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Veijo Käpylä

A special thank you to Veijo’s daughter Tiina for all her help in obtaining and translating this article. Veijo’s work can be found on Facebook at VK-Puukko.

Veijo Käpylä:

“I have always been interested in handicrafts and have early childhood memories from my great uncle’s workshop. There have been many smiths in the family, but they mainly did all kind of blacksmithing like tools, hunting gear, kitchen utensils from metal, wood and other materials. From my mother’s side come the smiths while from my father’s side come the shoemakers. Shoe making of course is an interesting craft for a knife makers as well, as all the knives need their sheaths. The crafting of leather sheaths and of leather shoes have plenty in common. Also my father’s grandfather was a pretty famous maker of wooden tubs, hogsheads etc. and he as well was a shoemaker. My mother’s brother Heikki was a very good gunsmith, specialized in many kind of weapons, but given the importance of hunting in Finland he was particularly skilled in shotguns.

Another example is Matti Lahti, a cousin from my mother’s side, who was great a inventor. He designed, build and made unbelievable things, from small everyday items to tractors, and everything in between. Two still active family members are  Johannes Lahti and Matti Vilminko , who work with all kind of machines, tools, conveyances and so on. They are both self taught as is typical for our family: you find something interesting, then you find your way to work with it. People count on Matti’s skills especially with all the big machines, hydraulics and like. Johannes is quite a wizard with computers but he is one of those persons who can do what ever they want to.
So my interest for all the crafts, and thus knife making, has definitely come through the family.

I am the first professional knife maker of the family, but my brother Esko has made some knives as well. As said there have been many smiths and craftsmen in my family in many generations. Mostly it has been based on need, things are made if they are needed, from all kind of tools to hunting gear and household items. My background is in the rural Finnish countryside, where every bigger house used to have its own forge and workshop, where family made and fixed everything they needed. Knives were just one the necessities.

I’m self taught as a knife maker, but of course I did learn a lot about using different materials and tools from family members when I was a kid and youngster. Having being active with every kind of handicrafts all my life, my background has given me a good base to build knowledge and skills in knife making as well. I just started knife making when, so to speak, the opportunity arrived. I had a suitable place, had a chance to buy some gear for my own forge and so on. Of course my family had its own handicraft business for 30 years or so and I made knives professionally for over a decade. Now that I’m retired and making some knives and more fishing supplies are my hobbies.

There isn’t any particular puukko tradition in my area. Kalajoki is pretty near by and there is a special “Kalajoki puukko” but it doesn’t have much impact on my home site. Of course I have made many traditional Finnish puukko models, like for example the Tommi Puukko which is famous and popular all around Finland nowadays, even if it’s from Kainuu region. These old traditional puukkos are kind of a national heritage, no one owns the models and everyone can make them.

Most of the knives I have make are my own designs and models. I consider design a very important part of making any kind of items, but especially knives. So I have designed some VK special knives, some VK leuku and my own hunting knives collection, the VK eräpuukko.

I always had high quality standards about my work. Making beautiful, stable, well designed knives has been my goal in every knife project I have finished. Usually puukko is either for use or for a gift and collection, so all my knives are both good looking and always suitable for heavy use too. But as a craftsman I just like doing things I enjoy. Inventing and designing my own models, testing them and so on is just interesting, fun and meaningful for the people who have been doing something with their hands for all their life.

Another hobby of mine is collecting, fixing and taking old Massey Ferguson tractors to an annually held exhibition of old machines, the Waeteraani Konepäivät in Oulainen. Most of the years I am also contributing to this veteran machinery exhibition, since it’s fully volunteered and is one of the biggest events of this kind in Finland. I’ve also finally found more time for sport and trap shooting now that I’m retired but I’m not competing, at least at the moment. I just enjoy them as a nice and social hobby with my friends to keep up skills and improve my self as a shooter.

Of course, Finnish nature is offers many kinds of activities during the year. Fishing and especially ice fishing and making the crafting of fishing gear is one of the most important hobbies I have. Some hunting also, mostly wild birds like pigeons, wild ducks and some years black grouse as well. And berry picking is also an important hobby: we live in the middle of a great berry lands full of wild blueberries, lingonberries, cloud berries, arctic bramble, wild raspberries and so on. The whole family has a berry picking hobby.”

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Veijo Käpylä

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Workshop pictures were taken by Teemu Käpylä, Veijo’s nephew. The young lady is Arjene Kerkhoven, a knifemaking student of Teemu’s.

