Category Archives: Uncategorized

New Forum And Other Information

I just learned of  a new puukko forum on Facebook from Sami Länsipaltta. Check it out, it’s in Finnish and has good photos to look at and links to follow. Google can (almost) help translate.

Also, please drop by Sami’s site. He’s made some really fine puukkos and just today put up a new post about making his tenth puukko, one with a birch bark handle and a blade he forged:

“Tuohipuukko Au Naturel”

His work was also featured here, in this post from May 2012:

Lastly, if anyone has information on the pekanpää puukko they could send me I’d appreciate it. I want to do a post about them and need information and photos.  Maybe there’s a puukkoseppä who could send photos of one they’ve made? Email is jkmheff (at)

Thank you!

Leuku: Part Two by Pasi Hurttila

One makers thoughts on leuku, “stuorra niibi”, a large saami type knife by Pasi Hurttila

“For most Finnish people the word leuku brings immediately a large Lappish knife to mind. That’s correct, as that is what a leuku is, a large knife originally from northern parts of Scandinavia. Clear characteristics of a leuku are full pommel, straight handle, relatively high blade which is not really pointed and not tapering lower in height towards the tip. Spine can be straight or bit curved/drop point.

Some people are really strict on what is a leuku and what’s not. For me it’s clear, if I see a knife I can tell immediately if it’s a leuku or not in my opinion. There are not any exact standards on that. For example I’ve seen a picture of full-tang leuku made by Pekka Tuominen, and for me that clearly can be called a leuku, even if there’s no historical example found like that. Tradition itself is an on-going thing, it doesn’t stop on some certain age, even leukus and their design can still get some new winds in the design. Without forgetting the tradition of course.

Of leukus size and style you can see that it’s clearly meant for hitting. Also it served as a kind of all-rounder, tasks varying from splitting and batoning wood to skinning and gutting animals, all-round camp knife. Saami people also had a smaller knife, “unna niibas”, the size of a common puukko, for smaller tasks like whittling etc. So a leuku clearly hasn’t been a whittler or a carver, which can be seen already by the size of it.

Traditionally materials used on leukus were wood (birch or sallow), reindeer antler/bone and reindeer hide. Blades were made out of any suitable carbon steel that could be found. Brass was used on bolsters and rivets if available. Blade length could vary from 15 up to 24cm. Usually blades have been relatively thin, less than 4 mm. A thin blade was enough for cutting timber of tundra area. Grind types varied too, depending what maker thought was useful.

Decorations and amount of them varied among the makers. Some preferred more of them, and some were even specialized in bone carvings. But the same goes with leukus as with all types of knives; there are really decorated collectors items, simple everyman users, and everything between.

Nowadays handmade leukus and blades vary a lot from each other. Thickness can be from 3 up to 6mm. Grinds can be almost any types, from convex to scandi, with possibly secondary bevels. And as well as in history, some makers do really beautifully carved ones, and some make simple style users. All materials can be used, from reindeer antler to kydex, a leuku is still a leuku.

In northern Lapland, where I live, leukus can be seen in use still. But most likely on the waist of a woodsman you’ll see a smaller puukko, with 10cm or shorter blade, accompanied with an axe in a backpack. But anyway it’s pretty common to see people carrying leukus still here, especially in winter time.

I personally use leuku in several tasks. In willow grouse trapping in winter time, you need to cut lot’s of birch twigs when setting traps, and that’s where a leuku is really useful. In cleaning large fresh or dried hides a larger blade is useful too. Also in pruning and barking poles etc.

My ideal leuku is pretty basic user; curly birch handle with brass bolsters, about 5mm thick blade in 20-23cm lenght. 26-28 degree scandi grind with small secondary bevel,  basic high leather sheath with traditional type choking belt hanger. 5mm thick blade gives bit more power, which is needed in batoning and splitting. Adding of course the weight a bit, but like in many things: to gain something is to lose something. All compromises.

After all a leuku has something what every good item must have; a soul. For me it gives an image of old times, wilderness, living in nature, Lappish scenery etc…. which all have a meaning for me too in one way or another.

Like I wrote in the beginning, some thoughts on a leuku. Exact historical things and knife details I leave for them who have studied them and know them better than I do.”

