Know your knives: The Finnish Puukko

There is an axiom in the knife world that as a general rule blades get longer and thicker the closer one gets to the equator. One of the most iconic knives from the Northern end of the spectrum is the Finnish puukko.

From AllOutdoor.com:

The puukko is a Finnish knife, and the name lends itself to the Finnish word “puukotta,” which means “to stab/knife.” The prefix, “puu” means “wood” in Finnish. The design of the puukko is attributed to the indigenous Sami people, who created several knives to use for day to day tasks; the puukko was the smaller option, used to skin fish or animals. Although historical records vary, the puukko dates back about 1000 years. Both men and women carried (and carry) puukkos, although the sizes change depending on the person, as the puukko handle is meant to fit the hand size of the user.

A puukko with a full-length fuller. (Wikipedia)

They are an article of national pride, with scouts typically receiving them as a rite of passage. It is actually in the Finnish army regulations that a soldier may wear a civilian puukko as part of their military gear. Ironic because it is apparently not legal to wear one on the street as a civilian.

They also are iconic for their military role. Finnish fighters would carry them and use them for both daily tasks and in last ditch combat with the invading Soviets. 

From JaegerPlatoon.net:

By World War 2 large number of puukko-knife designs individual to certain manufacturer or manufacturers of certain geographical area had become available from multitude of factories and smaller scale manufacturers spread all over Finland. Hence when each Finnish soldier brought his own puukko-knife with him, they brought extremely wide variety of puukko-knives with them, which would make making any effort of trying to determine standard puukko-knife for Finnish soldiers of World War 2 completely impossible. What can be notes is, that during the war soldiers apparently had certain tendency of favoring puukko-knives with longer blade than typical – presumably because longer blade made knife better suited to be used as a weapon in hand-to-hand combat. Especially during long trench war period of Continuation War making trench-art items developed into such a wide-spread hobby among Finnish Army, that it reached almost industrial scale. Besides puukko-knife being the most common tool for trench-art it also become with one of the most common trench-war items to be made by soldiers. These trench-art puukko-knives and their sheaths tended to be more lavish and decorative than the everyday puukko-knives that most of soldiers otherwise carried with them.


Worth a watch…but this guy could probably use an espresso or two.


There are an enormous number of custom makers, both in Finland and out, who are making this useful and utilitarian blade. Even major manufacturers, like Spyderco and TOPS Knives are getting in on the puukko game.

comments

  1. cmeat says:

    i’ve seen the rapala versions of these in catalogs and tackle boxes since i was a kid.
    interesting that the design seldom incorporates any type of hand guard.

    1. Tony Long says:

      True. Check out Helle, Falkniven the more budget priced Mora.

      1. TAHAWK says:

        Not a puukko in the lot.

        The Rapalla is a filleting knife – to long in proportion to the handle to be a puukko.

        The bevel on the Helle is too short. The puukko bevel is 50% and usually more of the width of the lade.

        The Fallknivens have a guard. The puukko does not.. Well maybe the H1, but no puukko has a blade that thick.

  2. Mike L. says:

    The Finns fascination with the blade is famous. During the Winter War its use became legend. There is an excellent documentary on the war called Fire And Ice from PBS. Its up on youtube. In this part ff to 8:30. The story of Finn ski commandos is classic. They would ski out of the woods and sail right thru the Russian columns moving about. Then disappear into the woods on the other side. Leaving gruesome remains behind.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=VjfbJpZBi3Y

    Many moons ago I asked a very sweet older Swedish woman about the difference btw the Swedes and the Finns. Her comment, “they are such drunks and they ALL carry knives”. I smiled as she didn’t know I was part Finn.

    1. Mike L. says:

      Just rewatched the whole documentary. I forgot this great interview with a Finnish woman about the Puukko

      FF to 14:00

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WR2FqMUVZzc

    2. Jussi says:

      I find this funny, because I am a finn, and im sharpening my puukko while im slightly drunk.

  3. Sam L. says:

    I can buy puukos in my home town, we having a lot of Finns, Norskis, and Swedes here, but I want a guard on my knife handles.

  4. In the Jaeger photo which one of these is not a Puukko?

    1. Matt in FL says:

      None of them? From the site:

      PICTURE: Variety of typical traditional Finnish puukko-knives to give idea how much varitiation there actually was/is with these knives. Soldiers would prefer to carry knives belonging to larger end of size scale. Knives in this photo: 1) Miniature puukko made by Kauhavan puukkotehdas with galalith grip. 2) Miniature puukko made by H. Kankaanpää with birch bark grip decorated with Finnish coat of arms. 3) 20-cm/8-in long puukko with bone grip. 4) Puukko knife for Finnish Boy Scouts with birch bark grip, this basic design with varying specific grip designs was popular as special puukko versions made for numerous Finnish organisations. 5). Puukko with galalith grips which have elk head engraved in them. 6)Puukko with wooden grip made by T. Kankaanpää. 7) Age-old simple working puukko design as made by blacksmiths for centuries. This could be from 20th century, but also from 19th century. 8) 22-cm/9-inch unmarked puukko with wooden grip. 9) Average size Ilves (Lynx) puukko by Marttiini factory. 10) Unmarked puukko with long blade. 11) Horse-head puukko from Iisakki Järvenpää factory. 12) Leuku-puukko from Lapin puukko factory.

  5. a Finnish woman says:

    Just a word correction here:

    “Puukotta” = without a knife

    “Puukottaa” = to stab

    1. Thank you. I have heard from a cousin who teaches at the International School in Helsinki that Finnish is among the hardest languages in the world to learn.

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Know your knives: The Finnish Puukko

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