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Veijo engaged in some of his other hobbies including vintage tractors, fishing and making fishing gear.

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Jari Liukko

Jari Liukko is a very talented puukkoseppä who has learned from his father Arto Liukko one of the seven puukkomasterei of Finland, master of the rautalammi  puukko. It was my pleasure to present a piece about the history of this style of puukko written by Arto in February 2013, rautalammi puukko

Jari Liukko:

“I must have craftmanship in my blood, since it has always intrigued me. I was born in 1983 and already during the late 80s and early 90s I used to be at the forge with my father, making wooden toys, like airplanes and swords. I forged my first puukko in 1999 with the help of my father and then participated to the Fiskars national knifemaking championship, in youth class, and happened to win. That really kicked me into knifemaking and I’ve been making knives ever since.

I was taught puukko making by my father and then I also spent some time on the internet lurking what other makers were doing, thus discovering and learning some other different techniques and styles.

My goal as a craftsman is to be the best of course! But I’m not trying to beat the world or anything, and the fact that I have a day job, drastically diminishes my possibilities. So I guess I could say, that my goal is to become as good as I possibly can in my area of expertise.

Speaking of traditional puukko styles, here in the eastern part of Finland, we only have one. It is called the Rautalampi-puukko. It was developed in the very early years of 1900 and had two famous makers, Ivar Haring and Emil Hänninen. It would actually be an understatement not to include my father as well among the great makers of Rautalampi, since the whole style was concidered lost until my father laid his eyes upon a picture he saw in a book. That awoke his interest and in 1994 it was almost like a new birth for the Rautalampi-style. That of course caused a ruckus, in a good way, among the experts.

Besides knifemaking, I’ve been playing drums since I was three years old. My hobbies also include fishing, some hunting, reading and keeping in shape (floorball, cycling etc). I really don’t have any winter activities so it’s the best time for me to make puukkos and knives!”

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Jari’s Work Shop

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Jari Liukko

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Markku Teräs Puukko Review

By Federico Buldrini

This puukko was hand made by Finnish blacksmith and craftsman Markku Teräs, living and working in Ylinen, a town 20 km west of Tampere. To learn more about him: Markku Teräs

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Technical data

blade:
length 100 mm
width 23 mm
thickness 3 mm at spine; 4,7 mm at bevels junction

tang 4×5 mm thick at peening
steel some kind of W1
flat grind
edge angle 19°
edge hardness ~ 65 HRC

handle:
length 116 mm
width 34 mm max.
thickness 23 mm max.

weight:
knife 135 g
with sheath 190 g

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Overview

The blade was forged with a hand held hammer from an old Viiala file, the steel having 1,3% C. It has a rhombic section, just slightly tapered in height. After annealing and normalization it was heated on the forge, quenched in water and tempered in oven for 3 hours at 160° C. The blade is hardened so to leave the spine and tang softer. The bevels are ground to 19 ° and the edge is micro convexed.

The handle is made of birch bark discs compressed between two moose antler bolsters. The tang was peened with a brass rivet and the handle was then heated in oven so to allow the bark oil to glue it all together. It’s sanded to fine finish and it’s tapered in width and thickness towards the blade, with the pommel higher than the bolster and the thickness, diminishing from the center towards the blade. It has an oval section, filling  the hand well. Though quite massive compared to the majority of puukkos the handle doesn’t feel chunky,

The sheath was hand stitched from 2 mm thick cowhide and the leather of the mouth is folded inside so to increase the friction retention.
It has a one sided pine protective liner, which was carved with puukko and chisel, then sanded.
The belt loop is fixed with a brass D-ring, The loop itself is closed by a brass rivet. In this case I found the D-ring to be extremely stable, due to the friction with the leather in constant contact.

In use

When the puukko first arrived it was hair popping sharp, while the bark looked and felt quite dry, so I applied a couple of coats of bees wax. The blade is not perfectly in axis with the handle’s belly, thus having the cutting edge shifted slightly to the right. We’ll see if this will be noticeable in some way.

Now to the usual sample tests.

First the twig troll from a piece of dry chestnut. During the carving the knife was a bit slower than others, due to its big proportions. The handle felt big for the purpose, but not stiff or cumbersome. Due to the convex edge the bite was slightly less aggressive than other puukkos I own and the first cut that engages the wood seems “harder” to pull out, while the subsequent ones are smooth and easy.