Here are some of Pasi’s  leukus made at his shop in Ivalo, Finland. To see more of his work please visit his website at:

The first leuku was made for me by Pasi and shows his very high degree of skill and craftsmanship. This is a beautiful leuku that rises above just being a knife or a tool and definitely has the “soul” that Pasi speaks of.

Hurttila Leuku

Hurttila Leuku 2

Pasi Hurttila

Leuku: Part One

The leuku is a traditional knife of the Sami culture of Lapland, it is also called “stuorra niibi” which means big knife. I will be making two posts about the leuku, the first one with a brief description, some photos and an account of his experience with the leuku by Thomas (edgepal)  from Northern Sweden. The second post is an excellent essay written by Pasi Hurttila, a puukkoseppä from Ivalo, Finland.

In my correspondence with Federico Buldrini he states “It’s believed that leukus were developed by Sami people, starting from the Viking seaxes and väkipuukkos (in Finland). These knives, together with steel working techniques, arrived in Scandinavian and Baltic peninsula after the Migration Period, 400-700 A.D.” and the leuku has evolved to suit their needs, from chopping down small trees, clearing brush and splitting firewood to butchering and preparing reindeer.

The leuku has a wide blade about 8 or 9 inches long usually of carbon steel which holds up better in the cold climate. The handle is generally birch with a wide flat pommel at the end that gives added force when struck with the free hand. It also helps in taking the leuku out of the sheath with gloves or mittens on.

Sometimes a small piece of bone may be inserted in the handle as a rattle, a measure to keep evil spirits away. The bolsters are brass and the tang extends all the way through the handle. The tuppi or sheath is leather, usually from reindeer and is very deep covering almost all of the knife. There may be simple decoration on the sheath.

The leuku is a multi purpose tool. There are several smiths making leukus and they are available from some of the manufacturers of Nordic knives such as Strømeng They are popular for use among those who like to hike and camp in the forests, “bushcrafting” as well as the reindeer herders.

Here is a very nice custom made leuku by puukkoseppä Mikko Inkeroinen. See more of Mikko’s fine work at his website  

From correspondence with Thomas (edgepal):

“I lived with the Sami people for 20 years in the high Mountains (alps) of Sweden. My wife was Sami and her parents and 6 brothers were living the traditional Sami life and life style. I lived in the mountains with her relatives for 6 months every year and two of my three sons work with reindeer today.

During my years in the mountains I carried a Sami type knife belt with two knives, one normal sized Sami knife and one “huggare” also called a chopper or Leuku. Leuku is a Finish name for a huggare and it is used only in Finland. They also are named “Lapphuggare”,  Sami chopper in Sweden and Norway.

The chopper is a working knife, made for hard work and I have used choppers a lot in my life – and I still do, but now I do not make shelters and so on – I walk home instead to a warm fire, a good whisky and a loving wife. That is much more comfortable in my age. Choppers, leuku or huggare is a very special type of knife, it is not just another knife. It is designed for arctic use by a nomadic people. Every part of the complete knife is designed for just this. I know that today’s knife makers make their own design of them, but in my mind, those knives are not a huggare, it is something else. Perhaps a sort of Bowie?

A leuku, as all old traditional knives, are designed from the need of them in first hand,  and then from the real using of them during a very long time. Every generation changed the leuku’s basic design so it functioned a little better,  until there was no reason to change it any more, the function was 100% effective. That was some hundreds of years ago.

There is many reasons behind the design we see today on a “standard” leuku. It is a 100% functional design for what it shall perform in just that climate. The balance, the blade length, the handle material, the knob – every small detail is important for its use.

A good huggare shall have a big knob on the handle. It is necessary in the arctic climate and this knob is used in many ways depending on what I am chopping, big branches or small branches  birch or pine branches – or if I split wood, or build a shelter. Sometimes I hold my chopper just with the little finger and let the rest of the handle slide inside my hand and all the rest of my fingers just steer the huggare so I hit exactly what I like to hit. For example tiny branches in a bush, and for that job the knob is very important, if there was no knob  the knife will slide out of your hand, especially when it is wet and cold and during the winter. And of course, when you have chopped like that for 2-3 hour your hand will be very tired.

No metal pieces on the handle in the arctic climate, that is very important when the temperature goes below minus 30 centigrade. I hate thin blades that “vibrates”on huggare. That is why I make my own huggare, 5 mm thick blade, 20-22 cm long blade, about 25mm wide blade, convex edge in about 26-30 degrees,  and it works like a dream, at least for me.

