Pentti Kaartinen Arki-Tommi Puukko Review

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Reno Lewis

Jul 27, 2012
British Columbia, Canada
Hi everyone! Been a while since I was last active here (spent a few years on a wilderness rescue team and my passion for bushcraft kinda faded for a while). That said, I figure this might be something of interest, so I hope you enjoy!

I did this review in the style of NordiskaKnivar blog (with permission) so it might be more or less comparable with any of the reviews there.

Pentti Kaartinen Arki-Tommi (Everyday Tommi).


Despite days of searching, I couldn't seem to find much information about Pentti Kaartinen online save for a few old forum entries praising his work and some mentions in Finnish language wiki pages and news articles. His own website is fairly dated, very simple, and only lists his phone number as contact, presumably only in spoken Finnish. He is, however, mentioned in every book on the subject I own.

Below are two excerpts from Lester C. Ristinen's book The Collectable Knives of Finland (which I personally recommend to anyone interested in the subject).

"There are many master of the Tommi-puukko in East Central Finland. Knife collector Jorma Saarinen noted at least 26 knifemakers in the area and there are many more such as J. Vayrynen, Mauri Heikkinen and Pentti Kaartinen. Not only do Mauri Heikkinen and Kaartinen make top of the line Tommi Puukkos, they also deviate into modern day Tommi versions with exotic woods to complement great sallow root burl handles and custom sheath that are very pleasing to the eye of a connoisseur."
"...Award winners have been Antti Kemppainen and Pentti Kaartinen."

The following quotes are selected excerpts from a Finnish Living History Wiki page by the name 'Aineeton Kulttuuriperintö', translated into English. A link to this page is here:

"In 2002, the traditional Tommi knife manufactured by Pentti Kaartinen from Hyrynsalmi represented a Finnish knife and craftsmanship at an international design fair in Tokyo."
"When it was noticed that Tommi's idea of the shape, quality and nomenclature of the knife began to go wild, the Tommi Knife Tradition Association established a standardization committee formed of experts. On her behalf, Pentti Kaartinen made the model Tommit, which is on display in the Tommi-knife exhibition at Hyrynsalmi Municipality."

"Tommi knives have won numerous Finnish championships and first prizes in other Nordic countries. In 2002, the Tommi knife represented Finnish handicrafts at the international design fair in Tokyo. Tommi, made by Pentti Kaartinen, a blacksmith from Hyrynsalmi, has been on display alongside the works of Alvar Aalto at this fair. My Tommi knife has been donated to President Urho Kekkonen, President Mauno Koivisto and President Sauli Niinistö, among others, as well as to several foreign statesmen. President Kekkonen also used to give Tom as a gift on his travels."

Below is a short excerpt from a document from the Suomen Puukkoseura, mentioning Kaartinen's place as a bladesmithing instructor at the Hyrynsalmi College. Mentions of Kaartinen are between pages 35 and 37. Link:

"New blacksmiths are born, for Pentti Kaartinen holds Tommi's course at Hyrynsalmi Citizens' College, which has students also flickered with prize places in the Finnish Championships in Fiskars."

Here is a link to a news article directly interviewing Pentti Kaartinen:
A translated excerpt from the above link reads:

" "Tommi's standard defines many dimensions. They are derived from old Toms, whose model has been modified by the use that has been going on for generations," says Pentti Kaartinen, a blacksmith living in Letuskylä, Hyrynsalmi.
Kaartinen is not a relative of blacksmiths, but the man is one of Tommi's best creators. The matter has been tested many times in competitions as well.
"The Finnish championship has come five times. I can't send my knives to the competition anymore, that thing has already been seen," Kaartinen laughs. "

By all accounts, the man seems to be a rather omnipresent name in the Hyrynsalmi knife making tradition, and seems to be largely praised for his work with some of his pieces being on display at the Hyrynsalmi museum.

