic and negative one, archetype of the strong, ill-fated, brainless and impulsive lad. Jean Sibelius composed a symphonic suite about him.
The two brothers Untamo and Kalervo have a fiery argument ending with Untamo going to war to Kalervo’s tribe. Untamo slaughters everyone but Kalervo’s pregnant wife, who he keeps as a slave.
Kullervo is born and shows immediately his furious temper. After three days he destroys the cradle, after three months he start to talk about vengeance towards the uncle.
Untamo tries to drown him in a river, Kullervo is later found fishing. It’s then tried to burn him, but Kullervo just plays with the ashes and fire. Finally he tried to hang him, but Kullervo, instead of choking, carves up the tree.
Kullervo grows up and Untamo tries to put him to work as nurse for a new born baby, just to see Kullervo leaving the child to starve. When he has to care for a field he just destroys it. If he has to build a fence he creates it without an entrance. When he has to thresh the rye he destroys the harvest.
Finally Untamo sells him to the smith Ilmarinen. Ilmarinen’s wife puts him to graze cattle and, to make fun of him, she cooks him a loaf filled with a stone. While doing his duty Kullervo tries to cut the bread, but his puukko hit the stone and breaks. He’s filled with grief since the knife was the only memory of his family. Enraged he curses his mistress and calls a pack of wolves and bears for vengeance.
While Ilmarinen’s wife is milking the cows Kullervo stirs the beasts towards her. She’s bitten in the face by wolves and has a leg cut off by bears. She begs Kullervo for help but he leaves her bleeding to death.
This done Kullervo flees and wonders sadly in the woods. Here he meets an old fairy who tells him his family is still alive. He’s overcome with joy and searches for them. Once at home he’s warmly welcomed by the mother that then informs him that one of his sisters is disappeared in the forest.
At home Kullervo tries to work with less success than what he did when he was a slave. He destroys the boat, ruins the fishing net, splatters the fish. He’s now sent to pay tributes due to the tribe, but on his way back home he meets a maiden. He tries with no success to seduce her with words, but manages to attract her showing his jewelry and fine clothes.
Kullervo now lies with her without caring who she is. After he has satisfied his lust they talk just to find out to be brother and sister. She runs off in despair and drowns herself in the river.
Kullervo heads home, tells the tragic story to his mother and decides to go to war against Untamo in the hope to die in battle, giving at least a meaning to his own death. His mother tries in vain to convince him to remain with them, asking who will care for them if something happens. A hardhearted Kullervo wishes them all to die and prepares to leave. Only his mother seems to feel affection for him still.
While on his way to war he learns about the death of his father, brother and sister, but shows no interest or feelings for them. But when his mother dies he’s once again alone and embittered. He then gives dispositions for her burial.
Now to the war. He asks the the god Ukko his magic sword for a terrible victory and with that blade he slays Untamo and his tribe. Fulfilled by his revenge he heads home and when he finds it empty calls his mother spirit asking why she left him alone in this world. She replies from the grave telling he has his dog left for hunting.
Kullervo goes to the woods for the hunt but shortly after he finds again the glade where he dishonored his sister. Rage and desperation take him, he asks to the sword if it would kill him. The weapon has no problem in drinking sinner blood, as long as it often cuts innocent flesh. He then thrust the hilt in the ground and impales himself on the blade.
The wizard bard Väinämöinen warns the future generations about raising children recklessly.