Finnish leuku

Le 6 septembre 2002, par OldJimbo

Testing a leuku (leuko) knife.

Finally I just had to break down and try a leuko blade. I decided to order from Ragnar . I got the information I wanted and ordered two blades a 6 3/4" bowie style stub tang Mora and a 7 1/4" Leuko. I ordered the Mora to see how a wider blade would work out. I like the thin style of the regular Moras but some of my friends don’t so I figured on seeing how this style would work. It also gives me two longer Scandinavian blades to try against a Cold steel Hudson Bay model (7") that I have coming.

The Mora 6 3/4"

Notice the wide bevel. Since this blade is typical Mora thickness, this means far narrower edge angle.

I’m very impressed with this blade ! I decided to put a handle on it to see how epoxy would hold with a stub handle. I just took a section of broken axe handle drilled some holes and epoxied the blade in. It was apparent right away that this blade is properly hardened to R60+. It took quite a bit of work to remove the factory grinding marks. As with other Mora knives with hard steel the trick is to get a straight edge polished to a fine finish with buffing compound. Once the edge is straight and continuous it holds extremely well. The photo shows the working model. Later I intend to weld a piece of threaded rod to the end of the stub tang to add further stiffness and tension through the handle. A brass plate at front and back will provide support and looks. For right now I’m pretty happy with my ten minute handle ! The blade is unpolished and looks rather good as is. Just a few minutes with buffing compound will polish it.

So where does this knife fit into the scheme of things ? I like the regular Mora knife blade profile - it’s narrow enough to do good work with wood carving even in the 6" length. This blade width though allows for safe holding with a hand on the blade for scraping. The regular blade profile doesn’t - fingers next to a razor sharp edge will eventually lead to a real problem. The weight with an all wood handle and the stub tang is only slightly more than a regular Mora so hanging the sheathed knife around your neck, hanging loose from a belt in Scandinavian style, or attached to a neck bag are all possible. Unlike most bowie style sharpened pry bars this knife is very well balanced and responsive. I like the thinness of the blade for baton use, and the extra length of the blade could be useful if large green wood is to be cut. Basically I prefer short blades but if you like small chopping chores to be done with the knife, this is an excellent choice. Properly sharpened it will clean 1" sized branches of green wood with a flick of the wrist. Notice the extra width at tip as compared to regular very tapered Mora blade.

For most survival knife uses, this blade like most of the Moras above 3" would be a great choice. It’s more likely to be on the person than most of the heavy sharpened pry bar style bowies, and it should chop some awesome thickness of green alder or birch (with baton) if you really need large poles !

The Leuko

I got it because I couldn’t see the logic behind the design of the blade, nor could I get information on the Internet. Anyway I had to see what this blade is all about. It’s a beautifully polished piece of steel - but like Moras polished over the bevel grind marks. These removed easily with honing making me think that the blade is less than R60, but honing back the steep bevel at the point is tough so I may be wrong. The blade is over 34 mm wide at the junction with the handle, and the tang tapers back from 22mm wide so it’s a stiff as possible for a concealed tang knife. The shape of the blade puts the weight as far forward as possible for chopping.

The leuko blade, 6 3/4" bowie style and 6" regular Mora for comparison


Preliminary Testing and Observations :

First some boring preamble to explain why I’m interested in such a knife, and my prejudices :

I became interested in trying a leuko because of the success I’ve had with puukkos - from the cheap Mora on up to some better ones - all carbon steel, non-laminated. I am interested in knives for wilderness survival, and am lucky enough to live in a small town in western Canada where I can get out into true wilderness whenever I want to try out knives. Most people think of a survival knife as some huge heavy knife. For most of my purposes though, a small or light knife serves very well. One can use such a knife with a baton to cut down whatever wood one needs for shelter poles. Mostly I’ve been using a 6" (15cm) Mora and in testing I’ve cut down many 8" alder trees with ease. These are far larger than one would normally need for shelter poles or fire reflectors. In winter though, with lots of wet heavy snow, or in the rainy conditions here - which can last for weeks, it is necessary to split lower dead branches of spruce trees or cut into dead standing trees to get to dry heartwood. Peeling hemlock bark from fallen trees may also be a requirement. A hatchet or small axe works very well - but I wanted to see what a larger knife would do.

