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.
“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.”
Workshop pictures were taken by Teemu Käpylä, Veijo’s nephew. The young lady is Arjene Kerkhoven, a knifemaking student of Teemu’s.
Veijo engaged in some of his other hobbies including vintage tractors, fishing and making fishing gear.