Tag Archives: traditional puukko

Henri Tikkanen

“I’m from the rural area of Southern-Savonia,the former municipality of Virtasalmi, that is part of municipality of Pieksämäki nowadays. Usually, puukko is a very common tool in daily tasks in the Finnish countryside and young people are taught to use it at an early age. My first memory of puukko, that has been imprinted on my mind as a small child, was a miniature puukko from Kauhava my father showed me. He had gotten it as a gift when he was a child. It sure pleased the eye of a young boy with its shiny blade and noble looking horse headed rear bolster. When I was 6 years old I got my first knife, a small folding knife and that was probably the first knife I tried whittle with. When I reached age of 14 I started hunting and that’s how I got more familiar with the puukko and, instead of casual whittling for fun, I also got to experience handling game with it and so on.

My true interest in Finnish puukkos started when I was studying in artisan crafts school in Mikkeli. I found out that forging steel was my “thing” because what could be a more interesting object to forge than a blade, I developed a passion for making puukkos. My first puukko blades however resembled something like a cross between screwdrivers and butter knives, but as time went by, my skills started to improve. When I was 17, I got my own gas operated forge in my home.

In the third year of artisan craft school, when students got more chances to do their independent projects, I specialized in forging and my views toward puukkos and their shapes got more detailed. I’m thankful for my teachers Mr. Murto and Mr. Piiroinen who taught me the many ways of handling steel as an material.I also received very important information and details from well-known puukko smith Mikko Inkeroinen, who was a regular visitor in our school’s workshop. Thanks to him, I developed a special interest in traditional shape of puukko blades.

I live in town of Pieksämäki today, but I still visit my childhood home almost daily where my workshop is located as well as my main job in father’s company of canning and smoking game meat.

Most knives I’ve been making now are Tommi, maasepänpuukko, karjalanpuukko, housewife’s knife and kuosmalanpuukko. Karjalanpuukko is one of my favourite puukkos, it’s based on early 20th century’s eastern-karelian knives in the collection of The Finnish National Museum. As far as I know, I’m the only knife maker in Finland to make them today. Kuosmalanpuukko carries the name of my home village Kuosmala. It’s designed by me as an tribute for Kuosmala, there is no previous known puukko model in this area, so I’m proud of having created one.

I’ve also started to gain more interest toward factory made puukko design of the 1930-1950’s era. I make my blades mostly from old files and springs, like black smiths in the countryside of Finland traditionally used to do. But just like in everything, it’s good to broaden our views, so I’m planning on testing synthetic materials for grips in the near future.

As a knife maker, my goal is to improve my skills and learn more and more as well as expand my knife making, which is the thing that keeps the passion high.”


Henri Tikkanen




Teuvo Sorvari: Vöyrin Puukko

This post is focused on the work of Teuvo Sorvari and the historical puukkos he creates especially the Vöyrin puukko. When I first became interested in puukko I saw his Vöyri knives and thought they were the most beautiful and exotic puukkos of all. There is not much information available on this style of puukko so I am especially pleased to be able to feature them here, along with the Inarin and Renfors style of puukko . My special thanks to Juha Nikki for this article and to Teuvo Sorvari for allowing us access to his work.

Teuvo Sorvari by Juha Nikki

Teuvo Sorvari is a knifesmith working in the town of Kaarina, Finland, just outside the former capital Turku. He started knife making in earnest in 1998, making a knife using a blade by Eetu Heikkinen. He has since used only his own blades and won several accolades for his precise work. He is one of the very few modern makers of Vöyrin puukko – in fact it’s difficult to find any other recent Vöyrin puukkos. Teuvo’s work is not confined to that particular style, however. He has made a range of different types of knives from traditional Finnish puukko to bowie knives, fulltangs and liner lock folders – even some types of knife that are entirely unique in their construction.

While Teuvo prefers making completely unique knives, at the time of the interview he was beginning the process of making a slightly larger batch of knives. When asked what his “mission” as a knifesmith is, his reaction to the grand word is initially amusement, but after a brief pause he replies: “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly”.

