Marttiini puukko knife restoration

Despite being super busy with both work and moving-related stuff, I have managed to find a few minutes here and there to work on my latest project, a vintage puukko knife restoration. I picked up the 70s-era knife recently at a consignment shop for €18/$23.50, thinking it would be a perfect small companion to the leuku knife I restored last year. The handle wood is curly birch, the bolster is brass and the blade is, I believe, carbon steel and 8.5 cm/3.5 inches in length.

As you can see in the “before” shots, the knife had seen better days! The varnish had cracked and fallen off parts of the handle, and the blade…oh, the blade… Sadly, it looked like someone had taken some kind of rough grinder to it, leaving it with more of a dull saw edge than a knife edge (really). Some of the grind marks were so deep that I didn’t remove them completely, as I’d have to remove too much metal to do so. Over time, these marks will disappear with repeated normal sharpening. Also, there was a bit of paint (?) on the blade. As for the sheath, it was in pretty good shape, mainly showing signs of normal wear and tear, though there were a few small slits in the belt loop/dangler.

To restore this knife, I pretty much followed the same procedure used for its big brother, except that I used finer grits of sandpaper on the wood and metal:

  • Sand off old varnish, then sand handle with progressively finer sandpaper (down to 240 grit)
  • Polish brass bolster with progressively finer sandpaper (down to 800 grit)
  • Restore blade bevel and edge (with diamond rod) and tip (I had to use a file to give the blade a slight drop point, as a tiny part of the tip had been broken off)
  • Polish blade with progressively finer sandpaper (down to 1,000 grit)
  • Rub handle wood with wax and heat it so it soaks in
  • Oil handle wood (teak oil)
  • Sharpen blade with stone
  • Sew and/or glue small slits in sheath belt loop/dangler
  • Cut off leather tag on bottom of sheath
  • Sand sheath (240 grit)
  • Put black shoe polish on sheath
  • Saturate sheath with teak oil
  • (I will replace the missing pommel cap when I get a chance to buy one)

Shoe polish and teak oil on a sheath?! I realize some of my methods are a bit unorthodox (i.e. amateurish), but I never claimed to be a professional knife restorer. 😉 I tend to experiment a lot and just use stuff I have on hand. Luckily, the end product usually ends up being OK. By the way, the teak oil hardens up the leather nicely, protecting it from the knife blade (there is no insert inside the sheath).

Here’s the end result:

I haven’t decided yet whether I will polish the blade and bolster with finer sandpaper. Eventually, it’ll probably bug me until I break down and do it. 🙂

Speaking of going back and finishing jobs properly, I realized that I had done a bit of a halfhearted rush job on the blade of the leuku knife I fixed up last year. I left a lot of the previous owner’s grinding marks on the blade and only “polished” it down to 240 grit sandpaper. Looking back, I feel it was pretty amateurish and did not look very good. Wanting to correct that, I spent some time polishing the blade with sandpaper down to 1,000 grit. Again, I’ll probably go to a finer grit with this knife as well at some point, but for now it’s OK.

A few “bushcrafty” shots of both knives in the new set ;):

I’m looking forward to wearing this set on my belt on upcoming outings as an occasional alternative to my BushProwler knife. It’ll easily handle light wood prep for small cooking fires as well as all sorts of projects using wood and other materials.

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16 comments on “Marttiini puukko knife restoration

  1. Finnman says:

    Nice pair you have there and good job on restauration!
    I was thinking that missing bolster. How end of the handle looks now? Is there tang hole visible? How you thought to attach new bolster, brass screws and glue maybe? Does the blade still have very snug fit?

    Deep grindmarks are better leave alone I think it´s just cosmetic, don´t affect usefulness. I think those “fishtails” kind of belong on lappish knives, so I wouldn´t cut them off (just my opinion, don´t stress about it 😉 )

    – Finnman

    • Thanks! 🙂 The tang is visible on the bottom of the handle. There is something around the tang, but I can’t figure out exactly what it is (maybe some kind of metal thing holding it in place and also epoxy?). Anyway, I’ll show it to you the next time we meet up. I was thinking about just using some kind of super-strong epoxy to attach the pommel cap. After all, it won’t be a hard-use knife, so I don’t know if screwing it down is really necessary. Who knows, though. There is no play at all in the blade, it is very solidly attached to the handle.

      Yeah, I know the fish tails are traditional on the Lapp knives, but for some reason I just have to cut them off. I like to personalize my gear the way I like it, and if it’s not 100% traditional, I’m OK with that. 🙂

  2. Ron says:

    Nice job!
    Now you have a great and matching set of users.
    Personally I do not like black. I would have opted for a nice, rich dark brown, but as said, that’s personal.

    • Thanks Ron! I made this sheath black to match the other one, but if I could go back, I would probably use brown instead of black, because I like brown more, too. I think the reason I used black was that I wanted to make sure to hide the touristy design of the larger knife’s sheath. For some reason, I though brown shoe polish might not hide it well enough (?). Anyway, if I do another project like this, I’ll use brown next time! 🙂

  3. OutdoorEnvy says:

    Nice restore. That came out great.

  4. finnman says:

    Actually it Would ne very Nice if You make completely new double sheath Where you Can fit both of the knives and It’s nicer to carry aswell.

  5. Corey says:

    What a difference! After the restore, it looks like it has new life. And I think shoe polish is just fine. I’ve used it myself and am generally happy with how it works. Never tried teak oil, though. I’ll have to file that one away to try sometime.

  6. Duncan says:

    That’s great restoration work! Since I’ve seen your posts about doing them, I’ve been combing the local shops and markets looking for knives longing to be restored. Whenever I do find what I’m looking forward (maybe a Buck folder,) I’ll be visiting these posts again to get some ideas and tips. Thanks for the great post!

  7. Very nice- looks great!

  8. koy essary says:

    How make the matches box

    • Thanks for the question. The match box was my first birch bark project, so I didn’t do it very professionally. 🙂 I just rolled up a piece of bark and glued it that way and then cut out a circle of bark and made some cuts around the edge so I could fold up the tabs and glue them to the tube. I did sort of a similar thing to make the cap.

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