Rokka Knives’ Korpisoturi Blends Form, Function And Finesse For Bushcrafters.
For me, the word, “puukko,” conjures images of World War II-era Finnish guerrilla fighters clad in white camouflage, living off the land and battling Soviet invaders. While the Finnish national hero, Simo Hayha, is better known for his incredible record as a sniper, I often imagine him in a mythical “Red Dawn” environment, using his traditional puukko to create sniper hides, shelters and traps as he wages a one-man war against the Red Army. While this image is equal parts conjecture and fantasy, the rugged individualism of a man with a rifle and blade defending what he loves never ceases to bring a smile to my face.
“While the Korpisoturi did well with general construction tasks, that’s not why I bought it. This knife was to accompany me in the woods for hunting, camping, bushcrafting and practicing and teaching survival skills.”
The feel of a well-made puukko in my hand conjures that same smile. Of course, the puukko dates back much further than the Finnish/Soviet winter war of 1939–1940. The general design goes back at least 1,000 years. “Puukko” means “knife” in Finnish and is broadly associated with the indigenous people of the Nordic countries. Many examples of the design have been unearthed among Viking ruins, and the design variations are as numerous as the people who used them.
The traditional puukko design is very simple. It comprises a blade that’s about the width of a palm and incorporates a narrow stick tang that either ends inside the handle or runs its full length. Many of the through-tang puukkos use a metal pommel to which the end of the tang is peened to create a mechanical lock for the handle. The handle, itself, tends to have an oval profile and has been historically made from birch wood, birch bark, antler or bone (although the variations in handle material and construction are endless).
“Because Voutilainen and his partners are big fans of the traditional Finnish puukko design, it was never their goal to radically redesign the knife.”
Puukko blades are most often associated with a Scandi grind, which uses a broad bevel that ends at the apex of the edge. This creates a very fine edge that’s well-suited to carving and woodwork. It’s simple to maintain, because you need only lay the bevel on your sharpening surface and work the edge. It’s one of my favorite grinds to take into the woods.
In reality, a large portion of traditional puukkos used a full flat grind. This grind uses a constant bevel from the spine of the knife to a point almost to the edge. The edge is then sharpened at an increased angle. The full flat grind has the advantage of being more adept at food preparation and has a more robust edge.
Despite being an ancient design, the puukko is still extraordinarily popular today. Craftsmen all over the world are making puukkos in the traditional ways, creating everything from working tools to pieces of functional art.
Many well-known companies are mass-producing modern puukkos using a variety of carbon and stainless steels. Some of these use full-tang construction, although most use a rattail tang that ends inside a synthetic handle. These knives are cheap to produce and very popular.
ENTER ROKKA OF FINLAND
In 2014, Finnish knifesmith Juho Voutilainen decided he wanted to make a better modern puukko than those found on the market. Voutilainen partnered with two friends to create a design that would pay homage to the classic Finnish puukko, be appealing to both professional soldiers and woodsmen, and take advantage of modern materials and construction methods.
By 2018, Voutilainen and his friends had settled on the basic blade profile, and the Rokka Knives, Ltd. company was formed. Discussions among friends about building a modern puukko shifted from just “campfire talk” to a business plan. Voutilainen created a series of prototypes, getting feedback from his peers, soldiers and outdoorsmen at each step along the way. After two years of constant development and refinement, the fifth and final model was accepted for development—the Rokka Korpisoturi.
ANATOMY OF THE KORPISOTURI
Because Voutilainen and his partners are big fans of the traditional Finnish puukko design, it was never their goal to radically redesign the knife. They wanted a puukko that would stay true to its predecessors but have better, more functional ergonomics and a more robust design using modern materials.
“If you’re looking for a bushcraft/hunting/woods knife that’s had every detail well-thought-out and well-executed, look no further. The Rokka Korpisoturi is simply outstanding!”
The Korpisoturi uses a through-tang design. This means that the tang runs the full length of the handle, ending outside the pommel. Many traditional puukkos use a laminated steel, welding a softer steel around a hard core. This creates a strong, resilient blade with good edge-holding characteristics.
