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In free translation, the puukko knife could be referred to as ‘knife knife’. This is because puukko actually means knife in Finnish. The puukko knife plays a significant role in the Scandinavian subregion and can often be seen at traditional shows. It is part of the cultural dress and referred to as a historical symbol just like the bigger Leuku knife. Now, whether you want a handy tool or you want a piece of cultural heritage, how do you choose the best puukko knife?
What is a Puukko Knife?
A puukko is a small traditional Finnish general purpose belt knife with blade length typically under 4″, the thickness is around 0.12”, a stick or rat-tail tang, and, usually, a flat spine. Puukkos usually have a single flat bevel, but sometimes have a very small secondary bevel as well.
The handle is made of birch, curly birch, other woods, antler, bone, leather or birch bark, or a combination of these materials mostly. The sheath is made of using wood, leather, bone, and antler.
These knives have been in use in Finland, Sweden, Norway for centuries.
Leaving behind their rich history and uses throughout history, puukko knives are just as useful in the practical modern world. They are extremely solid and well put together and can be used in a plethora of applications. Generally speaking, their design is basic.
The puukko knife is commonly used for woodcarving and other small cutting tasks. It is extremely sharp, so it allows for intricate and small details. On the other hand, it can be used in food preparation, as well as game/farm animal processing.
Apart from the Nordic culture where puukko knives are related to history and traditions, other cultures have also embraced this knife. Since it is solid and strong, it is mostly associated with heavy-duty labor and serious work. In fact, these are some of the reasons wherefore the design is widely appreciated in the outdoor world.
If you are interested in learning more about these knives read the book ‘The Puukko: Finnish Knives from Antiquity to Today’.
Whether you like hiking or camping, you will always do with such a knife. Whether you are in need of a high quality fixed blade or you face an emergency in the middle of nowhere, you will always do with a solid unit that requires little to no maintenance. The knife is compact and features a slender appearance.
Now, when it comes to choosing the best puukko knife on the market, it normally depends on what you need it for. If you have Scandinavian origins and you want a small part of the cultural heritage, you can do it with an antique model or perhaps a vintage design – good looking, but not solid enough to be used in outdoor applications.
On the other hand, if you want a sturdy tool to rely on, make sure you go for quality materials and functionality before anything else. Now, what are the top-rated options on the market and why?
2021’s Best Puuko Knives
Helle Knives – Alden
Durable – Handmade in Norway for decades, this masterpiece from Helle features a classic and old fashioned appearance matched by a superior blade that will face the test of time. The field knife is versatile and can be used for various activities – both indoors and outdoors. Weighing just under seven ounces, it has a good balance and it feels well put together.
Excellent blade – Helle has always surprised its loyal customers with exquisite blades and this one makes no exception either. The 12C27 steel is Sandwik’s best-rated option. It has solid corrosion and rust resistance, but it also surprises with its edge retention. Hardness will impress you. All in all, the blade is 4.1 inches in length.
Old school handle – The handle may have a classic appearance, but it adopts small modern aspects to make it more reliable. It embraces the shape of your hand, featuring an ergonomic design. It is just over five inches in length and it comes with handguard protection. Made of curly birch and enhanced with steel plates, it will last for a lifetime.
Extras and maintenance – The knife features its own sheath. Introduced by Gunnar Lothe in 2009, the sheath is made of genuine leather and fits the knife like a glove. It is tanned and treated with saddle grease for durability and luster. As for maintenance, make sure you clean the knife by hand, rather than in a dishwasher. Sharpening is easy and can be done with a stone or a sharpener.
- Manufacturing takes up to 45 manual operations
- Super sharp and durable steel blade
- Durable curly birch handle
- Comes with a genuine leather sheath
- Full tang profile
- Heavier than other knives in this range
Tops Knives Tanimboca Puukko TPUK-01
Simple and reliable – This puukko knife is basic, traditional, sturdy, and helpful in any situation. It is designed with simplicity in mind. If you want quality and a solid tool to rely on, look no further. It comes in a classic puukko design with a fixed blade, as well as quality materials and excellent craftsmanship. It can be used for survival, tactical, and hunting purposes.
Superior blade – The blade is fixed and comes with a drop point style. It has a very sharp tip, but the edge is razor sharp out of the box too. It is made of 1095 RC 56-58 steel, which is hard and likely to resist corrosion and rust in the long run. The blade measures 3.63 inches in length – pretty average for puukko knives. It has one edge and can be easily sharpened with a stone or a sharpener when needed.
