In the Nordic countries, the puukko is an “everyday” knife that is used for everything from hunting, fishing, and garden work to opening boxes in the warehouse.
The Finnish people live in a harsh and challenging environment. They survive by living in and with nature. Long ago, they developed a multi purpose survival knife – the Puukko. It was used daily for many kinds of tasks in the home and outdoors. These basic tools are one of the oldest and most traditional of knives still being used today. Most of these knives are made in the same way they have been made for generations. Each generation adds some new knowledge to the knifemaking process. One of the oldest families of knifesmiths have been hammering steel since 1610 and continues to produce award winning knives today.
The puukko is the only civilian item which can be openly worn as a part of a soldier’s combat gear without breaching Finnish Army regulations, and most conscripts bring their own puukkos with them into military service. It is a custom of Finnish conscripts, non-commissioned officers, and officer cadets to carry a decorated and engraved commemorative puukko of their year course as a part of their uniform, not unlike a commemorative dagger. This is rationalized as the carrying of a handy tool, but it also doubles as a symbolic sidearm. Puukkos proved to be good close combat weapons in the Winter war and Continuation war. The bayonet of the Rk-62 assault rifle has been designed to also function as a puukko.
Puukkos are useful tools for hunters, construction workers and even store workers.
They can be used to open boxes, cut ropes and cords. Skinning game and gutting fish are easily accomplished with this versatile tool.
Most puukkos have a slight shoulder but no choil, since the point where the edge ends and the handle begins is also the point where most power can be applied. A puukko often has no guard to stop the hand from slipping onto the edge, but this is of no great importance, since it is primarily considered a cutting tool, not a stabbing weapon. In cases where the knife and the hand are expected to get wet, like if the puukko is meant for gutting fish or game, some form of guards are carved into the handle. The traditional length of the puukko blade is the same as one’s palm width, usually 90–120 mm. Carvers, huntsmen and leatherworkers favour shorter blades; woodworkers, carpenters and constructors longer. The Saami leuku, which is an outdoorsman’s tool, may have blade up to 400 mm, and historical väkipuukko up to 500 mm; it is more a machete or short sword (scramasax style) rather than true puukko.
Both factory forged and hand forged blades are often laminated. A thin layer of very hard steel (traditionally crucible steel made from limonite iron) is sandwiched between two layers of softer metal, which make the blade less brittle and facilitates repeated sharpening. Before the 19th century, almost all iron in Finland was made from limonite on charcoal blast furnaces, which yield very pure and high quality iron suitable for crucible steel. German silver steel was and is a popular core-steel material. Today both carbon steel and tool steel are used. The blade can be lightened and strengthened with a fuller.