Wood working11.10.2011

Marttiini fillet knife handle uses Koskisen’s air-dried birch

It is of outmost importance for Marttiini that the birch used for their knife handles are air-dried.

It is of outmost importance for Marttiini that the birch used for their knife handles are air-dried.

The Marttiini company has been manufacturing knives in Rovaniemi since 1928, always respecting the traditions of the company’s founder, Janne Marttiini. Marttiini’s world-famous fillet knives, sold in Wal-Mart stores in the U.S., hold a piece of Koskisen in them, as the handle of the knife is manufactured from Koskisen’s air-dried birch.

Marttiini’s factory has operated in Rovaniemi for more than 80 years; it was there that Janne Marttiini, a blacksmith from Kierinki, founded the factory in 1928.

The knives are still manufactured in the Arctic Circle, in Finnish Lapland. The company nowadays also has operations outside of Finland. Marttiini has a division in Pärnu, Estonia, where knife sheaths are manufactured and products are packaged for export. - Our sales are currently divided quite equally between exports and the domestic markets, says Päivi Ohvo, Marttiini’s Managing Director.

Part of Rapala

According to Ohvo, Marttiini was founded as a family company and is nowadays part of the international fishing gear Group Rapala VMC, whose Finnish roots are quite similar to the founding of Marttiini.

Rapala VMC Corporation (Rapala) is currently the world’s leading manufacturer and seller of fishing lures, treble hooks, fishing tackle and fillet knives. Rapala also enjoys a strong global market position in other sport fishing product categories and is one of the leading sport, hunting and winter sport products distributors in the Nordic countries.

- By coincidence, Rapala played a significant role during our early business interactions with Wal-Mart. An American distribution company, already representing Rapala’s fishing tackle in connection with Wal-Mart, was looking for a supplier of a high-quality flexible blade fillet knife for its product range. The distribution company presented Marttiini and our products to Wal-Mart, and since then we have been a permanent part of the store chain’s product range, recounts Ohvo.

Price determines volume

Päivi Ohvo says that the U.S. chain store giant holds tenders for its knife suppliers around every three years.

- Every time around they try a Chinese supplier for a while, until it becomes apparent that the quality of Chinese knives is clearly inferior; in particular, the blades break when bended. Also, we use Finnish birch, which is unique in the world thanks to its hardness and light colour.

Ohvo says that doing business with Wal-Mart is very stringent, both in terms of price and the entire logistics chain.

- There is so much competition in the U.S. that ‘price points’ basically determine product volumes. If we can manufacture our products within a certain price bracket, it guarantees certain success for our products.

Long co-operation with Koskisen

Koskisen and Marttiini have co-operated for decades. In recent years, the collaboration has mostly been between Koskisen’s Sales Manager, Raimo Kämppi, and Marttiini’s Purchasing Manager, Pirjo Linho.

- The main focus of our co-operation is birch, and Koskisen’s price and quality are just right for this product. Birch is one of the most important raw materials in the manufacture of our products, Linho says.

Koskisen’s birch, sawn into planks, is shipped four times a year by lorry from Hirvensalmi to Rovaniemi, to Marttiini’s lathe and wood department. The route got longer after Marttiini transferred its lathe and wood department from Laukaa, in central Finland, to Rovaniemi, in Lapland.

- It was really nice that Raimo tried to help us come up with ways to make the deliveries more cost-efficient. Now they are handled in co-operation with the Lapland Vocational College, which has included the wood deliveries as part of their driver training programme. An average of 38 cubic metres of birch planks are delivered at a time, says Linho.

It is of outmost importance for Marttiini that the birch used for their knife handles are air-dried.

- If the wood is dried mechanically, it will be fragile and the handles could begin to split and there is more waste. Koskisen knows what kinds of birch planks precisely suit our needs, Linho concludes.