Twenty miles outside of Hamburg, Germany there is a small town called Kaltenkirchen and in this town there is a man who is a master craftsman. His name – Jochen Lehfeldt. I initially reached out to Jochen to inquiry about his hand carved Kuksa. I can tell you my email interaction with Jochen has been nothing short of fantastic. The man, like I said is an amazing craftsman, humble, knowledgeable and just plain nice. You couldn’t ask for a better person to deal with especially when you are diving into a product you don’t know much about. You ask.. What do you need to know.. It’s a wooden cup. Yes, it’s a wooden cup but a simple question to Jochen about these simple cups opened up a history lesson not only of the Kuksa but of him as well.
Kuksa – A type of drinking cup traditionally duodji crafted by the Sami people of Northern Scandinavia from carved birch burl.
Like I said above the Kuksa was originally crafted by the Sami people which are indigenous inhabitants of Lapland. The Sami people would have to go on long hikes through Lapland with the reindeer herds and they were often lonely people for months and months as they trekked through the vast tundra of the north. Yes it sounds cold! So when out on the trail with their reindeer herds the ability to procure household items of any kind would also be required to be taken from nature. Thus, the drinking vessels were carved out of wood which could be used for a long time and this also still fulfilled their usefulness. In time the Sami people learned that a Kuksa or wooden drinking vessel couldn’t be carved from just any wood. Over time they realized that the Kuksa that is carved from a birch tuber would last longer is more wear resistant and had a longer life.
In modern days drinking from a traditional Kuksa has become a Finnish tradition and is widespread around the campfire, hiking or outdoor activities.
And this is why I originally reached out to Jochen. Yes, anyone can buy a Nalgene bottle or any other water bottle out there and yes they are still needed when in the backcountry but to be able to drink from a Kuksa steps up your outdoorsman game a tiny bit. Any as you know if you have followed any of my posts at all.. I am a sucker for anything that is handcrafted by someone that has a passion for what they do and what they produce. Jochen is that person. Trust me…
When looking for a handcrafted Kuksa you need to know there are a lot of copies out there with some being made of more or less decent material while there are also companies making Kuksa from plastic.. WHAT?? Plastic.. Yes people are trying to pass off a Kuksa with their fancy sawdust infused plastic as authentic.. Wrong. Then there are the mass-produced goods that are made of bamboo wood from China or Beech wood from the Baltic Countries. Although they bear the name Kuksa they truly aren’t a traditional Kuksa in any way at all. Refresher.. A true Kuksa is made from Birch Tuber Wood from Lapland. If you want a true Kuksa hand carved in the traditional way you need to search out a true craftsman that does it correctly and I’ll save you a little time.. Below is a link to Jochen’s Etsy store and his website. Check him out there.
A true Kuksa doesn’t require much further care after their completion. Unlike copies they never need to be re-oiled or treated in any way. When caring for your Kuksa you need to be aware not to ever put it in a dishwasher or wash it with any type of detergent. Once you have used the Kuksa it is sufficient to wash it out with plain water and dry it. That’s it.. Just like the Sami people did it years and years ago. If you follow these simple rules your Kuksa can last a lifetime and make a really great heirloom to pass down to one of your children. As an example.. Jochen has been using his Kuksa for almost 40 years now.
So now that you have had a history lesson into the world of the Kuksa take a look at Jochen’s website and pick up an authentic Kuksa to strap to your backpack and use when out on the trail. There’s just something different about being out in nature and using something that was created by someone’s hands and not a plastic bottle that was molded by a big machine. +
Pictured below is my Kuksa that Jochen made me and I absolutely love it. It’s just a different feel drinking from a handcarved wooden cup than a glass. Give it a try and I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
In addition to his fantastic Kuksa, check out all of Jochen’s handmade items in his Etsy store and his website. He is a true craftsman which is hard to find anymore.
Etsy Store – https://www.etsy.com/shop/Scandinavicwoodworks
Website – https://www.jochens-elch-o-thek.com/