Tag Archives: Saku Honkilahti

Saku Honkilahti

I have recently been corresponding with Saku Honkilahti, a friend and contributor to this blog since the beginning. Saku has provided information that I needed for several posts, not only is he knowledgeable but he makes a very fine puukko. I am pleased to own one that he made for me several years ago.

I asked Saku to write down his thoughts on knife making for this post and here is what he had to say.

Saku Honkilahti:

“I have been making puukkos for over a decade. In that time I have slowly developed my own style.

Number one is SH-stamped hammer finished hand forged blade. I have a very efficient grinder and a very good steel source but almost stubbornly I want to hand forge all my blades. Of course there are many theoretical writings that say modern steels don`t need forging. Maybe true, but for me it is an important part of knifemaking. And I want that it can be seen, so my blades are hammer finished.

My second trade mark is simple materials. Materials that look and feel genuine. I use basic carbon steel, 80CrV2 is my favorite blade material. For bolsters I like to use brass, bronze or nickel silver. And for handles birch bark and curly birch are my two favorites. I have done some handles from micarta and other industrial materials too, but they just don’t feel right. I must admit, stabilized woods are here and maybe, just maybe, there is something nice and easy in them.

The third trademark in my puukkos are simple and strong lines. It must look like a puukko and it must feel like a puukko in hand. Even when it is dark at night, the handle shape tells you every time where the blade is. You can use about ten different holds on puukko and good handle must enable all them. If there is some finger guard, holes or too much sharp curves, you can´t take all these ten holds. And it must feel strong, powerful, but not too burly or cumbersome.

Fourth is a simple leather sheath with a two sided wooden insert, the lesta. The puukko must stay in the sheath when you sit, run or even do a hand stand.That is why I handsew my sheaths from wet vegetable tanned leather. So a puukko and a sheath is always a matching couple.

Maybe I am little bit old fashioned, but I believe that there is no need to re-invent the classic Finnish puukko, it is good as it is and real do-it-all kind of knife.”

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Saku Honkilahti: Birth Of A Puukko

A few months ago my friend Bill wrote to Saku Honkilahti to inquire about a custom made puukko. He requested ” a puukko made with a 100mm handle, sallow root if possible(curly birch if no sallow root)and silversteel fittings, 70mm silversteel blade with secondary bevel.”  We asked Saku if he would be interested in making a work in progress piece while he was creating this knife.  Saku agreed and this post is the result.

I really like Saku’s puukkos and it’s great to be able to watch him work and follow the progress step by step.  Thank you Saku for doing this project, beautiful work as usual!

Birth Of A Puukko

Part One: The Blade

It all begins from 12mm round silver steel stock, named Böhler K510. I use a 100 year old anvil, a 50 year old hammer and an almost new gas forge.

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Right temperatures are really important during forging. That’s why I am working almost without lights, I can see colors of the steel, I can almost smell when temperatures are right. Hammering is a hard job, but it is the only way to get round stock to blade, and I believe that a carefully forged blade is the one and only way to do it.

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After forging and some heat treatments is it time to use the angle grinder for rough job and the grinder to get the final result.

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Before hardening and tempering it looks like this:

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After heat treating it is time to polish the blade. It is almost all done by hand.

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And final polishing.

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Now the soul of the puukko, the blade is ready. I do some testing routines for every blade I make: brass rod test, whittling birch and paper slicing. They are not extreme tests, but those tests tell me that the blade works like I want it to.

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Part Two: The Handle

A birch bark handle with brass bolsters is usual for me, but this time it is a little bit different materials: sallow root gnarl and nickel-silver. Only very thin slices from birch bark comes between bolster and wooden part.

First I must cut some nickel-silver with the hack saw.

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With drill and needle files I do the hole for the tang.

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This is a tricky job, because of the blade geometry. It takes time and many adaptations. The face of the front bolster gets final polishing when it sits nice and evenly in its place.

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Back bolster comes next, then the wooden part.

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Again, with drills and needle files, the tang get its place. This is also time consuming and an important part. Of course, I use glue and peening, but if I want really solid construction, also this adaptation must be careful.

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When all fits nice and easy, it is time to clean all surfaces with acetone to be sure that the epoxy glue gets a tight hold.

I don’t use presses or other aids, I trust for the peenings power to get all surfaces together.

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And it looks like this.