Generally speaking the puukko homogeneous performances during both roughing and refining cuts. At the end the edge had a couple of rough spots that were not roller nor chipped, but that had just a hair less bite than the rest of the edge.

I then stropped with both black and green Bark River compound and started to carve the usual dry spruce spatula.

The roughing process was surprisingly quick and effective, also when working on end grain. The convex edge, as already seen, doesn’t bite really deep and if necessary it needs more pressure, but it proved to be a great and precise planer on push cuts. When doing pull strokes and when using the thumb as fulcrum, however, the big proportions again came into play and the puukko felt a little stiff, while still working properly. At the end of the roughing process the edge was pristine.

Due to the big proportions finishing cuts were a bit more straining to perform, especially when I had to thin down the spatula cheeks and the edge was prone to slipping rather than engaging the wood. This was probably the only time I felt like the tilted blade made the work a bit more difficult. Again push cuts were easier than pull strokes.

At the end of the work the edge was still pristine and bite was virtually untouched since the stropping.

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Conclusions

The bigger proportions make this puukko mostly an outdoor knife, rather than a carver. It can surely carve fair enough, but will work best in the forest processing game and working green wood.

The handle was always comfortable and agile enough although, again, the proportions make it more suitable for certain cuts more than others. It does feel big, but not excessive, at least for my medium sized hands.

The heat treatment is absolutely spot on and this puukko has actually set my new bench mark for edge holding. I was also very pleased by its resilience, despite the very high hardness and C content, that was surely enhanced by the convex edge.

 

Taskupuukko

I’ve recently seen a new growing trend in crafting taskupuukko, small “pocket” puukkos that will work in the same range of duties of folding penknives and EDC folders: opening letters and packages, some food preparation, small wood working etc.

The origin of small and stylish pocket knives in Finland is probably trackable back to the 19th century, while small and rustic wood working knives have been around since the Middle Ages.
During the 19th century these stylish pocket knives were produced both by craftmen and factories and could be both simple and decorated. The more fancy and decorated models were either completely hand crafted by a knifemaker or a goldsmith could be asked to decorate a more basic knife.

Given the great popularity they had there isn’t a single style, but generally speaking, the most common characteristics were and still are a three fingers handle, more rarely a four fingers one, and a blade no longer than 6 cm, with a mostly straight edge and just a slight upsweep close to the tip.

Federico Buldrini

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Pasi Jaakonaho

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Pasi Jaakonaho

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Arto Liukko

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Antti Mäkinen

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Otto Kemppainen

 

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Markku Teräs

Markku Teräs

“In 2010 I was studying to be a wilderness guide and in the school there was also a knife making course. That was my very first time at the forge. I made my first fire striker as well as first puukko. The puukko was actually more or less a huge leuku style puukko with 22 cm blade. I gave that leuku to a friend who still uses it to handle moose skins.
I’m the very first and only knife maker in my family and I’m more or less self-taught, however, in the beginning I spent Friday evenings with old blacksmiths who were the expert in Tommi puukko making. They taught me the very basics in forging as well as how to forge a diamond blade. Over the years, I have developed my own style, a bit rough looking blade. The most important for me is that the blades are forged and holds the sharpness a long time.

I have lived 20 years in Lappland and for sure there are influence in my puukkos from those years. I also try to follow as authentic models of puukko as possible and take my inspiration from Viking culture, from different archaeological findings. Thus I like to use pure natural materials for handles like very curly birch, birch bark and moose antler.

Now I’m working full time as a craftsman. I make all kinds of Viking style products like bronze jewelry, Viking knives, fire strikers, Viking casts etc. I spend a lot of time to come up with always better blades every single time. I never settle with the thought that something is good enough already, I always look forward for going one step further and be a little better every time. I continuously want to try new things, sometimes with huge success sometimes with just good results. I try to keep in my mind that 80% of my work should be productive work and 20% innovative work, when I give my imagination a full speed ahead.

I also want to challenge myself, not just forging easy high carbon steels like 80CrV2, I mainly use old Finnish files and bearings. I’m extremely fond of the old files and how to forge a blade from it. If I may choose one of my own puukko, it will for sure have a blade made out of a file.

What I do in my free time is hunting, fishing, ice swimming, hiking, cross country skiing and go out with my three wolfdogs. In Summer time I mostly spend time in Viking and medieval markets and happenings. I’m a very active person and don’t really sit down at all.”