However, laminated steels aren’t cheap. Rokka chose to use a solid piece of 80CrV2 for its blades. This high-carbon tool steel has a reputation for being tough (it’s one of my favorite knife steels). Rokka uses a proprietary, induction-based heat-treat method that leaves the edge hardness at about 62 Rockwell and the spine hardness at about 50 Rockwell. This differential heat treat creates an edge that takes—and holds—a fine edge while leaving the rest of the blade springy to absorb abuse and hard use.
“The blade just became an extension of my hand and did everything I asked of it, drawing no attention to itself. To me, this represents the highest praise I can give a knife.”
The Korpisoturi uses a rhombic blade profile that’s typically only seen on custom or semi-custom knives. The 4.13-inch blade tapers from a thinner spine to its thickest point at the beginning of the edge bevel and then back down to the apex of the edge. If looked at from the tip of the knife, the thickest part of the blade is about two-thirds of the way from the edge. The rhombic geometry, along with the 0.2-inch-thick blade stock, allows a two-thirds-height high flat grind with a 19.5-degree edge angle. This grind allows the Korpisoturi to combine many of the best features of a full flat grind with a Scandi grind in a blade that’s extremely strong.
The handle has been carefully developed for comfortable ergonomics in a variety of grips. It’s made from TPE Dryflex that’s molded around the tang. This material is firm, but it feels “soft” to the touch and keeps its grippy properties, even when wet or greasy. Another benefit of the overmolded handle is that it insulates the user from coming into direct contact with cold steel during the winter months.
The tang of the knife protrudes from the pommel and uses an angular, sharpened design. As delivered, the pommel makes an excellent glass breaker.
I discussed this design choice with Voutilainen, who explained that Rokka debated it for some time during the initial design phase. In the end, the company decided to leave it sharp and angular, because it was much easier for the end user to round the sharp edges than it would’ve been for them (that is, the end user) to sharpen them.
After much consideration, Rokka chose renowned Finnish knife manufacturing company Laurin Metalli Oy to make the production blades. This company has been making knives since 1918 and has extensive experience making both traditional and modern puukko designs.
When designing the sheath, Rokka wanted to use modern materials that would be easy to maintain, very durable and provide good retention while still being able to be operated with one hand.
The sheath is molded from Finnish Plasthill Kareline natural-fiber composite. This material was chosen because it’s stable from -22 to +212 degrees (F) and is extremely durable. The mouth of the sheath locks around the handle, providing excellent retention. It’s ambidextrous and uses a channel on each side of the sheath into which a stainless steel threaded bar is inserted. A provided MALICE clip is then screwed into place, allowing the sheath to be carried on a belt or threaded into webbing. I’ll be honest: I was skeptical of this sheath when I first saw it, but extensive use has proven my skepticism to be unfounded. This sheath is outstanding! It has good retention, and it’s easy to sheathe and unsheathe the knife with one hand.
When I first contacted Juho Voutilainen about the possibility of reviewing his knife, he agreed to send me a sample blade. Unfortunately, high demand, limited production runs and COVID-19 created significant delays, so when I saw one for sale this past summer, I bought it.
“The Korpisoturi uses a rhombic blade profile that’s typically only seen on custom or semi-custom knives.”
One of the first tasks for which I used the Korpisoturi was a construction project at my home. The edges of a piece of heavy, pressure-treated plywood needed to be shaved down. This material is tough—and hard on knife edges.
The Korpisoturi had no issues with this task. Its handle was comfortable, even when I applied a lot of pressure, and was stable in my hand. This task put a lot of lateral pressure on the blade, but it never once tried to rotate in my grip. When I was done, its fine edge needed only to be stropped to bring it back to 100 percent.
INTO THE WOODS
While the Korpisoturi did well with general construction tasks, that’s not why I bought it. This knife was to accompany me in the woods for hunting, camping, bushcrafting and practicing and teaching survival skills.
“Many examples of the [puukko] design have been unearthed among Viking ruins, and the design variations are as numerous as the people who used them.”
On one of my first camping trips with the Korpisoturi, I used it to process some venison fillets to cook over the campfire. The two-thirds-height Scandi grind makes the Korpisoturi act almost like a full flat grind when cutting food, but with less of the binding often associated with preparing food with a Scandi-grind knife.
The actual test came when the entire knife and my hands were coated in grease while cutting the meat. While everything was still greasy, I picked up a stick and did a little carving while the meat cooled. The Dryflex handle maintained an impressive amount of its grip while covered in grease and was easy to clean when I was done.
