Two Swedish Slöjdkniv: introduction
The Swedish slöjdkniv has a similar role to the Finnish puukko, but while the last is a true all around knife, the slöjd is more wood carving specialized In this review I will compare two knives made by the two major tools maker companies of the company founded by Hans Karlsson and Svante Djärv.
These companies combine keen forging with a rather massive use of power tools such as power hammers, handle mills, circular saws and emery grinder: in this way they’re able to provide good quality hand forged tools at an extremely competitive price in a rather short time.
The companies are presented in alphabetic order.
The first slöjdkniv was crafted by H. Karlsson Klensmide AB, a small family business born in 1981. The workshop, a slaughterhouse converted into a smithy, is right outside Motala, a city in southern Sweden, 45 km west of Linköping.
The company is composed by Hans, Mats, Andreas and Johan Karlsson and is specialized in wood carving tools, sometimes forging iron works like railings.
The second slöjdkniv was crafted by S. Djärv Hantverk AB, a small family business born in 1989. The workshop is located 6 km outside Avesta, a city in central Sweden, 72 km north east of Ludvika. The company, composed of Svante and Elsa Djärv, is specialized in wood working and timbering tools.
I think it’s better to clarify that these knives are meant as out and out tools, so the fit and finish are a consequence.
H. Karlsson Klensmide AB
length 76 mm
wideness 22 mm
thickness 3 mm
steel SS 2258
grind slightly hollow
edge angle 24°
edge hardness ~ 61 HRC
length 107 mm
wideness 29 mm max.
thickness 20 mm max
knife 50 g
with sheath 60 g
The flat section blade is forged from a bar of SS 2258 ball bearing steel, a 52100. The shape is roughly forged with power hammer and finished with hand held hammer; it’s lightly tapered in height while distincly tapered in thickness. After annealing and normalisation, the blade is oven heated to 840° C, quenched in oil and then oven tempered at 180-200° C for an hour, two times. Bevels are grinded to 24° with a zero edge. Out of the box it was shaving sharp.
The monolithic ash handle, has quite fat proportions and is left a bit rough to ensure grip. The handle has a slight taper towards the blade, a hint of dropped butt and an almost rectangular, rather than oval, section with all the corners rounded off. That’s kind of unusual but fills well the hand.
The slöjd comes with a simple folded birch bark blade cover, made from 2 mm thick bark. These covers are made by a craftsman whose workshop is close to Karlsson’s. The rough surface of the bark and of the blade sides provide excellent friction retention.
S. Djärv Hantverk AB
length 76 mm
wideness 20 mm
thickness 3,5 mm
steel W-Nr 1.2842
edge angle 25°, with convexed edge
edge hardness ~ 60 HRC
length 108 mm
wideness 32 mm max.
thickness 23 mm max
knife 75 g
This knife is a slightly shorter version of the Djärv’s conventional 80 mm bladed slöjd.
The flat section blade is forged from a bar of 1.2842 tool steel, equivalent to O2. The shape is roughly forged with power hammer and finished with hand held hammer; it’s slightly tapered in height and just a hint in thickness. After annealing and normalisation, the blade is forge heated, quenched in oil and then tempered in an electric oven. Bevels are ground to 25° with a tiny convexed edge. Out of the box it was shaving sharp.
The monolithic elm handle, has slightly bigger proportions than the previous one, is left rough and has the Djärv’s trademark rippled surface to ensure grip. The handle is tapered towards both ends and has a distinct oval section. It fills the hand well.The slöjd comes without a sheath and the edge is protected during transport by a solidified oil film.
Before starting the real tests I had to touch up the knives slightly . The bite of Karlsson’ slöjd, even if shaving sharp, wasn’t absolutely smooth: I fixed it with a minute of stropping with Bark River green compound.
Then I lightly scraped the Djärv’s handle surface to smoothen it a bit and cleaned the blade of the excessive protective oil, without getting rid of its strong chemical smell, though this substantially decreased after four days of fresh air on my windowsill.
After a quick strop to get both knives equally sharp, let’s move on. I began with two small spikkentrolls, a common exercise used to help kids getting confidence with knife use with the same principle of Kochanski try-stick. I carved them from a 1 year seasoned, 1 cm thick, maple twig.
I used both knives to cut through the stick so to obtain a work piece, after that I broke the wood and trimmed off the ends, then I thinned down the thickness of a short section towards one of the ends and carved a round notch, it took four rounds to cut through the stick with the Karlsson and three rounds with the Djärv.
After the work the Karlsson’s edge had lost a little of its bite in the portion nearest the handle. Due to its concave geometry I felt the knife biting really deep, but without actually spreading apart the fibers until the end of the cut.
After its work the Djärv’s edge was absolutely perfect. Due to its more substantial edge I felt it to bite less deep, but spreading fibers well apart right away.
Before moving to the next test I touched up the Karlsson edge with DMT #8000 grit and stropped with both black and green Bark River compound to get the hair popping sharpness back.Then I sawed two small rectangles of black locust and drew two rye ears. Holding the knives by the tip like a pencil I engraved the ears roughly following the graphite lines, making V cuts.
With its combinations of thin tip and hollow grind the Karlsson was really quick and accurate.
The Djärv, having a slightly beefier edge and tip was even little quicker, making wider grooves, but a bit less precise.
After this I carved a spruce butter paddle.
During the roughing process, done with power strokes, the Karlsson required a very light hand in order to avoid an excessively deep bite that would waste too much wood. Once understood the right amount of pressure needed it worked very fast.
During the first refining cuts, done towards myself I felt the handle to be a bit stiff when held just with four fingers and using the thumb as fulcrum, while being very lively when held with the index finger gripping the blade spine. The last refining cuts were made holding the slöjd still and just pushing the spine forward. In any case these cuts tend to be quite scalloped and will require further sanding.
No maintenance and sharpening issues whatsoever.
On the other hand during the power strokes the Djärv had less need to control pressure and allowed me a slightly more precise use of material.
During the first refining cuts I felt the handle practically in the same way I felt the Karlsson one.
The last refining cuts were very smooth thanks to the convex edge and basically wouldn’t require sanding afterward. No maintenance and sharpening issues whatsoever.
Two slöjds similar yet different, mainly due to having two opposite geometries. The Karlsson, extremely aggressive, requires a bit to get accustomed to; the Djärv is generally more intuitive and somewhat forgiving.