Martti Malinen Koivumäki Puukko Review
by Federico Buldrini
This puukko was hand made by Finnish blacksmith Martti Malinen living and working in Niinisaari, a small village 10 km from Puumala, on lake Saimaa. He combines the philosophy of the old villager smiths with modern tools and forges anything from a nail to a lock and all kinds of cutting tools. His real specialty and most loved item to forge though, are axes. In addition to blacksmithing he has a been a survival instructor for wilderness guides and is a forging teacher.
See Martti’s website and profile of him on this blog:
All the measurements I’ll give are just of this specimen.Since every puukko is individually made measures will change slightly.
length 96 mm
wideness 21 mm
thickness 3 mm at spine, 4,5 mm at thickest point
tang 4×3 mm at peening
steel Ovako 100Cr6
edge angle 20°, with tiny microbevel
edge hardness ~ 62 HRC
length 108 mm
wideness 26 mm max.
thickness 20 mm max.
knife 90 g
with sheath 140 g
The knife comes in a cardboard gift box filled with feather sticks, together with two business cards. The name Koivumäki, birches hill, comes from the very place where Martti’s workshop is.
The rhombic, hair popping, blade was forged from Ovako 100Cr6, the Finnish equivalent of US 52100 bearing steel. The steel was first stretched with a power hammer then forged into shape with a hand held hammer. The heat treatment was made with two specialized ovens. The blade first got heated to 820° C and quenched in 60° C oil, then tempered twice for two hours at 200° C.
Bevels are ground to 20° and the edge is finally hand sharpened and stropped to add a tiny microbevel.
The tang is slightly thicker than on wood handled puukkos: in his opinion, if properly compressed, a bark handle is solid just like a plain wood one.
Like said the handle is composed of birch bark, compressed between two 3 mm thick brass bolsters; it has a plush and smooth feeling, remaining very grippy.
Birch bark, naturally filled with essential oil, is waterproof and almost neutral towards shrinking from humidity changes. It’s texture provides a very firm grip whenever hands are tired, bloody or moist and always gives a warm feeling.
The handle has a subtle teardrop cross section and fills the hand well.
The sheath was double seam hand stitched on the back from 3 mm thick cowhide. Even if the edge of the mouth isn’t folded inside it has an extremely tight retention.
Inside there is a one sided, hand carved, alder protective liner.
The belt loop is attached with a triangular D-ring allowing great steadiness during walking but also leaving to the sheath the possibility to be easily moved away when needed. The only ready made part is the brass button that closes the belt loop.
Weighting, together with the sheath, less than my Pasi Hurttila Tuohipää alone, I find the Koivumäki to be an extremely light belt knife, easily forgettable until you feel the sheath touching your leg.
I decided to keep the bird carving as test. Any decently sharpened knife can give you a useful enough feather stick, carve a tend peg or a walking stick, so I’m not interested to base my opinion only from those tests.
Bird carving allows me to use any kind of grip and cut that I would use in bushcraft tasks, adding detailed wood working, but for a much more prolonged time: since detailed woodcarving implies frequent grip changing, in this way I can easily judge the general knife comfort and handiness in addition to edge durability.
So I cut another piece of four years seasoned oak and drew the profile of a goldeneye, since a couple of these diver ducks nest in Martti’s yard. Next I whittled down the wood a couple of mm so to have it evenly thick, sawed off the exceeding wood then started to carve the bird.
I have to say that the goldeneye proved to be generally way easier and quicker to be carved than the willow grouse. The head and the rump went absolutely quick and smooth, while the neck, on both sides, was a bit trickier, but with some stop cuts and shaving I got them right.
As for the ptarmigan at the end I concluded with a minute of sandpaper and few refining cuts.
I wasn’t able to detect any real rough spot all along the carving, I only felt a tiny asperity on the side of the pommel while turning the knife in the hand, but nothing annoying.
The handle size is just right, even if I tend to prefer slightly bigger ones, and gave a quick and intuitive control on the blade.
On its part the blade showed a ferocious bite and nice agility for working in tiny spaces, keeping good mass for power cuts: again, the rhombic section is really a world of its own. I also want to remark the lightness of this puukko: there is no way it will tire the user.
I was very positively impressed with edge strength and durability, at the end of the work I detected only one very small rolling in the belly, while the all edge was still able to shave hair quite well.