The Best Puukkos Are Made of This Mythical Steel – And Only One Man Knows Its Secrets

A puukko is a traditional Finnish belt knife. It is an old friend of every hiker, hunter or a fisherman. You can’t have a more personal tool, which makes it difficult to find the right puukko. When I was young, I made something foolish using my puukko as a hitting tool. As a result, the handle of my puukko broke. Puukko is not an axe! So, I had to find a new puukko. I tried, but couldn’t find the right one in any store. Therefore, I had no choice but to go to meet the puukko maker himself.

I step inside Roselli’s workshop. Heimo hasn’t come yet, so I start looking around the walls of the workshop’s hall. There are several types of puukkos and knives hanging on the wall. After a while, I notice an older gentleman standing behind me with a grin on his face. Holding an axe in his hand, he starts telling the story of a blade.

40 years ago a young man was worried about his future. He wasn’t sure if there would be work left in the local factory. However, he didn’t want to go back to school and start reading books again. He realized that perhaps it was a good time to test his own wings. He had been developing his own puukko model in his workshop for some time already. Now he was ready to take the next step on his road to a puukko master. This is how the story of Roselli’s hunting knife started.

Heimo introduces his workshop. First, we start from the old part of the workshop, where the carbon steel puukkos are still forged. A three-meter-deep concrete cast in the floor shows that in this workshop the forging is done with a heavy hammer. Forging is essential to get the best qualities out of the steel.

Annealing, which is the next phase in the process, is also very important to do properly. Annealing means balancing between heating and cooling in order to get the atoms of steel to the correct order. This order is important when it comes to the firmness and hardness of a blade. A quality puukko requires a perfect mix of heating and cooling.

We go around the workshop talking about annealing, steel qualities, sharpening the blade and many other aspects of puukko. We take a look at the room full of leather rags. This is where the most sheaths of Roselli’s puukkos are sewn. Another room is covered in dust. The handles of the puukkos are carved in there. Then we start talking about the UHC-steel of Roselli, and I can see a little smile on Heimo’s face.

Heimo tells that some 15 years ago when he was reading university analyses of ancient steels, he got interested in a two-thousand-year old steel called Wootz. This was a starting point for something that the owners of Roselli UHC-steel puukkos can still enjoy.
Heimo’s laughter is catching when he tells about the qualities of steel. A two-thousand-year-old Indian recipe was copied and turned into a better one. Heimo tells that the final result was even better than the original, thanks to modern techniques and his own twist on the old recipe.

Compared to the steels forged in the traditional way, the Roselli’s puukkos are so hard that you need diamond to sharpen them.  Also flexible fillet puukkos can be made of this steel. The rumours say that you can design the blade so thin that somebody careful enough can make it float on the water.

The tour at the puukko factory has been quite an experience. Talking with the puukko master is more like listening to a chemistry lecture than a craftsman’s story about his work. It shows how far a pure passion for something can take you despite the starting point. During the tour I started see an ordinary looking tool in a different light. Puukko is a top quality product of design and technique. Moreover, it has been made with 40 years’ experience. It’s something that you have to respect.

At the end of the tour, we talk about the sharpening of a puukko. It takes no time as the blade gets sharpened in Heimo’s hands. But its another story to be shared next time. I found my puukko.

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