Knife making at the Nilakan comprehensive school in Keitele, Finland

This post is about a subject that has interested me for a long time. I am fascinated and more than a little envious that Finnish students have the opportunity to make their own puukko in class. The students in Keitele get to make theirs under the guidance of one of the great puukkoseppä, Pekka Tuominen no less.

My thanks to Pekka for writing about his course for me. He has been a great help with this blog since the very beginning. 

By Pekka Tuominen

In Finland we have a nine grade school system plus pre-school before the first grade, students spend total of 10 years at school. Handcraft studies start from the first grade with their homeroom teacher. From 3rd to 7th grade they have about 2 hours a week obligatory handcrafts with a special teacher. In 8th and 9th grades handcraft is an optional subject. We also have a handcraft club for free time after school for 7th to 9th grade students.

In Nilakan comprehensive school students can use also machines, if the family has given permission and the teacher has instructed them. They must plan what they’d like to make themselves and then normally design it on paper. After that the teacher looks at the plan to see if it is correct and possible to make.

When I was chosen to be the temporary handcrafts teacher at Nilakan comprehensive school some years ago, the students already knew that I’m a blade smith for my main work. Several students asked if I could teach them how to make a knife. So, it’s not mandatory to make knives, but I’m happy that many of the students wish to make their own puukko-knife.

For me knife making means that you make blade, handle and sheath. Knife making is a varied craft, because you must learn to work with steel for the blade (forge, grind and heat treat), how to use precious metal for bolsters, wood etc. for the handle and leather for sheaths. So, when you make one object you must use many materials and many techniques also.

Because we live in Finland, we mostly make our traditional knife, the puukko at school. Almost everybody makes their first knife, the model is very simple, but it includes all parts of a puukko-knife. The first thing to learn is, what is a puukko-knife, how you separate it from other knife models etc. Then they start to make blades with forging. For that we normally use 80CrV2-steel or similar simple carbon steels.

After forging the blade, it is roughly free hand ground before heat treating. After heat treating comes the last grinding and finishing of the blade. When the blade is ready, they will make bolsters and a handle for the blade. As soon as the blade and handle are together and finished, they carve the wooden insert for the sheath and after that hand-sew the sheath from leather. The last thing is to make a belt loop for sheath and colour and wax the sheath.

A1 blades after forging

Blades after forging.

A2 blades after grinding

Blades after grinding.

A6 sheaths before dying

Sheaths before dying.

Some student made puukko. 

A3 puukko1

A4 puukko2

A5 puukko3

A7 Pekka

Pekka Tuominen

5 responses to “Knife making at the Nilakan comprehensive school in Keitele, Finland

  1. This is a wonderful program and a wonderful person to do this for the students. The farm I grew up at in Northern Minnesota was homesteaded by a man from Finland he was also a Tuominen, all the log buildings including our home were made with the lovely dove tailed notch of Finnish craftsman.

  2. Thank you Richard! I agree and will make sure Pekka sees you comment.

  3. Bradley Buckman

    Great article, great looking knives, and a very good program they have in place to teach practical skills. I wish I had a similar program and opportunity when I was in school.

  4. C’est un travail extraordinaire d’un coutelier peu ordinaire…FELICITATIONS

  5. Thank You !

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