Iisakki Jarvenpaa

Iisakki Järvenpää is the oldest and most famous of the knife manufacturers in Finland.
It was founded in 1879 by Iisakki Järvenpää. He learnt everything the hard way, by trial and error, because there wasn’t any know-how available, since the whole industry was in its infancy. There weren’t any tools available either, and even if there had been some, he couldn’t have afforded to buy them. And so he crafted all his tools on his own. Still in 2014 those tools are in use at the factory, and during the history they have followed the same practice: made tools by ourselves.
He had tried out and designed all sorts of handles, like we still do in the factory. There are varnished handles, birch bark handles, curly birch handles, even leather ones, etc. All these elements—blade, handle, sheath, belt loop, fittings and finishing—together created hundreds of possible combinations. Hard, uncompromising work and all the trials finally led to increasing appreciation.
However, the real breakthrough was the Knife for Prince Royal (Perintöruhtinaan puukko). The vicar of Alahärmä, F.W. Durchman, asked Iisakki plenty of times to make a knife for Prince Royal, the future Emperor Nicholas II of Russia (Tsar). In 1888 he finally put his best on the line and began to design and make the knife, which the vicar then delivered to His Highness via Governor General Heiden.
Iisakki received an honorary title, Emperor’s Cutler, which was registered in the church record in 1889.
Little by little the knife company grew, until after 20 years of working as a self-employed handicraftsman, Iisakki wanted to make things a bit easier for himself and his family. He promised to be a foreman in a newly founded knife factory in Kauhava. He worked as instructor and foreman for five years, until, upon discovering that all promises of salary and housing had proved to be false, he resigned from the job with the support of his oldest son, Juho Nikolai, and founded his own knife company again on the 15th of February, 1904. The story continues under the name Iisakki Järvenpää Incorporated Company.
This factory still stands in the center of Kauhava and now serves as Iisakki Järvenpää’s historic house museum.

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