by Leon Pantenburg
I’m a sucker for old time knife designs, especially when they are re-created with modern materials. IMO, this makes for a time-tested, utility design that will do the job.
I particularly like the Scandinavian Puukko design, so that’s why I got a Kellam Hawk.
The Kellam Hawk
The puukko is a Finnish knife, and the name lends itself to the Finnish word “puukotta,” which means “to stab/knife.” The prefix, “puu” means “wood” in Finnish. The design of the puukko is attributed to the indigenous Sami people, who created several knives to use for day to day tasks; the puukko was the smaller option, used to skin fish or animals.
“Although historical records vary, the puukko dates back about 1000 years. Both men and women carried (and carry) puukkos, although the sizes change depending on the person, as the puukko handle is meant to fit the hand size of the user. (From: EDC History: Pukko – A simple knife with a rich history.)
The old design is getting some attention from modern knifemakers. I recently reviewed the Battle Horse Knives Feather Stick, another knife with the Puukko design, and it worked out really well.
Here’s the Hawk’s specs:
Grind: Convex is my all-time, go-to favorite grind, but scandi is a close second or third. For a beginner, it is the easiest to learn to sharpen on. The bevel is sharpening guide – all you do is lay it flat on a whetstone and hone away.
The scandi is also a great woodworking grind, and a practical choice for someone looking for a bushcraft knife.
The Hawk handle fits my large hands very well.
Handle: I have big hands – size large gloves – and many otherwise excellent knives don’t work for me because the handle is too short. I don’t like two or three finger grips. IMO, they don’t give a secure grip for hard work, and I’m concerned they might twist in my hand.
The 4.5-inch handle fits my hand really, really well. It is made of dyed curly birch, a common wood in Russia and Scandinavia, with nice figure. The wood makes a handle that doesn’t transfer heat or cold. This is a consideration for a knife that will be used in Finland’s frigid winter.
The diameter is large, which gives me a good, solid grip. When wet or slimy from cleaning fish, or bloody from butchering, the handle seems to get “grippier.”
A comfortable, safe handle is a really important aspect of a user knife. Pretty doesn’t cut it (pun intended) when there are lengthy cutting tasks to be done.
Steel: The high carbon steel holds a wicked edge. I don’t know exactly what it is, but the Hawk’s steel held up nicely to normal cutting and bushcraft tasks.
Traditionally, Blade materials can vary from the three-layer approach, which combines strong and flexible steels, to composite designs. Most are made with Finnish steel, Ovako 100Cr6, which is equivalent to U.S 52100 bearing steel, according to Nordic knife blog Nordiska Knivar.
Spine: I would like the spine to be ground at a 90-degree angle, like an ice skate, so it could be used for processing tinder or scraping a ferro rod. It isn’t. But a few passes on a grinder could fix that.
Sheath: The dangler-style, form-fitted leather sheath holds the knife securely. Almost too securely. It requires a slight twist to loosen the Hawk. It’s a consideration – the knife won’t fall out, but it’s a two-hand job to remove it. This might be a deal-breaker for some users.
I find this annoying, but you can get used to the tight sheath.
Full tang construction with a brass bolster. I prefer a full tang on any rigid blade knife, even though I’ve never needed that extra strength. In fact, one of my favorite user knives, the Mora 840 Companion, has a plastic handle and a three-quarter tang.
For the strongest knife available, though, get a full tang.
Hand made in Finland.
The Hawk is a user knife, able to handle a variety of tasks.
In actual use, the Hawk lives up to the user reputation of the Puukko knives. It went along on Fremont District’s Webelos Woods, a Boy Scout outing, recently. It was used to whittle sticks and do the assorted tasks associated with camping.
On the way home, on an isolated section of highway, I saw a fast-moving car hit a deer up ahead of me. The front end of the vehicle was demolished, and the hood popped. The air bag deployed and the radiator was steaming.
After checking out the driver and passenger for injuries, (they were shaken, but fine) the driver and I followed the injured buck. It had dragged itself across the road and was severely injured.
It was still alive, with two broken legs, probable internal injuries and it was in agonizing pain. We called 911. Rather than wait a possible half-hour for the Oregon State Police to arrive, we ended the deer’s suffering with the only tool available – the Kellam Hawk.
The knife worked quickly and humanely for the sad, but necessary task.
That’s the mark of a good knife. It gets the job done.
Do you need a Hawk?
Everybody needs a good knife. The Hawk is based on a proven design, with quality materials. The Hawk has proven to be a very useful tool, and one that can be used in a variety of situations, from slicing a bagel at work, to hunting and fishing.
The knife retails for $74.95, and that’s a steal for a handmade knife. If you’re looking for a good-looking user, that you can work hard and pass down to your grandchildren, the Hawk is a really good choice.