Teuvo has a history of being an active member of Suomen Puukkoseura (the Finnish Knife Society), including a period as the editor of the society’s quarterly magazine Puukkoposti from 2003-2009. He’s been involved with arranging the Fiskars puukko events with its Finnish puukko making championships and been on the panel of judges there. The Helsinki Knife Show also benefits from his experience and work. He has also run community school knife courses for a number of years and continues to do so.


Teuvo Sorvari, Finnish Knifesmith of the Year 2012 – photo by Jukka Hankala taken the same year.

Going further back to history, Teuvo’s father was a metal worker and welder, also producing some sculptural pieces of art. He also made a small axe, which Teuvo got when he was four years old. He got his first knife when he was five.


Teuvo’s first axe, made by his father.

Teuvo’s professional background is also in metalwork and making highly specialized unique machinery for various industries, laboratories and scientific outfits. He is mostly self taught in knife making apart from taking on a course for “sorkoupotus” (the art of embedding metal decorations to birch bark handles) and a blacksmithing course, on which he concentrated on making damascus billets.

He makes his own blades, knives and sheaths in his well-equipped workshop, and goes even further than that by manufacturing some of his tools himself. Notably, he produces his own gas-fired forge, which I believe is also available for purchase. He has a hydraulic press he’s modified from a log splitter, complete with heated “jaws”. This he uses for e.g. making damascus. His workshop, which is used for his business as well as the knife work, has been in the same place since 1990. It has a wealth of gear with areas for the office, woodworking, metalwork and leatherwork.


Metal working area of the workshop.


Another part of the extensive workshop.


The workshop is used for both business and knife making.


As his hobbies Teuvo names photography, nature, fishing, hunting and woodworking. Occasionally he makes items of jewellery, too. The ceremonial livery collar awarded to the Knifesmith of the Year by Suomen Puukkoseura is his handiwork.

Teuvo is a reader of this Nordiska Knivar blog and has visited the site a few times, albeit not regularly. Mike, the blog owner, has tried to get him to feature through a couple of channels. I hope Mike’s curiosity towards obscure Finnish puukko styles will be satisfied at least a tiny bit after this feature. On that note, a few words about the Vöyrin puukko, which for many is closely associated with Teuvo Sorvari.


“Vöyrin puukko” translated to English is “the knife from Vöyri”. Vöyri is a mostly Swedish speaking small town or municipality in the Ostrobothnia region of Finland, just North of the city of Vaasa. Vöyri has a history of interesting archaeology and is the site of one of Finland’s earliest iron foundries from 1703.


Vöyrin puukko featured in Puukkoposti magazine. (Photo by JN)

Teuvo kindly gave me a copy of the Puukkoposti magazine from 2003 which has an excellent two page story about Vöyrin puukko. It is written by knife historian Pentti Turunen, who had delved deep into the history of Vöyrin puukko (as well as numerous other puukkos) and may well have been the foremost expert on these knives. He has sadly already passed away. The article is obviously in Finnish, but I’ll try to convey some salient points here, coupled with some bits of information from the Finnish Wikipedia entry for Vöyrin puukko. As you have to take Wikipedia with a pinch of salt, I’ll try to stick to what seem like verifiable facts.