When living with knives as your only tools, you see what happens to the edges during time. Years ago I started to think about a sort of sharpening tool that will give a locked angle – and when I became older I had the time to construct tools from those thoughts. Today that is EdgePal sharpening tools and you can find them on my homepage: where there is also a page in English.

If you search at…  you will find a lot of things written about huggare/leuku. I have written some things, search for topics by ‘edgepal’.”


Thomas’s leuku, huggare, or chopper.

A Visit To Finland by Federico Buldrini

This blog post is about a road trip that Federico Buldrini made this past summer driving  for something like 3660 km, that is 2270 miles. He left his home in Modena in Northern Italy and flew to Stockholm, then traveled on through Sweden and Norway before reaching his destination in the far north of Finland at the smithy of Pasi Hurttila, in Lappland north of the Arctic Circle.

I enjoyed Federico’s account of the trip and the pictures he took so much  that I asked him if he would post them here.  He graciously agreed and what follows is his account of a visit to Finland. Thank you Federico!

“Here is a short report of a longer trip I made on late August together with my brother and a friend. — F.B.”

28 August 2012

After a good night sleep we leave the hostel in Riksgränsen and drive east towards Karesuando, on a part of the E45 still to be completed, with dirt road without asphalt for around 20 kms. All the morning goes in driving, but after lunch we pass the border with Finland that cuts Karesuando right in two. Here we meet warmer and autumnal colours than in Sweden and Norway. We go in the direction toward Inari on a dirt road, in the company of reindeer, birches and pines.

Inari, the lake. Green islands on deep blue water. Near a pier is moored a red and white float plane. We take off for Ivalo, 30 km south from Inari.

It’s already evening when we arrive at Pasi’s place. We take a look at his smithy. Belt sander and canvas wheel on the left, charcoal forge and anvil straight ahead, hammers, screwdrivers, files and drill to the right, antlers on the ceiling.

We enter his house and I see that his working table is inside, no workshop, just house and smithy. Everything else is in his hands and skills.

29 August 2012

After breakfast I watch Pasi while he sews a puukko sheath. A few holes at a time with a awl mounted on a moose antler piece, two needles and double stitching. All the leather forming and decorations are made with a moose shin bone shaped on purpose for the job.

After lunch we go for a trip in the wilderness area dominated by the Sarmitunturi fell. We’re about 10 km from Russian border, it’s a bear area and so Pasi takes his Sako 75, you never know. We walk on a carpet of moss, lichens and blueberries, pines around us.

We’re near the top and we stop at a camp site for a tea. When we arrive on the top of the fell we have tundra all around us and few small lakes in front of us. On the top of the fell is a shabby Russian watch tower.

While we made our way back home the sun kept us company playing through the trees.

30 August 2012

In the morning we visit the Guesthouse Husky  where Lea, Pasi’s girlfriend, works.
In the winter the farm organizes sleds trip for tourists and Pasi sometimes works as a guide, as he did full time, when he was still a hobbyist blacksmith.
The apartments were built a couple of years ago, but the farm has existed for 20 years.

The farm is a junction between an hostel and camping, since it has rooms, but you’re right over the forest. You have all together a house room with moss and pine scent right outside, just a glass between.

In the guesthouse there are few very nice rooms with bathroom, a common kitchen, a sauna, free wi-fi, bike and ski rental. All the interior is permeated by pine tar smell.

The owners are really cheerful and helping people. In front of the guesthouse there is the hut to store sledges.

The dogs are kept in single clearings, with their own bed and place where they can move around. Rasmus is one of the usual pack leaders.

Even if kept on the chain for obvious reasons I don’t see a dog with sad eyes, on the contrary all very spry.

In the afternoon we take the canoes and go to lake Inari for a paddle. The plan is to arrive at one island with campsite and then go to the top of the island to take a look around. After about 2,5 hours we take land and set up camp.

Pasi chops firewood, batons kindling and we carve spoons and spatulas  while tea is warming up. A hot tea in excellent company, what else to desire?

After the tea we climb up and take a look over the placid lake. Lake Inari is actually frozen for almost 8 months a year and you can normally ski on it, rather than canoeing.