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When the epoxy is hard, it is time to shape the handle. I use same old electric drill and round sanding wheel with very rough grade paper. Basically, puukkos handle shape is very simple. But still, this operation needs finesse and steady mind, because puukko is really born in this stage.

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And of course, the final results comes with elbow-grease.

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Now the bolsters need polishing and the wood needs some oil and polishing.

Part Three: The Sheath

The wooden insert, the lesta, is an important part of the sheath, so sheath making starts in the wood pile. I prefer birch as it is homogenous and relatively easy to work but still hard and reliable.

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I draw blade lines and carve a place in the wood for the blade.

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Then I shape it with band saw and sander.

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And here you can see all essentials for sheath sewing. The fork is for marking the holes and the knife is to smooth out the leather. Sewing is done with wet leather, so when the leather dries, the puukko fits perfectly in the sheath.

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When sewing is done, I cut the excess leather off, with my puukko, of course.

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And when the leather is dry, it looks like this.

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The secure belt loop is essential.

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I dyed the sheath with black color. This picture is not so nice at all, but you can see how it looks inside. Notice the wooden insert, which protects both the puukko and the puukko user.

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And after some final greasing, refinement and polishing it all looks like this.

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As you can see, hand made puukko making includes many different work phases. It is time consuming but also very satisfying. No need for high tech or complicated machines, it is all in my fingertips.

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”Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” is one of my favorite pieces of wisdom.

saku

Tuohipää / Stacked Birch Bark Puukkos

The first puukko I ever owned was an Iisakki Järvenpää Aito which has a stacked birch bark handle. It was given to me as a gift and I was taken with it. I’d never seen a puukko before and I thought it was just about the perfect knife and the perfect design. I was especially impressed with the birch bark handle, reminiscent of some stacked leather handled American hunting knives. Except the birch bark was nicer, it had a soft velvety warm feel and was easy to grip. The knife was a pleasure to handle.

I found that the use of birch bark  is traditional in Finland, and it’s used on several styles of puukkos and is very popular. As I got to know some puukkoseppä through this blog I was able to learn how these puukkos are made and post some tutorials of how it’s done. This post is simply to show some very nice puukkos with stacked birch, an appreciation of the form. The ones featured belong to my friends Bill Lecuyer (who started me off with the gift of that Järvenpää Aito) and Federico Buldrini who has written several features for this website.

Thank you to Bill, Federico and the talented puukkoseppä for making them! Look at Index Page to learn more about these knives and how they are made.

From Bill Lecuyer:

This puukko is by Pekka Tuominen. Blade length 90 mm, handle length 105 mm.

This puukko is by Pekka Tuominen. Blade length 90 mm,
handle length 105 mm.

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Blade length 85 mm, handle length 110 mm.                                                                                 Handle length 11 cm

Kullervo puukko by Veikko Hakkarainen of Tapio, Rovaniemi. Blade length 85mm, handle length 110 mm.

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From Federico Buldrini:

Puukko by Pasi Hurttila. blade: 97x23x5,2 mm, rhombic handle 110 mm tang at peening: 10x4,5 mm

Puukko by Pasi Hurttila. rhombic blade: 97x23x5.2 mm,
handle 110 mm,  tang at peening: 10×4.5 mm.

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Pasi Hurttila, 100x22x5,6 mm blade, 110 mm handle, 9x5 mm tang at peening.

Another one by Pasi Hurttila, 100x22x5.6 mm blade, 110 mm handle, 9×5 mm tang at peening.

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Two of mine:

Joonas Kallioniemi puukko. Blade 95 mm, handle 105 mm.

Joonas Kallioniemi puukko. Blade 95 mm, handle 105 mm.

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Puukko by Saku Honkilahti. Blade 90 mm, handle 105 mm.

Puukko by Saku Honkilahti. Blade 90 mm, handle 105 mm.

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The Iisakki Järvenpää Aito that was the start of it all...

And the Iisakki Järvenpää Aito that started it all…

...thank you Bill!

…thank you Bill!

Puukko Gallery Part 1

I am going to post photos of new work by the puukkoseppä featured on the blog, hopefully twice a year.  I would like to do this in the summer and again at Christmas time.  I will be posting the photos I’ve received over the next few weeks, enjoy!

Matti Luhtanen's toijala. Silver Medal winner at Fiskars this year.

Matti Luhtanen’s toijala. Silver Medal winner at Fiskars this year.

Pekka Tuominen's 1930s style puukko. A tribute to his grandfathers and all how fought in The Winter War. Show with his grandfather Laurie Tuominen's military items.

