I didn’t think I needed another knife, but when a “diamond in the rough” project knife recently presented itself for a very low price, I just couldn’t say no. While browsing around at a consignment shop, I spotted a vintage Marttiini “Lapp Knife 250″, which is a small leuku or Saami knife with a 16 cm/6.3″ long and 4 mm/0.16” thick blade. I like this style of knife very much to begin with, and when I saw the price tag of 15 Euros/19 Dollars, I had no choice but to snap it up. Based on other older Marttiini knives I’ve seen, I roughly dated this one to the 60s or 70s. Finnman from Scandic Woodsman Blog estimates 70s or 80s, so let’s say it’s from the 70s. 🙂
As you can see, the sheath is roughed up, but still in usable condition. I don’t like the tacky designed-for-tourists motif on these sheaths, but I was able to find a good way to get around that. Some ingenious person had replaced the belt loop with a slit-type loop and cleverly attached it to the sheath with some wire… As great as it looks, the wire had to go. 😉
As for the knife itself, the varnish was coming off the handle, the bolster and pommel cap were a bit beat up and dirty and the blade had lots of sharpening marks and a few nicks in the edge. Overall, though, it seemed like the knife was still pretty solid and usable. Incidentally, I tested the blade to see if it would take a patina, because I was not sure if it was stainless or carbon steel (it proved to be stainless, as it would not take a patina). I later found it to be easy to sharpen and not too hard/brittle, so I’m not concerned about it being stainless.
I started working on the sheath first. I’ve never been a fan of the “fish tail” on sheaths, so I cut it off. I am aware that they serve a purpose (as an aid in withdrawing the knife), but I never use them. The next step was to remove the belt loop and a leather strip glued to the sheath near the top. After this, I sanded the sheath with 240-grit sandpaper to remove the original treatment and to smooth out the roughened spots. To color the sheath and also to hide the touristy design, I decided to use black shoe polish. I realize this is not very “professional”, but it was the easiest solution on short notice. When the sheath and belt loop were dry, I connected them with a piece of strong flat lacing, which I also died black.
Now on to the knife. To get the remaining varnish off, I sanded the handle with 40-grit sandpaper. This was followed by smoothing it out with 100-grit paper. Once the wood was in good shape, I sanded the bolster and pommel cap with 240- and then 400-grit sandpaper to clean and smooth them out. I then rubbed the handle wood with a block of wax and passed the wax-covered handle back and forth over a candle to heat the wood and melt the wax, allowing it to soak into the wood. This was repeated 5 or 6 times. With the handle finished, I turned my attention to the blade. I figured the only way to easily make the blade uniform in appearance throughout would be to sand it, so I started with 100-grit sandpaper and finished with 240. I didn’t feel the need to go any finer than this. The last step was to smooth out the nicks and even out the edge with a diamond rod and then finish it off with a stone. A few minor nicks are still present, but they will disappear over time with continued sharpening.
In all, I worked on this sheath and knife for 4 hours. Here’s the result:
Before and after:
Hopefully, the handle and tang are still structurally sound. I guess I could have checked this out more before I did the restoration work! 🙂 I’ll be using this knife very soon to test it and will let you know how it works out. I may do a little more cosmetic work to clean up a few things, but for the most part I’m happy with how it came out. Yet another great consignment shop find!
UPDATE: I applied some teak oil to the handle to further protect it from water etc. I think it came out pretty good.