Friday, November 23, 2012

UROPA - Puukko - Knife from Voyri, Sheath and Belt 3.5.1976

Europa CEPT postage stamp. The theme of the year 1976 was Handicrafts. A puukko is a small traditional Finnish belt-knife with a single curving cutting edge and a flat back.

Men's and women's puukkos do not significantly differ. The only difference is that women's puukkos are often shorter, may have decorated sheaths, and are better suited for working with foodstuffs. Both boy and girl Scouts consider the puukko their scouting symbol as well as a handy tool. Getting a good puukko as a gift or present is considered a great honour in Finland.

In the Nordic countries, the puukko is an "everyday" knife that is used for everything from hunting, fishing, and garden work to opening boxes in the warehouse. Many traditional puukkos are nowadays manufactured in industrial or near-industrial scale by many companies, Marttiini and Iisakki Järvenpää Oy being the most notable. Bearing of sharp objects which could be used as weapons was banned in Finland in 1977. Since then, the puukko has lost its visibility in public places and been restricted to household work, hunting and fishing. In many industries the Mora knife which has a much cheaper construction is in use. The mora knife's handle is typically plastic, and the blade is either stainless steel or of laminated construction; harder steel which forms the edge is clad in softer steel. In Finnish, these knives also are usually referred to as puukko.

In Finland carrying a blade in public spaces without a permit or job related reason is prohibited. Currently, the only urban areas where they can be seen carried openly are garrisons. The puukko is the only civilian item which can be openly worn as a part of a soldier's combat gear without breaching Finnish Army regulations, and most conscripts bring their own puukkos with them into military service. It is a custom of Finnish conscripts, non-commissioned officers, and officer cadets to carry a decorated and engraved commemorative puukko of their year course as a part of their uniform, not unlike a commemorative dagger. This is rationalized as the carrying of a handy tool, but it also doubles as a symbolic sidearm. Puukkos proved to be good close combat weapons in the Winter War and Continuation War. The bayonet of the Rk-62 assault rifle has been designed to also function as a puukko, as was the rare bayonet for the M/39 Mosin-Nagant. Openly carrying a puukko, while technically illegal is not vigorously enforced. Construction workers often go to diners with a puukko hanging from their coveralls. and in the rural and in the Northern parts of the land it is not uncommon to go shopping in the village stores wearing hunting clothes that includes a puukko.

In Finland, receiving a puukko as a gift is considered an honor. The idea behind this is the presenter gives the recipient a tool which is essential for both woodworking, preparing food and as a sidearm, and that the presenter takes into account the well-being of the recipient. I hope I get one some day.

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