It’s too early for a review of the knife I built from the blade blank - lots of things to try with it first. I do have some first impressions though :

1. The blank will take some time to straighten the edge and set the bevels. That’s expected in a $20 blade. Since the blade is about R60 this will take some time even though it’s carbon steel which is easy to sharpen. I find it crucial to straighten the edge and set the bevels if I expect the edge to last. I find large flat abrasive surfaces (stones/ glass sheet and abrasive) to be essential to doing the job right by hand. By using the properly set bevels, one can sharpen the blade to the point of being able to cut the thinnest cigarette paper easily. That degree of edge will not last through more than minor whittling of green wood, but the edge will be sufficient to shave hair after lots of whittling of seasoned wood.

The blade is 7 1/4", 1.45" at widest near tip 3.3mm thickness. It’s a pretty thin blade for a survival knife, which I find more useful. While the blade is only thicker than a regular Mora, the bevel is much wider. The angle of the edge is thus much narrower. This makes the blade very suitable for slicing or woodcutting. As I found in testing though, in chopping where I hit a hemlock stub, the edge angle is too acute for a chopping blade for seasoned wood where one will occasionally hit hard knots. Reprofiling will take a belt sander.

2. The edge lasts very well through chopping green trees and hard spruce branches. It will dent rather than chip when hemlock stubs are hit - and any knife will incur damage if these are hit. Chopping is far harder on the edge than whittling or using a baton. I begin with it sharp enough to shave hair, and that edge lasts for a long time. Subsequent sharpening is a matter of a few minutes. Sharpening can be accomplished with any abrasive surface using the bevel of the blade as a guide. I never use any sharpening device such as a Lansky. Sometimes I use abrasive silt (very fine sand which I find in the outdoors) on a supported leather belt to sharpen the blade and this works well with the carbon steel. You have to use water settling to get particles the same size - so it isn’t as easy to collect as one might think. Attempting to sharpen more advanced steel as in Gerber tool steel knife is pretty desperate with such means : without the bevels to hold the sharpening angle, and with the amount of time that has to be devoted, one gets tired and lets the angles drift.

So overall, I’m very happy with the steel in the blade. Of course the steel won’t hold up like more advanced steels - but it is very sufficient to its purpose, being easy to resharpen. I understand that Marttiini blades are tempered softer, and I’d be interested to know how the edges hold up in cutting seasoned wood.

3. I made a temporary handle for my blade from a section of broken axe handle drilled by hand - and fixed the blade into position with molten lead alloy. It’s worked very well for a handle constructed in a few minutes : handle is totally stable after lots of brutal use. Working with any molten metal while blade is wrapped in wet paper to resist heat changing temper is very hazardous - also Ragnar sells lead free pewter as lead is toxic. The large tapered tang makes this blade the most difficult to make a proper handle for, if you want the hole drilled/cut to exact size. Given the usage, cross pinning the wide tang might make a lot of sense, if the end of the tang is not threaded for a nut or pinned. I’ll be trying a lot of handle shapes while making a decision as to what the final one should be.

4. Temporary sheath constructed from leather with ski glide wax melted in, then moulded. This makes a very stiff sheath, totally waterproof. Sheath set up with pop rivets. Stitching and brass rivets to follow when I get it right. I may move to a wooden sheath with leather top for friction fit to handle. Survival stuff is very messy as with harvesting spruce gum, and a sheath where the blade is a tight fit in a leather sheath is counter productive. A dangling sheath in the Scandinavian tradition also makes sense for easy carry in and out of vehicles, etc.

5. I find the 7 1/4" blade just fine, but a lot of people might find 9/10" to be better - if they like to chop lots instead of using a baton. As with a hatchet, you wouldn’t want the razor edge to miss the target. The flat back of the knife is great with a baton - allows cutting of very large wood, splitting firewood.

6. The blade design on mine is strange - for me - with a regular bevel on most of the blade and a very steep bevel on the curve to the tip. It’s proving good - but it is unlike any knife I’ve used before. Is anyone else’s leuko ground like this ?

7. The leuko knife weighs 10 oz - probably 1 1/2-2 oz of this is lead I used to affix handle. With leather sheath 14 oz (heavy riveted waxed leather). Compared to my small hatchet which comes out to 30 oz with sheath (surprised me !) the knife wins on portability. Compared to a 6" Mora with plastic sheath 3 oz, it doesn’t look so great. A lot of my fixed blade knives (Schrade, Gerber) with heavy sheaths come out around 10 oz so the leuko looks good compared to these. I feel that survival equipment should be on the person at all times.