On the way back the wind rises and pushes our breath down the throat. We put more effort on the row and slowly conquer the meters. The paddle bounds you to your work, even if you’re tired and want to rest, you keep on pushing the oar as you know that THAT is your duty. The canoe won’t proceed if only the helmsman conducts and to get out of the wind you have to do your part.

I feel bit tired, the shoulders muscles start to ache but, as I tell Pasi, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. We finally get out of the wind and we can take a quick rest on a small island. The sun has started his set when we finally reach the pier, bit tired but happy. A good dinner, a night sleep and everything is fine again.

31 August 2012

Today I have the opportunity to see Pasi at work. After having forged 40 nails, for an order of 200, he shows me the forging of a flat puukko blade. All the forging is done with a 1,5 kg hammer on a 85 kg anvil.

He takes a bar of silversteel and flattens it, then he starts to forge the tang on the anvil horn, so the steel stretches evenly, and blade’s shoulders on the edge of the anvil,

then he cuts the steel bar with angle grinder, he can do it also with a steel wedge, but he would have to heat the bar again only for it and the angle grinder gives same result, after that he hammers the blade shape…

this done he starts to forge bevels and when he is satisfied he stamps the blade…

then kneels down to finish bevels forging and have a better sight of steel reaction.

After that he gives the last blows,

cleans it with a brush

and checks that it is straight

After 20 minutes, from heating the bar to stop, the blade is forged and ready for quick sanding before heat treatment.

Pasi takes off the gloves, starts the belt sander at low speed and polishes a bit the bevels, marks bit more the shoulders and cleans the spine, cooling the blade in the water a few times during process. It doesn’t take more than 2-3 minutes, anyway.

At this point Pasi tells me to close the door of the smithy to create more shadow, so steel colours can be seen better. He put the blade into the forge again, took it out when it was cherry red and left it finally to cool at room temperature. Annealing is done.

Then he extinguishes the forge fire and we go to drink something. The rest of heat treatment will be done on the forge in the following days. Pasi usually quenches in oil and gives two or three temperings to the blade. He doesn’t use ovens for treatments and doesn’t have will to. He doesn’t have interest to use ovens, rather to keep traditional ways.

The evening is the last of our time together and we pass it talking and drinking. The next day we would have to start our way back to Italy.

A leuku by Pasi Hurttila.

Tommi Puukko

Kalle Keränen and the Tommi Puukko

Adapted from an article by Taisto Kuortti
Translated by Federico Buldrini and  Pasi Hurttila

Finland, 1870. Close to Hyrynsalmi, in the region of Kainuu, South Karelia, lived Kalle Keränen (1844-1912) a young self-taught blacksmith who had heard that a metallurgist from England  was arriving at Fiskars to teach the rudiments of forging and oil quenching. At that time Finland was going through a period of bad famine, so Kalle decided to go south, learn new things and look for better luck. He packed his ruckpack and set off on foot. He was about to march for 730 km.

It was probably Edward Hill, another metallurgist and teacher at Fiskars, that brought oil quenching concept to Finland. Kalle became the pupil of Thomas Woodward, with which he further perfected his forging technique and experienced oil quenching. Three years in the noisy south were more than enough for Kalle, so he soon decided to return to his forests and to his smithy.

Kalle began to forge knives regularly after his return from Fiskars and gave his own interpretation of the Kainuu regional style. It was a simple puukko with 11 cm barrel handle and 10 cm rhombic blade with slightly hooked tip. However, the latter peculiarity was later abandoned in favor of a completely straight spine. Kalle named the knife in honor of his master, from Thomas, Tommi.

His knives were good tools and earned great success thanks to the excellent quality of the blade. They became famous even outside its province and other smiths began to forge following his style. It is however uncertain when the knife acquired completely its technical and aesthetic features, now widely recognized. Kalle’s knives became even more famous and customers started to call him Tommi. With the passage of time the blacksmith became simply Tommi, he was a good knife maker and a good drinking mate

After his death, his son Setti continued the father’s work and introduced the larger models that would have had an important part during the Winter War and the struggle for Finnish independence  from Russian domination. The larger Tommis would have been used as short swords in close combat fights and as leave gift for graduates.

The Tommi is the only Finnish puukko to have developed a such defined own tradition and to be so famous beyond the borders of Finland. The eighth Finnish president, Urho Kekkonen, a eager hunter, used to keep one in a drawer of his desk and in various occasions used these knives as a gift for political collegues.

