Juha Nikki – Recent Work
Mike has generously prompted and prodded me for an update on what I’ve been working on recently, so here goes. The knives below have been made in the last couple of years. As you can probably work out, I only make a handful of knives a year.
The latest development for me is that I’ve moved down from Northern Finland – Lapland – to the South. Whilst here, I’ve been taught to forge my own blades – something that was a surprisingly easy skill to pick up under good tutorship. Which is not to say I’m suddenly an expert smith or even a smith at all, far from it. I don’t think that I’ll make a habit of forging my own blades. I’ll leave that to the smiths who enjoy it – forging was fun, but I like the other aspects of knife making more. There are plenty of good smiths in Finland I can buy blades from. A lot of them will sell blades despite the fact that we have this weird perception here, where everyone who can forge should apparently make the whole puukko themselves and those who can’t (won’t) should stick to knitting. I don’t quite see the reasoning behind it, but people are entitled to their opinions. I might just knit my next puukko handle…
The little knife above is one which I made years ago for my personal workshop knife – it took about 30 minutes to put a handle to and finish. The blade it by a smith in Wales, called Nic Westermann, and it is a little miracle. If memory recalls, it’s about 2 mm thick and 50 mm long. It’s a laminated blade, with a hard core and flexible cheeks. It was as sharp as a razor, very easy to sharpen and kept it’s edge well. It was so good, I regret that it left my workshop… A reindeer herder in Lapland saw it and decided it would be ideal for ear marking reindeer, to I spruced the knife up a bit and made a sheath and regrettably sold it.
The puukko above is in a kind of Sami style and has a blade by Jukka Hankala – I was very lucky to get it through a contact in France, no less… The timber is birch burl from my (ex) local Lappish forest and there is reindeer antler in the knife and sheath, too. The joints in the handle are spaced with vulcanized fiber. I like to file grooves in the joints between different natural materials, as they are bound to expand and contract in different ways as time goes by. The groove will hopefully prevent any obvious notches or steps appearing at those joints. It’s a small job to do and easy to skip, but i like to think details matter. A matter of personal taste, of course – in other places I like rustic finishes.
This knife has a Damasteel blade by Ralph Etzold. The puukko was shipped to Hawaii, which is why the sheath has in its decorations the leaf of both the Hawaiian and Finnish national trees. The handle is stabilized timber and the sheath is of stitchless variety, as most of mine are these days.
A puukko with YP Taonta (Puronvarsi / Antti Mäkinen) blade. A stabilized alder handle, with stabilized materials I usually don’t file grooves to the joints as the material is, well… stable!
YP Taonta blade, ash burl and reindeer antler handle – this time with a groove on the vulcanized fibre spacer. Another stitchless sheath.
A stainless blade by Ralph Etzold, reindeer bolster. The timber is highly figured Arctic birch double dyed. Stitchless sheath.
This blue puukko is a very special one for a good friend. There are several connections to Lapland. It has a Damasteel blade made in Lapland by Ralph Etzold. The handle has a real gold nugget panned from a Lappish river, and the sheath has an Amethyst dug with my own hands from a mine in Lapland.
And finally, above is the first complete knife with a blade forged by myself. The metal parts still need polishing, but it’s more or less there.
Note: Please see the Index page for other articles by Juha Nikki, including how to make a stitchless sheath.