Pekka Tuominen’s 1930s style puukko. A tribute to his grandfathers and all who fought in The Winter War. Shown with his grandfather Lauri Tuominen’s military items.

Pekka Tuominen

Pekka Tuominen

Pekka Tuominen

Pekka Tuominen

Pekka Tuominen

Pekka Tuominen

Pekka's work for the show in Oregon, U.S.A.

Pekka’s work for the show in Oregon, U.S.A.

Saku Honkilahti

Saku Honkilahti

Saku Honkilahti

Saku Honkilahti

Saku Honkilahti

Saku Honkilahti

Saku Honkilhati. This one is the Lemminkäinen, puukko which is planned especially for bushcrafters and such who wants little bit more robust construction. It has little bit over engineering on the tang and little second bevel, both for incurance against hard jobs and also there is lanyard hole in the handle. And then there is all new consept for me, big knife (7" blade) with puukko and leuku influences, called Tiera.

Saku Honkilhati. This one is the Lemminkäinen which is made especially
for bushcrafters and those who want a little bit more robust construction.
It has a little bit over engineering on the tang and little second bevel,
both for insurance against hard jobs and also there is lanyard hole in
the handle.

And then there is all new consept for me, big knife (7" blade) with puukko and leuku influences, called Tiera.

Saku Honkilahti. His new knife, the Tiera, a big knife with a 7″ blade and leuku influences.

Mikko Inkeroinen's hattutuppipukko

Mikko Inkeroinen’s hattutuppipukko

Mikko Inkeroinen

Mikko Inkeroinen

Mikko Inkeroinen

Mikko Inkeroinen

Mikko Inkeroinen

Mikko Inkeroinen

Mikko Inkeroinen

Mikko Inkeroinen

Mikko Inkeroinen

Mikko Inkeroinen

Saku Honkilahti

Saku Honkilahti is a pukkoseppä with a keen appreciation for history and traditional design. From the beginning, Saku has been a great help with this blog, providing me with information, obscure facts and bits of history. I am pleased to say that I own one of his very fine puukkos. It is a knife to be proud of. Here is a quote that Saku sent me that sums up his aesthetic ideal; "Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."

Thanks to Saku for writing this piece and for his willingness to answer my many questions over the past several months.

Saku:

“I have been always interested in old habits, lifestyle and tools, especially edged tools: knives, axes, saws etc. I also like to make all kind of handcrafts, mostly from wood. There is some serious do-it-yourself men in my family: tailors and farmers, but not really smiths.

My puukko making really began in autumn 2005. I had a long time desire for a good, hand made puukko. But at the same time I absolutely didn’t have the money to buy that kind of puukko. So I went to a knife making course, where a local mastersmith taught me the main principles of puukko making. First and most important lesson is puukko must be a user.

It’s pointless to polish or decorate before being able to make puukkos with an excellent quality blade, handle and sheath. I must admit that the first time with forge, anvil, hammer and a piece of steel hit me really hard. Obviously the first blade and puukko weren’t so good, but after that moment I never looked back. Puukko making took place in my heart and soul. Immediately I also started to collect the necessary tools and materials to make more knives.

I have to admit that I have learned most of my skills by trial and errors. There have been times during which I practically lived in my workshop. Naturally I read all the material I can find, both in books and on the internet.

Puukko making is a special hobby for me and I do mean “special”: it’s a real passion. Seriously speaking, I’m not sure if I’ll ever want to do this as a full time job as I want my heart and soul to be along with every single puukko I make. The world is full of mass produced knives, with some nice details and even good quality. But at the same time this kind of knives are somehow boring. So I want every single puukko I make to be individual and unique. Of course, there is my own style and hand mark, still every puukko is a little bit different.

I live in Jalasjärvi, a municipality in western Finland, really close to Kauhava and Härmä that, as you know, in old times gave birth to really significant puukko models, smiths and even industry. In Jalasjärvi we have also our own model, with a really long tailed sheath. This particular puukko is still a little bit mysterious, but I’m doing reasearch on it.

My main sources of inspiration are ancient and present puukkos: pekanpää puukko, Tommi-puukko and all those old maasepän puukkos. I want my knives to be first and foremost usable for dealing with wood, meat, fish and all that stuff you need for real living.

