| Handsome, hardworking cutlery
Even though a knife is obviously a necessary tool in a variety of situations, choosing one can be a personal decision. Some prefer fixed-blade models, whereas others choose folding knives, and both configurations have pros and cons. Regardless of preference, Helle offers many outstanding knives.
HANDSOME, HARDWORKING CUTLERY
Located in the small village of Holmedal, Norway, Helle has been producing knives since brothers Steinar and Sigmund Helle began manufacturing tools and knives in 1932. Helle’s primary products are knives for sporting uses, including hunting and fishing, and it’s been that way for years. Earlier in the company’s history, knives for kitchen and culinary uses were also produced. Recently, Helle collaborated with Les Stroud to produce newer designs.
Although many knife manufacturers rely heavily on modern means for mass production, Helle still incorporates substantial manual craftsmanship. Helle’s knives not only reflect meticulous fit and finish, but also flaunt individual character. Its knives are beautiful and functional, capable of handling most chores for which a knife is useful, and exhibiting an appearance that causes most admirers to exclaim, “Where did you get that?”
The handles are perhaps the most attractive aspect of Helle knives. Most often made of highly figured curly birch—an abundant wood in Norway—helle handles are beautifully shaped and polished. Other woods used include cocobolo, oak, walnut and African kiatt. On
some Helle models, the wood is augmented and layered with other materials, such as leather or reindeer staghorn. After receiving the final shaping and polishing, the handles are given a durable finish. No two Helle knives are identical.
“Helle has been producing knives since brothers Steinar and Sigmund Helle began manufacturing tools and knives in 1932.”
Although beautiful, a Helle knife’s most notable quality is arguably its blade materials and construction. Many Helle blades are a three-layer lamination of high-carbon steel sandwiched between layers of tough stainlesssteel alloy. Such a blade has the strength and corrosion resistance of stainless steel, but with the edge-holding and sharpening qualities of high-carbon steel. Blade thickness varies by model, but measures 2.5-3.0mm (0.10-0.12 inch) on most offerings.
While testing several Helle models, we found that the blades sharpen easily. While we didn’t use them as pry bars, we did use them liberally without any indications of stress or bending. Laminated blades aren’t the simplest or least expensive to produce, but they perform exceptionally. For those who wish to design their own custom knife, several styles of Helle blades are available with $40-76 MSRPS.
Most models have a blade design that resembles the usual Scandinavian pattern known as a pukko. This is a drop-point blade of medium length, usually in the 3.5- to 4-inch range.
Adding to its wide range of fixed-blade models, Helle introduced two folding knives in 2011. The Dokka features a laminated blade, whereas the Skåla has a conventional blade of Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel. Both have blades measuring 84mm (3.3 inches) long and 2.7mm (0.0.11 inch) thick. Each has a thumbnail notch
for opening and a hook-type lock activated by a lever along the spine of the handle. The lockup is quite robust and rigid.
The folding knives are provided with scales of smooth, beautifully finished wood and a very well-made pouch sheath that closes sturdily. Scales on the Skåla are made of cocobolo, whereas curly birch is used for those on the Dokka. Both models feature an integrated steel liner inside the scales. Should the user desire, a lanyard easily attaches to a hole through the handle.
Helle knives include beautiful leather sheaths. In most cases, the sheaths are of the pouch type without a retainer, but the knives fit tightly nonetheless. However, a few models incorporate a flap retainer with a hole accommodating a pin that protrudes from the grip’s rear. A conventional loop retainer that encircles the handle is used on one or two larger Helle models.
Like most people who spend much time outdoors, sometimes in remote areas, we have many options when it comes to cutlery. Our first Helle knives were a fixed-blade Eggen (hers) and the folding Skåla (his). However, we quickly fell in love with these superb knives to the point that we now own seven models. That alone indicates our satisfaction and confidence in Helle knives. Two of our knives include two discontinued models that were obtained as “new old-stock” models, the Trophé and the Leir, both fixed-blades.
Although we enjoy Helle knives for aesthetic reasons, they perform admirably. We don’t strike them with a baton to split wood, but they’re well designed for general camp use. Preparing shavings for tinder is quick and easy with any of our Helle knives.
Helle knives are superb for food preparation, including slicing vegetables and peeling operations. The smallest Helle, Ola Kniven, has a blade measuring only 57mm (2.25 inches) long,
and it functions well as a paring knife. For those who’re so inclined, this small knife is very useful for woodcarving, too. Its small size and finger groove on the handle provide excellent control. With an $80 MSRP, it’s also quite affordable.
Something for Everyone
The Helle line includes models that run the gamut from the large Lapland hunting knife with an 8.38-inch blade to the diminutive Ola Kniven. Within that array, there are models to suit almost any taste with regard to appearance and performance. Manufacturer suggested retail prices for Helle knives range from about $70 for the very small models to approximately $250 for the largest models.
The market has cheaper knives and many custom knives that are also more elegant, however, Helle knives combine elegance and capability. Those qualities are irreplaceable. We enjoy using our Helle knives so much that we won’t be surprised if our Helle knife collection grows larger in the near future.