Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Leuku ~ The big knife from Lapland



The Sámi knife is one of the main tools used in Sámi subsistence economy. Several types of knife blades have been discovered in the archaeological findings of the Iron Age in Lapland, and of those, the big Sámi knife developed into a general tool used for many purposes. In the Sámi language, the Sámi knife is simply stuorra niibi ('the big knife') – a good way to explain it to a person who is not familiar with it. The Sámi knife can be used as a general tool in situations where a portable edge tool is needed but where an ordinary knife would be too small or unpractical. The edge of this knife is about eight inches, when an ordinary knife has a blade of four or five inches.

Leuku is a Finnish word for a Sámi knife. This very versatile knife was developed from the needs of the reindeer herder-lifestyle. They are all-purpose knives rather than woodworking knives. The handles are typical of those used in the far North. They provide a solid grip for the draw strokes that are favored where the hands are often gloved, or stiff with cold. The wide flat pommel allows the use of the second hand to apply force to the point. The sheaths take almost the entire handle, which is a reflection of how serious a lost leuku can be in the wilderness.


In the larger sizes they combine the functions of camp knife and machete, and are used for everything from building shelters and gathering firewood, to butchering reindeer. It is an excellent outdoor tool for bush crafting. On the northern tundra a 7 or 8 inch leuku is far better to shop firewood with than an ax, as brush and willows are to weak to offer the ax the resistance needed for a easy cut. The leuku just slices thin branches off easily with a flick of your hand. But the big one also splits larger firewood well with the use of a baton. For fishing and hunting it is very handy as it is both knife and ax in one. The blades are relatively thin, and the knives are quite light for their size.


8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have a couple older Martiinni
Leuku; those made before Martinnii
started having their blades made in
France and Germany. It has "hammer
marks" on the back - now I know why!
Thanks for the info; nice article.

Rich

American Finn said...

I keep mine near the fireplace so I don't have to walk back out to use axe to split the logs... I just put my leuku on top of a log and hammer it through with another one :-)

Anonymous said...

I usually have 2 knives with me. Leuku and smaller one with reindeer handle. The leuku i use to chop wood. I actually found the leuku and it's quite old, but the blade is still very good. I used them both when i was living in northern Finland for 4 years.

Anonymous said...

I am a Canadian Sami. I live in the Northwest Territories,born and raised. My mother is from Kautokeino. I have been to her motherland three times in the 70's. I had a chance to meet many Sami relatives. The Leuku is very handy for splitting marrow bones. Definitely handy for anything..

American Finn said...

Thanks for visiting my page! I've been to Kautokeino quite a few times, though my mom lives on the eastern side of Lapland, right on the Arctic Circle. Don't get to meet Sami people here in the US too often... and yes, you're right leuku truly is a multitool!

Anonymous said...

I have an Finland knife with a brass horse head : name on it rkankaanp kauhava Finland do you know who might have made this (it's a small knife) with a leather sheet

Vasily Sora said...

Thank you for the info.. I bought one and its all you said it is.

American Finn said...

The horse head puukko is made by Iisakki Jarvenpaa, Kauhava.