Finnish Bushcraft

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Martti

Full Member
Mar 12, 2011
913
10
Finland
Here is a Karelian hunter from the Finnish-Russian frontier drawn by L. Sparre in 1893. He is carrying a flintlock but, as it seems, also a blanket roll? Similar contraptions are know from Finnish church paintings dating to 1470s and were used up to the beginning of the 20th century.

 

Martti

Full Member
Mar 12, 2011
913
10
Finland
Hood against biting insects?
It was mainly against insects but I quess it also offered protection against wind as it was made out of thick linen. He is also wearing birch bark shoes not visible in the drawing. Woolen one was worn during the winter.
 

Grey Owl

Tenderfoot
Nov 26, 2006
93
1
46
Canada
voyagetothebay.cauc.ca
A hunter warming up near a rakovalkea at Kontiolahti in 1911. Rakovalkea is a fire built between two logs and it will burn all night without any supervising.

This fire style is something that is only rarely seen here in Canada. It was demonstrated to me by creating horizontal notches for the cross-members and the creation of a longitudinal notch in both the upper and lower logs. The long notch was filled with tinder, kindling and small wood, the upper log was put in place and the fire started.

Could you provide a description of the process used in Finland in preparing the materials, the size recommendations, and if available, the terms used to describe the different logs. Is there a rough translation of rakovalkea?

Thank you for creating this wonderful series of posts, one that I have come back to months after first reading.
 

Martti

Full Member
Mar 12, 2011
913
10
Finland
Could you provide a description of the process used in Finland in preparing the materials, the size recommendations, and if available, the terms used to describe the different logs.
The fire is made of two large, dry pine logs (called honka or petäjä depending the dialect used). I'm here assuming that the fire is needed for two men. The diameter of the tree used for the fire depends the season; according to a manual printed in the 1930s, 23-25 centimeters or about 9-10 inches in diameter measured chest height from the ground is suitable for winter. The logs are cut about 1½ - 2 meters (5 - 6,5 feet) in length. The logs are carved flat from the other side and two slits called tulkuskolo are made to the lower one on each end to allow the air to flow free between the logs. One then cuts smaller, three to four cm in diameter, pieces of green wood (tulkkunen, pl. tulkkuset) which are put in right angle between the logs but over the slits. These are the birch wood blocks seen in the 1911 photograph.

Logs are piled on top of each other with tulkkuset between. Wood shaves (kiehinen, pl. kiehiset) are then put between the logs and to the slits. These are shaved from pine roots or other place saturated with resin. The shaves are lit and after a while, if the logs have caught fire well, the tulkkuset are removed and the fire continues on for some 10 to 12 hours.

Is there a rough translation of rakovalkea?
As puukko is puukko and sauna is sauna, rakovalkea can be really understood only with knowledge of Finnish. However one can split the compound into two seperate words that have their own meanings, rako and valkea. Rako ("slit"/"slot") is the easier one to understand as it refer to the opening between the logs. Independently valkea usually is used to mean white but in this context it means fire, i.e. the hottest fire possible is white. Roughly translated rakovalkea is thus "slit fire".

Interesting enough there is a single word for camp fire in Finnish language, nuotio, while there is non in the English language. Finnish language is very rich also in almost all aspects of bushcrafting as proved above.
 
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Grey Owl

Tenderfoot
Nov 26, 2006
93
1
46
Canada
voyagetothebay.cauc.ca
Logs are piled on top of each other with tulkkuset between. Wood shaves (kiehinen, pl. kiehiset) are then put between the logs and to the slits. These are shaved from pine roots or other place saturated with resin. The shaves are lit and after a while, if the logs have caught fire well, the tulkkuset are removed and the fire continues on for some 10 to 12 hours.

.
Thank you for your response. This idea of removing the tulkkuset is completely new to me and something that I will have to try in the future. My very small background in languages comes through my Danish grandmother who described Finnish as the most difficult language she ever worked with as a translator.

Sometimes learning the names of things, even in a rough translation, helps to solidify the concept more fully in my mind. With this in mind, are their additional translations for (tulkkunen, pl. tulkkuset) and tulkuskolo? With a little help from google I was able to find the translation of honka as a large straight trunked pine.

The other interesting note was the specific use of shaved pieces of resin containing wood. Here in Canada, until vendors starting selling chunks of "maya sticks" I had never been exposed to the idea of collecting resinous wood. We often would collect lumps of pitch to use a fire-starting aid, and I still cannot bring myself to purchase a little stick when the forests are full of things that burn. But your description is encouraging me to spend some time hunting for this resource in our local boreal forest.
 

Martti

Full Member
Mar 12, 2011
913
10
Finland
Sometimes learning the names of things, even in a rough translation, helps to solidify the concept more fully in my mind. With this in mind, are their additional translations for (tulkkunen, pl. tulkkuset) and tulkuskolo? With a little help from google I was able to find the translation of honka as a large straight trunked pine.
Tulkkunen is the same as tulkku with suffix -nen, meaning affection to something. I would suppose that tulkku is probably a dialect form of another word, tulkka. In general it means plug and is a loan word from Russian втулка. Tulkkunen can be then literally translated as "a place where the plug is". Tulkuskolo is again a compound compromised of tulkku and kolo. The latter one means a hole.