Today the tradition is kept alive by other makers as such as Mauri Heikkinen Jukka Hankala and Pentti Kaartinen   Veijo Käpylä at Kainuun Puukko

As it says on Jukka Hankala’s website “Tommi is an old knife model, which has been made by at least 150 different bladesmiths in Finland. Every bladesmith gives his personal shape and form for the knife he makes. Tommi is very simplified general purpose knife.”

Thank you to Federico Buldrini for this article.

Mauri Heikkinen

Jukka Hankala

Pentti Kaartinen

Kainuun Tommi

Kainuun tuplatommi or double puukko

Setti Keränen

Monument to Kalle Keränen


Maasepän Puukko

Here is some information about a very basic form of puukko, a style of knife making that has been around through the ages. I would like to thank Federico Buldrini who originally posted in this piece in a somewhat different form and Ilkka Seikku the puukkoseppä who did the tutorial and wrote additional text. Ilkka’s excellent work can be viewed at his website

Also visit his blog at:

I hope to be featuring more work by Federico and Ilkka in the near future.

Federico Buldrini:

“The maasepän puukko (something like saying “old villagers blacksmith knife”) is the simplest and oldest style of puukko and has parallel equivalents in Sweden and Norway too. They have their origin in the early Middle Age as all around belt knives of the free men. In higher classes knives were obviously more refined (metal bolsters, pattern welded blade, metal decoration/retentions on the sheath) but we are now talking of the original humble man knife.

The following pictures are of a knife and sheath being made by Ilkka Seikku. The process in this case, trying to be the closest possible to how it was made in the old days. Ilkka  produces his own pine tar in the old way, by heating old wood in a cauldron (the method is shown also in Ray Mears “Sweden” episode).The pine tar seals  the wood  closing any gap. It was also used to protect longships hulls for a reason. Ilkka Seikku is a blacksmith, craftsman and wilderness guide, quite renown in Finland as a bow maker too. He’s very keen in keeping alive the old skills of the fathers, despite his young age.”

Ilkka Seikku:

“I want to explain one very relevant thing about maasepänpuukko. It is the rhombic blade shape. Usually people think that rhombic blades are something that has been invented on purpose. The truth is that this rhombic shape has come from the material these “countryside blacksmiths” were sometimes using. They did use old files to make blades, and this is very common nowadays too! One type of file was particularly found to be very functional to make blades from, it́s the so called feather file. It́s already in shape of rhombic and that was easy to forge or even just grind in blade shape. It́s very plausible that this rhombic shape was just a secondary matter. Then people who used those rhombic shaped blades found the shape very functional. The last two pictures of maasepänpuukko are ones I have forged from a feather file. You can see there are still file teeth.

The birch bark sheath is called “tuohituppi” in Finnish. “Tuohi” means birch bark and “tuppi” means sheath. The wooden insert inside is called “lesta”. Birch bark does not need any kind of treatment. Inside of birch bark there is  oil, which makes it water proof. Birch bark is very long lasting material. You can see that from the archaeological puukkos, for example. Very often there is almost nothing left from the blade, but if there has been birch bark handle or sheath, that is still recognizable. Also birch bark has been very common material to keep moisture out from log houses in Finland. Between the stone (which is in the ground) and the log, birch bark works excellent. Moisture from the ground goes up via stone, but birch bark stops that and moisture will never ends up to the wood.”

Let’s start with the block of wood and the blade, the tang has a sharp point. The wood is roughly carved with an axe.

Then a hole is drilled in the wood and enlarged with a hot iron rod.

The blade is stuck in the wood is then struck on a large log to “nail” the tang well into the wood. If the operation is done properly the blade will stay in place without any glue or wedges against the tang.

The handle is then carved and sanded with #120 paper.

Finally the handle is treated with pine tar.

The sheath could be the usual back sewn leather tuppi or one woven from birch bark.