The Korpisoturi was made for carving and woodworking. On my second trip into the woods, I was accompanied by two good friends, both of whom are accomplished woodsmen and are highly proficient with knives. While all of my impressions of the Korpisoturi were favorable, I wanted to get a second and third opinion.
During our outing, the Korpisoturi was used to carve a try stick. The brainchild of bushcraft legend Mors Kochanski, the try stick was used to gauge the competency of his students’ carving skills by creating a variety of notches, holes and dovetails. Not only is this a great test of a person’s abilities, it’s also a good way to test the capabilities of a knife. The fine edge of the Korpisoturi, combined with its ergonomic handle, meant the blade was a pleasure to use, no matter who was using it.
To test the edge-holding ability of the blade, it was used to create kindling by batoning the knife through pieces of wood. It was here that the rhombic geometry shined! By tapering down from the middle of the blade to both the edge and the spine, there’s minimal contact with the wood. This creates less stress and friction on the blade, making it easy to split wood. The knife was purposely pounded through knots in the wood, and it sailed through with no damage or problems.
With kindling made, it was time to use the knife to create tinder. The Korpisoturi was used to carve feathersticks, as well as scrape fatwood and magnesium. The spine of the knife is a sharp 90 degrees. It scraped both fatwood and magnesium with no issues. The spine also does a fantastic job at scraping a ferro rod.
This blade is perfect for making feathersticks! On softwoods such as pine and poplar, it’s nearly effortless. We also used seasoned oak, which was only moderately more difficult.
After the fire was built, the Korpisoturi was cleaned and used to make lunch. The edge felt every bit as sharp as when we started our various field tests.
A few weeks after this outing, I took this knife with me to The Sawmill Training Complex in South Carolina to help me teach some modern survival classes for training company Fieldcraft Survival. I used the knife extensively throughout the weekend to build shelters, carve spears, make traps, build fires and much more.
It performed flawlessly and, because I was involved with teaching those skills, I forgot the knife was there. The blade just became an extension of my hand and did everything I asked of it, drawing no attention to itself. To me, this represents the highest praise I can give a knife.
If you’re looking for a bushcraft/hunting/woods knife that’s had every detail well-thought-out and well-executed, look no further. The Rokka Korpisoturi is simply outstanding!
• Overall length: 9.02 inches
• Blade length: 4.13 inches
• Blade thickness: 0.2 inch
• Blade steel: 80CrV2 carbon steel
• Blade style: Clip point
• Blade grind: Rhombic Scandi
• Blade hardness: HRC 63
• Handle material: TPE Dryflex
• Sheath: Kareline natural composite
• Weight: 4.48 ounces
• Country of origin: Finland
Fieldcraft Survival Training Group
Possessing the best outdoor/bushcraft knife won’t magically make you adept at using it to its fullest capabilities. As with everything else in life, acquiring and maintaining skill sets require training. And, while it’s possible to learn a great deal from books and the Internet, there’s no substitute for personal, hands-on learning with a skilled instructor.
Fieldcraft Survival (in Heber City, Utah) is a family-oriented, U.S.-based, veteran-owned company dedicated to training citizens to be better prepared for the unique challenges that face us all each and every day. Fieldcraft Survival offers courses in firearms training, hand-to-hand combatives, mobility, medicine and wilderness survival, to name just a few. Its training curriculum is incredibly diverse and heavily based in reality and experience.
Fieldcraft Survival offers classes all around the country. Its cadre of instructors includes former Special Forces operators, law enforcement professionals, high-level competitive shooters, medical doctors and wilderness survival experts.
Heading up its Survival Training division is Kevin Estela, who’s well-known to American Survival Guide readers, having contributed many articles to it over the years. His credentials include being the lead instructor for the Wilderness Learning Center, founding and running the Estela Wilderness Education school, authoring the best-selling survival manual, 101 Skills You Need to Survive in the Woods, and other related accomplishments.
As I write this, Fieldcraft Survival is offering a Modern Predator class that’s focused on both traditional and alternative methods of game procurement, along with its Basic Survival Skills class, in which students are immersed in the psychology of survival, as well as hands-on skill development.
Estela describes his classes as “trying to drink from a fire hose.” Bring a pen, a notebook, your knife and a thirst for knowledge, and get prepared to level-up your survival skills!
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the April, 2021 print issue of American Survival Guide.