Five years ago today I began Nordiska Knivar with a post featuring a puukko by Joonas Kallioniemi. It was a gleaming black ebonite puukko with dovetail joints, a beautiful perfect knife. Now five years and 113 posts later I’d like to thank everyone who has made this blog possible, all the puukkoseppä who have been so generous with their time. There could not be a blog without you. Thank you to Bill Lecuyer for the gift of the Aito that opened my eyes to the perfect and elegant form of the puukko and a special thanks to Federico Buldrini whose scholarship and hard work have raised this blog to a higher level.
To all the puukkoseppä, there is a tremendous interest in your work. At this moment there have been 223,282 visitors and 730,035 views of your work from 180 countries and territories of the world. Thank you again for your willingness to contribute and answer my questions and requests.
I thought it would be fitting to feature my friend Joonas on this fifth anniversary post. As usual he has provided a beautiful puukko and WIP for me. Thank you Joonas!
“Some time ago Mike mentioned that this blog would soon reach the respectable age of five years. His first blog post featured a black ebonite handled puukko of mine, so it seemed only fitting that I could give my respects to the blog by showing the building process of a recent puukko.
Here’s what I start out with: some k460 steel (O1 equivalent) round stock for the blade, some stainless flat stock for the bolsters and a block of ivory paper micarta for the handle. I had a vision of this puukko some time ago and Mike’s idea of the blog post was the final step. This knife had to be brought to life! At this point I have a clear image of the finished puukko in my head.
This is where the making always starts. You can see me heating the steel to forge the blade to shape.
Here is the roughly forged blade next to the raw material. I get the basic shape of the blade ready. It is vital to get the shapes right but at the same time I must not spend too much time being overly precise.
I just quickly descale the blade to help the grinding process.
I also give some touch ups for the profile before grinding the bevels.
Here you can see me grinding the blade. With properly forged bevels the grinding process becomes easier.
Blade is rough ground with the shoulders filed in. I’m ready to heat treat the blade.
I sometimes bounce from one task to another to get a fresh look at things. I do some roughing of the stainless fittings on the mill.
After the milling and heat-treating this is where we are.
I finish the blade grit by grit. I try to avoid polishing my blades, as has been the case for some years now. I am more satisfied with a slightly more matte, clean finish, and that works very well with this project as well. I don’t want this knife to be shiny. I also do some testing of the blade before finishing to make sure I have a sound blade.
The fitting of the front bolster to the blade. Patience is the key here. What I lack in skill I can compensate with patience. A good fit here is one of those things that separates a well made puukko from cheapo knives. Stainless steel is one of the materials that I have tried to avoid as it is not an easy material to fit, but now it was just what I wanted.
Fitting is done! I also add my name to the blade. Now it is visible who is responsible.
Now I can sit down and have a think about the handle. Paper micarta is something new to me.
After various steps of cutting off excess material and drilling some guide holes I can start fitting the blade to the block. I use various hand tools to get a good fit.
I try to get a combination of a good fit but with some room left for epoxy. A good puukko would stay together with just a well peened tang and good fit, but epoxy is a nice addition to the structure.
The roughly made upper bolster needs some handwork at this point.
Notice one detail that you rarely get to see as it is not apparent on a finished puukko. Once the bolsters have been roughly brought to shape I groove out the back end. This makes a small grippy pocket for epoxy and also with less surface area it is easier to get a very good fit to the handle block. This is one of those small details that I like.
I guess I’m ready to start putting things together.
The parts have been put together. I peen the tang to get a tight fitting package, with epoxy in between to get added structural strength. This is the point when those various pieces suddenly form a knife. I know, not a very comfortable knife. But still, a knife.
The peened end of the tang is visible here. It will get much cleaner as I finish the handle. But not bad at this point.
When I start shaping the handle I always first shape the side profile and then the upper profile.
Then when I feel that the dimensions look good I take out the corners.
And after that I take out more of the corners. It is important to be systematic here to keep the shape in constant control. If I lose my touch of the shape I have a really hard time getting it back to my reach.
With proper planning and systematic work it is then easy to start rounding everything up, and before you know it you end up with the shape ready!
After shaping it is a matter of having the patience to go trough the steps of refining the surface finish. Here you can see I’m getting close.
Once the puukko itself is more or less finished I can start working on the liner that goes inside the sheath.
I use plywood as it is easy to work with and it is strong and stable.
Next step is to cut the leather for the sheath. Leather work is something totally different when compared to making the blade or the handle. It is refreshing to get to work with so many different materials.
Now I have the leather thoroughly wet and stitched around the sheath. I have also cut the belt hanger. From this point on I need to let the leather dry, but while I do that I must give care and attention to the sheath from time to time…
…so that as it dries out the shape and surface finish comes out just right.
With the leather all dried up I give it some leather grease and wax polish. I also make the rivet and ring for the hanger. When I make a puukko I get blinded by my work. I don’t really see the puukko itself as I focus on the craft. But at this point it is starting to be clear to me that the knife is almost ready. I can only smile when I realize that as I put the final pieces together the puukko is ready! This will be a refined, classy looking puukko.”