Recently, a few pieces of his became available on Lamnia, and I decided to purchase one. Some years ago I wasn't a big fan of Tommi puukkos, but I've found myself becoming more and more fond of them lately, quickly becoming one of my favorite models.

A few days after placing my order, the knife arrived to me in Canada from Lamnia in Finland.

Length - 96mm
Width - 19mm
Thickness - 3,2mm at spine; 3,9mm at bevel junction at bolster, 2.5mm at bevel junction at tip.
Tang - 3,5x3,5mm at peening, roughly 12mm wide at bolster
Steel - Böhler K510 Silversteel
Bevels - Flat
Edge angle -17°
HRC - Unknown, likely 61-62 based on in use tests.

Length - 113 from bolster to peening, wood is 101mm.
Width - 27,5mm max.
Thickness - 20mm max.

Knife - 85 g
With sheath - 145 g

The knife is a classic Tommi, with a hammer and anvil forged Böhler K510 Silversteel blade, curly birch handle with sand cast pommel, with single birch bark spacers between the wood and brass.

The blade is a rhomboid profile with a distal taper, flat ground 17° bevels to zero, save for the final stropped edge.

The handle is made of curly birch with a 2,8mm thick brass bolster, and a sand cast brass pommel which also appears to be filed to shape. The handle was finished to a fine satin and seemed to be buffed with a wax. It has a tear drop section, and despite not being particularly thick, seems to fit well in the hand, and should index nicely.

The sheath is also the classic black and red backsewn Tommi sheath, made out of 3mm thick Veggie tan leather. It has a box style lesta, the front of which is made out of thin ply to help prevent breakage, and the back carved from Alder with a beveled entrance.
The sheath is saddle stitched with synthetic thread, and the end of the stitching is properly back stitched, locked off and melted. The sheath has a perfect, snappy fit without being too tight. The leather was nicely dyed, and left unfinished for the user to treat as they like. I finished the sheath with a warm application of Obenauf's LP.

First impressions were good. The bolsters had a few rogue scratches, and the wood of the handle nearest the pommel had shrunk slightly either during storage or transport (0.3mm + or -). The satin finish on the blade is a little uneven, and shows evidence of having been sanded by hand, and then buffed. The grinds are symmetrical from side to side, though the tip is ground slightly off center. This is something I've seen even from master smiths, and is easily corrected with sharpening going forward, and does not affect use. The edge itself would easily shave out of the box, with no irregularities.

I decided to fix the shrunken wood, and took the time to also polish the oxidization off of the bolsters and pommel. I decided to leave the file marks on the pommel, as I actually like them. It reminds me that it's a hand made item, and doesn't affect function at all. I actually kind of like the fact that it's a sand cast and filed to shape pommel, rather than a machined pommel.

After that, I soaked the handle in my usual mix of mineral spirits (orange solvent would be better), tung oil and bees wax at about 65 degrees Celsius, until the bubbles stopped rising. This is a treatment I've used on most of my wooden handles, and has held up exceedingly well in the extremely dry summers, and extremely wet fall/winter here on Vancouver Island.

My initial impressions of the knife are that of an old school hand made knife. Solid, made to use, and a certain rugged beauty. The handle is a stereotypical, thin/narrow Tommi handle, but is a well done tear drop profile, which should index very well in the hand. The handle is also slightly longer than other Tommi's I've owned, which should hopefully make it more comfortable in a reverse or chest lever grip where the pommel would otherwise dig into the palm.












Reno Lewis

Jul 27, 2012
British Columbia, Canada
In use

As mentioned previously, the edge out of the box would easily shave, but I stropped it a bit before beginning my tests. 10 passes on BRKT black, 10 passes on FlexCut Gold. The edge would tree top and whittle hair, with no irregularities.

Please keep in mind my whittling skills are a little rusty, having just picked it back up after a few years break, using my knives for more utilitarian tasks.

