By Federico Buldrini
Laurent Juhel, born in Cotentin, Normandy, now lives in Bazouges-sous-Hédé, in Brittany. He divides his time between prehistoric archeology, his real profession, and knifemaking. His work as archeologist led him to study, and craft for his own interest, flint knives. After twelve years he started crafting outdoor knives using blades by Antti Mäkinen and Pasi Jaakonaho, having being fascinated by puukkos. In 2018 he started forging his own blades.
length – 87 mm
width – 22 mm
thickness – 2,5 mm at the spine; 3,5 mm at the bevels junction
tang – 6×4 mm
steel – 100Cr6
bevels – minimally convex
edge angle – 15°, with a tiny microbevel
edge hardness – ~ 61 HRC
length – 110 mm
width – 29 mm max.
thickness – 18 mm max.
knife – 80 g
with sheath – 130 g
The blade was forged with hand held hammer from a bar of 100Cr6, it has a very subtle rhombic section, with just a hint of taper in width. After annealing and normalization it was quenched in oil and tempered in the oven. Blade and tang were completely dipped in oil, so hardness is consistent along all the blade structure. Bevels are ground to 15° and sport a hint of microbevel. The curly birch handle is divided, 24 mm from the blade, by three birch bark flaps, while the tang is hammered flat against the back of the handle. The handle is sanded to a fine grit, is slightly tapered in height and thickness towards the blade. It has a marked teardrop section and, even though not particularly thick, fills the hand well. The 2 mm thick leather sheath is hand stitched and has a carved and sanded scots pine liner. The belt loop is a simple twisted leather thong. The retention is excellent, without being excessive making the knife difficult to pull out.
Out of the box I gave six passes on Bark River green compound (#6000) just to have the edge absolutely smooth.
Let’s start with the usual plane wood spikkentrolls. I felt no resistance while carving the first and the cuts always had a smooth surface. Due to the very acute geometry there was a just a bit of resistance while planing the knot. At the end the shaving bite was slightly low, while still actually shaving. Six passes on green compound.
No problems also while carving the second troll, with only a tad of resistance when cutting against the fibers the notch in the hat and while planing the base.
At the end the edge was pristine and still shaving, the bite was just a little bit less aggressive. Six passes on green compound.
Let’s continue with a six months seasoned poplar wizard. There was a bit of resistance when planing the two main facets. Then the puukko was very efficient in carving the features notches, even though the handle, given my way of gripping, is probably just a hair too slim to have a steady grasp when pulling the knife towards myself. To solve this I just had to shift the thumb/fulcrum slightly down the work piece compared to where I usually place it. The thin tip was excellent when engraving the sides of the nose and the lower lip. Finally there was a tad of resistance when planing the base.
At the end of the work the edge was pristine, but the shaving bite was gone. Fifteen passes on green compound restored it.
Let’s finish with the eighteen months seasoned silver fir spatula. There was no particular resistance during the roughing process, but when cutting, from both sides, around the bent bundle of fibers now creating the scalloping on the shaft. At the end of roughing the shaving bite was less incisive only in the first 3 cm of edge, otherwise perfect.
No problems also during the refining cuts; the puukko has always been comfortable and handy.
At the end of all the work the shaving bite was still intact, as said, just a little less keen nearer the handle. Six passes on Bark River white compound restored it completely.
First of all, a due praise to the combination of geometry and heat treatment. Even though the edge is extremely keen, the slightly convexed bevels manage to sustain it excellently, gaining resilience and just a little heft, without losing nothing of the aggressive bite. The blade itself, even if thinner than what it’s usually seen on puukkos this side, doesn’t feel under dimensioned.
The handle, even though not that thick, has always been comfortable and very intuitive in the hand. As said previously the thinness is felt only when pulling the knife towards yourself using the thumb as fulcrum, never otherwise.
Generally speaking, Laurent has given the knife has a very personal touch, while nailing well the Finnish spirit and practicality.