Here are some very nice additional examples of the maasepän puukko sent to me by K. Kock. Please visit his website and blog at and




"This one with a "dagger blade" I have gotten from my father (you can maybe see his initials LK in the pommel end of the handle). It´s blade is steel witch has been made from limonite iron ore dug up from thelakes bottom i.e. so called "järvimalmi". This puukko was made in 1950´s for my father by an old smith in Middle Finland. K.Koch"

“This one with a “dagger blade” I have gotten from my father (you can maybe see his initials LK in the pommel end of the handle). It´s blade is steel which has been made from limonite iron ore dug up from the lake bottom i.e. so called “järvimalmi”. This puukko was made in 1950´s for my father by an old smith in Middle Finland. K.Kock”



Here is a special maasepän puukko featuring Ilkka’s family insignia which he explains on his blog:

3 Ilkka


Tuppi: Work In Progress by Saku Honkilahti

I am happy to post this work in progress pictorial by Saku Honkilahti. The tuppi, or sheath of the puukko is unique, distinctive and very pleasing to the eye but sometimes taken for granted as just storage for the knife. The Finnish tuppi is a work of art in its own right. I didn’t realize the amount of work and skill required to create a tuppi. They are created as part of the puukko and the fit is very important. Sometimes you will hear a slight clicking sound as the puukko seats in the tuppi. This is a good thing and means the knife is secure and the tuppi is a proper fit.

Saku has been very helpful to me in my search for information on the puukko. He is a talented puukkoseppä whose work I am happy to recommend. If you would like to see more of his work please visit his site at

Thank you Saku!

Sheath Making My Way…


First we take a nice piece of birch


then we draw the blade to the wood


and carve til the blade fits perfectly.



Then we saw away what won’t be part of the sheath.



Then I usually saw or sand little bit more, so it looks good to my eye.



Then comes lid. It is a very important detail so that sheath is sturdy enough.


Then a little more sawing and sanding and it looks like this.


And then comes the leather, about 2mm thick vegetable tanned cow leather.  Usually I made it thinner, that it suits better around the puukko.


Now it looks like this. The thick part is where puukkos handle will be, both ends are remarkably thinner.



Turned the mouth part double.


Now the leather is soaking in pure water.


Next the puukko is protected against moisture with plastic and some tape.


The necessary tools to sew.


Puukko placed to wet leather and sewing can finally start.


First I marked stitch places with fork…


then I punch them with an awl.


It must be tight. There is a knot in every stitch.


When sewing is done, I cut off excess. The leather is still moist.


Bonding and pressing the seam.


When the leather is dry, I take the puukko out of the sheath…


then some seam finishing with the sander.


The leather is dyed.


Sewing the belt loop.


And finally, after some leather wax and polishing, it looks ready to go!



Joonas Kallioniemi Work In Progress

The first post on this site featured a beautiful puukko by Joonas Kallioniemi with a gleaming black ebonite handle. I admired that knife so much I asked Joonas to make one for me as well as one with a traditional stacked birch bark handle. Joonas was kind enough to document his work for me in a series of photographs. Here are those photographs of the fabrication of the two stunning puukkos. I hope you will enjoy watching this talented young puukkoseppä at work. I think these are works of art; clean, elegant and executed to a very high standard of craftmanship. Perfect! Here is the story from Joonas himself:

“Some time ago I was approached by Mike. He asked me to make two puukko knives for him, and he also asked me to take pictures of the process of making the knives. I was intrigued by the idea and we soon decided that it would make a nice pictorial for his blog. The pictures are not plentiful as it was hard to get everything photographed in the rush of making the knives, but I hope the pictures show some of the idea behind making these knives, and the work that is involved. So, let’s make some puukkos!”

We start by forging the blades. I am somewhat a traditionalist so I use a charcoal forge for heating the blades.

And here I’m hammering the blade to shape. I wear a respirator here. Despite the good air exchange there is a lot of small particles flying in the air so I like to play it safe, no matter how silly it looks.

Forging the blade.

The forged blades have some resemblance to a knfe blade, but there’s still a lot of work to do.

The oxide layer is gone!

You can now see the roughly ground blades. I didn’t get any pictures of the grinding process, but I use the same grinder that you see in a future pic where I’m shaping a bolster.

Some filework is needed to match the shoulders of the blades. It’s good to have a little radius on them.

After quenching and tempering you can see what the blade has gone through. The edge quench is clearly visible and the tempering colours have also appeared.

After that we can do a rough finish on the blades…

…so we can do some testing on them. It would be best to make a temporary handle on these and carry them for daily chores for a while, but I can’t find the time for that on every single blade. So I do my best at testing them before I do my final finishing.

