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This project started in earnest last summer when I had a whole day to personally examine three late iron age archeological finds from Finland; two seax blades and one ”ango” spearpoint. I want to thank Finland’s National Board of Antiquities and especially Intendant Leena Ruonavaara for the wonderful opportunity and professional insight.

My main focus was on one of the knife blades; namely the KM7752:2 a ”straight backed Finnish seax” from Perniö. It is mentioned in ”Puukon Historia I”, by Anssi Ruusuvuori, p. 64. This particular knife blade caught my imagination (to put it mildly) and I’ve been itching to recreate the knife ever since. Lacking necessary skills, however, I decided to wait. Now - many years later - I finally summoned the courage to try my hand at it.

I have to note that I am not a professional archeologist, nor historian. Everything that follows is my personal take on the issue, and does not represent the official position of Finland’s National board of Antiquities, for example. I have tried my best to gather facts and stick with them, but I’ve also shamelessly filled gaps based on intuition in order to make an item that would be a working whole.

In Finnish language a seax is typically called ‘väkipuukko’. Roughly translated ‘väki’ might mean a large crowd of people, or it could be short for ‘väkevä’, which would be ‘mighty’ or ‘strong’ in this case. Both interpretations have merit, in my opinion. ‘Sotaväki’ can be translated as ‘warband’, ‘väki’ referring to the large group again. Taking this into consideration väkipuukko might translate as ’a war knife’.

I have not seen reproductions of this particular knife type before, and this might be the first one in a long while. To my knowledge this type of seax is indigenous to Finland.

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Image courtesy of National Board of Antiquities, Finland

I will not go deep into detail on the original, but here is some basic information:

- thickness 4mm, tapers gently towards the tip

- blade length 260mm (originally ~ 300mm according to my guesstimation)

- tang 140 mm*

- edge angle was difficult to measure, but might be somewhere between 11-15 degrees

Being absolutely untrained in this field I did find it difficult to analyse what I was seeing, but I believe there was a random ’wood grain’ structure to the steel. I saw nothing that would indicate complicated pattern welding (does not mean it was not there). There were some ‘anomalies’ that I interpreted as possible slag inclusions. It is possible there was even a faint makers mark. To me it seems the blade shape is original, and not the result of repeated sharpening, for example. Geometry of the blade also suggests this was not a tool for mundane every day tasks. In my view that strengthens the case for the blade shape being fairly close to original. The blade is not absolutely straight backed, as there seems to be a gentle s-wave to it. Again, I believe this to be intentional.

According to what I gathered nothing remains of the sheath/scabbard or the handle, suggesting both might have been made from organic material that has completely disappeared. The relatively short tang length might indicate a ”hidden tang” construction (considering other surviving examples with longer handles).

However, for my knife I wanted to try something a little more complicated. There are other similar surviving knives with bronze handles. I decided to make a KM7752:2 type väkipuukko and sand cast a hollow bronze handle for it. This technique is probably not historically accurate. I could have also used modern casting methods, but decided against it for the learning experience (and suffered for it).

There is precious little information available on what the sheaths for these knives might have looked like, and the one I made is almost completely from my imagination. The only clue was that nothing has been found, possibly meaning that there were no metallic decorative elements. Using this and the ‘requirements’ presented by the slender contruction of the blade (-> wooden last inside the sheath for protection) as quide I made a sheath that seems logical. As an afterthought I came up with, and, as you can probably see, quickly constructed, a metal part that could be used with the sheath. There would be a rational explanation for it being missing from the record of finds, since it is an addition that might sometimes be used, but not absolutely necessary (recycled, or re-used elsewhere).

Finally I have to add that since this project was part of my studies I was working with a strict time constraint that did not leave much room for experimentation, practice or correcting of mistakes. That is why there are some differences between the original blade and my version. For example, the decorative markings are not exactly the same. When making them I had a mental image of what I was going for, and in a hurry did not remember to check one more time what the actual pattern was like. A mistake, but I can live with it. This was a first, after all. Furthermore, this was my first serious bronze casting, and easily the most complicated forge welded blade I have ever made.

Dimensions of the blade are almost exacly the same as in the original, but the steel is a five (+) layer laminate; Stenco ‘leuku’ (almost pure 0,8% carbon steel) in the middle, followed by wrought steel that I had to weld together from small rusty pieces of old farming equipment. And finally there is a layer of almost pure iron.

The handle is about 180mm long, with a ’tear drop’ profile and a peened through tang construction. It is made from two parts; front bolster and the hollow handle element. Blade is 300mm long. Interesting ratio between blade and handle..

When making this knife I tried my best to work by eye alone to achieve a natural look. I am very happy with this väkipuukko, and I’m going to hold on to it. Please tell me what you think.

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Edited by J.S.Voutilainen
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I have been working on a Finnish style seax myself, but I have had trouble finding seaxs from Finland.

Thanks for this Juho!

Your remake is quite timely and exceptional!

 

BTW...

That puukko you made has been serving me well!

 

terveisin!

-Gabriel

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  • 8 months later...

RMuse,

 

Thank you!

 

George,

 

I know. Being able to examine the original absolutely blew me away, and transformed the way I think iron age "Finland" might have looked like.

 

Now you've done it - reintroduced the idea, which forces me to make another one of these. Thanks :P

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