While souvenir shopping is a universal standard for tourists, a knife as a souvenir may not be the first thing you think of when buying mementoes of your trip. But if you think that fridge magnets don’t quite cut it and prefer something that is authentic to Finnish culture, then consider the ‘puukko’, a traditional outdoor knife made in Finland. In this article, we will explore the origin of the puukko and talk about one of the most well-known producers of the knife, Marttiini Oy.
What is a ‘puukko’?
The puukko is the most famous of Nordic knives, highly sought after for its striking design that blends decorative beauty with excellent performance. The creation of the puukko knife is closely tied to the harsh conditions of life in the Arctic north. It originated centuries ago, from the semi-nomadic Sami people of Lapland who created different types of knives suited to the needs they faced in the unforgiving Arctic environment.
The puukko features a fixed blade made from tempered Finnish steel. It is a handy general purpose knife that can be used for many different activities such as woodworking, fishing or food preparation. The shape of the knife blade can vary, depending on its purpose. And of course, its beautiful design makes it a collectable item, even if you do not intend to put it to use.
When you are choosing a knife, be sure to ask about the materials that have been used in the making of the handle. Traditionally the size of the handle was made to fit the hand of the intended user. It is considered a highly personal item, not to be casually used by anyone else. Receiving one as a gift is considered a great honour, as it a sign of trust and respect.
Beautifully decorated, the handles can be made from a variety of materials. Traditionally the handles are crafted out of curly birch wood which is found abundantly in Finland, but they are also made with other types of Finnish wood or even moose or reindeer antler bone.
The artisans who craft these knives command a lot of respect in their communities. Perhaps the best-known is the founder of Marttiini knives, Janne Marttiini. Born in a remote northern village in Finnish Lapland in 1893, he turned to metalwork early on, apprenticing for a blacksmith at age 16. In 1923 he opened his own smithy in Rovaniemi, at which he forged various utilitarian tools.
Within a few years, his focus turned to knives and in 1928 the J. Marttiini Knife Factory was opened in Rovaniemi. To this day, Marttiini’s headquarters remains in Rovaniemi. You can also visit their factory outlet at Vartiokatu 32, housed in the original building from the 1940s which was restored after sustaining significant damage during the Lapland War.
You can also visit them at the Santa Claus Village or at their store in the Rinteenkulma Shopping Centre in Rovaniemi. In Helsinki, you can find them at Senate Square opposite the Helsinki Cathedral. Custom-made knives can also be ordered from Marttiini’s website, for a truly one-of-a-kind gift or souvenir.