  • The amount of surviving historical Vöyrin puukko is only some dozens (Turunen estimates about 40 pieces in 2003). A lot of the survivors are showing their age and have various blemishes and even bits missing.
  • The origins of the knife style are obscured by time, but there are theories of it having a Germanic root through Hansa trade, as Vöyri is a coastal Baltic (trading) town. Finnish domestic, Swedish or European origins have also been mooted. Folk historian Sakari Pälsi reckoned the unique style of the symmetrical sheath was based on the Finnish nobility’s dagger sheaths. Turunen’s conclusion is that whatever the influences, it was the local Vöyri people who developed the sheath style to its final form.
  • Wikipedia mentions the year 1750 as a possible date for the first Vöyrin puukko, but reminds us that puukkos have been made in Vöyri well before that.
  • Turunen quotes the Lundberg family as a prominent maker of the decorative versions (dress knife) of Vöyrin puukko. It is possible they were the only historical Vöyri dress knife makers. The simpler everyday (user knife) versions have been by various others, notably the blacksmith Konsta Kruut from Alahärmä.
  • The Lundbergs made Vöyrin puukkos between 1750-1880 in three generations, by the end of it there were four brothers involved, according to Turunen’s information.
  • All Vöyrin puukkos have a straight handle. They can be either single knives or a double knife versions, where two knives are housed in the same sheath. The odd treble version of an everyday knife has also been made.
  • In the modern day, the term “Vöyrin puukko” usually refers to the decorative version of the knife.
  • Most handles are brass from top to bottom, but some also show a little timber in the middle section. There are solid brass handles, as well as those with a wooden core covered with brass plating.
  • The handle decorations often include a criss-cross pattern and a wavy snaking line around the (top of the) handle.
  • Turunen quotes Vöyrin puukko as the oldest Finnish knife style that has been manufactured in a reasonably large scale. Wikipedia also mentions it as “the first distinguishable puukko type of our modern time” – which can obviously be contested.
  • There are also asymmetrical sheaths, which is to say that the rounded bottom part of the sheath is semi-circular instead of circular.
  • The sheath is leather, usually with a wooden insert and a very strong, prominent brass framing, strengthening or decoration – whatever you want to call the brasswork. There can also be decorative brass strips on the flat middle part of the sheath.
  • There are very rare examples of Vöyrin puukko with birch bark sheaths. See the photo of the Vöyrin puukko story with rare examples, including all leather, all metal and all birch bark versions as well as an asymmetrical sheath and a hat sheath. Whether some of the photos are actual Vöyrin puukko or sheaths could be questioned, but you can see where Turunen is coming from with those examples.
  • Turunen moots the idea that Vöyrin puukko could be a predecessor or at least an inspiration for Toijalan puukko, another traditional Finnish model.
  • There are also associated knife belts (helavyö) for Vöyrin puukko. According to Turunen they appeared in the early 1800’s. Most of the known belts were made by Gustaf Blomqvist (1841-1919) in Vöyri.

Puukkoposti from 2003, featuring Vöyri & Renfors puukko stories. The cover photo of a Vöyrin puukko and its belt is by Jukka Hankala. (Photo by JN)

Having compiled the above, I had a look at Anssi Ruusuvuori’s “Puukon Historia” (history of puukko) book.  It has more detail for those interested in Vöyrin puukko. Ruusuvuori says they were made around 1740-1880 and suggests the sheath design is likely to be baroque influenced. Another reason for the sheath shape could be that these are some of the earliest puukko sheaths using a wooden insert, he says. There are quite a few photos of historical Vöyrin puukko in the book, as well as the full specifications and detailed photos of almost a couple of dozen of these very original knives.


Teuvo Sorvari has made both single and double knife versions of Vöyrin puukko – the Finnish term for a small and larger knife in the same sheath is “kaksineuvoinen”. He got the idea and the model for making his first Vöyrin puukko from a Finnish interior design magazine called Avotakka. He then managed to borrow an original knife – or in fact a duo of knives in the same sheath, “kaksineuvoinen” – from Ilmo Juntunen to get the measurements from. The interpretation of the sheath on the first puukko is Teuvo’s own, as he didn’t inspect the original for the method of construction. He says his main objective was to make the sheath as compact as possible in terms of getting the two knives in the sheath as close as possible. One of these works has won for Teuvo first prize in the Heritage Knife category of the Finnish Knife (Puukko) Making Championships in 2004, as well as being voted the Most Beautiful Knife in the show by the audience.


A double Vöyrin puukko, maker Teuvo Sorvari.


A single Vöyrin puukko by Teuvo Sorvari.

The Vöyri sheaths Teuvo makes are, according to the man himself, a little bit rounder, fuller in shape than a lot if the originals.  As an anecdote, Anssi Ruusuvuori has measured Teuvo’s Vöyrin puukko for the purposes of his “Puukon Historia” book.

Another bit of information Teuvo shares is that the original patterns engraved on the handle will have been the criss-cross motif coupled with the snaking “worm” line. On the 2004 Vöyrin puukko he was too nervous to try this for fear of ruining the knife and he settled for some straight rings around the handle. The decoration from one original puukko to another varies somewhat too, so this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Vöyri knives in general are very labour intensive, hence also expensive. This is likely one of the reasons for their rarity. Teuvo says he has never taught anyone else in making Vöyri knives.


