Monthly Archives: March 2017

Mikko Heiskanen

In this post I would like to feature Mikko Heiskanen from Kuopio, Finland. Mikko was influenced at a young age by his grandfather Mr. Tuomas Juntunen who was a village blacksmith. I admire Mikko’s work, hand forged blades and beautiful clean lines featuring traditional as well as modern materials.

Visit his website at www.heiskanenknives.com

Mikko Heiskanen:

“My grandfather was a blacksmith in a small village called Jyrkkä which is situated in Sonkajärvi municipality in central Finland. He started his career as a blacksmith in the 1950´s when farming was the main source of income in Finland. It must not have been easy, there were no books or other sources of information available to get the needed information for steel processing. Of course, there were other blacksmiths in nearby villages, but they kept their knowledge to themselves.

Looking back I can see the reasons why I became interested in knife making. First of all, I have always been a very passionate hunter and fisherman and as a result of that knives have followed me my whole life. Secondly, I lived my childhood’s summers mainly in rural environments which means that you need your puukko at least in every 10 minutes to cut or whittle something. Besides that, being a man in farmhouse requires a knife hanging from your belt at least from 8-years old boy´s point of view.

As a child I used to listen to the hammering sound that echoed from my grandfather’s dark and smoky smithy. The process where the steel is quenched was a very accurate work process and I was allowed to watch it only from the doorway. I think I was strongly influenced from my childhood’s atmosphere and as a result of that I have followed my family heritage of blacksmithing.

(A photo of Tuomas Juntunen  and the wood pile for making charcoal. Because blacksmiths needed charcoal to ensure their livelihood, they had to make them by themselves. They made a pile from wood and buried it under peat. The pile would burn slowly for many days because the amount of oxygen was regulated and the charcoal-master was guarding it day and night until  the end of the process.)

 

I always knew that someday I would make a puukko of my own, it was only matter of time. I graduated from the forestry school in 2005 and after that I spent many busy years at work doing only some carpentry in my spare time. After awhile life steered me and my family to Kuopio near my childhood home and the vision of a new lifetime hobby started to grown strong.

Finally in the summer of 2015 it was time to dig my grandfather’s old and rusty anvil from the smithy and begin to learn the old tradional knife making methods. I started from scratch using a well known method called learning by doing. Naturally the quencing and tempering were the most difficult parts at the beginning. There is not much to tell about my first knives but never-ending persistence was rewarded when pieces started to finally look and work like puukkos.

After fifteen knives I am still at the beginning of my journey as a knife maker but I have learned a lot. Unfortunately I didn´t get the opportunity to learn all the blacksmithing methods from my grandfather, so I have done a lot of self-study in knife making. Luckily there is lots of information available in print and on the internet, so starting was far easier than in the 1950´s I believe. Nowadays my daytime job and my family keep me very busy, so my biggest challenge is to find time for knife making as much as I want.

There are plenty of excellent knifemakers in Finland and many of them are still quite young and ready to learn new methods and maintain the traditional ones. Because of many talented knifemakers I believe the roots, traditions and blacksmithing methods of Finnish puukko are largely preserved. That is something what makes me happy.

When it comes to my own knifemaking I am not making a large number of different kinds of puukkos, but I am trying to produce as high quality puukkos as possible. Every puukko from my smithy has some kind of story to tell, why the design and what the main use of it is. My puukkos are typically very simple and I am trying to keep the lines as clear as possible. I believe preference for simplicity is a national trait in Finland and part of the circumstances in which we live here.

For my eyes the handle is made only from one material and sheaths are done without patterns. You could call it Scandinavian style, although that phrase is nowadays almost a cliché.

I forge all of my blades from 12-14mm steel bar by hand. It takes time but in that way I get exactly what I want. In my previous work I have used mainly birch bark and curly birch as a handle material, besides that I have used some more exotic materials like ebonite and micarta.

I think the most satisfying part of knife making is making the handle, because in that moment the puukko is getting its spirit and starting its life as an object. In puukko design my leading principle is that handle and blade are forming an unbroken wholeness together in a way that the handle is like an extension of the blade. To be honest, that happens only every now and then and that is the main reason to make a new puukko and try again.

If I put my puukkos in a Finnish category I believe they mostly represent Tommi style puukkos. It´s no wonder because the Tommi-style puukko is the most used model in the Savo region where I live. As a knifemaker I am always looking for new working methods and challenges, there is still plenty to learn.”

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Mikko Heiskanen

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Fredrik Prost: Saami Craftsman

In this post I would like to feature the superb craftsmanship of Fredrik Prost of Kiruna, Sweden. Fredrik makes traditional Saami knives and other objects. For more information or to contact him visit his website at http://www.fredrikprost.com/ .

