View Full Version : The Puukko - custom

27-07-05, 07:34
I know that the puukko was given by his father to son at the "age of responsibility." Is this still practiced and what is the age?

Karen Douglas
28-07-05, 00:17
And, a second question... Were girls, traditionally, given a puukko, as well? My mother had a tiny one, encased in a silver sheath, with her name engraved on the sheath. And I had one, too. When I was about 12 years old, my aunt and uncle sent me one from Finland.

Karen Douglas

28-07-05, 01:13
I found a puukko discussion on another thread on this board:

The Finlander Forum > The Living room > Off-topic messages, "Chit chat" > A little Finnish knife...

Here is an excellent site:

These are notes I had copied from a website that is no longer online: A puukko and its sheath are part of the traditional dress of men from the Ostrobothnia region of Southwest Finland. Puukko knives are used primarily for woodworking ('puu' means wood). The puukko has many traditional and symbolic uses. A father would give a puukko to his son to show that he had reached the age of responsibility. A farmer, when sowing seed, would place the blade in the ground to encourage a good harvest. A young man would give a puukko to his loved one and when married would demonstrate his skill by carving household utensils.

Also, there is a film that might answer the questions:

The Spirit of The Puukko (30 mins - DVD and VHS) $24.95(DVD) $19.95(VHS) - Kellam has a new 30 minute video called "The Spirit of The Puukko" which explores the world of Finnish lifestyle and the puukko knife of both modern and ancient Finland. This video shows Finns making and using their puukko knives in traditional manners. The video tells the story of the Finnish folk lore "Kalevala (http://www.ragweedforge.com/kalevala.html)" and the origin of the puukko knife. This unique video shows images of Finland and their lifestyle which has rarely or never been filmed. Scenes include daily tasks of both modern and ancient Finnish loggers, hunters, fishermen and more. The video also shows scenes of hunting and fishing.

14-12-05, 17:56
Thank you for the interesting Puukko message! Made me really think about Puukko and our relationship to it. I've just taken it as a natural everyday thing without thinking about it at all.

There is a huge variety of Puukot (plural for puukko). From a big Lapin Leuku to the tiny carving tools. Even decoration puukot.
I guess all Saami and almost all Finnish people have their personal puukko.

Just the other day we had a talk about old Christmas traditions, my mother (82 years, from deep Karjala). She told me that they used to go to the Christmas Eve church by horse and sledge, 15 kilometers from their home. The church was quite cold always, she remembers, full of people, there wasn't a seat for everyone. And no electricity at that time, only candles.

She was then almost 3 years old. She was given a Puukko and piece of wood and shown how to carve it, to entertain herself during the boring ceremony. Of course she did hurt her finger and started crying and howling loudly...

She says that every family member had their own personal Puukko. It was given to a child at the age of 7-8 with the advice how to use it. But if a younger child played with a puukko before he/she had her own, they weren't much scolded. The children's puukko was smaller than that of the adults.

People had always their Puukko with them. Her aunt lived to the age of 102 and always had her tiny puukko (about 10 centimeters) in her pocket. She said it was her teeth, she used it when eating, she had only one tooth left.

In our family there has also been the Puukko tradition. it wasn't a real initiation ceremony or something like that...well, maybe a little of an initiation. We children got our own Puukko at the age of 7, with advice how to use it. Used it to carve bark boats. I'm fairly sure, that every Finnish person has carved barkboats when young!

I still have always a personal Puukko with me, it's a beauty. Hubby bought it as a birthday present. Sometimes I've run in trouble when having puukko in my bag. Been stuck at the air port security with a Puukko in my rugsack...security people packing it...hubby loughing...waiting at Athens airport 3 annoying hours to get it back. Did'nt even realize I had it in my bag. It's my overalltool.
Nowadays I have three puukkos. One is for the forest and wilderness use (a little bigger one).Then there is the Beauty for carving, also very useful to peel apples, and for many other tasks that nay appear when travelling. And the tinytiny one, long as my finger. For sharpening pens, eyeliners etc. The forest puukko isn't always with me,the others are.

Back to the Puukko. My mother says if a person's puukko wasn't sharp, he/she also was considered to be a little stupid. My Saami friend has a saying:
"A wise woman's Puukko is always sharp".
Always wondering does the wise woman use hers, or doesn't she? Maybe it stays sharp, because she knows how to get other people to do things for her. ;D

June Pelo
14-12-05, 20:44
I have two puukko knives my father's sister brought back from one of her visits to Finland about 70 years ago. One is a large one and the other is a small one, both in leather sheaths. I haven't looked at them for at least 30 years - now I am curious and will have to take a look.


19-12-05, 21:18
There is an excellent article on Wikipedia about puukko's including customs.


A puukko is the Finnish word for the traditional Finnish or Scandinavian style woodcraft belt-knife that is a tool rather than a weapon. The word is in the process of assimilation into English.