The Inari Knife (knife from Inari, Inarin puukko) is another historical style that Teuvo has tackled a few times. This is an archaeological find from Mihkaljärvi, Inari, situated in Finnish Lapland. The knife, dated to 1050-1300, in the Finnish National Museum also features in Anssi Ruusuvuori’s book “Puukon Historia” (The History of Puukko). Teuvo’s rendition of Inarin puukko has an ebony handle and a strikingly elaborate horizontal carry brass sheath. As the original find didn’t have any leather surviving, Teuvo hasn’t lined his completely with leather. Unlike the original, the spine on Teuvo’s sheath is solid brass, and the whole package is very solid with a good weight to it.

A photo of the original can be seen on this Sami Museum page:


Matti Rinta-Knuuttuila nro2

One of Teuvo Sorvari’s Inarin Puukko.


Renfors puukko (Renforsin puukko) is a further relatively little known Finnish puukko. It is named after a gentleman called Herman August Renfors, a polymath, inventor and businessman who for a lot of his active career resided in Kajaani, Finland. You can find more on him by googling e.g. “renfors fishing”, as a some of his patents etc. were on fishing lures and such. Amongst his many inventions and products was a knife, which is now known as the Renfors puukko. Renfors also holds the first Finnish patent (from 1910) to do with knife making – or to be precise it concerns the use of metal with sheaths.

The Renfors puukkos Teuvo has made are all a series of three knives with beautiful, ornate brass clad leather sheaths like the originals. The knives in the set are in three sizes, otherwise they are identical. The smallest one – from the writer’s memory – is roughly 10 cm long with its sheath and the biggest knife I’d liken to a good sized regular Tommi-puukko or such. The knives themselves have ebony handles.


Teuvo Sorvari’s Renfors puukko set.

There is a good two page story on Renfors knives by Ilmo Juntunen in the same Puukkoposti magazine that has the Vöyrin puukko story. It is more about the man and his exploits than knives, but there are a few interesting nuggets regarding the puukkos, too. For example, the handles are said to be ebony and the size of the largest puukko 18,5 cm with the sheath and the smallest knife at 8,5 cm long. The story also asks to get into contact with Suomen Puukkoseura, if you have anything resembling a Renfors knife or sheaths. This is because they are so rare that even the regional county museum of Kainuu, the area where the knives were manufactured, hasn’t got an example – at least in 2003 when the story was written.


Renfors and his knives in Puukkoposti magazine (Photo by JN)

Renfors also had a special belt (helavyö) for these knives, which Teuvo has also reproduced.

“Puukon Historia” book has a little additional detail on this knife, too, with a couple of photos.


Teuvo has made a copy of another one of Renfors’ products, a large fishing lure.


As previously mentioned, Teuvo has made some engraved liner lock folding knives. Some engravings are his own and others he has outsourced to Pentti Nieminen. The two liner locks I handled had a pleasant, easy and smooth action.


Folding knife in ebony by Teuvo Sorvari, engraving by P. Nieminen.


Teuvo’s own design, what you might call a folding puukko. The blade folds into the metal frame and can be inserted inside the wooden handle.


The same knife assembled and ready to use. The screw at the top attaches the handle firmly to the blade.

There are also numerous other models of puukko Teuvo has made. Most of them are his own design, some incorporating aspects from e.g. Tommi and Ilves puukko models and other classic all purpose puukkos. Other items in his repertoire include for example bowie knives, fulltangs, framelock folders, leukus, axes, fishing lures and kuksas (wooden cups).


A folding hunting knife.

Below is a selection of some more conventional models of Teuvo’s puukkos.




I’ve compiled this article the best I can – if you can provide more information or want to correct something I’ve written on the historical knives, feel free to use the comments section.

All the photos in this story, where not indicated otherwise, are from Teuvo Sorvari.




Making A Puukko Without Power Tools by Ilkka Seikku

Here is a very interesting piece by Ilkka Seikku about making a puukko without any power tools.  I hope he’ll favor us with a sequel on the leather work aspects of this project. Thank you Ilkka!