Comfy handle – The handle is just as important in a puukko knife. Measuring 4.12 inches, it is a bit longer than the blade. In other words, the balance is in your hands. You have full control of the blade and your strength is successfully transferred to the knife. The tan canvas micarta handle has a solid wooden design and a rough nonslip surface. It is kept in place with a few bolsters and screws.
Extras and maintenance – There are no fancy or luxurious extras coming with this knife. However, since it is a fixed blade and it is very sharp, it comes with its own sheath. The sheath is just as qualitative – brown leather and a belt loop. As for maintenance, never clean it in a dishwasher if you truly care about it. Instead, wash it manually and dry it thoroughly before storing it away.
- Superior materials in its construction
- Well balanced and stable
- Comes with a quality leather sheath
- The durable and hard blade
- Suitable for all kinds of uses
- Should never be cleaned in a dishwasher
Qualitative build – Kellam’s best puukko knife will never quit on you. Made in the homeland of puukko knives – Finland, you know this knife will surprise you with its quality standards and its beautiful traditional design. It is well put together and it feels stable as you hold it. Given its balance, all the control is in your hand – your strength, force, and pressure will transfer directly to the knife.
Versatile blade – The blade is useful in a plethora of different situations. The drop point style makes it suitable for hunting, survival, and other outdoor adventures. It measures 3.75 inches and it is based on carbon steel, meaning edge retention will never be an issue. It is super sharp, as well as the edge – careful when you unpack it. Given the carbon steel composition, it requires a bit of care when not in use.
Ergonomic handle – The handle is thick and comfortable. It features an ergonomic shape and measures 4.5 inches. Handles are usually longer than blades in puukko knives, hence the great control. The handle is based on curly birch and it is stained for a more dramatic natural appearance. It feels a bit rough, so it comes with a nonslip surface. The brass ferrule adds to its elegant design.
Extras and care – The brass ferrule make the knife look a bit more elegant, but its rough purpose will not be altered. The fixed blade can be properly protected in its own embossed leather belt sheath. It fits like a glove. As for caring for the knife, make sure you clean it manually. It also pays off oiling the blade if it is not in use for long periods of time – just a matter of preserving it.
- Super sharp and reliable
- Useful for many applications
- Comfortable handle
- Excellent edge retention
- Well balanced and stable
- Not rust and corrosion proof, but a little maintenance will prevent such issues
Benchmade Puukko 200
Traditional and versatile – You cannot really go wrong with a Benchmade knife and its puukko design will not let you down either. Inspired by Scandinavian roots and styles, this unit comes with a lightweight and slim design. It features an old fashioned style, but it also brings in modern materials and craftsmanship for exquisite results. It is versatile and great for backpacking, camping, survival adventures, and other similar activities.
Incredible blade – Made of CPM-3V Crucible tool steel, it is no surprise why Benchmade provides a limited lifetime warranty for the blade, as well as lifelong maintenance and sharpening. This blade will last for ages. It is fixed and brings in exquisite toughness. The knife is built to take some beating, so it has high wear resistance. The drop point blade measures 3.75 inches and features a satin finish.
Nonslip handle – The handle may look a bit too modern. It is not the best option if you want your knife to embrace the traditional Scandinavian rules. However, it is built with quality in mind. Made of Santoprene, it is just as durable and will support you for years. It measures 4.5 inches in length. The rubberized and textured profile ensures it will never slip out of your wet or sweaty hands. It has a lanyard hole too.
Extras and maintenance – When it comes to extras, you should know that your knife comes with a leather belt loop sheath. The lanyard hole also allows some versatility. Moreover, the knife has a full tang construction for even more stability. It must be washed manually – simply use some tap water and mild soap. Cleaning it in a dishwasher is likely to affect the edge sharpness.
- Impressive durability
- Rubberized and textured handle
- Comes with its own sheath
- Full tang construction
- Super hard blade
- Does not feature a traditional Scandinavian look due to the modern handle
Condor Tool & Knife Puukko
Versatile uses – Made in El Salvador, this puukko knife will surprise you with its indigenous and old-fashioned profile – nothing to worry about in terms of quality though. It has a stunning design and you can feel most of the balance on the handle as you use it. It is based on durability in mind and it is versatile enough to be used for anything – hunting, camping, repairs around your home, survival, and so on.