The basic components of a puukko are a hilt and a blade along with a sheath, which can be attached to a belt. The puukko's blade has a single curving edge and a flat back. The flat back allows the user to place a thumb or his other hand on it to concentrate the force. Puukkos are used both as a tool for all kinds of carving, especially to work wood, and to clean the catches of anglers and hunters. Some puukko designs have a slightly upwards or downwards curved point, depending on what purpose the knife has. A hunting puukko's tip is often curved downwards to make skinning and opening the animal easier and less messy. The blade is relatively short, usually about the same length as the handle.
traditional puukko
traditional puukko

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 greater 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.

Recently, there has been a considerable renewal in using the knife as a defense weapon. The knife may be used as an improvised weapon, but there are many ways to hold a knife when it is used as a weapon. The above paragraph, and the most conventional method of hold a knife is to hold it in what is sometimes called: "Sabre Grip". However, the Finnish Puukko would not work well in terms of stabbing, but as the Finnish Russion War proved, it takes considerable force to stab through winter clothing. Much rather, the Finnish soldier would hold the knife in "ice pick grip" or in "reverse grip". The thumb may or may not be on top of the knife's handle. Such a grip would be far more advantageous for stabbing, and thus the use of the Finnish Puukko demands some attention to proper training. It is very easy to look at its simple design and not see it as the most obviously lethal improvised weapon it has proven to be.

The lethality of the improvised weapon or the Puukko is entirely dependent upon two factors: the simple design and the skill of the person using it. With this in mind, many Finnish children, and of course the children born to Finnish immigrants in Canada, receive a Puukko at a very early age, their mastery of the blade for purposes of hunting, fishing and camping is something that is quite different than other types and kinds of knives.

Both factory forged and hand forged blades are often laminated. A thin layer of very hard steel is sandwiched between two layers of softer metal, which make the blade less brittle and facillitates repeated sharpening.

In Finland and northern Scandinavia many men put great pride in carving their puukko's handle. Traditionally, the handle is made of birch, sometimes with horn spacers for decoration. Over generations, this knife has become intimately tied to Nordic culture, and in one or another version is part of many national costumes. A good puukko is equal parts artistic expression and tool. Making it requires a lot of different skills: those of a carver, a jeweller, a designer, and a leatherworker to make the sheat and if you master the difficult art of weaving birchbark, this is an opportunity to use it.

As well, many Finnish family lines hold the Puukko has an important rite of passage for young men. While it is perfectly acceptable for fathers and grandfathers to give their sons and grandsons a knife as a present, there is almost a holy ritual given to the "blood uncle" and his nephew or nephews when they are deemed to enter adulthood. While the exact age at which this happens changes, in more modern times the age is 13. AT this time, the new teenager is invited into the realm of the Finnish male, and the first acquistion is the Finnish made Puukko. Such knives are virtually indistinguishable from any other type of Puukko, but it is the sentimentality which is at issue.

Strangely, the tradition continues among Finnish immigrant families in North America, and is less strong a tradition in Finland itself. In fact, there are very many Finnish Puukkot that have made the voyage from Finland to Canada.

In the Nordic countries, the puukko is however an everyday knife that is used for everything from hunting, fishing and garden work to opening boxes in the warehouse, and many puukkos are industrially produced by factories of which Fiskars is the most notable. Bearing of all sharp objects which could be used as weapons was banned in Finland during the 1960's. Since then, the puukko has lost ist visibility in public places and been restricted to household work, hunting and fishing. In many industries, e.g. construction, the puukko has been replaced by the Swedish Mora-knife, which resembles puukko but has a much cheaper and less durable construction. The mora knife's handle is typically plastic, and the blade is either stainless steel or of laminated construction; harder steel which forms the edge is clad by softer steel.

As the carrying of puukkos is prohibited in public places, the only built areas where they can be nowadays be seen carried are garrisons. It is a custom of Finnish conscript NCOs and officer cadets to carry a puukko of their year course as as part of combat uniform. This is rationalized as carrying of a handy tool but here, the puukko doubles as a symbolic sidearm.

The symbolism of the sidearm is not to be understated as everyone in Finland has heard or remembers its usefulness during the Winter War. It could be argued that the firearm did not help with stealth attacks, but it was the savage use of the Puukko that made kill ratios unpalatable to the Russian command. A puukko is the Finnish word for the traditional Finnish or Scandinavian style woodcraft belt-knife that is a tool rather than a weapon. The word is in the process of assimilation into English.

12-02-06, 06:57
To view many fine Finnish knives, go to the manufacturer's website at:


Some English content; but the pictures tell it all (seems a catalog of its standard items). Very good artwork on the last page.

Not an endorsement of this U.S. dealer, but it is in English:


And, the other fine maker. at:


See last page (Marttiini 75 vuotta) for history (in Finnish).

And, for the discussion about which one is better:



18-03-06, 07:20
Do you have a link to an example of the traditional Ostrobothnia "pohjalais" puukko?

18-03-06, 07:49
These are traditional Ostrobothnian: http://www.iisakkijarvenpaa.fi/products.htm