Monthly Archives: April 2015

Puukkojunkkari

The puukko is known to most of us as a very useful and practical tool, a classic traditional all around knife. However at one time, in the 1800s it was often used as a weapon. In some parts of Finland, especially the Southern Ostrobothnian region there were groups of men called puukkojunkkari or häyt, who used the puukko to settle their differences much the way the Colt revolver was used in the American West during the same era.

The puukkojunkkarit liked to show up at public functions, especially weddings to cause havoc. Fueled by alcohol at the reception there would often be knife fights. The famous “golden age” of puukkojunkkarit lasted from the 1820s to the 1880s and it is said that the most notorious puukkojunkkarit lived in towns near the Lapuanjoki river, such as Alahärmä.

“The Härmä knife was associated with the history of the häjyt knife fights and the heyday of knife-bearing ruffians around the middle of the 19th century. The knife with a ferruled handle is mentioned, for instance, in many folk songs about the legendary häjyt Antti Rannanjärvi. Erkki Rannanjärvi the maker of the first Härmä puukko knife, was a cousin of Antti Rannanjärvi. The Härmä knife was regarded as the weapon of the häjyt, but also as a symbol of the home region and the spirit of Härmä, The knife tradition of some 150 years and the craftsmanship of the master knife-makers have contributed to the appreciation of the Härmä knife.

A Härma puukko made by one of the Rannanjärvis.

A  pair of Härma puukkos made by one of the Rannanjärvis.

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Puukkojunkkarit were present in all society classes. They included both home owners and farm servants. The home owners were often gang leaders. Puukkojunkkarit were often feared and respected, and fought for their honor. The code of honor disallowed fear and respected fighting. Puukkojunkkarit were often difficult to prosecute because few people dared testify against them. Puukkojunkkari also received admiration and respect because they dared to stand up against society and authorities.”

Antti Rannanjärvi and  Antti Isotalo who led the  gang Isoo-joukko together from 1856 to 1867.

Antti Rannanjärvi and Antti Isotalo who led the gang Isoo-joukko together from 1856 to 1867.

Puukkojunkkarit activity was later romanticized and idealized in songs and folk tales and in 2012 there was a film called Härmä released that is partially based on the exploits of Antti Rannanjärvi. The film features puukko made by Taisto Kuoritti and as can be seen the puukko used as weapons had a somewhat longer blade than usual.

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Tero Kotavuopio, Kitchen Knives

I’m pleased to present some more work of  Tero Kotavuopio in this post, introduced by Federico Buldrini, a frequent contributor to Nordiska Knivar. Please see Tero’s profile at: https://nordiskaknivar.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/tero-kotavuopio/

introduction

As some may know I’m a student of Natural Sciences at the University of Modena, Italy. I’m no anthropologist, since my main interest is birds and mammal ethology, but I’ve reached some personal ideas on Homo sapiens as well.

Firstly, I see H. sapiens as just another species in the nature kingdom and not something apart from it. As all species it has its own special features that distinguish it from the others and determine it for what it is.

There has been various thesis about what feature makes H. sapiens special”, the most famous being the opposable thumb, the use of tools or the use of a language. Nevertheless we can find those features in many other species.

Just to give an idea, the opposable thumb is present on many species of apes, not only the anthropomorphic ones, on the giant panda, on the falangerids marsupials, on the koala, on the opossum, on some South American tree frogs and on the chameleons.

The use of tools is present not only among apes, but, for example, also in few species of finches, most notably Camarhynchus pallidus; known for using cactus thorns when searching for food in very tight spaces.

The use of a language to communicate, not only to just express possession of a territory etc., is present, at least for what we can understand now, in mammals and birds and it’s clearly obvious if we just take our time and actually listen to them talking to each other.

So, what really makes Homo sapiens particular in its own way? The developed habit of cooking food and all the culinary tradition we have! Now, don’t take what I’ve written too seriously and enjoy some kitchen knives made by Tero Kotavuopio!    Federico Buldrini

Tero Kotavuopio

Tero Kotavuopio

A kitchen knife is a tool, a special tool, which main purpose is cutting and slicing. They’re nothing like everyday outdoor use knives. There is a whole lot of different purposes and related models of course, but I think the most useful style is the sharp allround blade used for cutting and slicing vegetables, meat, etc.
It needs to be thin and very sharp, but durable, like all blades of course, but a kitchen knife is, as said, primarily a special tool for fine cutting task.

In my opinion damascus steel fits kitchen knives very well: they get better care than allround knives and can also become nice quality, decorative products in the kitchen.
The modern powder metallurgy created steels like RWL-34, which are very good choices due to their corrosion resistance and edge holding abilities.

Proper steel choice and heat treatment are vital since the blade has to sport a thin edge and equally needs to be, at 62 or more HRC, tough and durable. Stainless damascus kitchen knives are little practical luxuries, even if prices are higher you get the full worth of your money.

My personal preference goes to laminated blades with iron sides wrapping a fine quality carbon steel core: I appreciate Japanese blade culture and achievements.
Traditional carbon steel and nickel steel (15N20) damascus also work very well, but needs a little extra care, like oil sometimes and drying after every use, but everybody cleans and dries their knives after cooking anyway.

To ensure a long life the tool handle materials also need to be carefully chosen. A well prepared and treated natural wood is good, but modern stabilised woods are the best choice, especially if matching a stainless blade.
The blade shape comes from the knifes final use, obviously one blade can’t rule them all: a blade good with vegetables and salads isn’t necessary the best with meat, boning or fish filleting.

When somebody orders a custom knife, he/she will get a very well performing tool and piece of smithing art. It’s important to discuss with the maker wit the knife will be used for, but the customer should also hopefully know how to use the tool: if someone will use a very sharp, thin bladed knife to chop down bones, surely they will ruin the blade and also hurt the maker’s heart…

In the end, a chef knife, is the chef’s personal and special tool.

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