Sami Knives and Sami duodji
I really love the intricacy of the carvings in sami duodji. I’ve always wanted a handmade Puukko (sami knife). The chance of purchasing one came whilst taking part in the Fjallraven Classic in Sweden last year.
Why did I want one?
Many reasons really, the fact that they are a true all round knife, handmade and they can be so artistically made as well.
Sami Knives and Sami duodji is so beautiful and the hours that go into their work is unbelievable.
The Sami people, also spelled Sámi or Saami, are the indigenous people inhabiting the Arctic area of Sápmi, which today encompasses parts of far northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula of Russia.
Traditionally, the Sami have pursued a variety of livelihoods, including coastal fishing, fur trapping, and sheep herding.
Their best-known means of livelihood is semi-nomadic reindeer herding.
Currently about 10% of the Sami are connected to reindeer herding and 2,800 are actively involved in herding on a full-time basis.
For traditional, environmental, cultural and political reasons, reindeer herding is legally reserved only for Sami people in certain regions of the Nordic countries.
Having such a strong tie to reindeer, the basis for most of their handicraft, antlers, leather and bone are all used in many different ways.
Sami Knives and Sami duodji
Puukko or Leuku?
The Puukko: The basic components of a puukko are a handle and a blade along with a sheath, which can usually be attached to a belt but sometimes to a shirt or coat button.
The blade is short, typically no longer than the handle and often less than 4″ (100 mm)
The Knike makers put great pride in carving their Sami Knives and Sami duodji Puukko’s handles and the sheath are made from reindeer antler this is normally carved as well.
The carvings are coloured with powdered bark.
The sheath is normally made from birch burlap and / or reindeer antler, the end of the sheath is normally curved to assist in gripping the sheath when wearing thick mittens.
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: not only those of a bladesmith, but also those of a carver, a jeweller, a designer, and a leatherworker to make the sheath.
This provides better control over the blade, particularly when using draw strokes, which are preferred when handling the knife with gloves.
The tang runs through the handle. The handle has no crossguard. Traditional material for the sheath is reindeer leather.
The blade’s edge often has a Scandinavian (or “Scandi”) grind, i.e. a single flat bevel. The blade should be strong enough to split (reindeer) bones, and tempered to sustain low temperatures. Some Sami knives have fullers.
The Sami people typically use two knives.
The basic components of a puukko are a handle and a blade along with a sheath.
These are to be attached to a belt but sometimes to a shirt or coat button.
The traditional material for the handle is curly (masur) birch, great sallow root, birch bark, horn (especially elk and reindeer), scrimshaw and bone are also used.
The handle is made from various materials between spacers.
Today, however, industrially made puukkos often have plastic handles like the Mora Knives.
I came across a Sami craftsman through instagram one day and found myself looking through his photos of his fantastic Sami Knives and Sami duodji covering kuksas, puukko’s (Sami knives) and other Sami handicraft.
The craftsman name is Jørn Are Keskitalo from Kautokeino in Northern Norway.
His work is typical Duodji. Duodji is a traditional Sami handicraft, dating back to a time when the Sami were far more isolated from the outside world than they are today.
Duodji tools, clothing and accessories are functional and useful, and may also incorporate artistic elements.
This Sami duodji artist is able to bring function and art together in a delicate way.
These functional items include knives, jewelry, bags, kuksas, certain articles of clothing, etc.