Simple Finish Knives

I have made twoo puukko. To be honest, I was not a fan of this type of knife at all. I have only decided to make them just as a part of my ongoing knifemaking education. But now I am totally a convert.

The first one has a handle made from birch bark, cow bone, and white brass. It looks a bit like a stacked leather handle but it feels different in the hand. Birchbark can be flattened by boiling it in hot water and pressing it between two boards to cool and dry off, making it into flat hard sheets. They are slightly more brittle than wood, but they do not have any preferred failure direction, so they do not split and break easily.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

The second one has a handle from birch wood with a small burl in it. It is not proper burlwood, it was just a piece of firewood that I thought will be interesting. I think I was correct in that surmise. The endcap and bolster are from pakfong.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Both of these knives have just a simple finish to them. The blades’ primary bevels were ground only up to 120 grit and then tumbled after quenching in sand as long as it took to take all the scale off. Bolsters and end caps are not highly polished, as well as the handles. In fact, I took a steel brush to them to roughen the surfaces a bit. And the finish is just several layers of ordinary boiled linseed oil.

I was aiming for a simple, rough-looking sturdy knife as well as a simple, easy-ish manufacturing process. I think I have managed both. I really like these knives and I will make at least somewhat fancy sheaths for them. And I will definitively make more puukko in the future. I also think that this design is ideal for recycling old files into knives, so I will probably do some of that too.


  1. Ice Swimmer says

    The blades are shapely and the handles look good both the birch bark and the figured birch.

    The roughened surface is probably a good idea for a knife that has no quillons or pommels (like most puukkos are).

    You have managed to make knives that are both recognizable as puukkos but also they have your own style. How do these work on wood carving? Could one make one of these (it is a Karelian woodcarving that’s often called Karjalan käkönen, little Karelian cuckoo*). I’m not actually asking to make one, it’s a somewhat involved process.

    * = There’s something about Karelia and cuckoos, the cuckoo is the region bird of North Karelia and then there’s this song, in the first stanza of which a cuckoo is singing in the spring in birch forests of Karelia.

  2. says

    @Ice Swimmer, I do not know whether making the cuckoo with this knife would be possible. We have a similar art form in CZ, only we call them doves, not cuckoos. But I do think these should be good wood carving knives. I have tested one on a piece of spruce wood, making “feather stick” and it worked quite well.
    I got two likes on Instagram from two possibly Finnish knifemakers who make mostly puukko, so at least visually my result is not offensive.
    I probably won’t make even remotely authentic sheaths however, firstly I do not know how and secondly I do not particularly like the curved puukko sheaths.

  3. lumipuna says

    I’m only vaguely aware that some people here in Finland may turn traditional knife-making into outright sophistry. On the other end of the spectrum, I just buy a fairly generic cheap outdoor knife (with plastic handle and sheath) from hardware store and it’s called puukko as well. Not sure what the appropriate English name would be, since this type is hardly unique to Finland.

  4. Ice Swimmer says

    Charly @ 4

    The reason I asked was that I was a bit apprehensive* about the efficacy of the the secondary bevels for the kind of carving (or whatever it’s called) that something like the cuckoo/dove would require. However, I’d guess if it’s sharp (and knowing you it’s clear that it is), it will work well. Also, the secondary bevel makes the blade keep its sharpness better when used, right?

    BTW, one further nice visual thing is that your puukkos look like they are smiling.

    lumipuna @ 5

    Mora knife?
    * = I’d like to point out that I’m not super knowledgeable about these matters, but the thing about the secondary bevel just sprang into my mind.

  5. says

    @lumipuna, every community has its purists, gatekeepers, and donkeyholes. A knife is a tool first and foremost and if it is fit for function, it is a good knife regardless if handmade or mass-produced.

    @Ice Swimmer, I do not know much about this specific type of woodcarving. What little I know is that they use easily splitting wood, like Norway spruce and silver fir, and cut it along the fibers into very thin slices. For that, the actual thickness of the blade is perhaps less important than one might think, because once a cut is established, the wood starts to actually split before the edge. I saw a documentary in TV a long time ago, but I forgot most of it and I cannot be arsed now to search whether the artist used an ordinary knife or some special tool (I think he used a drawknife). He definitively had special wooden vice to hold the work.

    It might be that a thinner-ground knife could be better for this, to know for sure I would have to try it. I will definitively grind my next batch of puukko blades a bit thinner. I have made these on the thicker side because I forgot to compensate for the fact that they won’t be polished and I established the primary bevels with subconsciously accounting for material loss during polishing. Also, the secondary bevels are ground at 20°, for a sharp edge but with a focus on durability. For maximum cutting efficiency, a thinner grind and 15° secondary bevel would be better, but that kind of knife is not very resistant to abuse and thus is more suitable to a kitchen than to a forest.

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