Knives are critical working gear, whether for hunting, woodworking or just your kitchen counter. Quality knives don’t have to look pretty to perform, but they should cut well and handle nicely, and to hold up doing the work you need done. One of the most famous outdoor utility knives is the small fixed blade, flat-backed Finnish puukko.
Marttiini knives are made in the puukko tradition to be lightweight, strong, and hold a sharp edge. In this article, we’ll check out 3 popular and affordable Marttiini knives that offer excellent performance and look great too.
About Marttiini Knives
A Company of Tradition
The Marttiini Knife Factory was formed in 1928 by blacksmith Janne Marttiini. His knives soon became known in Lapland for their beauty, durability, and—most of all—usefulness. “Truth, honor and humility” remained the early watchwords of Marttiini, a religiously oriented man who became a preacher in later years.
The special quality of Marttiini’s knives came from his concern for the user experience. His object was an artful and high-performance tool that felt comfortable and balanced in the hand, and which would not slip under pressure. The blade geometry was fashioned with quality steel for a sharp edge that held well and could easily be sharpened.
The Marttiini family sold their interests in 2005 to corporate conglomerate Rapala VMC LtdCorp. The design and manufacturing of the knives has remained consistent, however, and these tough and versatile knives retain their quality even today.
The Finnish Puukko
Marttiini knives are based on the small traditional puukko, a general purpose belt knife that features a short, fixed blade that measures no longer than the handle. The puukko has a flat back so thumb pressure can be applied as needed, and uses a wedge Scandinavian, or “scandi” grind that makes it useful for carving and other wood crafting jobs.
The purpose of the puukko is to be a tough, inexpensive light- or medium-duty knife that is very sharp. The blade is easy to hone and keeps its edge. The design remains extremely popular with campers, hunters and outdoor survivalists, and for those who simply want an easy-to-carry general utility knife.
Why Marttiini Knives Stand Out
Today’s Marttiini knives come in many sizes, handles and blade metals, but they all retain their original puukko qualities of lightweight economy and sharpness. These small knives are easy to underestimate. They can look cheap to the uninitiated, but they prove themselves over time.
Marttiini uses “soft” steel that it is easy to sharpen and repair. This provides resilience, and makes the blade’s sharpness simpler to maintain. A leather strop does the job.
One big difference you find across Marttiini’s products is the handle. Their most economical knives feature a hard rubber handle instead of traditional wood, but Marttiini does offer a more artistic selection with more costly material.
How do Marttiini knives compare on the market?
There are several popular makers of Scandinavian puukko-style knives, including Helle and Fallkniven and Morakniv. Morakniv, the closest rival to Marttiini’s line, are perhaps the most popular, but the company is older than Marttiini and is thus more well known. Among those who have tried both, Marttiini knives are considered as good or even better.
Marttiini’s products are a few dollars more than equivalent Morakniv offereings, but both are excellent knives. The choice comes down to personal preference and what feels best in your hand.
Top 3 Marttiini Knives
1. Marttiini Little Classic Knife (7 3/8in)
This economical little knife isn’t fancy, but it’s sharp and durable for hunting, camping and general woodworking. It’s a small edition of the traditional puukko, made by an authentic maker with decades of expertise.
The Classic’s 3-1/2in blade is made of 420 German steel, secured with a rattail tang. The firm rubber handle is imprinted with a modest grip pattern to prevent slipping, and features a single guard with a flared pommel. The leather sheaf is thin but holds the knife well, and contains a plastic insert for protection.
The blade requires special consideration, as it comes out of the box “scary sharp.” It resharpens easily and holds its edge. The 1/8-in (3mm) width is sturdy for rough work outdoors. One nice extra is that it produces excellent sparks against a fire starting rod.
The Classic’s rugged performance comes from its Scandinavian grind, which produces a high double-bevel cutting wedge with significant support from the spine. This is best for woodworking and field dressing, but is less effective for food preparation—the angled wedge doesn’t cut vegetables as well as it chisels wood.
