Tag Archives: maasepän puukko

Ilkka Seikku Maasepän Puukko Review

Ilkka Seikku Maasepän Puukko Review by Federico Buldrini

Introduction

This puukko was made by Ilkka Seikku, native of Ulvila, but now living and working in Sastamala, 50 km west of Tampere. He’s a full time blacksmith, old style craftsman and wilderness guide. He has recently dropped the use of electric tools for the crafting of traditional knives, while keeping their use when making full-tang bushcraft knives.
A fundamentalist conservator of old traditions and willing to preserve them for the generations to come, he aims to craft tough and effective tools. “Performance” is the key word, everything else comes after. Also a booster of materials recycling, he forges puukko blades, fire steel strikers etc from old files.

(Visit Ilkka’s very interesting blog at http://rautasarvi.blogspot.fi/  and his website at http://tuluskivi.suntuubi.com/  )

4m

2m

3m

1m

5m

Technical data

All the measurements I’ll give are just of this specimen, since every puukko is individually made measures will change slightly.

blade
length 81 mm
width 19 mm
thickness 2 mm at spine; 4 mm at thickest point
steel W2
flat grind
edge angle 16°, with convex edge
edge hardness ~ 60 HRC

handle
length 102 mm
width 25 mm max.
thickness 16 mm max.

weight
knife 40 g
with sheath 70 g

Overview

This puukko was completely made without power tools. Following the oldest tradition the blade was forged with a hand held hammer, recycling an old file, into the Finnish trademark rhombic section. Out of the box it wasn’t hair popping sharp, but plenty sharp for woodworking. I personally don’t keep woodworking puukkos shaving sharp, as it wouldn’t last on seasoned wood. It’s also worth knowing that Ilkka hand sharpens all his puukkos with a slate wetstone and this was no exception.
As for all Ilkka’s knives the heat treatment was made completely on the open fire of the charcoal forge, following the steel colour changing. Blades first get a quick water quenching followed by a longer partial oil quenching and by two temperings. Water quenching makes the sharpest edge, while oil gives added strength.

As for old time maasepän puukkos, the handle is nailed into the sharp end of the tang. The blade-handle junction shows an old trick to increase sturdiness in the construction and to keep the tang tight: two small wedges at the sides of the blade.
The handle is made of a single piece of spalted birch. Spalted woods were attacked by fungi and show characteristic wavy patterns, often reddish or greenish. Ilkka didn’t sand it to a very fine grit, to allow a good grip, but took away every bit of roughness.
The handle has a slim, flattened, oval section, perfect for the knife size, but not abundant by any means. Even if rather tiny it fills good a mid sized hand.

The sheath was hand stitched on the back from 2 mm thick cowhide and the leather of the mouth is folded inside so to increase the friction retention.
Inside there is a two sided protective liner, carved with this same puukko. The side facing outside is made of spruce for good moisture dissipation, while the side facing the user’s hip is made of birch to give solidness to the structure.
The belt loop is made with a twisted leather string, closed with a knot, attached to the sheath with two holes made at the sides of the seam.

In use

Due to its slim constitution and small proportion it’s devoted to pure whittling. Even though very light it feels bit heavier than what it actually is. Just to explain its lightness this is a real “phantom puukko” on the belt, a puukko that weights like an Opinel n°8.
The belt loop braided next to the mouth gives steadiness during walking, but leaves also the sheath the agility to move away easily when needed.

I don’t like carving on green wood for two reasons: it’s useless to harm a sentient living being just for the fun of some wood working and, moreover, you can’t really understand edge holding and durability just by cutting fresh wood.
So, let’s see how the puukko holds up carving dry wood.
I took  piece of oak that had seasoned for four years with fibers perpendicular to the future whittling direction. I sawed off a 40x35x5 mm piece with the saw of a Vixtoinox Equestrian and smoothed the oak piece with the puukko.
Then I drew a willow grouse silhouette, Ilkka is a ptarmigam bow hunter, and sawed off the exceeding material near the tail, the back of the tarsiers and the rump.

After carving the back part of the bird I inspected the blade and found confirmation to what I already felt during work: the central part of the edge was slightly rolled. I partly restored it with some stropping on black compound then completely restored it with few licks of ceramic stick.
This done I proceeded to carve the head of our ptarmigan. This went absolutely nice and clean.
I sawed off the last two bits of wood and went to work on the breast, belly and front of tarsiers. After having carved the beak, the chest and having roughed out the final shape of the legs I touched up the blade again with the ceramic stick to put the bite back. The edge didn’t show rolling or wear anymore, it just lost some bite due to the hardness of wood.
Then I finished to shape the legs and refined the all bird. To conclude I gave it a bit of sandpaper and few more refining cuts when needed.

Conclusions

I wasn’t able to detect any rough spot all along the carving. The handle, despite being thin, is comfortable and absolutely secure, allowing a really quick and intuitive control over the blade.
I had to touch up the blade twice during the all process, but I was positively impressed with its strength. Keep in mind this is a 16° edge, the wood was hard, but above all, I always carved against perpendicular fibers. At the very end of my work the puukko is still plenty sharp and ready for another round. Being narrow, tapered and not that thick it proved not surprisingly to be extremely agile in detailed whittling, keeping enough mass for the power cuts needed in the first stages of rough shaping. I have to say the blade’s rhombic section was perfect for tiny spaces: a flat section blade hasn’t that quickness nor can achieve that preciseness due to its very geometry.

oak block

oak block

grain of oak block

grain of oak block

Oak block and Victorinox saw blade

Oak block and Victorinox saw blade

oak with drawing

oak with drawing

puukko and grouse

puukko and grouse

tail and rump carving

carving the tail and rump

carving the head

carving the head

last bit of sawing

last bit of sawing

roughing in the front

roughing in the front

chest finished

chest finished

roughing in the legs

roughing in the legs

carving finished

carving finished

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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  http://rautasarvi.fi/?cat=34

Also visit his blog at: http://rautasarvi.blogspot.fi/2013/11/blog-post.html

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.

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Here are some very nice additional examples of the maasepän puukko sent to me by K. Kock. Please visit his website and blog at http://www.promaakari.fi/ and http://promaakari.wordpress.com/

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"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”

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

3 Ilkka