Many knife collectors in the U.S. have a tendency to lump all Scandinavian knives together in the generic category of “puukkos.” Strictly speaking, puukko sheath knives are only from Finland or a few areas of Sweden settled by ethnic Finns. While they may look similar to Finnish blades, the traditional knives of Norway and Sweden have other names and uses in their own native lands. But there is one knife that is native to all three countries, the Saami (Lapp) Leuku. Being nomadic reindeer herders, their historic homeland once included parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland, so it is common to find items from their culture in any of these places.

Shapes & Uses

Depending on their intended use, leukus come in a variety of sizes and it isn’t uncommon to find a working Saami carrying both large and small knives. All normally offer a wide, straight backed blade with an oval shaped handle that tapers to the bolster and flares to a broad flat area on the pommel. This “mushroom” butt allows the knife to be pounded with the flat of the hand. Along with basic butchering chores, the larger knives serve as light hatchets and machetes while cutting shelter poles and building fires in the near-Arctic weather encountered in that part of the world. With that use in mind it is probably not surprising that the Norwegian version of the National Guard are said to favor the leuku for their own wilderness field maneuvers.

Given these knives are all private purchase items by individual soldiers, I assume there is a certain amount of variation in the styles carried, but collectors have long tended to associate one particular pattern with the Norwegian Guard. Like many purely work knives, the standard leuku lacks a fingerguard, something many would find a handicap on a knife destined for military use. The military version features a heavy brass, free-swinging guard that actually folds flat when the knife is slid into the traditional deep pouch sheath. The end result is a knife that carries as easily as a standard leuku but offers the extra margin of safety needed for use under more extreme combat conditions.

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