The main drawback of this knife is its small handle. If your hand is more than 4″ across the palm, this knife will probably be too small. Some users find this size useful for odd jobs, however, or for punching the tip through an object by cupping the pommel—and it’s a great gift for youngsters and those with smaller hands.
|(+) Attractive traditional puukko design||(-) Small-sized handle|
|(+) Sharpens easily and keeps its edge well||(-) Rattail tang instead of full|
|(+) No-slip rubber handle|
|(+) Leather sheath with plastic insert|
2. Marttiini Condor Timberjack Knife, 8.5in.
The Condor Timberjack is a great all-around puukko knife that carries a larger blade size than the Classic, and a more adult-sized handle. This bushworker’s knife may not offer the beauty of a higher-priced Marttiini handle or sheaf—it’s a utility tool made for rugged use instead of display.
The 3-3/4 in blade is made of 1/8″ (3mm) thick carbon steel with a two-toned finish. The polished edge shines like stainless steel against the raw forge patina of the spine. The traditional Scandi grind can handle the rough work of bushcraft, hiking and hunting—just make sure you keep the carbon blade treated with mineral-oil so it won’t rust.
The Timberjack is lightweight at less than 6 ounces, and its fully seated rattail tang secures the handle with minor flexion. The rubber patterned handle is comfortable to hold, and features a flared pommel and slightly angled finger guard to keep your hand from traveling up the blade. The traditionally lean contour of the handle minimizes hotspots of pain or fatigue over long periods of use.
This is a highly versatile knife for work outdoors. It arrives fully sharpened and ready, and is great for throwing sparks with a ferrocerium rod too. If there is one complaint, it’s that the composition belt attachment is cheaply done … you will probably want to rework the attachment loop if you plan to use it.
Overall, Marttiini’s Timberjack is a well-made, utilitarian example of the solid woodcutting design that’s been popular for decades. It’s a phenomenal value for your survivalist gear collection, or just your kitchen.
|(+) Traditional rugged Pukko design||(-) Carbon steel blade subject to corrosion|
|(+) Blade sharpens and keeps its edge easily||(-) Belt attachment is of cheap construction|
|(+) Comfortable, No-slip rubber handle||(-) Raw forge finish may be cosmetically unappealing|
|(+) Good sparking from firesteel|
3. Marttiini Skinner with Engraved Birch Wood Handle
Marttiini makes some beautiful traditional knives, but the models we’ve reviewed to this point are rugged utility versions of the original knife design. The Skinner is not only an excellent hunting knife—it recalls the personal, artistic puukko tradition.
The Skinner’s handle is made of stained birch wood like the original Lapland knives that made Marttiini famous. Puukkos have long been considered as important gifts to be handed down by each generation. Carvings on the wooden handle were embellished and added to over the owner’s lifetime: artistic individuality is part of what made this knife so popular.
On the performance side, the durable and useful elements of the knife remain. The blade is 420 stainless steel that sharpens easily and holds a razor sharp edge. The scandi grind leaves a strong spine of 1/8 in thickness that holds up to skinning large animals, along with the bushcrafting capabilities this knife is known for.
This knife is lightweight at just over 6 ounces, and throws sparks well from a fire starting rod. Besides being great for hunters and campers, this knife is attractive and versatile enough for your kitchen.
If there is a downside to this knife, it’s that it may look cheap at first glance. The metal finger guard is cast and appears plated, and the leather sheaf appears manmade. Keep in mind, however, that this knife is a piece of unfinished artwork. You will find the performance value and worth of this knife as you use it.
|(+) Stained Birch wood handle||(-) Cast metal finger guard with plating|
|(+) Stainless Steel blade resistant to corrosion||(-) Leather sheaf appears cheaply made|
Martiinni knives are faithful to the puukko design and perform as strong, sharp, durable and lightweight tools. The scandi grind of these knives makes them strong woodworking knives that belong in any survivalist’s toolbag.
The blades sharpen easily and retain an edge, but remember that the thick blade metal isn’t great for slicing or fine chopping. Another point to keep in mind is that the knives we’ve reviewed are affordable enough to easily replace. They make memorable and valuable gifts too.
Marttiini is a name to consider if you’re looking for a lightweight, heavy duty utility knife for outdoor adventuring. If you favor a great Martiinni knife that’s not on this list, consider leaving a comment too.
Image by: Irmeli Aro