Visitors to this area are often fascinated with Alaskan ulus in Fairbanks, AK. They are a frequently requested souvenir, not only to display, but also to use in the kitchen. Their round blade and rolling cutting action make them an efficient and ergonomic tool. Many amateur chefs swear by them and search for them when they visit Alaska. If you are looking at buying an ulu on your next visit to Alaska, here are six facts to keep in mind:
- These are ancient tools: Ulus are traced as far back as 2500 BCE. It is believed that they were passed down between generations. Each ulu was said to contain the knowledge of the ancestors, and as it was passed down, so was that knowledge.
- Originals were not metal: There is no metal smelting technology in the Arctic, so originally, the blade was made of slate or copper. Handles were carved from bone, horn or ivory and, if it was available, sometimes wood. The wood- or bone-handled version of the ulu with a metal blade is a modern invention. As with most knives, the preferred metal is steel. Handsaws and wood saws create the round shape.
- Translates as “women’s knife”: This was a truly all-purpose knife that was used in the duties often performed by women. It was best used for skinning and cleaning animals, but also for cooking purposes. Some women even used it for cutting a child’s hair or trimming ice blocks to build igloos. Now, people admire them as an efficient way to chop meat or vegetables in modern kitchens, although they can make interesting display pieces, too.
- It is not limited to Alaska: You can find ulu-style knives in Canada and Greenland, as well. There was even a version of an ulu used in 19th century Italy for butchering meat. You can find these in both one- and two-hand varieties.
- Its advantages are quickly discovered: After using an ulu, many people wonder why they ever used conventional knives. Its most desirable feature is how its rolling motion uses the middle of the blade more than an ordinary knife. That creates better cutting power and pins the food while you cut it, reducing the likelihood of kitchen accidents. The blades also last longer since there is more quick cutting action as opposed to sawing. You can sharpen them like conventional knives.
- Be careful where you take it: If you buy an ulu from us, you may want to use our shipping services. Homeland Security does not allow them on commercial airline flights, and many have been confiscated. In Canada, carrying a knife with a blade perpendicular to the handle is illegal due to their discouragement of “push daggers.” New regulations specifically exempt the ulu, but you may still want to be careful how you transport it.
To find Alaskan ulus in Fairbanks, AK and countless other examples of native art, visit Arctic Travelers Gift Shop. We look forward to providing you with a great souvenir of your vacation.
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