Durable blade – The blade is made of 1095HC steel. It has a classic finish and comes razor sharp out of the factory. It is highly resistant to rust and corrosion too, so maintenance is minimal. Other than that, it measures 3.75 inches. It is a full tang design that adds to its strength. As for sharpening it, you can use a belt, a sharpener, or a classic sharpening stone – sharpening is a fairly simple operation.
Vintage handle – The indigenous profile of this knife is obvious in its handle. Made of hard walnut, it will resist for a lifetime if properly looked after. The knife measures 4.75 inches in length. It has a burned artwork design that adds to its vintage style, as well as a recessed wire wrap close to the edge. The wooden profile is a bit rough, so the knife features a nonslip surface.
Extras and maintenance – The handle features a lanyard hole for a few different ways to hold the knife. Moreover, the package also includes a brown leather belt sheath specifically designed for it. It is not just good looking, but also durable. In terms of care and maintenance, simply wash the knife by hand, rather than in a dishwasher. It will preserve its sharpness.
- Comes with a beautiful leather sheath
- Good looking vintage design
- Super sharp edge and tip
- Well balanced
- Easy to look after
- Sheath might feel a bit too tight during the first few uses
Unique appearance – Made in Finland with traditional manufacturing procedures and classic sizing standards, Ahti’s best puukko knife features a good-looking design, versatility, and a cultural appearance. It looks like a display knife, but you can also use it during your survival, camping, or hunting adventures. Unlike other puukko knives, this one comes with a small hand guard by the handle.
Hard blade – The blade is super hard and features a super sharp edge, not to mention the tip. It is made of high carbon steel. High carbon steel may not be rust and corrosion-resistant, but little maintenance will help you overcome such issues. On a more positive note, it is renowned for its exquisite capability to retain its sharpness. Furthermore, it is hardened to 59 Rockwell. The blade measures 3.75 inches in length.
Beautiful handle – The handle measures 4.5 inches in length. It is well balanced and relatively thick – 3.5 inches in circumference, so it ensures a good grip. Altogether, the knife weighs 3.2 ounces. It is made of curly birch, but it is stained for a smooth and beautiful appearance. It is shaped according to the human hand, meaning it is ergonomic and can be used for hours with no discomfort whatsoever.
Extras and care – In terms of extras, the handle has a tang end with a brass nut. It is great when it comes to breaking glass or other hard things. Plus, the knife comes with its own sheath. When in the sheath, it will weigh just under five ounces. It has a belt loop too. As for maintenance, hand washing is highly recommended to ensure the blade stays sharp. Avoid cleaning it in a dishwasher.
- Good looking design
- Thick handle for a good grip
- Hard and durable blade
- Great edge retention
- Comes with a few extras
- The handle may seem a bit too small for those with large hands
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the handle supposed to be like in a puukko knife?
According to Finnish traditions, the handle is most commonly made of birch. These days, you can find other materials too – various types of hardwoods, leather, bone, or even antler. The classic puukko knife handle does not come with handguard protection, hence the necessity of a nonslip handle. But at the same time, many modern manufacturers implement this type of protection.
What is the blade supposed to be like in a puukko knife?
The blade is usually made of steel. It could be stainless steel, as well as high carbon steel or a combo. The knife is usually super sharp out of the box. You will use it for a wide variety of activities, hence the necessity of a quality blade.
The blade comes with a drop point design and a wide edge. As for its orientation, the edge is supposed to have a slight upsweep. This type of design makes cutting through various materials much easier.
Is high carbon steel better than stainless steel?
It depends, as both types of steel have their pluses and minuses. High carbon steel is excellent at retaining its sharpness, but it may need oiling when not in use for long periods of time. On the other hand, stainless steel is rust and corrosion-resistant.
The puukko knife may not be as popular as other types of knives, but it does have its fair share of users. Originating in Finland, it has gained an international reputation due to its versatility and strength. The knife is usually designed in a full tang style. It has a quality handle for a great grip and any of the knives we mentioned would be an excellent choice to start with.
Hi, I am Jay. I am the creator of Knife Guides, your one-stop site for everything related to knives. I am a computer engineer by profession, knife aficionado by passion. Here I work with a group of people who’ve always had a passion for knives and blades. Over the years we’ve kind of become experts and decided to share our knowledge and ideas. I am also an avid hiker and enjoy offshore gamefishing.