Fredrik Prost:

“I became interested in knives as a small child when I saw the beautiful knives people had in their belts during hunting and reindeer herding. Both practical and beautiful seems to be a theme in our handicraft. When I was 14 I made a knife with the help of an old man in our village who was a knifemaker. The knife was really ugly (even I could see that) so I wanted to make another one and another one after that. I had just simple hand tools and worked in my father’s old shed. I am glad I had that start and still use some of the tools from back then.

One of my first influences was Per-Anders Hurri who was an old Saami handicraftsman from my village. He had the traditional knowledge of our handicraft traditions and was very glad to share his knowledge with me, I still admire his style and the feel of the knives and other objects he made. My grandfather’s brother, Niila Prost, is also a big inspiration to me. He was completely blind and still made knives, cups and all sorts of Saami handicraft with simple hand tools out in the wilderness.

A Fredrik NiillajamuNiibi2015

A knife made by Fredrik’s grandfather’s brother, Niila Prost alongside a knife Fredrik made as a tribute to him.

I went to the Saami school of traditional crafts in Jokkmokk which is in the north of Sweden. I applied on the encouragement of Per-Anders Hurri and he even wrote a personal recommendation letter for me. I went there for three years and at the school I learned from the best Saami handicrafters of all fields so it was really rewarding and the only proper school that has ever given me anything useful.

The art of forging damascus blades I learned from Roger Bergh who is a world renowned blade smith from Dalkarlså in Sweden. He was kind enough to take me in for a short period to show me the craft and his workshop. Damascus blades are not part of the Saami traditions but something that I wanted to try to introduce with my knives because it’s possible to continue the design with the blade.

My favourite knife is the Saami wooden knife which has a sheath made entirely from a bent piece of wood and covered with soft leather at the top. It is without doubt the best utility knife there is. It is my favourite for hunting, fishing and reindeer herding.

A Fredrik Muorraniibi 2015 Wooden__ knife

The Saami wooden knife which has a sheath made entirely from a bent piece of wood and soft leather.

I like to use all natural materials. I use all sorts of wood I can collect myself from nature including reindeer and moose antler of course. So in that sense I am very traditional. We use the antler and the skin from the reindeer and moose too and wood from the forests of our ancestral lands. All the knives I make are traditional Saami knives but if I were to chose one it would be the wooden one which is most common amongst hunters and reindeer herders.

I try to be pretty free in my designs and never have a finished sketch or anything like that in advance, so I go a lot by feel. It is crucial for me though to still stay within the borders of the Saami traditions which can be a bit tricky. I can spot a “fake” Saami knife from miles away. Non Saami who make Saami style knives don’t have the cultural knowledge to make them properly so to us Saami those knives, however well done, are almost always a mish mash of a lot Saami patterns and design of things, I guess you could say that is what people who make “Nordic” knives mostly do.”

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Fredrik Prost

AfredrikStuora-ollescoarveniibi-2010-markanat

AfredrikNiibi-markanat-2016

AfredrikStuora-niibi-Edy-Jernberg-4AfredrikStuora-niibi-detaljA FredrikSofia-Sevä-2A FredrikSofia-Sevä-1A FredrikKniven-jpegAfredrikKnivar-jpegAFredrikMarja-Liisa-PartapuoliAfredrikKniv-Fredrik-ProstA FredrikLone-1A FredrikLone-5

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Čoarveniibbit 2014

A Fredrik Čoarveniibi2017

Náhppi. A náhppi is a large cup used for milking reindeer. It is made of a single piece of birch wood with inlayed reindeer antler for decoration. Diameter about 250 mm.

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Afredrikrohkit-unni

Čoarveroahkk. A buckle for our traditional clothes made from reindeer antler. The engravings are made with a small knife and then dyed with birch bark.

A Fredrik Doassu2015

Doassu. A small box made of moose antler. Top and bottom made from Birch Wood with inlayed reindeer antler.

AFredrik needleDSC5927

Nállogoahti. Needle case. A needle case for safe keeping of the needles and a traditional sami woo gift. The needle case is made of reindeer antler with silver rings as decoration. Length appx. 14 cm. without the leather strap. Photo: David Nutti
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Njiskkun. This is for weaving beautiful bands for the traditional Saami costume. It is made from reindeer antler and is a really big project for which you need first class materials. Length 34cm. Height 9cm.
A Fredrik Giisá2017
 AfredrikCF006850AfredrikbilletCF006858
Making a damascus billet Photographs by Hans-Olof Utsi