Knives 101: What Is A Puukko Knife?

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Puukko knife terms
Four sharp puukkos, from top and with manufacturer’s suggested retail prices in parentheses: Kizlyar Malamute ($145), Kellam Arctic Puukko ($149.99), TOPS Tanimboca Puukko ($150) and Condor Urban EDC Puukko ($84.98). (Marty Stanfield Photography)

What Does “Puukko” Mean?

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.

What Are Puukko Knives Used For?

Puukko knife photos
The appearance of the Kellam Arctic Puukko’s blade is striking thanks to a two-tone finish of satin bevels and flats left with the carbon scale. The knife whittled with authority. (Marty Stanfield Photography)

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.

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.

Puukko Handle Materials

Puukko knives
The Kizlyar Malamute’s 5-inch blade makes it ideal for batoning. (Marty Stanfield Photography)

One of the more common puukko handle materials is masur birch, though you’ll also find antler, bone, leather and other hardwoods. The handle has no guard, and the blade boasts a gentle upsweep to the edge to facilitate easy cutting.

Puukko Sheaths

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 of 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.

Puukko Designs: Keep It Simple

Puukko knives
The 90-degree blade spine on the TOPS Tanimboca Puukko is for use with a fire restarter. Scrape the corner of the blade spine down the ferro rod to create a shower of sparks. (Marty Stanfield Photography)

Finally, there’s beauty in simplicity. There’s no flash with puukkos. What’s there works very well. They are of straightforward design and feel great in the hand. Th at’s all that matters. A knife that’s very comfortable is more likely the one that you designate as your go-to tool for certain cutting chores.

An International Knife

What’s interesting to note about the puukkos in this article is their countries of origin: El Salvador, Finland, Russia and the USA. This shows that while the puukko has strong roots in Scandinavia, examples are made all over.


Learn More About Knives At BLADE Show

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The BLADE Show is the world’s largest knife show, taking place every June in Atlanta. If you’re new to knives, or want to learn more, you’ll find everything you’re looking for at this must-attend event.

Click here for more information.

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