I think my mission as puukko maker is to bring part of ancient days technology and knowledge to today’s modern world. I respect all those old masters who made user puukkos and I’d want to show that also modern men can make serious puukkos with simple but modern tools. For example I use a gas forge instead of a charcoal one and an electric powered grinder and belt sander instead of pure elbow grease. I want to do serious and honest tools meant for hard everyday use, not for a glass cabinet. I also want to do something unique, simple and with a long heritage to leave to modern world, where people consume all so quickly, way too quickly. Mobile phones, tablets, all that virtuality… they all come and go. The puukko will live and work today as in the future.”

Some photos of Saku and his work.

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Saku Award puukko 1

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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 http://www.netikka.net/sakunsivu/

Thank you Saku!

Sheath Making My Way…

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First we take a nice piece of birch

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then we draw the blade to the wood

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and carve til the blade fits perfectly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Turned the mouth part double.

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Now the leather is soaking in pure water.

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

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The necessary tools to sew.

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Puukko placed to wet leather and sewing can finally start.

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First I marked stitch places with fork…

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then I punch them with an awl.

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

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

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Bonding and pressing the seam.

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

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then some seam finishing with the sander.

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The leather is dyed.

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Sewing the belt loop.

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

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Saku Honkilahti – Kokemäen Puukko

I am trying to define and illustrate the various traditional forms of the Finnish puukko and Saku Honkilahti was kind enough to offer some background and information on the Kokemäen. Saku is a puukkoseppa and I’m happy to say I own one of his puukkos with a beautiful stacked birch handle. To see his work please visit his website at:    http://www.netikka.net/sakunsivu/  Thank you for all your help Saku!

“The fact of who actually developed or invented the Kokemäenjoki puukko or even when, is unknown. A Kokemäenjoki knife is very simple, functional and straightforward, devoid of decoration. It has always been primarily a tool, not a weapon.

The Kokemäen puukko is typically timber handled, usually curly or flame birch, which has a clear reason. The handle has no ferrules,  so the wood itself must be strong and tough. Normal size in a knife handle, a length of all Finnish puukko is typically 100 + mm, the width of a man’s hand. Cross-section is oval and the blade tapers both both forward and backward. Height of the handle is at most 30 mm and a thickness of 20 mm.

The second feature is that the blade tang does not go through,  it is called a stick tang. Because the handle must sit very tightly, it is traditionally inserted into the handle by burning, thus it is not drilled.

The third feature is the “gap” between the blade and the handle. One explanation could be that the seam is possible to keep clean. Another explanation of the design is that it allows one to tighten the blade later. The third is that the final grinding is easier. The truth is that no one knows anymore.

The top of the blade is oval-shaped cut. Handles have mainly the oil finishing. The blade is the typical Finnish form of a puukko blade:  upright, without a gig in the tip, sharpened straight and and typically a little longer than the 100 to 130 mm handle, and also lower around 15 to 20 mm high. In hand the Kokemäen puukko must feel natural and lively, not clumsy at all.

The Kokemäen sheath is the most spectacular part. In general, it is brown leather and designed with a slightly pointed gig. The upper part of the sheath is long, knives must sit firmly in the sheath. The hanging loop is a simple leather loop or sometimes metal chain.

Here are some notable puukkoseppa who made the Kokemäen:

Akseli Ekman (02.25.1883 – 06.20.1950) was the only professional knife maker who made the Kokemäen puukkos for a living. He was also a shoe maker and well known from his first class quality sheaths. The blades he made mostly from old files. Near his workshop also lived a blacksmith, Peltonen who made the blades for him until they came to a dispute in 1942, when Ekman won a famous knife competition but did not mention his  blade smith at all. Ekman’s production was at its peak since the 1920s and even 1940-50, when his puukkos were sold from the local hardware stores etc. They had a very good reputation.

Ilmari Kuula (09.28.1903 – 10.23.1983) made a career as a gurad at the Cedercreutz Art Museum, a job he held for 45 years, vv. 1933 – 1978. Also his brother Aarne Kuula (11.18.1911 – 08.19.1985)  made Kokemäen puukkos, mainly by commission and hobby and neither of them made a living making knives.

Keikki Marjanen (10.21.1918 – 01.31.1989) made smaller Kokemäenjoki puukkos, several hundreds of knives. His sheaths usually have his monogram, a stylized letter M. A second feature is the blades are concave ground . His knife handles are usually painted.

Today there are two professional makers: Pekka Tuominen and Mikko Inkeroinen and some hobby makers like me, Jani Ryynänen and Eino Hell.”

Saku Honklahti