Apart from these you might see word kelo connected to rakovalkea (which is, by the way, also known as rakotuli). Kelo is a standing dead tree, usually pine. When a kelo falls down into a lake or swamp and collects moisture, it is a lieko. Havu (or hako) is a branch of a conifer tree with needles intact (e.g. havuvuode, a bed of conifer branches and needles).

The other interesting note was the specific use of shaved pieces of resin containing wood. Here in Canada, until vendors starting selling chunks of "maya sticks" I had never been exposed to the idea of collecting resinous wood. We often would collect lumps of pitch to use a fire-starting aid, and I still cannot bring myself to purchase a little stick when the forests are full of things that burn. But your description is encouraging me to spend some time hunting for this resource in our local boreal forest.
Resin-filled conifer stumps (fi. tervaskanto) were also used for fire if they were available. I suppose they will light up easily (haven't tried). I also checked couple of late 19th and early 20th century sources on rakovalkea and they naturally had differences between each other. For example some did not remove tulkkuset but changed them to smaller ones at the same point when others removed them.
 

Martti

Full Member
Mar 12, 2011
913
10
Finland
What ahkio or pulkka is for winter, purilaat or travois is for summer. The following drawing by Jean-Baptiste Le Prince from 1765 is the oldest depiction of purilaat that I am aware of. These were mostly drawn by horses but they can be also drawn by a dog or a man. Notice the hat almost identical to the modern day boonie hat, except that the one in the drawing was made out of wool.

I have some specifications for a horse-drawn purilaat which I am willing to supply to any who is interested of building one.

 

Martti

Full Member
Mar 12, 2011
913
10
Finland
According to Eino Nikkilä's great article Rakovalkean eli nuotion historiaa, many also used a fan made of eagle feathers to direct air to the fire. If one needs to boil something, an end of the top log is moved a bit and a kettle is put over the lower log. However most of the time the old-timers made a seperate fire or just roasted meat or fish in a stick.
 
What ahkio or pulkka is for winter, purilaat or travois is for summer. The following drawing by Jean-Baptiste Le Prince from 1765 is the oldest depiction of purilaat that I am aware of. These were mostly drawn by horses but they can be also drawn by a dog or a man. Notice the hat almost identical to the modern day boonie hat, except that the one in the drawing was made out of wool.

I have some specifications for a horse-drawn purilaat which I am willing to supply to any who is interested of building one.
Excellent, thank you.
Keith.
 
Here is a Karelian hunter from the Finnish-Russian frontier drawn by L. Sparre in 1893. He is carrying a flintlock but, as it seems, also a blanket roll? Similar contraptions are know from Finnish church paintings dating to 1470s and were used up to the beginning of the 20th century.
This is a very interesting image, but I can't quite see clearly enough. He is carrying something tied to his gun, you can see the tie & the object on top. Where the lock should be showing there is something else, also possibly tied on.
I see the corner of a knapsack/pack & the shoulder straps, but he appears to have another package in front under the gun & against his chest.
Any ideas anyone?
Keith.
 

Martti

Full Member
Mar 12, 2011
913
10
Finland
I have tried to find literature which would explain how hunters found their way before the advent of compass but without success. There are however several references to findings that pines for example had less and smaller branches on the northern side of the tree and to other similar techniques probably used to find bearings. Polaris is mentioned on the Finnish mythology so it might be also that the star was used in navigation.

Personally I have noticed that ant colonies are situated on the southern side of a tree or a rock. Due of the last ice age in Finland there are also rock markings that usually run from NW to SE.
 

Zingmo

Eardstapa
Jan 4, 2010
1,273
84
S. Staffs
Spam is an international word
At this rate you are going to have to change your username to "Spamdit"!

On a plus note, it has bumped this excellent thread to my attention. Thanks Martti for posting this. I would be really interested to see any examples of the horizontal carrying method for a puuko.

Z
 

mrcharly

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jan 25, 2011
3,246
33
North Yorkshire, UK
I have tried to find literature which would explain how hunters found their way before the advent of compass but without success.
This is a fascinating subject and I think the answer depends very much on the terrain.
Navigation in hilly and wet areas is not all that difficult. Streams always run to rivers, rivers all run in the same direction. Settlements are nearly always on rivers. You just need to ensure you know whether you are walking to upstream or downstream of the settlement. On reaching the river, you then know whether to follow it upstream or downstream. In the sport of orienteering, this is called 'aiming off'.

Navigation in flat or gently sloping countryside is far more difficult. Then you have to rely on sighting recognisable hills or other landmarks that stand out. Common prevailing winds or the sight of the sun can give you vague directions, don't help with navigation to a point.

My wife taught me to steer at sea - don't look at the compass, get on the right heading, then look for something ahead, a patch of lightness in the sky, the angle between the boat and the waves, something like that. She could steer a 60ton sailing barge more smoothly and easily than the muscular men, who were using their compasses and GPS.
 

Martti

Full Member
Mar 12, 2011
913
10
Finland
I would be really interested to see any examples of the horizontal carrying method for a puuko.
Being an archanic method, there are no historical drawings of this method that I am aware of in existance but we have several archeological findings that illustrate it. However one must remember that these particular knives were found from women's graves. Men probably wore more simpler ones.

Puukko from Inari, Lapland.



Puukko from Eura (reconstruction).


Puukko from Perniö (reconstruction).