Marttiini – Not a Drink

As found Marttiini Explorer, fixed blade
Marttiini Explorer: It said so on the blade

There is a universe of quality knives that are largely unknown to the American buying public.  One such is the Marttiini brand.  So when I saw the brown leather sheath stamped ‘Marttiini’ among the rest, I knew what to grab.  Their motto is “Created by Artic Evolution” and in that harsh unforgiving environment your knife may be the difference between surviving or dying.  Pick your tools wisely young Jedi.  Marttiini knives are still manufactured at the Arctic Circle.

As found, Marttiini, Explorer
The sheath, especial the closing flap is a little chewed up

The Marttiini Story

Janne Marttiini was born on May 2nd, 1893 in the small village of Kierinki.  It is a harsh environment of short summers and long, cold winters on mountain ranges older than life. In 1928 Janne founded J. Marttiini’s Knife Factory Ltd. on Vartiokatu Street in Rovaniemi.  With the knife user in mind, he began to create beautiful, high quality knives to exceed the harshest conditions imaginable.

He sold his knives throughout the region and their sales created prosperity and opportunity.  As demand for his knives grew Janne hired more and more people and the number of employees grew steadily.  There was worldwide demand for high quality knives, and Marttiini exports grew driven by their quality.

Janne’s son, Toivo Marttiini, led the company in the 60s. Toivo’s younger brother, Lauri Marttiini, took the reins of leadership in 1975.  In 2001 Mrs. Päivi Ohvo, was appointed to the office of CEO.  In 2005, Marttiini’s family sold the entire capital stock of Marttiini Ltd. to Rapala VMC Corporation.  And throughout that time quality knives rolled off the production lines and most of us are unaware of it.

My Marttiini

So what knife did I have?  The blade is vibro etched by hand with INOX – Explorer Knife – Made by Marttiini – Finland.  I could find images, but not much more.  Fortunately the internet came to my rescue.

Hanna Helin at Marttiini answered my e-mail and provided the information I was searching for.  Thanks Hanna!

The Explorer was a line of knives with different blade lengths, 7, 9.5 and 11.5 centimeters.  That would be about 2.75, 3.7 and 4.3 inches long.  The handle is rosewood.  The blade is simply identified as a stainless chrome steel.  The knives were manufactured from the 1980s to their demise in 1996.  Mine is the smallest blade, 2.75 inches with a rosewood handle.

All stainless steel contains chromium.  Chromium forms a semi-flexible, transparent oxide film that prevents rusting.  Excess chromium reacts with the carbon in steel to form very hard and very tiny chromium carbides.  These carbides, despite their name are closer to ceramics in structure and give steel many of its go-to properties.

The knife and its sheath have seen some rough handling.  I didn’t want to give the knife a complete make-over.  While it is a popular descriptive phrase and it makes me laugh, both the knife and sheath have a patina of use I wanted.

The leather sheath needed a cleaning so a mild hand soap and terry cloth rag cleaned the leather and I let it air dry.  I followed it by a polishing with a brown wax polish and buffed the leather.  It still has the stains and burn marks but it looks better. 

Marttiini Explorer, Explorer with rosewood handle, leather sheath.
I like the pressed designs in the leather.  The sheath has a pressed composited slipped down in the blade area to keep the edge from cutting through and biting you.

I had previously purchased a sharpening gauge to determine the sharpening angle of blades and put it to work.  

And it opens beer bottles too!!
The best match, I found, was at 20 degrees.  I found an open spot on the garage work bench and set up my Ken Onion Work Sharp Sharpener.  So what grit belt should I use?

After an initial run on a worn out medium grit belt I selected three grades, coarse, medium and fine.  Then I got out my secret sharpening weapon: a black magic marker.

belts of grit. Work Sharp
You can see the Explorer on newspaper next to my secret weapon, the black magic marker 

If you don’t use one I recommend it.  Just color the edge you’re sharpening and each pass will tell you if you are accomplishing what you want.  Clean the residue off the blade with a little shop acetone or nail polish remover.

It took about six passes with the coarse before I had a wire edge on one side of the knife and six on the other to remove it and create a new one.  By following with the medium and fine I walked the edge over to the sharpness I wanted.  I stropped with several sheets of newspaper on a flat surface and it was sharp!

Yes, the polished sheath does still show the patina of wear and use.  I don’t know, I find it strangely honest and what I want in any knife is honesty.

I thought about using some 1000 grit wet-dry paper to knock down the rosewood handle finish and reseal with linseed oil, but I elected to stay, at least for the time being, with the original finish on the grip.

Condor knife, Marttiini Condor
The Marttiini Bowie Condor nested deep in its sheath

Unfortunately this knife isn’t available, but others are.  I like their Bowie Condor, another totally icey Marttiini knife.  The black leather sheath has a plastic liner to reduce stab through and protect you if you fall in the field.  The knife sits deep in the sheath preventing accidental pull-out by clothing or grabby summer weeds.  The belt loop sports what I think is a button slit, but I have never been able to confirm it.  I suspect a button sewn just behind your hip, so the belt passes over it would secure your knife in the same place.  The button holds the knife in the same place and the belt secures it to you.  Then when you are searching for the knife under your arctic parka or under multiple layers of wool, fleece and water-proofed canvas you know exactly where the knife is.

Marttiini condor basic
I’ve gotten some very nice reports from users in the field for ease of handling and sharpness combined with edge retention.

In any case I really like my Marttiini and recommend it.