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Osmo Borodulin Puukko Review

By Federico Buldrini

This puukko was crafted by Osmo Borodulin, a Finnish hobbyist knife maker from Kotka, a city on the Gulf of Finland, about 130 km east of Helsinki. He doesn’t forge his own blades, so I asked for one by master blacksmith Antti Kuikka  ( antinpaja.fi ) of Nuutajärvi, a small village about 100 km north of Turku.

A small note; the blade stamp is a black-throated loon and “kuikka” is, in fact, its Finnish common name.

blade:
length 95 mm
width 22 mm
thickness 4 mm at the spine
tang 6 x 3 mm at the pommel
steel DIN 56Si7
bevels hollow
edge angle 20,6 °
hardness ~ 58 HRC

handle:
length 110 mm
width 33 mm max.
thickness 25 mm max.

weight:
knife 100 g
with sheath 160 g

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Overview

The blade was forged, by power hammer and eccentric press, from a 56Si7 springsteel bar. This steel is similar to 5160, but has a higher silicon content, improving its strength.
The blade has a flat section, tapering in height, but not in thickness. After annealing and normalizing it was heated in the forge, quenched in oil and tempered in an electric oven. The bevels are ground virtually to zero.

The handle is made of birch bark discs compressed between two 3 mm bronze bolsters. It’s sanded to a fine grit. It’s a bit tapered in width, while the thickness decreases strongly, towards the blade, from about the center of the handle. It has an oval section, shifting into a slim elliptic one towards the blade, the transition following the same principle of the thickness. It’s coated with carnauba wax and polished. It fills the hand well.

The sheath is crafted from 2 mm thick leather, it’s hand stitched and holds the knife perfectly. The back of the seam is painted. It has a pine plywood liner. The wide belt loop is fixed with a big steel D-ring and the loop itself is closed by two steel rivets and glued. As always the D-ring is a good compromise in steadiness and free of movements.

In use

Out of the box the blade was shaving sharp, though not perfectly smooth and with a tiny microchip about 2 mm from the very tip. Stropping wasn’t enough to fix it, so I went with DMT #325, #600, #1200 then strop again. Oddly, I felt like the steel offered a bit more resistance than 80CrV2 at 62 HRC.

While carving a dry cornel troll, I felt a good bite in roughing cuts, with just a bit of struggling when cutting away the bundle of feathers created while thinning down the hat and while cutting end grains. The spine felt a bit sharp. All in all the cuts were always clean and polished. At the end of the work the edge was pristine, but the shaving bite was gone, though easily restored with black and green compound. The handle was always comfortable, quick and intuitive.

While carving the dry silver fir spatula the handle gave its best, allowing for a lot of force to be applied during all the roughing process. The blade, on the other hand, tended to slip while biting fibers with a fore hand grip, especially when working the sides of the spatula. Working using the thumb as a fulcrum and pulling the knife improved a lot the performances and again the big proportions of the handle allowed for a lot of control and force. No problems cutting end grain, while, again, the belly of the shaft was better carved pulling the puukko and using the thumb as fulcrum. I tried also some roughing with a chest lever grip, but the blade replied similarly as with a fore hand grip.
At the end of the roughing process the blade was starting to struggle, the bite was drastically dropped and I detected a roll at the center of the edge. Everything was fixed with black and green compound.
During all the finishing cuts the puukko was fast, effective and never really struggled. The blade only slipped a bit during the smoothing of the flats. The finishing and smoothing of the concave part of the shaft was particularly effortless and fluid, pulling the puukko. The spine was actually a bit too sharp for my tastes and few times was painful to thumb push against it. The handle, again, was very intuitive, very comfortable and easy to work with.
At the end of the carving I detected a new roll in the edge and the shaving bite was almost gone.

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Conclusions

I really liked the handle of this puukko. Its generally big proportions, paired with its drastic taper towards the blade make it both strong and fiddly, with a great easiness in shifting its character. A strong taper towards the blade can be somehow annoying, if the handle is generally slim, but in this case the index was allowed a lot of freedom, while the thicker part of the handle gave the hand greater support. Actually its rounder and bigger proportions make this puukko resemble in some ways an old Pekanpää puukko.
As said, the spine resulted painfully sharp when thumb pushing was needed, so I ended up sanding its corners slightly with #2000 sandpaper. Anyway the sharp edges can work as striker for a ferro rod, if someone prefers to keep them.
The steel reacted as I expected it to. Not really a great edge holding, but quite easy to resharpen and, given the very fine edge, also quite resilient. On green wood I got better performances, but that’s no surprise.

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 and his Finnish Spitz “Nekku”.

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