MY FINNISH KNIFE COLLECTION
I’ve been traveling to Finland since the mid-1990s to teach Pekiti-Tirsia seminars hosted by my friend Sensei/Guro Kaj Westersund. Here are some of the knives he and his students have given me, along with a look at my 2009 trip to the shop of Finnish custom knife-maker Markku Vilppola; as well as a look at the Finnish military Ranger knife designed by J.P. Peltonen.
Here is a Marttiini puukko: their “Lumberjack” model. I was given this knife at my first seminar in the country. It has a carbon steel blade, birch handle and leather sheath.
This is the grip commonly used with traditional puukko knives in Finland, when needed for defensive purposes. Notice how the thumb reinforces the grip to help keep the hand from sliding down onto the blade (needed on the traditional Finnish Lapland designs, which lack a guard) .
OVERALL LENGTH: 22 cm. 8.65”
BLADE LENGTH: 10 cm. 3.93”
STEEL: Not listed by name on the Marttiini website, but the specs given are .75 % carbon and .3 chromium, so perhaps close to our 1075.
You can find this model on the Marttiini webstore:
My next two Finnish knives were made by J.T. Pälikkö in the 1990s.
The top is a damascus hunter, while the bottom is based on a camp kitchen knife of my design.
The first of JT’s knives given to me by Kaj and his group was this beautiful hunter made from pattern welded damascus steel. It has a brass bolster and wood handle.
OVERALL LENGTH: 22.86cm. 9”
BLADE LENGTH: 10.79cm. 4.25”
The next knife I received from Kaj and his guys is a knife based on one of my aluminum trainers, which they had seen me using during class. (If you trained with me in the 90’s, you probably remember this training knife).
When Kaj asked about this knife design, I told him I wanted something like a sturdy chief’s knife, with a small section of the spine sharp to use as a parring knife. He traced the outline of the knife and unbeknownst to me, went off to his knife maker friend JT. The next time I came to Finland, Kaj presented me with this as a gift. Since it was to be a kitchen knife, JT made it in the style he was familiar with, so it is beveled on only one side, as you see in some Japanese chef’s knives. With its wood handle and leather sheath, I never did use it for kitchen duties (and it looks too nice for that use anyway). One day I’d like to remake this knife with a regular double bevel grind, a micarta handle and kydex sheath.
OVERALL LENGTH: 26.5 cm. 10.5”
BLADE LENGTH: 12.5cm. 5”
This knife design also plays a part in my fantasy novel series, in which a prince is given a humble “servant’s” knife as a parting gift by his parents before going off to study at the court of his grandfather, the earth-bound angel Anak.
For info on my fantasy novels, visit: http://theswordoffire.com/
This push knife is from the shop of Markku Vilppola. I received this from Kaj in 2009. It has a pattern welded damascus blade, with a reindeer antler and wood grip. It’s hard to see in these photos taken with my cell phone, but there is a beautiful and subtle color shift from purple to bronze going from the tang to the point on this blade.
HANDLE LENGTH: 12.5cm. 5”
BLADE LENGTH: 11.5cm. 4.5”
Here are three videos from my 2009 visit with Markku Vilppola of Turku, Finland. (Note: In the first video you will hear Finnish and English alternating between the question and translated answer. Only English is spoken in the other two videos).
Finnish Swordmaker 1.
Finnish Swordmaker 2
Markku also makes traditional Finnish jewelry. Here are some cloak pins and puukko knives.
Finnish Swordmaker 3
Here's Mikko, a student of Markku's who is an excellent sword maker in his own right.
The last knife is a Finnish military knife called the Sissipuukko (AKA Ranger Knife). This knife was given to me by "Juha J," a former pilot for the Finnish air force who has helped sponsor my seminars in Finland for the last few years.
The Ranger Knife was designed by Jukka Peltonen. Jukka came to a knife defense seminar I was teaching in Porvoo, Finland in 2018 and explained his interesting sheath design to me. There is a hard rubber retention wheel in the top of the sheath that holds the knife in place until needed. This knife is designed to be worn on the shoulder strap of the backpacks of the Finnish military. Since these would be worn handle down, the military needed a sheath that would allow for quick access, while keeping the knife securely in the sheath until needed. On my next trip to Finland I plan on taking Mr. Peltonen up on his invitation to visit his shop in the village of Fiskars, Finland and see first hand how these knives are made.
Overall length: 22.99cm. 9.84″
Blade length: 12.49cm. 4.92″
You can see the rubber wheel at the top of the sheath, which gives it a secure hold on the knife.
Here is an interview with J.P. Peltonen, in which he explains the history of his design.
Here’s a video from the seminar I taught in Finland in 2018. Jukka Peltonen came by later that day. The big fellow on the right in the green shirt is the former Finnish air force pilot who gave me the Sissipuukko Ranger Knife.
You can buy the Sissipuukko Ranger knife via this website:
You will find more videos like this on my Youtube channel:
A big Kiitos (thank you) to Kaj Westersund, Jay Jukka Eriksson, Alexander Stenroos and the rest of the Finnish Pekiti-Tirsia guys who made my trips there so memorable.
Tuhon Bill McGrath