After the testing I can do my final finishing and add my name.

Now I have protected the blades with tape and I have the materials ready for the handles: some birch bark and some ebonite. Notice that I have pre-machined the bolster materials. It helps me fit the pieces when I have a slot on them.

The front-bolsters are fitted by slowly pushing them down the tang of the blade and taking material off where it needs to be taken off. This can be achieved by small files or a rotary tool. My solution is a bit unorthodox, but I like the control that I get by using a cone-shaped burr on my mill. Good light is essential in all precision tasks.

Slowly we get there.

Now I’m adding the dovetail groove on the bolster. Some degree of precision is required.

After the pieces are fitted I shape them on my belt grinder with a tool rest.

Here’s the same.

We’re done shaping. The dovetailed bolster still needs to be shaped. You can see that I have milled the sides of the round ebonite bar to make it more convenient. I have also started cutting the pieces of bark.

Piece by piece I fit the bark and tighten every now and then. We’re almost done!

After about a 100 pieces (give or take, I didn’t count!) we can add the upper bolster and peen the tang. When I stack the handle I make it slightly longer than it needs to be and heat it with a heat gun. It allows me to make the handle even tighter and it makes the pieces stick together by activating the birch tar.

A couple touches with the belt grinder to see how the peening went, so far everything’s ok.

The knife looks rather strange at this point. I always go overkill with the size of the bark pieces. Better safe than sorry.

We need to assemble the ebonite handled knife as well. Here it’s ready to be put together.

Just a peek at the dovetail joint. It is painstaking to get everything right, but so far we haven’t messed it. Knock on wood!

Along with the dovetailed bolster, the inlaid rivet at the back end of the handle is one of my things, almost some sort of a trademark. It also needs to be fitted precisely or it will look ugly.

Again quite a leap but here I’m peening the tang. With solid handles like this I add epoxy for added strength, but It is the tightly fitted, peened structure that holds everything together mostly.

I forgot to take a picture after hammering. Here it has already been cleaned a bit with a touch on the grinder.

Time to take the tape off and check that everything is going like it should.

We first shape the side profile…

Then the upper profile.

And after that I round everything and make the shape right.

And the same with the birch bark.

Both profiles.

And again we can round everything up.

Here I’m shaping the handle on a disc-sander.

After the rough shaping it is just a matter of taking the handles to a finer and finer finish. This is just a pic to show how nicely the ebonite can be finished. We’re not yet completely done, but we’re getting there.

This is the inlaid rivet.

Both of the handles are almost completely finished so it is time to make the wooden liners that come inside the sheaths. They dictate the shape of the sheath so I need to be precise. The sketching and all the lines may seem strange but they help me get where I want.

With all the shaping and carving done, we just need to glue on the other side and shape it accordingly.

With the liners and handles finished, I have taken some 2mm cow leather to make the sheaths. The edge has been beveled and I have some markings on the pieces.

The leather needs a good soaking in warm water.

This is pure handwork. I stitch the leather on the knives to get just the right shape. Her you can see that I have already started to stitch it. Notice that I have protected the knife thoroughly with plastic wrap and packing tape so the moisture doesn’t get to it. I do my leather working in my home, away from the dirty workshop, because with leather you need a clean working environment.

Just a few holes at a time…

The peaceful and clean leather work gives some balance to my work, I like it.

Everything seems to be ok!

After the leather has dried and I have glued the seam it is time to clean it up a bit. A puukko knife does this job well.

And after a lot of smoothing and making the belt hangers…

We have the sheaths almost ready.

Some black and dark brown dye for the sheaths. After this I add metal rings between the sheaths and the hangers and thoroughly grease the leather…

And we finally have two finished knives!

Pekka Tuominen Birch Bark Handle

Here is a very good photo essay by Pekka Tuominen first presented on his Facebook page, I enjoy this style of handle which is native to Finland and northern Scandinavia.
The birch bark makes for a very comfortable grip and attractive handle suitable in all weather conditions. Here is how it’s done by a master. Thank you Pekka!
Pekka’s Facebook page:



Birch bark


after cutting horizontally and vertically


cleaning the birch bark


blade, bolsters and handle material ready


start stacking the bark alternating horizontal and vertical pieces


tighten the stack


rivet the back bolster


first rough grind


heating in oven about 75 C, 165 F for about 30 minutes.


tighten after heating




file the tang


last hammering


rivet is ready


last grind


final honing with water sandpaper


the finished puukko!

