This profile is of Martti Malinen who lives in Puumala, Finland in the middle of Lake Saimaa. While known for his very fine axes, he is a smith who makes puukkos, tools and just about anything else anyone may need. He teaches classes occasionally at his place called Goose Meadow and is also an outfitter and guide for canoeing, kayaking and hiking expeditions.
I think you will enjoy Martti’s story and philosophy and the photos of his work. You can learn more at his website, http://goosemeadow.fi/en/hanhiniityn-synty/
“My father is a carpenter and I remember his tool box from when I was 4 years old. The tools were really sharp and my father let me use them all; his knife was a Swedish Mora in a red brown sheath and that was my first contact with knives. I got interested in blacksmithing because of my hobbies, when I was a teen I used to spend all my free time fishing and hiking. At that time it was common to make your own gear at home, so I started to make knives, canoes, backpacks, lures, flies etc. I crafted knives with ready made blades but it didn’t satisfy me. In 1988 I graduated from the forestry college and bought a house. In the same year I got my first anvil and started to hammer blades.
I have studied hammering by myself mainly, but in the beginning I contacted old Masters and visited their workshops. Uuno Vedenpää made a big impression on me and mainly I still follow his methods in traditional Finnish type of blade making. At that time hammering wasn’t a common hobby, while now the Finnish knifemakers guild is a big association. In the beginning of the 90s I worked in Kuru at the Institute of Forestry as a teacher. I taught courses in log house building and taught survival skills for wilderness guides.
Log house builders needed lots of special tools and I had the anvil and the workshop at home, so it was natural for me to make axes and other tools for the courses. Soon students started to ask for the tools also. I started to sell axes and knives at that time as a side job. In 2005 I moved away from Kuru and started my own company in Puumala which has kept me busy.
I still give courses sometimes, but now they are in my own workshop and held in commercial way, I don´t want to go back to the teacher’s role and job, I enjoy the freedom that I have now. As my own teachers I still need to mention Hovard Bergland, a Norwegian blacksmith that taught some short courses in Finland. I learned a lot from him.
I like to keep the Finnish blacksmith tradition alive. It´s somehow important to offer services for locals if they need a blacksmiths help. That’s why I accept many kind of orders, not only knives and axes. I don’t want to fill the world with my knives but if the neighbor comes to me and asks me to forge the candle holder I make it gladly. My duty is to be the smith in the local community.
I get my inspiration from my own experiences from hunting and fishing trips. I carry the knife everyday on my belt and I use it too, but I never go for long trips in the wilderness without an axe. I could forget my knife but not the axe. Also Finnish tradition in tool making is important for me. We have a very rich culture in knife and other tool making because in old times people ordered tools from the local smith, and of course the local smith had his own models. Now we can copy the models from books and the internet and there is the risk to kill the small local traditions.
My mission as a blacksmith is hard to explain. I´m 50 years old and I still have many years to work. It was something like 25 years ago that I started to hammer blades and I think that after another 25 years I will still be hammering the same kind of blades and of course axes too… I feel I have found my life style and I’ll keep it.”
Here is some of Martti’s other work including scissors and work on vintage locks and latches: