View Full Version : The Juniper Butter Knife

Karen Douglas
27-11-04, 14:52
I am looking for some information on the Juniper Butter Knife. It is my understanding that the wood is aged for 60-plus years to create them.
My questions are as follows:
1) Does anyone know when they were first introduced in Finland and Sweden?
2) My family, in both countries, still use them at mealtime. Would you say that this is common practice in the majority of homes in both countries?

As always, thanks for any information you can provide.



June Pelo
28-11-04, 01:46

When I visited a cousin in Jakobstad in 1990 she took me to a farm where an old man made many items from wood, including the butter knives. I bought a bunch of them to bring home, but didn't ask questions about them. I never saw any of my relatives in other parishes using them.


Paivi T
28-11-04, 09:07
We have a wooden butter knife, in everyday use. Don't know which wood it is, though. Wooden butter knives are fairly common, I'd say -- or at least quite a few people I know use them.

Aarikka, among others, has wooden butter sets in their selections: a butter box and knife. The set makes e.g. a nice housewarming present.

Päivi T

28-11-04, 10:05
The butterknifes we have in use at home are made from juniper. One can recognize the juniper wood by its special scent.

We have at least one set bought on the little island of Muhu (Möö) in Estonia. I have a feeling that the tradition is quite wide spread.

People were quite good with their hands in the old days and since todays porcelain and stainless steel wasn't common people made their knifes, spoons etc. self. When and why they started to make wooden butter knifes I guess has something to do with when people began to use butter on their bread. I fear that isn't too long ago? Does anybody have an idea? Sune?

But - they are in everyday use - at least today.

29-11-04, 13:04
I do not know when the juniper knife was introduced in Finnish households, but as you assumed, Hasse, it can not have been too long ago. Butter was a luxury product way into the 20th century in rural Finland.

But wooden utensils have been around since the stone age. Wood is a cheap and easily formed material. You can still buy wooden spoons and forks for stirring while cooking. They are practical for example when you use teflon pots and pans and you don't want to harm the teflon layer.

My hunch is that the juniper knife is in fact older than butter as a everyday product. Juniper is a tough and lasting material and can have many uses. There are also buttercups made of juniper for sale.


June Pelo
30-11-04, 01:22
I found these sites about juniper wood:









Karen Douglas
05-12-04, 16:37
I would like to thank June, Paivi, Hasse and Sune for their responses to my query on the Juniper butter spreader. Now, for a word of explanation...
Each Christmas, I like to share a wee bit of my heritage with special friends. I've told the story of St. Lucia, and given away straw angels, emphasizing the importance of straw at Christmas time to remind us of the Christ Child in the manger. This year, I decided to present each member of my 21-member all-volunteer hospital board with a Juniper butter spreader.

The other day, it suddenly came to me that in some ways we share a lot in common with this simple little wooden tool.

Like the butter spreader, we were planted here on Earth, rooted by generations of a heritage, individually created, as branches on a family tree. Nurtured spiritually by warm hearts and loving hands that prompted and promulgated our growth, we have been baptized by a spring shower, fed by the sunshine of summer, shaded by the colorful leaves of autumn and kissed by a winter snowflake. And, as we have grown, we have been shaped and molded by our environment, created and carved into a tool of mission, purpose and service. My butter spreader, though on the table, or in the kitchen drawer, reminds me of this every day.

By the way, I use my butter spreader at every meal. I especially enjoy using it for spreading peanut butter! :D


05-12-04, 18:03
The juniper is also a symbol of the Finns.

The author Juhani Aho (real name Brofelt) wrote a short story at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries (during the Russian opression), where he called the Finns the "the Juniper People" (Katajainen kansa).

He said that the Finnish people are like an old juniper. You drive over it with carts or you bend it down. Seemigly it gives in, but when the force is eased the juniper, like the Finns, always rises to it's former stature.

You could say that the juniper symbolizes "sisu". It grows on lean land and needs very little water, but it's strong and tough.


Karen Douglas
07-12-04, 00:39
Dear Sune,

Thank you for sharing that fascinating information about the Juniper!
I did not know it was a symbol of the Finns - or symbolic of our "sisu." That's one more little piece of information I will have to share with my non-Scandinavian friends.

Thanks, again, Sune. :)