Monthly Archives: January 2018

Otto Kemppainen

I am pleased to present this post about Otto Kemppainen, the youngest puukkoseppä to be featured on Nordiska Knivar. Read his story and take a look at his work, I think you will be as impressed as I am. You can follow him on Facebook at KEMP KNIVES

Thank you Otto, keep up the good work!

Otto Kemppainen:

“I am an 18-year-old custom knife maker from South Karelia. I made my first sheath knife in 2012 at my school’s technical work lesson. The blade was bought in a store. Then in 2015 I forged my first blade and I haven’t used anything different since. I have always liked hiking, fishing, hunting and other outdoor hobbies. I think I have got my interest in knife making from my hobbies. Additionally, I have had great technical work teachers who have encouraged me in my knife making. I have also gotten great tips and support from older knife makers in my projects. Still, I am mainly a self-taught knife maker. You need many skills in knife making. The work’s diversity really impresses me. Metallurgy, woodwork, leather work and goldsmith’s skills have their own dimensions. The most fascinating things are metallurgy and goldsmith’s work in my opinion.

I’m currently the first knifemaker in the my family. My distant relatives in Hyrynsalmi had made Tommi puukkos during old times and I have made only one Tommi puukko. My brother is 13 years old and he made his first knife last year.

As said I am mainly self-taught. I have read many knife making books and texts about knives. Watching other makers work in person and in pictures can teach you a lot. It is important to understand aesthetic design and the best way to learn is just to make knives. My friend Tapio Syrjälä from Aura has given me the fantastic opportunity to make knives when he gave me his great belt grinder in spring 2016. I am really thankful to him for this support. Tapio´s grinder gives many new ways for grinding facets, which is really useful. I have sometimes visited Lappeenranta folk high school’s knife making soirees. The soiree is full of South Karelian knife makers. There you can hear the freshest knife making news in the area. Especially making old Kauhava sheath knives is very complicated. There are so many variables in the making process that careful familiarisation is really important. Jari and Arto Liukko from Savonlinna have helped me a lot with Kauhava sheath knives.

There is no regional model where I live. “Lemin puukko” is my own design for my home village. It is recognized for Lemi’s coat of arm decoration in the handle.

Someday I want to start my own company. I prefer the global market to the Finnish one. Additionally, I would like to win Finnish championship in Fiskars knife making competition and join the Finnish knifemakers’ guild. I will really work for my dreams.

I have always been an avid walker in the wild. There are not many hobbies in a secluded small village. My bushcraft hobby gave me my interest for knives. Especially hammock hiking, hunting and fishing are the best hobbies that I know in the wild. I have made handcrafts my whole life. Wood carving and other crafts were really important to me before I went to school. In the knife making I am most fascinated by metallurgy and decoration methods. In the case of metallurgy, Damascus steels and stainless steel are particularly fascinating. I have built a heat treating oven to temper these steels. It is interesting to learn how to decorate a knife in different techniques. Sami carvings and sorkoupotus I have already tested, but I would like to develop my expertise in metal engraving and scrimshaw technique.”

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Otto Kemppainen

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Otto and his Finnish Spitz “Nekku”.

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Juhana Salonen

Juhana Salonen:

“I became interested in knife making, more precisely in making puukkos, about eight years ago, when I worked with sharpening different tools that are needed in the paper industry. I also heard that one of my co-workers had made some puukkos. At the time I didn’t have any idea how to make a puukko, but I became so interested that I decided to find out. How to find information nowadays? Go to Google. So I looked up knife making instructions from Google. it provided me with all the information I needed, and even more.

With this knowledge I started to make my first puukko. It was clear to me from the very beginning that I would make the blade myself too, otherwise it would not be a self-made puukko. So I started from the blade making. My first puukko isn’t really a beauty but it gave me the spark for knife making. I always try to make the next puukko or knife better than the one before. “Työtekijäänsäopettaa”, old Finnish proverb means that the work that is done teaches it’s doer. It is very true when it comes to knife making. During these eight years I’ve made quite a few puukkos and also some hunting knives and Japanese-style chef’s knives. All the time you can learn something new and make better knives.

I prefer traditional materials and styles in puukko making, but also like to try something fresh now and then, and I don’t want to stick to just one model. In blades I usually use 80CrV2 tool steel. For handles I use different types of wood, for example birch, curly birch, birch burl, willow root… Maybe my own favourite is handle made of birch bark, because you get a good grip of it and it is smooth to handle. In a birch bark handle you can also make wire inlays or decoration (sorkoupotus in Finnish.) For bolsters I might use brass, nickel silver, bronze or perhaps reindeer or water buffalo antler. My sheaths are made of vegetable tanned leather.

After some years at this hobby I decided to go to a local puukko-making course. This gave me new tips in knife making and also a precious opportunity to use some machines I didn’t have at home (yet…) I have received much good advice from some friends who have the same interest in puukko-making. The Finnish Facebook group puukko|areena has also given me much information.

In my family there are no other puukko makers at the moment. My grandfather (mother’s father) has made puukkos in the past. Knife making is a dear hobby to me, but who knows if one day I could make my living out of it? My other hobbies are motorcycling, skiing and of course trekking and wandering in nature. As a man’s time is limited sometimes you need to choose between these interests. The love for nature links perhaps the closest to puukko making, as the puukko is a traditional tool useful in many tasks when spending time in the wilderness.”

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Juhana Salonen