Summary :

So far the leuko blade looks like a pretty good bet for someone like me with a tendency to dispose of cash on grand-kids rather than expensive knives. I sure don’t feel handicapped in any way with such a knife. It does take some work to create a knife you can be proud of, beginning with prototyping - but a usable knife can be constructed quickly.

As pointed out by Tommi, the leuko was developed over centuries for certain conditions. I am using it in different conditions and for different usage so there’s no "traditional" magic in the design for me. Nevertheless, I can think of no way of changing the blade shape to improve its use for my needs.

Some people will question the tapered tang on a survival knife. I find a knife with a full wood handle in oval cross section far better in heavy use than a rectangular full tang knife. As I’m still trying to break a cheap Mora in real life use, I have few concerns with durability. The leuko blade has a very wide tapered tang which stands up to prying tasks very well.

I am convinced that a heavy knife can replace a light hatchet thanks to this knife. It cannot replace a short axe which has the potential for far heavier usage in very difficult conditions. A survival tool must be on the person though, so perhaps the axe is taking things too far.

Images - Knife in Use :


Very knotty spruce being split for firewood to test blade on spruce knots. No damage.


More splitting.


Front edge was pounded into knots and then removed and examined for damage. This way handle was stressed in more than one direction.


Notice that damage to seasoned water birch (soft) baton is not too bad for some amount of baton use. What appear to be dings in edge are just the way the picture took. Spruce gum on edge affected light reflection.


The knife pries rather well. Here I’m gathering lots of gum impregnated spruce bark. As is apparent by the amount of gum on blade, a fire hardened hard-wood stick would have been a much better bet - as it would for most prying jobs.

Post-Scriptum :

Original article at OldJimbo’s site.

par OldJimbo



Ulf Ullring
Le 27 juillet 2006

The leuku, as you call it, is the traditional knife of the Saami people of northern Scandinavia. In Norway it is known as the "samekniv". It is a real proven all purpose (survival) knife, basically unchanged for at least the last century. Even the commando soldiers of north Norway - and maybe Sweden and Finland as well - carry this knife. It comes in many sizes, but with basically the same shape, although the smaller ones might have thinner, more pointed blades for ease of whittling and carving. The small ones and the big ones are of course used differently and traditionally the Saami carried both "the big knife" and "the small knife" alongside on the same belt.

OldJimbo was testing the medium sized knife, which I personally think is a little light for chopping and a little big for whittling, but quite right for making sandwiches. Well, the size is a personal choise. On the northern tundra or other shrublands a 8 or 9 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 ones 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.

But why this strange blade design with an abrupt tip with steep bevels. Well, I cannot say how it started out originally, but one common use of the tip is for opening the lids of tin cans (canned food). Other uses for the tip end of the knife are shopping thru ice, removing birchbark, or opening the abdomen of fish and animals. In all this uses, a pointed and low beveled kife would be more of a nuisance, as it easier could be damaged or would make damage, as cutting into the intestines while slaughtering.

On the bigger knives the cutting edge is often sharpened differently in at least three sections along the edge. First the steep beveled sturdy point, then gradually more sharp and low beveled around the curve and inward to the inner third which is not very sharp at all, but sturdy enough to cut bone, nails, steel wire and such with the use of a baton. Also safer for the fingers, as this knife traditionaly doesn’t have a finger guard.

It is a very versatile knife, developed from the needs of the hunter/gatherer/reindeer(caribou)herder-lifestyle of the Saami people, just as the Mora knife was the knife of the farmer and the woodworker. I have two leuku knives : One medium (6-7 inches) Iisaki (Finnish) of stainless steel, which easily gets so sharp that shaving with it is no problem. It is fine for fishing, slaughtering, rough cutting and food preparation, but too light for chopping wood and too big for finer whittling. Then I have a large (8-9 inches) Strømeng (Norwegian)for chopping firewood and rough cutting. This also can be used as a drawknife.

Le 1er août 2008
These knives are such an excellent tool to carry. I live on the northern tundra and it cuts willow and scrap wood for the kettle and a cooking fire. I have butchered caribou, cut frozen fish, chopped ice, cleaned large fish, and still am amazed at how effective one knife can be. You can’t own one that is "too big" !

Le site est affiché en français avec ses sections françaises seulement, sachez qu’il existe cependant beaucoup à découvrir dans la version Anglaise.

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