Friday, November 9, 2012

My favorite puukko

I have made several puukko knives up to this point, with some of them turning out OK, a couple I had to stop working on due to problems I ran into, and a couple that turned out even better than expected. In this post, I will talk about one of my favorites - the Karhu, or "Bear" in Finnish.
I used Osage Orange from Argentina (Maclura tinctoria), a wonderful orange-brown wood that was very nice to work with. It is hard (approximate Janka Hardness of 2,400 lbf, or pound-force), very durable, termite-resistant, and finishes very nicely. Also used were reindeer antler spacers, both black and red fiber spacers, two black leather spacers, a brass bolster, and a 77mm x 20mm Lauri carbon steel blade made in the beautiful country of Finland. This knife took some thought; well, all of the knives require some forethought, but this one I wanted to create a more complex handle than some of my previous puukkos. 

I cut a small 1" piece of the wood off the 6" wood blank, and cut another piece which was 4" in length. Then, I drilled the tang hole and widen it at the top to allow the entire tang to fit. I cut six fiber spacers about 1" x 1 1.25" then cut slits in them to allow them to slide the tang in. The black leather spacers already had slits cut so that was nice (and a good way to measure your slits for the fiber spacers).

After filing and shaping the tang hole to properly fit the tang in both the two wood pieces and two reindeer spacers, I did an assembly prior to putting the epoxy in. Actually, with knives that have several pieces in the handle, I do this often, especially when I am filing the tang holes. This is a good way for me to make sure the assembled handle is straight (made that mistake before and it was costly, but that is another post). When I was satisfied with the handle, the shape, and the straightness of everything, I epoxied everything together. I use J-B Weld two-part epoxy. This is incredibly strong (3960 psi tensile strength), sets in 20-25 minutes, and cures in 15-24 hours. I have used the quick set epoxy and it was a frantic mess attaching the parts together, as this stuff sets in 5 minutes, and to be honest it felt like one to two minutes! Never again. I like the J-B Weld because I can take my time and carefully attach the parts of the handle and fill the tang hole without the worry of it setting instantly. Plus, it is hard as steel.

Believe it or not, I use a popsicle stick to apply the epoxy. This was a creative way to apply epoxy given to me by my brother at Fisker Fjord Knives, and a very handy way at that, since I have a four-old boy who likes his popsicles! I apply a thin layer on one side of every layer, whether it be fiber, wood, reindeer, leather, and even the bolster. I have also learned from experience that a little goes a long way. Even though epoxy is thick, this is very strong stuff and if you put too thick a layer on, you will see it on the final product. Eventually, I would like to try to make one sans epoxy, or at least limited epoxy, but for now I think using it is best, just sparingly. After all the pieces are epoxied including the entire tang hole, I place the entire knife in a vise to compress the pieces together even more. I make sure it is straight and adjust the layers that are not, and go back a couple minutes later and wipe off any excess epoxy that has been squeezed out. Here is a photo of the knife before sanding.

I do this a lot at night, so the next day after work I can begin sanding. I used a belt sander to shape the handle to the size and shape I wanted, then used sandpaper of varying grit, from 320 to 800. I oiled the handle with Watco Danish oil and let it dry. Then, I wet sanded using Danish oil. Finally, I place a thin coat of Howard Feed-N-Wax wood preserver on the handle. 
After the knife was done, I made a leather sheath and voilĂ ! My favorite puukko I have made. 

I would love to hear from anyone reading my blog, so feel free to contact me. If you are interested in purchasing this puukko or any here at Naali Knives, please contact me for a price. If you are interested in having a custom puukko made with a specific wood or style, please contact me for a quote. Hope you enjoyed this edition of the Naali Knives blog!