Iisakki Järvenpää Horse Head Puukkos

This is one of my favorite articles, translated from the website of Anders Halldén at I hope you enjoy it!


“Iisakki Järvenpää ( Isaac Riverhead in English) began his career at Kauhava Puukkotehdas in 1899. (Puukkotehdas translated means knife factory). The factory was founded in1898 and made knives until 1939. Iisakki Järvenpää was employed as production manager, or perhaps better foreman.

This beautiful, pristine and pure luxury knife that you see in the first image is made to a very high standard. With one hundred percent certainty it can be assumed that Iisakki Järvenpää was involved in manufacturing, especially considering that he just started as head of production. The knife, which measures 25 cm, or about 10 inches in the sheath, is designed to be hung on the festival clothes, a jewelry knife or “staskniv” (finery knife) as our Norwegian friends would call it.


Iisakki Järvenpää. worked at the factory up til 1904 but who was this man who is one of the world’s most famous knife makers? Iisakki was born in Kauhava parish1859 and by the age of 20 had begun knife making. From the beginning, he used bark on the handle and after a few years 1881, he began to make his own blades. A year after that he and several others began to etch the blades with manufacturer’s name and place of manufacture, Kauhava, Finland.

On a knife from 1887, one can see that the model over twenty years has not changed much. Black and red sheath with pressed pattern, the knife was narrow and graceful model, red bark stems decorated with inlay and beautiful graceful and generous decorated brass fittings. A blade that is beautiful, free of the blood groove, something that began in 1905 which was a requirement for the U.S. market.

To return to the first photo, a horse head knife that was never used, the knife in absolute mint condition. Inside the sheath is only a few small scuff marks and it is 110 years old! Fittings in nickel silver, marquetry made of over a hundred small brass wires. To cap it all, the beautiful cast horse head, filed and engraved.

The Finnish knife ornament in the shape of such a horse’s head is worth a few lines. Credit for having designed the horse head goes to another famous knife maker from this time, Juho Kustaa Lammi. Juho was requested by a cavalry office to make a horsewhip crowned with a horse head. This was so good that Lammi began to mount those on their knives. The style spread, most knife makers and knife factories in the neighborhood “stole” the idea. Iisakki Järvenpää Oy still manufactures several models with horse heads. See

Now look at the next photo and see what happened with the horse head. The oldest head which sits on the knife in the top photo has an identical style as an original on a knife from 1891, therefore I assume that this is from same casting model as the Juho did some time in the 1880s. As shown in the pictures of the three horse head knives a move toward a simplified form occurred.


The knife in the middle is also from Kauhava Puukkotehdas but made 30 years later, and you still see the good craftsmanship. Reduced in size, still engraved but now only on one side and the details have become fewer. The handle is now galalith (a synthetic plastic material manufactured by the interaction of casein and formaldehyde), later in the 1900s it was made from plastic.

The lower blade made by  Iisakki Järvenpää OY, 50 years later, has regained the bark handle, but without any decoration. The horse head has lost almost all the detail which enabled a much easier casting without significant rework. We all know to work costs money and that production must be simplified for efficiency for  the blades to be able to reach the market at an affordable price.


We who have a penchant for older knives appreciate a craft made with primitive tools and machines, with poor lighting, but with a high sense of form and decoration that resulted in world class knives. If you have comments or wish to comment on this article please email me, you can also visit my knife a site that contains pictures of hundreds of beautiful Finnish knives.” and 

Sources: Suuri Puukkokirja , Timo Hyytinen, Collectable Knives of Finland, Lester Ristinen, A Finnish Knife Legend by Pentti Turunen , Norwegian knife blade nr3 2002.

Update about Iisakki Järvenpää:

Iisakki Järvenpää Oy was purchased in June 2013 by three South Ostrobothnian entrepreneurs. The aim is to develop and maintain  Finnish knife manufacturing and crafts. The company’s strength is the company ‘s brand and employees. The current staff will continue employment without interruption.  Pekka Pollari,  Jarkko Haukkala and Hannu Pennala are the new owners.

The new president and CEO, Pekka Polari.

The new president and CEO, Pekka Polari.

Here is a news article about the sale and new owners: