Puukko Knives Are A Traditional Knife Of The Nordic Countries. It Is Used For Everything From Hunting To Chopping Vegetables
Puukko is Finnish for “knife.” It is deeply rooted in Scandinavian countries where the knife is both tool and art form. In fact, the puukko plays an important part in Nordic culture. Often included as part of the traditional cultural dress, the puukko is a historical symbol, especially in Finland and Northern Scandinavia.
The Finns treat the knife with deep respect. Many men in the country take great pride in how they carve their knife’s handle. It’s so ingrained in the culture that the Finnish Defense Forces don’t issue a standard knife to its soldiers. Instead, most men simply bring their own puukko with them into service.
What Is A Puukko Knife?
Rich history aside, puukkos are first and foremost solid work knives. They are of basic construction, consisting of a high carbon steel blade mated with a handle that is usually of a natural material, though some modern versions are synthetic.
The steel is traditionally crucible steel made from limonite iron, which was almost exclusively the type of steel made in Finland before more modern manufacturing methods were invented in the 19th century.
Primary uses are woodcarving and food prep as well as most anything requiring a cutting tool. Outside the Nordic culture, puukkos have earned a solid reputation as stout knives built for serious labor. It’s easy to see why these knives are favored among outdoor folks.
If you spend time camping or hiking or are simply in need of a good, solid fixed blade that withstands hard use and requires low maintenance, consider the sleek, slender puukko.
What Is A Puukko Handle Made Of?
One of the more common puukko handle materials is Masur (curly birch, though you’ll also find antler, bone, leather, and other hardwoods. Modern factory-made knives can come with a plastic handle instead of using traditional materials. The handle has no guard, and the blade boasts a gentle upsweep to the edge to facilitate easy cutting.
Puukko sheaths are usually leather and may or may not have fancy tooling. A belt loop is separate and affixed via a metal ring. Also known as a dangler, the sheath is free to move separately from the belt loop and you. This comes in handy if you’re seated, as the knife can move freely and adjust itself into position yet remain easy to withdraw.
Best Puukko Knives
Today, puukkos have become a popular knife beyond just Scandinavia. In places ranging from El Salvador to Russia and the USA, puukkos are prized for their durability and ruggedness. Below are five of the best puukkos that are available today.
TOPS Tanimboca Puukko
From TOPS Knives, there is the Tanimboca Puukko. Designed in conjunction with Serbian knifemaker Goran Mihajlovic, who has spent the last two decades living in Colombia, the Tanimboca combines the best of a puukko knife with the toughness of the Amazon.
The blade has a slight clip point at the end and a flat spine is great for fire starting and scraping tasks. The knife is made from 1095 steel with a 56-58 Rockwell hardness and a length of 3.63 inches and a tumbled finish. The Tan Canvas Micarta handle honors the traditional puukko and looks great.
The knife comes with a brown leather sheath and has a belt loop so it’s easy to take with you. A cool, contemporary take on a historic knife makes the Tanimboca work the $170 MSRP.
Benchmade 200 Puukko
You know Benchmade is going to put out a good product, and their 200 Puukko is no exception. The drop point is made of CPM-3V steel, the 200 is super hard and super durable even by puukko standards. The rubberized Santoprene handle provides excellent grip, and the lanyard hold in the handle makes the 200 easy to bring with you outdoors or on the job site.
Add in a leather sheath and you have a top-tier knife that can handle any situation you throw at it. With an MSRP of $160 it’s fairly priced and worth every penny.
Ahti Vaara Finnish Puukko Knife
Direct from Finland comes a budget puukko from Ahti. The Vaara is made from carbon-vanadium alloy steel with a traditional Masur birch handle and brass fittings. The is sharpened with a Scandi grind and is 3.74 inches in length. Overall, the knife is 8.31 inches long and well-weighted.
A neat design element is a black spine made of carbon steel. The flat edge, like with other puuukkos on this list, is great for starting fires and scraping away at material.
With a reasonable MSRP of just $51.45, the Vaara is a well-priced knife, and even with the shipping cost from Europe, it should still be under $100.
Marttini Tundra Kelo
Another puukko made in Finland, the Marttini Tundra Kelo is not just a beautiful knife but also a quality one. Unlike most puukkos, which have a narrow tang within a solid wood handle, the Tundra Kelo is a full-tang blade surrounded on either side by a wax-coated gnarl birch handle.
The 4.33-inch blade is longer than most other choices on this list and is made from stainless chromium steel with an HRC 58 in terms of hardness. The black leather sheather contrasts nicely with the look of the knife itself.
The MSRP is € 139, which converts to $146.87 before shipping. One of the pricier knives on our list but worth it if you’re looking for a high-quality authentic Finnish puukko.
Condor Indigenous Puukko Knife
The last knife on our list is from Condor and is one of the most visually striking. The Indigenous Puukko Knife has a 3.9-inch blade made of 1095 high carbon steel with a Scandi grind.
The walnut handle features an inlaid golden wire wrap to help with grip, and it looks great. the handle is meant to combine elements from Polynesian and Sami cultures to celebrate indigenous cultures from around the world. The Sami are an indigenous group that lives in northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and a small portion of Northwest Russia.
The knife comes with a welted leather sheath and is incredibly light at just 4.6 ounces. At an MSRP of just $95.45 this is a well-priced, nimble, and beautiful knife.
GiantMouse Ace Nimbus V2
This folder is inspired by the puukko and other Nordic knives and is built to be a mix of EDC and tool for the jobsite. The 3-inch blade is made from satin-finished Elmax steel meted to a green micarta handle for a secure grip. The blade has a full flat grind and thin edge. This allows for longer, more precise slicing strokes, and since the blade comes to an extremely fine tip the knife is also great for puncturing as well.
The nuts and bolts of this knife are great. The liners are made from AISI 420 hardened steel, and the liner lock keeps everything rigid. At 3.8 ounces it’s both light yet heavy enough to feel good in the hand.
The blade is .138 inches thick. That’s more than fine for many standard tasks around a jobsite but you might not want to start using it as a pry bar if you don’t have to.
Kellam Knives Ranger Puukko
This knife is a puukko to its core. It’s designed and built to stand up to not only combat but also the ferocious winters of Northern Europe. The 6-inch blade is made from forged 80CrV2 carbon steel with a teflon coating for added wear resistance and a Scandi grind.
At two-tenths of an inch thick, the blade is a beast and can stand up to almost anything life can throw at it. Use is aided by a 5-inch tempered rubber handle that won’t crack or deform even in hostile conditions.
Th Ranger Puukko is standard issue for troops from both the Finnish and Estonian militaries, and it’s easy to see why.
Helle Temagami CA
Designed by Les Stroud, the Temagami is a full-tang puukko that was precisely built to be among the best of its type on the market. It starts with a half-full tang design. That means the blade can be seen along the spine of the handle except near the fingers; this is done to better weight the knife and to better withstand harsh conditions.
The curly birch handle looks great and is ergonomically designed for hard, intense work. At 4.34 inches long, the triple laminated carbon steel blade is long enough to be used for slicing, puncturing, and even chopping for food-related tasks. The leather sheath allows for easy transport and storage.
Editor’s Note: Mike Abelson contributed to this piece
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I am surprised that Kellam Knives of Finland puukko wasn’t mentioned. Good knives, well-built.
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