Before presenting the Spyderco Nilakka, a small note on exactly what a Puukko is, to better understand the knife, is in order. The Puukko is essentially a streamlined traditional Finnish knife, with a small blade that is normally around 90-120mm long, the same as the owner’s palm width, with a single curving cutting edge and a flat spine, and that is usually carried on the owner’s belt in a sheath. Traditionally, the Puukko has a Birch handle, a metal bolster (often Brass) and no finger guard, since it is to be used mostly for cutting and carving.
This small knife’s reputation has, over centuries, spread across all Nordic countries, to become an everyday tool used for everything from hunting, fishing, carving wood and cooking.
As stated, the Puukko is a fixed blade design; a folding version of this Finnish knife is rare, and normally turning it into a folder carries many limits, involving both practical and aesthetics compromises.
The Spyderco Nilakka is a folding version of the Puukko, and in our humble opinion, one of the most successful design attempts at a folding Puukko as well. It was designed by Pekka Tuominen, a Finnish master blade smith living in Northern-Savo, Keitele, Finland. Tuominen has served the Finnish military in the Middle-East and Balkan areas and is presently one of seven officially recognized master blade smiths in Finland; the Ministry of Education of Finland (FNBE) controls all official professions, and grants licenses following a very strict qualification exam. Tuominen also has considerable experience in designing folding knives, and has manufactured many custom Puukko folders and prototypes in collaboration with Spyderco before reaching the mature product that has been put in production and that is featured in this review.
We can only describe the first impression we felt handling the Nilakka for the first time as the same we’d experience handling a fine, custom built, hand crafted and finished product. Every corner built in the handle’s steel is perfectly squared, with an almost imperceptible chamfering to remove the sharpness and hence discomfort in the hand, without feeling dull; every surface is skillfully and finely brush finished. The G10 scale edges mate seamlessly with the stainless steel liners, giving a sense of attention to detail and fitting accuracy; the blade, expertly honed to the sharpness of a razor, is assembled with such care as to maintain 1/128” centering between the liners when closed.
The handle features a beveled nook machined on both the obverse scale and liner that allows access to Spyderco’s trademark operating hole on the blade; when folded, the blade itself is completely contained within the handle’s profile. Except for the scales, machined out of stock G10 material, the handle is totally built using machined stainless steel; the full length liners are spaced by a substantial block of the same material. On the butt of the handle, the clip is secured using two screws that are fastened to the spacer. The knife is meant to be carried right-side, tip-up carry deep in the pocket.
Opening the blade is a delight. With a brisk flick of the thumb, the blade effortlessly glides open in an instant; once opened, the blade is blocked by a Walker LinerLock system, and closing the blade one handed is also intuitive and relatively easy. The texturing of the machined scales, obtained by bead blasting the G10 fibrous material, allow for a superior grip even with wet hands.
The scales are machined to closely follow the trademark and extremely ergonomic “coffin” shaped cross sectional pattern of the traditional Puukko. The blade is build grinding premium CPM S30V stainless steel, a hardened sintered (powder) steel developed by Crucible Materials Corporation that uses Carbon, Chromium, Vanadium and Molybdenum in its composition; CPM S30V is easily machined, sharpened and maintains the edge longer .
We are well aware that our review so far sounds overly praising. The point is, the Nilakka is a mass manufactured, factory made product, which can be purchased for a very affordable price. We just did not expect such a product to feature hand workmanship and finishing, with a quality level comparable to products normally in a much more expensive price class.
There are a couple details that we feel may have improved the Nilakka; the color and finish of the G10 scales visually remind us of cheap plastic, although the impression disappears the moment we heft the knife in our hand. The availability of a Premium version featuring, i.e., Ironwood scales, would have been nice, and maybe less aggressive on the hand. The second gripe we have with this tool is actually what makes the Nilakka so sexy: we feel that the flat, full zero Scandi grind makes the blade way too delicate, even with the 30° micro bevel on the edge introduced in the latest models (that is virtually undetectable, unless light is shined on the edge). It must be kept in mind, however, that the Nilakka is a slicing tool, not meant to take heavy abuse, sidewise scraping, or “prying” actions.
In conclusion, we personally feel these few little imperfections only manage to make the Nilakka even more appealing, just like the beauty mark on the face of a gorgeous woman.