Review: Martiini Arctic Circle

Martiini is another respected Scandinavian manufacturer, with a long tradition of making quality blades in Finland since 1928. Here in the States, they are more known for their excellent filleting knives sold under the Rapala brand, but they also make superb folders as well as traditional puukkos, such as the Arctic Circle. It has a plain design, but at a fairly low cost of $35, it is most definitely a worthy competitor to the higher-end/expensive puukkos.

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From Martiini’s company website: “Marttiini’s location at the Arctic Circle was the inspiration for this knife. The light coloured sheath and handle are inspired by our bright summer nights and the dark winter months are represented by the dark blade. Lapland is indeed a land of contrasts.”

The Arctic Circle is a carbon steel blade at 9 cm long (3.5 inches) with a 2.5mm (.098 inches) spine. The handle is made from birch with a light coat of beeswax and has a brass bolster-ring – I find it very comfortable to hold. Like all puukkos, the Arctic Circle has a stick tang, though it is a partial, hidden tang and likely extends at least halfway through the handle. I have not encountered any problems with it, and I’ve owned this knife for well over a year. The blade is a Scandinavian grind, though it appears to have a secondary micro-bevel. The advantage of this is that the edge will last longer and not chip as easily as a “true” Scandi grind. The blade’s edge geometry makes it ideal for slicing, superior to that of the Companion Heavy Duty, even though it is slightly shorter. This is likely because the grind comes up farther on the blade.

Martiini knives leave the factory hair-popping sharp, and they take and hold an edge beautifully. I’m not entirely certain, but I have heard that the steel is about as hard as that of carbon Moras, around 59 Rc. The blade has a protective, blackish patina, and on one side is the engraving “J. Martiini Finland”. Its sheath is a traditional, leather fish-tail design with a twisted dangler. Embossed on the leather are the company logo and an image of Finland showing the site of the Martiini manufacturing facility. Inside the bottom of the sheath is what appears to be a plastic insert casing molded to the leather, forming an inner layer of safety. All Martiini knives have a three-year guarantee, and most are semi-custom in that you can have personal engravings etched into the metal (up to 25 characters) by order direct to the company.

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The Arctic Circle whizzed through the first carving test, slicing curls off pine and Sugar Maple logs. The higher grind and thinner blade made this quick and easy.

With batoning, I decided to opt out of using Sugar Maple, and instead use a halved pine log, splitting it down to quarters for the test.

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The reason is that pine splits easier than most hardwoods, and this knife isn’t meant withstand the stress of moderate batoning. It will be adequate in a pinch, but the blade will get stuck because of its thinner profile. Thumb-sized pieces are OK, but I wouldn’t go any larger than that. That said, the Arctic Circle made it through the halved pine without much difficulty.

When it came to feathersticks, I found that the higher Scandi grind made the job almost effortless. The shavings were also finer than what I could achieve with the Companion Heavy Duty.

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In the photo, I included wider curls from the first task in preparation of the firesteel test later on.

Truncating also produced pleasing results. The thinner blade of the Arctic Circle sailed through the pine wood in three blows.

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On the left you can see the mark left by the Companion for comparison.

The back of the knife was able to strike sparks off my firesteel very well, and the shavings and curls ignited.

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Something a bit interesting with this design is the slight concave shaping on the spine towards the point. Apparently, Martiini added this unique feature for the purpose of having more control when striking a firesteel. Whereas most people use the middle portion of a knife’s spine, using the part close to the tip gives you better accuracy without knocking your tinder around.

For the final test, I used a knee-lever grip to see how much bite the Arctic Circle had on the pine and Sugar Maple.

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Again, the blade cut through with little difficulty, seemingly better than the Companion.

I must say, this is one heck of a knife. At first glance, you might not think it would be able to keep up with larger blades, but clearly this isn’t the case – the results speak for themselves. It surpasses the Companion Heavy Duty in sheer slicing ability and proved to be a superior carver. However, this is not a knife I would constantly use for batoning…that’s the one area it lacks in. Then again, puukkos are slashers, not beaters. I therefore advise that any splitting should be done occasionally with pieces no thicker than thumb-size. Use the proper tool for the heavy jobs ;) .

The Martiini Arctic Circle could be considered an exceptional “step-up” from the similar Mora Classic 1, and for a low-cost, traditional puukko, you cannot go wrong with it. It has become my main blade, and I wear it as a neck knife. Martiini also makes other inexpensive puukkos, such as the Lynx Lumberjack, Black Lumberjack, and Lynx 129.

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