Ilkka’s website: http://tuluskivi.suntuubi.com/

and blog: http://rautasarvi.blogspot.fi/2013/11/blog-post.html

“First I forge the blade. I use my foot powered forge and hammer it from silversteel. It’s necessary to hammer the blade straight to its shape and even the bevels need to be almost ready after forging. It´s very hard to file the blade if during forging the hammering hasn’t been so good.

I forge this blade to be something like 90 mm long and 22 mm wide. It has rhombic section and the thickest point is about 5 mm. It´s quite regular and traditional size. If you’re lucky enough to have seen some old Finnish maasepänpuukkos, you may have seen they have hammer marks on the bevel too. That´s because the forging was done very close to final thickness also for the bevels. Filing and grinding with hand tools is very arduous so it has to be forged almost sharp.


Next thing I do is to file the bevels edge just a little bit so it´ll be fine. There’s no need to do anything for the spine or anything else neither, it was fine already.





Now I need a handle. This is a hard part, maybe the hardest one. It’s a lot of work sawing very hard curly birch (diameter over 20 cm) with a hand saw.
Finally I got my piece for the handle. I shape it to be fitted better to the blade with my self made ax. Then I drill a hole with, again self made, hand drill.





As you may have noticed; I haven’t done any heat treatments to the blade yet. That´s because I´ll next heat the tang to burn the hole. This is how I can make the hole to be exactly in the size of the tang and the blade will stick in the handle “perfectly”.
It´s very important NOT to burn it all the way through! The last cm needs to be pushed through when the tang is cold again. This is how the fitting can be made very nicely.




Now I saw a piece of antler that will be the bolster. Again with the hand drill, I make a little hole and burn it through with heated tang. When burning through the antler with tang, it has to be done very quickly, otherwise the antler will burn.





Then I cut the handle so that the tang is longer than the blade, as I´ll rivet the tang from the bottom of the handle. After a little checking I cut a piece of moose rawhide to be a liner between the birch and the antler. I wet the rawhide and hammer it to be very hard. So I make sure that the it will not shrink.




Now that I have fitted the handle around the tang I can make the heat treatments. I use always a living fire while making it. That´s the way blacksmiths have done for ages! It´s very sad that today many blacksmiths can’t trust their eyes and experience to do that. They use all kind of modern equipments to get exact temperatures etc. If someone can tell me if some blade was tempered in oven or with the fire just by using the knife, I surely dont´t believe him!




I whittle the shape of the handle with my self made BushProwler and then sand it with 80# sand paper. After the piece of birch starts to get some shapes it´s time to glue the knife together.
First I glue the bolster to the tang. I use, guess what, my self made glue that I get from mixing birch bark oil and carbon black. It works like heat glue, so I have to warm up the tang, but not so much to spoil the heat treatment.



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I managed to find a quite good mixture, the glue needs high temperature to melt and is not too glass-like after getting colder. Right after gluing I hammer the head of the tang so to rivet the all knife.







I hammer the head of the tang so to rivet the all knife. After some more whittling and some finishing with 80# sand paper, I took this picture.
This is about all of the tools and materials I have used.


Now some sharpening with a piece of slate I have taken from the wilderness. There is a lot of slate in our forest and I have found it to be very good grind stone.


Traditionally made Finnish puukko. This is something I can proudly say to be HAND MADE!


Now it´s time to check if this puukko is worth anything. A puukko needs a sheath of course, and its first job is always to carve its own wooden liner!
I use coniferous woods when making inserts. It has great ability to remove the moisture from the blade and fade it avoiding any damage for the blade.

Making a liner is very easy. First the blade profile is drawn and then it’s just carved off. From these pictures you can see that there is really no need of chisels or anything else but the puukko that is going to have this liner!
This insert must be solid, so it needs another piece of wood at its back. I usually use birch for this piece. It’s quite hard wood and it makes the all liner more solid. When the top is, for example, spruce, the moisture can still fade away easily.
Again the gluing is done with that same glue as I used for the handle. After the glue gets colder, I can shape the insert to be ready.












I cut a piece of moose rawhide, which I´ll use to make the sheath and also there is a moose leg sinew which I´ll use for the sewing. First I have to bark tan the leather but that´s another story. Maybe I´ll share it with you someday.


I hope this was fun to read and hopefully it makes more sense about the REAL tradition of making puukkos!”