Lets start with a silver birch branch spikkentroll. This wood has been seasoned for 8 years. Roughing and refining the hat with powerful stock removing cuts was very easy and natural feeling, with very good bite. Similarly, when making the stop cut for the brow with an offhand thumb assist, the knife bit deeply with ease. The notch of the hat was completed with the same ease.
Due to the intensity of the bite, I decided to free the spikkentroll from the branch with the knife, rather than a saw as I normally would. This task was also very easy with how deep this knife bites.

After the work, the edge was still pristine with only some minimal loss to the extremely fine edge, it would still rough shave. 5 passes Gold, back to original sharpness, no damage.




Next up was a new one to me, a simple wizard's face. Having never carved this before, I jumped right in and made a few mistakes.
Zero noticeable resistance making the front facets, in fact I took a little bit too much off on my first cuts. Carving the V notches using stop cuts and under cuts was easy, and the finesse of the tip came into play here. Despite a slightly more pronounced belly, I found no issue in making the under cuts defining the nose profile and lips/mustache. I ended up cutting a little bit too deep at the nose, making a complete mess of it, but that's purely my own fault, not that of the knife.

At the end of this work, I found no issues with the edge and no loss of bite, and only very minimal loss of the extremely fine shaving edge. 5 passes Gold, back to the original sharpness, no damage.



I decided to make this little wizard face into a stake, to plant somewhere in the garden, and my first pointing cut on this seasoned Silver Birch branch surprised me with how aggressively it bit. This is a thumb size branch, and with almost no effort, it took nearly half the branch in one cut.

While I've carved spoons, a bowl or two, axe handles, tent stakes, and even full three dimensional spatulas for use in my own home kitchen, this type of spatula was a new one to me.
I split a fairly flat blank of seasoned Big Leaf Maple, which is about as hard as Silver Birch but a little more fibrous, and drew in roughly what I wanted to carve with a pencil. Short of cutting off the knot at the end of the handle with a saw, all of the stock removal was done with the puukko. While cutting against the grain of this wood, I could certainly feel the resistance of the wood working against me. Despite this, the knife always managed to power through, and kept its bite throughout the work, leaving a glossy finish whether along or against the grain.

After the rough stock removal was done, I noticed a slight loss of bite. 5 passes Gold, back to shaving, no damage.

After the rough stock removal, I worked from both ends, towards the middle of the handle to prevent splitting. Carving slowly and carefully on both the outside and inside curves, putting considerable torquing and side pressure on the thin edge.
It was tedious work, requiring a multitude of different grips. All the while, I realized I hadn't thought about the handle once while working with it. It just fit into any role, be it heavy stock removal or fine carving, and sat comfortably and securely in any grip I needed without discomfort or fatigue.
I realized only after I had the spatula mostly finished that I made the inner curve much too steep, and made the spreader portion a fair bit too wide. I'll be sure to correct this the next time I make one of these, but despite that, it made for a very good test of this knife.

After finishing this work, there was only minimal loss of bite, and it would no longer shave, but still left a glossy finish. 10 passes Gold, back to original shaving edge with no damage.





Despite some minor aesthetic flaws out of the box (which were easily corrected), this puukko has proven to be an absolute workhorse of an allrounder, excelling at deep, planing cuts, without losing too much finesse. The edge held up outstandingly well, and in spite of all of the torquing, scraping cuts I made, the edge suffered zero damage, and easily stropped back to its original hair whittling edge. Having used K510 previously, the heat treat on this blade seems very well done.

Having had to use a number of different grips, this handle has proven to be excellent. With a tear drop profile and decent palm swell, it indexed beautifully and not once did it twist in the hand or cause me to readjust my grip due to discomfort.

Ultimately, Pentti Kaartinen's Arki-Tommi has quickly risen to among my favorites, and I'm glad I own it. I believe it is a perfect contender for an everyday puukko, as the name implies, and also carries with it a certain handmade charm that I personally appreciate.
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